Friday, July 30, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Becoming a Fully-Loaded Grown-up - by Stacy Kaiser

The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know

1. Face Life’s Challenges Head-On

• Don’t waste time bemoaning the bad hand you’ve been dealt. Focus on what you can change now, and begin to invest your efforts in those directions. Beware of what Kaiser calls the “elevator effect”: exaggerating and escalating a problem to a higher level than it really is.

• Successful grown ups build and cultivate a support system. Kaiser’s rule of thumb: the bigger the problem, the more people you need to tell about it and seek support from.

2. Make Peace with Your Body

• What do you want the world to see when they look at you? Accept the fact that you and only you have control. How you feel about your appearance is a barometer of how you feel you fit into the world.

• Everyone complains most loudly about the things they can control—most especially weight. Identify the things that you can change and work toward changing them—but make peace with the things you can’t change, and learn to dress and groom yourself in the most flattering way possible.

3. Take Responsibility for Your Heart

• First, be aware of relationship baggage—analyze your issues, learn from your past, and avoid future mistakes. Can your baggage fit into an overhead bin, or are you checking in huge trunks and suitcases?

• Know the difference between what you need and what you want. Make choices from your heart and your head, not just your hormones.

• If you want lasting love, stop the following behaviors immediately: give up the need to be right, the need to win, the finger pointing, yelling, and the fights about the small stuff. Keep the end game firmly in mind: when we are old, I want us to still be together.

• The 4 C’s of quality relationship building are: (1) Consider your partner’s feelings, thoughts, and desires; (2) Compromise as often as you can, and choose a partner who is interested in compromising as well; (3) Comfort your partner when he or she is in pain—and don’t settle for a partner who can’t comfort you in return; and (4) Compliment daily.

4. Build a Meaningful Career

• Recognize that your job is so much more than a paycheck or the use of your skills. It is an integral part of who you are and the contribution you are making to society.

• Remember that in any industry, you start at the bottom because you have to pay your dues. Grown-ups are willing to pay their dues because they have their eye on a bigger future.

• Don’t like your current job? Then appreciate the benefits it gives to your life—money, security, insurance. Always keep the bigger picture in mind.

• If you lose your job, as many have during the recession, do not fall into despair. And always, always have a back-up plan. (Perhaps you can take your skill set to another industry, work as a freelancer, etc.)

5. Learn How to Handle the Tough Times

• Life will hand out tough times—true grown ups know they must cope with a crisis, not give up or fall apart.

• Whether it’s the loss of a job, a divorce, or an illness, learn to manage your anxiety (no panicking). Gather information to assess the reality of the situation, reach out to others who can help, and take some sort of action. Instead of falling apart, real grown ups do something proactive.

6. Face Your Anxieties Instead of Trying to Escape Them

• Are you relying on something to distract yourself, ease the pain, or make you feel better? The need to escape is driven typically by four key feelings: shame, fear, anger, and sadness. If these emotions are not dealt with, addictions may result. Recognize this and turn to your support system and professional help.

• These feelings, especially, sadness, need comfort – not the comfort of a drink, a cookie, or a purchase, but the true comfort of a person or group of people who care.

7. Take Ownership of Your Finances

• Real grown ups learn to live within their means, and they take responsibility for keeping up with the information they need to manage their own finances.

• If you are in trouble financially, do not panic or give up—remember, failure can be a temporary state. Rebuilding is done all the time by huge companies, small businesses, and individuals.

8. Master the Use of Your Time

• We all have the same amount of time—a true grown up is aware of this and takes ownership of his or her schedule.

• Life is a balancing act: part of being a grown up is learning to juggle work, family, intimate relationships, taking care of one’s self, and many other commitments. Time management is essential—this means consciously planning, prioritizing, and making time for what’s important.

9. Practice Dynamic Communication

• Recognize that how you communicate sets the tone for how the world sees you and treats you.

• Dynamic communication means listening to your grown up voice and refusing to allow your past history or negative fantasy voice to influence your present behavior.

• Dynamic communicators do their best to keep themselves—and others—in check. They’ll apologize, they’ll walk away, and they’ll take the higher road for good.

• Dynamic communicators don’t bring up twenty things that happened in the past – with anyone. They are focused on the here and now and moving forward.

• To communicate effectively, you have to care more about the long-term outcome than you do about the immediate gratification of being heard, winning, getting the last word, or being right.

10. Find the Right Level of Flexibility

• As much as real grown ups need to have a plan for the future, it’s also crucial to develop flexibility—the ability to adapt, change, and conform to any situation—the good and the bad, the planned and unplanned.

STACY KAISER is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship expert, and media personality. With over 100 television appearances in the last year on major networks including CNN, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX, Stacy has a reputation for bringing a unique mix of thoughtful and provocative insight to a wide range of topics. Stacy tackles the demands of a thriving private practice while meeting the daily challenges as a mother of school-age children. She is a much sought after public speaker on subjects ranging from office and personal relationship issues to anger management and family politics.

Stacy was a featured psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club and Lifetime’s DietTribe, and is currently the chief program officer for ToughLOVE LLC. She lives in Los Angeles with her two children. Visit

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too many things to do, too little time - by Liimu

It's good to have a plan. The only problem with a plan is that if things don't go according to it, you're pretty well screwed and better know how to go with the flow. This morning, I started to log on to my computer to write this blog and the screen gradually began to fade from Windows blue to what I now know is called, "The White Screen of Death." Long story short, I managed to get the computer up and running enough to back up all my important files, but this will be at least two days work I hadn't counted on having to do.

In other news, my daughter finished her first swimming season. She started off slow, frustrated that she could never win in any of her "heats" (groups of swimmers). We told her that our only requirement of her this season (or any season for that matter) was that she complete the season and do her best. Well, she went from coming in last in every event to winning almost every time she hit the water at her last two meets. And now, she feels the pleasure of pushing through and sticking with something even when it's hard. Next weekend, we go to the mall - her celebratory trip for completing the swim season. I wish I were one of those moms who loved going shopping. I'm not. I love hanging out with my daughter, though, so I will enjoy it for that reason.

Sorry if this post is a little blah. I'll have more on THAT in a couple week. You'll have to stay tuned to find out. It'll be worth the wait, though. I promise you that, FOR SURE..

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When “No” Means “Green Eggs and Ham” - by Cara

Exactly one year ago, I published my first blog EVER! It was for Motherhood Later Than Sooner. It, by far, has been the MOST creative blog I've ever written, so I decided to celebrate my year anniversary of blogging by running it again! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy blogging! And I aspire to be more creative with my blogging as time passes!

What is it about certain six year old boys needing to “test” their mothers, in every possible way imaginable. Lately, my six year old son has his own views about what the word “no” actually means.

Take, for instance, this senerio: My son’s friend had a death in the family this past week, making their usual Thursday afternoon playdate impossible to have.

