From portraits of your child or dog, to dinosaurs and butterflies, to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, FizzlePop Puppet Shop stitches custom felt finger puppets, barrettes, holiday ornaments, magnets, bookmarks, and magic wands that are playful, colorful and fun! Lauren Franklin, a mother of two small children, decided to turn her creative hobby into a business four years ago and started selling these whimsical felt pieces for all of us to enjoy. Let’s learn more about Lauren and her small business in this month’s interview!
SSP: How did FizzlePop Puppets come to be? What led you to starting this new business?
In 2015 when my now 5 year old daughter was a baby, we received some finger puppets as a gift that she adored. Since I always enjoyed crafting and dabbled a (very) little bit in sewing, I decided to create some puppets myself. They were a hit, and I soon began making some for her little friends, even taking requests, like a butterfly or Cinderella, for example. That summer, a friend of mine who runs a local monthly flea market offered me a booth to try my hand at selling to the public, which was an exciting but scary prospect. That's when FizzlePop Puppet Shop was born! I then began making custom birthday favors that matched a party's theme, which is way more personal and sustainable than a goody bag filled with tiny plastic toys that will ultimately get thrown away. I've made cartoon characters, dinosaurs, or female superheroes for parties! The puppets were exciting to me for many reasons, but perhaps one of the most compelling was the way it encouraged dramatic and imaginative play with manipulation of actual objects (and not screens!). We never take an airplane or car ride without finger puppets! It wasn't long before I started participating in other craft collectives and markets in Westchester and Brooklyn. I also have items in a store in northern California. In addition to the puppets, I now make barrettes, ornaments, magnets, magic wands, book marks, Easter egg treat holders (instead of plastic eggs!), and all sorts of custom orders from dog felt portraits to obscure ornaments (Post Malone's face, Gizmo wearing a Santa hat...) Everything is hand stitched by me!
SSP: Can you tell us a little about the creative process that goes into each piece?
I absolutely love the art of making something meaningful out of nothing but felt and thread. I particularly enjoy custom order requests for dogs because I usually sit with a photo of the subject for a while and do a fair amount of thinking about how to tackle it. It's like a puzzle. The magic for me is in the transition from the idea in my head to the actual finished object. There's no real blueprint, and each project is different. It's extremely satisfying. More generally, I just love the colorful and whimsical aspect of it all! Simply put, I draw inspiration from things I or my kids enjoy or find humorous.
SSP: How do you balance your work and being a mother of two small children?
That's the trickiest part! It took me almost a year and a half just to create a website. I joke that everything FizzlePop is mostly completed when my children are napping. I'm not sure I even have found balance! I've spent way too many late nights sewing because I didn't want to stop working on an item. I am, however, extremely lucky to have an amazing and supportive husband who encourages me, and the nature of being able to create in my own home is to my benefit as well.
SSP: What piece are you most proud of, and why?
That's a tough question. I once made a felt portrait based on a picture of a couple who were cheek to cheek and slurping some Udon from a bowl. I was thrilled with how it came out, and so were they! I recently made a 13 inch felt nutcracker for a Christmas tree skirt that was very sweet. Of course, my Sgt. Pepper's Beatles puppet set has always been one of my favorites.
SSP: I must say, I'm a huge fan of the Rock and Roll inspired collection and the Post Malone is absolutely hilarious....what was the recipient's response when they received this?
I think the recipient's response was happy shock! I wish I had been a fly on the wall for that reveal. Hand stitching all of those face tattoos was a fun challenge to say the least!
SSP: Where can we find your creations, and how do we contact you for a custom piece?
You can follow me on Instagram @fizzlepoppuppets where I post new pieces or info about upcoming markets. You can also browse around on my website at Fizzlepoppuppetshop.com . While you can't purchase through the website yet, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with items you are interested in, and I accept Venmo for orders or cash and cards at markets.
SP: Do you have any words of advice to other moms and dads who are interested in turning their creative hobbies into a business?
Take the leap! Go ahead and try it, and you'll likely surprise yourself. Also, start out slowly, and take on only what you feel you can handle given the many other responsibilities you undoubtedly have to tend to. I suppose above all, it has to bring you joy.
It's a new year, and for many of us a resolution will be to take better care of ourselves. For some moms, this may mean seeking therapy as a means to a healthier 2020. Meredith Carlisle, a licensed Clinical Social Worker with over a decade of experience and a mom of two young boys, has just opened up her own practice in Manhattan to help support moms during difficult transitions in their lives. Through supporting your personal growth and self-awareness, Meredith can help empower you to take that next step. Let's learn more about her and her new practice in this month's interview!
SSP: Can you please tell our South Slope Pediatrics families about the range of services it is that you provide as a licensed clinical social worker?
My focus is women’s mental health across the life span, with a speciality in maternal mental health and the transition to motherhood. I work to support women during significant life changes, but especially women experiencing distress or symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy and postpartum (aka postpartum depression). I provide individual and group therapy where I support women to increase concrete coping skills while also processing all the changes they’re facing.
SSP: We'd love to learn a little bit more about you, and how your experiences led you to this new exciting venture. How did you get here?
I’ve been a clinical social worker for a decade and have learned so much during that time! My background working with kids really taught me the importance of supporting the whole family and how taking care of kids actually means helping parents take care of themselves. I loved designing and running parent groups more than I expected and was surprised how it supported my work with my child clients. Once I became a mom and experienced first hand all the challenges moms face during this delicate time I felt even more committed to helping moms as a route to supporting the whole family. I feel so privileged to work with moms during this unique time in their lives.
SSP: What made you decide to open up your own practice?
Opening a practice is something I’ve always hoped to do since getting my masters in social work and I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow as a therapist and - now - as a business owner. I also work at an amazing organization called The Motherhood Center, where the work I do with moms is short term (6 weeks). My private practice work compliments that by providing the opportunity for me to support women and moms for a longer stretch of time.
SSP: If you had a mission statement, or a philosophy central to your practice, what would that be?
Central to my practice is a concept based in a model of therapy called dialectical behavioral therapy: the idea of integrating both acceptance and change into our daily lives. More broadly, it’s the idea of finding balance between (which doesn’t mean 50/50 most of the time) all the competing demands, feelings, and expectations of our busy lives.
