Monday, May 31, 2010

When It Pays to Kvetch - by Jamie

“Kvetch” comes from the Yiddish word kvetshn, which means, literally, to squeeze, or press. When spoken in English, it can be used as a verb: “To complain persistently and whiningly,” or as a noun: “A chronic, whining complainer.” We use it both ways in my house: “Jayda! Stop kvetching!” and “Jayda! Don’t be such a kvetch.”

I’m a big klutz, and it’s not surprising that my daughter has inherited some of my clumsy tendencies. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t bump her head on a table or scrape her knee from a minor fall, or even accidentally bite her tongue or her very own finger. Rarely are her “accidents” anything to worry about, but if you were to listen to Jayda, you’d think they were all quite dire. “Mommy…I hurt my finger,” she’ll announce after lightly banging her pointer on a toy. If I dare to only glance at it quickly, she’ll continue loudly “It really, really hurts.” “You’ll be ok, Jayda,” I may reassure her. And then the kvetching will really kick in: “Mommy…it really, really hurts! I need a band-aid. I really need a band-aid. I need it now!!!” Left to her own devices, Jayda’s entire body would be covered with band-aids, so sometimes I have to refuse. But too much kvetching can convince me to relent just so I can get some peace and quiet. Lately, I’ve been considering buying band-aids by the case.

Hunger can also cause Jayda to kvetch; however, most of the time her “hunger” is just for cookies. “Mommy…I’m really, really hungry,” she’ll whine first thing in the morning. Then she’ll shake her head at the cereal, fruit, yogurt, and toast I might offer her. “I want dat” she’ll finally announce—and point at a box of cookies, or leftover cake from the night before. When I refuse, she turns into a full-fledged kvetch: “But I really, really want it. And I’m really, really hungry. Please, Mommy. Puleeeease!” Generally I hold firm on the “no cookies for breakfast” rule, but I do give in to her “I’m really, really hungry” kvetching sometimes at night (when I know she’s using it as a stalling tactic so she doesn’t have to go to bed). Kvetching can be quite powerful.

Jayda the kvetch also refuses to get into our car on a hot day, and I’m forced to put the key in the ignition, turn on the A/C, and stand outside with her for awhile until the car cools off. She also kvetches every single morning after she gulps down a full sippy cup of warm milk, which is her favorite. “Mommy…my belly hurts! I want to sit on your lap. Can you rub my belly?” I’ll admonish her: “This happens every day, Jayda! You need to slow down and sip your milk! You drink it too fast!” But then I’ll sweep her onto my lap and indulge her. So, generally, her kvetching pays off.

Like her mommy, Jayda knows kvetching equals getting attention; and it’s nice to get noticed—even if you sometimes irritate people along the way. I just finished up my first semester at school for speech language pathology and I constantly moaned and groaned about how much work I had, or how nervous I was before every test. I did it on Facebook—and I kvetched to my parents and friends in person, too. And they gave me sympathy—which was just what I needed—as well as the confidence that I would do great. And guess what? I got three A’s—and possibly an A+ (I’m still waiting for my final grades). I’m a kvetch—but a smart kvetch. And so is my daughter. With three more years of school ahead of me, there will be lots more kvetching from me to tolerate. But what goes around, comes around…I’m sure I’ll be indulging “Jayda the kvetch” for the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day (ode to my marriage) - by Cyma

Memorial Day usually means parades and barbeques, a chance to have ‘family time,’ the beginning of summer. On this weekend 14 years ago, I got married – a lifetime ago if we count all the experiences, life changes and myriad of adjustments that have taken place. During that time, I also turned 50.

I routinely use this weekend to assess my marriage. There were several years where I was just plain unhappy; one or two when I was in neutral; a few where I was in lust and still more where I was enraged.

I remember an old friend commenting that she no longer exchanges anniversary cards or presents. She also does not wear her wedding ring. I have never not exchanged gifts; however, last year, I went several weeks without wearing my ring. The incident was intended to convey a strong message and to test the waters -- to see how it would feel, and how others would feel about me. It felt equally liberating and sad. I eventually put my ring back on – a testament to my husband’s commitment to regroup and get help. I have not taken it off, since.

I have never understood the ins and outs of relationships. For me, I was either ‘in’ or ‘out.’ I think that marriage allows you many options – to stay ‘in’ while being ‘out;’ to stay ‘out’ while being ‘in;’ to think about being ‘out’ while being ‘in.’ You know what I mean. The list of options goes on and on.

I got married because I decided I would. I decided that this would be the last personal ad I would write, the last boyfriend I would date. I decided on that first blind date that I would marry him. I found out later that he decided the same. Just before I got married, I had a brief moment of realization that I would never kiss anyone else again. I was panic-stricken. It was fleeting.

Growing up watching my parents, I had a very hard act to follow – they are definitely soul mates. My husband and I are not. For a long time, I felt very sad about it. I can’t say that I’ve ever given up longing for this, but I can say that I’m more comfortable, now, not having it.

In recent months, I sense an ease between us: an almost second coming. I feel like we’re on a new plane with new rules and regulations. I think we like each other again; we’re working on the love part. I wish it came easier. But, we came into this with our own deep emotional issues and more than enough baggage. It’s taken all this time to even land in neutral; to not be fired up with every discussion or chaotic incident which had befallen us. Now, I feel a sense of hope, of renewal, of strength. I also feel a sense of purpose, of acceptance, and even of love.

At this stage in life/marriage, many people choose to go their separate ways. I think that this has taught me that it is also possible to regroup and come together again in a better, more solid way. I wasn’t used to the nuances. Remember, either ‘in’ or ‘out.’

I don’t think that I’ll think as much about my marriage this Memorial Day. This is a testament to our recently reaffirmed bond and commitment. However, I do think I will, as I always do, memorialize the day and the year. Happy Anniversary, dear.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Organizing Kids - by Ana Homayoun, author, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed...

Last week, after a book signing for my recently released book “That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life,” a mother approached me to lament about how even though she thought that she had tried everything her son was on the verge of failing the eighth grade

After speaking with this mother for a few minutes, it became clear that it wasn’t just her son’s struggle to be organized that was the problem. Every time I would say something positive and encouraging, she would become negative. When I made a suggestion, she batted it down as though it wouldn’t work, even though she had yet to try it. Though this mother clearly was well-intentioned (she was giving up part of her Thursday evening to hear me speak and buy my book!) her own attitude and approach clearly made it impossible for her and her son to move forward.

Between all the activities parents have to juggle – jobs, finances, home life, kid’s school, sports and activities – parents don’t always readily realize that the message they send through their actions – both verbal and non-verbal – have an enormous impact on their child’s ability to become encouraged to make long-term changes towards personal and academic success.

Through my work with families, it is abundantly clear that parental attitude and approach are some of the main factors of long-term student success – here are few quick tips:

Make a Fresh Start and Let Go of Past Mistakes – In my book, I give the example of the a boss who no matter what you seem to do, reminds you of past mistakes, short-comings or your general failing to measure up. Most adults would long to find another job FAST, and don’t realize that they inadvertently treat their kids the same way. In my work, I always talk about the win-win – that is, how getting better organized will make the student’s life easier so he or she can spend more time doing whatever it is they enjoy – and that this process is all about THEM. For most pre-teens and teenagers, that can be a powerfully motivating message.

Let Your Child Take Ownership of his Successes and Mistakes – Over my years of work, I see that the most successful parent/child dynamics are those where the parent allows the child to develop their own skills and react to their own challenges. Some weeks and months might be smoother than others, but the overall trend is that over time, these kids develop into reliable, competent and hardworking young people.

Remain Calm and Re-Group as Necessary – When I give talks to parents and educators, I often get nervous laughter when I exclaim how “No child sits up late at night strategizing how they can stress you out by forgetting their homework on the printer!” As with everything, learning is a process, and kids will struggle as they learn new techniques. Structuring a weekly re-group time in your home, where kids can go through their backpack, clean out any crumpled papers, update their planner and start the week off in a great way is probably one of the best long-term changes parents can make.

I encourage you to look at this upcoming week or weekend as a time to start fresh, re-group and help your child on his or her own path to success!

Ana Homayoun is the author of THAT CRUMPLED PAPER WAS DUE LAST WEEK: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life. She is also the Founder and Director of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, an educational consulting firm that encourages junior high and high school students to create their own framework for academic and personal success. A graduate of Duke University, Homayoun also holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of San Francisco. She lives in Northern California. Visit

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Organization - by Robin

I couldn't believe my eyes.  I had to choke back tears...happy tears.  Tears of shock and disbelief.

This past weekend, Seth took it upon himself to organize his room. This was a first.  A BIG one. And, it came with no prompting whatsoever from me or his father.

Out of nowhere, he proudly announced that he was going to go through his drawers and started neatly folding clothes.  And, I mean shockingly neatly.  For more than 10 seconds he stayed on task.  He was focused and highly motivated.

What possessed him?

Was his 7 year old body invaded by a body snatcher?

I was completed taken aback.  My little guy is growing up, I thought.  And, fast.  He's taking charge of his possessions.  At least some of them.

While I was tempted to watch him, I stayed away, for fear of turning him off to the endeavor.  Didn't want to become mommy supervisor and suggest in any way that I was thrilled.  Didn't want him to change his mind  and wind up leaving piles of shirts, shoes, socks, etc. for me to sort through.

