Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Wrath from the Heavens - by Cara

I am typing this on my computer, by flashlight, with a battery-operated fan at my side to cool me off. Why? Because yesterday, my neighborhood was hit by a verified tornado.

I live in the suburbs of Long Island, right outside of New York City. This is not tornado country. Yes, an actual hurricane has actually passed us by a couple of times. And Nor’easters and blizzards are not uncommon. But tornado - never. And based on the devastation this tiny tornado has left, I am not very eager to move to REAL tornado country. We have no electricity and were told that it will take close to a week to get the power lines up and running again. I am not exaggerating when I say that there is a tree or tree limb on top of every neighbor’s house around me, including ours. Only a scant few streets are passable due to downed telephone poles and draping electric cables all over the streets and properties. Large trees have been uprooted by their bases and are lying either across streets, the owner’s property, or worse, on top of or inside of their homes. I have never witnessed anything like this before in my life. And, more amazingly, I summoned it.

As many of you are aware, my husband and I are not legally separated, but we are living in two separate areas of our house, along with our son. For our son’s sake, my husband and I have been getting along fairly amicably. I find this mind-boggling since I continually unearth reason to resent or dislike my spouse more and more as time goes by.

Both my husband and I want full custody of our son. And each of our lawyers advised us that if either one of us were to live outside of our present home, it would be legally considered “abandonment”, and the one who left would forfeit their “right” to be considered our son’s primary custodian. Thus, our absurd living situation.

Yesterday, about 15 minutes before the weather erupted, my husband came to me first to discuss how great we are as parents to our son, especially given the situation we are in. He then asked, again, for us to become officially, legally separated. The last time he asked was about 6 months ago, and when I asked him why, his response was, “I don’t know.” So this time, again I asked why, and I got the same response of “I don’t know. I just think it would be better for us.” It was at that moment that I felt like I summoned the wrath from the heavens.

I lashed out at my husband like I’ve never done to any other person in my lifetime! And as my anger mounted, the winds outside started howling. And as I cursed and screamed, torrential rains poured out of the sky. As my wrath grew, and I verbally lambasted my husband, large balls of hail fell from the sky. And as I ranted and raved, I heard trees splitting in half! I believe in God. And I personally felt as if God was physically relaying the extent of my fury towards my husband! I also felt as if God was physically giving me the power to tell my husband how I REALLY felt about what he is doing to our family and me. But once I heard our upstairs windows, which crank outward, start to rattle, I screamed that the sight of my husband was making me physically sick, and I raced upstairs to lock the windows so that the intense winds would not take the windows off of our house.

Once the tornado passed, I went outside to survey the damage. I was shocked and speechless to find that every house around ours had some type of damage, some of it severe. Our house had absolutely no damage whatsoever. All we had was a small bough from a tree on our roof. The neighbor’s backyard to our left had so many downed trees and debris; you could not see one blade of grass. Our neighbor to our right had a tree fall and split their beautiful, wooden deck right in half. My neighbor across the street had one of her trees literally rip her electric wires off her house, knock down a telephone pole, and fall, lengthwise, across the street, landing on a different neighbor’s car. Yet our home and property was virtually untouched.

This led me to believe that not only is there a higher power in this universe, this higher power is truly there for me. Yes, there was a tremendous amount of physical damage to our neighborhood, but there hasn’t been, amazingly, any reports of injuries or deaths from this storm. This storm, in my opinion, was meant to prove to my husband the extent of my wrath towards him. And it gave me the power to fight against him, and come out virtually unscathed, just like our house. I even texted him and said, “If you think this force of nature was bad, don’t even THINK of messing with me. My wrath will be far worse than what you physically see.”

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have one of the gentlest dispositions of any other person they know. I will and have gone out of my way to assist others and help whoever is in need of anything. But purposely try to hurt me for no reason, or hurt my son, and I will become a tornado. And I can also summon the wrath from the heavens to prove it.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inner Bitch -- by Laura Houston

My friend Rachel is one of the best moms I know. She’s dedicated. She’s involved. And she has two great girls to prove it. You might classify Rachel as one of those women who has everything: nice house, great sense of humor, slender figure, and hard-working husband. She even has a dog with extra personality.
Rachel is my go-to girl when my inner bitch appears. She gets it. She has one, too, and it’s just as sarcastic, frustrated, and hard to contain as mine is. We both work to curb our tongues. And we’re really hard on ourselves when we don’t succeed. Most of the time our husbands are on the receiving end of our verbal release, and this does nothing to help our marriages, which makes us all the more frustrated. We really do adore our husbands most of the time.
There is one thing Rachel and I both agree on: We got everything we wanted. We wanted children, a nice home, and the luxury to stay home with our children in that home in order to be there for those brief, beautiful moments that transpire magically in childhood and motherhood.
And we got it. We got it all. And we’re happy with it.
So then why are we so bitchy?
Six months after having the twins I was over-the-top tetchy when it came to taking care of the boys. There was one way to do everything: my way. I got so mad when my husband would rearrange things or not follow protocol. I spent a lot of time talking myself down from the ledge of rage over the smallest, stupidest things. I felt horrible about myself. It was so bad I called my doctor. She told me it was normal. I would outgrow the hormones and irritability after a year or so. Fourteen months later I do feel much better, but I am not back to me.
There is still a shadow of resentment along with a show of frustration and exhaustion. I don’t think my husband knows how hard it is to run the house with a set of twins on hand. I don’t start my work at nine. I don’t stop it at five. I am on the clock all day long. Even when I have a nanny I am working. She watches the kids and I cook, clean, run errands, and then usually for 45 minutes in there somewhere, I go out to lunch and read a magazine – a parenting magazine – so I can stay on top of any issues that may surface. I’m all mother all the time.
My mind is obsessed with minutia. At any given time of the day I can tell you roughly how many calories each boy has consumed, how much more they need, the last time they pooped, and how much sleep they have had in 24 hours. It’s almost impossible to shut the calculator off. I know used to think about other things that were worldlier, but for the life of me I cannot remember what they were.
I’m also defensive. Everything my husband says becomes a critique about my parenting. This is from a woman who for 20 years made her living having her work criticized by three to four people before it was accepted and published. Dave said once: “The boys are starving.” And I said back, “For the love of God, David, the boys are not starving. I’m a good mom. I don’t starve my children. They’re hungry. Not starving. You need to be careful what you say to me.” He just looked away and said softly, “Yes dear.”
That’s so not me.
As much as I love motherhood, and as wonderful as it is to be typing up this story while my little guys sleep with their butts in the air, I still struggle with who I am as a mother. It can be really uncomfortable. Sometimes my frailty is embarrassing. Yet at the same time, I have never been stronger as a human being. I have never been so loving, so understanding, so sensitive and awake.
Maybe that’s what it is. It’s being so awake. So alive. It’s agitating. Stirring. Motivating. It’s so many things at once. Everything is in hyperdrive, and I can’t shut it off. I feel like George Jetson stuck on the treadmill and yelling, “Jane, stop this crazy thing.”
There comes a time when we know as mothers we have to surrender. Rachel and I are well aware that we have to lay down our arms. Become vulnerable. Release our quick and defensive judgments. But we both suck at it. So we have a beer and chuckle on the phone together, making sarcastic remarks. We know it’s a difficult challenge to be both protective and unprotected at the same time. We hope our husbands understand that. We hope our friends and family do, too. Because we know we won’t be like this forever. It’s a short time in our lives, and the best we can do is laugh at ourselves and get through it together – and try to honor our well intended, high strung, minutia obsessed, exceedingly exhausted, quietly happy, inner bitch.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

What’s in a Name?--by Jamie

When I was in the second grade, new neighbors moved into the house next door to mine, and my parents befriended them. From the start, the woman, who had a son my age and a daughter who was a bit younger than us, insisted that I call her and her husband by their first names. This was a novel concept for me—but I liked it. It felt pretty cool to address two grown ups by something other than Mr. and Mrs. (which is what I called all my friends’ parents—as well as the rest of my parents’ friends), and I pretty easily fell into the habit.

This couple still lives next door to my parents, and my three-year-old daughter, Jayda, now calls them by their first names, too. While Jayda does childishly address some of her friends’ mothers as “so-and-so’s mommy,” she generally calls all of my friends (many of whom are her friends’ parents) by their first names, as well. And, even at Jayda’s nursery school, the teachers are addressed by their first names. For awhile, I politely put “Miss” before Jayda’s teachers’ names whenever I was discussing them, but my daughter dropped the honorifics pretty quickly, and just calls these women by their first names alone—even to their faces.

We had a discussion the other day in my Child Development class about children calling grown ups by their first names—and my professor seemed dead-set against it. She said she didn’t want her son’s 10-year-old friends calling her “Pam,” and that it lacked respect. Then, because she knows I’m also a mom—and her contemporary—she looked directly at me and asked, “Don’t you agree?” The fact is, I don’t. Or at least I’m pretty sure I don’t.

After a bit of self-reflection, I confessed to my professor that I’d rather Jayda’s friends called me “Jamie” than the erroneous “Mrs. Levine.” I’m not a “Mrs.”—and I’ve never been one. And while I do plan to be open with Jayda about her background, I don’t want to have to correct every little kid who comes into my house, or explain to each one of them that I’m not married and that Jayda doesn’t have a father. It’s easier to just ask everyone to call me “Jamie.” But does that lack respect? Does it make me seem less authoritative? I haven’t really even thought about it until now. Jayda’s three- and four-year-old friends certainly look up to me—no matter what they’re calling me. But will that change when they’re ten or twelve or sixteen? Will my name really affect the way in which they perceive me?

