Back to school anxiety……sale!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:11-04:00 September 17th, 2017|anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, birds, birds of prey, childhood, children, education, Life, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, Owls, parenthood, parenting, school, shopping, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

No, we aren’t selling anxiety, silly! But we are selling Totems that will help with any anxiety you or your kids might be experiencing as they go back to school. You might be saying “Hey, we’ve been back to school for almost a month, you’re a little late!” Well, all kids are different, and I learned this with my own, especially around back to school time. First day, usually a breeze. First week, pretty much unscathed. Second week, the “I don’t want to go to school dance” begins. My kids, all of them, would be fine for the first couple weeks, and then the s*%t would hit the fan. Sometimes it’s the excitement of a new beginning that helps hide the anxiety that kids might be feeling. Sometimes it’s the realization that this is the new normal that kicks the anxiety in to high gear. Either way, Totem Tamers can help. Anxiety typically leaves people overwhelmed and feeling out of control and powerless, more so for children, who struggle verbalizing these feelings. So, we want to make it easier for you and/or your kids, or anyone you know that might benefit from some simple coping techniques, and we are putting our Totems on sale!

sale

Limited Time Only Sale!

Visit our shop at www.totemtamers.com/shop and choose from Owl, Bear, Shark, or Bulldog and empower yourself to find calm when you need it most. Every Totem comes with a super soft microfiber bag (which doubles as an eyeglass lens cleaner), a handy guide card that gives you simple steps on regaining calm, and a beautiful, weighted Totem that feels great in your hand and not too bulky in your pocket! We have an incredibly illustrated booklet available as well, that can be really helpful for children, who might benefit from visuals when trying to explain how they feel. And, if you’re feeling super generous, we can even add a gorgeous natural wood box if you want to give a Totem as a gift! Get on the road to calm, and get your Totem today!

My kids stash Totems in their backpacks, because knowing it’s there is sometimes all they need to know when they’re feeling anxious.

Stay well.

 

The next one’s gonna be a King or wisdom from my 10-year-old.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:14-04:00 April 27th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, birds, brotherhood, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, Creative, creativity, education, family, gratitude, inspiration, Life, mind/body, motherhood, motivation, Owls, parenthood, parenting, sharks, single parents, stress, stress relief, totems|

It’s really incredible when a life lesson happens when you least expect it and manage the divinity to recognize it! Now I will attempt to translate it to you as it happened to me. Hang in there for it.

My 10-year-old has picked up the card game Solitaire. It’s fun for me because I grew up playing card games, especially Solitaire, which reminds me of my Grandmother. However, watching my kid play a card game on his iPad was starting to make me nuts! I pulled out a brand new deck of cards and sat him down to teach him how to play with actual playing cards. We then both remembered a game his awesome 4th grade teacher had taught the class, called Clock Solitaire! It’s fun and simple, a total  game of chance and a perfect tool for procrastination. If you want to learn how to play click here for rules and visuals. Bottom line, your cards get laid out like the face of a clock with one stack in the middle where the Kings land. The game ends either when you have uncovered all the cards and placed them on their appropriate piles and you win, OR you have turned over all four Kings before turning the rest of the cards over and you lose. Got it? Hope so.

Watch the clock!

Now my son is totally reanimated by Clock Solitaire and is playing over and over again, with actual cards, and I’m having fun watching him and listening to his play by play. Then it registered what he was saying every time he was about to turn a card over, “next one’s gonna be a King, next one’s gonna be a King, next one’s gonna be a King.” What struck me was the seemingly negative attitude my son had, assuming that the next card he turned over was going to be a King and therefore leading him closer to losing. So I interjected and said “well that’s a pretty negative attitude, thinking that every next card is going to be a bad card. Maybe you should think positively and think that the next card will be a good card!” The look he gave me required no words, and that’s when the lesson smacked me right between the eyes! I was trying to teach my son about positivity, but he was actually doing it already, just in reverse. I’ll explain.

