Friday, October 30, 2009

A Family Weekend Away -- by Robin

My family just returned from Willow Valley Resort & Conference Center ( for a three night stay this past weekend, and we had a lovely time. We had stayed there previously when we visited Hershey, but this time we took in other attractions, both at Willow Valley itself and beyond.

To quote my six year old son, the indoor water park at Willow Valley is "awesome." It stays open late, and we were there one night after dinner from 9 - 10PM, and Seth didn't want to leave. Who could blame him?! Whether sliding through the mouth of the huge grinning frog or going down the huge, winding slide, he loved it.

Sunday morning, we visited the farm at Willow Valley, and both Seth and I fell in love with the cutest five month old pot belly pig named Pansy. Anyone who knows me, knows I've been a collector of pig items for years, and my son has grown to love them as well. But, it's not too often that we get to pet a real life, adorable, baby pig. We didn't want to leave the barnyard. And, the staff was very warm 'n friendly, as they introduced us to the array of animals and gave us the opportunity to personally spend time with them.

Outside of Willow Valley, in neighboring towns, there is much to do in the area that is kid friendly...and fun for adults too.

We paid a visit to and took a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road. Located in Strasburg, PA, the Strasburg Rail Road holds the unique distinction as America’s oldest short line railroad. A real working railroad, it's known for its picturesque ride through the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The 45-minute narrated train ride departs daily from Strasburg station. Guests board a restored Victorian wooden passenger car pulled by a steam locomotive on a journey through the beautiful Amish countryside to Paradise, Pa. and back. It was a lot of fun, and I was grateful for the opportunity to rest my feet for a bit from all the walking we were doing.

While waiting for our Rail Road ride, we took in a visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania across the road. It is quite a spectacle with amazing history. At the museum, you'll learn about the heritage and technology of railroading. You can board some of the trains, and take a step back in time as you envision what it might have been like to travel during a different era. They have lots of special events that make it a worthwhile year round destination.

Another of our stops was the Toy Train Museum in Lancaster. It features hundreds of toy trains in a modern museum built like a historic train station. My son was like a kid in a candy store here. He didn't know where to look first, as he ran back in forth pushng various buttons and switches to make things go and light up . Very cool place, as he would put it!

Downtown Lancaster offers a bunch of good shopping opportunities...whether clothing, gift items, toys or pieces of art. While my husband wasn't thrilled I did some spending "damage," I was pleased with my unexpected purchases. There's also a wide array of dining options, whether ethnic or casual American.

While we didn't get to Choo Choo Barn -- Traintown U.S.A.®, this trip, we have in the past, and kids enjoy it. Also located in Strasburg, it features more than 1,700 square feet of model train displays with more than 150 hand-built animated figures & vehicles, and 22 operating trains.

We took a short drive to the charming town of Lititz, PA. We had never gone there before. The main drag featured quaint country shops, antiques, clothing and more. And, we went to the Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum/Factory Store, and bought Seth a box of dark chocolate mint marshmallows (which of course I had to sample). Really good! Admission was free, and they ship.

We took in a guided tour of the historical Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. Established in 1861, you get a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting and learn about the art/evolution of pretzel baking, including free samples. We are now all certified pretzel twisters (yes....they give you a certificate)!

My son also had a blast at Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park in Lancaster. "A Kingdom for Kids," it features rides, entertainment, etc., complete with Halloween decorations (for now), and kids parading about in their costumes. If you have young children, this is the perfect theme park for them.

We dined one evening at Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn in Ronks, right near Strasburg. You can order off the menu or sample their various offerings on the smorgasboard, which is what we did. It was a good way to experience PA Dutch recipes ranging from BBQ chicken to chicken pot pie to ham balls to pecan pie. It was time to hit the gym at Willow Valley after this meal.

PS: Many thanks to Willow Valley and some of the various attractions for hosting our visits. For general information on the area, visit

PPS: We look forward to returning one day, and enjoyed spending time with the other families from and beyond who joined us. This was the first group getaway we planned, and if you were unable to attend, we hope you'll vacation with us in the future, whether here or another destination. Be sure to sign up for our monthly email newsletter to hear of our activities. Visit

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Yelling the New Spanking? by Cara

I was forwarded an article by a friend this week, written by a New York Times columnist about whether American parents believe yelling at their children is considered what spanking used to be back in the 50s, 60, and to a certain degree, the 70s.

The article shouted practically a unanimous, “yes,” with evidence backed up by child psychology researchers and interviews with parents. Most of the evidence indicated that the same parents who would “never” spank their children, use yelling as a means to get their point across instead. In fact, one blogger admitted on her blog, “I am a screamer. I’m a Mom that screams, shouts and loses it in front of my kids and feel like I’m revealing a dark family secret.”

This may not be so far from the truth. My own parents never spanked me. However my father used to bellow so loudly at me at the smallest of infractions, it almost felt like a spanking. In fact, a spanking might have hurt less at times.

I personally have never spanked my son and have yelled at him only once (not including screaming for him to wait at a corner until I get there so as not to get run over). Every other time, I give myself a time out. I go to another room, lock the door, put earplugs in and listen to calming music for 5 minutes. I’ve been known to put my toddler in a playpen and walk around the house a few times. And on a couple rare instances, I handed my husband the baby, grabbed my car keys and my wallet and drove around the neighborhood for 30 minutes or so.

So what are these experts and researchers trying to tell us? And what really is a frustrated, ready to blow parent supposed to do? According to the New York Times article, both psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. At best, it is ineffective (the more you do it, the more the child tunes you out) and at worse, it can be damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem. As one researcher put it, “If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring.” Furthermore, if the tone of the yelling denotes anger, insult, or sarcasm, a child can perceive it as parental rejection.

