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Connecticut mom entrepreneurs

(you should know about)
Darien mom and entrepreneurial expert Holly Hurd founded a website called VentureMom to support, encourage and increase exposure for mom entrepreneurs working hard to run successful businesses. Many of the Venture Moms are Connecticut women who decided to follow their passions and create a business venture around what they love most. On the VentureMom website, these moms can connect with other women, offer advice and words of encouragement, and they can sell their products and services in the VentureMom Shop. Three of the women featured on are Connecticut moms who have followed their dreams to run a successful business right from their own homes and their stories are now inspiring women across the nation. Kim Genzburg, founder of Stick Storage Kim Genzburg invented Stick Storage to provide a storage solution to the clutter and chaos created by kids stick-sports equipment, plus yard tools, rakes, mops, and brooms. As a mom, her days were packed with active kids going from school to sports and she was fed up with tripping over her kids sports equipment all over the house. She envisioned a place to organize the usual stick-heave that happens the second they walked through the door, and wanted her kids to have a place to store their equipment that would keep it all neatly sorted and organized some kind of storage caddy that they would actually use. I am so happy to be able to share this tool with fellow moms and dads who struggle with keeping their kids equipment together and organized. Its also great for long-handled yard and household tools, Genzburg said. Stick Storage units retail for $119, and are available through Ruth Frantz, founder of Henris Reserve Ruth Frantz wanted to create a career where she wouldnt have to travel so much and could work from anywhere with just a laptop and cell phone and take care of her 10-year-old daughter. So she took a leap, quit her job to restructure her life and had no idea what she would do. Thinking about her next move, she was talking with a friend about the fabulous artisanal family estate champagnes that were nearly impossible to find in the U.S., when she had an idea. She knew there are hundreds of small wineries in the champagne region of France who produce small quantities of amazingly special champagnes, so she decided to offer these boutique champagnes via e-Commerce. As an entertainer at home with food and wines, marketing champagne was a natural extension of her talents and interests. Getting help from a friend with the website, she went from idea to launch in a short seven months. I saw a niche that wasnt being fulfilled, she said. Using my past experience and skill set I was able to start my own thing. Henris Reserve champagnes are available Karen Barski, founder of Woombie baby swaddle Karen Barski excelled in her nursing career for 19 years, started a family and simultaneously started her own business, KB Designs, LLC, in 2007 when she invented the Woombie baby swaddle. In the middle of the night and on her grandmothers sewing machine the first Woombie prototype was created out of frustration that her newborn was not sleeping. And it worked! In 2011, she left her full-time nursing career to focus more on her business, continuing to identify the needs of parents and babies, which always brings her to the drawing board to design new innovative, eco-friendly products. She remains a nurse and educator as a certified newborn infant care specialist and instructor, infant sleep consultant and parenting consultant, assisting thousands of new parents on everything from postpartum hormones to bringing baby home, nutrition and sleep scheduling. Visit More info:

Above: Darien mom Holly Hurd founded VentureMom to encourage other mompreneurs. At left: The original Woombie baby swaddle, an invention of Connecticut mother and nurse, Karen Barski.

