The Craziness of Bar Mitzvah Year on the North Shore of Long Island

Congratulations, you made it! You survived the insanity that is known as Tennis Ladder Year. There should be a trophy of some sort- you certainly deserve it.

But before you can officially exhale, a nice big envelope arrives in the mail addressed to your child. Bar Mitzvah year is knocking on your door. I’d tell you not to answer but if you live on the North Shore of Long Island, you don’t really have a choice.

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The Basics

  • Some lucky parent back in 4th grade got the job of organizing a list that circulates throughout the grade so you can pick your child’s date three years later
  • There are anywhere from one to three Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (more commonly known as BMs) on any given weekend from May of 6th grade to November of 8th grade
  • Overlapping dates are a tough; there will be some but most parents try to switch dates especially if the kids are in the same friend group
  • Your child will be expected to go to the services of close friends even if they are during school hours (a parent who is going to the service will sign out a group of kids from school and take them to the temple and then bring them back to school)

Getting Ready (A Girl Mom’s Perspective)

If you have a daughter, I am so, so sorry.

You will need to buy more dresses than you could have imagined. Dresses for the services, dresses for day BMs and dresses for night BMs. Need I remind you shopping with a twelve or thirteen year old girl is hell. You will wonder what you did in a past life to deserve this kind of torture. Either they hate the kids department dresses they fit into or you hate the junior department dresses they fit into. There will be tears, yours and hers. You will swear up and down your daughter will not wear four inch heels or skin tight dresses. You most likely will cave at some point from sheer exhaustion.

The same goes for make-up and hair. I mistakingly thought twelve and thirteen year old girls don’t wear much makeup besides maybe some lip gloss or mascara. Silly me. I soon learned that many girls have their makeup and hair professionally done for these parties. Our local salons are filled with Tweens on Fridays and Saturdays getting blowouts for BMs. If you choose to say no to this as I did, be prepared from lots of pouting.

Carpool

Nine times out of ten your Tennis Ladder carpool turns in to your BM carpool. Dates are organized on an app such as Family Wall so parents in the carpool can sign up for dates to drive. When it is your turn to drive, the girls will most likely want to get ready together so most will get dropped off at your house around 5. You should them plan on ordering dinner because most kids don’t eat at the BMs (yes, you read that right- all that amazing food- sigh) You will then drive your carpool to the party and pick up, usually around midnight.

Gifts

  • Regular gifts (averages)- $18 if you are declining, $36 for random friends, $54 for close friends, $72 for camp friends. The check is sent back with the RSVP card. (Remember, 1-3 a weekend for over a year!!!)
  • B’nai Mitzvah – DOUBLE ($36 each kid – two separate checks if kid going, family of 3, $300 each (so yes a total of $600), family of 4, $400 each, family of 5, $500 each, ETC)
  • Family Gifts- Your family was invited- yay! Get your wallet ready- here is what is suggested (don’t shoot the messenger; personally, I give what I can) taken from Lulu & Lattes

-You and your spouse with 1 kid – $318, $354, $372, $400 (depending on level of friendship)

-You and your spouse with 2 kids – $400-$500

-You and your spouse with 3 kids – $500

-4+ kids (good luck, maybe try not to get invited…just kidding) $500+

-Your BFF – $418-518 (with your family)

  • Personalized Gifts- This is where your child makes a personal gift for the BM child. This may be a blanket, pillow or phone case with photos from a site such as Shutterfly or a handmade gift such as a wooden picture frame with pictures glued to it. Guests present these gifts to the BM child on camera so you can see how important making a personal gift can be.
  • Group Gifts- This is where a close friend hosts a group of kids over to work on a group gift for the BM child. Each child brings lots of pics and the host provides snacks. They may decorate a book shelf or a mini-fridge or make a scrapbook***. This is also presented at the BM so, again, getting in on the group gift is important too.