Me: “Honey, Benjamin’s family is very busy today so we can’t see him this afternoon.”
My Son: “Well, how about later?”
Me: “No, Honey. Benjamin’s family needs to be alone today so we are not having the playdate.”
My Son: “But Benjamin’s not busy.”
Me: (Getting irritated) “We are still not having the playdate. End of story.”
My Son: “What if you call Benjamin’s Mom?”
Me: “I said, “no!” “I am not calling Benjamin’s Mom”...(“Sam I Am!”), “We’re not having a playdate!”...(“Green Eggs and Ham!)
My Son: “Well, what about 5 o’clock? You can call Benjamin’s Mom then.”
Me: (Now irritated AND getting sarcastic), “What part of the word “no” don’t you understand?”...(“I will not call at 5 o’clock! I will not do it! I just will not!)
My son: “Maybe we can walk over to Benjamin’s house and see if he can play?
Me: (Steam now emitting from my ears), “PLEASE tell me what you don’t understand about “no!!” I really want to know what there is about “no” that doesn’t make sense to you!!...(“I WILL NOT KNOCK, Sam I Am, I WILL NOT KNOCK, Green Eggs and Ham! I do not want to call or write! There is no playdate, THAT IS RIGHT!!)
My son: “Well, maybe we could meet him in the park?
Me: (Glaring and taking deep breaths while thinking...”I will not meet him in the park, I will not meet him in the dark...I will not call his Mom, oh no, I will not knock on doors and oh...WE WILL NOT MEET HIM, LITTLE MAN, NOW GET YOUR BOOK, ‘GREEN EGGS AND HAM’!!!”)
My son: “Could you pick Benjamin up and bring him to our house?”
Me: (Almost ready to blow, “I will not, WILL NOT, let you play! Why must you ask me every way? I will not pick up Ben to play, I will not go to the park today! I will not call his Mom or knock! I will not do it at 5 o’clock! We will not have a playdate today! NOW WHY CAN’T YOU LISTEN TO WHAT I SAY??!!)
Me: “I’m done with this conversation. Now go read your book”.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Sex In The City -- Laura Houston

Babies are their own form of birth control. They ruin sex. They don’t kill the desire. Just the act. Sure. Thanks to shifting hormones, shock, awe, and exhaustion, the sex drive is gone for a few months after birth, but fortunately it comes right back at the most unexpected times – usually in the middle of the day when the babies are playing quietly or napping and my husband is at work entrenched in a meeting. The floods of desire rarely come at a convenient time and place for me. And I am the sort of woman who pays close attention to sex, the frequency, the quality, and the small little nuances in between. It’s an important element to me in my marriage.

Following the advice of a friend who does not have twins but who does have a full-time nanny, I dedicated Tuesday night as “romance night.” I announced this to my husband who stopped reading his Facebook newsfeed and said, “Why? What did you do?” I explained to him that we really needed to set aside some time for intimacy. He looked around at the mess of toys in the living room, the dishes in the sink, and the pile of laundry under the waiting diligently by the washing machine and said “OK,” which every woman knows really means, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

So Tuesday rolled around and I got ready. I did yoga for an hour so I’d feel lithe and sexy, and I threw in 50 sit-ups, which I read is supposed to help orgasms. I put the boys down for an extra long nap and tackled the daunting task of hair removal, gave myself a pedicure, styled my hair, and put on makeup all the way down to mascara. I spent the afternoon cleaning the house, doing laundry, and preparing a nice meal. I chilled wine, sprayed the sheets with rose scented linen spray, and took the boys to the park for a good romp on their favorite jungle gym to make sure they were worn out. Dave came home at 6:30, and by then my makeup had worn off, my hair was in a ponytail, and my legs were covered in red bumps. And you guessed it – the only one ready for an early bedtime was me.

I needed to rethink my plan.

I did a google search. I read the mommy boards. I bought an issue of “Oprah” – the one where Dr. Phil discussed sex and intimacy in marriage. I came back to Dave with a new plan. “We need to be spontaneous,” I told him. He stopped editing his PowerPoint presentation and said, “OK.” So I set about to make our household good and ready for spontaneity, and if I had not been a sleep deprived mother, I would have seen the futility in this act. I spent a month trying to open up our lives to “spur-of-the-moment” romance, but what I found was that in those times I really needed to get something done or take a break myself.

Finally my good and patient husband said, “Honey, why don’t you just take it easy? We’ll let it happen when it happens. The fact that it’s important to you is enough for me.” I stopped reading an article about making organic baby food.

“Really?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I just said that to make you feel better.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, thanks for lying to me.”

He picked up my hand and squeezed it.

“I’m not giving up on it yet,” I told him.

“I think you’ll do better if you just relax,” he said.

“When have you ever known me to relax?” I said.

He shrugged.

So I tried meditating to help me find my calm and happy place. This was even a bigger joke than planning spontaneity. I changed from my yoga pants into a pair of ratty jeans and sat down with a glass of wine and had a good think.

There are a few mood kills for mothers, the obvious one being a crying baby, and I had tried in the past to make sure the boys were freshly diapered, fed, comfortable, and occupied with a nap or with their favorite toys. However, they could always sense some thing was going on and they would cry or scream at the top of their lungs until I went into check on them. Then they would plop back down for a nap until I went back to our bedroom and tried to get busy again.

It occurred to me that I could not consistently prevent my boys from disrupting sex in spite of my best efforts. But I could control how I reacted. And as every happy mother knows, the best way not to react is not to know.

So this Tuesday night when the husband comes home the house will be somewhat clean, dinner will be take out, the boys will be fed and possibly bathed, and I am going to have an aphrodisiac more powerful than the lingerie I’ll be wearing under my dress: noise canceling head phones.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Driving Me Crazy--by Jamie

Most of the mothers I know had babies who loved snoozing in their car seats, and these moms spent many nap times and night times putting their babies to sleep in their cars. Middle-of-the-night outings were quite popular with many of my friends, who used them to soothe a screaming babe who wouldn't fall asleep in her crib—but who would immediately be lulled to sleep by a drive around the neighborhood. Not my kid. From the very first day Jayda’s tush hit her infant car seat, she hated it, and she let me know it—loudly.

When I gave birth to Jayda, I’d only been living in suburbia for three months, following over a decade spent in the city. And that meant I was a very inexperienced—and insecure—driver. Add to the mix a screaming infant in the back seat every time I pulled out of my driveway, and you can understand why I rarely wanted to drive past a five-mile radius of my house for the first year of Jayda’s life. No matter where we went, Jayda screamed and screamed and screamed—and made me a nervous wreck. And on the rare occasion when she stopped screaming because she’d finally exhausted her little body and passed out, that freaked me out even more; I thought she was dead, and had to pull over and check on her. Driving with Jayda was not fun.

It’s still not fun—at least over long distances. Last summer, Jayda suddenly decided that she hated hills—and panicked every time she saw a slight curve ahead in the road that indicated our car might go up and down a bit. Then, a few months later, she decided she hated parkways with a passion. Now, every time we take off for a play date or an outing, she asks skeptically, “Are we going on ‘that’ road?” Since we do often take parkways, I purchased a DVD player for those occasions. Now, when we’re heading somewhere that’s not completely local, I assure Jayda that we are going to be on “that” road, but she can either close her eyes (which leads to great protests—since Jayda hates sleeping even more than she hates driving), or watch a movie. Thanks to folks like Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears and Arthur, parkway driving is a bit more peaceful for me now, as Jayda distracts herself from the unappealing drive with her mini movie screen. But all is not perfect.

Last week, Jayda and I drove out east to my sister’s house to go blueberry picking at a local farm, and had a lovely day. But the 90-minute ride home was pure hell. Jayda vacillated from screaming for “a treat” to screaming that she had a belly ache to begging to go home "right now!" to lie in her bed (which is something she never begs to do!). The ride was so bad that I developed a migraine in the middle of it. Now that Jayda’s not a baby, I can talk to her and explain things to her while we’re in the car…but it’s still near-impossible to get a tired, cranky car-hating kid to understand that there’s a long ride ahead of us, and there’s no way to make it go any faster. And I fear it’s always going to be that way with Jayda. Or, at least until she turns 17 and starts throwing a different kind of car tantrum—the one where she relentlessly begs for the car keys so she can drive herself!

Attention readers: This is my 52nd blog—I haven’t missed a week since I started!—and I just wanted to say “thank you” to those of you who have been faithfully reading my accounts of single motherhood every week. Some blogs come easy to me…some not-so-much…but knowing you’re out there, looking forward to my words and commenting on them (please!) makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

From Peter Pan to Grown-Up by Cyma

We are what people would think of as a normal, loving family. My husband and I have established careers; we are well respected in our fields. My young adult children live on their own, in their own condos and have very ‘good’ jobs. They are both rising in their companies. My younger children are sweet, respectful, polite, smart and popular. Our dog and cats are well cared for. We have many friends. By all accounts, people like what they see. However, what remains hidden is this: In the last few weeks, I’ve gone from Peter Pan to Grown. Sssshhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a staggering change.