As it turned out, he didn't do a thorough job....not that I expected he would.  But, it was a great effort.  So, the next day, I took over.  A couple of socks are still missing their mate.  And, the unzipped leg from a pair of pants that converts into shorts is missing.  I imagine it will turn up one day when I'm not looking for it.  But, in the scheme of things, it's not what's missing that counts. It's the mere fact that Seth even thought that organizing is a good thing and something he could initiate. I'd love him to bottle that desire.

Now, if he would only take the same approach with the many bins of toys he has...containing little pieces of G-d knows what. And, if he could take stock of his sunglasses, so I'm not constantly replacing them.   But, a proud mom can only hope for so much.

I recognize that organizing is a process, and one that I personally find challenging. So, Seth's behavior was inspiring to me on various level.

This was a gigantic step in a positive direction.  I'm not holding my breath at the moment for many more days like least not at his age....but one can dream.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birthday Flow by Liimu

I forgot it was Thursday. So much has happened since I last posted - first and foremost, I TURNED 40!!! So, perhaps as your gift to me, you can cut me a little slack on the post-birthday post. :)

I had a wonderful day on my birthday, which was Saturday. As I get older, it becomes less about what I get for my birthday and more about who I'm with. Because of this, I decided to have a big bash at my house, basically opening the door to my friends who could show and celebrate the day with me. I also got asked to do a gig, which normally I wouldn't do on my birthday, but it was for the How to Save a Life Foundation, which benefits drug and alcohol awareness, and what better way to celebrate all the things with which I've been blessed thanks to a life in recovery but to sing about it at a festival benefiting recovery?? And to make things even better, it was at 2 pm, so my children and some of my friends were able to be there.

We finished up about an hour before the party was about to start, and so I didn't even have time to get plates, let alone cook. People began trickling in just after five, and with the exception of a couple people, no one even balked at the fact that there were no burgers, dogs or cheesesteaks set out for them. We all just dealt with the fact that dinner would be fruit salad, cookies and chips that night. And everyone still stayed till close to 10 pm. It was wonderful to see friends I hadn't seen for awhile, and I was so happy to be doing exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday, with exactly the people with whom I wanted most to be doing it.

In flow. That's what 2010 is all about for me. Being in Flow. So, here's the post, coming exactly when it was supposed to. Hope you enjoyed it.

See you next week!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I’m Gonna Get Away - by Cara

May 28, 2010. Memorial Day Weekend. My fifteenth wedding anniversary. And I’m going away.

This used to be the most exciting day and weekend of my life! For years after I got married, I would chidingly say to my husband, “Let’s get married this weekend!” even though we already were.

I woke up from a sound sleep at 2 am a couple months ago, and I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t bear to be in my home, sobbing and grieving over the loss of my marriage on that weekend. Even the thought of seeing my husband, however brief, had me already crying. So I picked up my laptop and started investigating package deals.

I knew where I wanted to go. I knew EXACTLY where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas! I had been there for the day, a couple times before, when cruises I took made a stop in the Bahamas for the day.

I instantly loved the Atlantis! It is big enough to be anonymous, yet small enough to easily get to know your way around. There are so many things to do, from swimming with dolphins to relaxing under a palm tree to rock climbing! I plan to seek out how many kid friendly things there are to do there because I’d like to take my son there the week before school starts! He had been there once and loved it so much that when he saw a commercial for it he asked, “Mommy? Didn’t we go there?” I told him that we did and he replied, “I knew it!! Let’s go again!!” I didn’t promise him we would go, but I am going to get as much information as I can for possibly a short stay at the end of the summer. He is so enamored with the Atlantis, that he wants a couple Lego sets based on this Resort. I bought him two Atlantis Lego sets. I will be giving him one before I leave. The other will be a “present” for when I return, 4 days later.

When I told my husband that I would be going away, he had an odd reaction of relief and joy. Relief because I suppose he won’t have to acknowledge the uncomfortableness of the weekend. And joy because he has dozens of activities already planned for him to do with our son.

I will be bringing my laptop to Skype with my son each day. I am also bringing a book called, “The Happiness Project,” which has gotten very good reviews. I think it’s time I embark on my own Happiness Project. And even if all I do is sit under a palm tree, reading this book, I will be content.

Being completely off of the continent will bring a nice respite for the tremendous stress I have been going through, each and every day. It will be nice to clear my head among such beautiful surroundings. And with a little hope, I will be enjoying myself so much that I will completely forget that it is Memorial Day weekend. And even more importantly, forget about a certain date. May 28, 2010.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Argument by Laura

Yesterday I participated in a new talk show that’s coming to CBS. They have a segment called “Viewer vs. Viewer,” and as a mother who gave birth at the age of 44, I was pitted against a woman in California named Diane who believed it was selfish, risky, and dangerous to have children over the age of 40. We had a healthy debate, and I am sure my stance is correct because choosing to have children is a very personal, very private decision that belongs only to a woman and her partner.

But the thing is -- Diane in California is right. But only on two counts. It is risky and dangerous to conceive at an older age, and we’re more likely to have complications with everything from the baby’s health to our health. My doctor specialized in multiples and women over 40, and she always told me we had to look at the picture through three lenses: my health, the babies’ health, and the health of the pregnancy. Fortunately, I was healthy and the babies were healthy, but my pregnancy was a worst-case scenario. I had a previa, a hematoma, and an abruption, all of which lead to an emergency C-section at 32 weeks, and ten days later I had a hemorrhage that landed me in the ICU.

Having babies at my age with my issues was risky. And it was dangerous. And I wouldn’t change a thing. And in truth, the only person who suffered was my husband who after my procedure had to ask the doctor if he was going to become a single father. I was knocked out through the whole ordeal, so I was not traumatized in the least. In fact, it was nice to be able to spend another two nights in the hospital so I could be close to my boys who were just one floor down in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU.)

But Diane in California is wrong, wrong, wrong on one account. Having babies at 40 is not selfish. Her point was that they wouldn’t know their grandparents and to that I say, "I didn’t have a grandmother growing up." She died giving birth to my father and his twin. And I turned out just fine. I found substitutes. And eventually my grandfather married a wonderful woman who was a great grandmother to me. Both of them lived well into their 90s, so I was in my 30s when they passed.

My opponent also mentioned that 40-year old women didn’t have the energy to keep up with the kids, so we cut corners. Au contraire, Diane in California. Even with three hours of sleep a night, I am wide-awake for this time in my life. And because I waited to do this, I have the resources to give these kids everything they need and more. I have a huge circle of friends who are aunts and uncles to these boys. And because I am older, I am more patient and wiser, and what I see from this is two little boys who are happy, delightful, confident, secure and curious about their world.

I wouldn’t change a thing. Bring on the risk. The danger. And I will be selfish only with my time. That goes to the little guys I gambled on. Gambled and hit the jackpot.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Adorable...and Devious?--by Jamie

My daughter is really beautiful—and she’s quite smart, too. With her blonde, bouncy curls and her long-lashed blue eyes, she generally gets people’s attention—and is clever enough to know how to use her good looks and charm to her advantage. And she’s only three years old! For example, there’s a gruff, middle-aged man at my gym who turns to mush whenever Jayda joins me on the weekends for my workouts; he literally stops his bench pressing to run over to her and say “hi”—and often brings small gifts for my daughter, too. Jayda makes a point of seeking him out as soon as we enter the gym...and last weekend, she was smart enough to mention that her birthday was coming up. You guessed it—this weekend, he had a package of silly bands for her, as well as a coloring book and crayons.

Like most three-year-old girls, my daughter is also a drama queen. She’s mastered her “Shirley Temple pouty face,” and uses it when she’s not getting her way; she also knows how to turn on the waterworks when things seem truly dire. In jest, my friends have often remarked how Jayda is going to be “such a handful” when she’s older...or that I “have my work cut out for me.” They might be right. But I can’t worry about that now. Especially since my daughter is also sweet, affectionate, and generally, a really great kid. However, there is one thing I do wonder about, and that’s how Jayda’s “creative storytelling” is going serve her in her tween and teen years...and if at some point, I’ll have to start labeling it “lying.”

A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing, and I like to think I foster Jayda’s creativity tremendously. But lately, when she’s telling me a story, I never know what to believe. There have been times when Jayda has asked for cookies after day care and I’ve refused her, reminding her that she’s just had a snack at school; she’ll counter my comment with claims that they didn’t serve anything that day (which I know can’t be true) and offer a detailed description of the day’s crazy schedule that resulted in no time for a snack—even going so far as to mention a music teacher coming in on an unscheduled day, or an activity which I know didn’t occur. She also consistently denies ever getting any treats from me whenever my mother’s around, so she’s always able to snag some extra candy from her doting grandma who believes her mistruths. My clever child.

The stories get more elaborate when it comes to Jayda’s friends. There’s one little girl, who, depending on what day it is, either is or isn’t Jayda’s friend. According to Jayda, this girl is the one who, on a regular basis, announces they’re no longer friends (after they’ve bickered about something or had issues about sharing), but according to this girl’s mom, her daughter adores Jayda. Jayda told me not to invite this girl to her birthday party, and then days later said, “Oh, she can come!” when I pressed her (only to change her mind about it the next day, so we never invited her). Days after the party, Jayda announced that she was going to this girl’s house soon, and even re-named one of her dolls after this girl’s baby sister. I just listened and smiled, and the very next day, when I asked about her, Jayda remarked how she wasn’t nice to Jayda and had gotten a time-out that day for her behavior. True, or not true? I’m inclined to believe my daughter...but these days, I’m really not sure.

