UrbanSitter CEO Featured on Emi


#EmiTogether: Lynn Perkins, CEO of Urbansitter on carving out quality time with her partner

Our interviewee today: As our first guest interviewee, we’re very excited to have Lynn Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Urbansitter, an app and website that’s making it easier than ever for parents to find, book and pay trusted childcare, from date nights to full-time care. UrbanSitter launched in 2011 with a single mission: to make finding a trusted sitter as easy as booking dinner reservations. UrbanSitter is now in over 50 cities. An Internet startup veteran, Lynn served as founder and CEO of Xuny.com and VP of Business Development at Bridgepath.com before founding UrbanSitter. Lynn is a graduate of Stanford University.

What are some myths about relationships that you grew up with, if any?

I’m not sure if I would call it a myth, but as a child I sort of just assumed relationships stayed constant. I didn’t realize how many iterations relationships go through or how outside factors can really impact your relationship. I know now that relationships are constantly evolving, as are the people within the relationship.

Continue Reading >>

7 Reasons to Book a Babysitter This Summer


Why is summer a great time to book a babysitter? Read on to find out:


 1. School’s Out For Summer!

frank-mckenna-127295-unsplashSummer break is here, which means a whole new schedule for the whole family. Make the transition easier for everyone with a summer sitter or nanny to help with the new routine. Part-time, full-time, anytime. We’ve got you covered!

2. Summer Camp, Soccer Games, Swim Lessons…Oh, My!

maarten-van-den-heuvel-105902-unsplashSchool may be out, but the kids’ schedules are busier than ever. Find and book a sitter who can help you manage all of the drop-offs, pickups, and everything in between! *Pro tip: Search for sitters that are willing to drive before you book!

3. “Me-Time”

rawpixel-369784-unsplashSummer break is filled with activities and family fun, but let’s be real, parents…sometimes we need a break. Book a sitter and take a time-out for some quality alone time.

4. Hosting A BBQ or Pool Party

matthieu-joannon-666745-unsplashThe summer is the perfect time to have friends over for a bbq or pool party, but we also know it can be overwhelming trying to entertain and watch the kids. Book a sitter to help keep an eye on the kids while they swim and play. *Pro tip: Search for CPR certified sitters before you book!

5. Summer Fun is Here and So Are Your Errands 

jeshoots-com-462287-unsplashTaking your kids to the grocery store or your hair appointment isn’t usually efficient or time-saving. Book a sitter and get through your to-do list faster this summer.

6. Date Night…or Day!

20180228_URBANSITTER_SHOT_09_0480Take advantage of summer weather and plan the perfect date. A day trip to a winery or dinner and a movie. The possibilities are endless when you unlock your sitter network.

7. It’s Wedding Season

chuttersnap-461238-unsplashHave an upcoming wedding? Kids not on the guest list? Don’t miss out! Your sitter network has wedding season covered.

Whatever your summer childcare needs, UrbanSitter lets you find and book sitters of people you trust. Unlock your personal network to book babysitters and nannies you’re connected to today!









Kristin Groos Richmond of Revolution Foods is Recruiting Kids for a Healthy Eating Revolution

Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO and co-founder of Revolution Foods

By Dawn Van Osdell

On her early morning drive to her Oakland, CA, office Kristin Groos Richmond is already thinking about lunch. Not her own, but the more than 1.5 million fresh, wholesome meals her company will lovingly distribute throughout the week to schoolchildren across the country. She’s also thinking about the small details that make the difference between kids gobbling up the food or leaving it untouched on their cafeteria trays. Details like white cheddar rather than orange cheddar in a quesadilla, and the red kidney beans Louisiana kids expect to find in their jambalaya.

No one knows food and kids quite like Richmond and her business partner, Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two moms who met at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley 10 years ago and together co-founded Revolution Foods. Their now-burgeoning company, ranked #5 in food by Fast Company magazine in 2012, provides nutritious snacks and meals to schools and stores, often in communities where children have limited access to them.

Fresh lunches are made daily at Revolution Foods Culinary Centers

As if it weren’t hard enough to get wholesome food into the hands of these kids to begin with, the company also has to get them to eat it. “If kids are turning up their noses, we’re not doing it right,” says Richmond, explaining that they provide affordable meals using real foods with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives —and, just as importantly, educate kids about proper nutrition, helping them build healthy eating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. The best way to do this, says Richmond, is to bring kids into the kitchen and into the discussion.

“We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works.”

— Kristin Gross Richmond

That discussion—or at least, the core values behind it—has its roots in her time volunteering with kids in New York while working in corporate finance, a career path she knew she wouldn’t follow forever. When a friend mentioned that she was starting a school in Kenya, Richmond, who grew up caring for animals on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in the hills outside San Antonio, TX, found herself quitting her banking job and signing on to head to the African savannah.

With her friend, she co-founded the Kenya Community Center for Learning in Nairobi and taught there for two years before her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Steve, finally talked her into moving to the Bay Area. There, working at the nonprofit Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators (RISE), she heard teachers complaining repeatedly that their students didn’t have access to proper nutrition. That critical complaint stuck with her, all the way to the inception of Revolution Foods.

Today, Richmond lives in Mill Valley with her husband and her very own research and development team: sons Caleb, 8, and Watts, 5. “I am so lucky to get an inside look at what kids want and what they think,” she says, mentioning that Caleb and Watts have first tastes of just about everything Revolution Foods serves. “I ask them if the food is too spicy, too strong, about how the bread looks or how big a meatball should be.” Recently, Caleb asked, “Mom, do you really listen to everything we say about food?” Yes, she does.

Revolution Foods provides schoolchildren with delicious, healthy meals to fuel their growing minds and bodies

Richmond says her company prides itself on being culturally relevant. San Francisco has a large Asian population, as well as many Hispanic communities, and Revolution Foods also serves school districts in 11 states and Washington, DC.  Meeting local taste expectations is an important part of what Revolution Foods must accomplish.  And, she says, “We ask kids to help us get it right.”

