Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks -- by Jamie

Although this blog entry won’t be posted until after Thanksgiving, I’m hoping I’ll continue to give thanks for all the wonderful things I have in my life long after the holiday has come and gone. That said, I’d like to start here.

As a single mother by choice, I put a lot of thought and effort into becoming a mother, and therefore, I feel very fortunate to be one. I’m especially grateful to Jayda’s sperm donor for helping me create her. But at times when I’m frustrated or disappointed with my daughter’s behavior, I need to remind myself to be thankful that my issues with Jayda aren’t big ones. I may stress over our reward system for potty training, what nursery school will be welcoming and challenging enough for Jayda, and how to get her to fall asleep without rubbing her back and holding her in my arms, but I am fortunate enough to have a healthy, happy, intelligent, and well-loved daughter—and in the grand scheme of things, that’s a lot to be thankful for.

In addition to being a mother, I’m thankful for having a mother—especially one who is so wise, loving, and caring, as well as a wonderful grandmother to Jayda. At a time when I’ve recently witnessed several of my friends lose their mothers, and have listened to others complain about, or battle with their moms, I know I’m very lucky to have a mother who is an amazing maternal figure—as well as my good friend.

I’m also thankful for my father, who has always supported and loved me, and has been there for me to lean on. He epitomizes the type of male role model I want Jayda to have in her life, and fortunately, he’s involved very deeply with her upbringing. He also exhibits many of the qualities I’d like to find in a mate for myself someday, and I’m thankful to him for showing me the depth of love and kindness that both Jayda and I deserve.

After recently listening to the trials of one of my teenage relatives, who laments over not having any good girlfriends, I’ve realized how thankful I should be for my girlfriends. I still socialize with several high school and college friends, as well as my best friend from elementary school. Just as importantly, in the past few years I’ve made some wonderful “mommy friends”—women with children Jayda’s age, whom I can confide in and count on just as much as my friends from my youth. I’ve never taken my friends for granted, but I suppose I may sometimes underestimate how lucky I am to have so many solid connections in my life. And though I still find it difficult to ask my friends for help when I’m in a bind, at least I know I have friends to lean on if I need them. And I’m thankful for that.

Last but not least, I’m thankful for Barney (Aaaargh…did I really just say that?!) for “babysitting” Jayda while I read my paper in the morning, for Folgers coffee for giving me the extra energy I need after Jayda’s 5 a.m. wake-ups, for Gold’s Gym for helping me release my stress (well, at least some of it!) in a positive way every morning, and for all the laughter I have in my life—be it Jayda’s raucous giggles, or my own squeals of amusement while gossiping with friends. These days, while I often find myself stressing over my finances, and my plans for the future, I’m grateful that my life, in general, is filled with happiness, and a wealth of good times. And thankfully, as a result, Jayda is a very happy person, full of lots of laughter, herself. I can only hope she’ll be that way for the rest of her long life. Amen.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Sweet Mommy & Me Time -- by Robin

I just have to share...Seth lost his two front baby teeth....and it's a precious sight. He would kill me if I posted a current photo of him here...but trust me....his toothless grin is one that I'm trying my best to capture and preserve for posterity. I took a ton of photos when he was in the bath earlier this week. Surprisingly, he cooperated and grinned from ear to ear. He has always, for the most part, embraced the camera and looks great in photos (we've been told he could model), but every now 'n then he gets into a mood and bans picture taking of any kind.

This week was parent teacher meetings, so he had half a day before Thanksgiving. (We meet with his teachers next week.) I didn't make any particular plans for us, other than knowing I planned to take him to buy ice skates. He's been on the ice three times thus far (once for a lesson) in the last two weeks , and is totally in his element there. I must confess, I personally much prefer sitting by the fireplace outside the rink with a good book. So, if my husband and I take him, I dart back 'n forth between the rink and cozy sitting place. I'm torn because I want to watch Seth make skating strides, yet the chill combined with lack of seating isn't my thing.

In the past I have stressed a bit knowing Seth is off from school....feeling the need to make plans to keep him busy. ..whether I schedule a playdate or something else. This time, I just let it go, and the end result was a nice one. Seth was quite content for a long time to play in the house, and he was excited in the skate store to watch the owner sharpen the skate blades. (Seth has always been very mechanical.) After that, we did a couple of errands...and he picked out a cute Hanukkah gift at Rite Aide for one of his cousins. I was very touched that he thought of her. He's a big-hearted kid.

He was happy when I agreed to take him to the local pizza place for dinner. And, afterwards (my husband worked late), we watched a movie on cable together. It was really a pleasant afternoon, and Seth was good company. I treasure times like this.

He wasn't ansi and asking, as he sometimes does over 'n over again, what are we doing? And, I wasn't anxious about needing to respond in a strategic fashion. I'm not a mom who overschedules her child. I think downtime is have to know your child. But, that said, Seth often likes to be on the go, so balance becomes essential. And, I can't always anticipate the mood he'll be in in terms of wanting to be home to play or not.

