Saturday, February 27, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST -- Are You a Yes-Mom? by Susan Newman, Ph.D.

Children have no trouble saying no. But, it’s a word you avoid because it sets your guilt-meter running especially where your children are concerned. You don’t want to disappoint them or make them unhappy.

We’re a culture of yes-parents…we give and give into most of what our children ask. But, how do you stop? And, why is saying NO to your children a good thing?

How Much of a Yes-Mom Are You?

If any of these sounds vaguely like you, it’s likely that your children turn you into a yes-parent quite easily.

1. Your living room looks like a toy store.
2. At any given hour the couch doubles as a trampoline, a wrestling mat, a hiding place or arts and crafts center.
3. Your child wears his Halloween costume to school in February.
4. You’re on a first-name basis with the workers at McDonald’s.
5. Your child has everything her best friend has.
6. Your six-year-old stays up so late that he can fill you in on Jay Leno’s monologue from the night before.
7. Your daughter’s last birthday party was more elaborate than your wedding.
8. You have three dogs, two kittens, and a parakeet who all hang out around the fish tank.
9. You spend most Saturday evenings in the movie theatre parking lot waiting for your children and their friends.
10. You spend Sunday evenings writing history reports and crafting science projects you found out about during dinner.
11. The text messaging charges are bigger than your monthly cell phone fee.
12. Your child’s band equipment takes up both parking spaces in the garage.

NO Teaches Life Lessons

When you say yes to your children indiscriminately, they control the pace, tenor and direction of your life: buy me, drive me, help me, finish this for me. By calling up a no when you need it, you gain a bit of deserved time for yourself and equally important, no prepares your child for the “real” world.

No teaches children important lessons, essential experiences that aren’t always taught in school such as:

• how to cope with disappointment
• how to argue
• how to strike a balance between work and play
• time management and task prioritization

When children grow up learning these concepts, they are more likely to be successful in their academics, relationships, and later on, in their careers.

Parenting is a forever proposition. You’ll be saying no—or should be—for decades…so park your guilt. I’m pretty sure your children will find something else to fault you for when they're adults. It won’t be the pet monkey, age-inappropriate movie or latest electronic gizmo you denied them during their growing years.

For more on how to say NO to your children, friends, family and at work, see:


Attention parents of one child of any age! Susan Newman would like to speak with you (your name will not be used) about your choice or the circumstances that led to you having one child. If you’re “on the fence” about having more children, she would like to know that too. Please contact her at:, and she will explain this research project in detail.

Susan Newman, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and author of 14 books, including Parenting an Only Child, The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only and The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It--and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever. Her latest, Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)Learning to Live Together Happily will be published this Spring. Visit her website; to follow a continuing discussion of only children, see Singletons at Psychology Today magazine.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Seven -- by Robin

My son turned 7 this week. Time sure flies.

I went to school on his birthday to celebrate with his first grade classmates. It was very sweet. I brought ice cream cups, juice and Oreos. My mother in law came as well, and we read books to the kids. In honor of Seth, we chose two fire truck-theme stories, and he couldn't be happier.

We took photos with other students and the teachers, and I whipped out my new handy Flip camcorder to give it a try.

We hung up decorations at home and went out to dinner, where he ordered a decadent chocolate mousse dessert, and we sung to him as he blew out the candle.

I asked him the day after how it felt to be 7, and he thought about it for a second, and said "good." It made me smile.

This weekend is his birthday party, and we're looking forward to celebrating with friends. While I find party planning a bit many details....especially since I was organizing the class visit as's great to have a happy occasion to celebrate.

My last blog related to my ailing senior dad, and his return to the hospital is looming in my mind. So, this was a welcome, positive break. And, he'll be coming to Seth's party Sunday, and hopefully, even if for a short while, he can let go of his constant downbeat health-related thoughts. I was disappointed that he didn't call Seth on his birthday, but I know he's mentally caught up in his health issues, as his stent procedure is this coming Wednesday. He can't get it done fast enough, and I will once again be on edge.

It was actually nicer than I expected to have my mother in law come to Seth's class. She is a hugely judgmental person, and isn't always easy to be around in that regard. My husband and his brother were pleasantly surprised to hear that she read a book to the kids. I told him that I kinda didn't give her a choice. I handed her the book, and said "why don't you read this next book." And, she rose to the occasion, and I actually think she enjoyed the interaction with the children. For a fleeting moment, I found myself picturing her reading to my husband when he was Seth's age, assuming she did that. And, I wondered if it took her back to that place too?! Her son, my husband, will forever be her baby, as will Seth for me, even though he's growing up fast.

HAPPY 7th BIRTHDAY Seth! We love you high as the sky sweetie!!

PS -- It's not too late to register your kids for Winter/Spring Classes! Check out The Little Gym of Port Washington in NY. Say Motherhood Later sent you and receive a 10% discount.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When Mommy is Sick -- by Cara

I had a terrible upper respiratory infection this past week that required antibiotics, fluids and rest. The antibiotics were simple, the fluids were the only soothing thing I could consume since I had a terrible sore throat and laryngitis, but the REST...Ahh where does the rest come into play?

I happened to be somewhat lucky that this illness came about during winter recess because we sent our son to a wonderful place each day where they have indoor swimming and a different theme for each day, along with the option of a hot lunch. I was so sick this week that I dragged my wretched body out of bed each morning, fed my son breakfast, supervised his morning routine of dressing, brushing teeth, etc, and then literally collapsed from exhaustion as my husband took our son to this “Winter Camp.”

I got to thinking how, as mothers, we always put everyone elses needs before our own, so many times, whether we are sick or not sick. And I very well could have let my husband take care of everything for my son since he was home. But that “Mommy Guilt” is what propelled me out of my bed. And it is what propelled me out of bed to make dinner for my son, even though I was shaking and shivering so much, I had to put on a hat and coat just to make my son something simple to eat when he came home from “camp” each day this week.

I guess it would be a little easier if my parents were both alive and young enough to help out in a pinch. Or if I had siblings who were willing to pitch in and help. But because I have literally no one, everything falls on me, sick or well. And let me tell you, it does take it’s toll. Especially when you are in your mid-forties with still a “youngish” child.

I am reading a very insightful, intellectual book called, The Mask of Motherhood,” by Susan Maushart, and in it she states, “One thing is certain: that we will never attain the goal of living comfortably with our choices as mothers until we acknowledge that we HAVE choices and, even more importantly, that we deserve to have them.” CHOOSING to yank myself out of bed when I am cold and shaking was driven by my guilt of not being a “Good Mom” and making my son a home cooked meal. What I SHOULD have done was stay in bed, called my husband, and asked him to bring home pizza for dinner. The family would still have gotten fed, but I would have been in bed resting, where I belonged.