***The Scrapbook- this gift gets it own section. The idea is lovely; the process, not so much. One mother organizes a scrapbook for the BM child. This entails buying scrapbook pages, sending an email to all of the BM child’s friends’ moms, and leaving the pages for pick up outside your door. If you’re the mom in charge, you will need to also send additional reminders to pick up pages and then reminders to drop off pages and then you will need to organize said pages into a book. If your child is asked to make a page, and there can be as many as 3-4 a month, you will then need to pick up the page, upload pictures of your daughter and BM child to the drugstore to be printed, harass your child to complete the page, and then drop it back off.

  • The Jewelry Gift- This is a new one! This is where close friends chip in $50 each to get a special jewelry gift for the BM girl. Gifts include Hermes cuffs, David Yurman rings and replica Van Clef necklaces (that still cost close to $500).
  • Mitzvah Gift- As part of their BM, kids choose a charity, organization, or cause to work with. Sometimes it is volunteering their time, and other times it is raising money or collecting items. You may be asked to contribute towards their Mitzvah gift. If so, a donation of $36 is acceptable. 

The Swag

The swag is the stuff that the dancers throw out to the kids to keep them on the dance floor. Boring swag? The dance floor is likely to remain empty as kids would rather be on their phones. Some examples of good swag this year was Virtual Reality goggles, Fitbits, Beats, Ray Bans, jerseys, Kylie Lip Kits, blankets, sweatpants, and tank tops. Other notable swag this year has been custom air-brushed sneakers, custom air-brushed sweatpants, make-up personalized with the BM girl’s name and a lash bar (where girls could get fake lashes applied…not sure if that counts as swag but the girls certainly loved it!). When the lights go out for the “rave” portion of the night, sunglasses and glow in the dark rings, glasses and hats are passed out.

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Typical BM Socks

Socks play an important role at BMs- they are a must and have come to be expected. Because the girls are wearing heels they really have no business wearing, they can hardly walk, let alone dance. The moment the girls are done taking their pictures, the heels come off and the socks (given as a favor) go on. In lieu of socks this year, kids also received slides, flip flops, fuzzy slippers, and an Ugg-type boot at BMs.

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Typical BM Sweatshirt

The rest of the swag is waiting for the kids when they leave the party, most likely in a personalized bag of some type. 99% of the time it is a sweatshirt. The kids judge these sweatshirts on the softness and the design. It is a huge deal to wear these sweatshirts on the following Monday, so much that the schools have kindly asked on no less than ten occasions for students not wear them since it makes others who were not invited feel bad. Students (and parents) blatantly ignore this suggestion. If you do choose to follow it like I did, your child will be very upset with you because the BM child will likely be upset with them that they did not show up in the swag. Another battle you will fight and most likely lose.

BMs and Social Media

  • Posting a pic of the invitation on Snapchat the day it is received is one of the ways kids show their love for the BM child, usually with a caption like “So sickkkkk! Can’t wait to rage, bestie! LYSMYDEK”
  • Girls will do all sorts of countdowns for their friends (1 month, 1 week) on Instagram by posting a picture of the BM girl with a caption such as “1 week until we rage!”
  • A good Geo Tag on Snapchat is a must
  • Posting the entrance of the BM child on snapchat as their story is very popular and a way for kids show their friendship
  • Girls try to get an alone picture of themselves with the BM girl to post on Instagram the next day

What Makes a Good BM (according to the kids)

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Nope- not a nightclub or a rave, just a typical party my 13 year old attends roughly twice a week

 

In a nutshell, it’s the music, swag, and food at the end of the party.

One of the first decisions, after the date and location, is the entertainment. This includes the DJ, MC, and dancers. They really do set the tone for the party so it’s pretty important to get the right one. Dates are secured at least two years in advance. 

The swag was mentioned above so now lets discuss the food at the end of the party. As people are exiting, there is usually food of some sort set up in the lobby or there are food trucks outside. Shake Shack burgers, McDonalds, pizza or a set up similar to a convenience store or bakery where kids can grad as much candy, donuts, bagels, and muffins that they’d like were popular choices this year. Since the kids didn’t each much earlier, this is when they go crazy. Plus, candy. Need I say, more?

