Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ringing in Change for the New Year -- by Cara

Change. It is just a simple, six letter word. But for some, it can bring on anxiety, while for others, it can evoke excitement and promise of good things to come!

I am hoping for the latter in the New Year. Not only a new year, a new decade! Ripe with opportunity to illicit change and hopefully reap the positive that flows along with it!

In Robin’s last blog, she spoke of change through getting rid of things she really didn’t need anymore; Her pig collection. Or at least a fair part of this collection. And in her blog, she spoke of change. How by “purging” part of her collection, it also freed her to open up to other things. (A cow collection, possibly?)

This past year has been an awful year for my family. My husband, my son, me, even one of our dogs, have all been diagnosed with lifelong medical problems. It is hard enough when one member of a family has to cope with the realization that they have to learn to adapt to a chronic medical condition. Imagine an entire family! And their dog!

It’s been a long, difficult year. But we made it through. Now I want change. Change for the better. I want us all to move past the anger and the grief to acceptance. And from there, I want to move forward to living our lives as happily and as productively as we each can!

Medical condition or not, I have my own plans for the new year! I want to become more involved in a business venture! I would like to do more writing, maybe take a class or two! I want to become more involved in my son’s school! Possibly volunteer as a Class Mom! (Well, okay...maybe not THAT involved! At least not yet!).

Like Robin, I, too, am ringing in change through getting rid of, contributing to charity, offering to others, things that are no longer necessary in my life. Clutter leads to chaos which leads to disharmony. I have clutter. Too much clutter. In just about every corner in my home and facet in my mind. All of it is going to be slowly dispersed with the anticipation that more harmony will ensue.

And when I found out that Robin didn’t sell, but simply gave away her pig collection, that inspired me to want to be more altruistic as well! I also want to feel my heart swell by donating items to others that I no longer have any use for! I recently gave away two iPods that my husband and I no longer used. We gave them away to friends. I was thrilled that the recipients were tremendously happy! My heart did swell! But I was also glad that, like Robin’s pigs, the iPods were going to good homes. Going to people who really wanted them and would use them and get enjoyment out of them and maybe make THEIR new year a little happier! Having two iPods sitting in a drawer was unnecessary. They, along with a lot of other items in our home, need to go elsewhere.

So, as the saying goes, change can be good! Really good! And I am looking forward to seeing that ball drop tomorrow, and cry out, “Happy New Year!!” I know my year is going to change for the better! My wish is the same for you! I wish all our members and readers a VERY Happy New Year!!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Mixed Blessings (ie: Be Careful What You Wish For!) -- by Jamie

I think every mother wishes for the day when she can stop buying diapers; I certainly did. And I’m so relieved that after months of potty training, Jayda now wears underwear all the time. Thus, the other day, when I picked Jayda up from daycare, knowing we weren’t heading directly home, I did what I always do these days, and asked Jayda if she needed to use the bathroom before we left. She insisted that she did not, so, we took off on our thirty-minute drive to our play date. When we were half-way there, Jayda mumbled that she was going to use the potty at her friend’s house; however, we weren’t going to her friend’s house, and instead, her friend’s mom and I had planned to meet on a main street of their town to look at the Christmas decorations before dinner. When I explained this to Jayda, she replied, “Uh oh. Whose potty I use? I need to go.” Oy. I frantically looked for a place at which to stop along the road, found a diner, and raced Jayda out of the car and through the snow-filled parking lot. Once inside, Jayda took her time, but eventually did her business. In the midst of my irritation over how late we were becoming for our play date, not to mention the discomfort I was feeling from my now snow-covered shoes, I forced myself to plaster on a big smile, and praised Jayda for letting me know that she’d had to go—and for holding it in until she’d gotten to a bathroom like a “big girl.” She had, indeed, exhibited marvelous behavior for a 2-1/2 year old, but, at the time, it didn’t seem like such a wonderful thing to me and my freezing cold toes.

It reminded me of the time before Jayda turned two, when most of her spoken words were garbled and difficult to understand. My mom used to exclaim, “I can’t wait until Jayda can REALLY talk!” And now? My daughter never shuts up. While it has been amazing to witness her remarkable speech development, hearing Jayda speak 24/7 isn’t a complete joy. Like all curious toddlers, my daughter loves asking, “Why?” She has questions about everything and everyone, and they’re often quite random. Sometimes she’ll ask me what someone whom she hasn’t seen for months is doing right at that moment, or what kind of bed one of her friends sleeps in, when it’s the middle of the day. She wants to know everyone’s name—from the friend whom I’m on my cell phone with to the cashier at the supermarket whom I exchange five words with, and, simply, loves to chatter. Lately, Jayda loves talking about her day with me—what we’ve done already, what we’re going to do, and what our plans are for the next day—over and over and over again. She’ll often ask me to “talk our day” when I have a hundred other things to do—or talk about—at that moment, and gets very upset when I refuse to respond in detail. Another habit Jayda has developed, is repeating everything she hears: She often exclaims “Oh my gawd!” and “Oy!” just like her mother, and I must be very careful about what I say.

Jayda’s a smart little girl, and she’s quite clever with her choice of words. She knows the power of the word “please,” and, at times when I’ve refused her a second cookie or another Barney DVD, she sweetly pleads, “Please!” which is oh-so-difficult to refuse. Similarly, when I’m angry with Jayda about something, and am in the middle of reprimanding her, she’s been known to interrupt me with “I wuv you mommy! I wuv you a bushel and a kleck and a hug around the neck,” which certainly distracts me from my anger. So, while I do appreciate the fact that Jayda is such a good communicator now, it isn’t always a positive experience for me.

Another important characteristic that I’ve always wished for in my child is independence. While I’ll always cherish having a kid who adores me, and who loves being around me, I think most moms, including myself, do not relish the thought of a clingy child. Fortunately, Jayda, who still exhibits an enormous amount of affection for me, has truly started to become her own little person—one who thinks for herself, and, often even takes care of herself. But even that has its downsides, because lately, every thing that needs to be done for Jayda is something that she insists, “I do by myself.” This includes picking out her outfits (which, to my mortification, often don’t match), dressing and undressing herself (even when it means struggling with a zipper for fifteen minutes), and attempting to tie her own shoes (ie: twirling her laces around and around, sometimes forming knots). I can’t even hand Jayda a cookie these days without her throwing a fit about wanting to pick her OWN cookie out of the box. Jayda’s a willful child, and while that is a wonderful quality for her to possess in the long-run, in the short-term it leads to a lot of frustration for both of us. And, for me, a person who thrives on always being on time, it has meant trying to acquire a whole lot of patience when it suddenly takes us twice as long as usual to accomplish a task—and get out the door.

