Alpha Mom » Kelcey Kintner parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:13:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 8 Pairs of Toddler and Kids’ Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child’s Eyes Tue, 11 Aug 2015 12:56:28 +0000

Honestly, until recently I have not been that great about encouraging my kids to wear sunglasses. Even though I wear them myself consistently when I drive or spend time outside. But after researching toddler and kids sunglasses for this review, I’m a little more determined to make sure my children’s eyes are protected. Why? Because exposure to ultraviolet rays can increase the risk for cataracts and macular degeneration later on in life.

But as you would suspect, all sunglasses are not the same. And pictures of super heroes on the frames won’t do anything to keep your kids safe. You need the glasses to block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Also, if the glasses meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) requirements or block UV absorption up to 400 nm (nanometers), you’re getting enough protection.

The damage from ultraviolet rays builds over time, so the sooner you get your kids in the habit of wearing sunglasses, the better! We tried out some top brands of sunglasses (for toddlers to tweens) and give you our review and Alpha Mom favorites.


Real Kids Explorer Toddler Sunglasses

When it comes to toddler sunglasses, these are pretty cool.

Real Kids Explorer Sunglasses and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

The Real Kids Explorer sunglasses are super flexible and bendy and the company promises you can’t break them. Well, I tried because I like a challenge. And the most I really did was pop out a lens and I was able to put it right back in.

The glasses offer 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV 400) and shatterproof lenses. These glasses are non-polarized (but you can get them in polarized lenses for $30 which would mean they virtually eliminate glare. (Tinted sunglasses dampen the glare.) The sunglasses have a wrap around frame and come with an adjustable, removable band to help keep these on your toddler.

Here’s the problem – at least for me. My 2 year old had no interest in wearing them and immediately removed them. But maybe your toddler is more chill? Honestly, I could barely take a photo before he was ripping them off.

Size: Toddler (2 +)
Price: $14.95  ($29.95 for version with polarized lenses)
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV 400), polarized, very flexible, durable, shatter-resistant, adjustable band to keep them on toddler’s heads and seem pretty toddler proof (you can get them in polarized lenses).
Weaknesses:  It can be frustrating to drop any amount of cash on glasses your toddler might not wear.
Final Word on Real Kids Explorer sunglasses:  If you’re going to buy sunglasses for your toddler, these are a great one to try especially the ones with non-polarized lenses because of the lower price.  Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite. Just don’t blame us if your toddler throws them out the window instead of wearing them. It might be worth spending 15 minutes at your local drug store and try out some sunglasses on your child just to see if he/she enjoys wearing them. Because some kids (like my 2 year old nephew) really dig a pair of shades. And other kids (like my 2 year old son) don’t. (Buy them at our affiliate Amazon.)

Julbo Looping 3 Toddler Sunglasses

These Julbo Looping 3 are quite similar in many ways to the Real Kids Explorer sunglasses reviewed above.

Julbo Looping 3 Sunglasses and 7 Other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

These Julbo Looping 3 glasses offer 100% UVA/UVB protection. They are flexible, durable and wrap around your toddler’s head. They fit my 2 year old son really well. These are non-polarized sunglasses even though they have a mirror lens.

What’s cool about the Julbo Looping 3 is there are no hinges and the frames are reversible. This means there is no way for you to put these on your child upside down. Which is great when you’re trying to throw those sunglasses on as quickly as possible!

The company promises that these glasses won’t leave the face of even the most active child. They do have an adjustable, removable strap to keep them on. But just like the Real Kids Explorers above, my 2 year old son took them off immediately and just would not keep them on. Big sigh.

Size: Age 2 – 4
Price: $35
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection, flexible, no hinges, frames are reversible and adjustable strap.
Weaknesses:  A lot of cash if your kid won’t wear them and you won’t be able to fold the glasses to make them flatter when you’re storing them.
Final Word on Julbo Looping 3 sunglasses: Even though these are $35, I still really liked them because of the look, the color combos, the no hinges and the reversible frames. They seem toddler-proof. This would be an Alpha Mom favorite except for the price tag. (You can buy the Julbo Looping 3 sunglasses at our affiliate Amazon.)

Julbo Reach Kids Sunglasses

The Julbo Reach sunglasses offer 100% protection against UVA, B and C rays. (UVC rays are blocked by the ozone layer so it’s really UVA and UVB rays that we need to worry about.) These lenses are Spectron 3+ which means they block 88% of visible light. They are lightweight and are described as shock resistant (although it’s not entirely clear to me what that means when referring to sunglasses).

Julbo Reach Sunglasses and 7 Other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes


My 8 year old and 10 year old daughters love these glasses! They adored the color, the mirrored lenses and thought they were super comfortable. Of course, now they fight over this pair.

Size: Age 6 – 10
Price: $40
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection, lightweight, durable and look cool.
Weaknesses: The price. 40 bucks for sunglasses? Way too steep for my budget.
Final Word on Julbo Reach sunglassesGreat pair of sunglasses but you can find quality shades for cheaper. (You can find these pair of Jublo Reach sunglasses at Amazon.)

Original Babiators

Just like the Babiators goggles we reviewed here on Alpha Mom, these Babiator sunglasses look super cool.

Original Babiators and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

The Original Babiators sunglasses are for kids ages 0 to 7 (you pick the size from two sizes when you order; my 5-year old son is wearing the “larger” of the two sizes in this photo). They offer 100% UVA/UVB protection and come in a ton of colors.