Their culinary centers—really, massive commercial kitchens— are regionally located so food can be made fresh and sent directly to the 1,000-plus schools Revolution Foods serves. The meals they create must comply with the National School Lunch Program, a federal assistance program that subsidizes schools to provide low-cost or free school lunches. On visits to the culinary center kids can watch non-stop deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat free of nitrates and nitrites, all of which is prepped and prepared by real people, not machines. “It’s important for kids to put faces behind food, so that they don’t think it just comes from packages,” Richmond says.

Kristin Groos Richmond at Revolution Foods headquarters in Oakland

Here, kids are allowed to get in on the action, chopping and mixing and creating their own healthy dishes in Iron Chef-like competitions in which they’re judged on taste, aesthetics, healthy balance, and nutritional content— even the name they create for their masterpieces. “It’s about making it fun, so they respect food,” Richmond explains.  Recently, kids at the culinary center in Oakland helped name an Asian-inspired breakfast bowl.

They can also help tweak dishes. For instance, Revolution Foods always uses brown rice in their many Latin-inspired meals— a healthier grain that’s new to many kids. “We get that it’s different,” Richmond’s team tells them, acknowledging the denser texture and nuttier taste. Then they ask the kids to tell them how to make the flavor of the overall dish more like what they’re accustomed to. “We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works,” says Richmond. It turns out, brown rice isn’t an issue for most kids when it’s colorful from a mix of minced veggies and seasoned the way they expect.

Across all markets, kids help to nix ideas, too—recipes made with good intentions but ultimately not what kids want to eat. They also have the power to vote on the best-of-the-best dishes, so the company knows what will work nationwide. Some kid favorites are unsurprising: whole grain spaghetti and meatballs, chicken tenders, oranges, kiwis, and pasta alfredo with white beans. A more unexpected hit: salads. Kids especially dig Revolution Foods’ chef, taco, and sesame chicken salads, proving that pushing the envelope really can pay off.

Fresh meals made by hand, not machine

The process of involving kids, Richmond says, means kids are eating better and educators are starting to see improved test scores, fewer behavioral problems, and declining obesity rates. Time-pressed parents can get in on the action, too. Revolution Food’s ready-to-eat lunchbox kits are now available in more than 2,000 stores like HEB, Safeway, and Fresh and Easy.

“One of the nicest surprises to come out of Revolution Foods has been the job creation,” says Richmond. Mostly at its local culinary centers, the company has created more than 1,400 jobs, hiring the fathers, mothers, uncles, and cousins of the kids they feed. “It’s not just about fresh food,” Richmond says, “but about how we can have an even bigger impact on the community.”

Photographs by Bonnie Rae Mills and courtesy/Revolution Foods.

Amy Cahill of More Than Milk is Giving Back to Chicago–A Few Hundred Moms & Kids at a Time

Amy and Logan at a recent More Than Milk volunteer event for seniors

By Lela Nargi

Amy Cahill remembers the afternoon last December when she was shopping with sons Max, age four, and Logan, age 2, at the Target near their Lincoln Park high rise. Spotting two sparkly plastic princess crowns, Max turned to his mother and insisted, “We’ve gotta get those!” They were a perfect match for the princess slippers that had been donated in a toy drive to Cahill’s non-profit organization, More Than Milk—a fact that struck hockey-loving Max with a certain amount of urgency. Says Cahill, “It was one of those times when you begin to see your kids are getting it—that little twinkle of understanding about being kind and helping others.”

Cahill conceived of More Than Milk, which teams up moms and their tots with kid-friendly volunteering opportunities around Chicago, almost four years ago, during a 2:00 am breastfeeding. It’s a grown-up witching hour of sorts, when many new moms feel so acutely alone and disconnected from their pre-mom lives. Rather than give in to those feelings, Cahill used them as fuel for an organization that would give her precisely the opposite—community and connection—with other new moms looking to do something more than just mom, looking for a way to give more than just the milk they were producing for their newborns. She typed up notes and designed the website for More Than Milk right on her iPhone, over the course of several more 2:00 am feedings. “It was kind of crazy,” she admits. “But I wanted an opportunity for continued personal growth, and also felt very motivated to make the world a better place for my son.”

Growing up in suburban Michigan, Cahill had a powerful do-gooder role model in her mom, a school counselor. “She connected with the wild kids and the troublemakers, and impacted their lives with kindness and firm expectations,” says Cahill. “I wanted to emulate her commitment to others.” She began to do just that in 10th grade, when a new homeless shelter opened in her town. She raised the money to furnish one of the rooms and organized weekly events where local high schoolers would come in to play with the shelter kids.

“I wanted an opportunity for continued personal growth, and also felt very motivated to make the world a better place for my son.”



Cahill graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003 and moved to Lincoln Park, where she’s lived ever since. Initially, she worked at a sales and marketing consulting firm, and volunteered on weekends at a public school in Englewood, reading and making art with the students as part of an enrichment program. “I came home from those Saturdays excited and energized,” she remembers. She got her teaching certification through Northwestern University and began teaching 6th grade, then high school math, in the Chicago public school system. The experience was rewarding but grueling and made her realize, “We really need to come together as a community to help each child thrive,” she says. “Teachers can’t do it all; parents can’t do it all.”

Around this time, she met her financier husband-to-be, Gabe, at Midway airport. “We were in line at Potbelly’s to get sandwiches and he thought, ‘If she walks over to my terminal, I’ll talk to her.’” They discovered they were not only on the same flight—both back home to Michigan—but that they lived on the same street in Chicago. They were married in 2008, and Max came along two years later. Shortly after his birth, Cahill made the decision not to go back to teaching. “I knew I couldn’t balance those 60 kids, plus my one,” she says. But it didn’t take long in her new role as a stay-at-home mom for her to realize that her life was out of balance, in a different way. Being active in the community had been a huge guiding force in her life, and now she felt a strong need to get back to it. She hoped she could convince other moms to join her.