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April 3, 2014

Connecting Connecticuts special education parents

by Melissa Ezarik
Parents of students in the special education system spend a lot of time thinking about the big picture as well as scrutinizing the details. Navigating the system well requires the ability to envision a life for your child well into the future and then actively partnering with the school team each year (and throughout the year) to develop the broader goals and more specific objectives to help that child access an appropriate education through the right supports and live up to his or her potential as a contributing member of society. Often with multiple diagnoses to understand and work through the challenges of, the sped parent may well feel the need to connect with, learn from, and feel supported by likeminded parents. With a number of active special education parent groups in our area, these parents dont need to feel alone. Heres what any local parent should know about the special needs parent and the groups they turn to for support. The stakes are high. If you dont learn what you need to know, your child and your whole family will struggle through unmitigated stress without learning the necessary skills and strategies to be successful, said Eve Kessler, co-founder of SPED*NET Wilton, an advocacy and supportive network for Connecticut special needs families. A night out is more likely to involve a lecture than some liquor. Knowledge is power when it comes to parenting your child with special needs. Parents need other parents and professionals to talk to and learn from, Kessler said. In other words, sped parents are snagging babysitters and meeting up to take in presentations from experts who can help them navigate a complex system. Their conversations involve acronyms. So anyway, we were in our PPT developing the IEP and I requested an FBA conducted by a highly qualified BCBA so that our BIP would be most appropriate. Its the kind of sentence overheard when sped parents are on the playground, in between discussions about their private ABA, OT, and PT therapy sesmunicipalities and taxpayers money, Spahr and others noticed that no parents were included as members. In response, his organization is partnering with local SPED*NET, Special Education PTA (SEPTA), and Special Education PTO (SEPTO) groups, as well as special education attorneys and other experts, and to form the Special Ed Parents Network Alliance. As a parent of a special ed kid, you dont have a lot of time for this stuff, you dont have a secretary, he said. Legislators respond to voting blocks. We wanted then to know were not just an isolated parent. Collectively, were talking about 10,000 votes. Its particularly appropriate for the people making decisions for our state to understand that there is a whole silent community out there with a common interest of making sure their kids special education needs are addressed, he added.
Melissa Ezarik is secretary and a co-founder of Stratford SEPTA.

sions. (And, yes, they know they talk funny.) Their children have various differences. Alan Llewelyn, president of Stratford SEPTA, said hell sometimes get asked if the A in SEPTA is for autism. But the organization helps support and guide any family involved in special education, including people still in the qualifying process or whose children have 504 instead of IEP plans. They think big. Jeffry Spahr of Norwalk, whose son has ADHD and autism, among other challenges, spent several years as president of the Connecticut Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities and co-founded Norwalk SPED Partners. When he felt his own district wasnt doing enough to raise awareness of ADHD, he persuaded Gov. Dannel Malloy to proclaim ADHD Awareness Week in October 2011.

Sped parent groups know district administrators like PTA presidents know principals. In explaining what his group is, Llewelyn will start with the PTA part, as that creates a onevoice common ground starting point for the conversation, he explained. But the big difference, hell say, is that as a townwide PTA, we do not have a principal so instead SEPTAs get to work with central office administrators. Hell add that SEPTA has a more global focus as the discussions impact more than one building. These groups are open to all. Stratford SEPTA, for example, is for anyone who cares about a child with any kind of individual difference that poses challenges in school and beyond. I sometimes hear that parents dont participate because theyre not members, Llewelyn said. We have never turned anyone away from a meeting or a speaking engagement, so go ahead and join the PTA at your home school and then if you need support or guidance, just find us. They want a voice. When the statewide Municipal Opportunities & Regional Efficiencies (M.O.R.E.) Commission put together a special education working group to collaborate on legislation that could save

Special Education Parent Groups

Brookfield SEPTA; Connecticut PTSA SEPTAs page: CT Special Education PTO Alliance; pages/CT-Special-Education-PTO-Alliance Fairfield SEPTA; North Star (Derby area parents); northstarsupportgroup. com Pizza Moms (Darien); SEPTO Network; Special Parents, Special Kids of Milford, CT; Spectrum Shelton, SpectrumofSheltonCT SPED*NET Greenwich; SPED*NET New Canaan; SPED*NET Wilton; Stratford SEPTA; Trumbull Parents of Students with Learning Differences; parent-support.html West Haven SEPTA; http://westhavensepta.wordpress. com/

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April 3, 2014

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How to be a good sports parent

by Dr. Aaron Krasner
After watching the Super Bowl or the Olympics, its easy to think our child might be the next sports prodigy. If only they showed some discipline, went to their trainers, worked hard. It may well be your child is a gifted athlete, but pushing them and becoming an over-involved sports parent will not only embarrass them, it creates unnecessary anxiety for them at a time when they need it least and can be detrimental to their longterm development. Of course, we all mean well. None of us would ever intentionally harm our children. Here are some tips that will help you help your super athlete grow into a super happy adult as well: 1. Let them decide in which sports to participate. You can expose them to many, but do not force one over another. 2. Follow their lead when it comes to extra practices. If they want extra coaching, they will tell you. 3. Ask if they had fun, not how they did. Study after study shows that what kids really care about is enjoying themselves, having fun being part of a team. Asking if they had fun shows you care about their happiness. 4. Dont comment on their form, ability or how the team did as soon as they leave the field. 5. Dont shout from the sidelines. 6. Dont criticize or second guess the coach, nor those who volunteer or those who work for the school system. 7. Do not attend every practice and every game. Kids need to develop away from their parents. If they know you are watching, they cant relax. Make a rule, like attending the home games, or the big games. And skip the practices all together. 8. Hug and tell them you love them when they lose and let them figure out the rest. Learning how to fail and pull yourself back up is one of the most important lessons a child can learn from sports. Be sure to give them that gift.
Dr. Krasner is the adolescent Transitional Living Program service chief at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan.