SSP: Many of the maternal mental health services would be of particularly of interest to our families - challenges with pregnancy, postpartum and miscarriage. One challenge listed is rather universal to most moms - the loss of identity in motherhood. Can you tell us how you address that?
New motherhood is a time of enormous transformation in a woman’s identity, sense of self, and relationships. Often times women think this transition is supposed to be either natural or instantaneous, but the reality is that it's something that happens over a much longer period of time than expected. I work with women to grieve the tangible and intangible losses that come with new motherhood which makes space for the newness each of us face.
SSP: What are your ultimate goals when you are helping a client?
My goals are always what a client brings into therapy as their priority, but I also aim to help them feel comfortable and supported while arriving at more awareness and acceptance of themselves. Ideally, through our collaboration, my clients also feel more equipped to manage the difficulties and stresses of daily life and parenting in NYC.
SSP: When do you recommend someone to come speak to you, when is the right time?
Anytime is the right time. Starting therapy is a big step, and it can be daunting for women who already have a lot of demands on their time. However, if you’re finding that you haven’t been feeling like your usual self for more than a few weeks it might be time to speak with someone.
To learn more, you can contact Meredith at email@example.com.
Alas, it’s holiday time in NYC! And it’s so cliche but it came faster than ever this year! At SSP we tried to scour and search for some of the best things to do with our families, most are very local and others are closeby in the neighboring boroughs. Do you know of something amazing we might have missed? Please comment on FB and share your ideas with us!
Through 12/17 at SSP: First and foremost, one of the most important things we can do with our children is GIVE BACK. The holiday season is a perfect time to teach children about the importance of giving back to those in need. Come by SSP with new toys and books for our annual Toy Drive. This year we are collaborating with Woodhull Medical Center, a Brooklyn based hospital. This is an initiative helped our own Dr. Cao and his family during his childhood. Do you have clothing? We are also collecting for the LGTB homeless youth in collaboration with the ALI Forney Center! (Mint condition clothing only please).
Nightly in Dyker Heights: If you haven’t seen already, some of the most incredible Christmas light displays can be seen in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, aka “Dyker Lights.” Over 100,000 people flock to this area every year to see the most over-the-top Christmas decorations. A sure way to get into the holiday spirit!!!
Brooklyn Nutcracker at King’s Theater: A re-imagined holiday classic, The Brooklyn Nutcracker fuses ballet, hip-hop and a myriad of world dance genres to create a new tradition for today’s audience. New York’s only culturally inclusive production, The Brooklyn Nutcracker transforms familiar Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent the diverse traditions and vibrant culture of melting pot Brooklyn. From the landscape of the old Dutch Brooklyn to the iconic Flatbush Avenue, the production is fresh and full of virtuosity and celebrates the borough we call home.
Angelina Ballerina Holiday Show at Vital Theatre in SOHO (Select Saturdays only): The Very Merry Holiday Musical! Angelina and her friends are planning an absolutely positively spectacular holiday dance pageant; the best in all of Mouseland! When a mix-up prevents the pageant from going on, Angelina and her friends must use their creativity to save the show. By working together, Angelina, Alice, Gracie, AZ, Marco, and Angelina’s little sister, Polly, discover the true spirit of the holidays. It's not about things you receive, but the holiday cheer you share. With dancing, singing and festivities, this heart-warming musical is perfect for everyone's holiday season!
Light up MetroTech on 12/4 in East Flatbush: This old-fashioned Dutch Christmas celebration at NYC’s oldest house will start with a traditional concert by colonial balladeer Linda Russell at 1 PM. There will be a visit from the original Santa Claus, who arrives on horseback at 2:30 PM. In the Dutch tradition, visitors can feed the horse carrots and hay. Learn about how Sinterklaas evolved into the tradition of St. Nicholas while enjoying crafts, music, snacks, and decorating the tree for the tree lighting at the end of the day. Children are invited to sign the Red Book with St. Nicholas. $7 for general admission (ages 11+) and $4 for child tickets (ages 3-10).
Dumbo Tree Lighting on 12/5: The 15th annual tree lighting event includes “Carols, Calypso, and Cocoa” in addition to the tree lighting and another opportunity to meet Santa Claus on Thursday, December 5th in the Pearl Street Triangle. Calypso music will be performed by Brooklyn-based steel drum band Jah Pan and caroling by PS307 and Dock Street Middle school choirs and more. Hot cocoa and sweet treats as well animated videos projected onto the Manhattan Bridge! The tree will be lit at 6 PM sharp.
Christmas Tree Lighting 12/7 at Greenwood Park: Festivities start at 4pm, tree lighting approximately at 6pm. Take photos with Santa, make a handmade wreath! Take pictures with some of your favorite holiday characters!! We will have special snacks on sale along with our regular menu + hot chocolate to warm you up for the lighting of our beautiful 33’+ Balsam Fir.
Lighting of the Menorah, Starting 12/22 at Grand Army Plaza: Live music, hot latkes, and a 60-foot boom lift await you at the lighting of the largest Menorah in Brooklyn. Special gifts are given out to every child.
Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx: While there are other holiday train displays in and near NYC, none compare to the NYBG's annual show, which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year. More than 25 model trains (yes, including Thomas the Tank Engine) go whizzing by approximately 150 NYC landmarks meticulously made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries, and leaves. This year's edition showcases Central Park, with new replicas of its iconic architectural features including Belvedere Castle, the Dairy, and more. Also making their debut this year are One World Trade Center and the historic Battery Maritime Building, along with two classic Staten Island Ferry boats.
Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar, Sundays in December in Gowanus : More than 60 makers will help shoppers usher in the holiday season at this special weekend market at 452 and 501 Union Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The curated market will feature food and drink vendors, a live DJ, photo booth, kids’ crafts and more. But while you’re having all that fun, don’t forget to shop from the selection of local and indie makers.
