Sunday, August 22, 2010

No need for a new dress…accessories are a different story

It has been a few years since my wife and I had a wedding to attend on the calendar…most of our close friends have been married for years.  We were both excited the other weekend as one of my employees was getting married and we were invited to enjoy the celebration.  In past years this meant a trip to several stores in search of a new dress.  Don't get me wrong I enjoy a trip to White House Black Market as much as the next guy, but there were plenty of beautiful dresses in the closet that fit perfectly and with all the craziness of everyday life there didn't seem to be time for a full day of shopping.

She may have decided to not buy a new dress but that doesn't mean she didn't need new accessories.  My wife suggested we go to Jenny Boston the afternoon before the wedding so I can help pick out something that looks nice.  Unbeknownst to my wife I have been trying to stop at Jenny Boston for the past 4 months.  I have heard they have some pretty accessories and I thought a relatively inexpensive gift would be a nice random jester.  Unfortunately my schedule and Jenny Boston's were definitely not in sync so to date I had yet to set foot inside the store.   Our shopping plan could accomplish two things; acquire something for the wedding and finally I can get a look at what is in Jenny Boston. 

I was far more impressed with this little shop then I expected.  I expected a lot of jewelry that looked "cheap".  That is not what they have at all.   Jenny Boston has a lot of unique items that are beautiful and enhance the outfit.  Some are classy, some are fun, and some are odd and unusual, but we all know lots of people who are looking specifically for the odd and unusual.  A great selections of purses, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other accessories that complete the look.  On top of that there was a personal service approach that really showed the employees care about the customers.  As we walked into the little shop there were 5 others shopping at the same time.  The store is small and with three different groups of people shopping it would be easy for the sales woman (I believe her name is Eliana) to just sit and wait for purchased to be rung out.  She didn't take that approach, she asked what we were shopping for...without seeming pushy.  She asked about the event, showed genuine interest and then went collected some items that matched our initial thoughts.  Eliana excused herself to help and then ring out another customer and then returned as my wife was continuing to pile up a collect of purchases. Eliana was sweet and interested in the people shopping.  It added to a positive experience.

I was very happy, we found a perfect necklace and earrings for the wedding and enjoyed the time shopping in the store.   There are only two minor criticisms I can find with Jenny Boston.  First, for a working person like myself, the hours are limited during the week, no way to commute back from Cambridge before they are closed.  The Westborough store is open 10-5 Tuesday through Friday and 10-4 on Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.  To accomplish my random gift I would have to stop in on a Saturday and that definitely would draw questions.  Second is less of a criticism and more a commentary on how great the stuff is…although I only intended on getting a new necklace for my wife for the wedding, we left with a new necklace, earrings, a bracelet, and two purses.  Our no need for a new dress turned into a fair amount of shopping.  So those who are budget conscience Jenny Boston only works if you don't buy 7 or 8 things.  :-) In our case it was all worth it, she looked beautiful at the wedding, and I know she will wear it all many more times.

I think I'll wait awhile for the random jester but I do intend on returning to Jenny Boston in Westborough the next time I need a jewelry gift or great accessory.  Everything is very affordable...if you don't buy everything.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Positively the Best Preschool

I mentioned several times that I moved to Westborough, primarily because of the public schools.  My mother-in-law is a retired public school teacher from Connecticut and my mother is a retired public school teacher from New York.  Both have over 37 years experience an experience in almost every grade K through 12.  I have a great amount of respect for public school systems and the community that helps it run.

BUT…when I moved to Westborough, my oldest was just over 2 and my youngest was only 7 months old.  Since both my wife and I work we needed to find a preschool/daycare to take care of our children.  We had some help at home for the youngest.  I don't think at the time, I could have told you the difference between a daycare and a preschool.  To me it sounded like the "preowned" and "used" debate.   I have learned the basic differences. 
    Both have the same requirements for licensing and accreditation. You can always evaluate each using the same criteria. Both cost roughly the same. Good quality preschools and daycare centers will offer activities designed to stimulate your child's physical, social and cognitive development.
    Preschool is typically designed for children between the ages of 2.9 and 5 or 6. Daycare is aimed at children of many different ages (infant to elementary school age). Some preschools have more limited hours (typically 3 hours at a time, 2 to 5 times a week). Curriculum: most preschools are organized around a specific educational approach (i.e. Montessori, Waldorf), whereas most daycares are viewed as being more custodial than educational.
Ok...enough of that, back to my experiences. 

While living in Marlborough, my oldest went to the KinderCare facility on Rt 20.  Both my wife and I liked the daycare.  It had great hours and Chase was always happy to go.  When we moved Westborough, the drive to Marlborough didn't make sense so we looked into other options.  After learning the information above and a quick survey of options, we decided to focus primarily on Westborough area preschools rather then daycares.  Web research, phone calls, and talks to other parents in the area helped us accumulate mountains of data.  Then we visited several of the options: the Boroughs YMCA, Miss. Tonya's, the Westboro Area JCC (now called the Boroughs JCC), the Methodist preschool, Mulberry (now Knowledge beginnings), Jenny Williams (now closed but Positively Preschool has taken their space), and Next Generations.  There are a lot of options in the area so there was a lot to research.