My way of playing, the “positive” way, encourages me to think that each card I turn over will be a card I want, as opposed to a King which is what I don’t want. Right? The next card WON’T be a King. I’m all happy and content turning the card until BOOM, it’s a King, and I’m all dejected and disappointed and frustrated. Darnit, it was a King.

My kid’s way of playing, the “negative” way, encourages him to think that each card he turns over will be the card he doesn’t want, so the assumption is that EVERY card will be a King. He’s focused, and intent on his game while turning the card and BOOM, it’s not a King! Whew! Relief, celebration, motivation to keep going and to keep playing. Wait, what? That sounds like positive feelings. Well I’ll be! Those ARE positive feelings. Lesson learned!

So with that, I take my newly discovered perspective, thanks to my 10-year-old, out in to the world with the mantra that the next one, IS going to be a King!

Happy playing!

Stay well.

Here’s one case for NO separation of “Church & State”!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:16-04:00 March 14th, 2017|activist, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, broadway, civil rights, Creative, creativity, death, donation, education, elections, family, grief, gun violence, hate crime, inspiration, Life, loss, mental health, motivation, nyc, politics, prayer, relationships, religion, sadness, school|

I don’t talk much about politics in this space, although if you have been a reader of this blog, you can pretty much gauge what side of the dais I would sit on. Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be about politics….really, well, not really, but sort of, maybe a little bit. This post is going to be about theater, drama, comedy and friendship. I went to theater the other night with a group of friends, to see a play that was written and produced by friends, and it had equal parts comedy and drama. The play is called “Church & State”, and it’s in previews now at New World Stages. While I was watching the play, I was struck with imagery of a heated tennis match, because my emotions were being slammed across the net between laughter, anger, fear and sadness. In less than 90 minutes, I was moved to a point of paralysis. Yes, moved so emotionally, that I couldn’t move physically for a few minutes after it ended, because I was taking it all in and letting it wash over me. I was having varied experiences, mind you. I had just watched a play that someone I know wrote and someone I know produced, and it was good. I mean, not just like “Oh wasn’t that sweet” kinda good, I mean “Holy crap, that was impressive” kinda good. And, the content was just so relevant, and important, and crucial to the current state of affairs of our country and our communities, that I wanted to get up and holler that something needs to be done!!! So here is my holler, GO SEE THIS PLAY!

Powerful new play!

I can tell you that this play is about a lot of things including politics, but also faith, speaking your mind, marriage, community, and death. I can tell you that this play is already making an impact and it hasn’t even opened yet! Politicians and celebrities are not only coming to see it, but some will even be participating in panels throughout the run of the play to further conversation about the controversial subject matter. I guess I’m being a little vague on purpose here, because I want to protect the power of the play and if you go in knowing too much, it might color the way you receive it. Even thinking about the play now, I get choked up! Of course, you can click on the link above and learn a little more about it and what inspired it, or you can take a chance and see something that will undoubtedly leave you thinking, if not shaking just a little bit.

Off my soapbox!

Stay well.

 

Help a small child today!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:22-04:00 September 23rd, 2016|accessories, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, education, friends, friendship, loss, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, pets, school, stress, stress relief, therapy, totems|

Ok, maybe it’s a dramatic title, but I guarantee that there is a little kid somewhere devastated that he or she is without their bunny right now!

Rescue this bunny!

Rescue this bunny!

I wrote a post a long time ago about security objects and seeing this stranded bunny, which was actually in the middle of the street next to a car, I was immediately heartbroken for the child who is most definitely longing for this stuffed animal. That’s why we have these connections, they are grounding to us and let us know that everything is ok, or at least will be ok as long as these objects are with us. It’s just like having a Totem in your pocket! A lot of our Totem owners say they don’t go anywhere without their Totems, and part of that is just the comfort of knowing it’s with you in case there’s a situation that may become overwhelming. Of course, it’s always best to have more than Totem, or security object, because you never know when you might lose one or need to lend yours to someone else in need. Get a Totem today at https://totemtamers.com/shop! Let’s see if we can reunite this bunny with it’s caretaker and I will gladly award the child with a Totem of their choice!!! This is of course in NYC near the PS 199 school playground. Share and hopefully by this afternoon we will have good news!