For every milestone Jayda reaches, I am, of course, thankful, and am more than willing to cheer and praise my child. Her development amazes me, and I marvel at what a wonderful “big girl” she’s becoming. Yet I also realize that with every achievement comes new challenges (often just for me!). Growing up isn’t easy—for either of us—but I’m learning to take the bad with the good. My child is thriving, and that’s what matters most.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

GUEST BLOG POST: Stepfamily Sanity this Holiday Season -- by Wednesday Martin, PH.D., Author, Stepmonster

When you think of holidays, you probably think of family.

And that's what makes holidays so tough for stepfamilies. At this time of year, couples in a remarriage with children might be feeling . . . imperfect. For example, they might be polarized -- he misses his kids, while she hopes they won't treat her like the maid when they show up. She wants to buy her 25-year old's plane ticket to come for a holiday visit -- he thinks she spoils her kids and young adults should pay their own way.

Even if they're on the same page about their step/kids, both members of the couple likely find themselves facing plenty of misunderstanding from friends and family as visions of sugarplums dance in our collective heads. "His kids won't be here for the holidays? How come?!" "I can't believe they're going to spend only Christmas Eve with you." "You're not doing holidays with his ex? How come? Isn't that the best thing for the kids?"

In the face of all the pressure and misunderstanding, take heart. Here are ten simple tips for stepfamily sanity this holiday season.

1. Give up on "blending." Stepfamilies come together in their own ways, and in their own time -- experts say four to 12 years! Particularly at holiday time, stepkids of any age may feel their loyalty binds more acutely ("Dad's remarried but mom's not so I should spend the whole holiday with her"). And sometimes in spite of a stepparent's best efforts, a stepchild may keep his or her distance, taking a "stand" at holiday time. Don't expect your stepfamily to resemble an eggnog smoothie during the holidays and you'll spare yourself and your marriage a lot of aggravation.

2. Let your stepfamily be what it is. One family I interviewed put up two trees every year, because it mattered that much to them all to honor their own traditions. Respecting those differences can help everyone come together in their own way.

3. Know that you and your spouse will probably argue. From deciding how much to spend on gifts for her kids, to reopening old wounds about how the stepkids behaved during holidays past, couples in a remarriage with children are under extraordinary pressure this season. Arguments aren't signs of failure -- they're opportunities to communicate. Find communication formulas and tips that work for you in Stepmonster and other books for couples with stepchildren.

4. Keep it normal. Whether they're five or 50, what kids want post divorce and remarriage is a sense of belonging. So skip the red carpet welcome and think "inclusive" and "normal." Give mom or dad some time alone with his or her kids, and then do the things you do every day and every holiday, inviting the kids to join. Let older and adult stepkids help with holiday meal planning and prep, serving and clean-up. Little ones can make place cards or holiday art for guests. This helps them feel like family, not guests. And when they're pitching in and happy, stepmom/stepdad won't feel as depleted or de-centered by their visit.

5. Choose side by side activities. Puzzles, stringing popcorn, baking, and watching a holiday movie all let you spend time together without interacting "head on," which experts like Patricia Papernow tell us can be more stressful for "steps."

6. Know your limits. Don't do or give in a way that will increase your resentment. If your stepkids habitually forget to bring anything for you, or have a history of not writing thank you notes, don't go overboard with extravagant gifts and efforts. Let them be your guide to avoid martyr syndrome ("I do and I do for them!") during (and after) the holidays.

7. Strategize ahead of time. Stepfamilies aren't first families. There may be tensions, and that's normal. Spouses might have to plan out activities and time alone ahead of time. "I think I'm going to need a break tomorrow. How about a long walk together first thing in the morning?" This is not a failure -- just a constructive way of adapting.

8. Remember stepfamily members bond best one-on-one. All-together-now activities can activate stepkids' anxieties about who's an insider and who's an outsider. Give parent and stepparent plenty of one-on-one time with kids and stepkids -- and with each other. And don't forget about yourselves as a couple. You need one-on-one time, too.

9. Get out of the house. For stepmothers especially, there can be extraordinary pressure to create that Norman Rockwell aura over the holidays. Before the pressure gets to be too much, get out to see friends and your own family. Take time to pamper, whether it's a spa visit or a coffee with pals who understand and don't judge. Getting out of your own home, away from your stepkids and even your spouse, isn't a sign of failure. It's a necessity, rejuvenating you and helping prevent stepparental burnout.

10. Let go of the guilt. Remember that even first families struggle with unrealistic expectations during the holidays. If things don't go perfectly -- if there are squabbles or hurt feelings -- have faith that this is normal and won't damage the kids or your marriage irreparably. Stepfamily members are bound to have differences and even blow-ups. By showing your stepkids that people can argue and then move on, you are modeling the kind of resilience that will serve them well for a lifetime. That might be the ultimate holiday gift.

©2009 Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., is a "later" mom, social researcher and the author of Stepmonster: a New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do (2009). She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today ( and blogs for the Huffington Post and on her own web site ( She has appeared as a stepparenting expert on NPR, the BBC Newshour, Fox News and NBC Weekend Today, and was a regular contributor to the New York Post's parenting page. Stepmonster is a finalist in the parenting category of this year's "Books for a Better Life" award.

A stepmother for nearly a decade, Wednesday lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. Her stepdaughters are young adults.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Pig Purging -- by Robin

It's been a pig-filled week at my house.

My son is thankfully now over the swine flu.....and I'm doing further purging.

For regular readers of this blog, you know that we gutted and rebuilt my entire basement, and I've been spending considerable time both before and now organizing the house. Thankfully, I've also had some assistance from our wonderful cleaning woman who is not emotionally attached to stuff like I am.

Up until this week, my focus has been mostly papers, clothing and other things we've managed to accumulate over the years living in this house. But, now my attention has turned to pigs, and it's peaking the interest of friends, which I find both funny and intriguing. I had no idea that others cared about my pig collection or supported my love of them this much. I'm receiving notes expressing shock that I would let some go.

It's been years since my collection started, back in the days of my working in Manhattan. It started simply with a photo of a pot-bellied pig I posted on my office bulletin board, just because it was cute. Co-workers started to presume I was into pigs, and little by little I would receive them as gifts. While I didn't necessarily embrace them at first, over time it became a quest. When I'd go on vacation, it gave me something to hunt for. Friends always knew what to buy for my birthday. Pigs would brighten my day, and slowly but surely take over my life and home.

My husband has been very understanding. And, my son has been raised with a love of pigs as well.