I don’t intend to be the “cool” mom who drinks and smokes with her kids, and lets them have parties every weekend; but on the other hand, I do hope Jayda and her friends can confide in me and trust me when they’re older. Isn’t that what every mother wants? As a child, I never thought my informal next-door-neighbors were anything less than responsible grown ups despite what they asked me to call them. And I’d like to think my attitude—and my parenting skills—will mean more to Jayda and her friends than the name which they attach to me. I suppose only time will tell…

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Appalachian Trail - by Cyma

The guiding principle of outdoor ethics for environmentalists, hikers, campers and outdoors-people is “leave no trace.” It refers to methods intended to leave a natural habitat and its surroundings in the same state as it was found.

For many years, I could apply this principle to our marriage. Despite years of our union, I was always feeling left in the same state as I was the day before I met my husband.

The benchmark for this dilemma became his annual Appalachian Trail treks –yearly expeditions to various Eastern states which would leave me, and eventually me and our children, alone. The sheer disengagement that occurred each year, the first time being the first year we met, sent us immediately into counseling. How could he leave someone he loved so easily? The intention of completing the nearly 2,200 mile trail, from Maine to Georgia, had been his most pressing goal in life. It still is. For a long, long time, it superseded even getting or having me. Nothing would get in the way of his hikes.

The months of training to get into shape; his ongoing planning, mapping and purchasing of all the necessary equipment and food; and the sheer delight he took in knowing that this blessed event was forthcoming overshadowed much in our real life, most especially me. He said that this experience gave him a total physical challenge, and a mental cleansing that he could not find anywhere else. He also said that the experience of survival sharpens ones’ skills and reminds him of what’s important. I can honestly say that I felt the very same way during his absence, and would rehash the knowledge of this just before he arrived back home.

This year, he’s traveling during the middle of July, and again in September. Completion of these remaining passages, nearly 800 miles from home, will ensure that he will finish the entire trail at Mount Katahdin (in Maine) next year. At that point, he will be accompanied by my stepson who will travel 1,000 miles to complete this with his father, a symbolic passage of rights, since he is now interested in undertaking a similar course.

Each year, I grapple with the fact that I’ve been left. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter that I understand his interest (I do, since I’ve hiked some of it, too); cheer on his magnificent drive to complete the Trail (I also do) or compassionately know and understand the necessity to return to nature as much as possible to recharge, revitalize and revisit one’s life. To stand alone within nature, without a cell phone, Blackberry or computer is to rewind all those internal tapes, all the noise and all the daily obligations and responsibilities, and just live. I know this. It’s just the ‘alone’ part that I have not been able to understand.

You know the ‘Life Is Good’ shirts with the logo of the solitary backpacker on the front? That’s really my husband. The one with the dog next to him is purely symbolic. He hates to travel in a group.

Which brings me back to his hike. This year, I’m determined to live this differently. Perhaps the years have softened me; perhaps the knowledge that he’s nearly completed the Trail has given me more juice to continue this process. For once, I’m realizing that his flight away from us isn’t about me, or us, but really about him -- his desires, his achievements, and his limitations. I want this new perspective to have a real impact on me this year – one which will empower me and not leave me feeling so alone. And, I want to recharge and renew like he does. I just don’t want him to leave me with no trace left behind.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: A Teachable Moment - Summer Exploration by Dr. Susan Bartell

The summer is great when you’re a kid. The stressful weeks of school have been left far behind and autumn’s cold and dreary days seem like they’re still forever away. Each sunny moment is an opportunity for something new—an interesting shell on the beach; a new friend at the park; a delicious ice-cream flavor. The summer is a time for exploring.

In addition to being fun, exploring is an important task of childhood. By becoming a detective, a child learns that one must look beyond the obvious “big picture” to see the world as interesting and complex. Developing the ability to explore with an open and inquisitive mind—to analyze situations, objects and places—is a skill that will carry a child far beyond the fun of the playground and into a successful adult life.

It is important for you to provide opportunities for your child to explore—and summer is the perfect time. Encourage digging holes on the beach by making sure you remember to bring the shovel. Invite exploration in the playground by leaving ample time to play. Ensure bicycles and their safety equipment are accessible and ready to go. Your enthusiasm and patience (rather than frustration or boredom) will support your child’s desire to question and learn. At home, adventures can be found in baking or homegrown scientific experiments with soap, water, clay and…just ask your young explorer! Summer days are perfect for ‘science’ when patios or driveways can be hosed down afterwards!

Exploring need not be reserved for playful detective work! Trying new foods is a type of exploration—a venturing into unknown and for many children, scary territory. However, the summer is a great time for widening a child’s palate. For one thing, it is less stressful, having left behind the “hurry up and eat, we’ll be late for school, homework or bed.” There are also so many great foods to try—fruits, BBQs and picnic foods all seem tastier and more fun in the summer. So, invite your child to explore a rainbow of summer foods—make it tempting by cutting them into interesting designs or serving them in fun ways. Invite neighbors to a picnic in the backyard—new foods taste better on colorful paper plates while sitting under a tree, especially when other kids are eating them too—peer pressure can work wonders when it comes to exploring foods.

Some children are born explorers. For others, the idea of venturing out of their comfort zone doesn’t seem like fun, it feels overwhelming. Sometimes a child is left behind by the others who want to explore—especially when the park, pool and beach are calling out for adventure. A reluctant explorer may need a boost from you to get over fear. Also, ask yourself if you’re contributing to his or her anxiety by conveying your own worries about straying too far, getting hurt or becoming dirty. If so, you’ll want to keep this in check so your child can become a more confident explorer—while still being safe of course!

Igniting interest in creative exploration is a gift you can give your child that will burn brightly long into adulthood. So get out your favorite walking shoes, your digging stick and your magnifying glass and get ready to explore!

Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 family psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about Dr. Bartell at

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting Perspective by Liimu

First, let me just apologize in advance for today’s blog. It may be a bit of a downer. Oh, and while I’m apologizing, let me also apologize for neglect to post a blog last week. I’ve been sort of caught up in my own stuff lately – my 6-year old has to go back to Children’s Hospital for more tests tomorrow, swim lessons and swim team are starting up and finally my business is picking up (thank God).

The thing is, I have a tendency sometimes to get so caught up in what’s happening in my life, and honestly it is often quite intense. Having to take my daughter to get MRI scans of her spine, facing down tons of creditors and trying to carve our way back to financial solvency, etc., etc. These are things that have been going on with me that outsiders often are very sympathetic about. Well, of course you are stressed. Who wouldn’t be? We’ll pray for you. That type of thing.

Well, this morning it was all put in its proper perspective. Call it a Higher Power, Source, God, the Universe, whatever you want. It definitely has the bigger picture and isn’t afraid to shine a light on that when necessary.This morning, I was running with a friend, getting in my obligatory 4 miles before beginning my day. I was complaining about how worried I am about the testing, about having gotten little sleep because said 6-year old couldn’t find her favorite penguin at 4 am, on and on. My whole perspective changed in an instant when my friend mentioned that someone we both know, someone I have known for over ten years, someone who has been like a brother to me, killed himself this past week.

I met my friend in AA when I first moved to Philadelphia, and we became friends right away. He even asked me out on a date and one point and after a super fun (but not at all sexy) night of dancing, we decided to remain friends and were extremely supportive of each other over the years. The first time he stopped coming to meetings, I asked around and found out that he was suffering from depression and though he hadn’t taken a drink, he’d had a hard time of it for nearly six months. I called him to see how he was doing and was so glad when he started coming back to our meeting. When he got married to a beautiful woman in AA, we were all happy for him. Truth is, life is hard and my friend’s life was harder than most. He struggled to be a good husband, a good dad, a good employee, to do all those things according to the principles of recovery, even when every cell in his body probably screamed out to go berserk, throw a tantrum, succumb to a fit of rage. As far as I know he never did. As far as I know, he lived his life with grace and without a drink or a drug all the way to the end.

He will be dearly missed.

Between tearful breakdowns, I actually talked to two other people who were dealing with the horrors of active addiction. Okay, Universe, I get it. I GET IT. And yes, no matter what happens in my life, I am sober, and I am sane and because of that, I can overcome any obstacle. And for that and for all the blessings of my life, not the least of which being my beautiful children who I am SO grateful to be accountable to and present for, I am truly, truly grateful.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dos and Don’ts of Day Camp - by Cara

As a veteran of two different Day Camps my son attended over the past two years, I would like to pass along some important information for those parents whose young children will be attending Day Camp for the first time. Here are some of my tips and hints:

1. If your child needs to wear a Camp Shirt with the camp’s logo on it, beg, borrow, buy or be lucky, like me, and accumulate shirts whose parents forgot to put the name inside. I was given one shirt initially, and by the end of the season accumulated six in larger sizes! That one shirt that they provide will otherwise have to be washed daily. Trust me on that one.

2. Speaking of clothing, label, label, label every item of your children’s clothes! Unless you don’t care if it never returns! I have had other children’s underwear and socks come home that I never saw before. Label those too! Even label shoes! My son came home barefoot once because he lost his shoes and couldn’t find them. EVERYTHING has to get labeled!

3. Now as for labeling. One other important item to label are towels. In fact, even if those are labeled, they may never return. I went online this past winter, found beach towels on sale that could be monogrammed and had five of them embroidered with the boldest color they would allow! If you have a supply of old towels that you don’t care never come home, that’s fine too. But I became tired of trying to track down missing towels or sending in other towels that I knew would be lost. And as an aside, some camps have the children use the towels to sit on during the day. Which means laundering towels every day as well. That’s why I now have five. And if your child goes to a camp that requires more than one towel per day, accumulate more!