Sometimes I know Jayda’s trying to manipulate me with her tales...but other times, her storytelling just baffles me. The other night, we were lying in bed discussing our plans for the next day, and Jayda said, “let’s go to the store near the bagel store.” I asked “What store?” and she replied “the one where we went to get my Dora lamp fixed.” Huh? “What Dora lamp?” I queried. She said “the one in the family room.” When I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, she remarked “It’s in the garage now, I think.” Then I pressed her about this “store,” trying to jog my memory. Where exactly is it? And do they just fix lamps...or do anything else? Jayda tried to describe it, but her rambling just confused me more, so I told her she’d have to show me the lamp—and the store—in the morning. The next morning, as we were getting dressed, Jayda blurted out “I don’t have a Dora lamp, Mommy,” and then bounded down the stairs to breakfast. What was the point of that?

All of this is trivial, I know. But the “stories” my troubled 19-year-old niece sometimes delivers aren’t. She can be manipulative and devious, and some of her explanations for her absences at important events or uses of her money are creative cover-ups for pretty horrible behavior. And I guess I wonder how and when the line is crossed between creating inventive stories and spewing out downright lies. How does that happen? And when do you call a kid on it? I don’t have the answers...and I’m not sure I ever will. I guess I can only hope that my own good morals and honest actions will rub off on my kid. And while I’m still enjoying my daughter’s creative yarns, and sometimes even chuckling over them, I know I’ll always have to keep my eyes and ears open. My smart, beautiful daughter should always get what she wants...but only if it’s good for her.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Consignment Sale - by Cyma

Last weekend, my husband and I spent two days preparing items to take to my old neighbor’s bi-annual consignment sale. This is not your usual consignment sale; this is the mother of consignment sales. My neighbor prepares for months, delegating tasks, advertising and marketing this well-known event. We prepare for months, by adding old things to our now old-familiar consignment sale paper bags. These bags are hidden in closets and tucked away awaiting final examination. The items are then transferred to well-marked boxes and transported to the Event.

From the end of one sale, in the Spring, to the other sale, in the Winter, nearly every week is spent assessing the viability of too-small clothes, no longer used toys and ‘gently used’ accessories. I must confess that every stain that appears on my children’s clothing, every rip I find represents lost dollars and a futile attempt to make good on something now seemingly bad. I’ve spent countless hours spraying and respraying stain remover on grass, blood and crayon in the hope that I can recycle that one piece at the tag sale. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

For us, the days leading up to the sale are a ritual, and one that takes on the tone of the High Holidays – this is when we get to assess; reassess; atone for past mistakes (i.e. items needlessly torn or broken during fun times, or during a fit of rage); and attempt to make better. We get to say goodbye to things no longer needed, items which came with memories, and items which have a story of their own. And of course, I, especially, feel the familiar sadness that comes with knowing that the clock can’t be turned back; that you, and your children can’t recapture time gone by. While they continue to race toward the finish line – “when I get older…………..,” I can’t wait until I get older……………..” -- and seem to delight in adding their no longer needed items to the pile, I keep holding on to the past, reluctantly parting with all of this, knowing full well that the finish line never looks the same when you are standing at the starting gate.

The act of preparing for this Event takes on a life of its own: we separate the clothing from the toys; tag all items on the right side of each piece with the gold and silver safety pins we receive with our participant package; and list each corresponding item on the inventory sheet, being careful to disclose the type, size, wearer’s gender and, of course, the price. Nearly always, the price becomes a bone of contention between us – should we reduce it to nothing just to get rid of it, should we charge fair market value to recoup our original investment? Should we just get rid of things that are no longer useful by selling them, or should we donate them to much needier people? Ultimately, does any of this matter at all?

Once tagged, our items must be placed in boxes labeled with our name and participant number. This year, I sent in my prerequisite deposit money many, many weeks ago. I was sure I was the first to do so. I wanted the coveted #1 spot. I have been #3 and #5 during years when I raced to her house to give her our deposit. This year, I wanted the prize before the event. Our neighbor granted us our wish and secured our place firmly in (what I consider to be) the top spot. I was so excited that I bought #1 Award tags and affixed them to all our boxes. I made sure to show her that she made my day.

This time I had 68 items; actually 64 a few days ago, but the straggler pieces – things that I just stumbled on throughout the house -- were added and added until finally we brought the boxes to her. Yesterday, I found something else to sell, but yesterday was too late. That item was placed in the new paper bag, awaiting the next sale this Winter.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Secrets of a Jewish Mother - by Jill Zarin, Lisa Wexler and Gloria Kamen

Don’t Take the Credit; Don’t Take the Blame (Chapter 9, Parenting)

(From Secrets of a Jewish Mother by Jill Zarin, Lisa Wexler, and Gloria Kamen. Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) 2010.)

Our society blames parents for their children’s transgressions and praises them for their children’s accomplishments. We’d rather take less blame and less credit. We can all see that there are great parents who have lousy kids and there are horrid parents who end up with wonderful children. For every neglected child who grows up to win a Nobel Prize, there are children from privileged and protected homes whose adulthood is spent in isolation and misery.

Also, two kids who grow up in the same house with the same parents more often than not have completely different perspectives on their childhood. Even as you read this book, you will find Jill saying to Lisa, “Did we grow up in the same house?” Yes. And no.

If you are not yet a parent, you should know that kids are born the way they are born. Relax. You can’t control much of anything, and you probably can’t change that much either, especially when it comes to their temperament. If they are willful and stubborn as toddlers, they will probably stay that way. You can influence the books your kids read and the television shows they watch, and try to set the best example humanly possible, but if they start running with the wrong crowd, you are in trouble. Peers exert a greater influence than you do, and you won’t even know it until your children are all grown up and confide in you all the things you missed along the way. Do not fret about this—you are not supposed to know everything. Your child’s journey into adulthood is meant to contain secrets from you.

You are probably thinking, then why read this chapter at all? If the whole thing is a crapshoot anyway, then why bother following anyone’s advice? Just because you probably can’t change the outcome of a situation, are you then supposed to abandon the struggle? Absolutely not! If there is one thing the Jewish mother believes, it is that despite the outcome, the battle must be fought.

Obviously, some things make a huge difference in a child’s well-being—
showing love, giving plenty of attention and setting a good example. So do your best; don’t shirk your responsibilities. But if you have done your best, don’t flog yourself if the child you raised didn’t grow up to be the adult you envisioned. The universe plays funny tricks on all of us. We are meant to learn lessons from every significant relationship. If your relationship with your child or parent is less than wonderful, examine your behavior. If you can look at yourself and absolve yourself of blame, then absolve yourself of guilt. If not, then fix what is fixable before it’s too late. People don’t live forever.

ask yourself

1. Why did you decide to have kids?
2. So far, is parenting kids what you expected it to be?
3. Who is your best parental role model? Do you seek his or her advice? As often as you should?
4. Who is more responsible for your child’s good grades in school, you or your child? Why?
5. In what ways has your child’s nature been the same since birth?
6. In what ways has your child’s nature changed since birth? Do you think the changes are due to your interventions?
7. Do you blame your parents for your own worst attributes? Is that fair?
8. What behaviors in your child do you think your parenting could affect?

About the Authors:
Jill Zarin is one of The Real Housewives of New York City on television.
Lisa Wexler, her sister, is the award-winning host of the daily radio program The Lisa Wexler Show.
Gloria Kamen, their mother, was the surprise hit of Real Housewives season two. She writes the "Ask Gloria" column on BravoTV.

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Friday, May 21, 2010


I have been a fan of multi-talented, two-time Tony-Award nominee, actress/playwright Claudia Shear, from back in the days of her tour de force shows Blowing Sideways Through Life and Dirty Blonde.

It's been quite some time since then, and I was excited when I heard she had written and was starring in a new Off-Broadway play Restoration, directed by Christopher Ashley.

As an ardent fan of Italy, as well, the combination of Claudia and a play focusing around Michelangelo's The David immediately caught my attention.

Shear plays the lead role of Giulia, a teacher and art restorer from Brooklyn who is presented with the chance of a “refresh” Michelangelo's sculpture David in time for its 500th birthday celebration in Florence. Giulia's career had taken a step backwards in recent years due to controversy related to a previous restoration project. When her old teacher Professor Williams (Alan Mandell) encourages her to apply for the position in Italy, she goes for it, gets hired, and spends a year working on the glorious sculpture's every body part, nook 'n crany, as she fantasizes about his perfection and tunes out most of the outside world, other than Max (Jonathan Cake), a hunky, Italian married father and security guard, who spends nearly 24-7 in the company of the David.

Both have issues, whether with relationships, loneliness, aging, physical attractiveness, etc.  While very different people, each "guarded" in their own way, they form a close friendship that ultimately frees them a bit of the ties that bind. 

Though there are some laughs, and tender, if not painful, moments, like when Shear opens her blouse to rub chest to chest with The David, the play lacks a real emotional pull.  It is achingly clear how alone Giulia is, both physically, and with her thoughts and desires and jealousy of beautiful women, such as Daphne (Tina Benko), a press person promoting the restoration project . However, after the first 10 minutes, you readily "get" the kind of person Giulia is, and it's challenging to be in her crusty presence for the duration of the show. You feel the painstakingness of  the restoration process, but as the months flash by on the screen on stage, I found myself looking at my watch.  And, without an intermission...and nearly 2 hours long....Restoration overstayed its welcome.