But, the time has come to let least a bit. At the suggestion of a wise friend this week, I am releasing some of my collection. And, it has really struck a chord with me. Something about it is freeing. And, right away I posted an item about them on craigslist and freecycle. I decided, in the spirit of the holiday, to give them away for free to some other pig lover who would treasure them as I once did. These particular pigs no longer tickle my fancy, and I was glad to see I was able to let go. Though I did need to do it quickly, for fear I might change my mind. And, the response was more than I expected from interested takers. They were picked up the same day I posted about 10PM. Couldn't believe it! I was grateful not to have the chance to sleep on it. The pigs might have looked rosier in the morning.

Believe me....I'm not hurting in the pig department. There's still a good amount around here. But, I am working hard to invite new, positive energy into the house. And, this was a great way to prepare for 2010. And who knows? I might relinquish more swine in the future, but I'm proud of my effort at the moment and am glad the pigs will be in a worthy home for Christmas.

What can you release from your life that might free you up in ways you don't expect? Think about it, and feel free to share. I invite you to go for it! If I can do it, you can too. :)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Christmas -- by Cara

There is something about having a young child in the home that brings a little extra excitement to a holiday. Especially Christmas. Especially when it snows.

We had a blizzard run through the East Coast, where we live, this past weekend, which prompted my son to insist that Santa and his reindeer were coming! He was so sure, that he kept stopping in his tracks to say, “Shh! I hear reindeer!,” several times that night! I tried to repeatedly explain that Christmas wasn’t for a few more days. But he tenaciously insisted that if it snows, especially a lot of snow, then Santa would be on his way!

I bought ingredients to make cookies for Santa later in the week, but my son couldn’t wait. The only cookies we had in the house were Nilla wafers, so my son pushed a chair to the cabinet where we have the special “Santa plate,” took it out, put Nilla wafers on one side for Santa and baby carrots on the other side for the reindeer. He then brought the plate to a small table in our Living Room and pushed the table near to our fireplace.

Next was fireplace redecoration. All of the decorations that were in front of the fireplace had to be moved. Unfortunately to the middle of the Living Room. My son is quite lucky because I didn’t have a fireplace in my home growing up. We had to concoct a pretend one! Next, my son had to gather my assistance in hanging up everyone’s stockings on the mantel. Bye, bye Hanukkah display, hello stockings!

When my son was sure that everything was in place for Santa to come, he excitedly went to bed, but had a hard time falling asleep.

At exactly 4:45 am, I felt little hands pushing all of the blankets and covers off me (why do children do this to their mothers and not their fathers??). He was terribly excited that Santa had come and he wanted me to go downstairs with him to see if Santa had left some presents. I groggily told my son that I was pretty certain that Santa hadn’t come yet. But my excited little boy pushed the blinds to one of our window’s aside and exclaimed, “But Mommy!! Santa had to come!! There is so much snow outside!!” THAT part he was certainly right least a foot of snow blanketed our backyard! And even at 4:45 am, you could see the wonder and the beauty of it!

To satisfy my son’s endless curiosity as to whether Santa had arrived, I went downstairs with him to see if there were any presents. To my son’s utter dismay, no presents were in sight and the Nilla wafers and carrots remained untouched. My son sulked to his room and I tucked him into bed, assuring him that in just a few short days, Santa WOULD be coming. And the magic of Christmas would be upon us!

He fell back to sleep, and I couldn’t help but think back to my own memories of trying to stay awake to hear reindeer hooves on the roof. Or to climb out of bed before anyone was up and search every present for ones that had my name on them!

The same scenario will occur tomorrow night! Snow will probably still be blanketing the ground. Homemade cookies and fresh carrots will be put out. Decorations will be removed from in front of the fireplace. And at approximately 4:45 am, little hands will be anxiously pushing covers off of me so that I can join my son in the REAL magic of Christmas!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Too Sweet for Our Own Good -- by Jamie

I don’t have many vices: I’ve never smoked. I rarely drink. And I certainly don’t take drugs. I also eat very healthfully, and exercise 5-6 days a week. However, I do adore candy. Not chocolate, and nothing fancy—just crappy, commercial, sugar-infused treats! Show me a package of Swedish Fish, and I’ll inhale it. Bring me a bag of jelly beans and I won’t stop at just a handful. Things like Mike and Ikes, Tootsie Pops, Chuckles, candy corn, and even Dots are all fair game. When it comes to sugar, just a little can set me off on a calorie-laden binge. So, generally, I try to avoid it.

It has always been my intention to have my daughter, Jayda, eat as healthfully as I do. From the moment she started consuming solid foods, she became a fan of Greek yogurt, all kinds of fresh fruit, and mostly healthy treats—as I offered her homemade zucchini/carrot bread in lieu of cupcakes, and Fig Newtons instead of Oreos. I didn’t even introduce her to ice cream until she was almost two: Jayda adored yogurt with smashed berries in it so much, I figured she didn’t need strawberry ice cream in her life. But my, oh my, how things have changed!

Jayda got her first taste of a candy-like treat when she received a packet of chewy fruit snacks (made with real fruit juice, as the label touted!) at a party. She adored them, and inhaled the entire bag. Soon after, she was treated to a gummi bear at a friend’s house, and noticed the similarity—it was yummy! At the time, we were embarking on potty training, so I decided to use a gummi bear as a reward every time Jayda peed on the potty. Then, my mother added her leftover M&M’s to the bag. Soon, my smart little toddler was using the potty once for a gummi bear, and then running back to the bathroom not 10 minutes later to pee again (for an M&M this time, of course). I’d created a monster.

When Halloween rolled around, it brought with it memories of my blissful childhood candy binges. Thus, as I dug into my own bag of candy corn, I decided to let Jayda create her own wonderful memories of my favorite holiday. While we went trick or treating, I let my candy-fanatic-in-training have full control of her candy until bedtime, and she grazed through her bag of treats with my blessings. But when she woke up the next day asking for Halloween again—and tantrumed when I told her Halloween was over—I knew I had a problem. As a compromise, I doled out bits of her left-over treats when she used the potty: A piece of a Kit-Kat for one bathroom visit, a mini-Snickers for another. But as I looked at my child’s chocolate-smeared face one morning, I had to admit Jayda was consuming waaaaaay too much candy.

That’s when I decided to implement a reward chart: Every time Jayda uses the potty, she earns a sticker. After she fills a row on the chart with six stickers, she can reach into a fancy bag I created and choose a treat. The bag is filled with everything from makeup to sparkly barrettes to a Tootsie Pop and a small bag of M&Ms. In no time, Jayda was earning stickers and selecting candy from the bag. Just candy…and always candy. Even the lip gloss she’d long coveted has been brushed aside every time Jayda gets her hands on “the bag.” And when Jayda has a candy craving, and realizes she doesn’t have enough stickers on her chart to warrant some, she cries…and cries.