LuminoCity Festival through 1/5 at Randall’s Island: Twelve acres of radiant art will take over Randalls Island with three fairy-tale themes: Winter Fantasy, Wild Adventure and Sweet Dream. You can wander through the colorful LED arches of the Donut Tunnel and get lost in the snow-covered trees of the Frosted Forest for an electrifying experience that is the epitome of merry and bright. Be sure to explore the children’s printmaking workshop (various dates, walk-ins available; $29) and other activities, then refuel with snacks from Nathan’s Famous, Baked in Color and other eateries.
10 years ago, a life changing event happened to Jill Wood and her husband Jeremy Weishaar. They found out that their little baby boy, Jonah, was diagnosed with a fatal rare disease, Sanfilippo Syndrome. Dr. Cao was instrumental in his early diagnosis, and this began the beginning of a very special friendship between Hai and Jonah. Please take the time to read this interview and learn how we can help our neighbor Jonah, and all of the other beautiful children fighting this terrible disease. THEY NEED OUR HELP NOW.
SSP: Before we get into the science and most recent research accomplishments, can you tell us how our good friend Jonah is doing today?
Thanks for asking. I love to brag about how amazingly well Jonah is doing! Dr. Cao met Jonah for the first time at Jonah's first year well visit. Dr. Cao noted that Jonah had a large head, off the scales and suggested that we go for an MRI. It's probably nothing... But let's make sure. First we went to see a neurologist that echoed Dr. Cao's advice. Dx day arrived a year later and was delivered by our geneticist. To summarize Jonah, has Sanfilippo Syndrome an uber-rare genetic disease. Life expectancy.... Not good. Jeremy and I were left with the assumption that Jonah would never say the words "I love you", he'd never be potty trained or eat independently. But first he'd go through the terrible 2's times 100, then plummet to a 1 year old in a teenagers body, leaving us wishing for the terrible 2's times 100 again.
We celebrated Jonah's 11th Birthday in July. Summer Birthdays are hard, everyone is out of town. Summer Birthday parties for a special needs children are even harder. Jonah only receives one or two birthday party invitations a year, his peers have outgrown him. Despite the birthday party invite obstacles, Jonah had the best day ever, several of his classmates from PS10's self-contained classroom, 460 came out to celebrate. Jonah was overwhelmed by all the love. A few days after Jonah's birthday we received word that Jonah had been accepted into the Manhattan Star Academy-Upper School. WOW! 2 months in and it has been the single best thing that has happened in our lives since Jonah's diagnosis. Special needs parents and All parents... Worry about their children at school. School is Scary for all of us. Truth be told.... I secretly wanted a para for Jonah to protect him from bullies. At Manhattan Star Academy all of our insecurities have been squashed, he is in the best hands possible. Jonah is thriving, he wakes up on weekends and asks if he can go to school today?! Health wise he has had no major complications (knock on wood) he has not regressed cognitively, Jonah is in a good place. Saving Jonah's life will take everything within our power. Knowing that Jonah is happy during this time is the best medicine that we could have.
SSP: For those SSP families and friends who are not already aware, can you please explain what ultra-rare disease Jonah has, and how children are affected by it?
Sanfilippo Syndrome is a genetic disorder. My husband and I are both carriers of the defective gene that causes Sanfilippo Syndrome. We both passed our defective gene to Jonah. There isn't a newborn screening for Sanfilippo Syndrome and there was no way of knowing that we were carriers. Because of this defective gene, Jonah’s body is unable to produce an enzyme, this enzyme’s job is to breakdown and recycle a molecule called Hepran Sulfate (HS). Because of this defect, HS is left to clog every single cell in the body.
Sanfilippo is an insidious disease that often goes undetected for years. Most children are born with no visible signs that anything is wrong. It’s not until the preschool years that children start to show cognitive delays; even then, the disease is often misdiagnosed. It is most commonly misdiagnosed as Autism.
Sanfilippo is progressive and can be broken down into stages. Some describe Sanfilippo as a childhood Alzheimer’s.
First stage: The affected child presents with: delayed speech, hyperactivity, impulsivity and behavioral issues. Sanfilippo children have distinctive facial features, you must be trained to notice them: prominent forehead, bushy eyebrows, coarse hair, thick skin, short neck, full lips, low thick ears, a wide flat nose. Their facial features are described as “coarse.” Affected children are prone to sinus and ear infections, diarrhea, and minor muscular skeletal issues. The problems associated with Sanfilippo are vast and varied.
Second stage: The affected child will become extremely active, restless, suffer sleeplessness and exhibit difficult behavior. Many children are compelled to chew on things, grab at people or items. Some children have seizures others have visual and hearing problems. Over time, speech and communication skills decline along with other cognitive and motor skills.
Third stage: The disease will take its ultimate toll. The child will lose the ability to walk, talk and eat on his own while his body shuts down. Death may occur as early as the age of five. More common, however, are children that live into their early teens, with some surviving into their twenties.
SSP: It has been a while since we last caught up with you. Can you share any updates over the past year - I understand JJB has joined forces with the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation? What does that mean for you?
Yes, JJB has joined forces with our friends at the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation. Knowing that JJB's initiatives are in good hands with CSFF has allowed me the opportunity to direct my attention to taking our pre-clinical drugs to the clinic. The Cure Sanfilippo Foundation is ran by Eliza's parents, Glenn and Cara O'Neill. Cara A.K.A. Dr. O'Neill is a pediatrician; giving her an extra layer of understanding of this disease and what it will take to develop a treatment. The Cure Sanfilippo Foundation is committed to helping us raise funds towards a clinical trial for Jonah and the other children suffering from Sanfilippo Syndrome.
SSP: Where are you in regards to finding a treatment? What is the current research?
This past September my biotech, Phoenix Nest Inc. had our first Pre-IND meeting with the FDA i.e. an early Investigational New Drug meeting with the Food and Drug Administration. At this meeting we presented our data on the pre-clinical research for our proposed new drug. As you can imagine, it is quite the process. The fact that we're proposing to take a novel type of drug, a gene therapy and delivering it into the brains of pediatric patients triggers a very strict set of clinical trial guidelines. The FDA gave us some suggestions on how we can better convince them that our proposed route of administration is indeed safe. The FDA's suggestion will add another year onto our pre-clinical research and cost another $305,000. This isn't a setback, it is an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and incorporate a recently developed technique! Yes, the new study will cost us a ton of money but it will be a blessing in disguise.