When you have a toddler, or young child who goes to daycare, they are constantly sick and YOU are constantly sick. That’s just how it is. You just hope and pray the cold and flu season passes as quickly as possible and try to do what you can to meet both of your needs as best you can. But this drive to fulfill your child’s need before your own seems to become ingrained in you even from their birth. And even when they get to an age where they can get themselves dressed in the morning and brush their own teeth, as Moms we STILL want to be involved, even if from the sidelines.

I would do anything for my child, as most mothers would, but, as Susan Maushart continues, “Women who diminish their own needs ‘for the sake of the family,’ by whatever means and however sterling their motives, are living a lie. For if families do not begin with mothers, where DO they begin?” And especially if these mothers are “out of commission” by whatever means, does that imply that the family just falls apart?

I think as moms, especially us “Later” moms, we desperately need to tend to ourselves just as much, if not more than our families. We are doing a disservice to our loved ones by forcing ourselves to get out of our sick beds, purely out of guilt! A well, rested, cared for Mom is by far a better mom to everyone. Her children will benefit, her family will benefit, but most importantly, SHE will benefit. Because a happy, nourished Mom, really IS the best kind of Mom!

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Making Our Relationship Work -- by Jamie

Jayda accompanies me to my gym every weekend. First, she joins me in the locker room while I change, and both of us converse with the women around us, who always greet Jayda enthusiastically. Then, Jayda goes into the daycare center to play for an hour or so, while I work out. Along the way, Jayda stops and stares at all the men and women who are training in the gym and bombards all of us with questions, watches the step and spinning classes with obvious fascination, and simply enjoys being in the venue as much as I do—and appears to have a lot of fun with me, chatting and socializing.

The other day, an older woman approached me during my work out and told me that she loved watching me with my daughter and that we “reminded her of herself and her daughter” when her child was Jayda’s age. She then proceeded to tell me about how she had raised her daughter (who is now in her early 20s) by herself following her divorce, and how they had been “buddies” in the way Jayda and I appeared to be. But then she said she “had to warn me that having such a close relationship did have its downside,” and explained that when her daughter had hit her early teens, she’d rebelled. The mother and daughter quickly went from “best friends” to barely speaking and it was a very trying time. She assured me that now her daughter is a successful businesswoman—which I thought meant there was a happy ending to her story—but when I asked, “so now you guys are close again?” she shrugged her shoulders and made a face. She said that now, her daughter’s always so busy and never has time for her mother; she never calls her mom for advice, and always cuts her phone calls short because she “has work to do.” But this, too, the woman warned me, was the “downside of raising her daughter to be so independent,” which she was forced to do as a busy, working single mother. She claimed her daughter didn’t “need” her help or advice because she was taught to be self-sufficient at such an early age.

This woman’s story made me very sad. And the worst part is that she was comparing her family to mine! Of course I don’t know how Jayda’s and my story will “end,” but I’d like to think there are a few important differences that will assure my family of a happier ending than my ill-fated gym friend’s. First of all, though Jayda and I may appear to be “buddies” at the gym, we’re not. I’m Jayda’s mother—and I’m in charge. As difficult as it is to do sometimes, I do make rules and set limits. A single friend of mine recently told me, jokingly, that it was a good thing she wasn’t a mother because “any child of hers would be obese!” She was referring to the fact that she’d never be able to say “no” to candy at the supermarket—and would likely give her son or daughter anything he or she asked for when it came to junk food. I laughed…and then I told her she had a point. It is very difficult to say “no” to Jayda when her big blue eyes are fixed longingly on a bag of M&Ms at the check out counter of CVS. Or to hold my ground as that same adorable girl protests, “but I a good girl, mommy!” after I refuse to let her eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. But mommies are supposed to keep their kids healthy…and they’re supposed to set limits. And they’re also supposed to let their kids know that the mommies are the decision-makers—not the kids. Jayda’s “buddy” might let her stay up as late as she wants to at night; I most certainly won’t. In fact, I’m a stickler about Jayda’s bedtime. And though she’ll throw a tantrum now and then—or even shout “I don’t like you, mommy” in a fit of unhappiness—Jayda knows I take care of her—and I always will. And that’s the most important thing in the world to both of us.

Another difference between me and my gym friend is in our concept of teaching our children independence. An independent person doesn’t have to be a disconnected one. Just because I’m teaching Jayda how to take care of herself doesn’t mean I’m training her to never consult me about anything. Hopefully she can follow in my footsteps in that sense: In college, I was independent enough to travel to Australia to study for a semester…but I still “needed” to check in with my parents on the phone at least once a week for support, advice, or even just to share a good story. And now, I’m a mother, myself, raising my own daughter, but I still “need” my own mommy sometimes for help with a problem. Just because I know how to take care of myself doesn’t mean I have to do everything alone. That’s the kind of independence I think every woman should exhibit….and the kind I’m hoping to foster in my own daughter.

Similarly, I think an important part of being able to take care of oneself is knowing how to take care of others. And I’m raising my daughter to do just that. It’s another thing that I hope will keep our relationship thriving until I’m old and gray: Jayda and I take care of each other. Of course as the mother, I’m in charge of the big issues and responsibilities, but there are plenty of ways that Jayda can help take care of me…and she does. For instance, just the other evening, I asked my daughter if she was tired and she said, “No, mommy. Are you?” When I admitted I was “a little tired,” she instructed me to lay my head in her lap and “rest for a wittle while.” She even covered me with one of her baby’s blankets while she sang “Rock-a-Bye Baby” to me and stroked my hair (though I declined the binky she offered). It was a precious moment and I savored it for as long as I could. Then I got up and made us a healthy dinner—with a few M&Ms for dessert.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Your Child's Mind; Getting to Know It, Getting to Know All About it -- by Dr. Mel Levine

Raising a young child is a bit like owning an appliance that didn’t come with an owner’s manual. That makes it hard to know what it can do and how to work it! In a sense, every child has a somewhat different owner’s (i.e., parenting) manual. That’s because each young brain comes wired differently. Over time, a growing mind keeps on transmitting signals to let you know all about its unique wiring. But is anybody picking up those signals?

Every child and adult brain houses what we call a neurodevelopmental profile, a kind of balance sheet of current strengths and weaknesses in functions needed for learning, behavior, social interaction, and output or productivity. Profiles can change over time (a phenomenon called neuroplasticity) especially during childhood and the teenage years. Eight major areas of function comprise this vital and too easily misunderstood profile:

Attention – A mind’s ability to stay focused long enough, to filter out distractions, to think about likely results before doing or saying something (previewing), to sleep well at night and remain alert enough through the school day, and to engage in planning and good judgment.

Sequencing – The capacity to absorb, retain and produce material arranged in a particular order (such as multiple-step directions, steps in a math problem, spelling words) as well as the management of time (being on time, meeting deadlines, and undertaking tasks in stages or steps).