My daughter has been fully potty trained since Thanksgiving. She even made it into the city this week on the Long Island Railroad, and spent the day with me perusing store windows, checking out the tree, and watching the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center—happily using bathrooms wherever we went. She also made it through a trip to FAO Schwartz without asking me to buy her a single thing—except when we walked by the candy section of the store. She didn’t mind leaving FAO without a new toy, but she did want a big, swirly lollypop—and she wanted it badly.

The holidays are nearly over, and with the New Year, comes resolutions. This year, I’m resolving to get rid of Jayda’s reward chart—and the candy. Of course I’ll allow Jayda to have a lollypop now and then, or even a bag of M&Ms once a week. But her dose of daily candy has got to stop. Because no matter how I try to sugar-coat it, Jayda is her mother’s daughter…and she’s becoming a candy addict, too. And now it’s this addict’s job to teach Jayda a lesson in moderation. Maybe we’ll both learn something together!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

GUEST BLOG POST: Reading as a Relationship-Building Tool -- by Cathy Puett Miller, The Literacy Ambassador

In today’s whirlwind of life, it is easy for families to get caught up in “doing stuff”. Our use of cell phones, texting, MP3 players, grocery carts that have a kiddy vehicle as far away from mom or dad as possible, and the DVDs that appear in more and more cars add to the possibility of isolation. Without realizing it, we create what I call more “no chat zones,” and that can harm our children just as much as improper nutrition or inadequate exercise. This time of year additional “pressures” can come into play with extra holiday activities, preparation for family and friend events, and the end of the year looming.

In such a frenzied pace, I encourage those of you reading this blog to stop for just a moment. We all need to evaluate and adjust priorities from time to time, especially if we find ourselves caught in the “whirlwind”, losing direction. I’ve been there; it’s so easy to do. One of the priorities I’d encourage you to think about is the growth of thinking, reading, writing, listening and communicating in your children. Now I’m not talking about extending school to home. I’m talking about these skills as a core for interaction with your child.

In my years as an educational consultant, I have observed thousands of families, and thousands of children learning in structured environments. But what I don’t see often enough, and what young children (and those that are already in school) need most to be good readers and writers, listeners and communicators, when we are talking about “at home” time, is not computer games, flashcards and drills, practice on less than thrilling stories. They need a person who will read to and with them, explore a fantastic book and get to know them al little better through that experience. They need someone sitting with them and talking about what is happening on the screen. They need to see someone be thoughtful about characters and settings, thinking aloud about what the author is trying to say. What they need is you.

Personal Reflections
Our son is now 20, but I recall (with fondness) that, when I became a mother at 34, I thought I knew something about the world. I didn’t have as much confidence that I knew what was right for this new little life we had in ours. Perhaps some of you can relate. That part of parenting doesn’t change.
When it came to his literacy development as a preschooler (and that really relates to how his speech and thinking developed as well as his use of his hands for small movements, his awareness of how print works in our world, etc.), I knew that it began from day one. Learning to talk and express himself was going to be a foundation that he would later use when he learned to read.

That first day I saw Charlie in the hospital, I decided I was going to treasure moments with him (especially since he was likely to be our only child). I wanted to do my best to give him what he needed to be a successful contributor to society. You can relate, I’m sure, to the first time you met your son or daughter.

Then came reality. Changing schedules, going back to work, dealing with the new dynamic in my husband’s and my relationship with the addition to the family. It was a challenge. What I started seeing in myself was a craving for one-on-one time with Charlie. Instead of just shuffling him into everything else I had to do, I decided I needed to protect some time for all of us. When we would all first get home, Dad and Charlie had their time while I fixed a meal (notice that there’s a magazine on Dad’s lap – they just stopped a minute for a little tickle time). Then it was my turn. I learned that by talking with Charlie about the immediate world and the world beyond (because young children don’t know the world yet) and by sharing a quick story or two before bedtime or bath, we were able to reconnect.

Now that Charlie is a young man, off at college, I see the results of that type of commitment, consistently applied. He is a confident, self-assured person, handling virtually every decision with thoughtfulness and reason. He is a terrific writer (and you know how much writing you have to do in college), at ease with lots of different sorts of people in lots of different discussions and conversations, and he has an empathy for his fellow man. He has the world before him. I want to tell you that, in part, comes from the foundation of sharing stories and talking together on a regular basis. Those experiences gave him incredible tools.

Create Those Moments to Treasure (that will knit you together for a lifetime)
My holiday gift to you is a bit of advice as I’m a little further down the road than many of you might be: stop to treasure the events and growth in your child’s life. Never let “going for the buck” and the everyday anxieties of life separate you from time with your children.

Talk with them, listen to them, use lots of different, big words. Explain those they don’t understand and help them see that reading and writing, listening and communication are tools for life. Don’t attempt to replicate the “academic hothouse” environment of school. Those everyday skills are integral to how you relate to your child. They are the core, the foundation through which we stay connected as humans.

If you have children ages 0-5, I have a special treat for you. Visit my publisher, Maupin House ( and find there free downloads for busy families which include the introduction to my new book, Anytime Reading Readiness, a free reading readiness checklist, a sample activity and more.

And regardless of what age your child (or children) are, carve out and relish those times when you and your child grow a little closer, think a little deeper, understand each other a little more. For more tips on how to use books and conversation to empathize with all they are learning about their world and remember what it was like to be a child, visit Those conscious efforts on your part will yield a lasting relationship with your child, something I believe every parent longs for. It’s bigger than a book.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Letting Go & Slowing Down -- by Robin

I've been practicing a lot of letting go of late.

The older I get, the more I realize that so much is out of our hands. And, for those of us, like me, who thrive on a certain level of control, it gets tiring to be in relentless pursuit of that.

So, I've decided to put things out to the universe, as best I can.

If I want something, sure I'll pursue it, but I'm not going to let it keep me up at night. I refuse. I sleep poorly enough as it is.

Take this weekend. We had a variety of plans. And, Seth is now sick, so our calendar has quickly emptied. We cancelled everything. And, while I'm disappointed, it's also okay. We'll all chill at home and try to get healthy and strong. I'm still getting over a cold, and they're predicting a blizzard here in New York. I sure hope the forecasters are wrong. I detest snow. While beautiful to look at, shoveling and driving in it, and the ice and slush that results, is far from fun, in my book. And, a skiier or sledder I'm not.