I'm just grateful that on this given day, we had really nice mommy & me time, and if I can look forward to that on his other upcoming days off, our time together will be all sweeter.

Hope you & your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed the time off together!!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crafty Mom vs. Super Hero Turkey! by Cara

My son brought home from school this week a project titled, “The Family Turkey Project,” to be completed before Thanksgiving recess. The object of the project was to come up with a “disguise” for a turkey outline cut from poster board paper. The disguise needed to prevent the turkey from being caught for Thanksgiving! The outline suggested using a variety of craft-type materials such as ribbon pieces, buttons, feathers, uncooked pasta, felt, glitter and/or glitter paint, etc, to help with the disguise.

I was excited! I wouldn’t even have to go to the craft store because I usually have a plethora of crafting supplies in the house! In fact, last Thanksgiving, my son and I made “pine cone turkeys” where we used real pine cones and gathered fallen leaves of every brilliant color you can imagine, then washed, dried and glued the leaves into the pine cone slots as the turkey tails! I even had google eyes and felt for making the turkey’s face! So I was ready for the challenge, wheels spinning in my head!

Before my husband and I even had time to finish reading the lengthy project instructions, my ambitious son came running to us with the turkey outline, completely colored in with a green outfit, a brown mask, black boots, and some type of weapon. He declared, enthusiastically, that he was finished! Finished? Finished!! How could he be finished with visions of crafting materials were still dancing in my head?!

My husband and I were so quick to share in the excitement of him taking the initiative to start the project as quickly as he did. But we also pointed out to him that this was supposed to be a family project that we had to work on together. My son wouldn’t budge. His turkey was not only complete, but perfect. Just as it was.

“But how about some buttons for his outfit or his boots, I queried?”

“Mommy! My turkey is a green Power Ranger! Power Rangers don’t wear buttons!”

“What about some material to make a cape for him?!”

“Power Rangers don’t WEAR capes, Mommy!”

“Maybe we could make his outfit sparkle with some green glitter??”

“No Mom! Power Rangers aren’t shiny!!

My excitement was diminishing. I looked at my husband for support. “It looks like a great turkey disguise to me,” he chimed in, silently thankful that he didn’t have to participate in the project.

“Okay, then,” I said, a little dejected, “Your turkey looks perfect just the way it is! You chose quite the clever disguise!” Crafty Mom no longer had a project to work on. On second thought, where are those foam sheets for the Teepees we wanted to make last year??!! Let me check the bottom drawer...

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Surprising Discoveries -- by Jamie

A few days ago, my daughter, Jayda, turned 2-1/2, and, just as she did from the start, my willful child continues to keep me on my toes, and surprise me.

On the morning of May 18, 2007, after experiencing a rather easy pregnancy, I found myself at my OB/GYN’s office, because I was a few days past my due date. At the end of the exam, my doctor instructed me to go to the hospital at 6 p.m. that night so he could induce me; he said it was unwise for me to wait any longer, and that it was time for Jayda to come into the world. But, at brunch with my parents just a few hours later, I started to feel cramps. The cramps persisted, and then worsened on the ride home, and later that afternoon, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I agreed to go to the hospital early. There, I discovered I was, indeed, in labor—and there would be no need for an inducement.

After settling into the hospital, and receiving a much-needed epidural, I assumed I could relax for awhile. But shortly after I started to get comfortable, everything went awry. My fetal monitor went off, the attending nurse covered me with an oxygen mask, and before I knew it, my hospital room had turned into an episode of ”ER”—with doctors frantically rushing in and wheeling me out to an OR. I found out later—after Jayda was quickly brought into this world by an emergency C-section—that my monitor had indicated that my daughter had gone into distress, and my swift doctors had jumped into action and saved her. So, what started as a possible induction and continued as a “normal” labor, was resolved with a C-section; even at birth, Jayda was full of surprises.

The morning of Jayda’s 2-1/2 birthday began with my daughter and me cuddling in my bed. As usual, Jayda prodded me to “talk about our day,” and I gave her a preview of her upcoming school day, as well as our afterschool activities, which involved a play date. When I was finished, she gave me a hug and declared, “Mommy, you my best friend!” It was one of those unexpected gems that often comes out of Jayda’s mouth these days—a surprising reminder of what a sweet, articulate little person my daughter is becoming.

When we got out of bed that morning, Jayda insisted on wearing underpants under her leggings. We’d been potty training for awhile, but Jayda usually ran around the house in a pair of pull-ups, or completely nude from the waist down, most mornings before we left for daycare. I relented though, helped her put on her princess undies, and took her with me on a ride to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Then, we came home for a few hours, and Jayda remained dry the entire time. She even asked to use the potty twice, successfully, before leaving for daycare. But as I went to change her into a pair of pull ups before we left the house, she threw a fit, and refused to take off her underpants. “I a big girl now,” she declared, and, as I looked at the calendar and noticed what day it was, I couldn’t help but agree. Thus, my willful child won this battle, and sported her princess undies at daycare for the very first time.