SSP: As we’re coming to the holiday season here, many of us are looking for ways we can give. It’s especially meaningful as you are our neighbor and a very close friend of Dr. Cao’s! What is the best way for us to contribute? Is there anything we can do on a local level to support you?
That is very kind and much appreciated ask. One very simple way to help is by adding the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation as your charity on AmazonSmile. com. Secondly, you can donate here https://sanfilippodev.wpengine.com/meet-the-families/jonah/ Lastly, please follow our social media pages and share our story. https://missionhideandhelp.org/
SSP: What would you like for us to know about Jonah, and other children who live with this disease?
Jonah is an optimistic, happy and courageous 11 year old. Jonah is harboring an insidious disease that could take his life without cause during sleep. We are reminded of this today, as we mourn the passing of Ross, an 11 year old boy who lost his battle to Sanfilippo yesterday.
Thank you all for continuing to support JJB though CSFF!
xo Jill, Jeremy and Jonah
**** November 16th is World Sanfilippo Awareness Day. Learn how you can show your support here: https://curesff.org/worldsanfilippoawarenessday/ ****
Jonah's Just Begun is now under the umbrella of the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation. Please continue to support our efforts to Cure Sanfilippo by donating to CureSFF.
Join our Mission, "Mission Hide and Help"
We’ve all been there. Chasing our little ones at the park and all around town, wishing so badly we had a third arm so we could properly manage our baby, change them, and have access to only the absolute essentials...and not spend ten minutes digging through our too large (and often unattractive) diaper bag. Good news, your wish has been granted! Well, not a third arm... but the bag that directly addresses these challenges. Welcome Nell Shapiro, an SSP Community Parent, whose vision to create a trendy diaper bag fanny pack has come to life! Learn more about why she designed it, it’s key unique features, and why we might all want to consider getting in on her kickstarter campaign and purchase this “deliberately minimal diaper bag”!
SSP: What led you to developing this “deliberately minimal” diaper bag? Can you please tell us a little about your background?
I remember walking into Cafe Du Jour wearing my first son Theo in a baby carrier when he wasn't even 3 months old. At the time I was using the over-the-shoulder diaper bag that I had spent hours picking out and putting on my baby registry, and I just remember so vividly saying to myself, "I am never going to carry this bag again; I can't stand anything about it!" I just could never figure out where the straps should go, or how to minimize the bulk, and I could never easily find the one thing I was looking for. The digging and the weight, the bulk and the burden had to go. I daydreamed of a fanny pack turned diaper bag, and I poured over websites and baby shops for months but found nothing. I ended up settling instead for a steady rotation of tote bags, because my background was in education, not design. So while I had a clear dream of the diaper bag I wanted, I had no hard skills to bring it to life.
SSP: How did you come up with the design of the Kibou?
When I became pregnant with my second son, I knew I had to do things differently this time. I had moved into the world of the diaper backpack, which was a solid improvement, but so often it was way more space than I needed. It tempted my innate urge to overpack and left me digging, always.
The picture I'd had in my mind for the last two years of this minimal diaper bag that could be worn on your waist had never left me. So I went on Amazon, I bought different fanny packs, at least 5 different kinds of changing pads and multiple reusable wipes pouches. I started working out the design by cutting these bags apart and then sewing and pinning the pieces back together with safety pins. These mockups slowly made their way into sketches and drawn plans and eventually a couple of close friends connected me with a bag designer they knew in Harlem who could help me to begin creating a real prototype. That was over 2 years and 13 prototypes ago!
SSP: Other than fanny packs being all the rage and a very current fashion trend, what is it about Kibou that makes it such a desirable diaper bag for new parents? What challenges does it address?
Once I decided to make a real go of this bag idea, I asked one of my closest mom friends to partner with me as a creative director. Since day one, Stephanie and I have been committed to achieving the perfect balance between function and fashion. While the design of the bag has always been driven by its diaper bag purpose, the bag also had to be beautiful! Moms and Dads deserve to look good and feel good even when we're out with our Little Ones :)
But aesthetics aside, what makes Kibou different from other diaper bags, is that every single dimension, fit and function of the bag is driven by those essential items that parents report needing most when they're out of the house*. We made the bag just large enough to fit those items, and we left out the rest. For brand new parents, the truth is that it takes time to identify what those items are that you need most. You may feel most comfortable bringing extra swaddle blankets or burp cloths, outfits, even spare bottles. But once you're a few months into parenting, for typical trips out of the house we've found that most parents need the same few items each time they go out. Kibou means "Keep it By You", and the Deliberately Minimal design means that it fits comfortably on your waist and goes everywhere with you, effortlessly.
*Based on a 2018 survey of over 200 parents across the US and Europe that we conducted through Survey Monkey.
SSP: The idea that it’s hands-free and you’re no longer lugging a bag around is especially attractive to those of us in the city and constantly on the move. What would you say is the #1 most popular feature and biggest selling point that sets it apart from other diaper bags on the market?
People gush most about the built-in waterproof wipes pocket. The pocket is located along the back of the lid and is accessible while you're wearing it, at the pull of a zipper. There is something truly liberating (almost empowering!) about having a wipe at the ready as soon as your Little One has a gooey sneeze or puts their little hands right on the edge of a city garbage can. Plus, that same wipes compartment is completely accessible while you're using the changing pad that folds out of the back of the Kibou. So your Little One can rest their head on the bag, their body on the pad and you can pull wipes out of a waterproof zipper compartment all at the same time!
SSP: This also looks more unisex than most bags. Have you seen interest from dads as well?
100%! It's been awesome to hear from many dads who have told us they love fanny packs. And we absolutely wanted to release colorways that would appeal to diverse tastes. Vegan leather is not only incredibly durable and easily cleanable, but it's certainly gender-neutral.
SSP: I love how you show that it is not only a useful bag for that baby phase, but that it “grows with you” through toddler and bigger kid stages. Can you tell us more about how that works?