I must also note what makes a BM bad for your child- you attending. When parents are invited and attend, both parents and children will stare at each other, praying that the other is not doing anything embarrassing. It’s OK for parents to dance, but not near the kids (basically kids are on one part of the dance floor or the stage and the adults are on the other). It’s OK for you to take a picture with your child in front of the step and repeat but really, no more. Try not draw attention to yourself- no one wants to be that parent.

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Parents having a little too much fun

Tips and Lessons Learned

  • Decide before the first BM what your carpool will be doing for each other in terms of personal gifts, group gifts, and jewelry. Everyone should agree and be on the same page
  • Decide what you will do for the few girls who are not having a BM (not jewish or taking a trip instead)
  • Order dresses online from Bloomingdales and Nordstroms for your child to try on in the comfort of your home (good selection of dresses for services and great return policies)
  • Respond to RSVPs right away
  • Buy BM cards, crafts from Michaels, and photo paper to have on hand
  • It’s OK to say no to attending, especially when there are multiple BMs on a given weekend. I wish I would have realized this earlier- on a Sunday after 2-3 parties, the kids are EXHAUSTED. 

 

And that, my friends, is the low down on Bar Mitzvah year on the North Shore of Long Island. Hopefully knowing what to expect will make your journey a bit easier. Try to step back from the craziness long enough to appreciate the young man or woman your child is growing into, all dressed up and certainly having way more fun than you are!

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Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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Struggling with a phone addiction? Who isn’t? Read these innovative tips to cut back.

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Attention Foodies! Have you checked out The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017? The world’s best restaurant is right in our backyard! I’ve listed the other restaurants that are also in NYC- Cosme is the only one I’ve been too and I can say it most definitely IS amazing.

1. Eleven Madison Park (New York City)

17. Le Bernardin (New York City)

40. Cosme (New York City)

Best Pastry Chef: Dominique Ansel (Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC)

Speaking of food, please tell me you’ve jumped on the avocado toast bandwagon. How can something be so healthy AND delicious? Check out the below ideas from The Ambitious Kitchen for making your avocado toast even more fabulous.toast-1

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Finally, this moment from our Mother/daughter trip to Florida for our last college visits. Decision time!

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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A fun new Cuban restaurant in Garden City with live entertainment – food was good, drinks were better, entertainment was best!

The most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had.

SERIOUSLY.  If you’re near Barclays, you must check it out!

After I enjoyed the ice cream above, I decided to kick spring off with a week of clean eating. I used to do this every month but fell out of that practice a few years ago. It’s a great way to to get back on track. Here is a great reference on meal prepping which helps A LOT.

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I also made this healthy dinner (which I make only when my husband is traveling because he would disagree that it is actually, in fact, a dinner).

Kick off Spring by trying some of these 5 rituals

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

This week has really been an amazing week for me and my family. My husband began a new job, we took a weekend trip to Florida to visit family, and Raina got into two more schools. We also listed our home! Big changes, all wonderful, are happening and I’m trying my best to embrace each moment.

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How delicious does this Irish beer cheese soup look? Click for the recipe.

Juliette and I absolutely love these books. She is sooooo into them and says “no, no no” when the baby is thinking about doing something bad.

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I love how Fisher-Price is keeping it real. The mom comes with a cup of coffee because, lets face it, how else do we function?! A wine glass might have been just too much 😉 Seriously though, this doll house is my 20 month old’s most played with toy.

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S’mores pancakes from Landmark Diner. I came across this list of 31 Foods To Eat on Long Island and thought I better get started.

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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An afternoon pick-me-up for you and a friend- now through Saturday, Macchiatos are buy 1, get 1 free at Starbucks from 2-5 each day.