The More Than Milk soft launch happened on a muggy Thursday in August of 2011. Thirty-three moms and their babies turned out at the Lincoln Park Bubbles Academy playspace for a Mommy & Me Health Fest, in support of the breast and ovarian health organization, Bright Pink. They raised $500. More crucially, they started spreading the word about More Than Milk to the local mom community. “So many amazing, smart women are choosing to stay home and they started coming to us saying, ‘I love being home but I miss doing stuff that involves my previous career.’” The moms who turn out now—staffing two or three events a month, sometimes in numbers in the hundreds—are “completely dedicated,” says Cahill.

Just some of the volunteers, big and small, who turn out for More Than Milk events

To date, More Than Milk has hosted over more than 100 events, teaming up with women’s and domestic violence shelters, NICUs, and senior centers—places where mothers in particular feel a sense of purpose and connection. Cahill and her six-mom board of directors work with a handful of carefully-selected “Featured Organizations” (FOs) to come up with “fun, easy ways for moms and kids to get involved.” Sometimes the kids are actively engaged in singing, or handing out holiday cards to septuagenarians; sometimes they’re just “cooing in their strollers,” says Cahill. Whichever way, “They’re experiencing philanthropy with you first hand. My thinking is, if you have them volunteering with you before they know what it is, it becomes part of their life.” Volunteers sign up on a per-project basis, which keeps the organization flexible and doesn’t scare off moms who are afraid to promise more than they can deliver. Plenty of dads help, too, especially with weekend projects and anything that requires a lot of heavy lifting.

Participation has been growing in leaps and bounds. The 2013 toy drive for a pregnant teen shelter yielded about 300 gifts, which More Than Milk Volunteers also wrapped and delivered. In 2014, “I got to 1,062 toys and I couldn’t count anymore, because I had to get busy and wrap,” Cahill says. “We more than tripled contributions in one year.”With the success come challenges. Toddler Logan looks at the gifts for the More Than Milk drive and “thinks it’s all for him,” laughs Cahill. Not to mention, “Our greatest asset—namely, our kids—makes everything we do unpredictable. So it can be hard to find projects that are truly beneficial to our FOs, and that can take place in a kid-friendly environment and window of time.”

But both on a community level and within the much smaller nest of her family, Cahill says the challenges are well worth the effort—even if the results in her boys are not immediately or consistently apparent. “As moms, we worry so much: Are we doing the right things?” says Cahill. “When you volunteer, you realize it’s simple: You give them love and you teach them kindness. I want my kids to take time to understand how fortunate they are. I want them to think of other people.”

Photographs by Thomas Kubik, TK Photography

Corinne Cannon of the DC Diaper Bank is Making a Difference from the Botton Up

By Dawn Van Osdell

Corinne Cannon, an expert on the effects of care on infant brain development, is more skilled in handling babies than most people. But back in 2009, awake in the dead of night with her inconsolable, colicky first child, Jack, she felt as helpless and alone as every other mother in that desperate situation. She woke up her husband, Jay, asleep in the next room of their Capital Hill home, and handed over the wailing infant to get some relief. “The physical reality of parenthood is brutal, and that’s when it’s going absolutely perfectly,” says Cannon, now also mom to two-year-old Callie. But what happens to the women who have no one to wake when they’ve had enough, she wondered. And what happens to fussy babies when their mothers have reached their breaking point?

As a result of all those late-night, stress-induced thoughts and feelings, for the last five years Cannon has presided over a cinderblock warehouse in an industrial park in Silver Spring, Maryland, that’s marked with a small sign that reads DC Diaper Bank.  Despite the fact that Silver Spring is Cannon’s hometown, this is an unlikely workplace for a woman who graduated from London’s esteemed School of Economics with an advanced degree in cognitive anthropology. The entrance is crammed with donated packs of disposable diapers waiting to be sorted into piles beside ceiling-high stacks inside the 3,000 square foot space. Next to it, trucks pull up to the large dock, where volunteers load bundles of diapers that will be delivered all across the greater Washington area.

“The physical reality of parenthood is brutal, and that’s when it’s going absolutely perfectly”

— Corinne Cannon
Corinne Cannon is getting diapers to families who need them

For a mom who studied and rallied to make a difference in the lives of moms less fortunate than herself, the place is unlikely for another reason. Says Cannon, “I was surprised to hear, again and again, that diapers are the thing that mothers most need, not food or formula.”  This is because Safety Net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), don’t cover the cost of diapers. And as any family knows, diapers are expensive. The estimated daily need for infants adds up to about $100 a month—more for families living in poor areas, who have no access to big box stores like Costco. That means that low-income families often have to make a choice between diapers and food. “There are families making do with one or two diapers a day, or worse yet, they are wiping out [disposable] diapers and reusing them,” says Cannon.

So, getting diapers into the hands of families that need them provides greatly reduced stress levels for both mother and child, and proper hygiene and care for the infant. The former, explains Cannon, is especially critical during a baby’s first three years of life, when his brain develops at its most rapid pace. “It’s during this very short and very crucial timeframe when you literally build your brain,” she says.  “We know that the brains of babies who experience prolonged periods of stress, and who have caregivers who are under stress, do not grow in the same way.”

Diapers also open the door to getting even greater aid to families, from health and legal services they may have been previously unwilling to accept. “When a social worker shows up at a house and says, ‘I have diapers and formula,’ doors open ten times faster” than if a social services provider shows up empty handed; in the latter case, the perception can be that she’s come to judge and assess, rather than to help, says Cannon.