4. Next is swim attire. Some camps have swim/sprinkler activities twice a day. This, of course, would entail sending in two swim suits per day. Again, stock up on swimsuits that are on sale. I have no less than 10-15 at any given time. And some camps require enclosed swim shoes while others don’t. Always buy an extra pair.

5. Now comes lunch. My son’s camp provides lunch selections, both cold and hot, for an additional cost. Packing a lunch is more economical. But beware of sending foods that have containers that are difficult to maneuver or may leak. I had to throw out a perfectly good lunch tote because my son didn’t eat all of the watermelon I packed for him, forgot to seal up the container, and the tote had to be thrown out because it smelled and was soaked from rotting watermelon. Good thing I have, again, monogrammed, extra lunch totes. And, once again, label, label, label, every container, sandwich bag, bottle of juice or water, snack bag or beverage container. We lost two expensive and environmentally friendly Jr. Sigg
bottles because the “permanent ink” came off while washing them. Make sure everything has your child’s name on it!! And STAYS on it!!

6. Sunscreen is a must. But even if applied at home, your child will need to reapply it while at camp. Even with a label, it will get lost or forgotten somewhere. Label all sunscreens and buy multiples when they are on sale. You will be going through quite a few.

7. Always check the camp schedule for upcoming events. I forgot to send in a clean, white shirt for tie-dye day...twice! And missed red and blue day completely. These things may not matter to you, but when you pick up your child from camp with a sullen look on their face, you’ll know right then and there, you messed up. We hang our schedule on a special kitchen cabinet so that we absolutely can’t miss it. Try to find a suitable place for yours.

8. Finally, as imperative as all of this must sound, try to just go with the flow of camp mishaps and oddities. There will be many. I learned through experience, and so will you. I simply wanted those who have yet to be “initiated” into the camp experience to know what might be waiting for them when they open their child’s backpack. Oh, and one last thing. Use the grungy backpack your child hauled to school every day from this past school year. By the end of camp, your child will be ready for a brand new one to start out the brand new school year!

Hope some of these tips may have helped! Happy camping with your little Day Campers!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sit, Dogma, Stay -- by Laura

This week an old acquaintance “friended” my husband on Facebook, and I found myself upset about it. We had stopped associating with “Rob” about four years ago when we realized he was a bigot, and he had raised his children to think as he does. Unfortunately for them, they can be just as vocal with their hatred as their father. Rob is, in my opinion, the worst kind of bigot. He is a religious extremist, and he shares his views openly and freely in a poisonous manner with his children. From ages 12 to four, all of his sons know in great detail what an abortion is, and they are not shy about discussing it with anyone. I personally don’t think any child needs to know what an abortion is. It’s horrific to teach a child these things, and these children are adversely affected by it.
My husband and I have heard these words come from his children’s mouths: “John Kerry kills babies,” and “Democrats are baby killers.” Around the table one night Rob’s oldest son who was only 11 at the time announced that they no longer play with a boy who used to be a friend because his father (and their little friend) believe in the theory of evolution. The look on his face showed mortification that anyone could believe such a thing. When I was trying to get pregnant, I privately shared with his mother that our latest procedure had not worked. Six months later the oldest son asked me if I couldn’t have children because God was punishing me because I am a Democrat and therefore my “womb was barren.” Those were the words he used.
Rob and his wife have seven children. All boys. All home schooled. Two are young enough to be playmates with our sons. Dave and I agreed we did not want our boys introduced to that line of thinking, so we extracted ourselves from the friendship as politely as we could since Dave and Rob work together. I felt a sense of relief once they stopped talking because my husband is a very forgiving man who can find the best in someone time and time again. Personally, I find the behavior of Rob and his children to be creepy. Time and time again in the news media we see religious extremists flip out and do something hypocritical because somewhere in that heart of theirs there’s some sort of dark urge bottled deep inside, and it’s just waiting to come out in one form or another, so they suppress it with a big thump of the Bible. I would like to suggest therapy instead. For everyone’s sake.
I am terrified of religious extremism. I grew up in the Midwest where the seeds if it take sprout at a young age, and it spreads through elementary schools as persistently as dandelions on the playground. When I was in fourth grade one of my classmates named Donna, whose father was a Baptist minister, announced that she could no longer hang around Sarah Brauer because she was Jewish. She said it out loud. In class. And our teacher turned around and said, “That’s not a nice thing to say.” And Donna said back, “Well, the Jews killed Jesus.” Later at recess I huddled with the popular girls, most of who were Catholic, and one of them said: “Everyone knows that Baptists hate Jews.” So I asked my mom who had been fostered by Baptist parents why Baptists hate Jews and she answered: “Because Jews are smarter and richer and more successful than most people. The Baptists are just jealous. That’s all.”
I remember conversations like this from my childhood, and they affected me profoundly. As a fourth grader, I wondered what could I believe that will keep me safe. What could I say about God and Jesus that wouldn’t make me an outcast? I decided to start going to Catholic Church with the girls down the street who went to a private school. I figured it was a good option since there were many Catholics in my neighborhood, and there’s safety in numbers. But the church wouldn’t let me take communion, so I felt left out and embarrassed as I sat there in the pew waiting. My parents were not religious, so I didn’t get much guidance from them on the subject. We went to a Unitarian Church for a while, and I loved that. I learned about different religions, and we sang songs for both Hanukkah and Christmas, but someone on the playground called me a dirty, free-loving hippie and accused my parents as being swingers when I proudly displayed the “U” for Unitarian on my mail ordered dog tags.
I don’t want my boys to endure this sort of thing. I don’t even want them exposed to it, but I know there’s little chance of that. My husband and I believe in many things. We love to study Buddhism and Eastern philosophy. Once upon a time we did Native American sweat lodges regularly to keep our bodies and our minds clean. We have gone to church and temple and to the mountain. We believe it all works. Sometimes we are drawn to one thing more than another. That’s how it goes in life. We explore. We find tools that work for us at the time.
Unfortunately, hatred is also a tool for survival. Bigotry is a way of protecting the soul from doubt. From openness. From questioning. From anything that may be perceived as weakness. Hatred cements the heart and provides a stable base for ignorance. And ignorance is bliss. Yes. It’s ironic, but on a different sort of path, hatred can lead to happiness.
This is the very sort of misguided journey I do not want my children going on. So I want to protect them from the Robs of the world who bury themselves in self-righteousness. I want my children to find what is right and good for them, and I can only hope they do it with an open mind and open heart. And if they can achieve that, then I hope they go one step further and take that light out into the world and shine it so brightly across their path that dogmatism becomes a shadow of its former self left whimpering in the corner. I pray my sons, nor anyone else on the planet, ever bother throw it a bone.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Language Explosion--by Jamie

The other night, Jayda and I were lying in my bed reading books. She was snuggled up next to me with her head comfortably resting in the crook of my arm, and at one point I moved my shoulder and accidentally shook her. “What happened, mommy?” she asked. I told her that my arm had been in a bad position and I’d needed to move it. “Position?” she queried. “That’s like at my dance class!” and she abruptly stood up on the bed and put her feet into first position to show me.

I thought the verbal connection she’d made was absolutely marvelous. Just as endearing was an encounter we had with my sister, Jodi, last week. We were all in the car, and Jodi turned around in the driver’s seat to get Jayda’s attention, and said “Hey!” Jayda responded, “Hay is for horses!” and we all cracked up. I’m not sure Jayda completely understood the meaning of her words, but her mimicry of something an adult had obviously said to her before, was a clear sign of how much language Jayda is soaking up these days. I notice it every day when a new phrase pops out of her mouth, and people who don’t see Jayda often always remark to me that she’s speaking so well now—and so often! My little drama-queen now uses language to make a statement—she describes big things as “huge,” knows the difference between flip-flops and sandals (and gets mad at me when I misidentify her flip-flops as “sandals”), and even says “Oy!” and “Geez, Louise!” like I do (It’s a good thing I don’t curse in front of her).

In my Child Development class, I’ve been learning that Jayda is in the midst of her Preoperational Stage of cognitive development, where language growth is paramount; however, this stage is also marked by egocentrism and imagination. It’s a magical age—literally and figuratively—and I need to constantly remind myself that while Jayda “sounds” very mature, she’s not; she’s still only three years old. She still expects to get everything she asks for (and will throw a tantrum if she doesn’t), and she doesn’t always “get” the rules I make, or even understand everything we discuss in our now-verbose conversations. She has a lot of words under her belt, and she’s growing up…but she’s not a grown up. She still tells me, “I want Max and Ruby to come to our house,” and talks about Disney princesses like they’re her best friends (She’s even tried to get one of her “princely” male friends to marry her so they could “live happily ever after”). But Jayda’s behavior is just fine; she’s simply a “normal” three year old—with a vastly growing vocabulary.