We gave Seth a Nerf Dart Tag game today (thanks to Hasbro) as his last Hanukkah present, and he and I played with it. No doubt, it will occupy much of our indoor weekend. He's loving it. It comes with protective glasses that two players wear, along with foam vests with targets on them that you shoot at with the Nerf guns. We put one of the vests on a stuffed pig, and had a shooting match in our living room. Piggie survived, and I have to admit, it was a fun time.

Not sure what we'll do tomorrow. Watch some movies on cable. Maybe bake cookies. Quality family time. Slow time. Time that we often don't allow ourselves because life is so full.

Before you know it, the holiday school break will be here, and we'll be hustling around pursuing different activities to take advantage of the time off. So, in a way, it's nice to be forced to slow the pace, be fully present, and just enjoy each other and what the universe has in store.

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Interfaith Traditions -- by Cara

This is always an interesting time of year for our family. And a lot of work for me! See, my husband is Jewish, I am not, but we are raising our son to be Jewish. All of this is fine except for one major thing. My son is in love with everything Christmas, especially Santa Claus!

It all started when my father was still alive and my son was 2 and 3 years old. Since my father didn’t have the stamina to put up his own Christmas tree each year, as he became elderly, we would put one up in our home while he watched us decorate it. And my Mother-in-Law never wanted my father’s holiday to be forgotten, so she would cook a big Christmas dinner for all of us.

My son, even at this young age, took all of this in. Besides the fact that there are Christmas displays everywhere you look this time of year. And Christmas cartoons, movies, and songs just about everywhere. My son became completely enamored with the mystery of Christmas.

Every year, I try to instill both the religious meaning and tradition of Hanukkah in him. But it never seems to trump Santa. “Eight crazy nights!,” I exclaim! “Eight nights of gifts!” The lighting of the candles on the beautiful Menorah he made at religious school! Still, he wants to know when Santa is coming. “How many more days, Mommy?,” he’ll ask.

My father is no longer with us, but the tradition of putting up a tree and decorating it still remain. My son moved all of the items away from the fireplace so that Santa can have easy access into our home. I am wondering how many more years he will still be believing in Santa Claus? I was certain that once he started religious school, the mystery of Santa and his reindeer would be exposed. Didn’t happen. He goes to school with predominantly Jewish children and has mostly Jewish friends. But he cannot be swayed. I’ve brought him to Tot Shabbat services, Hanukkah lightings at our Temple, festivities celebrating Hanukkah! Still, he wants to hold on to the belief of Santa.

So, as we do every year, I put up the Hanukkah decorations first. Read him books about celebrating Hanukkah, make Hanukkah crafts and play “Spin the Dreidel” with him. We watch my Mother-in-Law make potato Latkes. We put on Jewish music celebrating Hanukkah. Still, it all doesn’t matter. He anxiously awaits the man in the red suit and the white beard.

I must admit, preparing for two different winter holidays is not easy. Hanukkah is a little easier, but dragging an artificial tree up from the basement, putting it together, decorating it, making cookies for Santa and wrapping presents for BOTH holidays is a chore. I’m secretly hoping that my son comes to the realization that there really isn’t a Santa Claus. My work load would certainly diminish.

But I’m not going to be the one to squelch my son’s fantasy. It will come naturally on it’s own. Then maybe we can all focus on one holiday, light candles, eat latkes, sing songs and be united in the tradition of Hanukkah. In the meantime, I really wish my son didn’t have to announce to his religion teacher what Santa would be bringing him this year!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Christmakkah! by Jamie

As a Jew, I’ve always embraced the traditions of Judaism, but not necessarily its religious aspects. For instance, I don’t go to temple, was never Bat Mizvahed, and must admit that most of my Yom Kippur fasts have been solely weight loss-driven. However, I do know (and often use) a few dozen Yiddish words, wish just as many friends a “sweet” New Year around Rosh Hashanah as I do on January 1st, and truly “kvelled” over giving my daughter a Hebrew name at a baby-naming ceremony. I may not “practice” my religion all the time, but I certainly appreciate it—the holidays, stories, and most of all, the familial bonds (and, well, the food, too!). And as the mom of a toddler, I really look forward to starting—and continuing—traditions with my daughter for all of the Jewish holidays.

That said, hooray for Hanukkah! This is the first year that Jayda, at 2-1/2, can really join in—and begin to understand—our holiday celebrations. I have a special Crayola crayon-shaped menorah to light with her, eight presents to give to her on each of the eight nights, and a family Hanukkah dinner planned, with home-made latkes headlining the meal. I’m looking forward to it all. But I’m not looking forward to competing with Christmas.

I’m no Scrooge, and I certainly understand the appeal of Christmas; I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to that. My mother’s mother was Irish-Protestant, until she gave up her religion for my Jewish grandfather. However, she never stopped celebrating Christmas, and my own mother carried that tradition into our home. When I was growing up, we celebrated Hanukkah, but we also had a Christmas tree, left cookies for Santa on a table near the chimney, and woke up on Christmas morning to a pile of gifts. It made sense because it was a part of my mother’s upbringing, but for me, as a single Jewish mother, it doesn’t make sense anymore. There’s no reason for me to have a Christmas tree in my home, or even teach my child to believe in Santa Claus. But I fear it’s going to take a heck of a lot of work to get Jayda to understand that Hanukkah is “just as much fun” as Christmas.

A few weeks ago, Jayda pointed to a picture of Santa Claus and asked me, “Who’s that?” Moments later, she gestured to a picture of a Christmas tree and said, “What a pretty tree!” I explained to her as best I could who Santa Claus is, and why that tree was covered with decorations, and she soon lost interest. But I know that was just the beginning.

Let’s face it: We live in a Christmas-focused world. Every street in our neighborhood is filled with Christmas lights, huge fusses are made over Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, and our stores are swarming with Christmas-themed decorations, gifts, toys, and candy. True, there are Hanukkah books that I can read to Jayda, and occasionally I’m able to find a TV special airing which focuses on our holiday. This past week, I was especially thrilled to discover that at Jayda’s daycare, they had a Hanukkah unit: All week long, Jayda’s class read stories about the holiday, made crafts, and even enjoyed Hanukkah treats. But it still doesn’t compare to the Christmas craziness that will be saturating the same daycare—and everywhere else—in upcoming weeks.