Spatial Thinking – An awareness of relationships and characteristics of things in the outside world, including 3-dimensionality, relative size, position, shape, symmetry, and movement, all needed for thinking with images, for math, science, art, building and repair, plus many sports.

Language – Effective verbal communication, both the understanding of words, sentences and passages and verbal output (orally and in writing) - in addition to the ability to use language for thinking, remembering and communicating well with other people.

Memory – Adequate storage and recall of information and skills either in the short run (short-term memory) or more permanently (long-term memory) as well as the capacity to keep several things in mind at once while using them (active working memory).

Neuromotor Function – Operation and coordination of groups of muscles necessary for playing sports (gross motor), doing art work or repairing things (mainly fine motor), and writing (graphomotor).

Social Thinking – Behaviors, language, and insights needed to form and maintain good relationships with others (especially peers), taking in friendship and reputation management.

Higher Thinking – Sophisticated thought processes enabling a child to form concepts, solve problems systematically, use good reasoning; also includes creativity, brainstorming ability, and evaluative (critical) thinking.

Every task a child undertakes and every skill he strives to master require the coming together of a cluster of brain functions drawn from these eight areas. These functions are put to the test throughout the school day. Meanwhile, one hugely important question never ceases to emerge: How well does this child’s neurodevelopmental profile match up with current demands or expectations? For some kids the match seems to be a perfect match. In other cases a child is victimized by a mis-matching of his current profile to school’s demands. Fortunately, a profile that fails to work well at one age or in one educational setting may be ideally suited for another classroom or, eventually, for a particular career! Some people are far better wired for adulthood than they were for childhood! Consequently, there are times when we should not do anything to try to modify the wiring of a kid, feeling confident he or she has what it takes to succeed in the future or under different conditions. There are countless struggling kids who will make awesome adults. The challenge is to get them there – unwounded and unscarred, shielded from excessive criticism and public embarrassment.

Parents should strive to uncover the neurodevelopmental profiles of their children. If and when a child starts to have a hard time in one or more aspects of school, a parent is in an excellent position to pinpoint what may be lacking. “Is Michael having trouble in school because he seems to show a short term memory weakness?” “Could Beth be struggling in History because she does not process language fast enough?” “Is Eva not grasping math as a result of her weak attention for details?” “Could it be Alan’s graphomotor dysfunction that makes him despise writing?” A parent should never assume that the school will detect such breakdowns or dysfunctions impeding performance. No one cares as much and has as much exposure to a child as does a mother and/or a father. But parents need to have the background knowledge to make sound observations of function and act upon these appropriately.

Parents should become aware of their child’s strengths and weaknesses, even if that kid is an adequate performer in school. As the curriculum advances, a child may begin having trouble in secondary school or even college. Knowing her relative weak spots can help prepare for this possibility and deal with the setback if and when it takes place.

It is especially important to “diagnose” the outstanding strengths of a child’s mind. For one thing, those assets have powerful implications when it comes to selecting a college and, more importantly, a career. If a kid shows superb spatial thinking, she or he might orient future planning toward fields like engineering, art, technology, or architectural design. A child with terrific verbal abilities but weak fine motor function may want to consider becoming a psychiatrist, an internist or a pediatrician rather than a thoracic surgeon!

The following are some parenting tips regarding the understanding and care of a child’s neurodevelopmental profile:

1. Parents should become familiar with the eight areas of neurodevelopmental function and some of the roles they play in learning and behavior. They should consider the ways in which life at home can influence the development of these critical areas either positively or to their detriment.

2. Mothers and fathers should have at least a general sense of their child’s evolving profile. Our website includes an online inventory that parents complete in order to derive a description of the apparent mind strengths and weaknesses of their sons and daughters. The profile is used further to develop a Success Plan for each child. If a student is having significant problems in school, further clinical assessment may be warranted.

3. Sometimes weaknesses should be accepted with no attempt to overcome them. For example, not every kid has to be an athlete, a very popular figure in the school, or a deft watercolorist. But in certain instances weaknesses are worth trying to fix. For example, a language deficiency must be addressed, since verbal abilities are critical to success in school as well as in most careers. Sometimes a dysfunction should be bypassed. For instance, a kid harboring a graphomotor problem with resulting illegible handwriting can be allowed to write reports or take quizzes on his laptop.

4. It is essential that parents make a concerted effort to strengthen a child’s strengths. In the long run, the strengthening of strengths will have a greater payoff than the patching up of weaknesses! Family activities, afterschool lessons of various sorts, and focused learning should be geared to building on individual assets. Nothing is more important.

5. Once a parent acquires a good handle on a child’s neurodevelopmental profile, this understanding should be shared with that son or daughter. We call this process demystification. A child needs the words to think about and talk about his kind of mind. Kids with school difficulties especially crave and require this insight. The better they understand themselves, the less likely they are to lose their motivation, think of themselves as pervasively defective (i.e., “stupid”), and/or develop serious behavioral complications.

6. Parents have to be sensitive and responsive when a child lives with a sibling who significantly outperforms him in school. They have to find activities or pursuits tailored to the strengths and affinities of the kid who is less of a star in the classroom or on the playing fields. That child needs help establishing his own unique pathways and sources of self-esteem.

7. Children generally know that their parents love them. However, most wonder if their parents respect them. A child has to overhear a mother or a father boasting about him to friends and relatives. Kids are at serious risk when they come to feel that they are a disappointment to their parents. Watching a child’s mind grow and become what it ought to become is one of the greatest pleasures of parenthood. Getting to know that mind and helping it thrive in its own authentic manner makes the parenting experience even more gratifying - and vital.

Dr. Mel Levine is a pediatrician and the author of numerous books and articles on learning and brain development during childhood and adolescence. He is the CEO of Bringing Up Minds, a web-based program ( enabling parents to understand their children’s minds while keeping up with the latest scientific and practical knowledge geared toward helping them experience success.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Breaking Point -- by Robin

What a week this has been.

A true sandwich generation experience in every sense of the word....both positive and challenging.....which I guess is the essence of this time in my life.

Don't get me wrong. I am immensely grateful on some levels to be here. I adore my son and love my senior dad. I treasure my time with both of them. And, I fully recognize that moments can be fleeting, so I strive to take it all in. But, at the same time, it can wear one out. Especially a 40 something peri-menopausal mom.

Seth had school break this week, and my 91 year old dad went in for an angiogram. And, I, myself, have this lingering cold and went on antibiotic....since I had a bout with pneumonia back in November.

Other than one scheduled playdate for Seth, we've pretty much been winging our plans each day. I've taken him to the gym with me and discovered that we can have a good time throwing the 4 lb. medicine ball to each other. He's actually quite strong and agile, and I love that he loves to exercise and strive for good health. Yesterday, we spent a record three hours at the gym, and he didn't want to leave. Part of that time was spent with him perched on one of the Nautilus machines he designated as a fire truck, as he proceeded to save me and others at the gym from pretend fires. His imagination never ceases to intrigue me.