In preparation for my application to grad school, I’ve recently started studying for my GREs. When I studied for my SATs, I was more than twenty years younger than I am now—and thus had twenty fewer years of vocabulary-acquisition under my belt. Thus, when I first looked at the GRE vocabulary lists, I was amazed by how many words I know. However, I’m also amazed by how many words I still don’t know. It’s time for me to create a stack of flash cards—and begin integrating new, “big” words into my vocabulary. Clearly, language acquisition is a never-ending process…but sometimes it’s more of a chore to develop your vocabulary than at other times. Jayda loves mimicking my favorite phrases—and enjoys the squeals of delight I make when I hear her say something new and intelligent. I wish my studying was just as fulfilling. But I also wish I could find a prince with whom I could live happily ever after. If I have to be so grown up, it’s a good thing I have Jayda and her fantastic imagination around to make life more enjoyable.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yoga I - by Cyma

It’s an interesting concept: to maintain a daily practice. Until now, I’ve never done anything consistently and/or with intent. I’ve also never had young children before. Doing daily yoga, meditation, praying, walking, or any number of rituals/practices, especially first thing in the morning, can help give you a sense of yourself for the unfolding day -- whether you will need rest or invigoration, reflection or stimulus; whether you are at peace or immersed in chaos. These practices provide you with the opportunity to reflect, revise and redo, even before the day has even begun. They help you maintain mindfulness and compassionate detachment.

I have practiced yoga for many years. Lately, I’ve been practicing it daily.

First thing in the morning (earlier than I'm used to awakening) allows for peace and quiet; scarce commodities for anyone with younger children.

Today, I started with Sun Salutations. I looked outside my bedroom window at the beautiful rising sun and the lush tapestry of green trees in my backyard. I gave thanks for it all before I rose up to the heavens. There, I thanked G-d , my spirit guides and ancestors and swept back down, touching my toes. Plank to Upward-Facing Dog helped me hug Mother Earth; Downward Facing Dog gave me pause to consider my tight hamstrings and focus on my feet. I again thanked Mother Earth for sustaining me and later reiterated this in Mountain Pose, feeling the solidity of the earth beneath me. This feeling is one of the most comforting experiences I know.

By the end of my routine – usually 20 or 40 minutes – I pretty much know what I can expect from myself during this day, and how I might approach it the easiest. I know whether I’m stiffer than usual, or more flexible; struggling more or moving with ease. While this doesn’t predetermine what will happen, it gives me some awfully good clues. It’s up to me to decide whether I want to listen to these messages and even more importantly, what I will do with them.

In my life as a new older mother, I am constantly grappling with methods to sustain me and help me rise above the ongoing chaos and turmoil of my children’s daily lives. There are days, and sometimes weeks, when my life clearly doesn’t feel like my own and my destiny feels much too out of control.

It is at these times when grasping for straws will not do. Only a method or practice can or will help you. So, next time you hear ear-piercing screams or are pulled by the hand to defend a sibling’s heinous crimes, think “Om” or whatever word works for you, and try rising above it all, remembering that centered feeling you had during your practice. Nothing will go away; it’s how you approach it that matters. It works every time.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Getting Your Life Back - by Victoria McEvoy, M.D.

One of the chapters in our newly published book for new parents is about finding that accomplished woman you left behind when this new little baby tyrant entered your household.

It is not that you regret letting this new little person into your life, but at some point you may wistfully wonder why your old friends are not enjoying your tales about the miracle baby, or why you have not regained that toned pre-baby shape that you worked so hard for, or why your life seems to revolve around pumping breast milk, washing those little outfits, feeding, changing diapers, and trying to catch some shut eye between feeds. Not only does your partner not find you so interesting, but you are a little bored with yourself. But, how do you regain that edge when going for a walk with the baby seems to be a major undertaking requiring huge organizational skills and time management expertise?

First of all, take that sacred post-partum period- whether it be three months or six months -and let your body recover, try to catch up on the sleep deficit that may have started in the last trimester and seems to be skating out of control with each passing day, and eat a healthy diet with lots of fluids. Let your hormones settle down. Childbirth often starts with euphoria followed by moodiness, with tears and emotional fragility soon to follow. Sleep deprivation doesn’t help matters. Ask for help; sometimes your partner may want to help but does not know how. Be specific-“please empty the dishwasher” rather than “I seem to be doing everything!”

Once the household seems to be getting back on an even keel, make some time for yourself. Spontaneous “mommy” .time is not an option ; free time requires planning. Decide what it is that will make you feel whole again and arrange for a babysitter or a partner to take the baby. You may want to go to the gym, work with a personal trainer, have lunch with a friend, get back on track with work, or just be alone to read. It is a good idea to get out of the house. Don’t forget after the first week or so, unless there are extreme weather conditions, your baby can get out for a walk with you in a snuggly and later in a stroller.

New mothers often feel isolated so making connections with others is important. Be sensitive to old friends who don’t have children. They may not find you r tales from the crib as scintillating as you do. Finding other new mothers on line or at the gym or park can be lots of fun because they do want to talk about breast feeding, car seats, and vaccinations.

And don’t forget to laugh. The worry and responsibility of caring for another human being can be so overwhelming that new parents forget how to have fun. Have a date night with your partner, go to a movie, or just relax and let it go for a few minutes- at least until that soft whimpering next door turns into a full-blown wail.

Victoria McEvoy, M.D., is the author of  “The 24/7 Baby Doctor: a Harvard Pediatrician Answers All Your Questions From Birth to One Year.” She grew up in New York, and after attaining the rank of #3 in the USLTA tennis rankings for women in the U.S., left tennis to pursue a career in medicine. She graduated in 1975 from Harvard Medical School and trained at Boston City Hospital, New England Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, and Mass General Hospital. She has been a practicing pediatrician in the greater Boston area for over thirty years. She celebrates her thirty-eighth wedding anniversary this year with husband Earl, and together they raised four children. Dr. McEvoy is a senior pediatrician on the staff at Mass General Hospital today and has attained the rank of Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She currently divides her time as the Medical Director and Chief of Pediatrics of Mass General West Medical Group between clinical practice and administration. She had a column called “The Exam Room” in the Boston Globe and has written extensively for various publications. She is the former Associate Editor of the “Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide”. 

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Advising Others Children - by Robin

Last week my son had a play date with his "girlfriend" Seraina.  They have known each other since kindergarten, and while they're not in the same first grade class, they attend the same school and sometimes play together during recess....or at least want to.

She came to our was a drop-off play date. Whenever they get together, they always play family, complete with baby dolls, stuffed animal pets, etc.  This time, they were a "fire" family, since Seth is obsessed with anything fire-related, and Seraina is game to play along.  Sometimes I think she's a female version of him.  They are very sweet together.

I made them mac 'n cheese for lunch.  They they had ice cream and were laughing and playing famously as they always do.

Suddenly things took a more serious turn.  They marched into my office, where (mostly) Seraina began an emotional discussion and asked "is it ok to lie?" 

I was speechless for the moment, and asked why she posed that question.

She explained that some kids are school are making fun of her and Seth because they are boyfriend and girlfriend.  They sing songs like "Seraina and Seth sitting in a tree....k-i-s-s-i-n-g...." (not that they are kissing).  Seth is actually pretty shy, though affectionate.

They have asked her if Seth is her boyfriend, and she doesn't want to say yes because they'll taunt her more, and if she ignores them, they won't want to be her friend.  So, can she say no (which isn't true), she asked?

I'm not a big fan of fibbing, so I suggested she tell them that she and Seth are good friends.

She didn't like that idea.

I told her she should try not to let it bother her because when the others grow up, they'll want to have a boyfriend or girlfriend too.

That didn't fly.

I came up with some other suggestions as well, but nothing resonated with her.

She was also concerned about the kids telling her teacher about their "love."  I asked why  that would matter?  Would the teacher really care? 

Seth chimed in that some of the kids in his class want to play with him during recess, but he and Seraina want to play together upon occasion since they don't get to see each other that much.  The other kids don't like it when they feel left out.  Seth realized that he can't make everyone happy all the time....a big life lesson for sure.  You make choices that may ruffle another's feathers, even though that's not your intention.

Seraina asked if I would speak with her mom about the situation and possibly the moms of the kids who are bothering them.  I told her I would talk to her mom when she came to pick her up. I felt her pain. While I've always considered Seth a sensitive and caring child, at this moment, I could see that girls and boys have such a different take on things...even at age was so evident. 

I brought it up to her mom who listened thoughtfully and mostly dismissed it by saying that Seraina tends to be dramatic and emotoinal.  She knows her daughter.  I said I understood, but had endeavored to make her feel better or at least try to come up with an acceptable response she might deliver comfortably to the other kids.

Her mom said she'd speak with her and thanked me for broaching the subject.

But, it left me thinking in it ok to offer advice to other kids?  Perhaps they're being raised with a different mindset or perspective about the world? If I interject my two cents worth, would my thinking mesh with that of her own mom?  Am I better off not offering an opinion and simply say next time, that's a discussion you should have directly with your mom?

Hmmmmm.....thoughts?  Advice?  Has this happened to you?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bringing Nature Inside - by Cara

When my son was three years old, his Nursery School ordered live caterpillar larvae that were self-contained with food. The children could observe the caterpillars grow in the classroom, day by day. I was fascinated as well. I had never actually witnessed caterpillars grow, develop into chrysalises, and hatch into beautiful butterflies, so I eagerly went to their mesh “home” every day when I picked my son up from school! This amazing gift of nature intrigued my son and I so much, that when his Preschool class ordered caterpillars the following year, I inquired where to get them so that we could watch this process at home, too.

The next year, when my son was four, I ordered a container of caterpillars to observe in our home. Each container holds five caterpillar larvae. My son sat the container next to his bed at night and we would observe which caterpillars were the BIG FAT caterpillars, as I read, “The Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle, to him. The first thing my son would do in the morning would be to see how the caterpillars fared through the night. If they were all there and moving around, he was thrilled.