Cannon spent years dealing with similar maternal and family issues when she worked in health communications, helping to spread the word about HIV/AIDS prevention and programs and creating curriculum around environmental health for children, for management and policy consulting firm ICF International. She admits that as a working mom with a rewarding career, she had no intention of starting a non-profit. But, “There was a such a need for a region-wide solution for getting bare necessities to those who need them the most,” she says, that she couldn’t ignore the fact that her knowledge and expertise in infant development and family care could help affect a significant change.

She started DC Diaper Bank on Jack’s first birthday, in 2010, without any outside funding. She was still working full-time at ICF, piling cases of diapers in her basement that had been donated by families who had leftovers, or through diaper drives; or that she’d purchased wholesale with donations that typically came in $25 to $50 increments. “It was, and remains, a shoestring affair,” Cannon says. In 2011, she secured a corporate donation commitment from Huggies and became a member of the National Diaper Bank Network, a non-profit organization that provides local diaper banks with hundreds of thousands of diapers, in addition to support, technical assistance, and connections to similar non-profits all over the country. She also partnered with Capital Area Food Bank, one of the largest distributors of food and aid in the DC area, which agreed to store the diapers and distribute them to social service organizations and food banks that already helped families in need. She started out distributing about 5,000 diapers a month and within two and a half years, that number rose to 50,000. In 2013, DC Diaper Bank moved to Silver Spring and Cannon quit her job to fully commit to the work, pro bono.

Corinne Cannon and her kids at the DC Diaper Bank

Today, the DC Diaper Bank space is more than a warehouse. It’s a welcoming community hub of do-gooding for families throughout the DC area and beyond. Families, mothers’ groups, scouting troops, meet regularly to bundle and sort diapers, organize and clean the space. Toddlers whizz down the aisles between the stacks on ride-along toys while their mothers volunteer. There’s a colorful play space, too, where kids can spread out with snacks and juice boxes, scribble on an easel, chase balls down the aisles of diapers, and maybe even lend a hand.

“Families are hungry to volunteer and to talk about issues like poverty and need, but it’s a hard conversation to start with a child and there’s nowhere to comfortably do it,” says Cannon. The Diaper Bank provides a forum for that conversation, and a gentle place where children can begin to understand the meaning of need. “Kids remember when they wore diapers, they see their siblings wearing them, and they can understand how all babies need them,” says Cannon. “They just get it.”

Last summer, the Diaper Bank added a baby pantry to their space, to collect other non-essential baby care items that are not covered by federal aid, like baby wipes and diaper rash cream, as well as formula and baby food. In a star-studded ceremony, Cannon was named a 2014 a L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth and honored with $10,000 for her charity for her remarkable—and growing—legacy: To date, the DC Diaper Bank has distributed more than 1.5 million diapers and helped an estimated 2,600 families per month.

For more information about how you can help with the DC Diaper Bank or find a local diaper bank in your area, check out dcdiaperbank.org.

Photographs by Jeffrey Morris

Stephanie Morales & The Mother Nurture Center Offer a Respite Along the Parenting Path

By Dawn Van Osdell

Stephanie Morales can peek out her living room window and get a good look at the old wood-shingled courthouse building on the South Bay’s Redondo Beach Pier. Inside its blue doors lies the Mother Nurture Center, which Morales founded in June 2014. The center is her dream come true. If you live in the area and happen to fit into one of Morales’s four “P” categories—Planning a Pregnancy, Pregnant, Postpartum, or Parenting—it might be your dream, too. As Morales explains, “It’s a place for prevention and support for all things related to perinatal health, and a welcoming community and resource for all growing families.”

An airy, light-filled space with warm, paneled walls, whitewashed floors, and a front row view of the Pacific Ocean, the Mother Nurture Center houses more than three dozen health and wellness providers, as well as myriad experts dedicated to the care and support of mothers and mothers-to-be. It’s a no-judgment zone, open to any woman “regardless of her birthing method, parenting style, or how she arrived at motherhood,” says Morales. Expectant moms come to attend expert-led classes, prenatal massage, yoga, and acupuncture; or for lesser-known services designed to alleviate certain discomforts and complications of pregnancy, such as a breech baby and “trapped emotions.” As new moms, they return, often with dads in tow, for parenting support groups, Dads Huddle, Mommy & Me infant development workshops, and the center’s popular lactation services.

Surrounding the central open space that is dedicated to group classes, and a well-curated baby boutique lined with designer onesies, teething rings, and lactation aids for nursing moms, is a series of private rooms where body work and mental health services are offered—led by Morales, a marriage and family therapist specializing in maternal mental health issues. She helps individuals and couples grappling with issues more complicated, and less discussed, than mere car seat safety and swaddling. “There are so many women struggling with the mental and emotional aspects of pregnancy and parenting,” says Morales. In fact, an estimated one in 5 women suffer with maternal mental health issues, many of them in silence. “They need a place to go where the providers are well-informed. A place where there’s no stigma and no shame,” she says.

Stephanie Morales peeks in on a Mommy & Me Class as the Mother Nurture Center in Redondo Beach, CA

Morales first hit on the idea for the center after she and her husband, Alfonso, became first-time parents to daughter Paloma in 2003. The young family was residing in San Francisco and like many new moms, Morales craved the support and assistance she imagined would be hers if she lived closer to her extended family, nearly 400 miles away in her native Southern California. Morales had moved north to pursue a graduate degree in psychology in San Francisco. She met and married Alfonso, a business owner, while attending classes and managing a 60-bed psychiatric unit in the San Francisco County Jails’ Mental Health Department. “The complexity of it was intellectually stimulating,” says Morales, but emotionally it was too much to handle once she became a mother. Within a month of Paloma’s birth, the couple quit their jobs and headed back to LA’s South Bay.