Ably acted, kudos goes to the cast including Tina Benko, Jonathan Cake, Alan Mandell, and Natalia Nogulich.

Scott Pask's simple yet effective scenic design was striking: an obelisk featuring various body parts of the statue and a scaffold of stairs and platforms, but it grew tired after a while. 

Claudia Shear and Christopher Ashley first met and worked together in the legendary NYTW production of Shear’s OBIE Award-winning solo performance piece Blown Sideways Through Life. Directed by Ashley, Blown Sideways played an extended New York run and was later filmed for PBS’s “American Playhouse.” Shear triumphantly returned to NYTW with Dirty Blonde, a comic exploration of the life of Mae West, directed by James Lapine, for which she won a Theatre World Award, as well as Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Play and Best Actress. Christopher Ashley’s directing credits include Xanadu, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical, and The Rocky Horror Show for which he received nominations for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical.

Restoration plays through June 13th, at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery. The regular performance schedule is Tuesday at 7:00pm, Wednesday through Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. There will be a special student matinee on Wednesday, May 26 at 1pm. Tickets are $65 and may be purchased online at, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by phoning Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200. For exact dates and times of performance, visit

Maintaining its commitment to making theatre accessible to all theatergoers, NYTW continues its CheapTix Sundays program in which all tickets for all Sunday evening performances at 7:00pm will cost $20. Tickets may be purchased in advance, payable in cash only, and are available in person only at the NYTW Box Office. And for all performances, student tickets cost $20, based on availability, and can be purchased in advance from the NYTW Box Office with valid student identification. The NYTW Box Office is open 1:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

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Money! by Robin

The oddest thing happened this past weekend.

My senior dad was staying with us since his live-in aide went home.

It began with Friday night.

Seth had a baseball game, and Marc took him.  My dad and I went to the diner for dinner.  Nearly done with the meal, he suddenly realized he couldn't find his car keys, and it turned into a frantic search. We turned the booth upside down.  looked on the floor. In the bathroom.  You name it.  They were not to be found.

We then turned my car inside out, and still no trace.

Back home, we searched my garage, driveway, etc.  No keys.

I drove back to the diner while my dad once again searched inside and alerted the entire staff (and probably some diners) to his dilimena.  I was left circling the parking lot as I waited, since there was no place to park.  The valet guys probably thought I was crazy.

Upset and frustrated, we returned home.  Suddenly, it occurred to me to ask my dad if he had a hole in his pocket.  I suggested he shake his pant leg to see if we heard any jangling.  Sure enough, that's exactly what had happened.   They keys had fallen through to his lining, and they were floating around by his ankle.

Mystery solved. 

It showed me that my dad is capable of misplacing something. I realize we all are, but I always found him to be very buttoned-up and detail-minded.  But, perhaps with age, this is a newfound development.  Although certainly it could happen to anyone.

Fast forward to Saturday night.  Seth comes to Marc and I to share that he found a 100 dollar bill under his bed. 

My initial response was disbelief.  Can I see it? I asked.  He didn't want to show it to me, but then he did.  I couldn't imagine where this came from.  Marc and I thought perhaps our cleaning woman had dropped it, though I knew she never cleaned with her waller or pocketbook nearby.  So, that didn't make sense.

Fast forward to Monday.  My dad went into his wallet to pay me for some groceries I had purchased for him. He said he couldn't find a 100 bill he had in his wallet.

Oh my G-d, I thought.  Is that the 100 dollars Seth had found?  How exactly did he get it?

I told my dad that Seth had a 100 bill, and we couldn't understand where he had gotten it from. I took it from Seth's wallet and gave it to him.

My dad swore he didn't drop it from his wallet.  That he hadn't gone into his wallet except to take out a credit card, which is in another section.

Did this mean then that Seth invaded my dad's wallet and took out the 100 dollars?  And, why would he do that?

I was beside myself.

I was out for most of Monday when this surfaced, so Marc broached it with Seth Monday night.  It was a hard, yet delicate discussion.  Marc wasn't quite sure how to handle it at first.  He asked his mom for her opinion.  And even consulted his brother who has three sons.  Ultimately, he used the opportunity to share a very important lesson with Seth.  How you should return something that isn't yours, if you're able.  And, that certainly, you should never take money, without permission, from another person.

Seth said he didn't take it from my father's wallet.  And, we didn't want to accuse him of it with no proof.

So, for now, we believe him, though underneath it all, I have to admit, I'm not quite sure what to think.

I believe my dad when he says he didn't drop it.

And, I've never before seen Seth take money.  Of course there's always a first.   But, he'd have to know  that's not something you should do.  Wouldn't he?  We try hard to instill in him a sense of responsibility. But, he is 7.  Maybe he's testing his limits?

I'm sad either way.  I don't want to think of my dad as becoming careless in his old age.  And, I don't want to think of Seth as untrustworthy.

I hope at least that Seth took away an important life lesson from it.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Flow - by Liimu

On Tuesday, I was very proud of myself for remembering to post my blog, and it was all about what I have learned from being in Italy about being in the Flow of life, as opposed to my very To Do List heavy life I live back in the States.

Of course, then I found out that my blog post day is Thursday and so only those of you who happened to be up and reading Motherhood Later at 4 am on Tuesday morning got to read it.

I wasn't going to post today, because we are now rushing around in the throes of pre-boarding mania - packing, showering, checking under the bed for the iPod charger, trying to make it to one last free breakfast buffet, etc.

But I thought it was fitting that rather than waxing poetic on how wonderful my life will be now that I can bring home the spirit of Italia and living in the flow all the time, I can actually see that there is a time and a place for both being in flow and living within structured guidelines.

Last night, on my husband's birthday, we walked for about nine hours looking for the perfect place for us to have dinner and celebrate our last night in Italy and my husband's birthday. We had several people recommend places in a fairly far-off region called Trastevere. Though we had enjoyed the most wonderful meal of our lives just the night before at a restaurant called Osteria Della Vite, on a tiny side street by the same name, we made the trek across the bridge to try to find the restaurant. As we walked into the town, we were both just not feeling the vibe at all and decided at the last minute to turn around and try to find "our" restaurant in "our Rome." (I did find the perfect tank top, though, for two euros less than what it cost across the bridge.)

We walked around for another hour, getting more and more discouraged that we would ever find our place, unable to ask for directions because neither of us speaks Italian. Finally, with just the flow to guide us, we found "our" restaurant and had yet another meal that made my eyes roll back in my head. It was the structure of knowing that we loved our restaurant, combined with our faith that the flow of life would lead us to it that led to the perfect ending to the perfect Italian vacation.

In the same way, I guess I hope to be able to continue to live my life with just enough structure to make me feel like I'm steering the boat, but just enough flow to remind me that I'm not the one making the waves.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First Grade Algebra - by Cara

I may be dating myself, but I distinctly remember learning Algebra in the ninth grade. I had a VERY good but VERY strict woman teacher who explained the concepts so well, I think I received 100% on every test! And I don’t give myself the credit, because math is not my strong suit! This particular teacher was excellent! And I will never forget how wonderful she made me feel inside through being so successful in her class because she translated the concepts into such simple language! I had wished she taught every subject in high school!

Fast-forward 32 years later. I am sitting down with my already burnt out son, trying to figure out what in the world the teacher wants us to do with the algebraic equations on this piece of paper! And, of course, all of the problems are verbal, so not only do you have to understand what is written (which my son has problems with to begin with), but also you then have to take this verbal information and translate it into numeric equations! In first grade!!

Not only did I have to send my whining son away to take a break so that I could focus on the math problems at hand, I went into my husband’s office to show him this sheet of nonsense to see if HE could figure it out! And unlike me, he did NOT do well in algebra!!

So my question is, what is going on here? I’ve asked my son’s teacher why a first grader needs to know algebra and her response was that the fourth and fifth grade teachers are getting flack from administration because the children in these grades are not doing as well on the standardized tests. If math concepts are filtered down earlier through the grades, by fourth and fifth grade, children should be showing improvements on the standardized tests.

What all of this boils down to is rank order. School systems are becoming so competitive that first graders are now being pushed to do algebra so that by fifth grade these children do so well, that the school is ranked higher against other schools.

This is all beauracracy!! My son is made to believe that he is “dumb” because he can’t spit out algebraic equations on the tip of his tongue! He has to come home from a long day at school and practically cry because some school administrator feels it is necessary to “filter down” math to the lower grades so that they will later do better on standardized tests?? I would like to take my son, who has above average intelligence, I am told, and sit down with him to do this so-called “algebra” at the administrator’s home! I would like for the administrator to see how it demeans a child’s sense of accomplishment when they struggle to understand a concept that is way beyond his comprehension! Especially when they have had 40 minutes of homework that they’ve already done! I’d like this administrator to watch as my son starts to cry because he can’t take anymore of this unnecessary insanity and just puts down anything on the page, just to be done with it!! Then this administrator can tell me about the benefits of “filtering down” mathematic concepts to the lower grades!!