The bottom line message through this article is: Don’t yell. Easier said than done. But there are strategies to prevent situations from escalating into the “Yell-o-sphere.” One strategy, as I’ve mentioned and used is to give yourself the time-out. Go into another room and scream into a pillow if need be! Be proactive, let young ones know that a transition will be coming soon and repeat it in intervals. Make sure the school age child has the backpack filled the night before. Tell your young ones that going into a store is where the parent makes the purchases, not the child. I personally go shopping while my son is in school. If I were not able to do that, I would forgo sleep and do grocery shopping at 10:00 pm. But that’s just me!

The experts suggest figuring out your own ways to prevent situations that make you most prone to yell. And take a deep breath before the words come out. There, unfortunately, will always be those moments where you just don’t know how to handle certain situations. You’ll blow, but an apology is usually recommended. And you can always do what I do if I know my husband is in a bad mood and may explode. I’ll say to my son, “Honey, just don’t make Daddy mad.” My son knows EXACTLY what that means! Then we BOTH stay away!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Just Plan on Being Stressed Out! by Jamie

I’ve always been a “planner.” Before I picked up and moved to Alaska the summer after I graduated college, I subscribed to the Anchorage Daily News for a month, scouted out places to live and jobs to pursue, and even introduced myself to a few eligible Alaskan men.

All of my subsequent adventure travel trips were well-plotted out, too. Before I took off around the globe, I did tons of research, mapped out my destinations in each country, made lists of things I needed to take care of—and pack—weeks before I departed, and left nothing to chance.

My foray into single motherhood was highly planned as well, and when I successfully became pregnant, I had 40 weeks to ready myself for being a mom. I moved my life and my belongings from NYC to Long Island, read dozens of “what to expect” books, organized my room and my baby’s, lined up a daycare facility, prepared my co-workers for my maternity leave, and did everything a person can possibly do to “be ready” for motherhood.

But can you ever really prepare to be a parent? And what happens when the stability you think you’ve created in your life unexpectedly falls apart? What if your job of a decade is eliminated, and the money you’ve counted on, and the career you’ve focused on for over fifteen years, suddenly go kaput?

Lately, I’ve been discovering that planning out my future isn’t always possible—or even helpful. But instead of turning me into a more carefree person, this conclusion has simply made me a more panicked one. How can a head-of-the-household structure her life—and her expenses—on a project-by-project basis? How can she select her daughter’s nursery school for fall 2010 without knowing her own work schedule? And, most disconcerting of all, how can she potentially embark on a graduate school degree without knowing how much freelance work she’ll be able to take on, and how quickly she’ll deplete her savings account while securing a degree? Planning really isn’t possible for most of the long-term questions I’m pondering now, and it’s probably why I’ve been suffering from countless migraines and dizzy spells (which my neurologist is convinced aren’t “serious,” thankfully).

As a mom, there is, of course, plenty of joy in spontaneity. I’ve been known to let Jayda splash around in mud puddles and ruin her outfit because it just seemed silly to have her miss the chance to enjoy a rainstorm. I’ve taken Jayda to the ice cream store and let her eat frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles for dinner just because she did something that deserved a treat and I wanted her to know it. I’ve also suddenly stripped off my clothes and joined Jayda in her evening bath because she was having so much fun splashing around, and I knew she wanted me to play with her, too.

But those unplanned events weren’t very important in the grand scheme of things. Their outcomes didn’t affect our entire lifestyles, and I never gave a second thought to any of them. Alternately, life’s major decisions should be well-planned out—at least for a planner like me. But maybe the best I can do for us right now is plan how I’m going to cope with having no plan. It might not be ideal, but it will make this chaotic, not-so-predictable life of ours a bit more enjoyable!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Guest Blog Post: Review of MOTHERHOOD the Movie -- by PTA Mom

Synopsis: Eliza Welch (Uma Thurman) is a former fiction writer-turned-mom-blogger with her own site, “The Bjorn Identity.” Eliza lives and works in two rent-stabilized apartments in a walk-up tenement building smack in the middle of an otherwise upscale Greenwich Village. Starting at dawn, her to-do list is daunting: prepare for and throw her daughter’s 6th birthday party, mind her toddler son, battle for a parking space during an epic alternate side parking showdown, navigate playground politics with overbearing moms, and mend a rift after posting her best friend’s confession on her blog. On top of it all, Eliza decides to enter a contest run by an upscale parenting magazine. All she has to do is write 500 words answering the deceptively simple question, “What Does Motherhood Mean to Me?”

I had the opportunity to interview Katherine Dieckmann- the Director, Anthony Edwards, who plays the husband, and Uma. The movie background is interesting: 1) the movie was made almost entirely by women, 2) they shot it with a modest budget, mostly in the West Village in 25 days, and 3) Minnie Driver, who plays Eliza’s best friend, was actually pregnant in her third trimester, so they worked the pregnancy into the role. By working with mostly women on set, they tend to have been in your position before and / or have an understanding of what you’ve gone through because they’ve been there. So when one of the producer’s kids was sick, she brought him to the set so she could keep an eye on him. Kids were always welcome. How wonderful! That wouldn’t happen in most places of work. That’s why you see sick children being dropped off late to school with running noses or holding brown bags in case they get sick because their parents couldn’t find someone to watch them while they worked.
Besides supporting women in film, $1 from every ticket sold to Motherhood via website – during the film’s first two weeks – will go to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Additionally, Anthony Edwards seems like a genuinely super nice guy in real-life (they all were, but heck, they are actors) and is taking part in the New York Marathon on November 1 for Shoe4Africa – an organization for which he sits on the Board of Directors – which aims for empowerment through sports & education, creating unique health initiatives, and promoting Aids awareness. 