Stay well.

Sticks and stones…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:25-04:00 August 13th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, education, family, friends, friendship, mind/body, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, relationships, school, totems|

You know the old rhyme! “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most kids are taught that one early on in childhood when they have their first experience with name calling. “Mommy, Janie called me a poopy-head!” “Well dear, it’s just a word and as you know, sticks and stones, sticks and stones.” There are others we had too, like “I’m rubber, you’re  glue! Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!” That one was always bizarre and never really made much sense as a comeback, almost as weird as this exchange: “You’re a poopyhead”, said Mikey. “I know you are, but what am I”, retorted Billy. What? I know you are but what am I? What does that even mean and why do we continue to perpetuate these comebacks when they don’t really deal with the bigger issue at hand. Words can and do hurt! I mean, ok, someone calling you a poopyhead isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things, but there are plenty of harmful words out there that are sometimes used against our children and we are doing them a disservice if we don’t equip them with the tools to handle them. Namely sticks and stones! I’m kidding!!!! Physical violence is never an answer. What I’m getting at though, and what’s super important, is validating your child’s hurt if they come home sad because someone called them “stupid” or “fat” or “ugly” or a “prude” or a “loser” or a “geek” or a “nerd.” What doesn’t work is telling your child that the perpetrator didn’t mean it, or they’re only saying those things because they’re jealous, for example. What your child needs is for you to recognize that no matter what was said to them, they are feeling hurt by it and they need to know that it’s ok to feel hurt. It’s dialogue waiting to happen! “Mom, Timmy called me stupid today in the yard.” “Oh honey! That sounds awful. You seem upset, and that’s totally understandable. Do you want to talk about it?” You can even take it a step further and use the incident to teach some compassion. Talk to your child about what might make “Timmy” want to call other kids hurtful names. Maybe even suggest that “Timmy” might have been having a hard day or tough times at home, and that usually name-calling is a reaction to something deeper going on inside the perpetrator. Sure this might be going a little deep, (and “Timmy” might just be a grade-A jerk) but you can likely gauge what shape your child is in and how much they need from you. It might be enough for them to just hear you say “yeah, that probably sucked a whole lot and I’m sorry it happened.” Bottom line, and this is for any situation, not just when your kids are hurt but when anyone expresses their hurt, validate, validate, validate!!!

Sticks, stones, Totems!

Sticks, stones, Totems!

Stay well.

T(each) his own!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:42-04:00 April 15th, 2016|addiction, anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, education, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, school, sharing, stress, stress relief|

I am fortunate that I get to pick up my youngest kid from school most days. I love the look on his face when he sees me, it’s like an instant heart-warmer. I am also grateful that I can connect with other parents and check in with his teacher when necessary. There are those moments though, that I have to hold my breath. You know the ones I mean, when your child comes up to you and says “Mom, the teacher needs to see you.” Breathe. I always ask my children, and I highly recommend this technique for you, what they think the teacher might want to talk to me about. Sometimes they know, and they tell me right away, and other times, they don’t. Either way it helps me determine potential guilt or innocence. Yesterday afternoon, my sweet boy greets me at pickup and tells me the teacher needs to talk to me. I ask my question, and he has no clue why she wants to talk to me, and I believe him. Finally, most of the kids get dismissed and I approach the teacher. She’s magical by the way and engages children like I have never seen. A smile crosses her face as she sees me, but I can tell that it’s a heavy smile, like we are definitely going to talk about something of substance related to my child. She tells me she wanted to give me a heads up about the stuff my son is working on in class for their poetry unit. Immediate relief washes over me, because I actually already know what my son is working on because he told me. He’s writing poetry about addiction, substance use, overdose, overdose prevention, and family. My son is 9. I smile back at the teacher because I realize that she’s likely telling me because the poetry books will be revealed to all at an upcoming publishing party for the class that includes parents. I reassure her that this subject matter is regular conversation in my house, and that if she had any questions or need for clarification I would be happy to oblige. I did have a moment where I was concerned that it might be too much for the other kids and their parents, but that concern quickly turned into gumption and hope that my son being this open will spur his friends to ask questions and maybe even their parents to ask questions. It’s all about the conversation, and that my 9 year old is talking about Naloxone, “a life saving drug that his grampa made to help people who use drugs”, is miraculous. It’s also heartbreaking.