Last night for dinner, we baked a surprisingly good homemade pizza from scratch.

And, we've done food shopping and other errands, including putting the finishing touches on his upcoming 7th birthday parties in class and at Progressive Gymnastics East.

While all this was underway this week, my dad stayed overnight at the hospital, and his cardiologist called me while I was at the gym, as I endeavored to stay as calm as I could...when really I was anything but. My dad years ago had triple bypass and at a later date had stents put in. Now it seems that more stents are in order and that he will have to return to the hospital for the procedure. The cardiologist is being extra cautious, given his age, and wants to carefully review the films of his last angiogram three years ago before potentially moving forward. I respect this, though I hate to see my dad have to go back to the hospital again.

I was near tears last night when Seth decided to draw a book that showed grandpa in the hospital. He's a child who feels deeply. He always has.

I spoke to my dad upon his return home, and he sounded worn. A night in the hospital can do that to you, but he's also been through a lot in life in general. And, sometimes I think he feels it's enough when his body fails him in ways he's never experienced. Aging isn't easy. I wouldn't say he's lost his will to live, but he does feel he lacks a quality life. He's frustrated on a daily basis, and it's a hard thing to hear. I want better for him.

A mom I know said to me this week that she's realizing more and more the need not to put off things. She just helped hire an aide for her in-laws and sees them having physical challenges they never used to.

My husband's best friend's wife lost her 80 something mother a month ago, and earlier this week, her brother in his late 50s unexpectedly passed away. Life can be fragile. I'm receiving that message from the universe loud 'n clear.

I've just begun to read Devotion, a new book by Dani Shapiro, and from the book jacket copy alone, I can so relate to the essence of her motivation to write this memoir. It says...."In her midforties and settled into the responsibilities and routines of adulthood, Dani Shapiro found herself with more questions than answers. Was this all life was -- a hodgepodge of errands, dinner dates, e-mails, meetings, to-do lists? What did it all mean?"

I do know that I need a little break before I reach my breaking point. In April, the next school vacation, I may go away with Seth. Marc, my husband, can't take time off then due to tax season. So, it would be my first time just with Seth away from home. It would be fun to go visit a close friend. I could use some quality gal pal time, laughs, heartfelt in-person chats, and a change of atmosphere.

I pray that my dad's potential stent procedure won't be during that period.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow Days -- by Cara

When I was a little girl, I can remember dancing with joy when the radio announced that our school district would be closed due to a snow storm! My first chore was always to help my Dad shovel the driveway. But once that was cleared, I was allowed to play out in the snow to my heart’s content!

We lived 3 houses away from a golf course, so many children in the area would gather their sleds and in my case, a toboggan, and set off to go sledding down the hills of this exciting “snow course!” Even as an only child, I had a blast, and would often run into other classmates who lived close by! What wonderful memories!

Other times, I would make a snow man and decorate him with one of my old hats, a scarf, and mittens! My mother would provide me with a carrot for a nose and black buttons for eyes, nose and mouth! Cars would actually slow down to observe my work in progress! I adored playing in the snow! And my mother always had a warm mug of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows waiting for me once my excursions in the snow were done for the day! Ahh, the days of childhood!

Now, thirty-five plus years later, I’m not as fond of being outside in the cold as I used to. My son does, though, which is to be expected of a six year old boy! With every significant snow storm (in this case, another East Coast blizzard!), my son can’t wait to get outside to make snowmen!! And because it does bring back those fond memories of my youth, I usually get bundled up with my son, and we set out to make our snowman! The snow this blizzard brought happened to bring perfect snowman making snow - a little wet, but still fluffy!

To my amazement, my son made quite a magnificent base for this snowman! I then showed him how to roll a snowball in the fresh snow to make a medium size middle for the snowman and then a smaller size for the head! But instead of the usual hat, scarf and mittens, my son wanted his snowman to be “cool”. He named the snowman, “Snommie,” and put a bandana, sunglasses, and a cool scarf on “Snommie.” I guess snowmen have come a long way since I was a child!
Then he found two large branches for arms and used small rocks for “Snowmmie’s” mouth. My creative child proved his creativeness!!

As for the sledding, my husband took my son to a local park with hills to sled down the next day in his 4-wheel drive vehicle. Because I had my fill of snow and cold, I didn’t join them for the sledding fun. But I did make myself a large mug of delicious hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. Just the way my mother used to make it! It almost made me want to run outside and make “snow angels!”

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Missing Men -- by Jamie

When I first considered becoming a single mother by choice, all the books and materials I read warned me about the importance of surrounding my future child with positive male role models. I figured that wouldn’t be such a difficult task, as I knew my generous, loving father would be greatly involved in the upbringing of my child, and I also had a handful of other terrific males in my life whom I could count on. For instance, I’d been assured that my sister's husband would be a strong presence in my child’s life, as he was a bit wary about my decision to raise a child without a father figure, and told my sister that he’d make sure my daughter always had him to lean on. I also had several good male friends whom I knew I could always rely upon, and assumed they would continue to be involved in my life after my baby was born.

When Jayda arrived, my father stepped in, as I'd predicted, and became a doting grandfather and the perfect male role model any mother could want for her child. And it wasn’t as if I could ignore the idea of having men in my child’s life even if I wanted to; from the start, my daughter appeared to adore men wherever we went. As a baby, she'd coo at the busboys when we went to the diner, and bat her eyelashes at our pediatrician during her check ups. When she started her gymnastics class at 18 months, she almost immediately threw herself into the lap of our attractive male instructor. And because of that early love affair, I made a great effort to keep Jayda involved in the gymnastics program, semester after semester after semester—partly because it was a great class, but more importantly because I wanted Jayda to have a weekly connection with a charismatic male teacher who aimed to improve her confidence. But when I mentioned this to one of my married friends—who had lost her own father at a young age—she laughed at me, and told me to relax and not try so hard. She said her own mother had made absolutely no effort to surround her with any positive male role models after her father had passed away, and she'd turned out fine...and you know what? She's right. She’s a strong, successful, well-adjusted woman—and a great mom, herself.

As it turns out, Jayda's uncle, who'd pledged his early devotion to her...well, he's never around. Yes, he does love Jayda in his own way, but physically, he’s more devoted to his job and his friends and his own life, and barely manages to see Jayda more than five times a year. And my once-cherished male friends? I barely speak to them anymore, myself—let alone rely on them for teaching Jayda about what good men should say or do to a woman.

