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by Fran Alexander


Who knew suburban motherhood could be so hip and fun? Laura Wilker and Betsy Cadel, authors of KidSavvy Westchester: A parents' guide of information & inspiration (Suburban Goddess Press, $17.95), are happy to report that Westchester is an ideal place to raise young children. These two transplanted New Yorkers have written a guide that they hope will be a "trusted resource" on "the ins and outs of all the things that make Westchester such a desirable place to raise families." Their project is a natural outgrowth of their professional backgrounds, Wilker's in public relations and Cadel's in advertising copywriting. They met as first-time mothers through Mothers and More, an international organization dedicated to helping "sequencing women" find a work/life balance. Wilker founded the Westchester chapter in 2000, and Cadel has since assumed leadership. According to Wilker, since their Mothers and More group was comprised of so many first-time mothers, they decided to compile an informal list of recommended activities from all of their members. The results struck a chord — what about a Westchester book on the order of the several available for New York City parents? The only potential competition, Wilker recalls, would have been Kids in Westchester, by Jane Berger, but that was already out of print; as for The Best of Westchester, it is not targeted specifically to families. The opportunity was supported by Westchester census numbers indicating a healthy under-age-five population. And so the friendship between Wilker and Cadel soon grew into a business partnership as well. With a makeshift office at one of their dining room tables, the team embarked upon a thorough research phase, with listings culled from their own favorite haunts, word-of-mouth and friends' recommendations, scouring of publications, Yellow Pages and ads. They tackled the writing, fact-checking and promotional plans themselves, and after exploring publishing options, chose self-publishing in the interests of time and artistic control. They dubbed themselves Suburban Goddess Press and set out to distribute their book to local bookstores and child-related businesses, as well as through speaking engagements. From conception to publication was one year — not bad for a couple of first-time “mothers and more”. The book and cover were designed and edited by New York publishing professionals, and it establishes the publication’s modernity, relevance and accessibility at first glance. The cover art features a Disney-ish, casual but sophisticated, stroller-pushing mom — stylish and satisfied, not the least bit frumpy or frazzled. KidSavvy Westchester contains over 800 listings from northern and southern Westchester, with some in Rockland, Putnam, Connecticut and NYC. They include details such as hours and "what to know before you go”. There are tips on dining out, birthday parties and finding childcare. Other features include Savvy Suggestions, such as Easy Apple Crisp in the Apple Picking and Pumpkin Patch section of the Family Fun chapter; and Savvy Superlatives, such as Our Favorite Family-Friendly Restaurants in the Whining and Dining chapter. The book is written in a chatty, pull-up-a-chair style, complete with advice and words of comfort. For instance, in the What is My Humiliation Threshold subheading of Whining and Dining, we learn that Wilker's cousin spent Thanksgiving meals crawling under the table as a child, and yet grew up to be a White House communications director. "In other words,” the book tells us, “your child's early table behavior is not an indicator of his or her future potential — nor is it an indicator of your parenting skills." In the au pair section of Desperately Seeking Mary Poppins, the authors warn, "Congratulations, you just had a 19 year-old girl! ... so make sure you have the nerves to deal with her social life." What lies ahead for Suburban Goddess? A website (www.kidsavvy.net) has been launched to coincide with the book's arrival in stores. Possible projects include sequels (perhaps on summer camps or preschools) and other regional editions, since the design format is already established. And future editions are inevitable. In the meantime, Wilker has spearheaded the launch of the southern Westchester chapter of the working mothers’ networking group, Second Shift, with Mara Weissmann; and she and Cadel have KidSavvy speaking engagements scheduled for Mothers and More and other small groups. When asked if anything of significance is missing for Westchester families, Wilker mentioned a children's museum, but added that one is already in development through the Junior League (discoverwcm.org). Cadel suggested an aquarium (a la Norwalk) and said we could use more indoor play spaces. Although "polar opposites in so many ways," according to Cadel, these two women clearly work well together. The Wilker family recently moved into a house across the street from the Cadels. That should give the Suburban Goddesses even more time for their creative and helpful productions.


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