I’m now dealing with an older son who is a good soul with drop-dead good looks, but has recently gotten in trouble with the law. My older daughter has just revealed that she’s grappling, mightily, with some demons. My father, a brilliant doctor still working in his 80’s is now showing the first signs of dementia. My father-in-law has had repeated seizures and recently fell and broke his arm; my brother-in-law by marriage is dying of lung cancer. One of my oldest friends has been without a job for nearly one year. Another friend just had knee surgery. My physician’s assistant has beginning stage breast cancer. I have two friends who are getting divorced; another who after several marriages/relationships just found true love.

Right now, our family is beset with problems. I am sober with thought and filled with the enormous responsibilities as a daughter, mother, wife and friend. I am not exempt from issues; none of us are. I just don’t know how to deal with all of this.

Before children, I lived a singularly insular life. I laughed, loved, worked, played, but very little touched me. I escaped the trials of other people’s childhoods; staved off true love; let few people into my heart; and remained content in isolation. Now, I cannot do so. Gone are the days when I could work overtime to remove all the papers on my desk, expecting to start fresh (and clean) the next day.

I pray. I’m mindful. Still, I cannot grasp the pain that everyday life can bring; still cannot always immediately fathom why we are led here to struggle in so many different ways. It seems that no one is exempt from struggle and nearly everyone is grappling with pain.

On most days, I don’t even know what to say to any of the people mentioned above. My admonishments and sadness about my son takes my breath away. My daughter’s struggles have just spilled over her solid, armored gates. My father doesn’t seem to see the recent changes in his demeanor. My father-in-law feels victimized; my brother-in-law and family don’t discuss feelings. My friends talk about staying in the present. What about me? I feel like I lived my whole life happily soaring above the clouds, which didn’t leave me much time for creating a solid foundation. I’m at a loss for how to cope, how to support and be supported.

I see what was missing in my life – commitments to loved ones; suffering over indisputable truths; riding the waves of innumerable crises – living each day as if it was my last. But here I am, very much alive and well and soberly contemplative about the state of affairs around me. I want to put these people and their circumstances into a locked box tucked under the corner shelf in the closet. But, the door remains wide open and the often ugly realities scream out like ghosts fresh from the grave.

I think this shall pass. It must pass. I try to live with my glass half-full; hold gratitude near to my heart; be thankful for my good life and fortunes. And breathe. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Prep Your Child for Kindergarten Testing by Karen Quinn

(photo by David Drapkin)

There is a controversy brewing in NYC over the city’s gifted and talented program. It seems that more Manhattan kids than ever are scoring in the 90th percentile and above on the test. Officials are blaming this score inflation on overzealous parents who are hiring toddler tutors and buying commercial prep materials to give their kids a leg up. People commenting on the controversy almost universally condemn parents who prepare their kids for testing as being (and I quote) “pushy,” “insane,” or AWPWTMTOTH (“Annoying White Parents With Too Much Time On Their Hands).

I disagree. I believe that parents who prepare their youngsters for the material covered by IQ tests are “responsible,” “smart,” and not necessarily annoying, white or people with too much time on their hands.

IQ tests are far from perfect. They are inaccurate predictors of a child’s ability to excel in school, especially when given to children as young as four. A child’s brain continues to develop well into her teens and early twenties. A toddler who is struggling with language or fine-motor skills can soar later with the right intervention.

Still, IQ tests do assess the 7-abilities children need for academic success: language, knowledge, math, thinking, memory, spatial, and fine-motor skills. Kids must have these same abilities to excel from the time they start kindergarten until they finish high school. As a parent, it is our job (no, our duty!) to understand these abilities, instill them in our children, and recognize whether or not our kids have them. If a child is missing just one of these abilities, he’ll struggle in school, endure criticism and embarrassment in class, and will likely suffer diminished self-esteem. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.

I know this from experience. My daughter, Schuyler, lacked certain spatial abilities. Unfortunately, we didn’t figure that out until 6th grade. By then, her academic problems had compounded and it was almost impossible to catch up. Schuyler’s school struggles were epic – all for lack of spatial skills. She could not line up numbers for long division, recognize shapes for geometry, or interpret a graph. To this day, I regret that I didn’t understand enough about intellectual development to recognize the underlying cause of my daughter’s school struggles and how I might have helped her. Here is the worst part: She took an IQ test at age-four – the WPPSI-II. Her overall score was good, but she failed two subtests – mazes and block design. This was a huge red flag that she was at risk for having a visual-spatial learning disability. Had I understood that, I could have watched her school performance more carefully and gotten her the right kind of help as soon as she began faltering.

Since I didn’t, here is just one example of what she endured: In seventh grade, the principal of her school came into her classroom and inspected the children’s notebooks. When she saw that Schuyler had failed a geometry exam, she held it up for the whole class to see. “An F! What, are you, stupid?” She said. This happened just a few years ago at New Explorations for Science, Technology and Math (NEST) – an in-demand public school in New York City.

My interest in IQ testing and learning was piqued by Schuyler’s struggles, but I never expected to become an expert on the subject. In fact, I began my career as a lawyer, and then moved to marketing at American Express. When my second child, son, Sam, was 3, something happened that changed the course of all our lives.

Sam was one of those toddlers who had an ear infection every other month. By the time he turned 3, we noticed that he wasn’t developing the way Schuyler had. Eventually, we took him to a doctor who ran a battery of physical and psychological tests.

“I have good news and bad news,” the doctor told us. ”The good news is…Sam’s speech and motor delays stem from the fact that he can’t hear, the result of fluid build up from all his ear infections. Physically, we can fix that.”

“The bad news is that we gave him the WPPSI – the same test he’ll need to take next year to get into school. He failed miserably. I don’t believe he can catch up.” And then came the kicker. ”Mrs. Quinn, no private school in town will accept your son.”

I was devastated. We lived in one of the worst performing public school districts in New York City. With Sam’s delays, I felt he would need the small class size of a private school in order to thrive. I immediately called my mother. I’m lucky. My mother was a Professor of Early Childhood Education. With her guidance, we mapped out a program I could do with Sam at home to build the skills he would need for kindergarten. Every night for about thirty minutes, Sam and I worked together. To him, we were just playing. But in reality, each activity was selected to develop the 7-abilities he would need for testing and school success.

One year later, Sam took the test again. I’ll never forget the call I got from our nursery school director a few weeks later. “Sam’s results are in,” she said. ”You’re never going to believe this, but he made the top score in his class!” Sam was admitted to our first choice school. Today, he’s a bright high school student taking honors and advanced placement classes.

Once I understood the underlying abilities Sam needed to do well on his test and in school, I was able to make sure he had them. I don’t think I was pushy, insane and I certainly did not have too much time on my hands. I did what any good mother would do when faced with the challenge of a learning delayed toddler.

Not long after Sam started kindergarten, American Express laid me off. Before I even packed up my boxes, I knew what I had to do. The experience with Sam inspired me to start a company that would help parents get their children into the best public and private schools in Manhattan. I no longer have this business, but while I was there I taught scores of parents how to work with their children, just as I had Sam. Time and again, they performed so well on their tests that they get into the top city schools.

I am not a professional educator. I am a mother who was forced to figure this out to help her own child. Later, I became a professional, sharing what I knew with other parents so they could help their children, and they did. If you have a young child, I urge you to make sure she has the 7-abilities needed for testing and (more importantly) school success. For tips on ways to instill the 7-abilities, visit Doing this will put your child on the glide path for success whether you send him to a private school, gifted program, or to the local public kindergarten just around the corner.

Karen Quinn is the author of the new book Testing For Kindergarten. She is the "later" mother of two children, Sam and Schuyler. Karen believes that prepping for kindergarten testing is the greatest gift you can give your child.  

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Bucket List by Robin

This is my caretaking week.  Not that other weeks aren't.  But, I feel a bit consumed by it at the moment.