This was so important to me. I didn't just want to create a bag that would be relevant for a few months in a parent's life. I personally stopped carrying a changing pad well before my sons were out of diapers. So I spent a lot of time thinking about those items that we need most when we're out, and perhaps ones that we don't always have--for me anyway, that's always been bandaids and first aid supplies. It felt so obvious! Our super compact changing pad could be effortlessly swapped out for a first aid kit--what we have come to call our "Bou-Boo Bag."
Beyond this function, the main pocket is designed to fit diapers through size 6, but it can also fit a range of bottles and water bottles or snack choices. One mom even discovered it fits her own Kindle, headphones and socks for barre class!
SSP: How can we help support your kickstarter campaign and purchase Kibou bags?
Please visit our Kickstarter page to preorder a bag for yourself or a loved one! Our goals of $26,000 will go directly to funding our first major production run, and if we exceed this goal, we intend to continue building the brand and outreach to bring Kibou to parents everywhere looking to minimize and simplify their trips out with their Little Ones. It's not just a tag line, having a Deliberately Minimal Diaper Bag by your side truly allows your hands and mind to be free to focus on what really matters!
Kibou is entirely a labor of love, funded from our own pockets, designed and developed at night and on the weekends when Stephanie and I weren't working or with our children. We are so grateful for the support of every single person who has taken their time to learn more about this bag, shared or purchased a Kibou. We hope you'll join us and keep Kibou by you, too!
At South Slope Pediatrics, we are always looking for ways we can help build community and support our families, beyond the doctor’s offices walls. Meet Victoria Paduani, a SSP mother of two who decided along with her husband Melvin to take their family’s future into their own hands and build a family real estate partnership. Let’s learn more about this super hard working couple and their story in this month’s interview!
SSP: Before we get into this exciting new business venture of yours, can you tell us a little about you and your family?
I’m working as an Executive Assistant to the Co-Owner of Century 21 Department Stores for a little over 12yrs. My husband works for the NYC Department of Education for over 20yrs. We are a family of four (4) with two beautiful girls, Mariah who is 13yrs old, and Myah who is 8yrs old. We were both born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and our family heritage is Puerto Rican.
SSP: I understand you and your husband recently built a real estate business together. What led you to make the decision to start this family business?
Throughout my husband’s career he always wanted to do more to help people but wasn’t sure what he could do that would be beneficial to people, and would also fit the needs of our family. In the past we have worked with numerous real estate agents helping us find a place for us to call home, but we could never find that go-to agent that was reliable and trustworthy. We could never understand why agents were so quick to just show us homes that didn’t fit our family needs despite what our requests were. We found that agents just wanted to show us any home because they were in a rush to make a commission. After the stress of searching and searching for a place to call home, we finally decided that moving was stressful enough and not having an agent who could make the process easier was not acceptable - and with that we decided we wanted to make a difference. We have always had an interest in real estate and now was the time to make a difference for the hard-working families like ours, who just want the process of finding a home to be a joyous and memorable moment. Most of all we wanted to start this business because we want to be financially stable in order to make our family feel secure, and because our daughters are always asking us if we will ever have a home of our own. When we first decided to start our own business in real estate, we wanted to be a part of an agency that was known for being the best there is. We decided to go with Keller Williams because of their reputation of being the #1 real estate company in the U.S. and boy did we make the right decision.
SSP: How do you work alongside Melvin at Keller Williams?
At this moment I’m only working alongside Melvin at our home office. I do have a full-time job and since we are at the beginning stages of this exciting adventure it's not necessary for me at this time to go to the Keller Williams office. Currently, I’m working as my husband's assistant. My current responsibilities involve networking with prospective clients, administering all social media, copy documents, create marketing material and keep our home office organized for effectiveness.
SSP: What would you say differentiates you and Melvin from others in this real estate business?
I don’t want to put us on a pedestal and say we are the best there is, because it’s simply not true. We are rookies in this huge industry of the real estate business. There are many great real estate agents out there. Every agent has their own ways of working with their clients and we have ours. In my humble opinion I feel we are on the level of every other working-class family just trying to raise our daughters in this tough and challenging time. We understand how hard it can be to save up money to buy your own home, so my husband makes sure when helping his clients find a home, he doesn’t find them a home he knows they can’t afford. He wants to make sure when they are handed the keys to their new home, they feel at ease knowing they purchase a home they know they can afford. It’s not only about purchasing a home either because not everyone can afford to have their own home. It’s about the quality of service he provides to his clients in every aspect of their needs of finding that special place to call home.
SSP: Can you please explain how you are able to maintain a happy relationship as a married couple and parents, while at the same time work as business partners?
Melvin and I have been together since we were teenagers going back to 1994. Throughout the years we have learned so many things about each other. The likes and dislikes. We’ve learned that in order to maintain a happy relationship you have to be compassionate towards each other’s feelings and take the time to listen to each other. The key to a happy relationship and a successful business is COMMUNICATION, RESPECT, HONESTY and TEAMWORK.
SSP: How do you best balance work and your family time?
The best part about my husband choosing to be an agent is because he can work from home and I myself work from 9-5 like many other parents. We learned to multi-task and manage the responsibilities of our family, business and everyday life.
SSP: For those of us considering starting a business with our life partners/spouses, what would your advice be?
My advice would be to go for it! Life is too short and there’s nothing better than working with your best friend. As long as you put each other first, then you can’t go wrong.
To contact Melvin or Victoria about your Real Estate needs, please visit mvplegacy.kw.realty.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer to call them directly please contact Melvin at (347) 784-2234 or Victoria at (347) 784-2232.
Another summer is winding down, and our focus is now on the start of the school year. This can be accompanied by anxiety (for both you AND your child). So how can we best prepare our children for the upcoming year? We’ve spoken to Kimberly Shapiro, an elementary school counselor at Hawley School in Newtown, CT and have put together 10 tips that will help us through the adjustment of a fun, playful summer to a more regimented school schedule.
We are THRILLED to be celebrating our 7 year anniversary today!!! We wouldn’t be where we are without our amazing SSP dedicated and passionate staff. To honor and acknowledge our employees on this special day, we thought we’d do a little Q&A so our families can learn more about them and their experiences here at the office. They are the reason why we have such a caring, unique and forward thinking culture at SSP!