One day, while my son was at Preschool, I noticed that three of the BIG FAT caterpillars had made their way to the top of the container and were hanging upside-down in a “J ” shape. I sat on the floor and gasped as one twirled and twirled! I was certain it would fall, but it didn’t! I kept checking on them throughout the day; their fuzzy bodies became hard encasements, right before my eyes! I went back again and again to marvel at the intricate beauty that nature designed!

When I picked my son up from Preschool, I told him that three of the caterpillars had made their chrysalises! He was ecstatic! His teacher warned not to transfer the paper the chrysalises were on to their mesh “pavilion” until all five caterpillars made their chrysalises. The next couple days, my son and I were glued to the caterpillar container, waiting to see with our own eyes when the last two caterpillars would form their chrysalises!

Two mornings later, it happened!! Before my son went to Preschool, he saw the last two caterpillars hanging upside-down, “J ” shaped! Since he is an early riser and didn’t have to be at Preschool for a few hours, we both sat and slowly watched as the caterpillars lost their “fuzz,” which were replaced by the hard chrysalis shell! My son and I were both in awe! My son was so excited that he wanted to bring the container to school, even though there was an identical one there. I suggested he ask permission from his teacher first. She said that once they all become chrysalises, it is best to carefully transfer them, on the paper, to the “pavilion” and let them be still and quiet until they hatch.

I did as my son’s teacher said. We waited. Everyday we looked for a hatched butterfly, but none were hatching. All of a sudden, exactly a week after they formed their chrysalises, the first three hatched overnight!! Three, fluttering, Painted Lady butterflies were dancing around the pavilion! It was suggested to put a flower with some sugar-water in a shallow bowl inside the pavilion to supply food to the butterflies. I ran outside, in my slippers, and cut a peony flower off one of my bushes, doused it with sugar-water, and put it in the pavilion!

Exactly two days later, the last two Painted Lady butterflies emerged!! We kept them in the pavilion until the upcoming weekend. You could tell that they wanted to be free because they had all managed to flutter to the top of the pavilion, anticipating their freedom.

That weekend was a glorious one! A perfect day to release butterflies! We opened up the pavilion and four fluttered and danced to the heavens! However one didn’t want to leave. We coaxed it. We tried gently blowing on it, but it wouldn’t budge. My son suggested that we keep it inside the house a few more days because, “Maybe it’s a baby.” His compassionate suggestion seemed reasonable, so I prepared to close the pavilion back up. As soon as I started to close the top flap, out came the last butterfly, awkwardly fluttering to the nearest flower on our porch. The butterfly probably was a little immature and couldn’t fly too far or too high. We left it to sit on the flower.

After several hours, this last butterfly finally gained the courage to test its wings and fly away to another spot! It was free to explore the world!

Since then, every year, in April and May, I order two containers of butterflies. A total of ten per month. My son and I make predictions about which container will turn into chrysalises first. Or which one has the BIGGEST, FATTEST caterpillars! We love it! And we never cease to get excited when they turn upside-down and become “J ” shape, nor watch their incredible transformation into beautiful butterflies!

This past weekend, we released ten, very eager butterflies into the world. It was our second batch for the season. We waved goodbye, cheered them on for being so strong, and watched until the very last one disappeared behind a tree.

I love this tradition I have with my son. I know he loves it just the same. I plan on doing it with him for at least several more years to come! I hope he will remember the incredible gift of nature. And I hope he realizes that as much as you want to keep something, or hold on to it a little longer, sometimes you have to set it free. Even if you don’t think it has the ability or the courage, it just may surprise you! I think about my son this way. And sometimes he DOES surprise me with his ability and courage. So I say to him, “Fly, my Little Butterfly! Fly, and be free!”

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love Bites -- By Laura

Yesterday my 13-month old son Wyatt bit me. Hard. It left an angry, purple, blood mark on my shoulder. He bit me because he was frustrated. He was frustrated because I wouldn’t let him chew on the wheel of the grocery cart. I wouldn’t let him chew on the wheel of the grocery cart because I had just run it through a big pile of dog poop on the street, and his exploring mouth and large tongue were honing in on it.
I almost dropped the little vampire. I have tiny, toothy skid marks down my right chest where he bounced down and finally came to rest on my raised knee. I screamed out of surprise and immediately placed Wyatt on the floor. When my husband came in he saw Wyatt lying on the ground and me standing there, indignant, with my hand on my shoulder. Wyatt was crying. I was close to it. And of course my husband naturally went to the child first. I would expect him to. I would want him to. But at the same time, I felt a little twinge of sadness that he did. Sometimes some of the changes of parenthood manage to avoid my sleep-deprived, little brain.
Wyatt’s bite hurt on a physical level, and it hurt even more on an emotional one. I was really surprised by it, and I had to take a step back. I couldn’t look at him for a while. It was the first really angry display I had witnessed from my son whose nickname was “The Buddha.” Since he was six-months old, he has been a very calm, very wise baby. He was patient with me – far more so than anyone else in my life has ever been. It feels to me that we have an understanding between us and that he trusts me to make the right decisions for him and his brother. Especially when it comes to chew toys.
I know that infants bite for a multitude of reasons one of them being that biting is a means of communication. Wyatt was pretty clear as to what he was communicating yesterday: frustration, dislike, anger and outrage. He was furious with me for not letting him do what babies do: chew on things that are gross, so his reaction was unexpected. Yes. I know. I was quick to react. I didn’t want Wyatt to ingest dog poop, or anything off the streets of New York City for that matter. I was too sudden. I probably scared him. And I was thoughtless. He got angry, and I got bit.
But I think what has disturbed me most about the situation is that it took me a while to get over it. I wouldn’t hold Wyatt up to my body for a few hours afterwards. I kept him on my knee when I had to hold him, and I did my best not to have to pick him up at all. I kept those teeth as far from me as I could, and I did so without wanting to tell my husband how I was feeling for fear of judgment because I was having a terrible time getting past it. I was that upset. Wyatt didn’t seem to notice my distance. He was happy and bubbling and back to being the mellow little Buddha Baby that I know and love.
Here’s the thing: a child’s job is to teach the parent as much as it is the parent’s job to teach the child. So the little Buddha is telling me some things. He’s telling me to let go. To forgive so that I can set myself free. I need to do it with him, and I need to do it in other areas of my life. Because if there is one thing I am really good at, it’s holding on to pain so that I can use it to protect myself. I do not forgive people with ease or grace.
Eventually I picked Wyatt up, held him close, and we had ourselves a good giggle. He brings out in me a love that is so powerful it supercedes my willful defenses and irrational fears. So maybe if I could start with Wyatt, I can keep going. I can forgive other people who have hurt me in one way or another. I have been trying to sit with this and practice this all day, and I am not very good at it. However, I am not going to give up. Eventually, I’ll figure it out, and I will become proficient at forgiveness. And I will always have a little scar on my right shoulder to wear as both a reminder and as a badge of courage on my journey of parenthood.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Feeling Like a Mother--by Jamie

I’ve been a mother for a little over three years now, but I don’t always feel like one. Sometimes I feel a bit like a three-year-old, myself—at times when I’m squishing Play-Doh with Jayda, swinging on the swing next to her at the playground, or even laying on the couch and “being the baby” while my daughter pretends to be the mommy and tries to stuff a binky in my mouth.

Other times, often in the middle of the night, as Jayda is fast asleep in my arms, I marvel at the fact that I am a mother. It’s both scary and thrilling to realize that this wonderful little girl is all mine—and that I’m responsible for her for the rest of her life (or, well, at least another 15 years, legally!). I’m the grown-up in our family—and sometimes that just boggles my mind. I’m 40 years old…but I sure don’t feel like it most of the time. About a year ago, I found my best friend from Junior High School on Facebook and since then, we’ve resurrected our friendship. When we get together, I can’t believe that the memories we reminisce about are from over 25 years ago! How can that be possible? I remember that Stray Cats concert we went to like it was yesterday—and can still recite all the lyrics to "Stray Cat Strut."

I’m taking a Child Development class this month at a local community college, and for two hours a day, four days a week, I do feel like a mother…and a rather old one at that! On the first day of class, a student approached our professor and said, “My mom told me I had to tell my teachers that I won’t be here for the last two days of class because we’re going to Florida to visit my grandparents.” Oy. Could he act any younger?! And, the other day, as a 20-year-old student sitting next to me groused about all the things she was doing to get her ex of two years back because “he was her soul mate—and worth fighting for,” and even started to show me the seven page letter she was writing to him, I blurted out: “What are you doing? You shouldn’t be in a serious relationship at your age—you’re too young!” She told me I sounded like her mother. Yikes. But wait—I am a mother.

As the professor—who is in her early 40s with two elementary school-aged children, lectures every day—she looks to me as both her student and her contemporary; we both discuss the development of our children with the class, and even roll our eyes at each other when a young student makes a ridiculously immature remark (this happens often). It pays to be a parent in this class because my life experience is an asset. But as a parent, I also have to work harder to find the time to study than any of these “kids” who don’t have to work like I do, or take care of a child. And, just like a true mom, I often want to tsk tsk the ones who are putting no time into this class—and who have the nerve to come in for a test without ever opening up their text books.