Later that day, Jayda surprised me again, when I picked her up from daycare and found her in unsoiled clothes, still wearing her treasured underpants. She even requested that she wear her underpants to school the next day, too. My little girl really is a “big girl” now. And while I’m not surprised that Jayda is growing up, I AM surprised by how quickly it’s happening, and how determined my daughter has already become to be “her own little person.” Fortunately, it’s a person who constantly amazes me with her humor, intelligence, and sensitivity—and a person whom I love more and more each day. And while I’m not so sure she’ll think of me as her best friend forever, maybe she’ll surprise me. I sure hope so.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Dancing for Joy -- by Robin

I'm taking an acting class through the local adult ed, and it's really a challenge in more ways than one.

A novelist/playwright friend of mine in town suggested it because she knows I aspire to write a play ("Mensch: The Musical" based on my book HOW TO MARRY A MENSCH...which means decent person). She thought it could help with dialogue, etc.

I have to admit I had no idea what I was getting in to. In high school I was involved with theatre. I served as Prop Master for the production of Arsenic and Old Lace. And, when they did Anything Goes...despite not being a singer.....I auditioned and got selected as an Angel. It was fun, and I got to wear some glamorous/borderline sexy attire....a far cry from my stretch pants and t-shirts of mommyhood. I loved it. And, have always enjoyed hanging with theatre people. Theatre is one of my true loves. To this day, I can't get enough of it. And, I've taken playwriting classes which I've enjoyed, and would love to study further.

All that said, when I signed up for the adult ed acting class, I didn't know what to expect. And, what I've found is more than what I saw coming, and it's frankly....invigorating!

The instructor, who is very experienced and talented, puts a lot of effort into coming up with exercises each week, and homework assignments. This week, she brought in a CD player and announced that she was going to play the music of her rocker godson, and we were to move. Then, move more! she proclaimed. Then, respond to someone else's movement, she said. So, basically we were dancing in what, by day, is a kid's classroom. And, it felt freeing. I was not worried about being self-conscious (okay...maybe a tad). But, I didn't have much time to think about it. And, it was cool. I lost myself. It took me back to my single days when I used to go dancing (in my 20s,) wearing heels and all. Now I found myself momentarily wondering if I even remembered how to dance. How did I dance back then? Were my movements the same or close to it?

I don't go dancing anymore. It's not that I wouldn't want to (though I'm not big on wearing heels anymore). It just doesn't arise...except if we go to a wedding.

Isn't it interesting how at different phases of our life certain activities come and go?! I can understand if, as you age, physical challenges and limitations set in. But, if that's not the case, then why do we cease pursuing particular activities that we once enjoyed? Did we forget we liked them? Have we lost track of what brings us pleasure? Are we so caught up in being "busy" (whatever that means) to even think about inviting joy into our lives?

I was watching actress Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, interviewed on Oprah this week, talking about the upcoming movie Nine. In it, she has a big song/dance number, and while she was super nervous and doesn't consider herself a singer, she was well-trained and pulled it off with aplomb. Oprah asked her, "Are you always so joyous? Whenever you come on the show, you seem that way. " Hudson explained how she was raised to feel things deeply and then seek out the joy. What a great life lesson she got and can pass on to her young son.

How hard is it to blast the music in your own home or ipod and let loose in the privacy of your home if you like? Dance for joy. Let it rip! And, who knows what else might come up for you?

As a child, I loved to make pot holders, crepe paper flowers and other artistic items. I even remember being an entrepreneur back then and setting up a flower/pot holder stand in front of my house, in an attempt to sell my wares. I was quite crafty, and to this day, would probably enjoy crafts, but I don't allow myself the time to pursue it.

I'm so focused on productivity and life responsibility, that doing something just for fun doesn't
regularly cross my mind. I do think of things that my son would find fun. And, we have fun together. But, his idea of fun isn't always mine. And, while that's ok....I envy his ability to relish playtime and focus on that and nothing else when he'e engaged. I, on the other hand, often have racing thoughts going through my mind of all I have to or have decided I need to do/accomplish. But, what would happen if I didn't? What if I put something aside? How would that feel? I'd like to find out.

I wonder what my acting teacher will have in store next class?!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Support of Support Groups -- by Cara

I tend to be a quiet and reserved type...not terribly outgoing and mildly social. But for some reason, I am attracted to support groups. Particularly support groups for Moms.

Since my son was an infant, I participated in a myriad number of different groups. Some groups were informative, but I didn’t “click” with most of the Moms. Other groups had members who I felt had different issues and/or a focus to the group that I just wasn’t looking for.

I was thrilled to find Motherhood Later...Than Sooner because not only did I find a lovely group of Moms I have kept in contact with, but my son has become friendly with some of the sons of other “Later” Moms as well!