Although they were in close proximity to Paloma’s grandparents, who often helped out, settling into Redondo Beach was not as easy as Morales had imagined it. She battled postpartum depression, which she remembers as a truly horrific experience. “We are told that this is the most joyous time in our lives and that we will naturally fall into our roles,” says Morales. Yet, as a new mom, she battled teariness, anxiety, a sense of low self-worth, hopelessness, and, she says, “a real concern that I was not a good enough mother.” She was trained in mental health and yet couldn’t find anyone in town who knew what to do to help her. “There was a complete void of resources. I vowed to myself that I’d somehow, some day, create a one-stop wellness center for families in my community. Someplace where mental health was the crown jewel.”

In 2005, the Morales’ welcomed their second daughter, Reina, into their family and along with her came a stroke of bad luck: Stephanie developed peripartum cardiac myopathy, a life-threatening heart condition that can strike in the months immediately following birth. Struggling once again to manage motherhood and her own well-being, Morales began her journey in earnest to create awareness around the issues that afflict so many expectant and new moms. “I knew it would become my life’s work,” she says. She volunteered with Postpartum Support International, a global web of resources for new moms; and became a founding member of the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force, a legislative policy think tank responsible for increasing awareness, enhancing services, and providing education for providers throughout Los Angeles County.

A playful, peaceful space for moms and babies at the mother nurture center

A year later, Morales made the leap from her full-time position as a therapist at a community-based mental health facility into private practice. She focused on helping women suffering with pre- and postnatal mental disorders, and challenges such as the loss of a pregnancy, postpartum psychosis, and fertility and third party reproduction issues. With the help of others interested in building what she deemed a “mommy super-center,” she was able to expand her practice and welcome other practitioners. She took a leap of faith and secured the open, light-filled space she had long imagined for a wellness center. Over the course of three months, she had the old courthouse redesigned to provide private and group services, and hung a sign—the Mother Nurture Center.

Despite the seriousness of the issues she treats, Morales jokes (sort of) about creating a parenting franchise. What’s no joke: says Morales, “We all need someplace to go to feel supported and nurtured in this parenting journey, no matter which stage we are at.”

For more information on the Mother Nurture Center, visit mothernurturecenter.com

Colette Linton-Meyer’s Cobble Hill Ballet is the Happiest Ballet School in Brooklyn

Linton-Meyer and some of her tween ballerinas

by Lela Nargi

There are some obvious differences between the rural Midlands of England, where Colette Linton-Meyer grew up, and brownstone Brooklyn, NY, where she and her family now make their home. Cows, for starters. Cowsheds, for another—including the converted cowshed in which, at age 3, she was introduced to dance by a beloved teacher who taught her students, above all, to love freedom of movement. There’s also at least one critical, but less overt, anomaly: “In Shropshire,” says Linton-Meyer, “there were more pubs per square foot. Here, there are more children.” For Linton-Meyer, more children could only mean: the necessity for a ballet school.

Cobble Hill Ballet, which Linton-Meyer founded in 2003, is a burgeoning business that employs 10 instructors to teach 79 classes comprised of some 800 kids—yes, mostly, but not only, girls—in two dedicated studio spaces within half a mile of each other. But its origins were significantly more diminutive. Linton-Meyer had recently given birth to her first son, Thomas, and was shuttling two hours round-trip every day to a ballet school in Rockland County to teach. “It was ridiculous,” she remembers. “I was pumping in the studio before teaching, and meanwhile, there was no place that taught ballet in Brooklyn. I knew I had to make a transition.”And not only because of the commute. Linton-Meyer, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance in London with a degree in Ballet Education, was unprepared for the intensity of the studio in Rockland. “It was competitive, and some kids went on to incredible things,” says Linton-Meyer. “But I thought it would be nice to have some sort of middle ground.”

With her musician husband, Ted, stepping in to help look after Thomas, Linton-Meyer started by teaching an afterschool class in a local public school. But, she says, “It was painful. We were in the middle of a very public auditorium, with loads of people walking through and talking.” In her off hours, she often took Thomas to a playroom at a neighborhood church. At some point, she hit on the idea of asking them if she could rent a space. “They showed me this room upstairs, which had had a fire, and holes in the floor. It was a disaster!” says Linton-Meyer. “But I could see it could be amazing.” The church renovated and indeed, the room did become amazing: a large, light-filled studio with painted pine floors and stained glass windows. All that was needed were pupils.

“I want to keep having this nurturing environment, so that ballet can be in these kids lives for a long time.”



“I used to tape up fliers along Court Street whenever I could,” laughs Linton-Meyer, recalling those renegade start-up days in the neighborhood. She’d had her second son, George, by the time she’d attracted her first three, tiny, students—including one current 8th grader who still dances with her. She started with one class; then before long was able to move up two classes; then hired her first teacher, known to every Cobble Hill Ballet student as Miss Alwyn; then began using the playroom downstairs at the church as a second studio, dragging toys and furniture out of the way, “Every day, for years,” says Linton-Meyer, the exhaustion still evident in her voice.

The school kept growing, and soon Linton-Meyer had hired several more teachers and was renting out space at three other locations around Brooklyn. “We’d be here one day a week, then two days a week there, and that was kind of tough.” Still, people kept finding her, mostly by that most Brooklyn of phenomena: word of mouth. By 2011, it became obvious that she needed a space to call her own.