Because my childhood included Christmas celebrations and I “had the best of both worlds,” I never really noticed the lack of Hanukkah hoopla around us, but I’m pretty certain my own child will. Perhaps I’m worrying needlessly, but I hate to think Jayda will feel like she’s missing out on something just because we’re Jewish. I know the best I can do is embrace our Jewish traditions, as I do, and pass my enthusiasm for them along to Jayda. Hopefully then she’ll appreciate who we are—and what our holiday means. This Hanukkah, I know Jayda will be doing plenty of celebrating, enjoying her family, and receiving lots of great gifts, and that’s a tradition no one should find reason to complain about.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

GUEST BLOG POST -- by Sally Shields, "The In-Law Expert"

I got married in December 1999 when I was 32, and the first thing my new MIL (mother-in-law) said to me was, "The only thing I want is grandchildren! I'm the ONLY person in Ohio without grandchildren!" Well, if THAT didn't put the pressure on, I don't know what did! But, of course, I have a stubborn nature, and the declaration just made me want to wait even longer before procreating. I told both my MIL (as well as my very own mother who was being a little less obvious) in no uncertain terms, "Don't bother me until I'm 38!" After-all, I was in the midst of a great career as a jazz pianist, traveling the world, and having a wonderful time with my bass player husband!

But, soon after, 9/11 came along... it was a three-prong blow... my manager was going through a divorce and got fired by the representing agency. At the same time, the jazz division of the record label I was recording for folded, and the last recording of the 3-CD deal? Defunct. The world in NYC was in shambles, and moving forward as a self-promoting artist seemed both trivial and trite. All signs were pointing towards a change. It was 2001, and I was 34. I thought to myself, "What is the most meaningful thing I can do at this point?" I decided that getting pregnant was a good move, and as a side benefit, I could win points with my MIL! And yes, it was the greatest decision I could have made.

But shortly after my daughter's birth in 2002, the problems started to occur. Big problems, big misunderstandings. Big hurtful fights that ended in tears, with my MIL storming out of the house, thinking that I didn't care about her, or the baby clothes she bought, or anything she had to say. You see, even though I just had a C-section, was suffering from post-partum depression and sleep depravation, I had unwittingly failed to open the bag of infant onsies and cute baby gear that was still sitting unopened in the corner of the room, and my MIL took it as a big DIS. My dear MIL assumed that I knew these things that were so obvious to her... dressing the newborn immediately with her gifts, being concerned about cats smothering a new baby (we had 2), when to put oatmeal in the bottle ( I breast-fed), the importance of a sleeping schedule in a crib (I slept with my baby on demand), and a world of other things she was putting her two cents in about, that left us both in tears, and feeling like enemies on a battlefield!

I was left scratching my head, thinking, where is the manual for this?!!! So I started to jot down all the troublesome incidents that would pop into my head in regards to my MIL, and came up with a rule and a solution to deal with each and every one. When I put a few of these rules into practice (and saw that they actually worked), I thought maybe I could help save others years of needless contention!

By the time I had my son at age 39, I developed a few tricks up my sleeve. I'd like to share some questions I've received from readers of my book, The Daughter-in-Law Rules, and the answers may prove helpful:

Q: My baby is only a week old but my MIL already wants her to have a sibling to play with! Is she nuts?

A: If your twinkle toes has yet to shed her umbilical cord, your mother-in-law may nonetheless put in an application for a new addition by way of a statement such as, “I can’t wait until she has a little brother or sister to play with!” Say how eager you are to have another. Smile coyly and mention that you’re already working on it. She will be hard-pressed not to picture you and her son having relations (don’t think of a pink elephant, okay?) and she will most likely not ask you again... at least for the next couple of months, that is!

Q: My MIL complains that she doesn’t get as much time with my kids as my own mother. Well, that might be true, but what can I do? She lives 7 hours away!

A: As soon as your kid is able to carry on a “conversation,” dial up your MIL and let the two yak away. Do this every few days. When it’s time to hang up, if you are busy, quickly say how much the little one misses her and that you can’t wait to see her as well. She’ll be very happy to stay connected with your little ones, even if it’s through the phone.

Q: I spend hours taking home videos and even learned to send digital pictures to my MIL over the Internet. But she complained that she’s the only person in Ohio that doesn’t get professional shots to hand out to her friends at Bingo. I just can’t win!

A: Spring for professional shots of your child. Make lots of copies (especially ones with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or a Hanukkah Dreidel, and send your MIL several wallet sizes to use like trading cards with her Bingo buds. Mom truly enjoys seeing your bloom in bunny ears with a blue background, holding a giant carrot. And so will you! You may even get bamboozled into buying every image in the book, complete with Sepia hues, flower borders and glam shots with soft-focus feature. So be extra-prepared to whip out your credit card and make sure your package includes the CD-ROM so that you can replicate all of the above on your printer at home as well!

Q: I have fun doing art projects with my kids, and thought my MIL would appreciate the fact that I saved them for her. But she just threw them away. What’s up with THAT?!

A: Pick out some recent drawings or finger paintings, and dispatch them to your MIL. However, do not present her with anything that includes traces of your creative input or she may refuse it immediately. For example, if your child’s compositions end up resembling things such as puppies or frogs, you may feel compelled to color them in, embellish, and label them as such. Instead, provide Mom with the scribbles alone. These are the ones that will invariably end up framed at her house. “Ahhh, now that’s TALENT!” she’ll proclaim proudly.

Q: When I’m visiting my MIL, all she wants to do is feed my child JUNK. I can’t stand it. But if I say anything, we end up in a big fight, or giving each other the silent treatment. HELP!

A: If you notice your MIL bestowing Wonder Bread with butter on your little bottomless pit a few times a day, just remember that your husband eventually grew up and seems to be in relatively good health. Although you may feel frustrated and be compelled to suggest, “I would prefer if you didn’t feed her that stuff at every meal, okay?” better to let your MIL indulge your child’s requests for the nutritionally devoid foodstuffs. Otherwise, your kid will soon come crying, “Grammy said that you said that I can't have white bread with butter ANYMORE!” forcing you to relent sheepishly, “Well, she can have it at least once a day, I guess the stuff won’t kill her!” Don't make a federal issue out of it, as your pipsqueak will eventually be back to eating apples and whole wheat bagels upon Mom’s departure!

In Conclusion:

The bottom line is to really and truly learn to appreciate your MIL. After all, she did give birth to your husband, and you are forever thankful to her for that! We can all grow much closer to our MIL's through our children!

I leave you with this wish: that you may develop a respectful and loving relationship with your MIL and learn to appreciate her for who she is, where she came from and what she is to become. Take heed to one of the great spiritual laws of success: The quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. Be a loving, kind, generous, open-hearted, sensitive person, and the world will reflect that back to you—even in the form of your mother-in-law—and she may just surprise you and turn out to be an ally and a friend. Mine certainly did!

Please visit Sally “The In-Law Expert” Shields, a later mom, speaker and author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules on the web at for contest giveaways, free bonus gifts,The DIL Rules newsletter, free music … and more!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Domesticity -- by Robin

Nothing has gone smoothly this week.