Speaking of Starbucks, I grabbed this bar for the baby a few weeks ago. I was so impressed I looked for them in my local grocery stores with no luck. Amazon to the rescue! I ordered a case and I may like them just as much as she does 🙂

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This isn’t new but every time I start to use it again, I wonder why I stopped. Natural Calm is a magnesium supplement that helps with stress, helps you sleep, helps with headaches, and helps keep you regular. Read the reviews on Amazon and check it out for yourself.

Finally, with the weather warming up, I’ve got Spring on my mind. Check out the sale at Shop Bop until tomorrow. The more you buy, the more you save at Shop Bop until 3/4.

 

 

Preparing for the College Application Process- A Timeline

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It’s crazy to say but I’m almost done with the getting-into-college process. My daughter will be making her decision in the next few weeks. She has already been accepted to two of her top choices so we are all breathing a little easier. I wanted to take some time while everything is fresh in my head to write down everything I’ve learned over the last few years during this often confusing process. This is a general timeline that I wish I would have had a few years ago. I hope it’s helpful!

Middle School

In middle school, your child’s grades (for the most part) won’t show up on their high school transcripts but this is the time when study habits are formed and  academic tracks are set. By now you should know what type of student your child is. Spend these years closing any gaps in their education, developing independent study skills and making sure they are on the right track, whatever track that may be. In the district where I live, all students begin a language in 6th grade so in 8th grade it’s considered an advanced level high school course, all students take Algebra in 8th grade and all are given the opportunity to take Earth Science, typically a 9th grade course (we have optional self-selection). Potentially three classes in middle school will appear on students’ high school transcripts. There is no doubt that taking Earth Science in 8th grade will put them on an advanced track for high school but many students are not ready and that’s perfectly OK. The door is not shut- they can still take honors/AP science classes down the road. A note on districts that allow self-selection for advanced classes- I highly recommend choosing classes based on teacher recommendations. If you are surprised or disagree with the teacher’s recommendation, speak to the teacher to understand why they feel the way they do. They may offer an insight that you don’t have. 

High School

9th and 10th grade-

  • Encourage your child to join many clubs and participate in many sports to see which ones they like. Basically, they should try out everything, especially if they don’t have a “thing”.
  • Familiarize yourself with which core classes are offered for each year and come up with a plan, knowing that your child may deviate from these courses.
  • Encourage your child to start building their relationship with their guidance counselor. You should as well.
  • Monitor grades very closely at the beginning of the year, especially in advanced classes. Be aware of the drop dates and level change dates.
  • Consider tutoring or test prep for regent exams because these grades will be on high school transcripts.
  • Plan your child’s summers for the next three years. As it was explained to me at a college workshop, your child has three summers to use to showcase their interests and passions.
  • At the end of 10th grade, your child should apply for leadership positions in the clubs and activities they like. Anyone can join a club but not everyone will hold a position.
  • Attend all college nights your school offers. Its valuable information that you can bank away.
  • Find out how many community service hours your child needs to graduate. Encourage them to get started.

Summer before 11th grade

  • Decide which standardized test your child will be taking. Gone are the days everyone took the SATs. The ACT is just as prevalent and one test might be a better fit for your child than the other. Make sure your child takes a practice test on both, compare scores and discuss with your child which one they preferred. Note- if the school doesn’t offer a practice ACT test, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to take one at a local testing center.
  • Begin test prep. Will your child have private tutoring sessions? Join a group class? Take an online course? Decide now and begin.
  • Find out the SAT and ACT dates for the coming year. Write them down!