I've always prided myself on having male friends. Just friends. True...maybe sometimes there was a flirty dynamic between me and a few of those guys, but in the grand scheme of things, we really were JUST friends. However, lately, I've felt let down by just about all of them. And it's not that I expected them to all be there for Jayda (though, that would have been nice)...I just expected them to always be there for me. Because while it's nice for a woman to have her girl friends—and good gal pals are certainly irreplaceable—male friends have their significance, too. Especially for strong, independent women—who, let’s face it, are the type of women who generally become SMCs. Because while I often acted a little tough around my guy friends, I was also able to let my guard down and be a little girlie-girl when necessary. And best of all, my guy friends were great about helping me with things. Fixing stuff for me. Giving me advice about things a woman like me knows nothing about: Car engines, mutual funds, hard drives, and a zillion other random-but-important issues and objects. And they did so in ways that are different than when a girl friend helps me out. I’m not saying I’m good at playing the part of a damsel in distress (far from it!), but sometimes a woman needs to have a guy take care of her…even if it’s just a guy friend. And I miss that. But most of all, I simply miss my guy friends.

But I guess not every man wants to hang out with a single mom. And, of course, it’s true, many of my former male friends and I don’t have all that much in common any more. Some of them used to love swapping dating stories with me—and since I’m not the serial dater I used to be, my stories aren’t as plentiful or exciting as they once were. Another former male friend used to drag me to see bands with him every week; I rarely have the time (or the babysitter) to do that, these days. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a show every now and then…if he’d actually ever invite me now! But what disappoints me more than missing the guys, themselves, is that these guys are missing out on the best thing that’s ever happened to me—Jayda. Oddly enough, instead of me needing these men as “good male role models” for my daughter—who I believe is thriving and doing just fine without them, thank you very much!—I feel like they’re the ones missing out on something. They’re missing out on the warm, witty, amazing daughter I’ve been blessed with…and the remarkable mother I’ve blossomed into because of her. And that’s a shame.

As Jayda’s mother, I can see a lot of myself in my daughter. And, similarly, we both like men a lot: We often turn our heads to take a second look at them, find many of them attractive and charming, and we certainly like to flirt with them. We know there are some good ones out there, and, unfortunately, some not-so-good ones. And all I can do is continue to encourage Jayda to become a strong, confident, intelligent woman—and hope she’ll make the right choices in the men she befriends. But as for “surrounding her with positive male role models,” I’m not going to force the issue. Jayda has plenty of people around her who love her—and it doesn’t matter whether they’re women or men—as long as she can count on them. And she can always count on me. That’s enough.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Banish Common Parenting Myths - by Elizabeth Pantley, author The No-Cry Discipline Solution

As if it isn't challenging enough to raise children, most parents believe myths that make them feel confused and inadequate. These horrible myths can spoil the joy of raising your children. You may have never realized how intensely these beliefs affect you, but they do. After you identify the myths that color your daily life, learn the truth about each one. By acknowledging that these myths exist in your life, you take the first step towards eliminating them. Learning the truth will erase your doubts and leave you open to learning effective new ways of raising your children. Here are a few of the most common parenting myths:

MYTH: If a parent is truly attached and committed to a child, then that child will behave properly.

TRUTH: You could be totally committed to your child from the moment of birth. You could do absolutely everything right. In fact, you could be a magnificent, spectacular, utterly faultless saint, and your child would still misbehave. The truth is: ALL children misbehave. ALL children make mistakes. ALL children will have temper tantrums, whine and fuss. It’s part of the process of growing up.

REALITY CHECK: Love your child, and do the best you can. And don’t let normal misbehavior wear down your confidence. Give yourself and your child enough room to be human.

MYTH: If you love your child, and if your intentions are good, parenting will come naturally to you.

TRUTH: Loving your child is easy. Raising your child is hard. Effective parenting skills are learned. Parenting is complicated, intense, and ever-changing. In order to be a calm, effective, parent you need knowledge and skills, but almost no one is born with these skills.

REALITY CHECK: Just like driving a car, mastering a computer program, or becoming skilled at any sport or hobby – good parenting is something we need to learn. You can learn by trial-and-error – but that can be wildly frustrating. Instead, take a class, read a book, join a support group – you’ll be amazed to find that a few good tips can make your life much easier.

MYTH: You should read baby books and take a baby care class when you are a new parent, after that you’ll figure out how to raise your child on your own - through experience.

TRUTH: Taking care of a baby is our first step in the journey of parenthood. Just when we feel confident with our skills for raising babies, we turn around to find many of the things that we’ve learned do not apply to a walking, talking toddler. We adjust our approach, only to find that disrupted when our toddler turns into a preschooler, and again when he becomes a grade-schooler, and again when he enters the teen years . . . and yet again when our child graduates and moves on to college or adult life.

REALITY CHECK: We actually have a brand new parenting job each time our child passes from one milestone to another in his life. Just like any other undertaking, the more knowledge you have at each step of the way, the more confident you will feel and the easier your job will be, and the better your life-long relationship with your child.

MYTH: If parents are a perfectly matched couple, and they have a strong relationship, then they will agree about how to raise their children.

TRUTH: It’s very common for two parents, even those who are perfectly matched and in a happy relationship, to disagree about child-rearing approaches. Some may disagree about baby care issues, yet others will be perfectly in sync during the baby years and then find they are at odds when their child becomes school age or enters the teen years.

The way that we approach child-rearing is influenced by our own past experiences – both the things we choose to do, and the things we try to avoid. It is nearly impossible for two people to be in perfect agreement on every parenting decision.

REALITY CHECK: Even when we agree on basic fundamental parenting theory, we might slightly disagree on approach. Even if we agree on approach, our differing personalities guarantee that we won’t always handle things in exactly the same way. Good communication and ongoing discussion can help any couple to find agreement on important issues as they raise their children.

MYTH: Good parents don’t lose their patience and yell at their children.

TRUTH: Even the most peaceful easy-going parent loses patience and yells from time to time. No matter how much we love our children, they will try our patience, they will make mistakes, and they will make us mad. All children have their “naughty” moments. And, guess what? When children are “naughty”--- parents lose their patience and they YELL.

REALITY CHECK: It’s normal to lose your cool and yell at your children, but it isn’t fun and it isn’t productive. Take the time to learn a few new anger management skills and some parenting tools. These will help those angry moments become less intense and less frequent.

Take some time to think about these and other myths, theories, ideals and expectations that you have believed. Ponder where these beliefs originated, and why you believe them to be truth. Then contemplate what you learning about the truth of the matter. When you analyze myths and replace them with your own truth, it can help you to approach parenting in a more honest, uncluttered and enjoyable way.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill 2007) by Elizabeth Pantley

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Dear Motherhood Later -- by Robin

I receive quite a number of letters from Later Moms who hear about and reach out to me via email. I have decided to periodically share select letters, with the permission of the moms. Some truly touch my heart, and I feel might resonate with others who became a mom at 35+.