What would you say has been your most memorable moment since joining SSP?
Dr. Cao: My most memorable moment since starting was dressing up as a teenage mutant ninja turtle, to bring attention to MPS III for Jonah's Just Begun. I got some great reactions from kids in the neighborhood and drivers along 5th ave and Prospect Ave.
Dr. Copenhaver: My most memorable moment since joining SSP actually happened before I started officially started working here. I knew I would be joining the office after taking time with my son, and I brought him in for his first newborn appointment with Dr. Wilson-Taylor. I arrived and of course was greeted warmly by the front desk and nursing staff, and then had a great first visit. At the end, the entire office - doctors, nurses, administrators - all came in the room with a bouquet of flowers and bottle of bubbles to celebrate Elo’s arrival. It was so kind, and meant a lot to me. From that moment on, I knew I was becoming a part of a very special place!
Erica: My most memorable moments are actually outside of the office when we are all just hanging out at a local bar or taking a kickboxing class together or just singing our hearts out at karaoke.
Dr. Acosta: Participating in the improvisation activity as a group was definitely a great experience where we not only had a great, fun time but also learned about each other and worked on team building skills.
Carolina: I feel that there have been many, many memorable moments working at SSP and most might not be qualified as memorable by most people but they have made a big part of making my work at the company enjoyable. From the every day early friendly “good morning” I give and get from everyone, to the signs of support when I or anyone from the team has been dealing with hard times in their personal lives, to our Friday lunches where we try to quickly catch up or share bits of our lives. Most memorable in the 5 years I’ve been with SSP: when I tried moving to Chile and the team surprised me with a goodbye painting party and the beautiful heart necklace I wear every day and reminds me that this is my family. Also important to mention : karaoke, improv class, yoga, kickboxing, and many other team building activities that have made this group grow together.
Matteo: There are many amazing stories about our team as we are a bit of an ‘unconventional’ bunch. I remember the day we were getting ready for the Brooklyn Pride Festival and 2 people on the team volunteered to build the rainbow arch made of balloons by themselves in order to save money and we ended up with hundreds of floating balloons in our kitchenette for 2 days straight!
Nurse Alex: Most memorable moment would probably be almost dying of heat stroke while doing kickboxing to be honest!
Can you tell us your favorite funny story about you and your SSP colleagues?
Matteo: We have our 'First Fridays' where once a month, on the first Friday of the month, we go out to a local bar and just chill and joke around. During one of those nights, Dr. Wilson-Taylor showed us her competitive side by quietly kicking everyone’s butts at one of these arcade games. There was that time when Dr. Cao rapped to the beat of Ice Ice Baby (dance moves included) during one of our many karaoke evenings. I remember finding out some very strange details about my teammates (sorry won’t disclose, but one of them does involve a whip) while sipping on a drink and sharing fries after ‘successfully’ (almost) escaping the Escape Room. And I remember that time when we were screaming our names along with our most outrageous quality during the Improv class we recently took.You might think, these are regular moments but trust me, try to live them with the people you work with and your work life will change forever, LOL.
Lorraine: My memorable moment or funniest story was when we all came together and went to Escape the Room NYC. We were all so excited like kids all over the room trying to figure out the clues to escape the room within one hour. We were all bonding and laughing but at the end we made it out of the room as a team in the nick of time.
Nurse Denise: One of my funniest moments I would have to say was when we went to the game room playing Jenga and learning the shuffle board game and karaoke!
What is the most important thing you've learned at SSP?
Dr. Cao: I’ve learned that life goes on regardless of our jobs/careers. I’ve been privileged to be an observer in the lives of many of our families who go through strife and make it to the other side stronger and more resilient. As far as our office, ALL of us have gone through challenges. The ones that check the junk at the door and focus on giving good service inspire me the most and actually process their circumstances the best.
Dr. Copenhaver: The most important thing I have learned while working at SSP is open communication and getting to know my work family. Every day, every situation is made better and easier when we know where we are all coming from, and can be honest about what we need and expect. It is a great place to be a part of!
Matteo: The most unexpected and amazing thing I have learned while working with this crazy bunch at SSP is that with everyone’s contribution, it is possible to create an environment where open communication, psychological safety and trust can power up a team that strives to deliver amazing experiences one human interaction at a time. Since the introduction of our SSP Company Culture and Core Values we have seen incredible changes in the team dynamics, and those changes have positively affected the way we interact with each other and with everyone we interact with. We have discovered the power of strong relationships.
Lorraine: The most important thing I learned at SSP are our 10 core values. These core values have guided me not only here at SSP but outside in my everyday life to improve and make things better.
Erica: The most important thing I've learned at SSP is the smallest things make the biggest difference. It’s so important to be present in the moment and really make those connections with whoever you encounter.
Nurse Denise: Being a part of the SSP family has taught me how to work as a team. Working as a team maximizes shared knowledge in the workplace and helps you learn new skills from one another that you can use for the rest of your career.
Nurse Alex: The most important thing I've learned would be how to work together as a team, coming from being the only person in a shift to working in a full team has been a big transition!
Dr. Acosta: How important it is to work as a team to provide the best experience for our patients.
Tara: The most important thing I've learned at SSP is our Core Values. My Favorite core value 10. Be True To Your Unique Self. I believe in that value because there can only be one you.
Nurse Taima: What I have learned at SSP is that a simple gesture can go such a long way. Being a little more patient and understanding that parents are under emotional stress watching their babies cry, goes a long way.
Carolina: Company culture and core values define our relationships as a team and with our customers allowing us to provide that “great experience”.
What makes working at SSP so special to you, and why?
Matteo: The people! Our SSP Team has special powers! They empower you, they support you and they push you to grow, be better, achieve the goals while allowing you to have your weak moments and to be human.
Dr. Acosta: Working at SSP you feel like you are part of a family where you are respected and love for who you are. It’s also an environment where you are encouraged to grow into the best version of yourself.
Tara: What makes working at SSP special to me is FAMILY, I leave my family every morning not to come to work . But to come to my work family to do some work. Some work places people dread coming to work every morning because it's not a happy environment. I'm Happy at SSP.