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April 3, 2014

Avoiding the College Application Essay Meltdown

by Sharon Epstein
A young woman called me the other day. Im so totally freaking out right now! she cried. She had written her college application essay but hated it and didnt know what to do. Overwhelmed, stressed and panicked, she had entered the meltdown stage. College application essays can carry a good deal of weight in the admissions process. According to college admissions officers, some can even make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection. Its no wonder, then, that students feel the pressure. But pressure doesnt have to become panic, as long as students understand the keys to writing a successful college application essay. Know what colleges look for. Colleges look for three main elements in an essay: writing skills, organizational ability and what makes a student unique or special. Why do schools want to know what makes a student special? Schools use essays to gauge how well students will fit in on campus and to help assemble a diverse student body. So its important for a students individuality to shine through. Identify positive qualities. One of the best ways to create a unique essay is to showcase a students positive qualities and values. Sometimes students have difficulty identifying their positive qualities. When that happens, I usually suggest listing their accomplishments and then identifying the value each accomplishment represents. For example, a student who convinces a reluctant newspaper editor to run an important story demonstrates perseverance; a student who finds time to visit an elderly neighbor illustrates kindness. Be sure to consider accomplishments that might be considered small or without fanfare; these moments can often reflect a students finest qualities. Include a learning experience. Almost every essay provides the opportunity to demonstrate a learning experience. When that chance presents itself, grab hold. Colleges like to see how students have matured over time, because they know that its through these growth experiences that students often gain insight into who they are and what their futures hold. Make it interesting. Boring essays are tough to read and, worse, easily forgotten. Transform the uninspired into the memorable by using a few simple writing techniques: First, let creativity reign. Brainstorm every possibility, and never set limits on what is or is not a good topic. As long as the essay portrays the student in a positive light, every idea should be fully explored. Second, grab the readers attention with an interesting introduction. These three methods work especially well: 1) Pose a question (Why did I quit the football team?); 2) Begin with an intriguing statement (I do my best work at night.); or 3) Start with the action in the story (The bloody gurney wheeled past me. I closed my eyes and prayed for the strength not to pass out.). All three techniques will pull the reader into the essay and create anticipation for whats to come. Finally, add detail. A few well-chosen details, such as how something looked, sounded, smelled, tasted, or felt, will personalize a story and help it come alive. Keep asking why. If it becomes apparent that 50 other students could have written the same essay, then the essay is not personal enough. Fix the problem by digging deeper and asking why. Questions such as, Why did I make that choice? and Why did it mean a lot to me? can individualize an essay and ultimately distinguish it from the pack. The college essay process can be stressful, but when a student understands what is expected and is given the tools to succeed, the results can be memorable. Minus the meltdown.
Sharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee. She owns First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, where she specializes in college application essay writing and interview skills.

The Easter Bunny will greet kids at the Danbury Railway Museum this month.