This past weekend, I went away with a large group of Moms on what I term a “Mommy Retreat.” There were quite a large group of us...150 to be exact, and I found comfort being amongst so many diverse but dedicated Moms.

There were workshops where we each had a turn to divulge a dirty little secret about being neglectful about our mothering. I happened to have divulged SEVERAL dirty little secrets! And the bonding and camaraderie that was taking place in that room at that moment allowed each and every one of us to say, “We ARE good mothers! We’re just not perfect ALL of the time! It was so refreshing to say out loud, “I slack off occasionally and my child still survives!!” Some participants were even trying to “one up” the one who “confessed” before them! We all left, happy, giggling, with a huge weight lifted off our shoulders!

There was also a woman comic who had the entire audience falling over with laughter as she played out daily scenarios that occurred in her home, tongue-in-cheek style! What a great way to start out the retreat and break the ice regarding all the taboos that go on in each person’s household, but no one wants to dare bring the topics up! Well, this lively comic did, and we cheered her on endlessly!

I left this retreat saying goodbye to friends old and new. Learning more about myself and learning more about other miscellaneous topics such as social media! But I mostly reinforced that I love to come together with a group of Moms who understand the pressures of parenting and want to help each other through it as well as spend time remembering who WE are as people, as individuals, and not just someone’s wife or mother!

I came home to a Parenting Workshop to go to at my son’s school the very next day where we really got into a hot debate about parenting and homework issues. Some Moms literally couldn’t understand why homework wasn’t “fun” in every household. Other’s of us moaned in agony just thinking about doing homework with our child. I exclaimed that I had such a horrendous year with my son last year that just THINKING of homework this year gave me post traumatic stress disorder symptoms! This one Mom shot back, “Well, then you’re just doing something wrong.” It was a good thing that the social worker moderating the group knew of my struggles last year and effectively put this other Mom in her place. Still and all, I came out of this workshop empowered and ready to take on the task of parenting in a way only I know is effective with my child!

The NY chapter of Motherhood Later Than Sooner will soon try to gather interested parents into support groups with a highly educated facilitator. I was at a group this facilitator ran and found it filled with energy and bonding where we all wanted to jump into the conversation at once! It was invigorating! I left feeling better about myself than when I first arrived! Maybe you’d like to give a support group a try? And if one isn’t a good fit, move on to another. As for me, I am looking forward to participating in the NY chapter support group and see how it turns out! As they say, you can always learn something new every day!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

No Time to Waste -- by Jamie

As I’ve articulated here before, the experience of dating as a single mother is quite a bit different than dating as a single woman without a child. For me, both logistically—and emotionally—it’s a lot more difficult.

That said, ever since Jayda was born, all of my dating has evolved at a much slower pace, since the act of actually setting up a date is complicated, and involves a sitter and a lot of Jewish mommy guilt. Consequently, as a single mother, I haven’t had a serious relationship with anyone yet. This has been partly out of choice—I often feel I don’t have the time to devote to anyone else but me and Jayda—and partly because I haven’t met anyone whom I could actually picture myself with long-term (especially with Jayda in the picture). And I don’t have the spare time to spend on Mr.-Nothing-Special anymore.

In the past, I dove into a myriad of forced-dating ventures—went to singles events, visited all types of online dating sites, and even tried speed-dating. But, a romantic at heart, I always pictured myself meeting Mr. Right in a not-so-pressurized setting—at the gym, in a coffee shop, or at some other chance meeting.

Once I had Jayda, I felt a lot less pressure to “have to” meet a man quickly; my attitude instead, became, that I’d simply like to meet a man…and if it didn’t happen soon, that would be fine, too. But, regardless, I’ve always had a vision of meeting Mr. Right-for-Both-Me-and-Jayda at a family-friendly outing. At the playground…or a PTA meeting…or some place where I’d find a doting single dad taking care of his own child. The commonality of being parents would bring us together (and there’s also the fact that I find doting dads extremely sexy!).

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I met a single dad at a local town fair. Our children (both young girls) presented a great conversation starter, and that led to a flurry of emails between us over the following weeks. We finally met for breakfast the other day…and our 9:15 meeting abruptly ended at 12:30, when we both looked at our watches and realized Single Dad was late for a meeting! It’s been a long time since I’ve lost track of time like that, and even longer since I’ve been on a date where both of us had so much in common, had so much to talk about, and clearly enjoyed each others’ company (and had no hesitation in admitting that to each other). Though it seemed to take us eons to get together for that “first date,” neither of us wasted any time cutting to the chase. Single Dad effusively told me he hasn’t remembered having such a good time in ages, and that he can’t wait to see me again. I agreed.