Dieckmann based the script somewhat loosely on her own life experiences of raising children in NYC. And both Edwards and Thurman have children in the city- Edwards has 4, and Thurman 2, so they do understand the demands of being a “City Mama/ Dada.”

Although I thought it was a cute movie, and enjoyable enough, I didn’t feel a connection to the main character. Just because we are Moms and are connected by the shear fact that someone calls us that, doesn’t mean we are all the same. Yes, there is the mundane-- like picking up socks and shopping for goody bag items--which no one likes. Yes, we feel as if we may have “lost” a little piece of ourselves, and long for the days when your husband looks at you like you’re the sexy mama that you are and sometimes you may want to run away from it all, but do you really run away? Come on? Would you ever really get into a car on your daughters 6th birthday and drive to New Jersey? Go have a glass of wine, take a bath or whatever else it is that helps you calm down.

I guess I’m judgmental of her. Yes, I’m calling it out—I’m one of those. I’ve never taken my child to school in my nightgown, although I have put my child into the car and almost forgot to buckle him in, but I would never knowingly drive around the block after someone told me he wasn’t strapped in. I do not smoke, and don’t judge Eliza for needing to light up after a particularly harrowing traffic showdown for a parking space. I get it- she’s stressed- everyone needs a relief. The husband doesn’t help. She used to have a career, comb her hair, be someone…Whaaaaaa,Whaaaaa. I can hear the violins now.

Minnie Driver, who plays the best friend, steals the movie (well, and a very cute messenger boy). She and her husband, who were splitting up—had “make up” sex and she got pregnant. So now, she’s pregnant and left to raise the baby and her other child alone. The funniest scene was while they were shopping at a sample sale, which Eliza surprisingly fits into her busy day rather than recognizing the fact that she had other priorities, and Minnie Driver’s character reveals an encounter with a motorized toy boat. Need I say more? Very funny.

I think some Moms who see this will relate to the struggles that Eliza is coping with. We are all excellent multi-taskers, or at least, many of us are. After all, we wouldn’t be able to do any of the things we do without that ability. And that task oriented, get the job done attitude whether you work out-of-the-house or not, is one thing we all have in common.

PTA Mom is a writer for, a lifestyle guide for women over 40. You can also follow her updates on Twitter @PTA_Mom.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Life in Books -- by Robin

It's been an interesting experience unpacking, organizing, purging and donating...all of which has resulted from our basement construction. But, it's not limited to that. It's impacting our entire home, as I go through closet by closet in an effort to streamline our living. It's quite a task, and not one that will happen overnight.

One thing that has emerged for me, especially this past weekend, when we really made a huge dent in unloading boxes, was that I felt like I was coming full circle. It was as if my life was unfolding in front of me in ways I didn't anticipate.

As I unpacked and placed books, photos albums, etc. on shelves, it was the first time in quite a while that I stepped back to really examine what I had in my hands. I was holding my life. So many of the books (and I have an author...I adore books) resonated with me in terms of where I was at the time I bought or read it. I started having flashbacks.

Books from travel. I turned up journals I had kept as a college student living in Nice, France for a summer. What a treat to read them. And, to peruse through some of my old French dictionaries. It was a good time in my life. It was my first experience living away from home (not counting my college dorm room), and I loved the feeling of independence and the excitement of being on foreign soil. I hung out with fellow students on the topless beaches of Nice (debating if I should go for it or not). Shopped in supermarkets like a local (I was on a budget). Saw my first French film without subtitles (barely understood a word). Took trains to Italy and Paris, and aside from my studies, lived in a pretty spontaneous manner. It suited me.

Also on my shelves were a variety of self-help books, some of which related to G-d andgrief, which were bittersweet, since I had read them after losing my beloved mom. Others were about balance, finding peace, discovering your true life's purpose, etc. Things I still ponder and should probably reread.

I also have many dating/relationship books, since as the author of How to Marry a Mensch (decent person) and my work as a Love Coach for singles (, I endeavor to keep up with the writing of others in this genre.

There were also books on playwriting and plays by some of my favorite writers including Wendy Wasserstein and Charles Busch. (I aspire to write a play one day. Have started....)

Small gift books I had received from special friends over the years.

I even turned up a few books from my teen years that managed to survive my mom's efforts to clean out my childhood basement. Little Women and Little Men were two of them. I had written my name in them, and I tried to think back to when I read them and how much they meant to me. Little Men was a chunky book, but it was a soft paperback, and one whose pages were pliable and worn. I envisioned being perched on my cushy pink backrest on my bed in my small bedroom in the home where I grew up, reading into the night, as I often liked to do.

It's funny how since then, I rarely read fiction. Since becoming an author, my focus has been non-fiction, inspirational books. Yet, as a child, I used to write and illustrate kids books (not for publication...just fun). One title was The First Mouse to Land on the Moon. I still have it, and have shared it with my son, and even his kindergarten class last year when they invited me in talk about my experiences writing how-to books, since the children were working on their own.

Recently, the mom of a student in my son's first grade class, phoned to ask if I'd speak with her son. At age six, he adores writing and wants to get his stories published and on the shelf in a library. I saw myself in him. And, I was more than glad to inspire him to continue writing, but to focus on pursuing his passion, and that he could turn his attention to publication over time. The mom was happy that I was able to speak with him from an author perspective. She didn't want him to dwell on the finished product, but to keep on loving to create stories.

I wouldn't describe myself as a book worm. I'm not particularly an avid reader. I fancy myself more as a collector. I like the look and feel of books. I'll never get a just wouldn't be the same for me....though I know some embrace it.

Of late, many of the newer books on my shelves relate to mothering and health. Everything from Dr. Spock to Dr. Christiane Northrup (who writes about women's health). Whether it be parenting or perimenopause, both can be complex subjects, and these are books I find myself perusing with greater frequency.