We've been going shopping for the basement. Bought a bed at IKEA, along with a wardrobe. (My first time shopping there.) Purchased a television (not from there). And, reached out to a charity to donate furniture, clothing and other items.

What is it about service these days?

The wardrobe was sent for assembly with the wrong size doors. The television did not have a cable connection (my husband thought it would). And, the charity was so particular that they actually refused some of the items we were hoping to give away.

After spending hours at home awaiting all the deliveries, etc....I then wound up spending considerable time on the phone trying to straighten things out. And, have to yet again wait for things to be redelivered, etc. It's enough to frustrate anyone.

And, being the one who works from home, the bulk of it falls on my plate. I know it's not unique to us, but I do find it challenging at times being a stay-at-home mom who has to oversee everything from house stuff, to shopping, to arranging playdates, social outings, etc, all while working from my kitchen table. Don't get me wrong....I'm very grateful to be able to work from home, but it's a lot of juggling and easy distraction.

In that sense, I'm envious of my husband who goes to his office, or the office of a client, and focuses on the tasks at hand. He has a specific agenda, and while things don't always go smoothly, he's wearing his suit 'n tie, and there is no questioning that he's at work. Whereas, for me, as a work at home mom, my uniform of choice is often stretch pants and a tshirt, while I put on my professional cap. No one sees me, except for the delivery guys, if I don't venture out of the house. I don't miss the pantyhose and heels, so that's a positive.

My acting class ended this week, and I will miss it. I might sign up again in March, depending on my husband's work schedule since it will be tax season at that time. It was nice to have that on my weekly schedule as something that I could count on (other than gym visits).

In class, I wasn't a stay at home mom. I was stretching myself to see who I could become, both that night and looking ahead. Work defines you in so many ways, for better or worse.

I don't miss the commuting into Manhattan...I used to work in the city....but I do miss the energy. Maybe one day I'll return to it, even if part time? Who knows?!

I was speaking with a friend earlier this week who said that she was actually asking herself one day if she should go shopping at Pathmark or King Kullen (a store she doesn't frequent...but to break up the routine)? And, maybe she'd really "let loose" and instead of buying the typical red delicious apples, perhaps she'd be more daring and try the granny smiths? She had me totally cracking up because I fully understood.

I applaud all stay at home moms and others who bear domestic responsibility (men included). We're in it together, and when you're walking down that produce aisle, sharing a good belly laugh sometimes makes all the difference.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hotel Snob -- by Cara

Back in the days before I had my son, I used to have the flexibility to take several trips a year with my husband, all over the country. For my husband, they were all work trips. But for me, they were more than just “getaways.” For me they were trips where I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted! Little mini vacations!

My recent “Mommy Retreat” reminded me of those times. But I found that the most interesting part of my stay was the hotel which was quite intriguing. I’ve been wracking my brain to better describe this hotel, but the best description I could conjure up is a “very upscale Days Inn.” Not that there’s anything wrong with a Days Inn. Some of them are really lovely. But I digress.

I used to be completely enamored with the Hiltons and Mariotts we stayed in! From there it was the Chateau Marmount and Century Plaza (oh, how I adored the Century Plaza!). I’ve even stayed at the Plaza Hotel (before it went Co-op), and I must say, I was completely unimpressed. We also stayed at the Four Seasons! Now that was a treat!

One day, my husband had a reservation to stay at a certain hotel, and had the paperwork to prove it, but the hotel had no information on us in their computer system. And they were completely sold out. Well, my husband, being the eternally persistent person that he is, asked the manager to find us a room, even if it meant that we would have to stay at a different hotel. The manager came back with the news that we would have to stay at a different hotel next-door...The Ritz-Carlton!! They apologized for giving us their “standard” room...which included a marble, jacuzzi bath tub, entirely marble bathroom, the most amazing 300 count sheets and duvet cover...all I could say to my husband was, “If you are looking for me, I’ll be in this room...forever.”

I read a note in the room that said I could have a complementary, scented, hand made soap. I called room service and they brought a basket of 5 different scented soaps along with a loofah back scrubber and a sea sponge!! When I went to pick out a soap, the kind gentleman said to me, “Oh, Madam, this whole basket is for you to enjoy!.” I was speechless. The hotel also sent up complementary wine and chocolate covered strawberries as an apology for making the mistake in hotels! Just staying in this one room absolutely took my breathe away, and it was then that I became what I term “The Hotel Snob.” Nothing, no other hotel experience could even come close to staying at the Ritz-Carlton!

Now I am no longer able to go with my husband on his trips since we had our son. So I always make a small request of him when he goes away: Please bring back some soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion amenities! He always does. And it connects me a little bit to my former Hotel Snob days. Just recently my husband came back with amenities from the L’Occitane company...I was thoroughly jealous. If he brings back a “no name” brand, I pack it away to give to others in need.

Back to my “upscale Days Inn”...the rooms (suites!) were enormous with a bedroom section separated by a bathroom and kitchen area, and a huge sitting area! They also had “pod” coffee makers and a microwave and fridge. What made all of this odd is that there were rooms on the ground floor ( I had a view of the back parking lot through my bedroom window) and people constantly walking by my front window, so I had to be fully dressed before any curtains could be opened. There were also no Bell Hops, no Concierge; I had to wheel my luggage, Days Inn style, to this pretty magnificent room. I understand that in order to have such large rooms, economical corners need to be cut wherever possible, but this whole experience at this hotel was odd. Even to get to the meeting rooms, you had to walk directly through the formal (or should I say “only”) dining room, while guests were eating. Someone even brought their two, prize-winning Basset Hounds who I heard howling each morning on my way to get coffee! Strange, very strange indeed. I will say that the staff in all areas was exemplary. But maybe I’ll request a third floor room should I ever visit this hotel again. I may have humbled, but that little Hotel Snob is dying to get out...just one more time.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Learning from a Toddler--and Losing Inhibitions -- by Jamie

While I’ve always been a rather social person—and a very talkative one at that—I’ve never been overly-confrontational. Or even a very outspoken person when I’m in public, or interacting with strangers. And I certainly possess my share of inhibitions. But having a child has brought countless changes to my life, including giving me the guts to say or do many things I wouldn’t have done before I had Jayda.

I adore the fact that my 2-1/2-year-old daughter is completely uninhibited. She loves to take off her clothes in the house and, as she calls it, “be a naked baby.” She struts around with her belly sticking out, and could care less about who’s watching her. As a woman who’s suffered through years of disordered eating in the past, I find it lovely to see someone who has absolutely no body image issues. Jayda does happen to be a beautiful child, but it’s liberating to know that fat or thin, pretty or not, Jayda gives no thought to what she looks like, and certainly doesn’t stress over what she eats. She’s comfortable in her own skin. We should all be so lucky.