What she found was a narrow, high-ceilinged storefront that had once housed a pie shop, along a block of Columbia Street, not far from the East River’s stevedore docks, that nevertheless has a family-friendly appeal, with a popular Mexican restaurant on the corner, a bakery just next door, and a ceramics studio several doors down. For the first time since she’d begun teaching, Linton-Meyer now had the chance to tailor a space to her own specifications. She soundproofed the room, put up a thick dividing wall between the studio and entryway—taking care to add a viewing window (“For the younger kids, it’s really important for their parents to be able to see them,” says Linton-Meyer, “even though the older kids don’t like it after a while.”). She also added an all-important sprung floor, which eases the trauma from leaps and hard landings on shins especially, topped with marley dance floor tiles. When a second space opened up several blocks south and east, in Carroll Gardens, Linton-Meyer did it all again.

Without having to worry any longer about shuffling classes from location to location, Linton-Meyer can now concentrate on the nitty-gritty of making Cobble Hill Ballet what she (and plenty of other local parents and kids) call the “happiest ballet school in Brooklyn.” She and her teachers adhere to a strict syllabus in order to allow her students the freedom to express themselves, but also to see a real progression in skills from year to year. “Dance gets harder as you get older, because of all the technical aspects,” says Linton-Meyer. “You have to constantly work to make it challenging and fun and not-boring, but also to get in all the good barre work, because I want to give my students real training.”

Although she has yet to see one of her ballerinas go on to a career in dance, Linton-Meyer concedes it’s not her primary focus. “In the ‘real’ ballet world, kids are going to class five days a week, and sometimes they hit age 16 and their bodies change and they’re just done,” she says. “But Brooklyn parents are more interested in their kids being well-rounded. And this place is a real community—the girls get to be good friends, and they have the year-end show, with the older kids helping out the younger kids. I want to keep having this nurturing environment, so that ballet can be in their lives for a long time.”

To learn more, visit Cobble Hill Ballet.

Photographs by Roy Beeson

Ice Cream Jubilee’s Victoria Lai on Retooling the Five-Year Plan and the Importance of Pink Desserts

By Christina Bruce

Five years ago, Victoria Lai accepted what she thought was her dream job. She left a law career in New York City to work at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a presidential appointee working on immigration issues.

Even as a teenager in Houston, Lai, the daughter of first-generation Chinese parents, knew she wanted to make her mark in Washington. She picked Wellesley, the seedbed for women in leadership, for college. She worked on the John Kerry presidential campaign as director of outreach to Asian-American voters. She was, as she puts it, “Doing all the right things.”

Although it wasn’t on her resume, she also happened to have a talent for making ice cream.

But that side interest turned into a future she couldn’t have imagined for herself when she walked into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters in downtown D.C. (USIS is a branch of the DHS). “I’m the type of person who always had a five-year and a ten-year plan,” Lai says, but “it was really deflating to find my dream job and then realize it wasn’t everything that I wanted it to be.”

Sitting for a chat a few weeks ago at a table in the airy D.C. riverfront store, Ice Cream Jubilee, that she opened just over a year ago, she reflects on how a home hobby morphed into a thriving business and a huge detour from the national policy career she’d always imagined.

Lai’s love of ice cream is attached to a warm childhood memory. Her father, a neurologist who often worked through dinnertime, would share ice cream with Victoria and her sister when he got home at night.  “It’s what brought our family together when my dad was really busy,” Lai says. “

Lai started making her own ice cream in her un-air-conditioned apartment in New York as a way of indulging her creative side, and continued the habit when she moved to D.C., featuring her creations on a blog that would eventually provide the name for her brand. Even though she had gone so far as to rent a commercial kitchen in D.C.’s NoMa district and was selling her ice cream to two local grocery stores, the pursuit remained firmly “on the side” in her mind.

Things changed when she entered the D.C. Scoop competition in 2013. Making more ice cream than she ever had before—13 gallons, double her usual weekly output—she toted it to D.C.’s Union Market and gave out samples to some 8,000 attendees in blazing July heat. In a field of more than 15 vendors, she won the people’s choice award. “I just didn’t think that I was in that league,” Lai says.

Weeks later, the developers of a waterfront site at Navy Yard, an area booming with new housing and restaurants just a short walk from the Nationals ballpark, asked her if she would be interested in opening an ice cream shop.

When she visited, she found the site fluorescent-lit, with papered-over windows. Even so, she could appreciate how much sunlight the towering floor-to-ceiling windows would bring in, and the beauty of the river view beyond. “If I’m going to dedicate myself to long hours every week, I might as well do it somewhere as beautiful as this,” she thought. “This is where I want to be. It was that conclusion that made me take the leap.” Today, she still feels that same sense of uncertainty about a five-year plan, but in a different way: “I’m sort of at a loss for what’s going to come, but only because there are many more directions to go,” she says.

The Navy Yard waterfront still has a bit of the empty, almost-too-clean feeling of a neighborhood that’s still being redeveloped. Modern glass-front apartments, a movie theater, and a winery/event space are all underway. On a sunny weekday afternoon, a group of construction workers from a site nearby comes into the store, and Lai pauses her conversation to make sure one of her employees hands out water.

In running her business, Lai has lots of emotional and practical support from her husband, Howard Yoon, and 10-year-old stepson, Ian. Yoon, a literary agent who has also blogged about food, helps develop Ice Cream Jubilee’s signature unusual flavors, such as maple rye pecan and salty apple pie. Ian puts stickers on pint lids, cleans the windows (at least, as far as he can reach), and recently opened a pop-up root beer float stand outside the shop.

“My relationship with Ian has grown as the store has grown,” says Lai, who married Yoon this past January after meeting him at a supper club event in 2011. And he’s learning plenty about hard work. “When a kid sees the line and hears the crowd and waits up till 11 p.m. for me to come home,” she says, “that’s a whole lot more tangible than me doing a really hard negotiation or being on an airplane all the time.”

Every week at Ice Cream Jubilee brings new challenges: Whole Foods has already upped its order from early July, and the store broke sales records when its first birthday celebration, National Ice Cream Day, and the arrival of Taylor Swift for two shows at Nationals Park all coincided during the week of July 12.