My senior dad is seeing his pain doctor yet again and calling his internist later this week, seeking medical clearance for a surgery that I am hugely against. I pray he doesn't get it, though I feel for his desire to put a band-aid on his discomfort.  I'm just a fan of exploring non-surgical approaches.....especially given his age.

We are taking my pet cockatiel Smokey to the vet, for the first time, for a check-up, since we have some concern.  I'm anxious about it.

In the last week, I learned of the passing of a vibrant parent trainer who I knew, and a mom friend was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that is treatable but not curable.

I hate to be depressing, but all this stuff has been weighing on my mind.

Life is fragile, and I want to enjoy and live with purpose.

I'm not someone who dwells on mortality.  But, it does seem to be a bit of a buzz topic these days.

President Bill Clinton, 63, has been promoting his Bucket List (what he wants to do before he dies), including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  He's getting press because Chelsea, his daughter, is soon to be wed.  And, it's leading to lots of chatter on various talk shows and even news programs.  Newscasters reporting on it and discussing whether they have a bucket list and when is it  too young to create one?

Is it really morbid or smart to formally commit to paper a list of your life goals, one of the newscasters asked?

It got me thinking.

I don't have a defined bucket list.  One of my items was to visit the Greek Islands, and we do have that planned, so I'm grateful.

Other than that, I'd like to write a play one day that gets produced...though I'm totally procrastinating on that one.

What else?  I don't know.  Should I know?   It bothers me that I'm not clear.  I think part of my uncertainty has to do with becoming a mom.

Before that, I knew who I was professionally.  I was a former VP with a public relations firm in NYC.  Then, I went on to become a sole practitioner with a successful PR home-based business.  Then, I turned my attention to writing dating books and working as a love coach for singles (which I still do).  Then, I launched, out of personal need, and that currently takes much of my time and attention.  It feels good, but is that what I'm destined to focus on forever?  I often ask that question.

I'm contemplating writing other books.

I'm contemplating seeking out a part time job.

I'm contemplating doing more PR, on a select basis.

I do a lot of thinking about things and don't always take immediate action.  Yet, I am a type A.  So, part of me believes that I would move fullforce ahead if I was truly committed.  But, I also know that I'm someone who has a tendency to get overwhelmed at the notion of something that feels big and important. I do better at knocking things off my to list that are quickies.

I feel like I'm not entirely certain what I want to be when I grow up.  But, I'm already grown.

I've spoken to a psychic.  Have done sessions with coaches (life/business).

I've tried to explore.

A mom I know recently completed a triathalon.  No doubt that was on her Bucket List, and I bet it felt good!

I don't have the desire for that, though my Bucket List does include learning how to swim laps, and I'm ardently working on it this summer.

I guess I'm just curious about how it feels for other later moms who once had a career and they've now put it aside for parenting.

Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what's on it?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Independence Day by Liimu

Happy 4th of July everyone!

For many people, the 4th of July is about laying by the pool, or about hopping from cookout to cookout, eating tons of hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, chips and that cake that's iced to look like an American Flag. Hell, I have to admit that I looked forward to the cookouts and the pigouts more years than I care to admit.
This year, the 4th of July was not about getting blasted or even about mindless eating (for once). It was about freedom. Freedom from compulsive eating AND from compulsive dieting. It was about freedom from addiction of all kinds. It was about freedom from poverty (I signed contracts on two fabulous new projects recently and financial freedom is finally in sight after many months of living week to week and robbing Peter to pay Paul). It's about freedom from illness - dramatic, life-threatening illness, like the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that my 6 year old faced last year, and from mundane health issues like my acne (apparently caused by an allergy to dairy - who knew?) or achy joints. This year on July 4th, everyone in our family was healthy and happy and we enjoyed our day together, fully. This year, July 4th was about freedom from self-pity or martyrdom, freedom from feeling (too) overwhelmed. Freedom!!!

I woke up July 4 morning without my alarm, as I do every morning, and turned on a mindful meditation MP3 to start my day off right. Then, I got up and made my coffee, read my meditation books and wrote a couple pages in my journal. Ate a yummy vitatop muffin on my way to the trails, and then ran a quick and totally fun 5 miles with one of my dearest friends before the heat became unbearable. Came home and made a yummy protein-rich breakfast, and got the girls together to watch the July 4 relay races. It was hot, kinda boring, and then not one, but two of my three daughters had to pee. We went to the pool to use the bathroom - locked. The community hall, locked. The library, of course, locked. I looked at my girls and said, "You know what? This isn't flowing. Let's go home." "Are you mad?" they asked. "Nope, not mad. Just going with the flow."

Home we came, where they played learning games on the computers and in their new workbooks, while I caught up on the blogs, which were long overdue for an update. (Look at me, writing yet another blog weeks ahead of time. Reverse Snooze! It works every time! Of course, you guys are probably wondering why you're reading about July 4 on July 22, but hey - it could be worse. I could be posting about the 4th annual McGill Family Easter Egg Hunt.)

I am so grateful to be free today. Not just free in the sense of living in a free country, though of course, I am also grateful for that. But for so many years, I was a prisoner in my MIND, which is so full of shoulds and should nots, I could never hear what I wanted to do in any given moment. Today, I am free to live each moment committed to health, sanity, and joy. And I truly, TRULY thank God for that.

Freedom and love to you all!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If I Wanted to be a Single Mom... - by Cara

I’m having a hard time thinking of how I would complete that sentence. I have been finding myself playing the role of “married, single Mom” now more and more.

I adore my son...I would give up my life for him. I truly put my own needs aside to meet his. But when my husband and I discussed having a child, we knew that there might be some complications both during pregnancy and afterwards. I have a chronic pain condition that rears it’s ugly head every so often. I felt confident that I would have a partner who would be able to chip in when I wasn’t feeling my best. And through the years I accumulated more medical conditions. But still, I felt that I had someone to help “carry the load,” especially with the addition of two dogs.

But now I feel completely drained. It could be my hypothyroidism, but I don’t think it is. I am drained of being the resource for a very needy child. My son needs his “emotional tank” filled to the brim every day. I am drained of his continuous high energy, and schlepping him from place to place to burn off that energy.

I am drained of two wonderful dogs that are a real part of our family. But their needs are rising as they are getting on in age. And two fish that are relatively maintenance free, but do need to be fed and have their tanks cleaned regularly.

I no longer have that partner who made a promise to me that he would be there for me if raising a child were too much for me to handle on certain days. I feel cheated. And at the same time I admire all of the amazing single Moms who willingly chose to become single Moms. My best friend is a single Mom. She always sounds frazzled. She also schleps her son from one activity to another. And she also has an aging dog. I continually wonder how she does it. She DOES have her parents to chip in when she needs a break. And a slew of close friends who are more than willing to watch her son when she needs time for herself. I have none of that. Which makes me even more resentful that my husband is bailing out of his promise to me.

So I have to ask myself: If I wanted to voluntarily be a Single Mom, under my same medical circumstances and lack of resources to help out when I need a break, would I still want to be a one? I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine life without my son. But I feel as if I am getting older exponentially at the same time.

My son is getting more mature and is taking on more responsibility. In a few years, he won’t want to even acknowledge that I even exist! And I desperately want to see him mature into an adult. But right now he is so sensitive that he needs to know my every move, my every step. I guess instead of wondering, “what if,” I should slow down and try to capture each small moment with him.

He lost his third baby tooth a few days ago. And since my husband was on a business trip, I thought that the excitement of losing his tooth (at the Bronx Zoo of all places!) would be diminished without his father here. It wasn’t. At all. He squealed with excitement at what the Tooth Fairy brought him. His Tooth Fairy is named Nute and is a Surfer Dude. We sent an e-mail to Nute, apprising him of the situation! And that whole night was filled with excitement, even as drained as I was from the day!