Some places seemed small.  Children should have room to run around even if it is raining outside.  Some buildings seemed old and unkept.  Sure new paint and some nice furniture can make it look sharp in one room but if I look around the edges of the building and see mold, I know that is also growing elsewhere.  And some places just didn't seem to be anything more then child watching.  I want my boys to enjoy preschool and school, and I want them to gain something from the experience, friendships, knowledge, and great memories.

All this lead us to one place, the Westboro Area JCC Preschool (now the Boroughs JCC Preschool).
  • The Facility - the Boroughs JCC facility is amazing.  Over 12,000 square feet of indoor space.  A huge 1600 square foot "big room" reserved for activities when the weather is too wet or too cold is a rarity in preschools.  The 7 classrooms themselves were also great.  Large open spaces with activity tables and stations.  It is obvious that people put a lot of thought into the layout of the Boroughs JCC Preschool.  Each room is designed to cover all aspects, computers are in each classroom as well as separate sinks for washings and snack preparation.
  • NAEYC Accreditation - There are few places that take the time to become NAEYC accredited.  NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children) is and independent organization dedicated to improving the well-being of all young children, with particular focus on the quality of educational and developmental services for all children from birth through age 8. NAEYC is committed to becoming an increasingly high performing and inclusive organization.  NAEYC certification are over and above the state mandated Early Education and Care (EEC) certifications.  It takes years to become NAEYC accreditation and that certification encompasses things from building security, teacher ratios, curriculum, and several other areas.
  • Preparation for Kindergarten -  My oldest starts kindergarten in 2 weeks.  I know he is better prepared than some of his friends strictly because of the Boroughs JCC Preschool.  The PreK class at the Boroughs JCC Preschool was amazing.  Kids would sign their name each day when they arrived.  There was lots of writing.  Counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s well over 100.  Basic math foundations, reading fundamentals, and social maturity were all focuses of this class.  Referring back to my mother, and her almost 4 decades of teaching, she always seems to evaluate my kids when she visits.  The educator in her still shines through.  She commented several times that she observed Chase and the others in his class as more prepared for kindergarten then many of the students she saw as a teacher.  I don't have the education  background to make that kind of assessment but I know she does and if he wasn't ready I know she would be harping on me to get him there.  Thank you Boroughs JCC Preschool for this one.
  • Curriculum -  When I first visited preschools I was always turned off when people talked about curriculum.  I wanted the kids to be kids, play with paint, get messy, and enjoy the new experiences they find.  Again now I am a little older and wiser and I realize curriculum is not a bad word.  Children can have these great experiences and get messy and enjoy life with guidance and planned activities.  Both of my boys have learned so much from their teachers and classmates.  They have experienced all of the fun of being a child with organization and planned activities that help them socially interact.  A large aspect of primary and secondary education is structured.  Sure we all should use our imaginations and be creative but more and more I realize there needs to be some guidance and options presented.  Just being a safe location doesn't make it a preschool…they left out the "school" part.
  • Ages  The Boroughs JCC Preschool is certified to accept children ages 15 months to 5 years.  This allowed me to have my boys at the same facility.  They also divide ages so my boys who are only 19 months apart were always in different classes.  There are differences between 3, 4, and 5 year olds and even the best teachers would be better off if they could facilitate programs for just one age group.  The Boroughs JCC has the space and staff to create classes for each age.
  • Community -  I always tout the value of community.  The Boroughs JCC and the Boroughs JCC Preschool is an amazing community.  The school structure fosters iterations with other parents.  We have met some great friends through the Boroughs JCC and I am proud to have their children and my children forming lasting friendships as well.  Someone asked me if you had to be Jewish to go to the Boroughs JCC Preschool.  About 50% of the Boroughs JCC Preschool is not Jewish, I personally was not raised Jewish.  The Boroughs JCC is truly a community preschool, there are Judaic elements to the program and I am proud to have my son excited when he does a mitzvah (a good deed) or when he wants to give Tzedakah (charity) each week.  From everything I have seen first hand the Boroughs JCC Preschool contributing to the value and honor it means to be living in the Boroughs.
For any parents looking at preschool options in Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, or Hopkinton, I strongly recommend a visit to the Boroughs JCC Preschool to see first hand how incredible are the facility, the staff, and even the other parents (myself included).  :-)  All photos are curtsy of the Boroughs JCC website, and there are a ton more.  I encourage you to check them out.  One definitive mark of a good preschool is how happy the kids are.  For more information on the Boroughs JCC Preschool contact them directly:

Boroughs JCC Preschool
45 Oak Street, Westborough
(508) 366-6121 ext 23 - Lisa Linehan, Preschool Director

There is also a community open house scheduled for next week.  I will be there with my boys and I would be happy to talk more about the Boroughs JCC Preschool, positively the best preschool I could find.

August 25th - Preschool Open House
4:00PM - 7:00PM
FREE - Open to the Public
Pizza, Friendly's ice cream
Bounce house, tumblebus, open playgrounds tours and more

School is starting soon and I am eager to get behind the scenes at Fales where my oldest is attending, but I am proud to have 2 more years of the Boroughs JCC for my youngest.  The experiences couldn't be better.