This is a letter I received earlier this week...and my response to it will be at the end......and if you would like to respond as well, I invite you to post a comment to the blog.


Do you have any information for women over the age of 45 that have had babies? I am having a problem finding anyone to talk with. Everyone my age is a grandparent and don't really want to spend time with me because of having my son who is now 15 months old. Talking with the younger crowd doesn't help me out either.... Let me tell you about myself.

My name is Susan Homan. I am a mother of two sons. I have been married for almost 27 years. My first son is 24, married with a 3 year old and one the way... Yes I am a Grandmother! I am a Fire Inspector and Arson Investigator and work a fifty-six hour work week with one night over staying at the fire station, this has been this way for almost 20 years. Then, at the age of 46, I found myself pregnant with my second son... Yes, twenty-three years apart. All my friends said we were crazy for having another child. My husband and I had talked about it very hard and said that if all the tests came back normal and there was nothing wrong, we would have him. Everything worked out as well as it could, and we have a healthy normal little boy, Chase.

The problems that I have been having are not finding anyone to talk to who has some sort of the same situation. My friends don't call any more because they don't want to deal with my son when going to a dinner or luncheons or even a small get together. And the younger crowds don't want a grandmother hanging around their groups.

Let me tell you, it is very hard trying to find a friend when you are a grandmother and a mother. Not many people want to even deal with you. It has been kind of lonely, but trying to deal with it is all I can do.

I was just wondering if there was any one else out there that is in the same situation? Can you direct me to any outlet if there is one?

Thanks for reading,
Susan Homan
Age 47
Son: Ryan 24
Son: Chase 15 months
Married: 26 years
Live in San Diego, CA

Dear Susan -

I applaud you for standing by your convictions and doing what felt right for your family. Chase is a blessing!

I have come to believe that sometimes certain friends will come 'n go in our lives as we transition. It can be hurtful when that happens. I totally understand and can relate. But, it also opens the door for new people to enter.

It is for this very reason that I launched Motherhood Later...Than Sooner. It's a wonderful way for women like yourself to connect, and I hope that you'll join some of our online communities and have a chance to chat with other later moms.

I have to believe that there are women like you in the same mom/grandmom boat.

Perhaps you'd like to consider helping to launch a San Diego chapter of Motherhood Later?

If there are any San Diego moms or grandmom/moms reading this blog, please do drop a comment with your email, so Susan may connect with you.

Warm regards,

PS -- If you're in NY, your child might enjoy The Little Gym of Port Washington. Enter to win a Free Birthday Bash. Winners selected February 22nd and notified by email. Visit --

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Conscience Talking -- by Cara

My blog today is somewhat of an addendum to Robin’s blog from last Friday. In summary (for those who may have missed it), Robin had guests over her house, including a slightly younger boy of one of her friends. Not only did Robin’s son and her friend’s little boy run amok, they locked the adults in Robin’s newly finished basement...twice! Then the lock had to be removed from the door.

Robin posed a question to all of us Moms: When does your child realize right from wrong and if they know they are doing something wrong, when and how do you teach them to do what is right?

I decided to bring this up in today’s blog because shortly after I read Robin’s blog, I was in the kitchen with my son, making dinner, and my son was watching one of those Disney shows geared more towards the teenage crowd. But what caught both of our attention was that one of the “cool” characters evidently did not do something very nice to one of his friends, so the “cool” character’s “nerdy” friend took upon the role of “cool kid’s” conscience.

Because this was the theme of the show, and the word “conscience” was used very frequently, my son asked, “Mommy? What IS conscience?” This was a perfect opportunity to at least instill a grain of what Robin was looking to do with her own son. I waited until a commercial came on, turned the television off, and sat down with my son to try to explain what “conscience” was. I asked, “Have you ever been on the playground or playing with friends and all of a sudden one kid starts calling another kid names?” And he nodded yes. So I continued, “And I’m sure it made you feel confused inside because you didn’t want to be the only one NOT calling the kid names.” And he nodded his head. But because I know what a good person you are, when you actually did call the kid names, it didn’t make you feel very good about I right?” And he said, “Yes.” So I explained, that is what “conscience” is. When you do or say something that you know deep down inside isn’t right. But sometimes you end up doing it anyway so that you don’t get picked on either. You end up feeling not so good about yourself. That’s what conscience is...realizing what is good and not good and trying to choose to do what is good because it will make you feel much prouder inside! You will know you chose the right thing to do! And there will be times when you know you should do the right thing, but the feeling to choose the wrong thing will be so strong that you will have a hard time NOT doing it. Then you will not feel good and proud inside. That feeling is called guilt. And guilt helps us to make the right choice the next time even though we made a wrong choice this time.”

Because in the show, the “nerdy” friend was portrayed as the “cool kid’s” conscience, my son asked, “So I have to pick a friend to be my conscience?” And I smiled and said, “No honey, the TV show is using friends as a way to show the “cool kid” how he really should be behaving. Can you see how the “cool kid” is having a hard time trying to decide if he should do the right thing or not? His “conscience” friend is really a friend we all have in our our heads. Conscience is not outside you, it is inside you and it helps to make you think about what you do before you do it. It helps you decide to do what is good so that it makes you feel good.” My son seemed to at least grasp that conscience was something in your head that controlled “good” and “bad” behavior.

Now, do I think that most of this explanation will have blown by my son like the wind? Of course. But he was asking appropriate questions, so SOME of my dissertation must have stuck with him. And he will remember at least a fraction of our conversation of “right versus wrong.” And knowing my son, out of the blue, he will remember bits and pieces of our conversation and will want me to explain again. And I will be more than willing to do so. I opened up a dialog that I hope will be ongoing. I’m certain that my son will at least REMEMBER that we had SOME kind of conversation when he is faced with a right versus wrong situation. And I would hope that he would come to me and share what happened to discuss whether he chose the correct behavior. And if he is too wracked with guilt over something he did that he REALLY regrets, I hope he comes to me so that I can explain to him that he is feeling very guilty, very sorry about what he did, and also discuss how we can make the situation right again. And that maybe next time, he should be listening a little more closely to his “conscience”.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Worried Sick -- by Jamie

Lately, all of Jayda’s dolls have been throwing up. The other night, as Jayda was munching on a snack bag of animal crackers, she asked me if Big Baby (her favorite doll) could have one of her cookies. “Sure,” I said, and proudly praised her for sharing her snack. Just moments later, Jayda shrieked, “Big Baby is throwing up!” I then had to stop everything I was doing to help Jayda climb up on a step stool so she could hold Big Baby over the kitchen sink, just as I had held my daughter several weeks before, when Jayda had suffered from the stomach flu and couldn’t make it into the bathroom in time. While Jayda was ill, I also showed her how to throw up into the toilet, and now she sometimes takes her dolls to the bathroom and takes care of them while they “get sick” there. Other times, she lets a doll lie on the couch with her and tells me it’s ok if her baby throws up on her legs, as Jayda did on mine once, when she was in the throes of her sickness.