I guess I can now assuredly place an ending onto my opening sentence. If I wanted to be a Single Mom, I would definitely want to be one! Gladly! Otherwise, I would go through life with regrets. And that’s the last thing I want. And this childhood phase is passing so quickly! I better hold on with two hands, because I am going to be going on the ride of my life! Together, with my beautiful son! Being the best Single Mom I can be!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Independence -- by Laura Houston

My son Lyle started walking at 10 months. He’s an agile kid. Strong. Fast. Determined. He is physically advanced, and I have known this since I first felt his fluttering and then furious kicks during my pregnancy. His twin brother Wyatt has always been more contemplative, and not as anxious to crawl, walk, roll over or do much other than study things very, very carefully. But something changed at 14 months for Wyatt. He got tired of sitting and looking. He wanted to walk, and he wanted it badly. So he practiced. Obsessively. He took laps around our living room holding on to furniture to steady himself, and he calculated his moves carefully.

When we went to the park, I held Wyatt’s hand and let him walk with me, or I would put him against the fence so he could hold on and walk back and forth over the grass, sticks, bark and uneven terrain. He was thrilled with his developing skill, and it changed his personality, making him more confident, more determined, more joyful. However, as we practiced in the park sometimes the people watching would say to me, “You’ll be sorry once he starts walking, too. It just makes it harder when you have two of them to chase.”

And I would think to myself, “Really? I’m going to be sorry once he gains more independence and becomes a happier baby?” I have never understood how some parents can sacrifice what’s best for the child just to make things easier on them. I’m not talking about safety here. I don’t let my boys play in the kitchen even though they are desperate to get to any sharp, shiny object they can find in the cabinets. But when it comes to things like walking, running, climbing, and rough and tumble play, well, I’m all for it even though I have to referee more and watch more closely. Autonomy for anyone is good.

Since becoming a mother, I have lost a great deal of my independence. I miss being able to walk wherever I want to walk, and to go where I want to go when I want to go there. I mourn it every day when I am packing up the stroller with diapers, wipes, toys, water, snacks, sunscreen and every other accoutrement the boys might need on our journey out. I find the schlepping of baby stuff to be maddening. I hate that it takes me half an hour to get out the door some days just to go on a 15-minute errand. I miss my simple freedom dearly. I want my kids to have what I do not right now.

Parents of older children also dole out this nugget of wisdom to me: “Enjoy it while you can. It goes by so fast. In the blink of an eye. Next thing you know they’ll be in college.” And again I want to say, “Really? Because these past 14 months have lasted forever, and I can’t imagine in going any slower.” It’s true. Being the mother of twins means non-stop movement. Not-stop doing. Non-stop watching, listening….everything. I wouldn’t mind if it flew by sometimes.

That’s not to say I don’t love it. I do. I savor the moments because I know they don’t last. But I don’t want my boys to remain babies. I love watching them grow up and move away from needing me. Lyle won’t let me feed him any more with a spoon. Great. I’m OK with that even though I have prepare his oatmeal with less milk so it’s thick enough to roll into little balls he can pick them up and pop in his mouth. I’m OK with the additional baby proofing I have to do to keep them both safe. They’re growing independence does, indeed, create more work for me right now. But it won’t be more work down the line.

Parenting is hard work. It’s supposed to be. And it’s a sacrifice again and again and again, and I fall willingly into most of the time. I know it won’t last forever. I certainly do not want it to. I enjoy watching the boys learn things that may make my life more complex today if it means it will get easier tomorrow. That’s why every time I see the boys take a step closer to being independent, I see myself as getting closer to it, too. And I breathe just a little easier. Just a little.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Speechless--by Jamie

I’m a big talker; I speak quickly, in long spurts, and quite often. In addition to constantly talking to my friends and family, I schmooze with people everywhere I go: cashiers in supermarkets, receptionists at my doctor’s office, teachers at Jayda’s school, ladies in the locker room at my gym. And when someone is telling me a story, I do my best to be a good listener—but I’m always waiting for the moment when I can chime in with a comment, or share my two cents. As the mother of a very inquisitive three-year-old who likes to talk as much as I do, you can imagine the conversations that go on in my house. And you can also imagine the nightmare this past week has been since I’ve lost my voice.

It all started with a nasal drip that I thought was the sign of a new weather-related allergy I must have developed. And that led to a persistent cough that nagged me for a few days and left me sounding pretty hoarse. After two days of talking through my discomfort (especially during play dates with good friends and their children, where we all had a lot to catch up on!), I woke up one morning with no voice. Nada. Just a whisper. And a raging sinus infection, too. A trip to my internist and some prescribed antibiotics have alleviated the infection and the ensuing headaches…but I still have no voice.

From my Speech Therapy classes I know that whispering is one of the most irritating things you can do to your vocal folds—especially when you have an injury—but I can’t avoid it. Even at the doctor’s office when another patient in the waiting room who had heard me whispering to the receptionist asked me, “How did you lose your voice?” I couldn’t resist answering him—in detail. And when I came home from the doctor, my parents peppered me with questions about my appointment, and I answered them, too. Most significantly, I can’t stop talking to Jayda. She never learned sign language, and she can’t yet read, so I have to communicate with her verbally…and often. Especially since she doesn’t quite “get” the fact that it’s bad for her mommy to speak—and constantly asks me questions—including not-very-important ones that she still instills with a sense of urgency. On a 30-minute car ride home the other day, she yelled “Mom!” from the backseat every three minutes. I was on the parkway and couldn’t turn my head to acknowledge her, so I had to say “What?!” as loudly as I could—every time. And when she continued, “Are we almost home?” I also found myself answering her every time with the same response: "Not yet, honey" (while mumbling to myself, "Would you shut up already?!").

Part of our bedtime ritual is reading books together—anywhere from two to five titles, depending on the hour and the length of the books Jayda chooses. Often, Jayda insists on “reading” to me…but of course, now that I can’t speak well, she gets incredibly upset if I suggest she take over for a night. Last night, I whispered one entire book to her and she was content—but that was probably one book too many for my vocal folds.

As I’ve articulated before in my blog, Jayda is a very social child (and I’m a social mommy—constantly planning outings and play dates for us because staying home makes both of us nuts). So we’ve been seeing friends throughout my plight. It keeps me sane; but it’s probably not the healthiest thing to do. I need to “whisper-yell” at Jayda whenever she runs off out of my sight or does something she shouldn’t do, and I’m constantly tempted to chat away with a mommy-friend. I never realized how much conversation I could get out in a whisper. But at the end of the day, it’s also pretty painful.

Yesterday, Jayda offered to share her own “yucky cough medicine” with me to stop my coughing and to help me get my voice back—and she even kissed my throat to “make it feel better.” I wish recuperation were that easy. I have an appointment with the ENT today to find out what’s really going on, and I fear part of his prescription will be to “rest my voice.” That’s easy for him to say since his kids are all grown up. Maybe he can send one of them over to watch Jayda for me, because just as it’s always been—and especially as long as I’m caring for Jayda on my own—there’s no shutting me up.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Up, Up and Away (How to Learn Life’s Lessons) by Cyma

My children are five and seven years old. Since early toddlerhood, we’ve taken them overseas a few times, rock climbed, gone to trapeze school, and attended a Circus Yoga class. We regularly climb an 800-foot mountain near our house; we hike, camp, bike ride and walk.

All of these experiences are intended to challenge them, help build character, expose them to experiences, and teach them about their capabilities. We are serious about our ‘fun,’ intending to show them that everything is possible and anything they wish to try is at their fingertips.

However, recently, we realized that our son was frozen with fear while swinging on the swings. He not only couldn’t do it, but wouldn’t do it, and would go out of his way to show us that he was incapable of doing it. What to do?

For three weeks, nearly daily, we took him to various playgrounds in our town. We tried cajoling him, bargaining with him, yelling at him. We took turns schooling him in technique and application; had his sister and various play-friends show him what to do, to no avail. It wasn’t upsetting that he couldn’t do it (although we were absolutely certain that he could); it was unbelievably upsetting that he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t try; wouldn’t even entertain trying it. And, every time he even started the natural motion of up and down, forward and back, he’d overthink it and hang backwards when he was moving forward; thrust forward when he was swinging back. It appeared as if he was talking himself incorrectly through the motions, even though the natural motion would have come, well, naturally! He ended up acting like he was doing it, but, in effect, not moving at all. He was, and we were, stuck.