One student told me her mom was doing her extra-credit project (which entails reading three chapters of a certain book and writing three short reaction-papers); she said her mother was injured and stuck in bed with the spare time, and was happy to do it. Another girl piped in that she had a friend whose mom had written her college application essays. The first girl remarked, “How cool!” and I blurted out “How pathetic!” Ooops. They laughed and I smiled and turned away, knowing I’ll never be that kind of mom. But I am a mom—whether I think about it all the time or not. And I guess it often shows.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Carbon Copy - by Cyma

My daughter wants to be like me. She watches how I walk, she watches how I talk. When I beg her to wear more than the three outfits she keeps reaching for, I must remind myself that I only wear black, black and black. No wonder she wants to wear black.

Last night, she asked for my shirt, to sleep with. This morning she is wearing it, and showing me how the sleeves nearly fit (they don’t) and how it matches her pajamas (they don’t).

My daughter acts like me: fearless, creative, brassy, and needs to be in charge of things. Oh, yea, and always wants to be right. I look at her face, and sometimes see mine. We have the same eyes, skin tone, hair color, and nearly the same body type. Another mother, but the same as me. I want to believe that her sadness, like mine, is overshadowed by a great capacity for happiness. I know she laughs more than I did at her age.

I believe that all things happen for a reason. I chose to believe that someone else birthed her so I could have her. I must say that I believe that the fit couldn’t be better. It wasn’t always this way. My first glance took my breath away. I remember holding my breath when I saw this horribly sad, confused creature. I sensed a tightness in her brain, a portent of many things to come.

I was ambivalent about it all. I didn’t take a leap of faith, I just said ‘yes,’ and nearly died afterward trying to retrace my steps and retract my words. It was all too late.

But, G-d has a plan. The plan has unfolded. Today, I reached down to take my shirt off my daughter, and catch glimpses of myself underneath. And then she laughed.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

CYMA CHATS: with Dr. Rachelle Katz, author, The Happy Stepmother

Cyma: Your new book, The Happy Stepmother: 10 Steps to a Fulfilling New Life - Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, and Thrive in Your New Family, outlines several steps for providing better success with step-parenting. Can you discuss a few of them?

Rachelle: I wrote The Happy Stepmother because I was sad to see so many stepmothers struggling with a whole host of challenges. I wanted to help them overcome their problems and feel more fulfilled and content. One of the steps I recommend to achieve this goal is that stepmothers need to take care of themselves by placing their needs as a priority. Often, stepmothers are so busy taking care of others, they forget about themselves. Just by shifting their focus back to themselves, not in a selfish way, but in a way that promotes their growth and health, will help them feel happier. Another step that I believe is essential to a stepmother’s happiness is that she make her relationship with her husband a priority, right after taking care of herself. To survive the stresses of stepfamily life, stepmothers must have strong, healthy marriages.

Cyma: Many women are delaying marriage until a later age, increasing the odds that they'll now find "Mr. Right" with children. What are your thoughts on this?

Rachelle: This is certainly true of my experience. I was 39 when I got married. And, while I was mature, I found being a stepmother very challenging. I wish I knew more about stepfamilies when I got married. I would have been better prepared, and my expectations would have been more realistic. .

Cyma: Do you find that older women deal with step-parenting differently than younger women? How does "later" motherhood provide an advantage?

Rachelle: I actually believe becoming a stepmother at an older age may be harder than it is for younger women. Women who marry when older have accomplished a lot in their lives, they’ve achieved professional success, they receive respect and recognition from friends, and they’re accustomed to being treated well. Once they become stepmothers, they may find that their family does not take into account their needs, that their opinions don’t matter, and that they lack control in making decisions that affect them. This is in stark contrast to what they experience in the other areas of their lives, and therefore, more shocking and painful for them than younger women.

Cyma: Tell us a little about your own step-parenting experience? What was your greatest joy? What was your greatest sorrow?

Rachelle: I have a 23 year old stepdaughter who will be going to medical school in the fall. Compared to many stepmothers, I am lucky that my stepdaughter has always been well-behaved and respectful. I am very proud of her. She has worked hard to be where she is today. I wish I had a closer relationship with her. Spending time was very limited. She spent every other weekend with us when she was younger, went to out-of-town college, and now lives in another city. She is completely involved in her own life, as it should be, but this doesn’t allow us to be together often.

Cyma: What have you experienced as a step mom that has helped shape your life and your work?

Rachelle: I was a psychotherapist for many years before becoming a stepmother. When I became one, I suddenly felt a kinship with other women who were in this role. I started a website to explore the challenges stepmothers experience and to find practical solutions to these problems; I began monthly support groups; and I wrote The Happy Stepmother. Writing does not come easily for me, so this project felt especially important or I never would have undertaken it. Helping other stepmothers gives my life purpose and meaning.

Cyma: What one simple piece of advice can you offer someone contemplating or entering a partnership/marriage to someone who already has children?

Rachelle: Discuss your expectations. Oftentimes, men want their new wives to fulfill all maternal roles. Too many stepmothers comply, to help out their husband, bond with their stepchildren, to prove they are not wicked like the stereotypical stepmother. Stepmothers end up exhausted if they do this. I believe biological parents should take care of, and discipline their children. Husbands need to step up to the plate and also do their share of the housework.

Cyma: What are your thoughts about and advice for new "later" moms who are in situations where they must combine step-parenting with parenting their own children?

Rachelle: Again, one’s expectations are very important. Don’t expect your family to blend over time. Some families do, most don’t. So much depends on the personalities of each family member. They don’t have to love each other, or even like each other; they just need to be respectful and compassionate to each other.

Cyma: What sole factor has made your life as a step-parent easier?

Rachelle: Improving communication with my husband. We had trouble discussing problems when we first got married. He would get defensive and blame me when I brought up something that was bothering me. This would upset me, and we were off to the races. We both worked hard to more considerate of each other’s feelings and viewpoints, and to be more patient and open with each other.

Rachelle Katz, Ed.D. is a psychotherapist with 25 years in private practice in NYC. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as an addictions specialist, certified in alcoholism and substance abuse counseling. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Rachelle moderates a website,, that features an online chat room for stepmothers to support and acknowledge each other. She also run monthly stepmother support groups in NYC, and is a stepmother coach. She has been married for 19 years and has a 23-year old stepdaughter.

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Friday, June 11, 2010


(A VEE Corporation Production in association with Universal Pictures Stage Productions and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. CG: ® & © 2010 Universal Studios and/or HMH. Photos courtesy of VEE Corporation.)

CURIOUS GEORGE LIVE! The World’s Favorite Mischievous Monkey

CURIOUS GEORGE®, the irrepressible little monkey who has captured children’s hearts for generations, jumped into action when he takes the stage in the inaugural tour of Curious George Live!

Starring in his own original live musical stage production for the first time ever, Curious George is on a mission to help Chef Pisghetti save his restaurant by winning a world-famous meatball competition. With guidance from his friend, The Man with the Yellow Hat, George’s adventures take him to Rome and The Golden Meatball Contest. With every swing and flip, George takes the audience through a fun-filled, entertaining story filled with music, dance and follow-that-monkey fun.

Children and parents around the world have delighted in Curious George’s adventures in books for nearly 65 years. Created in 1941 by Margret and H.A. Rey, Curious George has provided the inspiration for books, movies and a television series, and will continue to educate and entertain children in Curious George Live! by introducing them to a limitless world of exploration and discovery while offering wholesome family fun. Featuring original composition and familiar songs and professional singers and dancers, Curious George Live! will entertain young audiences.

For information, visit Curious George Live!.

To order tickets and receive a discount, use the passcode FRIEND online in “promotions and special offers” box on, or at the box office.  Visit ticketmaster to see if the show is coming to your town.

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Full Circle - by Robin

We booked a cruise to the Mediterranean for late July, and I'm totally psyched.  I had been making myself nuts trying to figure out how best to create a memorable birthday this summer, and I stumbled on a cruise that caught my eye.

After further investigation, other cruises were brought to my attention, and my husband became interested as well.  Before we knew it, we signed on.

I didn't expect to want to sail.  Our previous cruise experience was not entirely positive, but it wasn't an American ship, and that, I'm told, can make a big difference.

I'm both psyched and a bit overwhelmed at the notion of being gone over two weeks.  I'm already stressing about the email overload I'll experience if we don't buy me a Blackberry that works in Europe. And, even so, I don't want to become an email junkie while we're away.

In anticipation of our voyage, I started digging around the basement, pouring through old tour books and came across notes and business cards I had made and collected on previous trips to Europe.  I was amazed at how I had recorded things in such detail, and the information would prove helpful in the planning of this vacation.

I was also a bit taken aback when I noted that I hadn't been out of the country in over 10 years.  I guess it shouldn't have been such a shock since Seth is 7, and we've only traveled domestically since he was born.  But, somehow reading the travel journals I had kept and looking at the photos, made me feel that it was another lifetime ago.

Who was that girl?  I wasn't yet a mother. I was married. ...but our life was still our own.

Marc and I had traveled with my dad.  My mom passed away 11 years ago, and my dad had never left the country and had wanted to.  We didn't want him to have any regrets in his life, so we suggested he vacation with us.  We went twice to Europe with him.  First on a Costa Cruise...and the second on a land package.  We had a good time both trips.  My dad and husband get along well, though my dad can sometimes be painstakingly slow when it comes to make simple decisions, like picking ripe bananas at a Paris supermarket. And, buying yogurt thinking it was cottage cheese, and not really knowing the difference when he ate it.  We were able to laugh at the circumstances, and it provided some comic relief on a busy trip.  My dad is a good sport.

I'm so glad we went when we did, as my dad, at 91, has had chronic health challenges for the last 5 years, and overseas travel would not be viable for him at this time.  Goes to show that you shouldn't put off what you really want to do.  Often we know this, but don't seize the moment as we should, if we're able.