I left the date knowing I’d hear from Single Dad soon, and that we’d go out again. I did. And we will. And that’s one nice thing about dating as a single mother; there’s no time to throw away on nonsense. These days, I can’t waste a moment sitting by the phone, waiting for it to ring, or wondering if a guy is “just not that into me.” I’m honest now—and anyone whom I’d like to date is honest with me, too. Single Dad told me that up until our breakfast date he hadn’t called me because he’d been afraid of rejection—that if he didn’t reach me directly, I might not call him back. But I told him—and I meant it—that if I didn’t want to call him back, he’d know it. I don’t have time to play games. And any Mr. Right-for-Both-Me-and-Jayda won’t have time for that either.

I’m looking forward to getting to know Single Dad. And I’m hoping, someday, Jayda might get to know him, too. He appears to be a really great father, and a good, honest man. He has a lot of potential, and I’m happy to invest the few extra moments I do have, in finding out more about him. I suspect it will be time well-spent.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yearning for BFF Times -- by Robin

I am SO looking forward to the weekend.

My good friend, Debbie, who I don't get to see too often since we live a distance apart, is coming to stay with us for a night with her two kids. Though older than Seth, he loves playing with them. And, I am psyched for the time with Debbie.

One of the things that I miss a lot is quality time with close girlfriends (my female friends). Since becoming a mom and no longer working in the city, I don't have access to some as I used to. Debbie and I, back in our single days, both worked in Manhattan and would often socialize together after work or at the very least get in a healthy dose of exercise as we walked to the subway or bus together, enroute to our homes. She lived on Long Island, and I in Queens. And, we'd spend ample time on the weekends on the phone dishing about our week and making weekend plans.

Things are different now.

She lives in New Jersey, and I live on Long Island. For years, we always joked that when we each (hopefully) got married one day, we'd buy homes next to each other or at least nearby.

That didn't happen.

She met a guy from New Jersey, so they wound up settling there. And, I met a guy originally from Queens who was living in Great Neck, NY, so we wound up in Great Neck. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment at first and when it came househunting, we didn't just look in Great Neck. We toured Rockland, Westchester, CT, other areas of LI and even NJ. I originally thought if we at least lived in NJ, even if not far out, I could get relatively close to Debbie....or at least there wouldn't be a bridge between us.

We wound up putting a bid on a house in Glen Rock, NJ that was accepted, but it led to my having a totally sleepless night. I woke up the next day and realized we had made a big mistake. I didn't want to move to New Jersey. I hated the George Washington Bridge. There's always major traffic on it, and I knew that if I were to ever drive to LI, NYC or Queens (where my dad lives), I would not be a happy camper. So, we revoked the offer, and the homeowner was totally understanding. I knew at that moment that Debbie and I would likely never become next door neighbors or even live in the same state.

Since I no longer work in the city, I've endeavored to make friends in the suburbs. And, since becoming a mom, I've made a constant effort to befriend other moms. But, being moms isn't enough to cement a true, meaningful friendship. You have to connect on a level beyond that. I do think it's possible, but it doesn't happen overnight, as my mom friend Jeri says.

There is something to be said for having history with a BFF. Debbie knew me back in my single days. She knew my mom (who has passed away). She understands what my upbringing was like. Where I grew up. What I used to wear. When I first permed my hair. What pushes my buttons, so to speak, etc, etc. And, she's not afraid to "tell it like it is" if I'm venting about something. She helps keep me "real" in that regard....kinda like a dose of tough love that you may not want to hear but you know you need to listen.

And, don't we all need at least one friend like that?! Someone who isn't afraid to say something even if it might not sit right with us. Someone who can ruffle your feathers, but you know they're coming from a truly sincere place of wanting only what's best for you. Someone you could call at 2AM, and they wouldn't hang up. Someone who will let you talk 'n talk and not expect anything in return. There's no hidden agenda. No walking on eggshells. No questioning if they like you or not....or if it's just about a play date for the kids....or for professional networking reasons. You genuinely connect on a kindred spirit level.

I'm grateful to have time (even though it will be fleeting this weekend) with Debbie. I'm glad we've managed to stay close all these years and to share the ups 'n downs of life. She's one of the most grounded women I know (her upbringing was a challenging one), and we always have a good time. It takes me back to the days when life seemed simpler. Uncertain...yes......since we were both single and wondered how things would turn out. Now that we have a sense of that at least for today, we can laugh as we look back on the things we used to worry about. They have since been replaced by an entirely different set of concerns.

Life is an ever-evolving journey, and the more we get to share it, the better.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do I Want to Be a Grandmother at 50? by Cara

Every once in a while I go on to Facebook to catch up with the happenings of friends near and far. Invariably, I get one of those silly quizzes that pop up. What kind of dog are you? What does your name mean in Japanese? Just as invariably I take a quiz or two if I have the inclination and the time. I found out, incidentally, that my name in Japanese means, “Love Child.” Well, okay, whatever. At least it doesn’t mean, “Burning Sword.”

In any event, I received a quiz from a newly aquatinted friend titled,”Questions About Me.” It was a rather lengthy questionnaire, but after reading the questions and responses my friend had put down, I decided to take the time to answer the questions myself and pass the quiz back to her.