Jayda is a doting mom to her babies, and I like to think she tries to imitate me. The last, and only other time Jayda had a stomach bug, was when she was an infant, and fortunately, she has no memory of those horrible few days. So I guess her recent discomfort—and my subsequent care of her—has left quite an impression on my daughter. However, I’m getting a bit tired of this puking phase—especially when Jayda uses it as a means of manipulating me. Now, whenever she wants to get my attention, she tells me she’s going to throw up—or, simply, that her belly hurts. Of course I initially play along…rub her tummy, dote on my daughter, and then, I cleverly remind her that junk food is likely to give her a stomach ache, and that if she really has one, she’s going to have to abstain from any treats. Usually, that instantly cures her.

But all of this belly aching makes me wonder: Why does Jayda obsess over some things, and not others? Why have the symptoms of a 24-hour stomach bug carried over into her daily life, while other not-so-wonderful experiences are immediately forgotten? I’m simply amazed by what Jayda chooses to remember…and what she forgets. Before Jayda came down with the stomach flu, we had plans to meet a friend in the city to see “Pinkalicious: The Musical”—a silly, kid-friendly play based on Jayda’s absolute favorite picture book. Jayda was immensely excited about the prospect of seeing the play—and about seeing her friend, too. But once Jayda’s sickness subsided, and I began quietly obsessing over how to explain to Jayda that she was too weak to go to the city, and that we’d have to miss the show, she never even mentioned “Pinkalicious.” It’s been weeks, and Jayda has still never asked about the tickets. It’s like the show never existed.

Maybe it’s a child’s right to have selective memory—just as Jayda seems to have selective hearing when I admonish her for things she’s not supposed to be doing—but it sure makes this mom a bit batty. It seems I’m always worrying about how traumatized Jayda will be by some events that ultimately never seem to even bother her. Like my return to school, for instance. While in theory, it hasn’t changed Jayda’s life much yet (she gets dropped off at day care a bit earlier two days a week—and that’s all), I can’t help but worry what kind of a toll it will take on her in the future, even though the commute, the extra work, and the stress are all mine with which to deal right now. A few times last week when Jayda asked about my day and I told her “I went to school,” she actually got a bit combative and countered, “I go to school, too!” It made me wonder if she thinks she has to compete with me now. I assured her that while we both do go to school now, her school is just as—if not more—important than mine. But of course I wondered if my assurances were enough. Then, the other day, Jayda continued a similar conversation with, “Why you go to school, mommy?” I responded, “I need to make more money for us,” and she countered, combatively, again, “I make us money!” as she grabbed me and two of her dolls in a big embrace. So maybe, yet again, I’m worrying for no reason. In her sweet toddler way, Jayda’s just trying to be a doting mom—and that’s behavior I can definitely learn to stomach.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Sex and the Tired New Parents -- by Sherry Amatenstein, author, The Complete Marriage Counselor

Parenthood is a game changer for couples on the intimacy front, especially when they've spent years along together. Distancing patterns can set in soon after the birth. The husband feels left out, a third wheel, while the wife's primary emotion concerning her spouse is irritation at his lack of understanding for what she's experiencing. The dissonance is an underground burr, with both parties becoming more and more estranged. It's essential for couples to summon the energy to bring fresh eyes to the deadlocked situation. Putting aside an evening to reminise about the past and recall amorous nights and romantic holidays can be a springboard to creating a blueprint to carve out "alone time" on on ongoing basis.

Family life and mind-bending sex are not easily compatible. After years on your own timetable, suddenly you can't attack each other with abandon in every room of the house. Additionally, parents should guard against becoming too inhibited to role model for their children what a health sexual partnership can look like. This isn't about recommending blatant shows of affection in front of the children, but you want the young'uns to have role models for passion and parenting.

Couples must make a real effort to remain enthuiastic sex partners lest they devolve into being co-parents and nothing more. This means doing things that don't involve the children - anything from enagaging in volunteer work to enrolling in dance classes. And learn new sex tricks together - buy videos and toys, read erotica together (more Anais Nin than Penthouse), have a night of prolonged foreplay. These tricks do necessitate having a lock on the bedroom door!
Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW, is a couples therapist at Washington Square Institute in New York City and author of THE COMPLETE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR: Relationship-Saving Advice from America's Top 50 + Couples Therapists (Adams, Jan. 2010). Her website is

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Playdate Peer Pressue -- by Robin

When does peer pressure start to influence your child?

We had a playdate this past weekend, and I was somewhat stunned at the behavior of my son. His friend came over, and he's a bit younger than Seth, and a very active boy. Seth is too, but at times, it felt like this boy topped him.

The plan was to play in our newly refurbished basement. And, his parents came too. We're all good friends, so it was a good opportunity for everyone to socialize. And, we were excited to showcase our basement and to be able to share it, since the whole construction process was quite the ordeal (if you read my previous blog).

From the moment the boy arrived, things felt a bit wild in the house. They wound up running up 'n down the stairs, playing in Seth's room, the hall, in the basement...all over the house. I had baked a quiche, and was serving lunch in the basement for my friends, and had made mac 'n cheese for the boys. Certainly, we knew in all their excitement of being together, shooting Nerf guns, etc., that taking a lunch break was no where on their minds. That was okay. But, what transpired was not okay in my book.

As they rain upstairs, they deliberately pushed the sliding lock on the basement door (outside the door), and locked the three adults in the basement. We could not get out. It was very unsettling. We banged on the door and yelled and yelled, and finally they let us out. And, then 10 minutes later, they did it again, despite our scolding them.

This time I had enough, and my friend asked for a screwdriver removed the lock from the door, and I took the two boys in the kitchen, sat them down to eat their now cold lunch, and we had a discussion about behavior, safety, etc.

I told Seth there would be punishment for his behavior, and that mommy and daddy would discuss it and let him know what it is. My friends said that it wasn't Seth's fault. That their son was involved as well, but that didn't make it any better for me. Seth didn't stop it.

What arose for me with this experience is of great concern. Seth is six...soon to be seven....and at what age do kids just go along with other kids, even if they know their behavior isn't ideal? And, actually downright dangerous.

I said to my husband that Seth needs to learn a big lesson from this. But, is it possible at his young age? Is it too much to expect a six year old to grasp that he doesn't have to go along with the crowd, or even just one other child?

And, what happens as he gets older? Today, it's locking a basement door. They'll be countless other influences and influencers who come into his life as he matures. Will he be discerning enough to resist? Will he emerge a leader vs. a follower?

How can you as parent instill in your child an innate sense of what is right and wrong? Is it possible?