What did I end up doing with this homework? I sent in a nicely written note, asking the teacher to send home more specific instructions, so that the parents could assist their children with their homework. No algebra homework has come home since.

By the way, unless you are a teacher or mathematics/English major, could you explain to me just exactly what an “addend” or “dipthong” is?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Big Love - by Laura

I would like to first apologize to all of the unsuspecting toddlers and their parents who have been traumatized by my son. Whereas it is difficult to explain his behavior above the screams of your child, I want you to know that in no way is my child a bully. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. And you can blame me if it makes you feel better. You see -- it’s my fault he pulls hair, dog piles, and head butts. And as you may not be fully aware, I am going to drop some science on you: most babies do not know how to show affection and love in a gentle manner. I can see from the way Lyle mauls other babies that he is trying to imitate my affections toward him, but that’s very hard to explain to a parent whose wailing child is missing a pigtail.
This is where one-year old Lyle gets it: At night when he can’t sleep, I stroke his hair. He loves it. It settles him down almost immediately, and he makes cooing noises to show his happiness. After a minute his breathing slows, and he drifts off. When he needs reassurance, nothing does it like a scratch on the head and a ruffle of the hair. On the days when he has way too much energy and is tearing around the apartment, I get down on the floor with him, curl up around him and growl and nibble on his ear, which sends him into hysterical giggles. Now no matter what I am doing, if I get on my hands and knees, he comes running in hopes of a doggie pile. And as for head butts, well, those are as close to kisses as he can get. My husband and I have had black eyes, fat lips and one bloody nose as a result of his ersatz smooches.
It makes sense that the child thinks that grabbing another kid’s hair will give pleasure, and that doggie piles are fun, and a firm kiss says, “I like you.” The poor guy thinks he’s doing everyone a favor, and the mayhem that ensues does not parallel his intentions. Last week at music class he stood up and walked over to another girl and grabbed her head with his sticky hands and gave her a “kiss” from behind. Then he collected a handful of hair and tried to remove her sparkly butterfly ponytail holder. Her mother immediately began yelling, but before either one of us could make it to the love birds, the little girl turned around and shoved Lyle as hard as she could, and he went reeling over backwards. The little girl returned to her play, but Lyle lay there on the ground wailing. Dejected. Unloved. Unrequited.
I picked him up and stroked his hair. I kissed him. And I explained to the mom that Lyle just wanted to play. She muttered something about football and bullies, collected her daughter, and left. Needless to say I was completely sad and embarrassed about it. I don’t want my son mauling people, but I don’t want him to lose his enthusiasm for affection, either. I am thinking carefully of how to handle it.
One mother in our music class suggested I google how to handle the situation. That made me laugh. It was a good idea, but part of the fun of parenting is figuring out how to navigate these situations in a good way. In a sensitive way. In a way that is right for my child and for the people around him. I don’t want to be a textbook mother. I want to be an intuitive mother.
So these days I am sitting on the floor a lot, waiting for Lyle’s next declaration of love for his brother. When I hear him give his three shocks of laughter, see him flapping his arms, and doing his drunken speed walk toward his brother’s unsuspecting head, I get there first, and I take Lyle’s hand, open it, and stroke Wyatt’s head and say, “Gentle, gentle, gentle.” I’ll be honest. Lyle doesn’t know what the hell I’m doing. He doesn’t get gentle any more than a Labrador retriever puppy does during his play. But it spares his brother, and it’s better than yelling “no, no, no!”
I don’t want to isolate him from other children. I’ll have to do some talking to their parents. Maybe I can find other parents whose children have big love and who don’t get upset over a few hair pulls, dog piles and head butts. And we’ll just wait this out. Because love is one of those things that is as strong as it is fragile, and I don’t want to teach my son that affection is wrong. I just want to teach him that it should be gentle and kind whenever possible, because too often in life it isn’t.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Right Time for a Family Celebration - by Jamie

Tomorrow is truly a day for celebrations; Jayda will turn three years old, and on the same important day, I’ll be taking two finals, and finishing up my first semester of school. Following a weekend of birthday celebrations (two of Jayda’s good friends had parties on Saturday that we had to attend, and Jayda’s own party was on Sunday), I’m a bit tired and stressed, and there’s been no time at all for me to study. Worst of all, one of my finals is scheduled for 8:30 in the morning in Queens, which means I have to leave the house before 7 a.m. to get there in time (and my dad will have to drive Jayda to daycare since her center doesn’t even open until 7)...all on Jayda’s birthday. This means I’ll be preoccupied—and rushing to get ready—in the morning, and I’ll have no quality time with my daughter. As a self-professed birthday queen, I find this very distressing since I feel obliged to shower my birthday princess with tons of attention on her special day...starting from the moment we wake up.

At first I considered “postponing” Jayda’s birthday for a day. It’s true that Jayda knows her birthday is on May 18th, but at this point in her life, she doesn’t know when May 18th is—or how many days away it is, exactly. So why can’t her birthday be celebrated on May 19th, instead? If it hadn’t have been for an emergency C-section on the evening of May 18th, Jayda would have been born on the 19th, anyhow. So, I mulled over the idea of moving her birthday this year, talked about it with friends, and even got my parents on board with the idea. But then I changed my mind. Sure, the morning is going to be awful—but more for me than for Jayda—and this day is about her, not me. My parents will be around to make Jayda’s birthday morning wonderful. And since I’m finished with my finals by 1 p.m., I’ll be more than happy to celebrate with Jayda when she gets home from school. Besides, 18 is a lucky number in Hebrew; it symbolizes “chai,” which is the Hebrew word for “life.” I’m so lucky to have Jayda in my life, and should celebrate that on the 18th. And who knows—maybe my May 18th-birthday-girl will bring me some luck on my finals, too.

My final concern, however, was the classroom cupcakes; as I did last year, I’d planned to bake cupcakes for Jayda’s entire class, and I know she’s been looking forward to it (if you ask Jayda what she wants for her birthday, her answer is always “cupcakes!”). But with all the studying I have left to do, it's impossible to find the time. And when I stopped at Dunkin Donuts the other morning for coffee, I discovered a solution. I’ve always secretly harbored resentment towards the moms who bring in munchkins for celebrations in Jayda’s class; in my opinion, donuts are just about the unhealthiest, most unacceptable food you can give to a kid—much worse for them than my homemade cupcakes. But they sure are convenient snacks. And kids sure do like them. And if there was ever a “special” birthday treat for me to give to Jayda, that’s it—because I never let her have them when I’m around. So, that’s my new plan—munchkins for the class (that my dad offered to buy and drop off at daycare) and a big birthday fuss at home, as well—all on May 18th, the day our celebration was meant to take place. And, while I won’t be eating anything laden with sugar and trans-fats, myself, I think I’ll be able to find something nice to indulge in, too; namely something laden with alcohol!

Happy 3rd birthday to my amazing daughter, Jayda...and happy summer vacation to me!

On another mother and I were interviewed for a pretty interesting essay in the New York Times magazine about "older mothers." Please check out the link here:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Spirituality? Yes..... by Cyma Shapiro-Roland

Spirituality has always been a buzz word for me. But, now as an over-50 mom to two youngsters, I think it’s my mantra.

Living in my later 40’s, without full-time children (I had two teenage step children), I was feeling my vitality, my power; enjoying my professional success and my many friends. I had it all, right? But, something was missing. I was a seeker; I just needed to find other avenues and other arenas to challenge me.

But, while nearing 50…….something hit me. Heck, I was getting older. I may have felt and looked much younger…but the joke was on me. Truly. Here was that nagging, never-ending question: to have or not have children. As a half-century of living loomed on the horizon, the question wouldn’t go away, the fears just increased, and the cacophony got much, much louder. What to do? I couldn’t hear the answer. Yes?

So, at an age when most women are sending their children off to college; changing careers (or husbands); starting perimenopause, and looking twice (or three times in a row) in the mirror, I realized that it was time to play catch up. Fast. That tiny, tiny inside voice calling for more was being drowned out by external expectations…………..until I said, ‘yes.’ I began to exhale.
Here’s where the real spiritual journey began.

The attempt to get and have my kids (from Russia – I’m of Russian ancestry) seemed to others like my sole end goal. However, for me, the real end goal was the spiritual epiphany that the multiple trips provided. My love of Eastern Europe – satisfied (the pictures of the “Steerage” by Alfred Steiglitz; imagining my grandmother as she sailed from Russia was now right before my eyes); my belief that overseas travel would always be that looming experience which I’d pack and emotionally brace for weeks in advance – shattered (try traveling 10,000 miles on a day’s notice); my belief in my inability to travel and sustain myself safely – gone (try traveling in a country fraught with turmoil and intrigue); my belief that I couldn’t sustain instantaneous early motherhood (that is, gaining a one-yr. old without one day of pregnancy) gone in a flash; the belief that all those friends, neighbors and coworkers would understand just what I had done and why - gone (are you “craaaazy?”); the belief that I couldn’t be a new mother at my age – yes - I could.

My life changed in an instant. That instant followed the word ‘yes.’

So, it’s more than possible to change your life, to personally grow beyond your wildest dreams -- all you need to do is say ‘yes.’ It’s often using the fewest words, and having the clearest intentions that guide you back to yourself and your peace.

Oh, yes, and spirituality.

Cyma Shapiro-Roland is a later mom, writer and businesswoman living in West Hartford, CT. At present, she is working on a book about new mothers over-40.

