I am one of THOSE PTA moms – and Proud of It!

In the last few months I’ve read several blog posts railing against the PTA moms at various schools.  The complaints are usually the same – they’re overbearing and pushy, busy bodies trying to vie for the principal or teacher’s attention, do-gooders who get off on making the rest of the parents feel bad.  Yeah, yeah.  I get it.  At my very first Parents’ Association (PA) meeting at my daughter’s private preschool I actually raised my hand and told the PA President that I thought she was condescending and wrong when she made a derisive comment about how no one gave enough to the school and not to count on scholarship parents for anything.  That led to quite the nasty back and forth, and needless to say confirmed all my worst fears about those kinds of groups – and let’s be honest, those kinds of moms. Continue reading

My New Parenting Column – Check it out!

Advice?  Sure.  Opinions on city living and raising twins?  You know I have lots of ‘em.  And now I get to write a monthly parenting column in the Westside Independent.  Click on over to my inaugural post and leave a comment there if you agree with me that I am not crazy or if you disagree and think all us city parents are certifiable!

ARE CITY PARENTS CRAZY?

You Call This a Playdate?

Here’s the thing about the word playdate, sometimes the “play” part goes well, and sometimes, well, it just feels like a date.  An awkward, stressful, when-will-this-afternoon end date.  In the toddler years it’s usually a double date with the stranger mom or nanny in tow and then you have to make conversation, which in New York City usually centers around the awful school process, the teachers at your current school, or the kid who still isn’t potty trained or picks his nose and wipes it on other kids.

Thankfully, my daughters are almost eight years old so we are now in the drop off playdate stage.  These playdates have their own set of expectations.  I used to know what these rules were – give a snack to stave off any hunger related meltdowns, keep the playdate to an hour and a half maximum, and basically leave the girls alone with a bin full of Polly Pockets.  But, this year something changed.  This year everyone got a Wii.  And somehow, I have no idea when, the Wii went from a playdate taboo to a playdate must.

I was against the Wii as a playdate toy on principle.  Exactly what that principle was I’m not sure, but I did think that screen time is not interactive together time and isn’t that the point of a playdate?  Especially for my daughters who are identical twins, creating these one on one playdates with friends individually was something that I thought was really important.  How could playing on the Wii compete with the friendship creativity that arises from playing with their American Girl dolls and stuffed animals?  But then the inevitable happened.  We had a playdate with a girl who didn’t want to play anything.  She wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t interested in doing anything and it was making my daughter crazy trying to please and entice her into a game – any game!

Then this girl noticed the Wii sitting there on the floor winking its little yellow light at her.  At that point it was either the Wii or calling her babysitter to pick her up early.  So I struck a deal with my daughter, she could play the Wii but only if they did something active and together.  We plugged in the two Disney Dance, Dance Revolution Mats and they had the time of their lives dancing together.  And when my daughter let her friend create her own Mii at our house her friend exploded with happiness.  She couldn’t believe we would have a virtual version of her living forever on our TV.  Seriously, this was the tech  equivalent of giving someone one half of a “BFF” necklace, and it had the added bonus of implicitly saying, yes, you will come over again.

After that playdate I have allowed the Wii as long as the other parent approves too.  We’ve worked out new rules now for these playdates – they can’t be all Wii, they have to be active, and everyone has to be able to play.  And I’ve come to realize that playdates have to evolve, not just because my daughters are older but because the toys at their disposal have grown up too.  Although my poor downstairs neighbors would probably much rather my daughters and their friends stuck to playing with the dollhouse instead of dance, dance, dancing on their heads.

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

Flying the (Not) Family-Friendly Skies

Of all the ways your life changes when you have kids none is more drastic than the way you travel.  Gone are the days of a small carry-on with a book, an ipod and some trashy magazines.  Suddenly your carry on is like Mary Poppins carpet bag – full of snacks (both salty and sweet), stickers, markers, DVD players, DVDs, coloring books, activity books and depending on the age of your kids, diapers, change of clothes, wipes, ear drops, maybe some pajamas and even a change of clothes for yourself (yes I learned the hard way that mishaps on the plane tend to land in my lap, or down the front of my shirt).    Early on when my twin daughters were just babies we were like a small army going off to war as we marched down the jetway.  Two strollers that we could fold in 5 second flat, two car seats unlatched and ready to load, and an industrial sized diaper bag that just barely fit in the overhead.