We can't be by his side 24-7, especially as he spends more and more time with friends, and less with mommy & daddy, so he will need to reach conclusions on his own.

I do want to set in place an understanding of values that he can apply to help guide him through life in a positive way.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have older children, and how have you dealt with this matter? If you have younger children, is it something you think about? Please do share....I welcome stories and advice.

PS -- Be sure to sign up for our free monthly newsletter at The February giveaway is courtesy of Lisa Leonard Designs, makes of something unique custom jewelry & more, enjoyed by celebrities and others.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Boy and His Dogs -- by Cara

My son loves animals. All animals. Well, except for spiders. But I can’t blame him for that. He especially loves our two dogs. He bonded with our female, Lama, instantly, as she did him, from the day we brought my son home from the hospital for the very first time. And no matter the age, Lama was by his side, almost vying to take care of him. We were told by trainers that even though she is spayed, her maternal instinct could possibly kick in. And boy, did it ever! She treated him just as she would her own puppy and let him do anything...and I do mean ANYTHING to her! When we were teaching him how to brush his teeth, he had to use his own toothbrushes to brush hers (we eventually bought each of them their own!). He would ride her, roll on her, stack cups on her ears, pull her whiskers (“I’m counting them,” he would say). Still, she let him do whatever he wanted to do to her...and still does. Except that now she is close to 15. And is in as excellent health as a 15 year old dog could be! But she sleeps a lot. And she is slowing down. And what a 6 year old boy needs, is a more playful dog. Enter our male dog, Max.

Max was my “baby” 5 years before Brandon came along. Although highly trained and deciplined, Max resented all of the time I had to spend with Brandon when he was young. So poor Max would go off by himself whenever I was busy with baby Brandon. And I tried to give as much attention and affection as I could to Max. But still, it was nowhere near the attachment we had before Brandon was born.

Years went by. Max remained aloof towards Brandon as Brandon grew. But Brandon would try to interact with Max. Max just wasn’t interested. Until now.

I think Brandon realizes that although Lama is spry when she wants to be, she can’t be treated the way Brandon used to treat her. We constantly remind him that he is too big to ride her or put all of his body weight on her. We remind him that she is sleeping and to try to let her rest. You can tell, he wants his dog who had more vigor back.

Now the dynamics are changing. Max has realized that Brandon is staying for good. And although he is not a young dog himself at 11 years old, he has much more pep to him than Lama. So Brandon is again trying to befriend Max and I am happy to see that Max is reciprocating! I am teaching Brandon how to have Max give him his paw on request. I am also showing Brandon through hand signals how to have Max sit, wait or lie down. Brandon thinks he is performing magic! Max just wants to get a treat! But the most important thing is that they are bonding. Bonding in a way I really never thought would ever happen due to Max’s adoration of me. But our relationships are changing. Max goes onto Brandon’s bed to make a “nest,” which Brandon loves. Then Brandon carefully covers him and gives him a stuffed animal to sleep with. I am so proud of both my “boys!”

A rough-and-tumble boy like Brandon needs a rough-and-tumble dog! And although Max is too old to do tricks like he used to or go to agility races, he has enough “spunk” left in him to give Brandon the “boy-dog” interaction Brandon craves! And Brandon is learning not only how to play with Max, he is also learning to be more compassionate to his real “love,” Lama. He still pets her, but more gently. He wants to help feed her. He makes sure she has a blanket and a stuffed animal to sleep with, too. It is sweet to watch him take care of her the way she took care of him. And it is rewarding to know that Brandon still has a “playmate” with Max. I wish both dogs were a bit younger, but I am grateful that both dogs are in terrific health for both their ages! Especially for a boy and his dogs!

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, to Me... -- by Jamie

It’s my birthday today. Or, as I like to call it every year, the start of my “birthday month.” I love my birthday, and this year, as I launch a new decade, it seems like more of a reason to celebrate than ever. Weeks ago, as this milestone day was approaching, and Jayda became involved in the party planning and discussions of all the festivities, she asked me, “Are you going to be 2-1/2?” I answered, “No,” and with resounding enthusiasm, informed her, “I’m going to be FORTY!” “Wow!” she responded. But since she can only count up to 20, she really has no idea of the magnitude of this birthday. I have, however, raised her to understand how important birthdays are, in general, thanks to my own upbringing. My parents always made (and continue to make!) a huge fuss over me on my birthday, and I do the same for Jayda. My daughter knows that a birthday equals tons of attention—and is intended to be a perfect day filled with presents, fun activities, and cupcakes, of course (or, in a worse-case scenario, a sheet cake with tons of gooey icing).

When I was a child, on the night before my birthday, after I’d gone to bed, my parents would hang a string of balloons outside our house, from the front door to a tree several feet away, “announcing” my birthday to the whole neighborhood; they did this for my siblings—and for themselves, too—as it was (and still is!) a Levine-family tradition. Every year, when I woke up on the morning of my birthday, I’d look outside my window and see the balloons, and smile. It’s amazing how happy and hopeful those balloons could make a person feel—even a 40 year old.

For children, birthdays are often all about parties, presents, and treats—and who can blame them? Personally, I fondly remember going to ToysRUs with my mother and picking out all kinds of toys for myself as an annual birthday tradition. I also remember my deliciously messy make-your-own sundae parties, Carvel ice cream cakes, candy-filled piñatas, and staying-awake-all-night-long slumber parties with a houseful of giggling girl friends.

But as an adult, birthdays take on new meaning. Some people choose to ignore their birthdays; I like to embrace them. On one level, I think it’s important to acknowledge—and celebrate—having lived another year. And while it’s true this has been an unusually challenging year for me—full of plenty of ups and downs—I do still have so much to be grateful for—namely, my daughter, Jayda. It would have been heartbreaking for me to reach the age of 40 without having become a mother, and I’m so thankful I made the choices I made, and was able to have a child on my own, almost three years ago.

On a more selfish level, I simply love the idea of having one day (or one month?) out of the year that’s focused on celebrating me! Because let’s face it: I like the attention. I don’t need presents. I don’t need expensive dinners out. It’s not about money being spent on me…but really the thought that counts. I simply enjoy having people calling me, sending me cards, and wishing me “Happy Birthday!” Of course, this year, I did want a slightly bigger deal: I wanted my friends and family to “really” celebrate with me. Which is why I decided to have a party. Fortunately, my incredibly generous parents helped me organize it, and I had wonderful friends who were able to eat, drink, and be merry with me. It was a great way to kick off my birthday, which I hope will be filled with all the phone calls, emails, and attention I crave—from loved ones around the country, and the globe. I just want people to remember me—and to continue to celebrate with me—as I turn 40, and beyond. That’s all this birthday girl really needs. Because birthdays—like life—should be filled with loving friends and family, happiness, a little sugar, and a few nice surprises along the way.

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