I'm grateful our basement construction has led me to this place. It's been a revealing trip down literary memory lane. Kinda like This is Your Books. Wonder what the next chapter will hold??

PS -- Wanted to give a shout out to Macaroni Kid. It is a free weekly e-newsletter I just learned of that gives you the scoop on local events for kids and families. Check it out at, and if it's not yet in your town, find out how to launch one.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Great Pumpkin" -- by Cara

At least once each October, I take my son pumpkin picking at a large, commercial farm. My son had been looking forward to it all week, counting down the days! I was watching the weather forecast, praying for a nice day. We went for the first time this season last weekend. It was a cool, windy day, after a storm had swept through the area. But weather of any kind was not going to stop my son from his hunt...the hunt for the BIGGEST pumpkin! Or, shall we say, “The GREAT Pumpkin!”

We tried growing pumpkins from seed this year. However, I think we started out too late and the rainy, cool summer didn’t help with our pumpkin crop. In fact, our crop consists of one small, oval, green, sad pumpkin. I have my doubts that it will grow anymore, especially with the night temperatures reaching now into the 40s. Thus, the pumpkin picking. And the hunt! For the “Great Pumpkin!”

My father-in-law (bless his soul!), had promised my son that he would help him carve the pumpkin if my son picked out a big, round, beautiful pumpkin! Well, my son searched. And searched. And there were plenty of wonderful pumpkins I thought met the “GREAT Pumpkin” requirements! But not for my son. He was looking for the “perfect” pumpkin. And it had to be BIG! One of the BIGGEST pumpkins! Now we had two criteria to meet: “The GREAT Pumpkin,” and the “BIGGEST” Pumpkin! Of course, all subjective in a six year old boy’s mind!

So we searched...and searched...and searched some more. Finally, we found IT!! The ONE!! The ultimate “perfect pumpkin!” I tried to help my son lug it to our wagon, but he wanted to do it all by himself. And this “perfect pumpkin” HAD to have weighed between 25 and 30 pounds! My son was elated! “Just wait until Poppy sees this one! He’s going to say it is the BEST!”

Thank goodness a nice gentleman helped us put the GIANT pumpkin on the scale and another kind worker then put it into the car! I won’t even guess what this thing cost! But this was for my son! For his favorite time of year! Ready to do one of his favorite craft activities with one of his favorite people - his Poppy!!

The next day I dropped my son off at my Father-in-Law’s house complete with carving tools and an immensely excited boy! We heaved this gigantic pumpkin into his house and I left the two of them to their “work.” My Father-in-Law said he would drop off my son and their creation later on in the day.

Finally, I received a call that my Father-in-Law was bringing back my son with a “very creative” pumpkin! Knowing my son, I could only imagine what that meant. When they arrived it was just past sunset, so I gathered an LED tea light to put into the pumpkin to make it light up. When they placed the pumpkin on the steps leading up to our front door, I did indeed see quite an unusual pumpkin! This pumpkin had one “ear,” the typical, lopsided, triangular eyes and nose, and a mouth that would certainly scare away an orthodontist, since several teeth were missing! My son was beaming! My Father-in-Law was beaming! And all I could think of was how proud I was not only that they spent time and collaborated on such an intense project, but that they both obviously loved this pumpkin with all of it’s “uniqueness'!” I kissed them both before saying goodnight.

I then went in to get more LED tea lights....this pumpkin needed to be even brighter!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Healthy Habits -- and a Happy Kid -- by Jamie

I was not a very active kid. I preferred cookies to cartwheels, and reading to running. And it showed: I was a rather chubby child, who struggled with a weight problem throughout much of my youth. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I truly discovered the joys of exercise; I joined a boxing gym, and, as I strived to succeed in the sport, found my endorphins flowing, and my energy increasing. After just a few weeks of boxing, I set off on a quest to become stronger and faster and added running and weight training to my routine. Ultimately, my body became leaner, my heart grew healthier, and I became a gym-rat.

I’m known at my current gym as “the woman who worked out until the day she gave birth”—and it’s true: I exercised about 6 times a week throughout my pregnancy, and would have been at the gym on the day I went into labor, but I had an early OB/GYN appointment that day that deterred me; I gave birth that evening.

Soon after my C-section, I was out walking again, with Jayda strapped to my body in a Baby Bjorn, and I returned to the gym less than a month later. Exercise and eating healthfully are important to me…and I want them to be important to my child. But, as I know from my own experiences, you can’t force exercise on a kid if you want it to become a habit for her; instead, she has to enjoy it.

Like her mom, Jayda has a passion for sweet things. For a long time, I could get away with giving her fresh fruit, Greek yogurt with honey, or homemade zucchini-carrot bread as a treat. But of course, as Jayda grew, her grandparents, daycare friends, and our shopping forays introduced her to cupcakes, ice cream, candy, and other not-so-healthy snacks. I still try to limit Jayda’s treats, and make healthy substitutions whenever I can. (For example, one of Jayda’s favorite places is the “ice cream store” where, unbeknownst to her, we both eat low fat frozen yogurt.) However, since I don’t want to create an eating-disordered daughter and deny her all the foods her contemporaries are eating, I’ve been simply focusing on getting Jayda to exercise more, instead.

When Jayda was about 18 months old, I signed her up for a gymnastics class—and a year later, we’re still attending once a week. She loves it at The Little Gym, and 45 minutes of climbing, swinging, and running around are never enough for her. Weather-permitting, I take her to the playground after daycare as often as I can, and while sometimes she just wants to swing, and sit and watch the other kids play, other days, Jayda is a real little monkey, climbing the jungle gym and racing around in circles. Regardless, the playground is a place she looks forward to going to, and that’s what’s important.