Luckily for me my daughters are long past the nightmare travel age.  They wheel on their own small carry-on bags filled with but a few key possessions – a DS, an ipod, a treasured toy and a book.  But, I remember well those days when every passenger on the plane eyed us with dread as we boarded and made our way down the aisle.  You could see them secretly praying, please don’t sit near me, please, please.

Continue reading

When Having Twins Finally Pays Dividends

isa (l) soph (r)Both of my daughters did not show up on my first sonogram.  For 8 weeks I thought I was having a normal singleton pregnancy with all of the usual excitement and anticipation a first pregnancy brings.  My husband missed that first sonogram so to be nice my doctor did another one at my next appointment.  As we all stared at the throbbing lima bean on the screen the doctor pointed out the “head” and heart, and then she stopped.  “Well, what’s that?” my husband asked pointing at another blob.  “Um,” she said, “that’s another heart and another head.  You’re having twins!”  And as the blood drained from my face and my stomach fell to my toes my husband pumped his fist in the air and yelled, “Yeah, twins!”  (He later said he did this to reassure me because he had never seen me look so frightened.  I think it was a momentary celebration of feeling like he had super sperm)

Luckily I had another 5 or so months to get used the idea of having twins.   Continue reading

Wii Are Family

Rebecca Levey Wii mommii

Yes we are the last people on the planet to get a Wii.  I resisted not because I was afraid that my 7-year-old daughters would be hooked and play video games at the expense of their insane imaginations.  No, I resisted because I am a recovering addict.  I have fallen down the deep dark hole where Tetris blocks rain down on your head and I didn’t want to tempt myself again.  But, as often happens in the journey of parenthood my husband and I caved in to the incredibly urgent requests for the Wii as a seventh birthday present for my daughters.  And, we had grandparents who generously obliged.

My daughters immediately began to set up their Miis.  They are unbelievably cute and fun it’s true.  Couple that with American Idol and High School Musical 3 Sing It, and seriously I could video tape my girls performing at full blast all day.  It’s so interactive!  It’s so engaging!  It’s nothing like the video games of my past that sucked you in, dried out your eyes and invaded your dreams.  Yeah right.   The Wii may have my daughters up on their feet dance, dance revolutionizing or swinging their faux tennis racquets with gusto, but I have seen the subtler obsession begin.  One daughter wants to talk about her Miis at length, planning the new ones and creating worlds for them.  My other daughter is fixated on unlocking more sports, more exercises – anything that means “more.”

I guess I passed on the video game gene to my girls just like their brown eyes and voracious reading habit.  Though I won’t take all the blame.  My husband is a screen junkie, and makes his living in technology, so I guess my daughters were doomed from the start.  As their mom I can set boundaries and time limits so that the Wii is part of their “screen time” choices, not something in addition to the allotted TV and/or computer time on the weekends.  But, who is going to set those limits for me?  In college I had to take Tetris off of my computer ultimately or risk never getting my final papers finished.  Now, as a stay at home mom/writer I have to ignore that glowing Wii console that beckons to me as I sit at my computer.

For now I am safe – we don’t have any true old school games for the Wii, but I know that day is coming when Frogger or Ms. Pacman will present itself – or God forbid Tetris my old poison – and I will be have to be brave.  We might be a family with a weakness for gaming, but Wii can’t let that take over our lives.  (Though maybe just one game won’t hurt…)

This post originally published at nycmomsblog.com

Mother’s Day Moments To Remember

I’m in the the new issue of New York Family talking about my most memorable mother moment of the year. (or at least the one most suitable for print!) Flip to page 90 to check it out the full article as it appeared in the mag – or read my contribution below…

THIS YEAR MY SIX-YEAR-OLD daughters came to the end of their official “little kid” stage and entered the “numbered grades,” as they call first grade and up. Their evolving maturity came to light on my husband’s birthday when they planned, on their own, to buy him special coffee at Fairway and make him fresh ground coffee in the morning as a birthday surprise. It took forethought, compassion and true giving spirit—and they delighted in it. As a mom, I was so proud that for them being a “big kid” meant doing nice things for the people they love, and having the power to actually do it. —Rebecca Levey, founder of the blog beccarama.com

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Tooth Fairy

-4 Seven years ago when I found out I was having twins – at my second sonogram appointment, not my first one mind you – my initial thought was absolute terror.  I couldn’t imagine one baby growing inside me let alone two.