The glasses are super lightweight and stayed on my 5 year old well. The frames are made from very flexible rubber and seem quite durable. The lenses are shatter-resistant. (Babiators sunglasses also come in a polarized version for $45)

The best part about these glasses is the guarantee. If a child’s glasses are lost or broken in the first year, Babiators replaces them for free! I mean, seriously? Yes, seriously. But just remember you have to register the sunglasses within one month of purchase. Not bad for 20 bucks right?

Size: Two sizes (choose 0 – 3 or 3 – 7+)
Price: $20 (polarized version for $45)
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection, lightweight, durable, shatter-resistant, amazing guarantee.
Weaknesses:  They’re cheaper sunglasses out there for kids (see options above and below.)
Final Word on Original Babiators Sunglasses: They really had me at the guarantee. You only have to think about all the stuff kids lose to know this is money well spent. Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite. (You can buy these Original Babiators Sunglasses at Amazon.)

Junior Banz Sunglasses

These Junior Banz sunglasses really come in some awesome camouflage colors (Nordic Camo shown below) and fun designs.

Junior Banz Sunglasses and 7 Other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

These glasses offer 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV 400) and are category 3 polarized lenses. If sunglasses are polarized, it means they can practically eliminate blinding glare. And any sunglasses in category 3 offer a good level of UV protection and a high level of sun glare reduction.

The wrap around frames are shatter resistant. These glasses come with a carrying case and a removable neoprene strap.

Even though these glasses are supposed to be for the 4 to 10 year old set, they were too big on my 5 year old twins. So I would really buy these for slightly older kids.

Size: Ages 4 – 10
Price: $25
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV 400), polarized and cool colors and designs.
Weaknesses:  Too big for younger kids and a bit pricy.
Final Word on Junior Banz sunglasses: These are cool glasses that offer great eye protection for your children.  Because they are polarized, the price is a bit high. You can likely find a great pair of kid’s sunglasses for less. (You can buy these Junior Banz sunglasses on Amazon.)

Pepper’s Jellie Polarized Sunglasses

These Pepper’s Jellie polarized sunglasses reduce 99% of visible glare and offer 100% protection again ultra violet rays.

Pepper's Jellie Sunglasses and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

They are lightweight and seem pretty durable. My 2 year old got a hold of them and popped out a lens but I was able to easily get it back in. The lenses and frame are promised to be “virtually shatterproof” and these glasses do come with a 100% guarantee. If you buy them through REI, the company says if you are not satisfied, you can return them for a replacement or refund within one year of purchase. (Proof of purchase is required though!)

These pink frames come with brown lenses and the blue frames come with smoke gray lenses.

These were great for my 5 year old daughter who does have a pretty small face. I tried them on my 5 year old son and he said they fit well too.

Size: sized to fit small faces (up to age 6)
Price: $13
Strengths: 100% UV protection, polarized and guaranteed (when purchased on the REI website).
Weaknesses:  I can’t come up with one.
Final Word on Pepper’s Jellie polarized sunglasses: Fabulous price for polarized glasses that protect your child’s eyes. Alpha Mom favorite!   (You can buy these Pepper’s Jellie polarized sunglasses on the REI website.)

The Honest Company’s Knockaround Kids’ Sunglasses

Actress Jessica Alba started The Honest Company because she felt there weren’t enough non-toxic household products available in the marketplace. Her company collaborated with Knockaround (a sunglasses and accessories company) to create these sunglasses.

Honest Knockaround Sunglasses and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

These Honest Company x Knockaround sunglasses are created from a plant-based plastic (53% plant-based). I mean, who knew you could make plastic from plants?! Kind of crazy cool.  These glasses offer UV400 protection (which means they give 100% protection from UVA/UVB rays). The lenses are shatterproof. The glasses are very lightweight.

When you first hold the glasses in your hands, they almost seem too light and flimsy. I had very low expectations. But my kids really liked them – especially my 8 year old daughter! I would have thought they would be too small for her but here she is wearing them and they look great.

Honest Company Sunglasses and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

The glasses come with a cotton canvas carry case.

Size: 1 year old +
Price: $13
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection, eco friendly, lightweight and affordable.
Weaknesses: They almost feel like toy sunglasses because they are so light!
Final Word on Honest Company x Knockaround sunglasses: I really ended up liking these kids’ sunglasses. Lightweight, eco friendly and totally affordable. An Alpha Mom favorite. (You can only buy these Honest Company x Knockaround sunglasses on the Honest Company’s website.)

Real Kids Breeze Sunglasses

These Real Kids Breeze sunglasses are for age 7 and up and come with 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV 400). They are super flexible and seem quite durable. A wrapped style provides protection from peripheral light. Comes in fun colors. Also available polarized for $30.

Real Kids Breeze Sunglasses and 7 other Pairs of the Best Toddler and Kids' Sunglasses That Will Really Protect Your Child's Eyes

I love the boxy look of these sunglasses and they fit my 10 year old well. Her only complaint was that the rubbery feel of the glasses tended to pull her hair a bit when she took the sunglasses on or off or put them on top of her head.

Size: 7 years +
Price: $15 (or $30 for version with polarized lenses)
Strengths: 100% UVA/UVB protection (UV400), very flexible and cool colors.
Weaknesses: Because they have a rubbery, flexible feel, they tend to pull hair a bit when taking them on and off.
Final Word on Real Kids Breeze sunglasses: A solid, super flexible pair of sunglasses that will give your kids protection from the sun and come with a great price tag. An Alpha Mom favorite. (You can buy these Real Kids Breeze sunglasses (with unpolarized lenses) on Amazon.)