Many of the questions were rather benign, however I almost choked when I read one of the questions two-thirds into the questionnaire. “Would you like to be a grandparent at age 50?” AGE 50??!! I’m 46!! My son is 6!! That would mean that my son would have to impregnate some girl at age 10!!!! NO, I don’t want to be a grandparent at age 50!!! But this got me to thinking. When WOULD I want to be a grandparent?

If I had my son at age 40, and statistics and trends are pointing to later in life marriages and births, what age will I reasonably be a grandmother? I have every hope that my son will attend college. And I would be even more grateful should he decide to go to graduate school or go on to get a professional degree. Would he marry at 25? 30? 35?

My father was an “older” parent and had the joy of seeing my son born at age 86. He had three beautiful years watching my son through his baby and toddler years. And for some unknown reason, even though my father was severely hard of hearing, it didn’t matter one lick to my son nor to my father that they didn’t understand one another. They communicated in a higher form called love.

I think my father and my son had a bond that has continued to transcend his demise. And my son continues to reflect on him with fondness and yearnings of love. I would hope that my son might choose to have children at a slightly younger age than me. It would give me great pleasure to see my grandchildren grow for at least a decade! I could do a lot of “spoiling” in a decade!! (And, yes, I know that only food gets spoiled...but you get my drift!)

But, if my son has a child or children later in his life, as I did, perhaps I, too, could capture a bond of love that would transcend the corporeal. That would make me immensely happy too. Side by side with my grandchild, bringing me a leaf or a stone found on the ground and presented as a gift. Through love that is boundless. Sometime the innocence of the young and the old, brought together, can mean more than spending years trying to establish a relationship with a relative you have a difficult time getting along with.

Well, I have a “few” more years before I need to worry about becoming a grandparent. And incidentally, anyone who draws up a questionnaire with a question such as this, must be, oh, say, 20?

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Patience is a Vrtue...When Parenting or Dating -- by Jamie

Before I became a single mother by choice, I was a highly-experienced serial dater with very specific intentions. No matter how I’d first “encountered” my potential suitor—be it in-person, or online—I always pushed for our first date to occur ASAP. Even if I’d clearly felt a connection with a guy after speaking to him in line at Starbucks, or as a result of the emails he’d sent me on JDate, I kept to my agenda: we needed to have a phone conversation quickly after our initial contact, and we had to meet in person as soon as our calendars were clear. My reasoning came from experience: I’d often gotten excited about a guy just from his flirtatious emails, or from a brief but memorable encounter that I’d replayed over and over in my mind, only to discover that we had no chemistry when we finally went out on a date. So, rather than build up my anticipation for a date that could, ultimately, disappoint me, I eagerly sought a face-to-face meeting as quickly as possible, to really gauge a guy’s potential.

This technique worked well for me when I was single, and on a quest to find Mr. Right. I had the flexibility to be spontaneous and have a date on the fly, as well as plenty of spare time for a very social social life. With nothing better to concentrate on (aside from work and working out!), I focused on fast-tracking my dating. After a good date, I’d often find myself obsessively waiting for the man to call or email me. It was hopeless for me to divert my attention, or to just be patient, while my all-consuming desire to be in a relationship took over. Even when I was getting attention from a guy, and he seemed interested in going out on more dates, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t stay “in the moment,” and just enjoy dating for what it was…I kept wondering where things were leading, and if we’d have a future together. Before I decided to have a baby on my own, I was always hoping to get to the point where my life was entrenched with Mr. Right’s, and, ultimately, I never got there.

As a mom, it’s easy to get impatient with my daughter. Toddlers find wonder in the smallest things, and I often find Jayda dawdling to pick up a rock while we’re walking to the car, or stopping and staring at the people in a crowd we’re trying to push our way through. In addition, Jayda is now at the age where she constantly insists, “I do it myself!” which can sometimes mean that a simple task will take three times as long to achieve. When we’re in a rush, it’s hard for me to relax and just let Jayda be Jayda, and take her time. But as we both get older, I’m becoming more successful at it. I’m learning to be patient. I’m learning to be ok with letting things evolve on their own (or on Jayda’s own!). It’s a good lesson for dating, too.

A few weeks ago, Jayda and I went to a fair in a neighboring town. It was a beautiful day, and Jayda enjoyed her pay-one-price wristband by hopping on ride after ride after ride. At one point, while I watched Jayda circle around endlessly on a motorized car next to a slightly-older girl, the man beside me began chatting with me about our children. By the time the ride had ended, I’d discovered that he was a single father, and was raising his daughter on his own. We wound up walking around the fair together, with our girls, for quite some time, and it was clear to both of us that we’d made a connection. When it was time for us to leave, we exchanged business cards, and promised to talk again. And we have…through a flurry of emails—lengthy ones, written when our kids are asleep, or in daycare. Slowly, but surely, we’re getting to know each other. We’ve discussed meeting for lunch—but we both can’t seem to find the time to do so in the near-future. And so, we continue to write, and continue to “hope” to talk on the phone soon (there never seems to be time for that, either), and nothing more. And you know what? It’s enough. Because, as a single mom, my life is quite full, and while I’d love some male companionship, I don’t “need” to find Mr. Right right now. I’m not even in a hurry to find out if this man has the potential to be my Mr. Right. He’s kind. He’s funny. And I anticipate his emails…but I don’t obsess over them. I have some patience now. And it makes being a mom—and a dater—much easier.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Chilling 'n Clearing -- by Robin

I have never been a napper. My dad does it. A friend of mine swears by it. But, it's not my thing.