Ride a vintage train to visit the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny will once again pay a visit to the Danbury Railway Museum and you may take a ride in a vintage train through the historic railyard to visit him. This popular annual family event will take place on Saturday and Sunday, April 12, and 13, and Friday and Saturday, April 18, and 19. Museum hours are 10 to 4:30 on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 4:30 on Sunday. Trains leave every 30 minutes from 12:30 to 3:30. The short train ride in a fully restored 1953 New Haven RR Rail Diesel Car Budd RDC will take visitors past the fully operational turntable, more than 70 vintage railroad cars and locomotives, and many pieces of railroad history, including a Boston & Maine steam locomotive built in 1907. The ride will stop at the Easter Bunnys special railroad car. The museums beautifully restored circa-1910 Railway Post Office (RPO) car will also be open. Of course, the exhibits inside the restored 1903 Danbury station will be open, along with a coloring station, temporary tattoos, Thomas play table and the operating model train layouts. A fully stocked gift shop will also be open. Admission is $10 (age 2 and over); each child will receive a small gift from the bunny. Reservations are suggested and may be made by visiting the museums website at The Danbury Railway Museum is a nonprofit organization, staffed solely by volunteers, and is dedicated to the preservation of, and education about, railroad history. The museum is in the restored 1903 Danbury Station and rail yard at 120 White Street, Danbury. More info: 203-778-8337,


Join us for an informational tour. We would love to see you. (203) 438-7288
Saint Mary School admits students of any race, color, creed or ethnic origin .

Preschool Grade 8 National Blue Ribbon Winner

Ridgefield, Connecticut


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TUES & THURS 3:00-4:50 PM & FRIDAY 10:00-11:00 PM

April 3, 2014

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Expert offers kids social skills workshops

Beyond academics, is your child equipped with social skills for success? On Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m. at the Stanwich School, guest speaker Faye de Muyshondt, author of socialsklz:-) for Success: How to Give Children the Skills They Need to Thrive in the Modern World, will address the hot-button topic of social and emotional learning in our modern world how and why to teach social skills to our children, as per her book. De Muyshondt is the founder of socialsklz:-), an NYC-based program featuring modern day social and emotional program for kids and young adults. She and socialsklz:-) have been featured on CNN, in the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She is a contributor to the Today Show, Baby Center and Family Fun magazine. Other workshops she will present this spring include: April 26 and May 3, 1-3; the Stanwich School essentialkidz (ages 4-7) essentialtweenz (ages 8-12) April 27, 1-4; the Stanwich School essentialteenz (ages 1317) June 7 and 8, 1-3; the Stanwich School essentialkidz (ages 4-7) essentialtweenz (ages 8-12) June 9-12, 9:30- 1; location TBD clubsocialsklz camp for kidz (ages 4-7) and tweenz (ages 8-12)

Andover Education launches first accredited high school in Fairfield County

Fairfield County-based Andover Education has launched its accredited private high school, Andover College Preparatory. The school, which specializes in using a combination of online assessments, innovative digital learning and individualized, in-person instruction, has begun offering classes to local high school students looking for more flexible scheduling options, credit recovery, accelerated courses, or courses that arent offered at their own school. Our test prep business grew 10-fold in 2013, but the school is still our most exciting accomplishment thus far, said Andover CEO Nathan Allen. The school allows us to customize programs to each students strengths and weakness instead of requiring students to adapt to a pre-constructed syllabus, thereby enabling students to learn more, and more quickly. This spring and summer, Andover will offer Advanced Placement that many local high schools cant support, such AP Computer Science, and will also offer a variety of other courses including Forensics Crime Scene Academy with lab, Robotics Academy and Competition, the Undead in Film and Literature, and a journalism course that includes professional online journalism experience. Students with specific interests may work with Andovers deans to construct their own accredited course of study. The school also offers a full-time program designed for students seeking greater flexibility and attention than what traditional schools can offer. Curriculum Andover is the first mainstream school in the area to offer students the opportunity to fully engage with their instructor in a one-onone environment. And while the curriculum has core standards (based on admissions standards for the most competitive colleges and universities in the nation), students have the flexibility to customize courses and choose from a variety of electives, and even propose their own courses. Andovers concept and curriculum were designed around the methods used by professors at Harvard, including that of applied physics professor Eric Mazur, in which the individual drives the pace of content delivery and to an extent, the curriculum. In the standard approach, the emphasis in class is on the first, and the second is left to the student on his or her own, outside of the classroom, Mazur said. If you think about this rationally, you have to flip that, and put the first one outside the classroom, and the second inside. Andovers approach is similar in that class time is used solely for discussion and interaction. Class preparation, homework and assessment are done on the students own time. Because of this focus on the engagement between the student and the instructor, Andovers courses can be more readily tailored to the interests, background knowledge and skills of the student. Andover College Preparatory is accredited by AdvancEd, the leading regional accrediting commission of K-12 schools, and is credentialed by the NCAA and the University of California Department of Education. Andover Education was started in 2003, aiming to create education services that are more results oriented, according to a release. It currently claims an average score improvement of 300 points on the SAT, an industry high. Recent graduates have gone on to attend some of the top colleges and universities in the country. Andover will continue to offer test preparation and college admissions consulting under a division of Andover Education, along with a full range of high school courses.