Our Favorite Kid and Toddler Sunglasses

My absolute faves were the Original Babiators and Pepper’s Jellie polarized sunglasses because they are both great sunglasses and I love that they both come with a guarantee (the Pepper Jellie one if you buy it on the REI website). I am also a big fan of the Honest Company/ Knockaround sunglasses because they are so affordable and I love that they are eco-friendly too. If you are looking for a pair of toddler sunglasses that comes with a wraparound frame and strap, I recommend the Real Kids Explorer sunglasses (a decent price for the non-polarized ones) but don’t blame us if your toddler refuses to wear them. Remember to try out a pair at a store for 15 minutes first to see if your baby/toddler will tolerate wearing sunglasses. Some do and some don’t!

All of these kid and toddler sunglasses reviewed above offer 100% UVA/UVB protection, so you can’t really go wrong. Choose the right ones for your kids and get out there and enjoy the sun safely!

Alpha Mom paid for all the sunglasses in this review.

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Six Pairs of Kids’ Swim Goggles We Swear Won’t Leak Tue, 21 Jul 2015 19:12:23 +0000

Before Alpha Mom saved me from my misery, I really had perfected the art of buying crappy swim goggles for my kids. Every summer, I’d pick up a bunch of cheap swimming goggles in fun colors at the local drugstore and they always leaked. And it seems that if goggles should have one job in life – it’s to NOT leak.

We’ve put some popular kids’ swim goggle brands to the test and we found out that when it comes to goggles, you get what you pay for. Which doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. But if you upgrade, just a bit, you and your kids will have a lot more fun at the pool and in the ocean. And, you won’t be stuck with a big bag of worthless goggles that don’t do anything to protect your kids’ eyes underwater.

Frogglez Swim Goggles

When you first see a pair of Frogglez, you’ll think – “Wait, is that my orthodontic head gear from middle school?” It looks a little weird the way the straps go around the head.

Frogglez Swim Goggles & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

But don’t be turned off by the unique look because these are a fabulous pair of kid swim goggles. And your children will likely love them!

First of all, my kids said they are super comfortable. The straps are made out of a soft, flexible neoprene that does not pull hair (like silicone or rubber straps tend to do). The straps also don’t bother kids’ ears because they are higher up on the head.

These goggles also have velcro straps on the sides for super easy adjustments.  According to the company website, the swim goggles are independently tested to be lead-free, phthalates-free and formaldehyde-free. And they float in the water.

That all said, do not buy these goggles for a child who is under 3 years old or who has a smallish head. My 5 year old daughter Harlowe is quite petite and these goggles are too big for her head – even on the smallest setting. But my 5 year old son loves them! As do my older girls (ages 8 and 10).

Size (according to Frogglez): One size fits kids 3+ years of age (up to 23 inch diameter head size)
Price: $20 – $24 (depending on where you buy it)
Strengths: No leaking, very comfortable, straps don’t pull hair, easy to adjust, my kids love them.
Weaknesses: May not fit children who are more petite. Measure their heads if you have any concerns. Also, the straps really need to air dry. If you throw these goggles back in your pool bag, the straps might not dry completely. Higher price.
Final Word on Frogglez: Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite.

TYR Kids Swim Goggles

The TYR youth swim goggles come in lots of different colors and some really cute animal designs (like the dinosaurs shown here on my 5 year old son).

TYR Kids Swim Goggles & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

He just adores these! Adjustable strap on the nose bridge. Tinted lenses with UVA/UVB protection.

Size: One size fits all and that seems to be the case.
Price: $8 – $14 (depending on where you buy them)
Strengths: No leaking, great selection of colors and designs, very affordable, comfortable.
Weaknesses: You will probably have to help your child adjust the size. Some of the TYR goggles for kids do have a release button for easier size adjustment but these dinosaur ones do not.
Final Word on TYR kid swim goggles: Alpha Mom favorite, especially for this price of $10.99!

Aqua Sphere Moby Kid Swim Goggles

The Aqua Sphere Moby Kid swim goggles also proved very popular with my kids. This is a one-piece frame construction. These goggles also have a buckle system on the sides which make it very easy to adjust the size. Definitely easier to adjust than the TYR Kids dinosaur goggles (reviewed above).

Aqua Sphere Moby Kids & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

These goggles also offer 100% UVA/UVB protection, a scratch-resistant coating and an anti-fog coating. Available in a blue lens too.

Size: One size fits all and that seems to be the case.
Price: $14 to $16 (depending on where you buy them)
Strengths: No leaking, comfortable, easy to adjust.
Weaknesses: I’m still looking for one.
Final Word on Aqua Sphere Moby Kid swim goggles: Nothing fancy about these goggles. Simple design and they do the job. Definitely recommend. Alpha Mom favorite.

Babiators Submariners Kids Swim Goggles

Not surprising, the Babiators Submariners have a cool name and totally look awesome too. But all this hipness comes with a hefty $35 price tag. Available in pink or blue.

Babiators Submariners Swim Mask & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

These anti-fog, shatter-resistant lenses provide 100% UV protection. The straps are quite easy to adjust with a press of a button. My kids had no problem with leaking. This kids’ swim mask comes in a submarine case that doubles as a toy. Of course, my children thought it was a water bottle but maybe your kids are smarter.

The swim mask/goggles also come with an incredible guarantee. If they are lost or broken, the company replaces them. I wonder if they’ll replace the other lost and broken stuff in my house. (Just keep in mind, you have to register the goggles within one month of purchase and the guarantee is only good for one year.)