Dr. Wilson-Taylor: The thoughtfulness of the SSP is what drew me to the practice as a parent. My children were patients of Dr Cao’s before I joined the SSP team. And I was always impressed by the staff who made an effort to get to know me and my children. The administrative team creates smart scheduling in order to meet the needs of the patients, the front staff is always friendly, the nurses take time to make the children feel comfortable. I have worked in other institutions and my children have seen a few doctors over the years. So I know by comparison, the staff at SSP is great. As a parent, I appreciate the efforts of the SSP family.
As a physician at the practice, I am grateful to have worked with so many wonderful families. It is truly a privilege to know that families purposefully select our practice because it mirrors the diversity of our city. I have always wanted to be a pediatrician and I have never regretted that decision.
As an employee, I like the fact that we have had opportunities to get to know each other outside of work. The opportunities to go shuffle boarding, practice yoga or have our Friday lunches together is important to create a united staff and is invaluable.
Carolina: Working at SSP is special to me because of the people and relationships I’m able to develop with my neighborhood community.
Nurse Taima: What makes working at SSP so special is working with a great team...we couldn’t ask for better leadership. We care about each other respect, cheer, and share amongst other things. We are a family.
There are ENDLESS things to do in and around Brooklyn with our families during the hot summer months! Here is a list of 17 of our favorite ideas for July, including a family dance party at Greenwood Park, a Poetry Festival at Governor’s Island, and a Dinosaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo!
1) Fireworks Show, July 4th at Coney Island
Enjoy singing karaoke with family and friends on the Coney Island Boardwalk in front of Deno's Wonder Wheel, and then watch the fireworks illuminate the sky! Happening Fridays from June 21 through August 30, 2019, weather permitting. The party starts at 7pm and goes on till 11pm. Fireworks show is at 9:30pm.
2) NYC Poetry Festival , July 27-28 at Governor’s Island
Wordsmiths of all ages flock to the scenic Governors Island for an annual festival dedicated to rhythmic stanzas and gorgeous ballads. The Poetry Society of New York welcomes visitors to the bucolic landscape to enjoy performances, readings, vendors, artwork and even a Youth Poetry Festival that jumpstarts kids' interest in the genre. All ages.
3) Smorgasborg, Every Saturday and Sunday in Prospect Park
The venerable epicurean extravaganza spends Sundays in Prospect Park. No matter your preference, there's a little something for everyone. While kids can delight in sweets like fried cookie dough, those with a more expansive palate can opt for offerings such as seafood from Lobsterdamus, Boutros' pork shawarma tacos or PopdUp brewed teas, among seemingly hundreds of other dishes. This year, the new Pizza Cupcake and Fluffies Soufflé Pancakes will be on hand to wow visitors! Note that admission to the food fest is free, but each vendor charges various prices. All ages.
4) Story Time at Books are Magic in Cobble Hill
Each Saturday and Sunday, this enchanting independant kids bookstore in Cobble Hill hosts a story time. Authors read from their dazzling picture books, that can be incredibly funny, heart-warming, educational or all of the above. Be sure to check out all of the store's unique special events for children and young adult readers, too. Check out the lineup here. All ages.
5) Le Carrousel Puppet Show, July 6th in Bryant Park
For those who appreciate a flair for the dramatics and love taking in a show at the best puppet theaters in NYC, stop by the park on Saturdays from June 8–July 6 from 2–3pm for a grand presentation from WonderSpark Puppets. Goldilocks & The Three Bears, The Lion & The Mouse and other fun performances are on the roster this season.
6) Le Carrousel Magique, Saturdays Starting July 13th in Bryant Park
Now you see it, now you don't! If you little ones have a burning curiosity to uncover what's hiding in the magician's hat, take them to the park's weekly magic shows for kids on Sundays from June 9–Aug 4 from 2–3pm. Loonie Louie, Silly Billy and other tricksters are on the list of performers!
7) Bronx Zoo Dinasaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo (open daily)
Advertised as the "biggest, most realistic dinosaur ride in America," the new attraction shuttles families (with narration) through a wooded area packed with 40 ultra-realistic (read: gigantic) animatronic dinosaurs. One of the most notable features will certainly be the two towering Tyrannosaurus rex—as well as the vegetarian Omeisaurus that stretches an impressive 60 feet long. And to make things as realistic as possible, the Bronx Zoo teamed up with a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History—Don Lessem even served as an advisor on the original Jurassic Park! The experience is topped off with an ADA-accessible fossil dig area for kids to play in, plus some additional dino-themed activities around the zoo. All ages.
8) Splash Pad at Lefrak in Prospect Park (all summer)
One Brooklyn’s coolest summer spots, the Splash Pad is designed for children under 12 and their parents and care-givers. With over 20 water jets, the Splash Pad provides state-of-the-art water play and admission is free to the public.
9) Luna Park and So Much More at Coney Island (all summer)
New for 2019, Luna Park is debuting a brand-new, circus-themed section, with plenty of high-flying, ropes-course style fun, while the new-in-2018 home for certain sharp-toothed aquarium residents are sure to draw continued crowds, too. You can also enjoy the old-school favorites like the carousel and Deno's Wonder Wheel, visit the Coney Island Museum or Circus Sideshow, and scarf down a Nathan's Famous hot dog. Luna Park also has a bunch of family-friendly rides, including the Seaside Swing and the Tea Party spinning teacups. The new Rope Circus provides multiple zip line courses for all ages, plus stunning views of the boardwalk, beach, and beyond. The beautifully restored B&B Carousell is also a Coney Island must-see, though it's located outside of Luna Park, off the boardwalk. Tickets can add up, so purchase ahead of time online if you can.
10) Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 (all summer)
Situated on a pier that just a few years ago was considered no-man’s-land, this park has changed the Brooklyn waterfront incredibly. It’s Brooklyn’s new go-to destination for families! It has awesome amenities, including the Water Lab, a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in, water tables and a spinning water wheel, and Sand Village, a huge sandbox with molecular-looking climbing structure and flanked by two long metal slides. Add to them clean bathrooms, a food court where families can find the likes of fresh milk shakes and hot dogs, and even spots for fishing and beach volleyball and there’s not much room for improvement—especially when views of downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor are included.
11) Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Pool (all summer)
Brooklyn Bridge Park's new pop-up swimming pool not only offers families a free and fun way to cool off but also one of the best views in the city—plus the option of morning kids' swimming lessons during the week ($125 per week-long session). Slated to remain in the park for five years, the swimming hole is 30 by 50 feet and 3.5 feet deep and holds a maximum of 60 people, so keeping an eye on the littlest swimmers will be easy. After a dip, families can dry off on one of the 25 lounge chairs dotting the artificial sand beach while marveling at their proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge.
12) Ice Cream at Ample Hills Creamery in Gowanus (all summer)!
Always the most amazing ice cream, they are now offering a limited edition flavor...if this doesn’t get you planning your next ice cream outing, I’m not sure what will! Ample Hills is celebrating Walt Whitman’s bicentennial with a limited release of their Brooklyn Bridge Park shop-specific flavor, I Contain Breakfast Foods. A sweet cream ice cream with a touch of cinnamon, pieces of chocolate donuts and coffee cake crumble, I Contain Breakfast Foods is named after a line in Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and features his favorite breakfast treats.
13) Best Beaches for Families (all summer)
Warmer weather is upon us, but thankfully you can beat the heat at tons of places in NYC this summer including the many beaches. From Coney Island and the Rockaways to even some spots along the Jersey Shore, this list of beaches offer a full day of sun, surf and sand for families.
14) Big Bounce America, July 26-28 at the Aviator Sports & Events Center in Brooklyn
The Big Bounce America, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest bounce house in the world, will provide a summer experience like no other. The Bouncer is a massive, multi-colored castle complete with inflatable basketball hoops, slides, a ball pit and more exciting features. All ages.
15) Famajam Dance Party, July 20th at Greenwood Park
FAMAJAM is a monthly summer-long, outdoor, family dance party on Greenwood Park Beer Garden's new 50ft tented lawn. Enjoy dancing, music, food, contests, prizes, games, activities and more. Kids (and their grownups!) can enjoy a cold Frose on a warm summer's day, dance outdoors to great music with the entire family, and have an outdoor afternoon lunch or snack at Greenwood Park. Dance the day away under the new, tented, 50ft Greenwood Park Lawn, rain or shine.
16) PSP Summer Fridays, July 12th and 26th at Prospect Park
Bring the kids, a blanket or chair, some snacks, and enjoy the live music. There will also be giant bubbles, rainbow face paints and a different musical performance every week. 3-5pm.
17) BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Concert Series at Prospect Park
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival celebrates its 41st season with 29 performances, running through August 10. The programming, reflective of Brooklyn’s eclecticism and diversity, will feature a wide array of free, world-class performances at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Stroller Parking will be available on the 9th Street side of the venue.
Did you know that one of our very own patients at SSP classified for the national women’s soccer team? She is an inspiration to all, teaching us that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind and heart to it, and give it everything you’ve got. Meet Angela Aguero, our SSP FIT Ambassador and soccer prodigy!!!
SSP: You are quite the soccer phenom! How did you initially become interested in the sport?
Thank you! When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my parents decided it was time to put me in some level of physical activity to keep me active and they chose soccer because all you needed was a ball and a pair of soccer cleats. From the moment I started playing I fell in love with it. I remember always running after the ball and being really eager to score a goal. In 2010 when the men's World Cup in South Africa began I watched almost every game and that's when my love for the game was getting really serious.
SSP: Who would you say is your biggest inspiration - sports icon or other?
My biggest inspiration is 100% Cristiano Ronaldo and Marta. Both these soccer players started from the bottom with a dream of becoming a pro footballer and they dedicated their entire lives to give them the chance to be seen professionally. You always hear of other players coming to training an hour early to impress the coaches, but Ronaldo has already been there for 2 hours. Things like that - I admire their hard work and genuine love for the game.
SSP: How amazing was it be selected for the National Women’s Soccer team? Can you tell us more about that experience?
That day, May 18th, 2016, was one of the best and happiest days of my life. I remember I was in history class and my dad called me three times so I had to leave the classroom and call him back. He picked up right away and screamed that I had been called for the u15 national team camp in Portland. It was a dream come true really, when all your hard work and late nights pay off and you're given an opportunity to represent your country. It was such an honor. And I had also committed to Penn State an hour after that call which made the day even better. The feeling was indescribable.
SSP: What position do you play, and do you always play that same position?
I play center forward/ striker currently. I have played this position pretty much my whole life but when I was younger I tried almost every position! I played goalie for two years with a club team and I played right back for another two years at another club, and sometimes even today I can get pulled back as a center mid/center attacking mid. It's always good and fun to play other roles on the field. You can learn something from every position!
SSP: How do you balance school and soccer?
When I became a freshman in high school I had started training with a club which is in upstate New York (about a 2 hour drive). So going to training every day far away wasn't easy, especially balancing this with the demands of schoolwork. What I always do is try and do as much homework as I can during school free and lunch periods so that I don't have to stress about that when I get back home. The earlier I got my work done, the better so I could focus on soccer and not have to do homework when I arrived late at home.
SSP: What is it that you love most about playing soccer?
This is a tough question because I love everything about it! For me though I must say, nothing makes me feel more at peace with myself then while I'm playing soccer. If I had a stressful day at school or just didn't have the greatest day, I would go to practice and forget about everything for those hours of practice. Whenever there is a ball at my feet, I seem to forget about stressful things in life and just have fun with the ball. The freedom and peace the sport brings to my life is a huge one. As well as making so many amazing friends and having amazing experiences around the world!
SSP: Do you have any words of advice for kids, as to why playing sports and continuing to be active is so important?
Try and be active every day! Find something that you love, whether its running, tennis, soccer, football, anything and go with it! Staying active is not only good for you physically and makes you feel good and fit, but it also is so good for you mentally! It clears your head and you can just have fun! And when you play a sport, you can make so many amazing people and friends that you can play with and share similar experiences with!