While we could see that this exercise was setting up a much-unintended power play, it became, in the end, simply that: a power play. We did NOT want to see him replay his internal tapes showing us (and him) that he couldn’t do it; however, he did not want to do it for himself, or for us. Finally, late last week, he did it. We all clapped and screamed and slapped him on the back. We took him out for an ice cream sundae (a rarity); he looked like the Cheshire Cat. Later, he said that he told himself that he needed to focus, and just do it.

All of this brings us to Trapeze Camp, undertaken recently with trapeze artist Peter Gold (owner of Trapeze-Experience) at the Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, NY. Before climbing the requisite tall ladder to the top, all of us experienced various degrees and elements of fear. My daughter felt that she would break her wrists (her father said a friend had done so, previously) and/or die; my son said that while he was swinging, he was afraid of hitting the ropes. My husband was scared of falling – thinking he, too, could die. Very, very uncustomary, and for one of the first times in my adult life, I was afraid of everything – the height, the swinging, the freefalling, the ropes. More importantly, I refused to listen to any commands, assuming that (as I always think) I knew best. In my case, I missed the all-important timing. It is the barking of commands which provides the foundation for swinging correctly, and in right-time.

During my first swing, although the trainers were shouting commands, I couldn’t hear anyone talking, my voice was screaming so loudly inside my head. On my second swing, and once I realized that I needed to listen to them, I began to slowly allow their voices to override mine.

Only after I was sure I wouldn’t die.
By the third attempt, I did nearly everything right. The problem was that the third attempt was our last try of the day. (Confucius say that those who hesitate lose out in the end).

All of this brings to mind several key points: is it ever possible to do anything in life without safety (emotional or otherwise)? Does imagining or saying you can do something mean that you‘ll actually end up doing it? Does believing you can do it and having safety ensure that you’ll nearly always succeed? Interestingly enough, our daughter, who completed two prior ‘swings’ with little hesitation and with gusto, failed on her last attempt. Accustomed to being ‘held’ by two trainers before her swing release helped her feel safe, and held! With only one trainer available, she began to scream in fear and continued screaming through her jump, swing and eventual landing. She later said that without a second trainer, she couldn’t control herself. Without fear, she would have ‘soared’ beautifully.

I decided to take this straight to Peter, who often refers to himself as a ‘Fearologist.’ “Trapeze is a great metaphor for life,” he states.  “The outer is a reflection of the inner.   The way people respond to a flying trapeze class is a reflection of their beliefs, values, character, and abilities.  Taking a trapeze class takes people quickly, to their “personal edge.”  Beyond the fun and thrill of flying, trapeze seems to activate the emotional baggage that people have physically encoded in their energy system.   Flying on the trapeze with us allows people to move from being “owned” by their experiences, to having more control and “ownership” of their experiences.  

He adds, “Fear keeps people from fulfilling their desires, expectations, and dreams.  Consistently, people who are more fearful on the trapeze are less able to have an accurate read on what’s really happening outside their body.  And, it distracts them from their production, focus, and abilities.  Flying on the trapeze gives people greater ability to stay operational in the present, while fear may be present.”

So, there you have it. I couldn’t have said it better. I’d like another chance to do the trapeze again; it may have a different outcome. However, two things have been gained: 1) We had a glimpse into our son’s playground experience and, 2) hopefully, all of us have learned a thing or two about ourselves. More importantly, we are now more confident, in great shape and………………..ready for more!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Life Choices & Minutia by Robin

I was watching THE TODAY SHOW this week, and they were discussing the recent piece that ran in NY Magazine re: loving your kids, but hating parenting (or something to that effect).

They shared research stats and interviewed a stay at home mom of three who stated that it's the small moments as a mom that please her, not all that she has to do on a constant, daily basis.  When her two year old wraps her arms around her neck, and says "I love you mommy," there's nothing like it, she explained.  But, then she turns her attention to chores for the day and unlike a job, you never "clock out" of being a mother.

Part of it, they said, relates to expectation.  Not everything about parenting is wonderful. Especially the minutia.  Whether picking up your kids toys for the umpteenth time, asking them over 'n over to get dressed, preparing endless formula bottles, struggling to get them to sleep when you're exhausted yourself, investing years potty training, etc.  It's all a boatload of work.  And, you may find yourself getting lost in the process as you drift from one task to another in what can feel like an endless flow of responsibility.

I was mentioning to a friend this week that life is just so busy.  That there is so much minutia. And, she commented, much of what I have on my plate I chose.

I responded....well...yes....I chose to have a house....become a mom.....have a pet (cockatiel), etc...and all these things require work I realize.  But, what is life without certain things?  Wouldn't it feel empty?  And, everything has tradeoffs, right?!

We all make choices everyday.  Door A vs. Door B.  And, even though we love something, like a pet, for example, they require care. Sure life would be simpler without them, but isn't the work that comes with it worth it?

And, even on THE TODAY SHOW, the expert discussed how much of what we love takes effort.  Writing this weekly blog is work, but it feels good to share.  If you have aspirations, you have to put the time in to help them come to fruition.  If you want to go on vacation, you have to plan and save for it and then pack, get your life in order, etc. It's exciting, but stressful at the same time.  If you own a house (vs. an apartment where a super is on hand to assist), you need to recruit a roster of people you can call on.  This week, I'm making endless calls to a handyman who came highly recommended for his work, if not his responsiveness.  So, I'm trying to be patient and focus on what we need to get done, knowing it will ultimately happen.

Life comes with homework, so to speak, and to stay afloat, we race to get it done.  But, then we also want to live in the moment and endeavor to take a step back to value all that we do have.  And, while I realize that some have challenges they haven't chosen (and I feel for them), we do need to somehow temper our expectations so that we don't get down when life might feel like too much.

I look at my son, and at his young age (7), life is simpler.  And, it was for me too when I was under the care of  my loving, protective parents.  But, then, like him, I probably yearned for some level of autonomy.  Being under someone's watchful apron strings, so to speak, isn't the easiest place to be either.

So, perhaps we might be careful what we wish for because it could be right around the corner, and there is no turning back the clock.  Time flies, and you're only young once.  When my son talks about what he wants to do when he grows up, where he wants to live, etc., I smile, give him a big kiss and hold him tight and hope that his youth is one that he will look back upon with fond memories, when he, too, makes life choices and tackles the minutia that come with them.

PS - A side note....I just learned that a friend of Motherhood Later, Janice Smestad, passed away from cancer at the young age of 50. I am deeply saddened.  She was a wise, supportive and compassionate help to my family when we experienced parenting challenges when my son was younger, and she will not be forgotten. She also spoke at a number of moms night out dinners for the Motherhood Later chapter in NY.  RIP Janice, and condolences to your loved ones.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reverse Snooze by Liimu

For the third week in a row, I am behind the 8 ball with my blogging for Motherhood Later. (I probably should mention that I am finding my own blogs are written nearly a month apart these days, if not more.) It looks like it's time for me to try a little trick I use with myself all the time. Reverse Snooze.

The clocks around me are all set a wee bit fast. In the car, three minutes. In my daughters' room, 5 minutes. In the kitchen, 2 minutes. My watch, 4 minutes. Just enough to keep me from being late anywhere but not so much that I catch on to my little ploy. (I used to keep my car clock 15 minutes fast, but then I just automatically reset the time in my head, so I still ended up being late.)

When I have band practice, I tell everyone else a half hour later than I put in my own calendar. That way, I'm sure to be on time. For my daughter's swim meets, I intentionally remember the time to be 15 minutes earlier than her set practice start time (which is 15 minutes earlier than the meet start) and we still end up getting there 10 minutes before it starts.