One additional note, some of my kids didn’t love the wide plastic around the lens.

Size: One size (Fits most toddlers and children 3 – 7 + years)
Price: $35
Strengths: Your kid gets to say, “These are my Babiators Submariners so back off you common folk!”, no leaking, easy to adjust and fabulous replacement guarantee.
Weaknesses:  Definitely for the younger set. Kids older than 7 will find that it pinches their nose. You can find quality kid goggles for much less money.
Final Word on Babiators Submariners swim mask/goggles: Higher price but definitely a great pair of goggles for younger kids.

Speedo Kids Hydrospex Swim Mask

The Speedo Kids Hydrospex Swim Mask is like a swim mask and goggles all in one. They are latex free and also offer anti-fog protection and UVA/UVB protection. The one piece frame has a curved lens for maximum visibility. Clips on the sides for easy adjustment.

Speedo Hydrospex Kids Goggles & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

My 8 year old daughter really loved these because they stayed on well, did not leak and it was easy to see under water. She also liked the tinted lens. There is a reason the Speedo brand has been around so long. They make some quality products and this is one of them.

Size: One size
Price: $18
Strengths: Does not leak, the fit of a swim mask without being too bulky, anti-fog and UVA/UVB protection, easy to adjust the size and comfortable to wear.
Weaknesses:  Find me one because I can’t!
Final Word on  Speedo Kids Hydrospex Swim Mask swim goggles: Definitely recommend, especially if you want more of a swim mask. Alpha Mom Favorite.

Speedo Kids Skoogles Swim Goggle

My 5 year old daughter adores these Speedo Kids Skoogles Swim Goggles but in all fairness, I think it’s mostly because of the purple and pink color.

Speedo Skoogles Kids Goggles & 5 Other Pairs of Kids' Swim Goggles We Swear Won't Leak

Just like the Speedo Kids Hydrospex (reviewed above), these are latex-free, protect against UVA/UVB rays and have anti-fog protection. They have a one piece frame and do not leak.  They have a side release clip to make them easier to adjust.

These goggles are designed for kids in the 4 to 6 age range, but my 8 year old and 10 year old said they were comfortable to wear. So you may get more life out of them than you think.

Size: ages 4 – 6 (but some older kids can wear comfortably too)
Price: $11
Strengths: Does not leak, anti-fog and UVA/UVB protection, latex free, and comfortable to wear.
Weaknesses:  I prefer the side clasps on the Speedo Kids’ Hydrospex and Aqua Sphere Moby Kid goggles (both reviewed above) a bit more.Final Word on Speedo Kids Skoogles swim goggles: A solid pair of goggles for a great price and come in cool color combos.

Best Kids Swim Goggles & Masks

I don’t really think you can go wrong purchasing with any of these kids swim goggles. The most important thing to consider is to protect your child’s eyes and all of these get the job done. My top picks (pretty much based on my children’s preferences) are the Frogglez, the Aqua Sphere Moby Kid Swim Goggle and the Speedo Kids Hydrospex Swim Mask.

I love the Frogglez because they really came up with a unique pair of goggles that addressed specific kid needs like not pulling hair and a super easy size adjustment mechanism. But the Aqua Sphere Moby Kid Swim Goggles and the Speedo Kids Hydrospex Swim Mask are also both fabulous kid swim goggles/masks. Whatever you choose, happy swimming this summer!

Have a pair of kids’ swim goggles and masks you love that we didn’t mention? Or had a different experience with the ones reviewed above? Please share below we always love to hear readers’ opinions!

Alpha Mom purchased all the goggles tested in this review. 

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Want To Connect With One Of Your Kids? Try Focusing on Their Passion. Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:10:19 +0000

If you have a preteen (otherwise known as a tween), you may be in for quite a ride. My tween daughter (age 10) actually made me cry last week. And I am not the crier in this family. My husband is the one blubbering away at sentimental car commercials. It takes a lot to make me weepy. And well, she did it. She broke me.

The day started with her outrage (yes, outrage) that she had to leave the house shortly after waking up. Because as she put it, she needed time to “relax.” After 10 hours of sleep, she had an intense need for relaxation.

Then came a stop at the grocery store where I wouldn’t buy her a dessert that had artificial colors. First she ranted, “Everyone at school gets awesome desserts and white bread and….blah blah blah.” Then she actually sat down on the floor by the frozen dessert section and covered her face with her hands in protest.

The final conflict came shortly after we arrived home. She wanted to go swimming. But we had other plans. And that’s when she deemed me, “The worst mother in the world.” It was said very very loudly. You know, for emphasis.

Given that I pour a lot of love and energy into my children, that really cut into me. I knew she was just angry and didn’t mean it but there is only so much one woman can take. And I broke out in tears.

Connecting these days with my 10 year old is very tricky. Which is pretty much how I found myself on a horse farm shoveling poop.

I don’t like horses. I come from a family of very accomplished riders so I should really really like horses but I don’t. It’s not the horse’s fault. I just find them gigantic and I would prefer if they would stand still like statues.

In spite of this, I took my 10 year old to volunteer at a farm that works with abused horses. We picked up poop, brushed the horses, that sort of thing. Of course I kept getting all fidgety and nervous every time one of the animals started stomping around and acting too horse-like. But my daughter absolutely loved it….

And then I realized it. Here I was, doing something I had no interest in doing but it was pretty awesome because my daughter and I were actually bonding.