Suddenly what was once doable seemed overwhelming – would a double stroller fit in our building’s small elevator?  Where would we put two cribs?  16 bottles a day?  20 diapers a day?  We had so many  questions and there were plenty of well meaning people and books doling out the advice about how to handle the realities of two babies invading at once.  And, we got through it.  We handled all of that stuff, weeded out what was seemingly “necessary” for one, but ridiculous for two.  Along the way we somehow managed the double nursery school tuition and the insane kindergarten application process.  Now twindom seems old hat and as our friends have had more kids its all evened out.  Or so we thought.

My daughters are identical twins and so their teeth became loose at the same time.  But, one of them had to be first, so when she bit into an apple at school and out popped that bottom tooth she was not just thrilled she was triumphant.  The Tooth Fairy would come to our home for the first time and it was all for her!  My husband and I were so excited to play tooth fairy that we both crept into her room that night.  We were giddy.  This was a milestone, a serious rite of passage for her and for us and we went large – a webkinz and a ten dollar bill.  She woke up in the morning and put an Oscar winner to shame with her sheer joy, surprise and excitement.  So strong was her belief in the Tooth Fairy that when her grandparents offered her some money the next day as a bonus for the lost tooth she wouldn’t take it.  It had to come from the Tooth Fairy or it didn’t count.  When her sister lost her tooth a week later, in the airport, it was the same thing all over again – bliss, anticipation and utter happiness.

Then, the next one fell out.  Then the next one.  Then the next one… You get the idea.  No one warns you in all of those twin books that you will suddenly be on Tooth Fairy duty at least once a month.  So, ten teeth into this job, I guess it was inevitable that one night the Tooth Fairy would forget.  That’s right.  One night the Tooth Fairy just didn’t show up.  Now, in the Tooth Fairy’s defense, my daughter lost her tooth the night before a big family vacation.  There was a lot of packing and organizing and printing of boarding passes going on.  But, still.  In the morning my daughters threw open our bedroom door and with a look of pure horror in their wide eyes screamed, “The Tooth Fairy didn’t come last night!!!”

My husband and I bumbled around for an explanation, expressed our disbelief that this could be true and he sprang out of bed to his wallet while I kept them in our room discussing the impossibility of this event.  Then my husband called out from the bedroom – “Here it is!  On the floor!”  The girls came running and sure enough there was a dollar under the Tooth Fairy pillow instead of in the little tooth pocket.  The girls danced around imagining all sorts of funny things that may have happened to the Tooth Fairy that made her drop the money in a hurry rather than place it neatly where it belonged.

Now, we probably should have come clean about the tooth fairy then and there.  But, it never even occurred to us.  Instead we were awed by the degree to which our daughters wanted to believe.  I’d like to say we learned our lesson.  But, no.   A month later – and tooth number 14 in as many months – we forgot again.  We pulled off the same stunt and my daughters once again shook their heads at how silly and careless the Tooth Fairy had become.

So, the Tooth Fairy is on probation right now.  My daughters have two more loose teeth each right now.  That’ll make 18 lost teeth in a little more than a year.  I don’t know how much longer my daughters will choose to believe, but I do know that every time the Tooth Fairy falls asleep on the job she is one step closer to the unemployment line.  And I don’t think the Tooth Fairy is ready to hang up her wings just yet.

This is an original nycmomsblog post.

This post was nationally syndicated by McClatchy/Tribune

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Admissions of an Admissions Survivor

Admissions I would like to think that if Dante wrote The Inferno today there would be a special circle of hell just for Kindergarten admissions in NYC.  And within that level there would be a VIP room for those of us with twins.  When I explain the process to friends and family living outside of NYC they look at me like I have 5 heads.  There were times during the process when I felt like I had five heads.  Between both of my daughters they took four IQ tests, for both private and public schools, a “School Readiness Assessment” for more public schools, went on four private school interview/play-dates, and 2 second round playdates at the specialized public schools.  We also entered 2 public school lotteries for the schools within our district that we were not zoned for.  Did I mention that my daughters were 4 years old at the time?

In the end we ended up at the out of zone public school that we most wanted from the beginning. Ironically enough, it is an all gen-ed school meaning that they do not separate out or track the students based on scores.  So, after all that testing what we realized was that we didn’t want our daughters at a school where they would be segregated based on their scores.  Whether we feel this way later on in our daughters’ education life I don’t know.  But, for now, we like the “all one family” vibe at our public school.