Meeting the demand is a challenge, given that production happens out of the store and storage is limited. Lai says she has already doubled staff from last year and rearranged the store to fit customers in a double-length line at the counter. Still, Lai is launching a mail order delivery option soon (“I joke that once we do that, then my mom can be a quarter of our sales”) and eyeing locations for a second store.

She’s also constantly coming up with new, sophisticated, and offbeat flavors—Dark and Stormy, based on the cocktail, was one of her recent favorites—and she’s dedicated to using high-quality, local cream. But Lai is also committed to keeping prices as low as possible, and being family-friendly.

“If a family comes here and there is no pink ice cream, somebody’s world is going to get destroyed,” she says. “We hear that all the time: ‘What do you have that’s pink?’”

That’s why a freezer full of cool, new flavors must always have room for good old vanilla and, of course, strawberry.

“Pink ice cream with rainbow sprinkles cures a lot of problems,” Lai says. “If life can be that easy, let’s smooth that over for people.”

Photographs by Jeffrey Morris

A Night Off With Kim & Jeff Bosse of Birch Road Cellar, Lincoln Park, Chicago

Completely violating Birch Road’s no-kid policy, the Bosses with Reese and Sophie

By Lela Nargi

Just over a year ago, Kim Bosse, a social media consultant, and her friend Sharon Provins, hit on a brilliant idea: a top-secret, members-only club that would appeal to grownups—if not exclusively parents, like them—who were looking for a low-key, no-kid night out that didn’t have to end right after dinner was over, or devolve into a bar crawl.

Says Bosse, whose husband, Jeff, is now full-time managing the product of this brainstorm, Birch Road Cellar, “A lot of parents appreciate a night away from the kids and night out, but they don’t necessarily want that to be a big scene. They just want to break out of the house!” And that counts for Kim and Jeff as much as anyone. Read on to learn more!

Tell us a little about your “clubhouse.”
Kim Bosse: It’s pretty simple. What we offer is a comfortable, casual environment where our members can hang out. They can keep their own spirits and wine in our wine cellar, which makes getting out of the house easy. Parents have so much on their plate it can be hard to plan stuff. But here, you can get takeout, open up a bottle of wine, and actually talk to your partner, because the music’s not too loud. There are also plenty of other couples you can connect with, if you want to.

Sometimes, Jeff and I will get a last-minute night out. There are all these new restaurants in Chicago I’m always dying to try, but you have to reserve three weeks in advance. It completely turns date night into Chipotle night. But even Chipotle night can be fun if you’re eating it in a nice space with a bottle of wine!

What is it that you guys most like about hanging out in the space you created?
Kim: I grew up in the suburbs, where we had secret neighborhood spots that we kids would ride to on our bikes. It’s something I valued as kid, and also now as a grown-up. The idea of everyone serving themselves here [there are no waiters or bartenders at Birch Road] came from our own lives. I like craft spirits and buying local beer, but when I go out and look at restaurant lists, I can’t remember what I’ve had and liked before. Also, it’s impossible for a bar or restaurant to stock what everyone likes but here, whatever you’ve tried that you like, you can buy it and put it in your locker at Birch Road and it will be waiting for you the next time come in. Or maybe you have special bottle of wine someone gives you as gift but don’t want to open just for yourself; you can’t wait to come in and share it with another member you’ve met here.

Was having a clubhouse-y feel important to you?
Jeff Bosse: We’ve got very much of the living room set-up. People seem to really like those kinds of comfortable spaces.

Kim: We tried with the décor to make it as comfy as home, but to still functional like a bar. A lot of seating at bars and restaurants is intentionally designed to be not comfortable long-term, because they don’t want you to stay. Here, we want you to sit back and enjoy!  We have “studio spaces” that are like mini living rooms. If you want to be more interactive with other members, you can sit in the bar area. There are sofas and easy chairs, but they’re not pushed together, no one is listening in on your conversation or intruding.

Are all your members parents?
Jeff: Only about 30% of them are parents, but among them, we have parents with kids of varying ages: babies, school-age, some who are even older than that.

Kim: One of the things I love about coming here versus other social opportunities we have as parents is that people branch out and the center of the conversation is not always our kids. I love talking about my kids [son, Reese, is 8 years old and daughter, Sophie, is 6] and I could easily talk about them all day. But it’s nice to feel like a grownup and have a conversation about other things. We’ve got a diverse group of members in here, so the conversation naturally steers away from childhood stuff, to food and drink and movies and shows.

Parents in Chicago embrace diversity for families and kids—we’re always looking for diverse experiences—but social clubs here tend to be industry-specific. We have a number of private clubs that are dedicated to finance, to lawyers; these are places people join to further their careers. But Birch Road is unique because we offer the private club experience without it being a resume-building environment; it’s just a place where you and your peers can meet. And most important of all: we’ve got a no-kid policy!

Do you have a favorite kind of night at the club?
Jeff: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed since opening Birch Road is being the best host for Dad’s Night Out. Before, I would host literal “garage parties” where we would drink beer and play darts in my garage. Now we’re sipping Scotch and playing darts in my private club!

Photographs by Thomas Kubik of TK Photography

For ConstructionKids’ Deb Winsor, Confidence Comes with the Bang of a Hammer

By Lela Nargi

The 214-year-old Brooklyn Navy Yard is a three-acre industrial park that occupies a small cove just across the East River from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As a major builder of battleships during World War II, it earned the nickname the “Can-Do Yard,” a title that moldered along with its buildings when the yard was decommissioned in 1966. But lately, it’s been reclaiming its former glory, after the 2004 arrival of Steiner Studios to the park (Boardwalk Empire and the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were both shot here)—and on its heels, hundreds of “can-do” businesses of all varieties: artist and textile studios, furniture restorers, ship repairers, woodworkers, a rooftop farm, and one seemingly incongruous company with a large “workforce” comprised of people who are all under 48 inches tall.