And it happens in the car too. My daughter adores music. So as we drive to and from camp, she plays DJ on my phone and we sing along to our favorite songs. Suddenly a silent ride filled with one word responses from her is a drive filled with laughter and our own renditions of the “Pitch Perfect” songs.

I remember my own mother trying to engage in my passions when I was young. Like shopping. But as much as she tried, my mother just seemed to follow me around, sort of bewildered by all the bright clothes. And instead of bringing us together, her zombie-like state kind of detracted from the experience. But I give her props for trying.

So when I find myself at that magical girl glitter haven, Justice, I make a real effort to put my phone away and stifle the urge to say, “Hurry up girls.” Instead, I watch my two oldest daughters as they run gleefully in and out of the dressing room, only stopping to give me quick fashion shows. 

As a parent, it’s not possible to embrace everything your child loves. I still loathe that game Chutes and Ladders. And imaginary Barbie play is painfully mind numbing. But it’s worth trying to make an effort. A short amount of focus on your children’s interests seems to make a big difference.

For example, playing is a key component of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (for kids age 2 to 7), used to strengthen the emotional connection with your child. In this therapy, parents use PRIDE parenting skills where they set up a short special playtime with their child (10 – 15 minutes per day) and let the child lead the play and direct the conversation. You can find examples here.

In the end, I know I’m not nearly the worst mother in the world.

And my daughter is definitely not the worst daughter. Far from it.

As she grows and changes, we are just trying to find our moments of togetherness amongst all the horse poop.

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Great Graduation Speeches: Because We All Need A Little Inspiration Fri, 22 May 2015 22:34:56 +0000

There are two kinds of graduation speeches, the ones that inspire you to live your best, boldest life and the ones that cause you to doodle in your program and maybe even nod off for just a moment. And since it’s graduation season, we thought we’d share some of the amazing ones.

I don’t believe there is one list of the absolute greatest graduation speeches of all time. Because for every person, it would be a slightly or very different list. But there are some speeches that seem to resonate with a lot of us. They make us think. They make us laugh.  They hopefully embolden us to be better, more courageous people whether we are 21 or 81. Even if it’s not graduation day for you or your children, these speeches will give a bit of inspiration to the daily grind of life.

Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

The late Steve Jobs (creator of Apple and Pixar) was a genius and his graduation speech is quite uplifting. He may have been a tech guy but he understood the importance of following your heart and intuition. He told the graduates, “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Jobs talked about getting fired from Apple (spoiler alert: he would work for them again), as one of the best things that ever happened to him. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

And Jobs stressed that all of us must find what we love to do. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Hearing his words made me really wish he was still on this planet creating and motivating all of us to do better.

Mary Schmich, The Sunscreen Speech, 1997

This is the graduation speech that wasn’t actually a graduation speech. The hypothetical commencement speech, called, “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young,” was writing by columnist Mary Schmich (although it is widely and wrongly rumored to have been given by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT).

The memorable essay went viral via email and gave graduates practical advice like… keep old love letters, throw away bank statements, avoid beauty magazines, do one thing that scares you every day and of course wear sunscreen.  I do! I do!

This guide to life for graduates was written almost 20 years ago and still holds true.

Jim Carrey, Maharishi University of Management, 2014

I’m not the biggest Jim Carrey fan. But I love the graduation speech he gave at Maharisha University of Management (in Iowa by the way and obviously big Jim Carrey fans). In one poignant part, he talks about his father who could have been a great comedian but settled for a job as an accountant. Then his father got laid off. Carrey told the students, “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

The speech intertwined inspirational moments and lots of humor. “The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never ask the universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it. And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order.”

Colleen Margiloff, Longwood University, 2012

This is a very under the radar convocation speech at Longwood University in Virginia given by Colleen Margiloff, the then President of the Alumni Association.

By the time I finished watching it, I wanted to get drinks with her and be her bestfriend.  She’s conversational, funny and just real. She encouraged graduates to always tell loved ones how they feel, recalling how she was running late on 9-11 and never said a proper goodbye to her husband, who was headed off to look at real estate across from the World Trade Center. Thankfully, by late afternoon, she was able to reach him and confirm he was okay.

Margiloff told graduates to be bold, to vote, to get a mentor and never put anything on Facebook you wouldn’t show to your grandmother and your boss. My favorite advice is about tattoos, including a confession that she will have a dolphin tattoo on her ankle for the rest of her life.

Casey Gerald, Harvard Business School, 2014

When you watch Casey Gerald give the student address at Harvard Business School, you can’t help but think you are watching a future leader of this country. He’s incredibly poised, self confident and inspiring. And he does it without notes.

Gerald talks about a near death experience with gunmen in his home that altered the direction of his life. “A strange thing happened as I accepted that I was about to die – I stopped being afraid.” He made a decision to give his life to a greater cause than himself.

Gerald went on to found a non-profit, MBAs Across America, a movement of MBAs and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize America.

Maya Rudolph, Tulane University, 2015

I’m a gradate of Tulane University and man, I wish someone like Maya Rudolph had given the commencement speech. (They got Ellen DeGeneres in 2009 too!). Although Rudolph’s speech is light on advice, it has a lot of laughs and even some familiar impersonations. She also encouraged the graduates to create their own destinies, hold on to their friends, kiss their mamas, work hard and put their damn iPhones away once and awhile.

She also pushed the students to admit their dreams – like when she admitted her dream of being on Saturday Night Live. She encouraged the graduates to say, “yes” and see where it might go – a reference to the rule of improv where you always say, yes and then add to the story.

Rudolph’s father attended Tulane and her cousin was in the 2015 class.