Best of all, Jayda loves to belt out the words to songs she knows (even when those words are all garbled and wrong)—whether we’re alone or in public. Personally, even with a couple of martinis in my bloodstream, I’ve never had the guts to sing karaoke, and I marvel at my daughter’s chutzpa. She dances with abandon, says whatever is on her mind, and doesn’t think twice about questioning anything and everything (and anyone and everyone!). True, she’s a toddler and knows no better. But I find her actions quite enviable.

Fortunately, being a mom to Jayda has changed my personality, too. Because I discovered it’s important to talk to your children to foster their speech development, even when Jayda was only an infant, I chatted constantly with her in public. When Jayda was not yet talking, I uttered endless monologues to her, and now, I engage her in complex conversations out loud—sometimes quite loudly—in public places like the supermarket, the doctor’s waiting room, and even the library. And when Jayda asks me to join her in singing a song, I oblige. I’ve also been known to spin around in circles with her—or do a jig with her in the middle of a crowd (and I’m someone who has always had two left feet). Being with a child can definitely bring out the child in you—as well as a child’s lack of inhibitions.

Before I became a mom, there were many times when I felt intimidated by authority figures and didn’t speak up about things that bothered me…or times when I was a bit shy about asking for something I needed. That’s not true anymore—especially when it comes to Jayda. When I need an emergency appointment at the pediatrician’s office, attention given to a problem Jayda’s having at daycare, or am bothered by a myriad of other things whose resolutions are important to my child’s well-being, I’ve developed a very big mouth. I’ll pursue important people, confront troublemakers, and even insist on changes being made where they’ve never been made before, if doing so will improve my daughter’s life. And I’ll do so with absolutely no hesitation. Just as a momma bear is protective of her little cub, so am I: I’ll growl at anyone who puts my child in harm’s way. It’s a gift Jayda’s given me…and I’m doing my best to use it as much as I can.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mensch-in-the-Baking -- by Robin

We had our parent teacher meeting this week, and I almost got choked up.

They had the nicest things to say about Seth in terms of his character and personality. We talked about how he always wants to help people, and has huge empathy and an unusual level of maturity when it comes to expressing concern for people's well-being.

My husband and I have long known this. I've always been struck by his big-heartedness, coupled with his spunky personality. He'd be the first on the scene to come to someone's aid, and he's the life of the party. We've always joked that he's going to be the "mayor' of our town one day....though Seth aspires to be a fireman.

He is a "little love" in my book.

That said....we also work hard to reinforce in him the need to give back and be grateful.

In an effort to combine this lesson with something he loves, I got the idea from an article I read to take him to our local volunteer firehouse (for one of our many, many visits)...but this bake brownies for the firemen and express our gratitude for all that they do for the community. Seth loved the idea! He couldn't get in the door fast enough. And, he told his class all about our plans to visit the firehouse.

It made me feel good that he valued the experience. And, I gained from it as well.

One of the outings for that I planned for the NY chapter was a trip to Ronald McDonald House. There, we also baked brownies (notice the brownie theme?!)....this time for the families who are staying there. Ronald McDonald House is an amazing place that houses/feeds families in need whose children are ill and are receiving nearby medical care.

It was in some ways a harder lesson for Seth to take in, but I explained that we have to value our health and not take it for granted. That even children get sick, and we're doing our part by baking for their families so they can enjoy despite all that they are dealing with.

I consider Seth a mensch (decent person)-in-the-making (or should I say baking?), and I'm proud to help mold him in that way. He's already a natural in the caring department, and if I can help provide experiencesthat offer him further opportunity to grow and share what he is so capable of, I consider it a priority.

It's a win-win situation, and touches me as well. It's so easy to get caught up with all that we have to do in our lives. We live in a day 'n age that is quite it with technology or other pursuits we endeavor to keep up with.

But, at the end of the day, it's the simple gestures that go far. And, if that means my becoming a brownie baking queen for the purpose of giving back, Julia Child I'm not, but I'll gladly give it a go. And, Seth is always happy to lick the spoon.

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On Being Grateful -- by Cara

There is no greater act than giving thanks.
Remember to acknowledge the goodness in your life.
Quiet your mind, listen to your heart
and fill your soul with gratitude.

I wasn’t very grateful this year. As Thanksgiving approached, I began turning into the Turkey Grinch, “Bah, gobble, gobble!!” I had been getting over Strep Throat, which turned into an upper respiratory infection, and two rounds of antibiotics. My son had been sick (which is where I got the Strep to begin with), my husband was a grouch, and one of our elderly dogs was recovering from a very close to death experience.

What gratitude do I have in my life right now?? There is nothing going right in my life right now!! I wanted to boycott Thanksgiving. Practically everyone in my extended family was fighting off one type of illness or another anyway. No one was well enough to cook anything.
I am usually the one who cooks the turkey, but I could hardly get out of bed. I would have preferred just staying in my pajamas all day!

I had been posting, “Bah, gobble, gobble!” messages on Facebook as others were describing their holiday feasts and posting photos of the pies and other goodies they were making for their family gatherings. I was not thankful one bit. Even well meaning friends posted comments of encouragement. But I was steadfast in my ungratefulness of Thanksgiving this year.

Then something changed in me Thanksgiving morning. My grouchy husband was happy and sweet to me. I looked at the front page of the newspaper and saw a picture of a little girl, six years old, hugging her mother, awaiting a bone marrow transplant. I thought, “Thank goodness MY six year old boy doesn’t have to go through something as horrible as that.”
Then I thought of how well my little boy was doing in school, despite that he has learning issues and we were told before school even started that he would most likely be left back. But he won’t. He’s doing fine. And for that I decided I was HUGELY grateful!

Then my elderly dog, who was near death two weeks ago, looked at me with her big eyes! How grateful that her prognosis turned out to be “excellent,” and that she was eating hoards of food! That she gained six pounds in two weeks, and that instead of forcing her to take horse-size pills each day, she now could take very small pills only a couple times per day! For this, of a 15 year old dog, I was EXCEEDINGLY grateful!!!!

My attitude was slowly changing. I was thankful of my washing machine when I knew of someone who couldn’t buy one yet. I was thankful that our family was economically stable in these very unstable times. Although I grumbled when my ancient iBook blew up, I was even thankful that someone in our extended family had an extra Powerbook they didn’t use anymore, so that I could use it until we could buy a newer one for me. And although I still cough as I write this, among the many things I really am grateful for, I am grateful for all that I DO have, so that I can share them with you!

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