That company is ConstructionKids and its fearless leader, Deb Winsor, has in her six years in business taught some 12,000 New York City schoolchildren the rudiments and beyond of building things with wood and nails and hammers. Her home base is in the Navy Yard’s Building 92, the former Marine Commandant’s House that serves as exhibit space and education center; the second floor is devoted to ConstructionKids. “People are always amazed when they walk in and with 40 kids, it’s humming like a factory in here and nobody’s fooling around,” says Winsor—loudly over the din—as a group pint-size builders cobble together tool boxes at low tables in the center of the large, project-lined space. “It’s fully engaging for children when we give them the tools and the process to be self-reliant.”

“It’s fully engaging for children when we give them the tools and the process to be self-reliant.”

Construction Kids is a highly likely culmination of a lifetime’s experience for Winsor. “Coming from a family of engineers, I spent a lot of time down in the basement watching what my dad did,” she says. “Carpentry and woodworking really spoke to me.” After majoring in industrial design at Syracuse University, she realized that she wasn’t cut out for office work and wound up in Nantucket, painting houses. That led to historic preservation work, then a move to Long Island to learn about boat building and restoration. Says Winsor, “That was a real game changer, because you can make a chair that looks great, but a chair doesn’t have to float and keep you alive in a storm.” She got a Master’s in historic preservation at Columbia University, “wound up in New York with a family,” and all was plodding steadily on. When she got a call from her son, Jack’s, preschool teacher.

“They were studying igloos,” Winsor recalls. “His teacher said, Can you build an igloo with a bunch of 4-year-olds, in Brooklyn, in May?” The final product—made from a bent wood with fabric stretched over it—was not quite the “igloo” Winsor had in mind. “But we were all down there on our knees on the floor, and it struck a vein with every kid, every teacher, every parent,” she says. That summer, she ran her first two-week camp through the school. “It took off like a shot,” she says.

Now running more than 100 programs city-wide—including afterschool programs at the Navy Yard space and in some 20 schools; vacation and summer camps; birthday parties; and special events—Winsor admits, “We’ve never been quite able to meet the demand. It’s a crazy business model to have!” She credits her success to her commitment to expanding slowly—“If I need to buy three hammers, first I need to make the money to buy three hammers”—as well as meeting a primal need of an increasingly sedentary, screen-focused population of elementary schoolers to do something physical and hands-on. “It’s whole-child learning, which they don’t get much of in school these days,” she says. She offers an analogy to Jack’s first foray into Little League baseball: “He walked across Prospect Park with this bat-weapon in his hand, hitting the ground, the dog, the tree. When I picked him up from practice two hours later, that bat was no longer a weapon; it was a tool and he had been taught to use it. That’s what we do, too. It gives kids confidence.”

Every day, one of Winsor’s teachers arranges the hammers in a different pattern on the floor.

During camp season, Windor takes on some 60 employees but during the regular school year, her staff of 14 teachers, administrators, and fabricators work to ensure that every child who comes to build has a fun, creative, and safe experience. “Someone calls up and says, We need to build the Lincoln Memorial for a program we’re doing in our school,” says Winsor. “Our creative and fabrication teams get together with the educators to talk about what kind of curriculum themes they’re trying to develop, then we build prototypes.” Always, they start kids building with wood because while kids have plenty of opportunities to use clay and paper and fabric in school, wood is not often offered as a material.

Winsor’s program also begins with hammer and nails—the “iconic tools,” as Winsor calls them. “When it’s paper, it can only be wrong or right, but if you bend a nail, you can take it out and put in another one; it doesn’t feel like a failure,” she explains. From there, kids progress to saws and vices, then wrenches and bolts, then nippers and pliers. At each step, they’re taught how to hold the tools correctly and most of all, safely.

The age of the kids is of paramount in importance in determining programming. Not only are the materials scaled down to meet their physical needs and abilities—like four-ounce hammers for the littlest builders—so are the expectations. “We work with little, tiny 3- and 4-year olds who are still learning what a triangle, square and rectangle are,” says Winsor. “So, we spend a disproportionate amount of money on program development,” to make sure Construction Kids get things just right.

On the other, older-kid, end of the spectrum, “It was transformational day for me when the three boys arrived and told me they wanted to build Yankee Stadium,” Winsor laughs as she remembers. “Which also was the day we established one of our few cardinal limits, which is, any project you build in this workshop has to fit through a New York City subway turnstile”—the measurements for which, along with those for those of an American Girl doll, Winsor and her team have committed to memory.

Teaching kids how to use tools responsibly gives them confidence—part of the core culture of ConstructionKids.

And indeed, in an era when so much is made about creating STEM opportunities for girls, Winsor admits to a certain amount of frustration around persisting gender stereotypes. “Making is a gender-neutral skill,” she says. “So, we embrace the American Girl doll as an opportunity for girls to do architecture around this omnipresent character. We don’t have a marker for girls that we can recognize as ‘building’ except for their creative play—making environments for dolls—but that to me is science and STEM and architecture and planning. I don’t know if everyone sees it that way.”

 The final component to making ConstructionKids such a unique space is what Winsor calls an “intergenerational connection.” Staff is often high school and college students—grownups who are not quite peers but more along the lines of older cousins, or family friends. Says Winsor, “We teach them that their role is to be a safe buddy, so kids can step out of that teacher-child, parent-child world they spend their whole day with. That’s a big part of our culture.” She talks about the joy of watching kids of all ages learning from each other in her big, bright, tidy, and tool-filled space. “They’re marching over to get their end-nipper, or marching over to the vice to chuck up their piece of wood,” she says. “Confidence—that’s what we’re about. It’s pretty fantastic stuff.”


Photographs by Roy Beeson