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Gratitude is Just a Nine-Letter Word - by Cyma

For many years in my yoga classes (pre-children), I had trouble finding the ‘gratitude’ that the teachers requested of us, especially during our parting word, “Namaste” (meaning: the light/spirit in me acknowledges the light/spirit in you). While I knew that it was necessary to acknowledge the goodness in my life; the people who had sustained me; the loves I had found; and the joys that I experienced, the truth was that I was always just surviving the day only to run home and find solace and peace in the solitude of my home, alone. The truth was that I was rarely happy.

It was only after the arrival of my children, that I began counting my blessings. Suddenly, the simplicity of things became much more apparent, and the necessity to make things more simple, vital. Before long I was (easily) finding words of faith during nightly meals and High Holidays, and I began thanking people for the good deeds/words/hugs/praises/gestures they would bestow me. It took me many months before I realized that although my children had opened my heart and soul, it was actually me who was morphing into a kinder, gentler creature -- still Type-A, but with a much, much softer edge. After many years of self-loathing, I was becoming someone I thought I could come to like.

Now, it wasn’t so important to make that deal; dress to kill; or drive a car that people envied. I didn’t have to prove myself to the entire world. It wasn’t necessary to always be “on top,” or more importantly, to be “on.” In my new life with young children, “on” meant awake and functioning and “on top” meant having a day unfold without any major meltdowns, lost items, forgotten appointments or irresolvable crises. A ‘good day’ was one in which I was called upon to constantly reassess family situations and provide good, sometimes clever, and nearly always instantaneous responses, many of which surprised me…. about me!

While I felt I lost myself during early motherhood, I prayed that I would somehow come out the other side with a better set of expectations about the world, a more realistic view of my (length of) time on earth and more peace and joy than was previous experienced. Before that time, I think I rarely experienced much peace and joy at all.

Although my childrearing years have come at a later age than most, and there are certainly days that I ponder and sometimes grieve the truth of that, I am now nearly always hopeful about myself, my life and the lifetime of potential for my children.

Having gratitude provides a constant stream of strength and power which I draw from daily in my quest for a good, compassionate and life-affirming existence. I pray often and constantly give thanks. I am now just grateful to be alive, AND to have my children.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Turn Here - by Kathy Kinney & Cindy Ratzlaff, authors, Queen of Your Own life

Wouldn't it be interesting to look back at the experiences you've had in your life without judgment and without labeling them good or bad?

From this lofty place at the midpoint in our lives, we've noticed in looking back that ironically, good things often came from "bad" experiences and sometimes, bad things from "good." It really seemed to us that the road we're on in life can end very suddenly, and as we come smack up against a bright new yellow road sign there is often no other choice but to "turn here." We would be foolish to label these detours good or bad. In the end, our experience has been that we are the women we are today because we'd been forced to make these turns onto new and better paths.

Cindy had a "turn here" moment when the economic downturn caused her industry to lay off nearly 1,000 people in a six-month period. There had been lots of hints that something like this might happen at her company, but she thought if she just kept her head down and continued to work hard she would somehow survive. Her fear over losing the job completely blocked out the fact that she hadn't been happy there for some time. Working hard and being good at her job didn't help and through no fault of her own, she found herself hurt, angry and unemployed.

After the initial shock of being let go wore off, she began to realize that there might never be another job for her in the profession she'd worked in for more than 20years. Casting around for a way to replace the income she'd lost, she soon came to the conclusion that she'd need to retool. Walking through her fear that she might not be capable of learning something new, she signed up for a six-month course in social media marketing and merged her background in marketing and branding with these new tools and techniques.

In those six months, she went from not even having a Facebook profile to teaching others how to brand themselves and their business. There were days when she thought her head would explode as she struggled to overcome the handicap of being a digital immigrant, but as the rusty parts of her brain became more accustomed to learning something new everyday, she soon came to love this fast-paced new industry. Cindy now blogs, tweets, posts and Vlogs multiple times everyday and trains others to do the same thing. She's energized by learning new things and now realizes that turning left at this roadblock opened up a new, different and equally beautiful path.

So, when we find a road sign in our path and we know we have to "turn here," we take a deep breath and get ready to walk through our fear. We now understand that this is simply a new opportunity on our adventure to being the best women we can be.

We'd like to offer you these steps that helped us walk through the fear of taking that new path.

• Stop and assess the current situation.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself on the top of a high mountain and the wind is blowing. Look back over the first half of your life and without over thinking it, choose a moment in your life that you've come to think of as particularly difficult or that most altered the course of your life. Now, letting go of the "could've, would've, should'ves" of that situation, try to image that moment as a large boulder blocking your path and a bright yellow road sign that says, "DETOUR. " With your eyes still closed, turn your gaze to the left and envision a new path that you hadn't noticed before. Allow yourself to feel curious and excited about where it might lead. As you leave the original path and follow the new path let yourself feel joyful about the adventure ahead.

• Identify qualities that you admire.

Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Write down the names of the ten women you admire most. Again, don't ponder this. Write down your first thoughts. Then write down the qualities or traits you most admire in these women. Read the list aloud. It might help you to look into a mirror while reading this list. Put a check mark or star next to the qualities that resonate most with you as you read them.

• What kind of woman do you want to be?
Now you knew this was coming. What qualities do you like best about yourself. Don't be shy. We've been told not to brag about ourselves since we were young girls. This isn't bragging. This is a conversation between you and you alone. So, go for it. Are there any words on the list of qualities you admire in other women that match the words you've used to describe yourself? If there are, chances are good that these words are core values for you. If none of them match, don't worry. This is a process and in the end, you get to choose the words that you want to represent your core values. We recommend that you pick the four to six words that mean the most to you right now. At different times in your life, these words might change. That's ok. Don't get hung up on creating the perfect list. Just pick four to six words that you think are important to have with you on the next part of your journey.

• Create your Coat of Arms and Motto.
We like a good art project and think that the act of writing things down, creating a visual representation of our goals and speaking them out loud helps new ideas and new habits take root in our brains. We've created a blank template for a Coat of Arms and Motto that you can download for free at

Add the four to six words you've chosen to identify your core values to the coat of arms template. Feel free to use markers, glitter pens, ribbon or whatever speaks to you. Have fun with this. When you've finished your project, sum it up with a Motto. Ours is "Because We Say So." To us that means the way we live our lives is a conscious choice we make everyday. Now pretending you're still atop that windy mountain, read your words aloud. At the bottom of the page, add "I admire this woman. I admire me." Then sign your name. We admire you too.

© 2010 Kathy Kinney & Cindy Ratzlaff, authors of Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman's Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve

Kathy Kinney is best known for her iconic role as Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. She has acted in over a dozen films, guest-starred on numerous television shows and has toured worldwide with Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars. Kathy may also be seen in the title role of Mrs. Pat, a web site for children aimed at keeping alive the joy of books and reading.

A veteran publishing executive, Cindy Ratzlaff created marketing campaigns for more than 100 New York Times bestselling books, including The South Beach Diet. She is president of Brand New Brand You, which specializes in using new social media platforms to increase brand awareness, and is a co-founder of the online publishing company Supreme Social Media.

For more information, visit

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Friday, May 14, 2010


(photo credit: Paul Kolnik)

AMERICAN IDIOT follows the exhilarating journey of a new generation of young Americans as they strive to find meaning in a post 9/11 world, borne along by Green Day’s electrifying score. The musical includes every song from the acclaimed album American Idiot, as well as several songs from the band’s GRAMMY® Award-winning new release, 21st Century Breakdown, such as “21 Guns.”

Called a “masterpiece” by TIME Magazine, Green Day won two GRAMMY® Awards for the groundbreaking rock opera American Idiot, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Now Billie Joe Armstrong and the band collaborate with one of the theatre's most acclaimed creative teams, led by the Tony Award-winning director of Spring Awakening, Michael Mayer, two-time Tony Award-winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett (Black Watch), to bring this explosive, iconic album to the stage.

Tony Award winner John Gallagher Jr. (Spring Awakening) stars in AMERICAN IDIOT alongside Tony Award Nominee Stark Sands (Journey’s End), Michael Esper (A Man For All Seasons), Rebecca Naomi Jones (Passing Strange), Christina Sajous (The Wild Party), Mary Faber (Avenue Q) and Tony Vincent (Jesus Christ Superstar). The cast also features Declan Bennett (RENT), Andrew Call (Cry-Baby), Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening), Miguel Cervantes (…Spelling Bee), Joshua Henry (In The Heights), Van Hughes (Hairspray), Brian Charles Johnson (Spring Awakening), Joshua Kobak (RENT), Lorin Latarro (Movin’ Out), Omar Lopez-Cepero (North American tour of Evita), Leslie McDonel (Hairspray), Chase Peacock (High School Musical), Theo Stockman (Hair), Ben Thompson (Cyrano with Placido Domingo), Alysha Umphress (bare), Aspen Vincent (Dirty Dancing) and Libby Winters (White Noise).

The cast is amazing.  Young, sexy, raw and super talented.  You can't take your eyes off them.  They perform with abandon.

The show features scenic design by Tony-nominee Christine Jones (Spring Awakening), costume design by Baryshnikov fellow Andrea Lauer (The Butcher of Baraboo), lighting design by two time Tony-winner Kevin Adams (Hair), Sound design by Obie Award-winner Brian Ronan (Cabaret), as well as video design by Darrel Maloney. The Music Director is Carmel Dean and the Associate Choreographer is Lorin Latarro.