Residential and Day Programs Americas Original Computer Camp Now in Our 37th Year

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April 3, 2014

Natural Beauty Birthday Bashes

Try something new
by Melissa Ezarik
Manis and pedis and facials, oh my! As girls who have been guests or the guests of honor at a beauty birthday party know, the spa experience is most certainly not just for adults. Spa parties for kids are about having a wildly good time as much as they are about relaxation. Take the Glam Parties put on by Brits Beauty Bar, for example. At the make-yourown-lipgloss bar, partygoers may customize the color and flavor of their own edible lip glosses before having zebra stripes or peacock feather designs painted on their nails. During Pink Butterfly Spa Parties, meanwhile, girls sit back and relax with cucumbers covering their eyes and a warm towel over their faces, with soothing music in the background. Owner Lori Jones hopes the message comes through to the girls that real beauty comes from the inside and that each of them is special and amazing. Spa parties have been around for Spa party places decades, but parents and purveyors today are particularly interested in what Brits Beauty Bar, Glam Party (mobile exactly the beauty or at Nikkis Candy Boutique in Shelton); products are made, 203-540-9666 of. Some parents are Magical Memories Childrens Entertainment, really into keeping Sassy Spa Party (mobile); everything natural and, 203-257-9621 organic for their kids, Above, a partgoer gets a manicure during a Pink Butterfly Spa party. The Pink Butterfly Spa Parties (mobile); mobile party business uses natural ingredients for its facials. what goes on them and, 203-560-5481 what goes in them, Sundae Spa, 2457 East Main St., Waterbury, said Britney Fernandes, and 1201 Boston Post Rd., Milford; owner of Brits Beauty, 203-528-3121 (Waterbury), Bar. Also keep in mind that its not just girls 888-654-6577 (Milford) ben-free, with skinOr, as Geraldine who may wanna have fun. Fernandes has safe colorants and Trixies Cuts for Kids, Glamour and Spa McKeon, owner of hosted co-ed beauty parties where girls make fragrances. Parties, 1400 Boston Post Road, Milford; Trixies Cuts for Kids lip gloss while the guys make their own body The spas use, 203-301-4268 in Milford, puts it: wash. Or girls have done a princesses craft chemical-free Good Parents definitely dicwhile the boys make pirates instead. We for You Girls brand tate that everything is tweak our parties to stay in the same theme, facials and Piggy Paint nail polish. natural and organic now. At Trixies, Piggy Paint (as natural as mud) she said. Society is moving away from the parabens is another staple, along with Moodylicious for Jones has noticed that parents tend to be and the chemicals and going more toward most attracted to the fact that her business is facials and skin care. things directly from nature, said Fernandes, mobile but then they seem relieved when Another way to ensure spa party products who makes her products from ingredients they learn that her facials are made with real are safe is to go the do-it-yourself route. such as essential oils, coconut and almond food and that our lotions, creams and foot There are a lot of blogs and websites about oils, and beeswax. With natural products, how to make things from scratch, Fernandes scrubs are made in-house, she said. We are youre getting the full moisturizing benefits dealing with young girls and the less toxic said. She recommends DIY sites such as: and full cleaning benefits. ingredients being put on the skin, the better. At Sundae Spa, which has two locations in Connecticut and includes build-your mhplibrary/parties-and-get-togethers/diy-kidsMelissa Ezarik is a Stratford-based writer and ediown-sundaes for dessert, some products and spa-party tor who thinks there should be more moms-only ingredients for make-your-own products are spa birthday parties. vegan-certified, organic certified, and para-

An attendee of the mobile Pink Butterfly Spa Parties creates some jewelry.

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