Sheryl Sandberg, Barnard University, 2011

If you need to get motivated to get out there and kick some butt today, this speech is a good one. Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook, is well known for her Lean In philosophy (she wrote a book about it) where she encourages women to rise to the top of their professions so females can become an equal voice at the table.  She urged the graduates of this women’s school to help stamp out gender inequality. She said, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”

She told the graduates to celebrate their accomplishment and then, “You’re going to find something you love doing, and you’re going to do it with gusto.  You’re going to pick your field and you’re going to ride it all the way to the top.”

Sandberg encouraged the women to think big, believe in themselves and “go home tonight and ask yourselves, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”  And then go do it.” We could all follow that advice.

J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008

I’ve never read the Harry Potter series but I’m still a J.K. Rowling fan – simply based on her  2008 commencement address at Harvard. In the speech, she talked honestly about pushing through failure and poverty by directing her energy into the only work that mattered to her.

She said, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

She also talked about the importance of raising one’s voice on behalf of those who have no voice. She stressed,  “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

And Rowling ends the speech on a beautiful note, “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters. I wish you all very good lives.”


What commencement address would you put on your list? We’d love to know. Inspire us!

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Dealing with Your Kid’s Negativity. It Ain’t Easy. Thu, 21 May 2015 14:32:00 +0000

My 5 year old son, Chase, is not a “look at the bright side” kind of kid. Like when my husband recently bought tickets to a baseball game and it ended up conflicting with a superhero party, my son was pretty much convinced he had the worst life ever.

For two straight days, all I heard was the constant whine, “I WANT TO GO TO THE SUPERHERO PARTY.” It got so repetitious and soul-sucking, that I finally gave-in and said, “I’ll take you to the party. You don’t have to go to the game.” And he responded, “But I don’t want to miss the baseball game!”


Look, I get it. He’s five. Disappointment and choices aren’t easy to process at his age but sometimes I find with all my kids (and there are five of them, so it’s not a bad sample size) that negativity is their default emotion. And it makes me crazy.

Sometimes when my older daughters get in the car after school, they are talking over each other, trying to tell me the worst part of their day. I know I’m the mom and I’m glad they feel comfortable sharing their angst and upset but I want/need to hear the good stuff too.

I don’t really know how to respond when my kids focus on the glass half-empty. Sometimes I want to squash the negativity by telling them to be grateful for everything they have. Other times I try distraction. (Cupcakes anyone?) Or another technique I use, is that I turn into Sunshine Suzy and become ultra-positive about whatever is going on.

I usually bounce back and forth between these solutions and none of them really work. But I am starting to realize that sometimes you just have to honor and empathize with your kids’ feelings.

Dr. Alissa Sheldon, a child psychologist, says, “If a child feels disappointment that is the result of an actual event or slight, then parents can use the experience as a teaching tool.” She says, let them know that it’s okay to be sad or angry.

Kids (like adults) need to feel heard and acknowledged. And then as parents, we can help them deal with these emotions.

Sheldon says, “By helping to translate what these feelings mean and that they are normal, a child can then begin to incorporate this understanding and perhaps be less troubled by these feelings when future disappointments occur.” As a parent – this is a hard place for me to be because my inclination is to try to fix everything, not sit there and help them process their feelings. 

My son Chase went to the baseball game. I survived his complaining and he survived the disappointment of missing his friend’s superhero party. I think he even had a pretty good day.

The reality is that disappointment is a part of life. If we can allow our kids to feel it and move through it, haven’t we taught them a valuable life skill?

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Are Your Kids Being Treated Like an Invisible Patient? Fri, 10 Apr 2015 13:30:11 +0000

Back in the last century (remember, before the millennium?) when I was a teenager, I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled and my mom brought me to a highly recommended oral surgeon. I did not like the guy at all. He never spoke to me during the appointment. He only spoke to my mother. I felt like the invisible patient. At a certain point during the consultation, I said to him, “I don’t feel comfortable with you. We are leaving.” Obviously, as a 17 year old, I was pretty ballsy.

The stunned man looked at my me, then at my mother. She said, “Looks like we are going! It was nice meeting you.” We left and found a much nicer surgeon. One who actually treated me like a person.

My 10 year old daughter recently had a similar experience. She needs braces and was very nervous about the pain. A couple of assistants brought us in and started doing the prep work. They took photos of her teeth. They sat her down in a chair. They began fitting her for a mold. The orthodontist even whizzed by a couple times. But no one said hello to her. Or really talked to her at all. And my daughter began to cry.

I said to a few of the assistants, “If you could just say hello to her and explain what you are going to do, she will be much calmer.”  They were dumbfounded. The orthodontist came out and said, “We find that kids do much better if their parents leave.” The idea of me leaving made my daughter cry harder.

“Do you want to do this another day?” somebody asked.

“No, that will only add to her anxiety. If you could just explain the procedure, that would be great.”

In the end, one of the orthodontist’s assistants went through each step of the braces process and my daughter started breathing again. This same assistant even apologized for not explaining things earlier. It wasn’t that they were trying to be rude. They were busy, on auto pilot and not taking the time to do one of the most important things in patient care – talking to the patient.

No matter how old the age of the child, they deserve respect and kindness from practitioners. And as a parent it’s my job to make sure that is happening. I don’t expect every doctor to be warm and fuzzy but I do expect them to speak directly to my children.

Of course, lots of doctors are very good at this. My pediatrician is a master. And just the other day, I took that same 10 year old daughter to the allergist. This doctor communicated compassionately and patiently with her. She answered all of my daughter’s questions and I could watch my child becoming more relaxed as they spoke.