The set is inventive, riveting, pulsating, stimulating, you name it.  Electrical eye candy.

What the show lacks in character development and story line, it makes up for in energy.  From the moment it open with the title song, you are pulled in for the ride, and your attention is held closely for the 90 minutes of the production (no intermission).

AMERICAN IDIOT is produced on Broadway by Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

The playing schedule is Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm & 7pm. Tickets range from $127.00 - $32.00 and can be purchased at The St. James Box Office beginning Monday, February 22, 2010 or via (212-239-6200).


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Sacrifice - by Robin

I just have share and please bear with me.

My husband and I went to an open house this week at Seth's school.  It was a preview of the forthcoming after school program being launched in our district next fall.  We are looking forward, and plan to enroll Seth in a number of days.

It's good for him.  The program offers socialization.  They engage them in activities, etc.  And, he'll have a chance, if they enroll, to spend more time with some of his school buddies.

The open house offered parents the opportunity to ask questions.  We came with our share, mostly relating to things like...what activities will be done with the children....will they encourage that homework get done...will they serve snacks, etc.

As we were preparing to leave, I couldn't help but overhear the discussion another mom was having with one of the program facilitators.  And, I was appalled....and found myself saying something under my breath...and then voiced it.  Not sure the mom heard me or paid attention...which I guess is best.  She would not have liked what I had to say.

The mom was discussing with the facilitator what to do with her daughter if she's sick?  Clearly, her hope/intent was that her daughter would attend the before/after school program even if she's not well.  She was complaining how they now have live-in help and want to get rid of them.  But, what to do if her daughter takes ill?  As if this program would be the solution.

What does she think? That this program is an infirmary?

No wonder so many kids pick up illness from others in the classroom.  It's moms like this who send them to school regardless, no doubt, because they need them out of the house.

The program facilitator politely explained that this isn't a full day program, so that she'd still need to find care for her daughter during normal school hours, if she wasn't able to be in class.

The mom looked upset.  And, I thought..what is she?  Delusional?  Or just plain selfish?   I made a quick comment in passing...."Would you have your daughter infect other kids in school?"

Of course that's not her intent, but she wasn't being thoughtful either.

And, I thought to myself....isn't that part of what being a parent is?  Sacrifice.  If you work fulltime and your child takes ill, someone has to stay home with them, and it might need to be you.

And, if you're a SAHM, and your child gets sick, yes, you're already home, but whatever you had on your schedule for that day or week (depending on the nature of the illness) goes out the window.  And, caretaking takes precedence. That's just the way it is.

I know it's not always easy, but isn't that how it should be?!

Should a sick child be roaming the halls of a school?

Do some become parents without understanding the role of caretaker that comes with it?

Or are they just so spoiled by receiving help from others that they don't want to dirty their hands if their child is under the weather?

Some don't have someone to turn to.  Some can't afford nannies.  Some don't have family help.  How do they cope?  They just do.

Ultimately, as moms, we need to rely on ourselves, as it's often the woman who plays the primary caretaker role.

We need to rise to occasion, however inconvenient,  and act respectfully toward other families who keep their children home so their germs don't spread like wildfire.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Viva L'Esperienza! by Liimu

OMG, I am on my way to Italy! As a birthday present to me this year, my mother agreed to come up to Philadelphia from her home in North Carolina to watch the kids with my stepfather. My husband and I are about to enjoy TEN DAYS in Italy without the kids.

And I miss them already. (Imagine the sheepish grin on my face.) I know they feel the same way, because yesterday, as we sat enjoying airport sushi, my phone rang and it was my 7 year old daughter. I could barely understand her words through her sobbing, but I was able to glean that she was missing us already. She said every time she thought about the race (we ran the Race for the Cure together on Mother’s Day), she saw my face. I told her I felt the same way.

“Close your eyes,” I said. “Are they closed?”

“Yes.” (sob, sniff)

“Imagine I am hugging you tight, can you feel it?”

Silence, and then, “Yes.”

“Now imagine I’m nuzzling my face into your neck, now imagine I’m tickling you so you’ll stop crying!” She laughed a little bit.

She’ll be okay. I know she will. My mom raised me and my five siblings, and we’re all doing reasonably well. We’re all still alive, anyway. Kidding – we’re all doing very well.. And my sister and her 11 year old daughter have also promised to pitch in where they can.

The amazing thing about this vacation is not just that we are on our own for the first time in years. (The contrast between our airport check in experience yesterday and the one from last Christmas is uncanny. Think smart carte piled high with suitcases, strollers and knufflebunny. Think all five of us assigned seats in different parts of the plane, not even two together, thanks to the fact that we were flying at the height of the holiday season.) Yesterday, we were checked in and at the gate in about 20 minutes, no lie. But even more amazing than that is the fact that we are free from worrying about our children’s safety, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our family, who love them almost as much as we do and will definitely keep them safe. And thanks to that, we are free to really enjoy all that Italy has to offer.

Viva ‘L'Esperienza! Live the experience!!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Planting a Child - by Cara

I must start off by confessing my guilt over the past five years.

Every Mother’s Day since the first Mother’s Day after my son was born, I have not wanted flowers. I have not wanted jewelry. I have not wanted dinner out at a fancy restaurant. I have not wanted anything but for someone to take my child away and care for him for as much of Mother’s Day as possible. That’s all. And for those of you who are gasping, I will explain.

From birth, my son has been probably the most challenging child ever born. And every day, for 364 days of the year, I would be the sleep deprived Mom of a highly energetic and creative baby and toddler. So, come Mother’s Day, all I would ask of my husband would be to take our son to visit his Grandmother, take him to a park, take him anywhere, but, please, take him out of the house for as long as possible! And my husband always obliged. I would relish those one days a year! I would mostly catch up on much needed sleep or read a book or check the 251 e-mails in my inbox. None of my friends ever understood. They would call to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day and ask what I would be doing for the day and I would reply, truthfully, “nothing.” I would then explain that I wanted a day of “nothing” for Mother’s Day. To fill up the pregnant pause that always came, I would quickly change the subject to find out what they would be doing and wish them a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Now, this year is going to be different. Quite different. Since my husband doesn’t like to spend much time in our home, on the weekends he takes our son to do various activities and spend downtime at his mother’s house. I don’t get to see much of my son many weekends, unless my husband is travelling or I have a specific event for my son and I to go to.

This year, I want my son all to myself for Mother’s Day!! For the past few weeks, we have been nurturing seedlings on our window sills into nice hardy plants that are ready for the outdoors! I also attended a plant sale at my son’s school, where I met my son and we picked out more beautiful plants! And, true to my son’s personality, he had to make an announcement to his entire class that I was there to pick out plants with him! He was so proud to have me there! I was gushing like a schoolgirl who had a crush! My son loves me and wanted everyone to know it!! My heart melted!

So this year, Mother’s Day is going to be a splended day of bonding with my son while planting flowers and vegetables! The weather is predicted to be pleasant, so I am looking forward to digging in the dirt with my son! And I know while we are digging, we will inevitably find an earthworm that my compassionate son will befriend and want to have live in the house with us. And he will name him “Wormy.” And I will be completely in the moment of being in the presence of my son, planting and talking about everything and nothing. And I will enjoy every second with my child! Just like nurturing the seedlings on our window sill, young ones need special care and tending to. And as they outgrow their containers, you have to take them from their safe environments and plant them somewhere else. Then you have to watch them grow! Grow bigger and stronger and able to take on the elements! They will still need tending to. But they must learn to continue growing on their own. And with a little luck, these plants will thrive under your care.

As much as I didn’t want to spend Mother’s Day with my son all these years, I must have done something right the other 364 days of the year! I tended to my son so carefully when he was young, at the expense of taking care of my own needs. And when my son was ready, I sent him out into the world to see how he would do, always in the background in case he needed tending to. But my son flourished! Now he is growing rapidly in every direction! He needs to be “pruned” a little now and then, but he is weathering his own elements. He knows I am always there to tend to him. But, day by day, I am letting him flourish in his own garden! He is still a young plant and needs me to care for him. But he is also showing me how he has been able to take on his own elements successfully!

I am so in love with and completely amazed at what good parenting can produce! The best complement he could have ever given me was to announce to his class that I was there to help him pick out plants! There were other parents at the plant sale. But, my son needed to let the world know that I was there for HIM!! I will ALWAYS be there for my son. We’ve come a long way in 6 1/2 years. But ,I love this child like crazy. And no matter how little time we sometimes get to spend with one another, I know how much we love each other.

I am anxious to see what type of plant my son does become! But, I’m not so anxious that I want the time we have together to fly by. I’m content to sit back, nurture, prune and watch my son slowly grow. And from now on, Mother’s Day is going to become, “Mommy and Me” day!! I don’t want flowers, nor jewelry, nor eating in a fancy restaurant. The only thing I want is my son. Just him and him alone. Along with some seedlings ready to plant throughout the day! And also finding a worm and naming him, “Wormy.”