I'm not particularly good at relaxing. Never have been.

But, the other day, I spontaneously gave into my desire to chill.

I put on the television one late afternoon and watched a movie on cable. I laid on the living room couch with a bottle of water, and gave myself permission just to watch in the dark. It was peaceful, spontaneous, and I loved it.

Back in my single days, I'd often spend part of a Saturday practicing self care. Hitting the gym. Doing my nails. Reading the paper. Watching a good movie.

Since becoming a mom, weekends are no longer my own. So, if it's alone time I seek, a weekday when Seth is in school is it. But, how to give yourself permission to take a break from work (I work from home) and other chores and errands? And, if you do give yourself a breather, how to do it without the guilt? What's the point if you can't totally relish it without thoughts racing through your head of what you could or should be doing instead?!

Sometimes I think about the different phases of life and how much things change. Life doesn't stand still for anyone, especially a multi-tasking mom. Just look at how fast our kids grow up. My son is 6.5 already.

I was at my evening acting class Wednesday night, and when I came home, my husband told me that Seth (at bedtime), told him to promise to tell me that he loves and missed me (since I wasn't there to tuck him in). I was SO touched that I wanted to give him a big hug immediately, but he was sleeping. I know the day will come as he gets older when he'll need me less and less, so I treasure comments like that. Yet, at the same time, I was grateful for the time away at my class that I am enjoying.

Motherhood can be such a conflict at times, can't it?! We are truly challenged to do so much in a given day....yet we (I) fight to hold on to personal and professional aspirations despite the many demands of life.

The key is to find happiness in the everyday and not let your to do list overwhelm. I have felt quite overwhelmed due to our basement project and all that has come with it in terms of organizing the house, purging, donating, etc. Tomorrow my cleaning woman comes to help with some of it. I thought it would be beneficial to bring her in since she does not have the emotional attachment I have to things. And, she'll help move us along in her chipper way. She loves to clear and get things in order. I love the end result, but truly despise the process. When things are out of order and feeling really cluttered, the negative energy permeates the house and my mind, and it's easy to feel stifled. A major clearing is in order here, and we'll get there day by day. I have to muster the patience and keep the faith to know it will happen.

Tonite I am attending a workshop in NYC about how to live more simply. I'm curious to see what tips they have to offer. For me, I feel like it's easier said than done, but I'd like to learn and at least make an attempt at it.

I won't be home to read Seth a bedtime story or lay with him. I will miss that. But, if this class can shed constructive light in a way I can apply to my/our lives, Seth will ultimately be glad I attended. And Marc too. We'll all reap the benefits.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Disillusionment of Halloween -- by Cara

I really love this time of year! I love the changing colors of the leaves; I love the small piles of colorful foliage gathered on the side of the road; I love picking special leaves of different shapes and colors to make Fall crafts with my son. I also love seeing houses dressed up with mums and pumpkins on their walkways or steps. And I love all of this the best on a beautiful, sunny, cloudless day so that you can see the bold colors of Fall against the azure blue of a cloudless sky! Nature in all it’s splendor before the cold, dark winter settles in.

My son loves this time for a different reason, he loves running in the fallen leaves and the collecting of some pretty ones to make a craft project or two. But he especially loves this time of year because of Halloween! He has cartoon Halloween DVDs which we watch together each year. We savor the Halloween television programs that aren’t too scary! I decorate his room with Halloween sheets and ghost throw pillows. Then we make Halloween crafts to decorate his room some more. And we always have to count down the days until Halloween arrives!

Well, today is Halloween. And my son had a splendid day meeting up with friends to go Trick-or-Treating! He met more friends from school along the way! At one point, he was tired and hungry, so my husband offered to take him out to get a meal while I went food shopping.

For many years now, I have put out a stand and a container of candy with a cute note welcoming the Trick-or-Treaters, kindly requesting that they leave some candy for those who come after them. Knowing that Halloween would be falling on a Saturday this year, we stocked up on six giant, Costco-size bags of candy! Three were more expensive bags of candy and three were less expensive, mixed candies. I got in the habit of putting bowls of candy outside because when my son was younger, if he was taking a nap, I didn’t want the doorbell to ring and have the dogs bark, waking up my son. As my son became older, I would still put out candy because we would be out ourselves Trick-or-Treating and visiting with relatives to show off our little goblin in his costume!