Because my little girl has been begging me to go to “dance school” for months now, I’ve signed her up for a class in January, and she can’t stop talking about it. If dancing brings her as much joy as I think it will, she’ll be twirling around incessantly once class begins. Add to that the yoga class that Jayda’s daycare starting offering a few weeks ago (and which Jayda loves—and constantly practices at home), and it looks like my daughter is turning into a pretty active child. More importantly, she’s enjoying her activities every step of the way.

Recently, I began taking Jayda to my gym with me on the weekends; it has a free daycare center and she adores the woman who watches her there. As soon as she wakes up on Saturday mornings, Jayda asks me, “When is mommy going to exercise?” and “Can I come, too?!” Having a toddler who begs to go to the gym must mean I’m doing something right!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Win-Win Grandparenting -- by Robin

This is chest x-ray week for our family. I had to get a follow-up to check on my pneumonia, which as it turns out is still not completely more antibiotic for me. And Seth got his first chest x-ray to check out his chronic cough. Thankfully his turned out clean, which means that we need to explore further what might be causing his daily barking (pretty scary sounding).

He's had it for two plus years now, and he's already seen a pulmonary doctor, so we know it's not asthma. His pediatrician is next going to explore acid reflux, I believe, so we'll see where that goes. I would like to get to the bottom of it sooner than later.

This leads me to my topic for the week.....that of grandparent support.

I lost my beloved mom 10 years ago, and my dad (G-d bless him) is 91 and has health challenges. My father-in-law passed away as well, and my mother-in-law (MIL) is in her 80s, and while not perfect, is in general, in decent health (and probably more than decent).

I have always missed that my mom didn't live to see me become a mom, and when I got married, I thought it would be cool to have in-laws who would love and befriend me. I'm not saying that's not the case, but yesterday I was a bit dismayed.

I had planned to take Seth to the local hospital for the x-ray, at the suggestion of his pediatrician. Coincidentally, it happens to be the hospital where my MIL volunteers twice/week. She enjoys helping there and knows a ton of the people. When she heard I was going to take Seth there, she offered to come along. I told her that would be nice and that I'd phone once he came home from school to make sure he was up for it. He had had a bit of an upset stomach earlier in the week.

When he got home, I called her, and to my surprise, she said she'd come but needed to drive separately because she agreed to have dinner at my brother-in-law's house at an early hour. I didn't see how we'd possibly be done at the hospital in time for her to make it there, so I told her to forget it, and that we'd go ourselves.

Afterwards, I felt a heartache I didn't expect. I had welcomed her support, and was suddenly let down. My own mom wouldn't have done that to me if she promised to be a shoulder to lean on. It made me acutely aware of how I miss her and how at the end of the day, the person we can most count on is ourselves. While others in our lives may mean well, they don't always deliver for whatever reason. We have to be strong in our own right, and welcome support if/when it becomes available.

This made me somewhat sad. What was it like years ago when families often lived in communities and were really there for each other? How nice. How reassuring. How convenient.

I find myself jealous of others when I hear their parents are spending time with their child or helping out in some capacity. We don't really have that. And, it's a nice relationship for both the child and grandparent. In my book, it's a win-win.

And, as a mom without a mom, I often find myself welcoming mom figures into my life. In that way, I sometimes feel a bit needy. Though, in this case, I was not the one who invited my MIL to come. She offered. And, when I opened myself up to it, the story changed.

Ultimately, as it turned out, and much to my we got poised to leave for the hospital, my MIL showed up at our doorstep and said she cancelled her dinner plans. I guess she had a change of heart. And, it did mean a lot to me.

I hope all the moms out there who have either in-laws or their own parents available to them, treasure these moments, and the huge source of support and love and wisdom they can offer. What I wouldn't give for that.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Loveliness of "Only" -- by Cara

I recently saw a posting on a mothering website. A question was posed to those who had “only” children. The author of the post wanted to know whether the children were well adjusted and whether the Moms felt “complete” with only one child. The woman who posed this query recently found out that she would be unable to have any more children and was worried that her daughter would grow up feeling “deprived” of the experience of having siblings and whether only child families felt “complete.”

The reason I homed in on this post is because not only do I have an “only” child, I am one. I also pondered and am self-predicting that there are many “older” Moms out there who also have “onlies” and feel perfectly “complete” with this choice. In fact, all of the weekly bloggers for Motherhood Later ...Than Sooner have “only” children!

So why is it that society puts a label and needs an explanation for only children families? In fact, I cannot tell you how many times my own Mother-in-Law has made comments about my son, ending with the phrase, “Well, after all, he’s an only child, so he’s spoiled.” The word “spoiled” refers to food, not children. And it certainly is not a type of behavior, as my Mother-in-Law repeatedly implies. What is so wrong about being an “only?” And conversely, what are the attributes of having an only child?

I would like to start with my own wonderful scenario, which occurred last week. My son lost his first tooth! When I found out, I quickly went to a website that had male as well as female Tooth Fairy selections. I downloaded and printed out the page of Tooth Fairies and showed them to my son so that he could chose which Tooth Fairy he wanted to come and take his tooth. Then we e-mailed this Tooth Fairy (ie. Daddy) because my son had quite a few questions to ask his Tooth Fairy. I also downloaded a certificate that I printed on our color printer, on cardstock, which was waiting for him when he woke up. Throughout all of this, I kept thinking, how wonderful for both of us to totally immerse ourselves in this milestone event and make it as magical and as wonderful as it should be! If I had more than one child, I never would have been able to embrace this event in the same way! And it has nothing to do about money, just time. Incidentally, my best friend's little girl lost her first tooth the same day as my son. She posted something on Facebook that said, "The baby is screaming and I'm out of singles so the Tooth Fairy is bringing glitter glue tonight." When I read that, I thought to myself, how fortunate for us that my son is an only child.