Now that my daughters’ kindergarten years are coming to an end,  I realize that the entire admissions process was like planning a wedding.  It is so easy to get caught up in the insanity of the planning, the competition, the scary statistics and rumors swirling around that you lose sight of the end result.  In the case of a wedding you forget that what’s really important is the marriage after, and in the case of admissions its all about the schooling your child will receive.  No matter how much you may have your heart set on one school or another you really have no idea if will be right for your child until you are in the thick of it.

And – take a deep breath here – if it doesn’t work out, you will move your kid.  Yes, its a pain.  Yes, there will be some transitioning and rough spots.  But, that is part of education too.  Not everything works out as we picture it and learning to adjust and shift our expectations isn’t the worst thing in the world.  This year I’ve had the distinct opportunity to compare two very different teachers within the same grade, in the same school.  Having twins gives you this special eye into things.   I can tell you that I am not happy to have the comparison because one of the classes is so much stronger than the other.  Have I lost faith in the school?  No.  Will I give it one more year?  Yes.  And then if it doesn’t work out, if the school I fell in love with was not the right place for one of my daughters, I may sign up all over again to ride on the admissions the roller coaster.  I can feel another head sprouting already…

Original post to New York City Moms Blog.

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Street Smarts

Bwaysign On a recent Sunday afternoon as we were weaving our way through the crowds on our way to see a matinee of Mary Poppins one of my five year old daughters casually asked, “what are XXX live nude girls?”  The tourists huddled on the corner around us laughed.  Yes, some pre-Disney vestiges of old Times Square do still exist.  “Well, um, nude means naked,” I replied.  My daughter’s eyes widened as she tried to make sense of this and I braced myself for the inevitable follow up question.  Instead she and her sister started laughing.  “Naked girls?  That’s so silly.  Why would girls want to be naked in a theater?”   And, I wimped out and pointed across the street excitedly, “Look girls M&M World!  Let’s get some for the show!”  Naked girls soon forgotten.    No where in my “You-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up” speech  is there a section for pole dancing.  But, still these kinds of questions are inevitable when you live in a walking city like New York.

The biggest cliché one hears when raising kids in the city is that they grow up too fast.  People are referring of course to sex and drugs – the Gossip Girl paradigm.  But, more to the point is that kids in the city see way more on an average walk to school than any suburban kid sees in a month – or maybe ever.  Last year at my daughters’ preschool anxious parents asked our preschool director how best to prepare our kids for the IQ and standardized tests they would be taking for kindergarten admission.  Her answer – you live in New York City, everything you do is preparation for those tests.  A stroll down Broadway with my 5 year old twin girls is a mini life lesson in social studies, science, history, math and good old fashioned marketing techniques 101.  Pass the homeless man living in a box on the church steps, give lesson about poverty, misfortune, being grateful and having compassion.  Walk by Fairway Market with its multitude of fruits and vegetables spilling out on to the sidewalk and categorize, weigh them, discuss country of origin.  Pop into the pet store to look at the birds and fish and get a quick zoology fix, and then, sheer bliss for my girls, walk by the toy store with the hundreds of Webkinz in the window, all placed at preschool eye level.  Go into said store for 20 minutes to pet and ogle and wistfully dream of the Webkinz they may or may not have in their future, while figuring out how many weeks of allowance it will take to save up for the purchase.  All of this in a typical ten block walk home from school everyday.

Of course all of this stimulation and visual eye candy has its price.  Occasionally there are advertisements which are truly disturbing glaring out of a bus shelter or phone booth.  For an entire month my daughters refused to go downtown to my mother’s apartment if it meant we would ride on the West Side Highway.  There was an enormous billboard looming over the road for some horror film, and the very sight of it filled them with fear and anxiety.   The only thing you can impart to your child in that situation is to close your eyes.  Which really isn’t the worst thing to teach.  After all, I want my daughters to know that they don’t have to be passive participants in the media barrage that surrounds them.

Yes its exhausting answering all of those questions that come up each and every day as they try and make sense of the diverse world around them.  But, its worth it when I see the constant curiosity that this city inspires in them.  Because its not just the museums and cultural institutions which make this city such a rich place in which to raise my kids, but the way they’ve learned to navigate the subway and the sandbox, or strut down Broadway commenting on the way the neighborhood has changed in their short lifespan (all those banks!), or stroll along the Hudson River watching the boats go by. I am glad that they’re growing up this way – not faster, but maybe savvier.  And positively New Yorkers to the core.

Original NY City Moms Blog post