poetry and lyrics

My kid asked me for a journal the other day which is how I know about the poetry unit in class. He’s calling it a lyric book. He wrote his first poem and it’s called “Quit”. There’s a line in it about my brother who died of a heroin overdose a few years before my son was born. He refers to my brother as “the uncle he never had.” He also uses my regular statement of my brother’s death hopefully saving him from the same fate. I told him how beautiful the poem was and thanked him for sharing it with me. He seemed proud of himself and was eager to write more. This is how I know how important these conversations are with my kids, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. I am grateful that my son’s teacher didn’t freak out and didn’t tell him that he couldn’t write about this topic, instead she marveled at his depth and encouraged him along, and let me know what I can expect at the upcoming publishing party. I’m not too worried, I’m pretty good in a crowd, and who knows, maybe I’ll bring my overdose prevention kit for show and tell!

Stay well.

If you have questions, Harm Reduction Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance are wonderful resources. Feel free to email me, too: julie@totemtamers.com!

There’s more to #givingTuesday than cash!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:52-04:00 December 1st, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, charity, childhood, children, donation, education, family, friends, friendship, gift, gifts, gratitude, holiday, inspiration, Life, motherhood, motivation, parenthood, parenting, strangers, stress, stress relief, totems|

First, there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now, Giving Tuesday. All of these “days” are centered around money. Black Friday has everything on super sale after Thanksgiving, so you’re encouraged to buy, buy, buy. Small Business Saturday is all about supporting small businesses (duh), so buy, buy, buy! Cyber Monday means you can sit in your PJ’s and what else? Buy, buy, buy! Now we come to Giving Tuesday, which encourages you to take any money you might have leftover and donate, donate, donate. It’s a grand idea and there are countless worthy organizations that need support by way of donations. I know I have several that I support year-round, but there may be a new one or two that I help out this year. (If you’re looking for some ideas, shoot me an email at julie@totemtamers.com, and I’ll happily share some needy organizations with you!) Over the last couple days though, something occurred to me, there is plenty of giving that doesn’t actually require spending! You can certainly give time, like my family did on Thanksgiving when we served dinner at a homeless shelter run by The Doe Fund.

Aren't hairnets awesome?

Aren’t hairnets awesome?

Giving can be as simple as a smile to a neighbor, or an extra hug to your kids. I had a birthday over the weekend and so many people gave me time and well wishes that it moved me to tears. Giving feels good and it works in both directions! The giver and the receiver end up rewarded, and there’s no better gift than that! So, if you have some spare change and/or a cause near and dear, go ahead and make a donation. If you don’t have money to spare, that’s ok, because you definitely have spirit and good will in abundance, and that’s free! Use it! I think you’re awesome and you will too, when you give.

Stay well.

Totem Tamers appreciates Teachers!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:20:47-04:00 May 5th, 2015|anxiety, children, education, Life, mental health, school|

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Day!!! Thank you to all the teachers who influenced me along the way (both in good and constructive manners), and for helping me navigate some of the trickier years of development. Now as I watch my three boys navigate their way, I am grateful for the teachers that have taken the time to get to know them and care about them and school them. I am also grateful for the ones that haven’t done right by them. Yes, even them. It helps my kids (and me) really take notice when a teacher cares, and actually makes an effort to connect and engage.

Appreciate your teachers!!

Appreciate your teachers!!

When you get the chance, give a shout-out to the teachers that pretty much act as co-parents right along with you.

Stay well.

Give the gift of a Totem to the teachers in your life, to help them stay calm anytime, anywhere! Just click on any of the Totems on the side of the page and buy one today!