I could list a hundred other examples of how fortunate only children are. And a hundred famous people who were only children, throughout history. I think what it boils down to, though, is the type of parenting a child gets, whether in a ten child household or a household with one, what types of individual temperaments each of the children has and how theirs “fit” within the household “mix.” And also for a child to feel loved, whether number ten or an only.
I anticipate that along with the growing numbers of “older” parents that arise, as time progresses, the number of only child families will grow in number as well. I welcome seeing this societal change as the years pass. Then maybe the labels such as “spoiled” will not only be a misnomer, they will be a thing of the past.

I came upon this fable written by Lokman, an ancient Ethiopian sage:

A hare, upon meeting a lioness one day, said reproachfully: “I have always a great number of children while you have only one now and then.”

The lioness replied, “That is true, but my one child is a lion.”

And, in fact, so is mine.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter? by Jamie

My daughter, Jayda, will turn three in May, and she’s been in the same daycare center since she was 3-1/2 months old. It’s a small daycare—a warm, nurturing environment where everyone knows Jayda, and she loves it there. Technically, she can stay there until she enters kindergarten, and many of her classmates will do just that. But, lately, I’ve been starting to think she needs to go somewhere new in September, where she’ll be challenged more.

My birthday is in February, and my mother started me in nursery school early, because I appeared to be very intelligent. Then, because I missed the cut-off date for public kindergarten, and my mom didn’t want to keep me in nursery school for an extra year, she put me in private kindergarten, followed by private first grade. Finally, the public school system accepted me as a 6-year-old second grader. Yes, my mother pushed me ahead—and I thrived because of it. I was always reading levels ahead of my classmates, was an overachiever throughout middle school and high school, and graduated with honors from the University of Michigan. I’m smart. And my daughter is smart, too. Along with my blonde hair, blue eyes, and passion for candy, it seems she’s inherited a bit of my intelligence.

I recently started scouting out new nursery schools for Jayda, and have been quite impressed by what I’ve seen. One place has a shiny new computer center, a large indoor padded playroom, and a small petting zoo. Another is smaller, and more worn-down, but it also has a small computer room, weekly music classes, and even teaches Spanish to 4-year-olds. I’m thrilled there are great options for us—and both places actually bus the children to school if you don’t require extended hours. These days, whenever Jayda sees a school bus drive by, she lights up, and begs to ride on it, so I know she’d be thrilled to take a bus to school. Or would she? When the reality hits, will she be scared to death to climb aboard?

When I consider the tuitions, I lean towards the place with the shiny new computer center. It’s incredibly large and modern, with so many fabulous amenities, and it’s almost the same price as the smaller, older place. But maybe the smaller school will be warmer and more appealing to Jayda…and the bigger place will seem overwhelming? I’m really not sure. I want to do what’s best for my child…and I simply want her to thrive. But I also want her to be comfortable at her new school. It’s a tough call…especially when I know Jayda’s still very happy at her present daycare center…and probably would continue to be so for awhile.

I guess I can liken this scenario to my workouts at the gym. I’m comfortable doing the same old workout every day: I know what to do, I’m good at it, and I feel pretty happy afterwards. But when I force myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to do completely different exercises, ultimately, I’m always thrilled with the results. No matter which school I choose for Jayda, big or small, I’m going to be pushing her out of her comfort zone: A new place, new people, and new things to learn will probably seem scary at first. But change is good—especially for a smart little girl who thrives when challenged. And now it’s up to me to make that change for her. I just wish it was easier!

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Shakespeare of Moms -- by Robin

Just have to quickly share (for those who have been waiting on pins 'n needles)....our basement passed final inspection this week. What a huge relief!

Moving on.....I had an interesting experience two nights ago. At the suggestion of a writer friend, I signed up for an acting class through my local adult ed program. She thought it might be beneficialbecause I aspire to write a play, and she has written some in the past and is working on others, and has found it helpful with dialogue, understanding what makes good theatre, etc.

The class began this week, and there are 14 of us, all ages, backgrounds and varied levels of dramatic experience. The instructor quickly asked each of us if we've taken acting and when. I was readily brought back to my college days. I attended Hofstra University (undergrad), and was a French minor. One of the classes I took and loved was a French drama class where I actually performed a scene entirely in French. I was so proud of myself at the time, and it was such a challenge. To this day, I fondly recall the experience and the satisfaction I got from it.

This week in the class, she started out with a variety of exercises in an attempt to get us comfortable in our own skin. Each of us was asked to stand for one minute in the room, to be observed by others, and to do nothing. Not smile. Not react. Not move. Not make eye contact with anyone. Do absolutely nothing.

For many, doing nothing was one of the hardest things they've had to do. I wasn't sure how it would feel for me. When I did it, I felt like I was blinking because my eyes were tired. I fixated on a particular poster in the room and tried to meditate so I wouldn't dwell on the fact that I was the focal point of the other students. I was afraid I'd feel overly self-conscious. It was a seemingly long minute.

After the exercise, we gathered in groups of four to share what we observed about each other. And, not one person said I blinked. I was surprised. And, they said I wasn't overly rigid, didn't rock, or do anything I had been concerned about.

This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me.

It's so easy to judge yourself and reach conclusions about how you're perceived that may be far from the truth. And, especially if it's something that makes you feel somewhat insecure or challenged, the feelings can be all the stronger. While I'm a Leo, and sometimes enjoy attention, other times, I prefer not to be the focal point.

Imagine how as mothers it's so easy to pass self judgment. We have high expectations for our performance, yet, if you're a new mom or have one child, we have had no prior training.

The acting teacher spoke of our working on scenes for our next class, and that for those without acting experience, she'd recommend a scene close to us as people versus a Shakespeare. This made sense. Either way, we'll be stretching ourselves, and those who are so motivated, can work their way up to Shakespeare.