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11th grade-

  • The beginning of 11th grade (usually October) your child should take their first test. Register right away for the second test. Each test is scored differently so your child should plan on taking it at least twice. When registering for the tests, you have an option to send scores directly to schools. DO NOT DO THIS. Yes, it’s free and you can save a few bucks but you don’t want scores to be sent to any schools without you seeing them first.
  • Aim for finishing all standardized tests this year. 
  • With your child, begin compiling a list of potential schools. Some things to consider are in-state/out-of-state, public/private, distance from home, large/small school, city/rural, greek life, specialty programs, and graduate programs offered. After her Junior Conference (a conference with the student, parents, and guidance counselor- if your school doesn’t offer this, then I highly suggest you request one yourself) we added and subtracted a few schools from our original list. I then created a spreadsheet to organize the potential schools’ information. I made columns for average GPAs and test scores, rankings, tuition/room costs, and application deadlines. One thing that I wish I would have known is that many private schools with hefty tuition costs offer lots of merit aid. We then narrowed it down to two “safe” schools, two schools that were right at her level and two “reach” schools (we made these determinations by looking at average GPAs and test scores for admitted students). Then at the last minute, three more schools were added for various reasons, which I’m guessing is fairly common for most families.
  • Plan college visits. This is a great way to spend Spring Break trip during Junior year. Some schools do factor in demonstrated student interest in their decision so make sure to find out whether the schools your child are interested in looks favorably on visits and plan accordingly.

Summer Before Senior Year-

  • Encourage your child to complete their college application essay. Essay topics usually get released very early in the year. Check the Common App site for 2017/2018 prompts. In many schools, students work on an essay in their English class in 11th grade so your child may have an idea of what they’d like to write about. You can hire a specialty tutor to help your child with this but make sure they are guiding your child and not writing the essay for them. Admission officers say time and time again that they can tell when a student writes the essay versus an adult. High school English teachers often tutor students in this area so that may be a good place to start if you feel your child needs help.

12th Grade

  • As soon as possible, your child should apply to any schools with “rolling admissions”.
  • Aim to apply to all schools by November 1st if possible. My daughter managed to get four out of 8 done by 11/1. She is still waiting to hear back from the other four that were submitted after November 1st. Otherwise, she would have been able to make her decision by January! It’s tough waiting when many of your friends know where they will be going.
  • Your child should express interest in the college(s) they really hope to attend. They should reach out to the admission reps for their area and introduce themselves. If they have specific questions regarding programs, encourage them to email the department heads. If they can’t visit, an email requesting information shows that they are interested.
  • Celebrate the acceptances! There’s not one school your child MUST get into. There are hundreds of colleges and rest assured, your child will get in where they belong.

Thinking about college is both stressful and exciting for us parents. Knowing what lies ahead and having a solid plan in place will help you deal with the anxiety. Now I can shift my stress to her actually leaving…

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Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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This delicious Vegetable Cheddar Soup– perfect for the final days of winter.

Looking for something to do on a beautiful day in NYC? The Seaglass Carousel was amazing! My teens enjoyed it as much as my 19 month old.

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I’m loving this new-to-me app called Scannable. Scan anything with your phone! Easy enough for my tech-challenged husband to embrace. Can I finally stop scanning things for him? Only time will tell…

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

Between taking an online class this week, two going down with the stomach virus, and my mom visiting from Florida, it was a busy week. Here are my Friday Favs a day late 🙂

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By know I’m sure you know what an Acai Bowl is but have you heard of a Buddah Bowl?

Check out these recipes.

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If you have a toddler and play their tunes in the car, you may love this rendition of If You’re Happy and You Know It just as much as I do- and yes, I need a car wash desperately 😉

I loved reading these reminders on Ways to Raise Good Kids.

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Favorite moment of the week- getting to see a bucket list concert with my 17 year old.

I’ve loved Red Hot Chili Peppers since I was 12 when Under the Bridge came out 🙂

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

It’s Super Bowl weekend! Do you have your menu planned? Here is my go-to recipe for Super Bowl parties- Blue Cheese Chicken Wing Dip.

Have you ever done an insta-challenge? Me neither but I thought it might be something fun to get through my least favorite month of the year. I’m jumping in with #3 today.

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This recipe for a Kale Salad. Disclaimer- I’m the only one who liked it (but I swear it’s good!) so go into it with realistic expectations. It’s KALE. Good for you for lunch; don’t try to serve to your kids and your hubby for dinner like I did.

Three Simple Ways to Raise Great Kids. A short article with great reminders. My favorite is number 2.

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Are you a critical thinker? Would you like to raise one? I love these questions to get us all thinking!