Are you an objective parent? (That's not an accusation.)

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:43-04:00 March 19th, 2015|children, education, Life, mental health, stress|

Today was Parent/Teacher conferences. Not at one school of course, but at two out of three schools that my children are connected to. I only managed one, but have already scheduled the other at a time convenient to my child’s teacher. (Interesting note that while writing the prior sentence, I actually wrote “…convenient to my teacher,” and edited.) That’s an important note, because I know how stressful these conferences can be, especially when some (a lot) parents take the usually 3-10 minute meetings very personally. You know what I mean. Those parents who argue with the teachers, or blatantly dismiss a teachers observations because “my child would never do that,” or “you must be mistaken, my daughter says you never call on her and that’s why she doesn’t participate.” Just a couple examples I am sure teachers hear all the time.These conferences may be one of the few times you get face-to-face interaction with your child’s teachers, especially once they hit the middle and high school levels. This is when you take the precious minutes offered and ask important questions like “how is my child doing,” “is my child participating enough,” “can you give me some insight into the kids my child is hanging out with.” That last question might be helpful for older kids where you don’t necessarily get access to their friends very often to form an opinion. These opportunities are for you to get some idea of how your child functions in the classroom, with authority figures, with peers, with assignments, and the like. These are not the opportunities to deny that your child may have a learning challenge, or may be misbehaving, or simply not applying him/herself (that was always on my report card.) Go with an open mind and trust that the teachers who spend a lot of time with your children, actually have a clue as to who your child is or who your child is capable of becoming! I had a really productive, albeit chaotic, conference today for my middle schooler. I went in prepared to listen, and yes, even prepared to make excuses, but I was quick to realize that his teachers all have his best interest at heart and crazy enough, so do I!!! So I walked out feeling confident that even though my kid may not be at the top of the class, I know his teachers understand him, like him, and see his incredible potential, and that’s what matters most.

Stay well.

My son’s anxiety is better under control these days, and I’m sure a lot has to do with development, but he admits and I can attest, that a lot of it has to do with his Totem and the simple techniques we outline in our Totem Tamers booklet. If you have an anxious child, consider a Totem today! Click on any of the four Totems on the side of the page and visit our store.

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:51-04:00 November 12th, 2014|animals, dogs, education, Life, mental health, therapy|

Every once in a while, you meet a good one. You know, those people who have a great story and in that story you learn of an experience they had that ultimately changed their lives for the better. All of that change, brought about by simply helping others. I met one of those good ones last week in Audrey Hendler. Audrey is the Founder and Executive Director of a not-for-profit organization called “A Fair Shake for Youth“. This organization works with middle school students and “uses therapy dogs to help kids build self-esteem and reduce bullying.” When Audrey told her story to a group of dog lovers gathered in my building, it gave me shivers. Not because it was based in trauma, or adversity, or anything earth shattering, but just the opposite! I got shivers because Audrey’s path seemed so simple and clear, and it reminded me of how Totem Tamers came to be. Audrey was donating her time to a program called Puppies Behind Bars, where inmates learned how to care for and ultimately train service dogs. Watching the inmates connect to the animals and find courage where there had previously only been failure and disappointment, is what moved Audrey and made her wonder how these people’s lives might have been positively impacted if they had had access to a therapy dog program at a younger age. She left the corporate world, and “A Fair Shake for Youth” was born. The program is already active in several schools in New York City, along with various after-school and summer camp programs, with the hope that it can add many more in the future. We had the pleasure of meeting two of the therapy dogs that are part of this organization, Lucy and Olive!

Bulldog with Lucy and Olive!

Bulldog with Lucy and Olive!