I dedicate this blog to my incredible son! You are my moon, the sun and the stars above! I love you, Sweetheart!!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For Every Mother - by Laura

I remember the first time I saw my foster son Alex. He was ten years old at the time, and he showed up at the door wearing white knee socks, shorts, and a Trailblazers basketball jersey. At the time, I was working part-time as a volunteer at a youth center. He was assigned to me that afternoon. There was something about him. I will never be able to put my finger on it exactly. But I loved him right away. And six months later when his mom went back to smoking crack and drinking, I became a foster mom to Alex and his nine-year old brother Nate.
Even though Alex and Nate went back to their families eventually, they remain my sons, and I will always be their mother. Granted, they have had several mothers now. But I am still their mother. Period. That’s how it works. If you care for something, if you love it, it becomes yours. Forever. Sure. Alex and Nate no longer live with me. And I haven’t seen them for five years. But we still love each other, and we bonded over that period in our lives when we all lived together and formed a new kind of family. A family that cared about each other. They are still mine, and I am still theirs.
This is what motherhood is. It does not matter if you love and care for a child, an animal, a garden, a home, a building, a friend, a forest, a park, or a river. If you love it and you care for it, it’s yours. If you make something better because you love it, it’s yours. Forever.
On Mother’s Day, I fear too many women are not recognized for what they love and for what they do, and they are left out of celebrating a day of caring and nurturing.
I spent Mother’s Day writing my girlfriends who have not given birth, but who are stepmothers, animals rescuers, pet owners, teachers, counselors, social workers, foster mothers, small business owners, and gardeners, and I thanked them for all they do in the world, thanked them for the support they gave me in bringing my boys into the world. They cared for me and they cared for the boys. And without these women, I would not be a mother. And so I told them: You belong to us and we belong to you. Thank you for caring. And Happy Mother’s Day.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Playing House - by Jamie

When I was a child, I fondly remember playing “house” with a good girl friend of mine. She always took on the role of the mommy, and I was the little girl. I don’t recall what situations we acted out while pretending to be a family, but I do know that this was one of our favorite games to play. Sometimes, another little girl in the neighborhood with whom we occasionally played—but didn’t completely adore—would show up uninvited during our role-playing, and we grudgingly included her. While my friend and I happily continued our game in my bedroom, our not-so-bright neighbor sat out in the hallway with a pile of crayons and coloring books that we’d supplied her with to occupy her time. When anyone else in my house questioned us about why this girl was sitting out in the hallway while we were playing, we responded matter-of-factly, “She’s the daddy—she’s at work!”

Decades later, my own daughter, Jayda, is obsessed with “being the mommy,” while she forces other adults—mostly me, but sometimes my father or mother—into playing the role of the baby. Sometimes this is a pleasure, like when she has me, as her baby, take a nap while she rubs my back, or when she insists I have to “rest” while she reads a book to me. But the pleasure is short-lived because she generally also wants to stuff a binky in my mouth, or have me “’tend” to suck on her doll’s bottle. And when I complain, she eggs me on with instructions to “cry, baby, cry!” She also demands that I cry when she’s leaving me, and enjoys it when I beg her to stay with me and cuddle.

When I’m not playing baby on the couch or in bed, Jayda likes to take me shopping with her; this entails holding my hand while she totes several pocketbooks and bags filled with her toys all around the house and barks out a list of things we need to buy. On other occasions, I’m forced to walk with her to another room, where she leaves me “at school” while she “goes to work.” When I complain about going to school, she assures me that my teachers are nice and that I’ll have fun with my friends. It all sounds very familiar.

I’ve always found it remarkable how much information my child retains, and how careful I have to be about the things I say and do in front of Jayda, or the promises that I make to her, because she remembers everything. And when Jayda pretends to be a mommy, I see her keen skills of observation at play more clearly than ever. Most everything she knows about being a mommy, she’s learned from me. And for what it’s worth, she’s a very loving, affectionate, comforting mommy when I test her and complain or cry. But she’s also a busy mommy, and a reminder to me that sometimes I need to slow down.

For instance, the other day, while Jayda was in her “mommy-mode,” and laden with bags strewn over each of her arms, I told her it was time for dinner. She responded, “Not yet. I’m going somewhere!” When I queried “where?” she spewed out a laundry list of destinations that sounded very similar to my own day’s activities: “I have to go to CVS and the fruit store and the store where I get protein bars, and then I have to get gas, go to the bank, and go to the gym.” When I laughed and said “Is that all?”, she quickly added “I also have to meet my friend at the playground.” Well, thankfully, at least this little mommy is letting herself have some fun!

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day Cards - by Cyma

I remember the first Mother's Day card I received. It was six years ago. I'd been a new mom for two months. I was more than timid about reading the card; nearly embarrassed about acknowledging my new-found status.

It was similar to an incident which occurred around the same time. While at a local Blockbuster, my baby called out to me in front of some acquaintances. Unaware that I'd become a new mom, they nearly paled when they saw that I was the recipient. I couldn't face them directly, but caught their disbelief out of the corner of my eye. I was almost embarrassed for them. I wondered whether I appeared "motherly enough;" whether they'd ever seen me in that light.

I also remember strolling my baby around town and having people express surprise seeing me as a new mom. They would smile and say I 'wore it well,' but I wasn't sure how to act or what to do. The armor I'd worn in public was stripped - the world could now see what I'd always longed for (but hidden), would witness a more transparent person, not the one who carefully presented the image she had wanted to. Suddenly, I was part of a club which I'd never ever thought I'd join, nor believed that I could ever be a member.

"Motherhood" held a different meaning to me than before I had children. I realized that while nearly everyone could be a mother, not everyone could wear motherhood well.
So, finding myself in these new 'clothes,' I kept squirming -- the arms were too long, the neck too tight; they were often too baggy or the wrong color. There was that same old familiar embarrassment, again.

Which brings me back to the Mother's Day cards. As the years passed, the cards felt more appropriate, the words more endearing. The printed words "Mother or "Mom" made me more joyful, made my heart skip a beat. So, while the experience became more customary and usual, it was the 'same old, same old,' but in a very, very good way.

This year, as I am looking forward to getting all my cards (breakfast in bed and presents?), I will gratefully open them and express my surprise/gratitude/happiness with laughter/crying/joy. And, while I surely will express myself a little more exuberantly than usual, it will only be because I am just glad to be here and celebrating a day which now feels right for me.  Mother's Day.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother's Day Delight

Today is a day to celebrate.
Happy Mother's Day.

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GUEST BLOG POST: Forced to Lie About My Age - by Elizabeth Coplan, author

I don’t color my hair. Have never done Botox. I do tweeze the gray from my eyebrows and my chin, and, as the mother of two sons, I’ve earned every line on my face. When I remember where I last put them, I wear reading glasses. I hold the distinction of being the oldest member in a mothers book club – by a number of years. Most of the other women were children of the ‘70s. I did more in the ‘70s than just grow up.

I have never lied about my age – except once when I was coerced, forced, denied the ability to move forward unless I did in fact lie about the year of my birth.

Why should I say that I am younger than my 56 years? I’ve worked hard to create the woman I am today. I started my career in my twenties, developed professionally in my thirties even after having my first son when I was 35. Five years later, after my second pregnancy was confirmed, my obstetrician wrote in large black letters AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) on my medical chart. I was 40.

“Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth,” so says Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. True. During my forties, I grew around my middle and my thighs. I also grew in wisdom and patience. I learned how to use technology -- computers, cell phones, PDAs and the Internet. In my fifties I learned to Tweet and Friend and to write a profile worthy of social networking. And that is when the lying began.

No, I did not lie about my age on MySpace or Facebook. Instead, I logged on to a newly launched parenting website. To register, the site asked for my age. As directed, I entered my birth month, June, and my birth day, 24, and the year 195__. I tried adding the “4” but the field didn’t take the number. So I chose the earliest year listed -- 1956. 1956! This begged the question: Are mothers over 55 too old to learn from Internet resources?

I tried to enter a “4” one more time. I only wanted to log on so that I could talk to other moms -- women like me with little time to connect socially during the day and only a few minutes at night to search the Web for parenting strategies and eBay sales.

No go. Finally, forced to lie about my age, I gave up and entered my birth year as 1956 -- the year Lucille Ball won the Emmy for I Love Lucy, the cost of a postage stamp was 3 cents, the Yankees won the World Series (against the Brooklyn Dodgers), and life expectancy was 69.7 years – all according to the Internet.

Since I first joined that parenting website, they’ve wisely expanded their list of possible years. But now I am thinking, why should I ever select my real birth year? Why not pick 1970? The year a postage stamp cost 6 cents, Cybil Shepard was on the cover of Glamour magazine, and life expectancy rose to 70.8 years. Next time I’ll choose 1970, the year both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died of drug overdoses and The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS.

On second thought, choosing 1970 seems…well…dishonest. Maybe I should pick a birth year closer to my own, one that I do not remember with such certainty.

Hmm. I wonder what important events occurred in 1958. Let’s check the Internet.

Elizabeth Coplan began her marketing and public relations career in New York and Los Angeles over 30 years ago. Now as CEO of COPLAN AND COMPANY in Seattle, Elizabeth focuses on business consulting and on the all-important-job of wife and mother.

Well-known for her personal essays and public speaking, Elizabeth, a "later" mom, recently appeared in the anthology When One Door Closes: Reflections from Women in Life’s Turning Points and in the book In Our Prime: Empowering Essays by Women on Love, Family, Career, Ageing & Just Coping. She is also co-creator and author of A Wild Ride, a website for parents of challenging children.

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