Then, a few years ago, I noticed that I would fill up, what used to be, a white wicker basket, lined with a Halloween theme bandana, and place it outside on the stand at night, only to have the doorbell ring twenty minutes later by a sweet teen Hannah Montana noting that there wasn’t any candy left in the basket. So I gave her a generous amount and refilled the basket again with the last of the candy, only to find that again, twenty minutes later, the doorbell would ring again, and the basket was empty. I had to kindly explain that we ran out of candy but once the tweens left, I remembered that I had a couple boxes of granola bars in the cabinet, so I put those out to have at least something for the kids. Well, thirty minutes later, at about 9 PM, I went to check on the basket and found that some angry kid(s), who were not happy with the granola bars, had flung the basket, granola bars, and bandana into the street! The basket was on the side of the road, along with the bandana, but many of the granola bars had been run over by cars. I picked everything up and declared Halloween over for the night.

The next year, again, when we ran out of candy at around 9 PM, my basket, bandana and stand were all thrown onto our front lawn. Last year some kids actually stole the white basket, bandana and all the candy that was left! At least they left the stand!

This year, the night Trick-or-Treaters crossed the line. I used a fifty-cent Halloween bowl I bought from Target to fill with candy. I put the more expensive candy out during the day when I knew younger children, who came with their parents, would be coming. I saved the less expensive candy for the night Trick-or-Treaters who usually emptied much of the bowl of candy into their bags. I ended up running out of six Costco-size bags of candy at around 6 PM! I had to put a sign on the door stating that we literally ran out of candy. A couple hours later, I went out to turn off the tea lights in the pumpkin my son and his Grandfather lovingly carved together and found it smashed to bits! I am hurt, I am angry and I am disillusioned. There was no reason to destroy something because others were not considerate. Next year, Halloween ends at sundown. Lights out. Treasured items will be out of sight. That is it. Halloween will be over.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Playground Pick Up -- by Jamie

It’s a shame I can’t bring my daughter with me to a singles bar—she’s really great at breaking the ice with everyone around us. Sometimes, she’ll just stare at strangers with her big, blue eyes, and get their attention—as well as welcoming smiles. Other times, our conversation will attract someone’s interest. Jayda’s becoming a real chatterbox—and an inquisitive one, at that—and the comments and questions she peppers me with often amuse people who are within hearing range. She’s been obsessed lately with the concept of “buying things,” and actually asked me very loudly the other day, “Mommy, who bought my tushie?” That certainly got a reaction out of passersby! Jayda’s also, simply, a very attractive child, who constantly garners compliments from strangers about her beautiful curls and “Shirley Temple” look. Regardless, when we’re out and about, she always gets attention. And I, in turn, get some, too. Especially at the playground.

During the week, weather permitting, I pick Jayda up from her daycare, and we head out to a nearby elementary school’s playground; it’s close to our house and very age-appropriate. Over time, Jayda has “collected” a group of friends and admirers who frequent the playground, too—and who help keep both of us entertained. When the school’s after-hours program emerges on the playground in the late afternoon, there are two teacher’s aides whom Jayda approaches enthusiastically: One is a middle-aged woman who always hugs Jayda and chats with her about her day, and another is a woman in her late-20s who gives Jayda animal crackers and whom my daughter follows around like a puppy. Many of the kids in this program know Jayda, too, and wave and smile at her in welcome.

There are also a few nannies who frequent the playground with their charges. Jayda knows each of them by name—and often gets treats from them all. Then, there are the newcomers: Mothers whom we’ve never seen before, but who encourage their children to play with Jayda, and who chat with me while our kids swing next to each other, and run around. I enjoy the camaraderie and grown up conversations, and time passes quickly for me, while Jayda plays happily.

Best of all, there are the daddies…but since most “eligible” men are working in the late afternoon, they are few and far between. Once in awhile, however, Jayda will find a man to bat her eyelashes at, and I will have a conversation with him as a result. It would be nice if Jayda would learn to look at men’s ring fingers first, though, since she rarely “introduces” me to a single man!

Lately, I’ve found myself in a completely new situation—spending time with an unattractive, but incredibly friendly (in a non-flirtatious way) married man, whose adorable, incredibly-well-mannered son has befriended Jayda. They look for us every afternoon—sometimes bringing snacks or toys to share with Jayda. I truly adore the boy—but don’t have much to say to his father; most of the time, we just share anecdotes about our kids. However, he just invited us to play at his house one day this week, and I accepted his invitation because Jayda reacted so enthusiastically to it. I trust the guy…and know Jayda will have an amazing time playing in his home. I’m just not all that eager to socialize with him. And isn’t that what play dates are for—fun for Jayda, and good conversation and company for me?! Well, I’ve been through plenty of bad dates in the past, and I’ve always made it through unscathed. I’ve also made plenty of sacrifices for my daughter, before. So, once again, I’ll do what’s good for Jayda—make our plans, prepare for the worst, and hope that I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Stay tuned…

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