This is not a skill I'm proud to have honed over the years. Truthfully, it is a result of the fact that the women in my family squeeze every bit of productivity out of every single minutes of the day, and we continually underestimate how long it takes to get something done (or I should say I do, anyway). With a To Do list as long as mine, nothing frustrates me more than waiting 20 minutes in a doctor's office or in line to get my car inspected. Do you know how much I could accomplish in 20 minutes (says my overscheduled inner crazy woman)?

So even though I know that the ultimate goal would be to slow down and create more space in my life so I don't feel so overcommitted each day (something that has been on my Life To Do list for about 5 years), this blog is important to me so, I think it's time to put Reverse Snooze in play. Hence, I need to queue up some blog posts, so I don't get behind the 8 ball ever again. Happy Thursday, everyone!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Conundrum Over Wine Glasses - by Cara

I am currently in the midst of a heated debate regarding a set of wine glasses I gave to a close friend recently. I first saw them on a Facebook group site called,
OMG, I so need a glass of wine, or I’m gonna sell my kids!!
This group has a following of 109,646 fans. So I am obviously not the only one who can relate to this group! I bought a pair of these glasses with the full group tag imprinted on the wine glasses for myself, as well as a pair that just said, “OMG, I so need a glass of wine!” A friend saw these and LOVED them, so I bought her a set, with the complete logo as a gift, and she frequently calls or texts me that she is pulling out those glasses after the kids are asleep!

Enter one of my other close friends. She typically has bottles of wine and wine coolers lined up on top of her refrigerator. And she frequently mentions that as soon as her son goes to bed, she is having a tall glass of wine. Well, I thought that these “OMG” wine glasses would be great for her to have too! I even bought her the ones that just said,”OMG, I so need a glass of wine,” just in case she didn’t want to use the ones with the reference towards selling your kids with certain company. Well, as it turned out, she was appalled. And she needed to mention that not only was SHE appalled, she showed the glasses to her family and fiends and they were appalled as well! I apologized for offending her and offered to take the glasses back or suggest that she give them away or even throw them out if they offended her so much. She said that she wanted to keep them (?).

I was then forwarded an article by one of our other Motherhood Later bloggers regarding the issue of Mom’s needing a drink at the end of the day to take the edge off,
All Joy and No Fun...Why Parents Hate Parenting,”
from New York Magazine. This article quotes a Mom who states, “The Children’s Museum of Manhattan - a nice place, but what it really needs is a bar.” This is just not a select group of Moms who fall into this category. There are Parenting Podcasts where the hosts readily admit to needing a drink of wine at the end of the day. There are Parenting Forums where literally hundreds of Moms admit that parenting is far from easy and that a drink at the end of the day helps them to unwind.

I need to add that I am not at all pro-drinking. In fact, I rarely drink at all due to the plethora of medications I take. And I am definitely not advocating drinking to such excess that it begins to impair your life or you need it to get through each day. But a glass of wine now and then, or socially, I believe is perfectly acceptable. Especially when you come home at the end of the day and find a myriad of toys strewn around, crayon marks on the walls, a bathroom that is drenched from you child wanting to give their stuffed animals a bath (and end up wrapped in your child’s sheets to “dry off,” i.e. remake bed). I can see wanting to grab something to relax you before you try to calmly deal with each of these issues.

So back to my wine glasses. What do you think? I gave them to one friend who adores them and one friend who is horrified by them. I guess having glasses that indicate that you would want to sell your kids is a bit much. And I don’t think I will be giving them as gifts to any other friends, unless upon specific request. But considering the circumstances, was I reading into my appalled friend a little too much, and subtly indicating that she has a drinking problem (which I certainly was not), or was she over reacting to what I considered a humorous, harmless gift?

Please give me your feedback. I am interested to know what you think.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Confessional -- by Laura Houston

We enter into parenthood with a skewed presumption: we are going to be perfect parents. We read the books. We take the classes. We troll the Internet looking for information that guarantees the joy and success of parenthood will not be lost on us. The picture perfect is thus: we’ll be rolling on the clean floor laughing with our babbling, adorable, freshly powdered baby, and we won’t get Cheerios stuck in our hair or sour milk on our pants because by golly we have it together.

What were we thinking?

So here it has been one year, two months, one week and a couple of days, and I’ve learned a thing or two about parental reality. It’s time to do the motherhood confessional, but only on one condition: no judgment from you. Because chances are, you did some of these things, too. Or your mother did. Or the model-perfect mom you envy on the playground did, and she’s just too stuck-up to confess. And keep in mind we’re all still supermoms no matter our faults.

Here it goes — my failings as a parent over the last year:

  1. The ten-second rule is alive and well at my house during mealtime. In fact, if the floor is reasonably clean, I stretch it to the 120-second rule.
  2. I lie to other parents who are expecting twins. I tell them you just do everything at the same time. Knock it out all at once. And it’s fun. Oh yes – it’s fun. Why not let them be blissfully, ignorantly happy for a few more months?
  3. We waste a lot of food in this house. I calculate how full they are by how much is in the floor. A big pile means they’re done.
  4. I once went three days without brushing my teeth, so now I leave the tube of toothpaste on the counter to remind me to brush.
  5. I can wear my yoga pants way too many days in a row.
  6. If I don’t change my vocabulary, my boys’ first word is going to be the one that rhymes with fire truck. And they already know when I say, “God Damn it!” they need to stop whatever their doing and back away.
  7. I thought reading would be one of my greatest pleasures, but it bores me silly because we read the same books over and over again. Sometimes I make up different words for the books. Sometimes those barnyard animals are doing and saying some very naughty things. And then I laugh at my dark humor. And then the boys laugh with me. It’s as if they know. Then I feel guilty and story time is abruptly over.
  8. I vowed to keep sugar out of their diet, but now I will walk four blocks out of my way to get them the deep fried, doughy, sugary bombolinis they love in hopes they eat enough to sleep through the night.
  9. And, no, they still don’t sleep through the night. And, yes, I have read every fire-trucking sleep manual there is. Nothing works. Even the nannies gave up. So don’t email me any of your tips. We’ve tried them all, and we’re at peace with it. Almost.
  10. When weather is prohibitive for venturing out, I don’t hesitate to give them three baths a day so I can sit on the can and read a book while they play happily for 20 freakin’ minutes. It’s the only thing I can do to keep from going insane.
  11. When asked if they are twins, I have learned to say no, so I don’t have to have conversations with people I don’t know about their sister’s brother-in-law who had twins 22 years ago. People are fascinated by twins. Spend a day taking care of a pair, and you won’t be.
  12. When I have not had time to go grocery shopping, I will feed the boys the triple cream Brie cheese on vegetable flavored crackers and tell myself that the veggie flakes count as a salad and the Brie is just extending their palate even if it does give them horrible, room-clearing gas.
  13. Happy hour has a whole new meaning to me now.
  14. I don’t put clothes on them when it’s more than 75 degrees outside so I don’t have to do as much laundry.
  15. If I can’t sleep I pluck Wyatt from the comfy quiet of his crib and take him to bed with me because his short, soft breaths lull me back to sleep every time.
  16. For someone who is a big fan of schedules, I gave up trying to get the boys in bed by 7pm way too easily. Some nights, like when “Lost” is on, we let them crawl around in the blue light of the TV until we go to bed.
  17. I let them chew on Victoria’s Secret catalogs while I make dinner. It occupies them and gives me some sort of satisfaction to see them drooling on the models but not in the way it was intended. The mess is horrible. I find bras and panties all over the floor.
  18. I make up songs for everything we do around the house. There’s a “Who-Wants Their-Diaper-Changed?” song, a “Way-Too-Many-Babies” song, and a “Shake, Shake, Shake Your Martini” song. My personal favorite is the “Your Whining Makes Me Wine” song sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.” I sing these songs absent-mindedly in public, and now my husband, friends and nanny do, too.
  19. Yes. I smear Nutella on broccoli, zucchini, green beans and anything else I deem their diet needs.
  20. Some days I put Ovaltine in my coffee because that’s all the breakfast I have time for. If I am not careful, I choke on the lumps.