For me, that is not an aspiration. And, surprisingly, it made me aware that I don't need to strive to be the Shakespeare of moms either. While I embrace my role as a mom, it's certainly not always easy. But, what in life is? So, why does it make sense not to take on a big acting role right away (with no formal training), yet as a mom, we want to be at the peak of performance?!

It's ok to aim high...and we should...but we're human. We deserve to cut ourselves some slack.

Stellar Shakespearean actors aren't born in a day. And, the same holds true for us moms.

PS -- Take a listen to my interview re: later in life parenting!

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Robin's Show Recommendation -- THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS

Two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey stars as legendary advice columnist Ann Landers "THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS" Off-Broadway. I had the opportunity to take in a dress rehearsal earlier this week, and felt like I was in the presence of the famed columnist herself. Ivey's performance is captivating, and she has an endearing way of pulling in the audience, as if she's speaking to you personally. It's a warm and witty show that is both touching and amusing.

Presented by Cherry Lane Theatre, and directed by BJ Jones, the production is running through November 29.

For decades, newspaper columnist and American icon Ann Landers dispensed wit and wisdom to lovelorn teens, confused couples and countless others in need of advice in her enormously popular, nationally syndicated column. In THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS, Landers finds herself writing a column about a new kind of heartbreak -- her own. Drawn from Landers' life and letters, THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS is a touching and comic portrait of a wise, funny, no-nonsense woman who was, in fact, one of the most influential figures in America by virtue of the millions of readers who wrote to her seeking her indispensable advice and sometimes controversial opinions on matters ranging from marriage, divorce, life, death and sexuality, to the proper way to hang a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.

Ann Landers, who was born Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman Lederer in 1918, wrote her first advice column in 1945, and the column ended with her death in 2002.

Judith Ivey won Tony Awards for her performances in the plays STEAMING and HURLYBURLY. She is presently playing Amanda Wingfield in THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, giving a performance acclaimed by Charles Isherwood in The New York Times, and others. Her many stage credits include having played "Mommy" in Cherry Lane's celebrated productions of Edward Albee's "AMERICAN DREAM," directed by the playwright last year, and the solo play WOMEN ON FIRE. Ms. Ivey's film credits include "Devil's Advocate," "Washington Square" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs," and she starred in four television series including "Designing Women."

Playwright David Rambo's plays include GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS, THE ICE-BREAKER, THE SPIN CYCLE, a new adaptation of Sinclair Lewis' "Babbitt" and an all-new book for the Lerner and Loewe musical PAINT YOUR WAGON. He has adapted several screenplays for live performance including ALL ABOUT EVE, CASABLANCA, ADAM'S RIB and SUNSET BOULEVARD performed at the Hollywood Bowl. He is a writer and producer of the hit TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

This Off-Broadway production of THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS is produced by The Cherry Lane Theatre in association with Northlight Theatre.

For Members of
$26 (a 50% discount) to any preview performance.
October 7 – 12; Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm;
Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Sunday at 3pm; and Monday at 7pm.
Order online at or by calling 212-947-8844
For all other performances through November 29, call 212-239-6200

Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St, NYC

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Halloween Horror -- by Cara

My son’s FAVORITE time of the year is not his birthday, not the winter holidays, it’s Halloween. Now, I find this quite odd because this is not the time of year my son enjoys most because of the obvious - candy! No, my interesting son has no interest in candy of any type, flavor or taste. My son hates ALL sweets, even juice.

So if it’s not the candy that brings such excitement to my son, there really is only one option left. My son loves to dress up in costumes and pretend play! He has been doing this since he was two years old, and we have had quite the collection of costumes! Batman, Superman, Spiderman, pirate, cowboy, safari hunter, handyman! But, as the years went by and the costumes became too small, his interest in costumes diminished for all except one: Spiderman!

I think my son has been Spiderman at Halloween for three years in a row now! I even went out and bought the black (“dark”) Spiderman costume as well as the red and blue one last year, because my son would then have a choice, but his choice flip-flopped just about every hour, if not day! So, he ended up wearing both! One for a special event, and the other one to Trick-or-Treat in. So, Spiderman it has always been. Until this year.

My son is now 6. And I was pretty certain that he would want to be a Spiderman of one type or another again this year. Just to be on the safe side though, I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween since all of the Halloween signs and displays are already up. His response: A Power Ranger. Well, okay, a Power Ranger works for me. So we pulled up some Power Ranger costumes on the computer so that he could show me which one he liked the best, since there are (I think) six different color Power Rangers. As we were scrolling up and down, I was certain he would want to be the green power ranger, since green is his favorite color. Wrong. Again. He wanted to be a RED Power Ranger because according to my son, the red Power Ranger is the one who is the most powerful. Okay, fine. I just should have ordered the costume online right then and there and been done with it. But no, I decided to send my son and husband on a mission. To buy the red Power Ranger costume at our local party store because the weekly flyer was having a sale on costumes that week. Mark this one as ONE BIG, HUGE MISTAKE!!!

Later that day, my son came running into the house, my husband behind him, with plastic chains across his body and hooks with fake dried blood painted on them hanging off the chains. My son looked elated! My husband looked elated! I looked horrified! My son ran upstairs, chains jingling. When I asked my husband what my son had on, he said part of his Halloween costume. I asked why a Power Ranger costume would have such hideous chains and hooks with it. My husband replied,”It’s not a Power Ranger costume! It’s a Ghost Rider costume! Now for those of you, like me, who are not exactly sure what a Ghost Rider costume is, it is a motorcycle jacket and hat, with a mask depicting a partially decomposing face, accented with these lovely chains I mentioned. Well, I can’t print what I ACTUALLY said to my husband, but it falls along the lines of, “Are you crazy??!! Do you REALLY think that this is an appropriate Halloween costume for a SIX YEAR OLD??!! The mask alone is going to scare his friends!! And their parents!!” My husband made some half nonsensical remark such as, “Oh, it’s just a costume!” And ran up to see my son.