As the memories from those previous trips starting pouring in, it hit me that my travels were now coming full circle.  My dad isn't coming with us, but my son is.  Seth has never left the country before, never mind being on a cruise.  What a treat it will be to see foreign sights through his eye.  I'm not entirely sure which ports exactly will interest him, if any.  I do think that Venice and Rome will be cool for him. They are two of my personal favorites.

And, the ship, the Ruby Princess (Princess Cruise Lines), has a kids camp, so Seth doesn't even have to venture off the boat.  I told him there is a pool onboard, and how awesome (his word) it would be to swim on a ship.  And, to sleep on a ship.  I hope there will be other children his age and that he'll have a blast.

This is sure to be a lifetime experience for all of us.  And, I'll look forward to telling my dad and others all about it upon our return.  I don't want to rush the days away until we leave.  Seth still has to complete first grade...we're coming down the homestretch.  And, he'll be in day camp a month before we leave.  But, just knowing that this is coming up gets me very excited.  We did purchase travel insurance, just in case, but G-d willing, we'll be good to go.  And, Seth will get the very first stamp in his brand new passport, and I'm pleased that we are able to offer him this experience, and hope that he and all of us will remember it for many years to come.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rainmaker - by Liimu

I am traveling again this week, hence the lateness of my post, this time with my family on Martha's Vineyard to celebrate my sister's birthday. On my way up here yesterday, I could not believe it when the rained poured down upon our car the entire 7.5 hour drive, despite the forecasts, which insisted it would be a sunny day. Those of you who know me well know I also enjoyed a rainy Italian vacation a few weeks back, during the month that is supposed to be the most beautiful of the year in that region. Not when I come to town. This is our third annual trip to Martha's Vineyard, we have come twice before in June and once in July, and it has rained every time.

This morning, as my sister and I ran in the rain, we were talking about my belief in the Law of Attraction, my unwavering faith in the goodness of the Universe, and my ability to thank It for and subsequently manifest miraculous abundance in my life. I have been consciously working to manifest abundance for the past couple of weeks and yesterday and today I received miracle after miracle - checks coming in that had only been mailed the day before, for twice as much as I expected them to be. Phone calls out of the blue from work colleagues who were going to not only contract me for work, but forward me on to their colleagues, who would also be in need of my services. I could go on and on.

My friends call me the Rainmaker. And so, perhaps that's why it rains wherever I go. So, if you see someone kicking up wet sand and splashing in the ocean as the rain drops around her and her kids, that would be me. Cause if you wanna be a rainmaker, you better learn to have fun getting wet.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Through the Generations - by Cara

My son has been learning about the value of coins in school. To help him with his homework, I took out a basket of coins we use to throw our spare change into, and started laying the coins out to show a visual description to assist with one of the homework problems.

All of a sudden, my son noticed something interesting. He found a Wheat back penny among this basket of coins! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wheat back pennies, instead of a picture of the Lincoln Memorial on the back, the words, “One Cent,” are inscribed.

I found this remarkable for several reasons. First being that Wheat back pennies are so rare (they were minted only for 50 years, between 1909 - 1959), secondly because I started my own collection of Wheat back pennies when I was around my son’s age (I must have close to 50 of them by now). Thirdly, because now my son wants to start his own Wheat back collection.

The fourth interesting reason is that my son spotted a bag of pre-started coin rolls and wanted to use them to roll the coins. When my father was still alive, I would give him our basket of loose change and the paper coin rolls, and he would spend enormous amounts of time putting the change into the respective rolls. He would then take the rolls to the bank and cash them in for me. He always took such pride in what he did and felt a sense of accomplishment in rolling those coins for me!

Now that my father is gone, I find it fascinating that my son wants to assume that same exact activity. As tedious as it is, both my father and son get a sense of accomplishment from rolling coins. We told our son that if he lays out the correct number of coins to fill a roll, correctly identifies the value of the coin roll, and then fills it, my husband would take him to the bank to “earn” his keep. It is a motivating learning experience.

But I have noticed this about my son; he has my father’s quality of enjoying working on tedious projects. I used to give my father all sorts of projects I just found too tedious to take on, and he would gladly do them all! The one I miss the most is ironing! My father used to iron our clothes because between a toddler and 2 rambunctious dogs, I didn’t want to risk having the iron accidentally pulled off the ironing board and scorching someone. So I would happily give all of my ironing to my father to do! I’ve become so spoiled, that now it’s become, “dry clean only,” in this house. And I rarely buy 100% cotton!

But back to my son and his new obsession. I find it fascinating that my son has not only taken an interest in something that I also have an interest in. I find it equally amazing that he has also embraced the “joy” of rolling coins, just as my father had. I continually find it amazing how you see not only yourself in your child, but can also see close relatives, with all of their “quirks,” in your child. How remarkable. And what a gift. And now my son has 2 Wheat back pennies to start his own collection! Such an unexpected treat!

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Visiting New York - by Laura

Here are some tips for friends and family who are coming to visit our family here in New York City this summer:

First off, we don’t have a car. We walk everywhere or take the subway, and when we shop we buy only what we can carry or stash in the bottom of the stroller. And whereas it’s nice to hear about all the stuff you can fit in your SUV when you shop at Costco, Wal-mart and K-Mart, that’s not a reality here on the island. What is a reality is that we do pay more for everyday items, but we don’t like to talk about it for half an hour with you even after you’ve posted on Facebook how expensive paper towels are here.

New York City is a totally different lifestyle, so our conversations are vary from those you might be used to in the Midwestern suburbs. It may be fascinating to you to talk about resealing your driveway, to discuss why Budweiser is the king of beers, or to debate about which Lion’s Club will win the chili cookoff, but for this audience it might be a challenge to stay engaged. The bartender is not being rude. It’s just not relevant. Also, please don’t compare New York’s cost of living to your cost of living. We know we’re paying a lot in rent for very small spaces, but hearing that we can live in a mansion in Chickenville, Arkansas, for these prices doesn’t mean anything to us. Plus, there’s a reason real estate is affordable in Chickenville. Nobody wants to live there, and the Broadway productions suck.

No. Having babies in the city is not easy, but it’s definitely do-able. In fact, it has huge advantages. Whereas we may not have a lawn to play on, we also do not have a lawn to mow, so we have more time to sit on the floor and read to our kids. And to make up for the lack of lawns, we have plenty of lovely parks, award-winning, progressive schools, and a plethora of kid-friendly places where they can go and be exposed to art, music, theater and more. Just because we don’t have a backyard full of plastic toys, it doesn’t mean our kids are deprived of a rightful childhood.

Yes. New York City is dirty. And so are pig farms, restaurant kitchens, and your three-car garage. New Yorkers are probably some of the most germ aware people on the planet, and people like me have hand sanitizer on our persons at all times to prove it. That’s why we cringe when you put your shoes up on our furniture. We tend to take our shoes off when we’re in someone’s home, which is a gracious custom, as well as being more comfortable and relaxing.

Yes. New York City is loud. And so is your gignormous 72” flat screen TVs with Dolby surround sound that you have blaring constantly in your bonus room where you child spends most of his or her time playing with their Nintendo instead of getting outside and meeting other people, having social interactions, and being exposed to culture.

Yes. We have to go to the grocery store every two days. This is not a burden. It means fresh vegetables and fruits on our table instead of week-old broccoli from Safeway wilting away in the crisper. It means we walk more. It means we carry more. It means we stay active and actually burn off some of the calories we are eating.

You’re welcome here. This is a great place to visit and an advantageous place to live. But please don’t “feel sorry” for the children who live here. Most of them grow up to be very successful because of the culture, the education, the people, and the opportunities this city has to offer. The bar is set high here. And New Yorkers of all ages like to rise to it.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Letting Go of My Carrie Bradshaw--by Jamie

About a decade ago when HBO’s “Sex and the City” was all the rage, my girlfriends and I used to cozy up on our sofas—often with a drink in hand—to watch the show raptly for 30 minutes every week. Though I was certainly not as glamorous as the ladies on the show, I did identify with many of their dating woes, and also shared their fierce displays of female bonding with a handful of my own close girlfriends. Like the majority of my gal pals at the time, I most closely identified with Carrie Bradshaw; I, too, was a writer, possessed several of her neurotic quirks, and, most notably had my own commitment-phobic “Mr. Big” in my life (or, well, truthfully, a few of them!).

When Charlotte from “Sex and the City” whined “I've been dating since I was 15! I'm exhausted! Where is he?” I felt the same way. But I didn’t feel a strong connection to Charlotte’s character as a whole: She was much more uptight and conservative than I was, and, aside from our shared desire to meet Mr. Right, she seemed to have quite different dreams than I had. All that changed last week.

When I went to see “Sex and the City 2” on opening day, it was like being reunited with old friends. Much of the movie was silly and predictable, but it was still really satisfying to see Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha continuing to watch out for each other, and experiencing many of the issues I’m addressing in my own life. There was one big surprise, however: Although I don’t have her money or her nanny, or even a husband like she does, I saw myself in Charlotte for the first time—and felt a hell of a lot more empathy for her than I did for Carrie. Funny how people change when they grow up—in the movies and in the real world.