The truth is, with limited health plans, HMOs and visits to urgent care, sometimes we don’t get to pick the ideal doctor for our children. But we can speak up when we don’t think they are being served well. It’s really our duty as parents.

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Is Tween the New Toddler? Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:59:16 +0000

For years, I’ve been hearing about this mystical sweet spot in childhood. As folklore has it, it occurs after the tantrum years but before teenage angst and attitude. A period of time when your child is finally somewhat rational and enjoyable and yet still wants to spend time with you.

My oldest daughter is now 10 and I figured I must be be right there. Just as I was about to bask in mother-daughter outings filled with lovely moments of bonding and laughter – she was throwing a fit over the fact that she doesn’t have an Instagram account.

Instead of a sweet spot, I have found my preteen or “tween” daughter on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute she is lovingly pushing her 2 year old brother on the swing and the next moment, she is bursting with giant tears because of some incredible injustice.

In the last few weeks alone, she cried when I killed an ant in the kitchen (instead of setting it free), when we bought the wrong color protractor although she never mentioned having a preference and when her sister got 15 minutes of extra TV while she was on a playdate.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous, I want to laugh but I don’t. Because I know the emotions are very real. It’s almost like the feelings take over her – so suddenly and so dramatically that she can’t contain it. Just like the days when she was a toddler, protesting madly at the outrage of having to wear pants – yes actual pants  – when she left the house.

I often get blindsided. We got frozen yogurt recently and I always remind my kids to not overfill the fishbowl size cups because I need some money left over for their higher education. But this time, my daughter ignored my wishes and filled her cup to the brim with a mountain of yogurt and toppings.

After I had paid close to $20 for our 3 yogurts, I said, “Dylan, you put way too much in your cup.” And she exploded. “I’M SORRY MOMMY. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!!! I DIDN’T MEAN TO! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME…..” And then the tears. She wouldn’t talk to me all the way home and all I could do was sigh and wonder how a fun yogurt outing turned so wrong.

The more I read about and explore the tween years, I realize they are filled with moodiness, volatile moments and pushing boundaries. There are hormonal changes going on and often preteens are as surprised by their emotional outbursts as the parents. Basically, my daughter is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and I just need to catch up.

And I realized I mostly need to calm down. All too often, I resort to yelling because I feel like I’m under attack. So when my daughter starts screaming about not getting to have a last minute sleepover (honestly, I just didn’t have the energy!), I found this advice very helpful…

“Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss it. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down…. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.” (Courtesy of Aha! Parenting)

In the end, we decided to put a future sleepover on the calendar. And that seemed to do the trick. So no, I never did find my sweet spot. What I found instead was very sweet moments intermingled between the challenges in this new frontier. And I’ll take every one of those moments I can get.

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My Child’s Dog Anxiety Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:43:55 +0000

I used to be a dog owner. We had a gorgeous rescue dog that we were were pretty confident was a mix between a Lab, a Greyhound and a kangaroo. She was a very quirky, lovable dog that needed to run about 10 miles a day to be calm. So we exercised her a lot.

But as I walked her down the streets of Manhattan, I was amazed at the fear of some children. Why were they afraid of my sweet-tempered, although highly-spirited pup? Why had their parents taught them to fear dogs?!  It made me sad because I had grown up loving dogs. Why had these parents taken their own fears and transferred them to their children?

(Note to all future parents: If you judge other parents, it will come back to haunt you.)

My children, 3 and 1 at the time, loved our dog Martini but she was just not meant to be a city dog. In the end, we had to find our rambunctious pet a wonderful home in Connecticut where she could run and play without the limits of city living.

Fast forward and when my younger daughter (at the time) Summer was about 3 or 4, I started noticing she was intensely fearful of dogs. She didn’t remember our former dog and grew panicked whenever a dog was around. There was never an incident where she was bitten or scared. This anxiety seemed to just suddenly appeared.

As she described it, “It’s okay when there is a person in a dog costume but I don’t like real dogs.”

Got it.

I figured she would grow out of it. It was a phase. Kids get anxious! A friend told me about her daughter once fearing lawn shrubbery. Children get over this stuff. So I didn’t give it too much attention and tried to foster positive relationships with dogs. I definitely didn’t worry.

That little girl is now 8 and still incredibly fearful of dogs. If we go to a block party, she can’t even have fun because she is terrified someone might show up with a dog. She won’t play at someone’s house unless their dog is put away in a separate room. The fear hasn’t dissipated. It’s only gotten worse. Every year, we spend a week with my mom in Connecticut. My mom happens to own two adorable canines. This is them….


For an entire week, my daughter Summer lives on the counter.


Summer can’t even explain why she is so scared. To have compassion, I try to imagine how I would feel if every dog was a snake. The idea terrifies me since I really hate snakes. So it helps me get where she is coming from.

When we see a dog on the street, Summer leaps to the other side of the road. The dog owner will usually say something like, “Oh don’t worry. My dog is a sweetheart. She loves kids!”

I appreciate that. I really do. But the thing is, it’s not about their dog. Their dog is cute and fluffy and my kid really doesn’t want to be anywhere near him or her. It’s not a personal thing.

And it’s also not about anything I taught my child. It’s an anxiety. We all have them.

I’m trying to go at my daughter’s pace. I respect her fears and try to reduce her dog exposure whenever we can. Be we are also trying to take baby steps. We show her photos and videos of dogs. She shares a room with her sister who plasters her side of the room with adorable puppy pictures and that seems okay. But Summer is not ready to get anywhere near even the gentlest of dogs.