Two days later, I went back to the store where the Ghost Rider costume came from and exchanged it for the red Power Ranger costume. Yes, my son will be angry with me, my husband won’t understand me, but I can at least be able to say that I was the responsible parent. Someone in this family has to be one, it might as well be me. And it usually is.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

What Me Weary? by Jamie

People who know me are used to my complaints about Jayda waking up at 5 a.m. every day. But the fact is, pre-Jayda—before she was even a glimmer of an idea in my head—I awoke willingly before 5 every morning to go to the gym. I religiously devoted at least 10 hours a week to working out—hard—and I also worked full-time, did some additional freelance work, ate ridiculously “clean” (keeping myself at less than 10% body fat year-round), and still managed to go out on dates several times a week. I also suffered from insomnia, and rarely got more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

Fast-forward to my present-life. I still get to the gym 5-6 times a week, still eat very healthfully 90% of the time (though I allow myself to consume more food these days, and thus, carry a more reasonable amount of body fat), I rarely drink (and when I do, it’s just a well-savored glass of wine), and I currently work from home. However, lately, several times a week when I put Jayda to bed between 7:30 and 8 p.m., and I lay down beside her to rub her back, I wind up passing out with her (and am shocked when I look at the clock and discover it’s after midnight and I have to force myself up to go brush my teeth)! I also find myself looking forward to bedtime…and have no problem sleeping through the night—and for as long as Jayda will allow me. I even crave naps on the weekends—though Jayda never lets me take them. In short, now that I’m a mom, I’m tired!

I passed a recent physical with flying colors. And more often than not, people tell me I don’t look my age. So why am I so exhausted? I have a friend who is constantly chasing her bolting toddler through stores and restaurants; I rarely have that problem since Jayda generally doesn’t race away from me, and she never wanders far. Jayda’s not an overly-active kid—just a “normal” one. She’s also a fairly even-tempered child. She certainly has her share of tantrums, but I’ve met plenty of kids who are much harder to manage. And while Jayda is a ceaselessly curious child—always asking me questions and probing me to produce creative answers—that shouldn’t physically exhaust me…or should it?

Maybe it just comes down to one thing: Taking care of someone else requires a whole lot more energy than simply taking care of yourself. And while I’ve always had stress in my life (who doesn’t?), and I’ve always found ways to manage it, knowing that you’re solely responsible for the one person whom you love more than anyone and anything in the world is a stress like no other. And it’s the kind of stress that never goes away. I guess I just need to accept that…and get as much rest as I can. And while I do still plan to be 40 and fabulous this February, maybe I’ll just have to make sure I do it before 8 p.m.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Baby Steps -- by Robin

In case you are yearning for a basement update......we finally had our plumbing inspection done today. took nearly a month to get the guy here. Next up is the town inspection, and then we're good to go....with some minor items yet to be done by the contractor. Everything will be moved back downstairs, and life will resume.

That said, I'm now in the throes of attempting to organize.

I feel like we've moved. Not only do we have to get things in order upstairs since so much was moved up to the main floor for safe-keeping, but we (I) then have to decide what goes where in the basement.

We went to Target this weekend and bought a ton of plastic bins...varying store Seth's toys. I am spending this week pouring through the bins of toys we have in the living...and then his create a place for each of them. Of course, in the mix, I'm finding tons of little and big pieces with no obvious home.

I'm not great at just throwing out stuff. It's something I'm working on...not just for Seth, but myself. I can't live well in a state of clutter. I don't know how anyone can. But, it's also not easy to take the bull by the horns and devote the time that is needed to create a sytem in your home. Ultimately you'll be all the better for it, but it's a painstaking process.

And, Marc (my husband) isn't overly up for the task. And, Seth can only do so much. So, it's on my shoulders. And, I must admit, I have moments where I feel resentful. This is not fun. But, then I remind myself that lots of life's projects require major time and effort and are not always a joy, depending on the stage you're in.

In a perfect world, we'd all have the opportunity to focus on our passions, but we do have responsibilities. And, since I've become a mom, I'm all the more conscious of that.

I feel like there is so much that I take care of. My husband has his share too. But, since I'm the one working from home, I'm constantly bouncng back 'n forth from activity to activity.

I was part of a "prayer" call this week that a friend of mine arranged. She was in need of the empowering energy of a group to help her attract more money into her life. Who wouldn't want that?! But, she truly is in need.

So, I participated. Not being sure what this would entail. While the focus was on my friend, it's interesting how you can take away even when you're not the center of attention. We each had a chance to introduce ourselves and then share ideas and thoughts for my friend. Then, the facilitator shared her sentiments, and it hit home for me.

In the midst of all the tasks of life that we have on our plates, as women, we are often hard on ourselves. She emphasized the need to be self forgiving. To cut ourselves some slack as we endeavor to be all things to all people.

And, one of the gals added the importance of making time for self and having fun or just chilling.

I know I can be hard on myself, and it's something I need to work on. And, I could use more belly laughs for sure. And reflexology massages.

While a big part of me wishes I could just snap my fingers and have my house (and basement) in tip top shape, if I focus on what is realistic for me to accomplish today and each day, little by little, step by step, things will get done.

It might feel like baby steps. But, I remember when my son took his first baby steps, and now, in the blink of a eye, as the years have quickly passed, he's itching to play football.

PS -- Check out the October featured later mom, Marissa Janet Winokur, actress/singer/Luv's spokesperson. A cancer survivor, she and her husband used a surrogate, and she shares her story with us.

PPS -- Thanks to for the October giveaway on They produce lovely one-of-a-kind custom keepsake books that feature your personal wisdom.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009