The dogs and their human partners go through a therapy certification program that prepares the team for going into situations with children, some of whom have never been close to a dog before. The teams that are assigned to a school, commit to an hour each week for a semester. This gives the kids a chance to connect with the dogs and also something to look forward to every week. A facilitator talks the kids through various exercises with the dogs, while also integrating anti-bullying education and building self-esteem and confidence. When I asked Audrey what one of the most challenging aspects of working with the kids has been, I was shocked and saddened by her answer. She said it was hard to get the children to praise the dogs after a trick was performed or a command was heeded. The reality that a lot of these kids are from shelters or broken homes and not receiving praise on a regular basis themselves, it’s a challenge for them to give praise freely to the dogs. However, by the end of the program, the kids “learn positive reinforcement, patience and respect.” Each child gets a trading card of their dog, like the ones seen above, and most of them carry those cards long after the program is over.

Naturally, “A Fair Shake” needs support which you can give by making a donation, or even considering becoming a team with your dog, so you too can effect change, not only in your life, but in the lives of children who really need it. Totem Tamers is proud to call Audrey and “A Fair Shake for Youth” Warriors this week and always!

Stay well.

You can carry a dog with you always in the form of a Bulldog Totem!! Click on Bulldog and order one today!!

Not the wake up call I asked for!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:53-04:00 October 22nd, 2014|education, family, health, Life, mental health, parenting, school|

A couple days a week, I get to sleep past my typical 6:15 am wake up call. Only by about an hour, but an hour is a gift to most of us who struggle with getting good quality sleep. So imagine my horror when my phone rings at 7am this morning right when I’m at the denouement of the dream where the guy gets the girl, just as the bomb goes off not injuring anyone, but safely preventing the bad guys from getting to the hero couple! As soon as I looked at the caller ID and read “Board of Ed, City of New York”, I heard the shell casings fall to the floor. “Is this the mother of —-?” Otherwise known as my oldest, the teenager, the kid who breaks my heart when he sings, the baby who was my first foray in to the wonderful minefield that is parenting, my sweet boy who is now towering over me? “Yes, this is she.” Here it was, the phone call that gets threatened to the kids in the honors English class, from the first day of school. It was really happening. My immediate reaction was to defend this child of nicknames and cuteness, but I took a deep breath and decided to listen to his teacher instead. (Let’s not forget that the dream images of Jason Statham carrying me to safety are still lingering in my head, so I was a tad distracted.) This is a teacher whose reputation precedes her. For example, school officially begins at 8am, but she implores her students in first period to be there at 7:30. Trust me, this annoyed the crap out of all of us at the start, but I began to understand her logic. When school starts at 8, she wants kids in their seats ready to go, not just getting in to the room and sorting their desks and checking instagram feeds with their friends. She wants, and deserves, a room full of kids who have gotten their willies out, and are settled in for the lesson of the day. So fine, we push for our kid to get there as close to 7:30 as possible, which coming from Brooklyn a couple days a week isn’t always easy. I knew the phone call wasn’t about that, so why was I chatting with Dr. Teacher so early in the morning? My boy wasn’t doing his best, plain and simple. There wasn’t anything that this teacher said that surprised me, in fact her dedication to these kids, her waking up at 4:30 every morning to make sure she’s in the classroom by 6:45 for those kids who want to get their even earlier, made me frustrated with my kid more than anything! I was then able to imagine the scores of parents who I’m sure challenge Dr. Teacher, and defend their kids and complain about her practices etc.. I was tempted, don’t get me wrong, because my kid is a superstar in my book, but I realized in that moment, he wasn’t a superstar in her book, and that was unacceptable! I thanked Dr. Teacher for the call after we came up with a plan of action, and expressed my frustration that she isn’t getting to see the “superstar” that I see everyday. She assured me that with us collaborating, that “superstar” will make himself evident soon enough. Of course, she didn’t use the word superstar, and neither did I, but I know, you know, just what I mean! We are all parents of superstars, and all we can wish for is that everyone sees our kids for the superstars they are and can be. Working with the teachers, who once our kids hit school age, will spend almost as much time with them as we do, is the best way for our superstars to shine!

Stay well.

PS: He’s totally grounded if he doesn’t get his grades up!

I’ll encourage my superstar to carry a Totem with him for times Dr. Teacher pushes his buttons. Maybe your superstar could use a Totem as well? Order one today by clicking on any of the Totem images to your left!