For awhile after seeing the movie, I felt quite nostalgic for my “single in the city” days—the freedom I formerly had to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to, the incredible body I possessed from my religious and obsessive daily workouts, and the exciting men I was able to date day and night. And then I remembered all the heartbreak I’d experienced from dating dozens of Mr. Wrongs…and all the lonely weekends I’d spent doing nothing but working out and watching movies. Sure, I did have my share of fun times—with decent guys and without—and I will always cherish many good memories from my single in the city life…but I’d never want to go back. And when I watched Carrie and Big committed to being together forever—but with no children in their futures—I felt sad for Carrie, and, honestly, a bit disappointed in her. On the other hand, my heart went out to Charlotte, who was so overwhelmed by being a mommy, and who so desperately needed a break (but felt guilty for needing one); I understood her now. Some days I am her. And while I couldn’t muster much sympathy for Carrie and her problems with Big, I bawled for Charlotte—and cheered for her in the end. I no longer want a Mr. Big in my life (and certainly don’t have the patience for one!), and while it would be nice to have a Harry sometimes, more importantly, I’m content with just my little Jayda. Being a mom may not be glamorous, and it sure can be frustrating and exhausting, but my life as a whole is a lot more satisfying than it was back in the heyday of “Sex and the City.”

I’m not saying that children are for everyone—and thankfully, many people who would rather not be mothers realize this and don’t try to have kids. But I do think that parenting—with all its challenges and sleepless nights—has helped create a much better life for me, personally. Back in my “I’m Carrie Bradshaw” days, I wouldn’t have dreamed of feeling this way…but I’ve grown and changed a lot. And while, like Carrie, I think my life can always benefit from a little “sparkle,” I know I can get quite a bit of that now from my little gem of a daughter. And if I ever need more, knocking back a Cosmo every now and then with my girlfriends is all I really need to shine.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Watering My Children - by Cyma

I never considered myself a gardener. In fact, I can’t stand planting anything. However, I am good at watering my children. It’s very simple. Watering my children equals love. I know that because when I hug, I get a smile. When I kiss, I get a smile. And, when I hug and kiss, I get a really big smile. That’s how I know that A plus B equals C. It’s the water that does it all.

To start, I fill the pots with nurturing soil, provide an ongoing dose of fertilizer and water them daily. I let them dry out occasionally, before coming back around again. But the dryness only lasts for a short while, and it is usually due to excessive sun.

I never got the same kind of watering as a kid. In fact, it’s a miracle that I didn’t shrivel up and die, at all. But, the dearth of it, the lack of sustenance is the one thing that gave me the steely resolve and determined fortitude to live. It also provided the largest ongoing bucket of tears that a person could find. I sometimes think that it’s my tears that supply the enormous, nearly endless amount of water I provide for my children. I swear, sometimes, that I can taste the salt.

I believe that my water is good and clear and crisp. It runs exactly where it is poured. I rarely ever need to mop up the excess; it seems to go straight to the roots where it’s most needed. I sometimes wonder if I’ve wet the roots enough or even too much (my father said that I was a child who needed too much), but the body of the plants seem firm, secure and tender; the tendrils luscious and bright. I can’t imagine that any child needs too much love, especially mine. I suppose if they do, I’ll work on finding the drain.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Juggling Your Urge to Wander with Being a Mother - by Marcia Reynolds, author, Wander Woman

Many women enter the corporate world excited about the possibilities. They were told as girls they could accomplish anything. Then even though they are promoted early on, the roadblocks get tougher to climb. Frustrated, they start asking, “What’s next?”

In researching my book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, I found that many women start wandering from job to job searching for the place they will feel heard and acknowledged for all they have to offer. When they tire of being disappointed, they begin to see work as simply a training ground to develop skills they can use in their own businesses.

These women decide to jump off the corporate ladder not because they want to spend more time with their children but because it is the best way to meet their personal needs of achievement and contribution. How then do “wander women” cope with being stay-at-home working moms?

1) Segment time and space. Julie English, a Six Sigma Master Blackbelt engineer and CEO of Within Reach Consulting, said she quickly realized she needed an office outside of home. She only goes there two or three days a week, but she needs the physical separation to segment her time. Darelyn “DJ” Mitsch president of the corporate coaching company The Pyramid Resource Group said she books “mommy” time along with her work appointments. She also said she recalibrates her time as her children grow up, giving some of that time to herself. She recently published her memoir, Mystic Grits.

2) Integrate activities. Julie takes the family with her once or twice a year on business trips. On the other hand, when DJ found a note from her son in her suitcase asking her if she loved travel more than she loved him, she started hiring other coaches to do the ground work which allowed her more time at home. Ultimately, this led to her winning bigger contracts because she had a team to do the work.

3) Maintain social bonds. Putting friendships on the back burner is one of the greatest mistakes wander women. Not only will your empathetic friends help you maintain focus when customers whine, kids scream, health issues nag, and projects overwhelm, they will keep you from feeling isolated when you work for yourself. Find at least three other women who are consciously trying to create more satisfying, purposeful lives like you are. Meet regularly. Eat meals together. Take walks. Your “community of support” keeps you sane as well as productive.

4) Keep your body healthy. Julie discovered that she quickly lost track of her schedule when working for herself. To keep her body in good working order to get everything done, she found she had to start the day with exercise before even reading read her email. Also, make sure you eat healthy meals instead of what you can gobble down in quick breaks. Schedule your lunch hour and stick to it.

5) Regularly notice the world around you. I get acupuncture once a month to reset my overtaxed body. It was my acupuncturist who first told me that I was disconnected. He then prescribed a daily dose of going outside, smelling the air, appreciating the trees and feeling the ground beneath my feet. When I reconnect with nature, I reconnect with my soul.

6) Recreate. DJ said she still needs to recreate herself every few years, answering the question, “What’s next.” She has to give herself private reflection time to find an answer which always includes work that is meaningful for her and contributes to the world she brought her precious children into. She says she will always be learning, playing and growing to feed her wandering soul.

Marcia Reynolds is a coach who teaches classes worldwide on emotional intelligence and empowerment . Read more about her and her book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction at

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Friday, June 04, 2010

The Me That I Was - by Robin

A close friend of mine from Mytle Beach, SC came to visit this past holiday weekend.  She stayed with us two nights...which went all too fast....because we had a blast together.

We met a number of years ago attending an Omega conference in NYC and really clicked.  As if we had been friends for years.

She is younger than her 30s....and single.... so while we're in a very different place in our lives, we understand each other, tell it like it is, have each other's back....and laugh a lot.  I love that.  I always welcome our time together.  In part, it reminds me of the me I was before marriage and motherhood. Unattached.  Operating with complete freedom of action.  Working in the city and often gallavanting around town with friends, whether to socialize, shop, etc.  Part of me misses those days, though I love my husband, son and home.

What I do welcome is a dose of it periodically.  It makes me feel both alive and appreciative of all that I have.

Her first night here, we went out to dinner at a waterside restaurant, with great seafood and an enviable view.  We then joined the packs of other gal pals gathering to see Sex & the City.  I was so glad to be able to see it with a good friend.  We really enjoyed the movie, and I especially related to the storylines pertaining to motherhood.  The character Miranda makes a comment that for her, motherhood isn't enough. And, Charlotte is seen having a tearful moment during a challenging episode with her two young daughters.  It felt real, though much of the film was quite over the top otherwise.  It didn't matter.  It was welcome escapism.

The next day, we went into the city, and covered more territory there than I have in years.

We started at Limelight Marketplace, which was converted into a cool upscale mall from the original Limelight, which was a hot nightclub back in its heyday.  What a trip down memory lane.  I recalled dancing the night away back in my dating days.  It was always a big singles scene.  I was amazed to see how it was transformed, yet the gorgeous stainglass windows and architecture remained in tact. I pictured the pulsating music and strobe lights.  It had come a long way.

From there, we ventured down to Union Square and had a nice lunch at Rosa Mexicana.  They had taken over the space occupied for years by America.  I remembered also having gone there back in my single days, with girlfriends for brunch, etc. things had changed.

We then walked around the Farmer's Market in Union Square...always a treat...and hit various stores around that vicinity.

Time flew, and we found ourselves at 10pm heading down to the West Village on foot.  We wanted to see the arch in Washington Square Park lit up.  It was worth the trip.  The arch is quite a spectacle, and it took me back to my college days when I spent a summer studying in France and vacationed for the first time in Paris, where I saw the magnificent Arc de Triomphe.  I later returned to Paris on a singles trip....where I met my now husband.  So, Paris came full circle for me.

My friend got busy taking photos in the park.  It was a beautiful night.  The weather was perfect, and many were out strolling around.  It is a very colourful place to be.  On a bench near us was a Lesbian couple, humping with abandon. They were fully clothed, but still zealously going at it.  Some passersby were turned off, but couldn't resist marveling at their behaving with complete abandon.  It was voyeuristic, yet there was something freeing about it.

In the background, beautiful classical music could be heard.  A student, probably from NYU, had moved a piano to the park, and was serenading all. It was incredible.

Around midnight, we decided to head back to Penn Station to catch a train to Great Neck, and as we awaited the train, we took in the entertainment underground.  There was a talented guitar player singing, as various young guys took turns breakdancing and doing acrobatics.  Others alternated at the mike rapping.  It was quite a scene, and such a NY experience.

While I was wiped once we got back to my house, it was a day to remember.  Chockful of unique NY moments.  Good friendship.  Nostalgia.  And, it renewed my spirit.  I needed that more than I even knew.  I look forward to more days of discovery, whether in the city or elsewhere.  For me, having new experiences is so important.  It feeds my soul which often feels stagnant in the suburbs, so I need to make a more concerted effort to put aside my to do list and get my NYC fix, whether my friend is visiting or not.  I have to do it for me....and the me that I was.

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