My neighbor will soon be getting an 8 week Goldendoodle. I’m hoping Summer can learn to tolerate this pup and even maybe like him?

I don’t think she’ll ever be a canine lover but we are doing what we can to reduce her stress in our dog-loving world.

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School Uniforms: A Morning Savior or Crushing Individuality? Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:54:13 +0000

When we lived in NY, my daughters attended a non-uniform school with a very casual dress code. Which meant each morning we got to mull over questions like… Are leggings considered pants or more like tights? Do you need to wear a skirt over leggings? If no skirt, how long does the shirt need to be covering the leggings? Is this shirt too short? Is this shirt too tight? Is this a school outfit or glorified pajamas?

It was very exhausting.

I tried to make rules. For example, I told my girls: No leggings alone. You must wear a skirt over leggings. But they wore me down with their daily pleadings and I eventually let them wear leggings with long shirts (as long as the shirts covered their tushes).

But even that didn’t always work because sometimes a shirt was right on the line of appropriate or inappropriate or I’m not really sure and the only thing I know is that WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL.

School Uniforms

So I was quite relieved when we moved to Florida and my daughters started at a school which required uniforms.

They could choose from five different collared shirts… in white, pink, blue, red or blue stripes. And it had to be paired with navy or khaki bottoms (skirt or pants).

And it was GLORIOUS.

No more school clothing debates. No more attending school in outfits that were borderline sleepwear. No more worrying about what brand of clothing other girls were wearing. There was just…

Misery! Wait, what?

My younger school-aged daughter (now 8) actually doesn’t mind wearing a school uniform. She wears her uniform every day without a complaint. But my oldest daughter (now 10) can’t stand uniforms. How would she put it exactly? That it crushes her creative spirit and denies her happiness. She often wears a shirt under her uniform shirt so as soon as school is out, she can remove her collared shirt and be free.

I do get her point. I hate being told what to wear. I still shudder back to days when I had to wear blazers and pantyhose to work. I just felt so uncomfortable. So not me. I love putting on an outfit now that looks good and feels like me. I think for many of us – when we like what we are wearing, we feel better in our own skin.

But I also understand the benefit of school uniforms. It creates a respectful atmosphere for learning. It removes a lot of the peer pressure to wear certain clothing brands. It can even speed up the getting dressed process during those precious morning minutes.

But I no longer view uniforms as this magical solution to all tween fashion issues. School uniforms certainly work for some.  (There are kids who even wear their uniforms on the weekend!) And uniforms don’t work for others – like my creative free spirit child who makes eclectic fashion choices and sews her own clothes. A simple school dress code would have been a far better fit for her.

But I tell my daughter… sometimes in life you just have to follow the rules. And, at least she isn’t wearing pantyhose.

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When Mean Girls Are Too Close To Home Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:16:01 +0000

As an adult – you don’t know what it’s like to really want to rumble with a 10-year-old until that 10-year-old is mean to your kid.

This year we entered mean girl territory. First one of my daughters dealt with a not-so-nice girl at school who created an exclusive group at recess – a group to which my daughter was denied access.

And then both of my older daughters (currently 8 and 10) dealt with mean girls in our neighborhood. For awhile, they were the popular “it” girls in the hood and then they were frozen out.

They would watch all their former friends play outside, skipping from one house to the next while they were in some kind of unexplainable exile. No one knocked on our door anymore. No more buzzing texts. Just anguish. One afternoon, my daughters were heartbroken as they watched all the other girls swimming next door together.

And as a parent, I did not take it well.

I guess because I remember this all too well. I remember being the one who was “out.” The one who was ignored and never invited. And I also remember, at other times, being the one who felt mighty and strong, deciding who was cool and who was not. The whole thing made me nauseous and now my own children were immersed in it.

When you are dealing with issues like this, many well meaning people will say, “Wait until middle school. It gets even worse!” And I’m sure they are right. But when you feel like you are sinking on the Titantic, it doesn’t make you feel better if someone says, “You think things are bad now – wait, until you hit the icy ocean water. That’s when hypothermia will set in!”

At school, the mean girl issue was much simpler. The teacher shut down the exclusive recess club, the girl’s grandmother intervened and the situation has greatly improved. But our neighborhood is tougher. Some parents don’t want to get involved in their children’s behavior – choosing to let kids work it out themselves.

Children do need to fight their own battles but I also think as a parent, it’s up to me to guide them in these younger years. I don’t think children are miraculously born with compassion and kindness (heck, we adults are still working on these skills!). Kids need to be taught how their actions can positively and negatively affect other people. How a kind word or invite can make all the difference in someone’s day.

Because the neighborhood situation is so in our faces, I kept my daughters busy with activities away from home. I also set up a playdate with a new girl that moved in around the corner. I told my daughters that we would focus on spending time with positive, nice people. They couldn’t control the actions of those mean girls but they could control how they handled it.

I’m sure years from now, my daughters will have long forgiven the girls who swam and laughed that sunny afternoon while they watched sadly from our windows. I probably won’t. Because that’s how motherhood goes.

At one point during all of this, my daughter said to me, “I would never treat anyone this way.”

I realized these painful experiences are teaching my children true compassion. Compassion for what it feels like to be the outcast. I hope they remember this feeling when they are once again the ones on top of the social food chain.

And maybe we don’t have to accept that kids can be just cruel. Maybe we can guide them – just a bit – to their more compassionate selves.

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