So there you have it. That’s my purge. And I want to be clear on one thing: I would not trade a second of motherhood for anything. I love it. I do. I am crazy about my sons, and they are crazy about me. Even when I think I can’t change another diaper or chase another cheerio under the fridge, I sometimes stop and look at them and think, “Man, these guys are great.” Because they are. They rarely cry. They’re intelligent and curious. They laugh every day. They think I am hilarious, so they’re my best audience ever. Most of all, they trust me implicitly to help make things better. And I always do.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

I Scream, You Scream… -- by Jamie

I really hate the ice cream man. I know he’s an average Joe just trying to make a buck, but I’m tired of bumping into him wherever Jayda and I go to play in the summer. When we head to the playground, he’s parked right smack at the entrance; when we go to the beach, we see him even before we hit the sand; when we’re at the pool, his tempting wares are beckoning Jayda from the snack bar. I guess I should consider myself lucky that the ice cream man doesn’t drive down my street every night like he used to when I was a kid; that would be pure torture.

Last summer, a friend laughingly informed me that he used to call the ice cream truck the “music truck”—and had convinced his young kids that it was just a special truck that drove around and played music. I tried this tact a few times with Jayda, and it worked for awhile whenever we saw a moving ice cream truck, but once we came across a parked one—with kids standing around it and licking ice cream cones—my game was over. Jayda could no longer be fooled. And she had to have some ice cream, too.

I don’t mind taking Jayda out for an ice cream cone every now and then, and our freezer is stocked with moderately-sized ice cream treats that I let Jayda indulge in rather often. But the ice cream man’s cones and bars are ridiculously expensive—and incredibly oversized—and I hate being manipulated into buying them. Especially when Jayda and I are on an outdoor excursion that’s supposed to be an active one. To me, a summer play date is NOT about gorging on ice cream; it’s about running around and playing, swimming, and having fun with a friend. And then afterwards, there can sometimes be treat—even ice cream—involved. But the play date shouldn’t revolve around it! Yet, like Pavlov’s dog, whenever Jayda sees an ice cream truck, she starts salivating—or rather, obsessing out loud about having a “treat.” And her incessant whine drives me nuts for the next few hours, as she immediately loses focus on her friends and the fun time she should be having—and just dwells on that damn ice cream. It really drives me nuts.

Last weekend, we met two of Jayda’s friends at a local pool. Jayda was thrilled to play with them, but almost immediately—and well before noon—she started begging for ice cream; there was no ice cream truck parked at this pool, but there had been in the past, and Jayda just knew there was ice cream to be had at this place. I tried to divert her with other snacks, and offers of buying her whatever she wanted for lunch, but as usual, my strong-willed kid would not relent. I could have refused and just taken her home if she threw a tantrum, but I really didn’t want to end the play date. So I excused ourselves from our friends and took my now-smiling kid to the snack bar; I figured I’d save my lunch money and let her fill up on ice cream, instead. It was not an ideal solution, but we had a long day ahead of us and I didn't want to battle through it. Well, to my surprise (and pleasure), the other two kids and their moms followed me. And as all three kids sat together in a row on a bench licking large soft-serve ice cream cones, I had to laugh: They were a vision of happiness—all blissfully smiling from ear to ear. Our kids were doing what kids everywhere love to do every summer—eating ice cream. And we were their indulgent moms just trying to keep our kids happy. It was a lovely afternoon. But I haven't stopped hating the ice cream man. Though sometimes I do wonder if he needs an assistant…I’m betting he makes more money than I do freelancing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

CYMA CHATS: with Tatiana Keegan, international ballroom dancer

Q: You married in 2006, at 35 years of age, and had your daughter at 36, both more common ages for women to do so, but old for redesigning a life singularly focused on ballroom dancing. How was that transition for you?

A: It was very different. I always wanted to have a child. When I had her, it was great, but then it felt like something else was missing again. I realized that I had to have both things. I had to use my body again; have that physical exercise. I realized that I had a lot left in me, that I wasn't done yet performing and competing. I had never stopped dancing, I just stopped competing. Just dancing was not enough. I need to be in a high level of competition.

Q: What were the responses of other competitive dancers regarding your pregnancy?

A: People bow in front of me, now (laughs). People say, "At this age, and having a child, you are going back in age! You look younger and have much more energy. You are really giving this your all!"

Q: How do you combine being a mother with being a professional dancer?

A: It's very hard. I knew it was going to be hard. It's not just physically hard, it's emotionally hard. You don't want to give less than 100% to your child; you don't want to give your dancing less than 100%. Especially when my daughter was going through the 'Terrible Two's,' I would get on the train (to class) and think, how can I dance now? But once I started dancing, I would forget about it all. I find that one thing helps the other. Having a child changes everything. Children teach you how to be different -- you have to be very patient with them. I'm training (inside) myself and that helps my dancing get better. I don't get upset like I used to. I used to have much less patience. Now, I have more patience to just try things until I get it.

Q: Do you intend to have more children?

A: I would love to. If I did, I would still like to dance, but not compete anymore.

Q: What lessons do you hope to give your daughter, in going back to a job/work that you truly love?

A: Showing her that nothing comes easy in this life; everything requires repetition. I think that people think that everything comes instantly, I just want to show her that it takes years and years of trying. Nothing comes from luck; it's a lot of hard work. Just keep processing, keep trying, keep failing and you'll get a good result.

Q:Do you see yourself as a role mother for other mothers?

A: Sure. I didn't set out to be one. I hear a lot of people tell me that, esp. my friends who thought they needed to give up dancing after having children.

Q: What do you think about the trend of new older motherhood?

A: I think it's so great that you can pursue your career, or whatever you want, and have children. When you are in your 20's, you still don't know who you are. In your 30's, you are establishing yourself. I think it's a good time to have kids. If you stay young and take care of yourself, you can give something more to your kids.

Q: How do you view your life, now?

A: Maybe there is something in the stars -- it's not yet my time yet to retire. But, if I lose a competition after all that hard work, it won’t devastate me like it used to because I have a family to come home to. I have much more balance in my life – I can really enjoy it now.

Tatiana Keegan is a 12-time International Latin ballroom champion who placed among the top dancers in the world at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England and won the 2000 U.S. Ballroom Championship with Tony Dovolani of “Dancing With The Stars.” In 2003, she retired to focus on her personal life, married three years later, and gave birth to her daughter, Anastasia, in 2007 at the age of 36. In January, she began an inspiring comeback on the international circuit with Werner Figar, a 27-year-old Austrian amateur national champion. In May, Tatiana & Werner won the American Star Ball outside of Philadelphia and placed 2nd at the Austrian national championship, qualifying them for the World Championship in Germany later this year. She is also the ballroom blogger for The Faster Times online newspaper.  Visit

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Stash -- by Robin

I recently bought some dried flowers to put in a vase in our basement, and stumbled upon two empty plastic strawberry jello containers stuffed into the base of the vase.  We had kept some Jell-o in our spare refrigerator downstairs, and clearly, Seth helped himself one day while playing down there.

We don't fault him for indulging.  He has a sweet tooth.  And, they are low calorie (not that he has a weight issue....though I like to keep an eye on his sugar intake). But, we do take issue with him concealing the evidence and not admitting it when questioned. How long had it been there, I wondered?

After this discovery, we decided to sift through the couch in the living room.  Seth has a history of hiding food and vitamins under the back cushions.  We've known this, but thought that behavior was over.  Apparently, it's not.

My husband dug out rotting baby carrots, dried chicken shreds, melting chewable vitamin C pills, etc.  It was a disgusting eyesore.  We then moved the couch and dug around underneath it.  We got out the Dust Buster and went to town sucking up the crumbs, etc.

When I shared this story with a mom friend of kids in their 20s, she smirked and said "control."  At his young age (7), Seth has none, and it's his way of reaching out for what little he might be able to snag.  I understood that, but it's a gross habit.  And, also, Seth isn't telling the truth when we ask if he ate all his carrots?  That bothers me the most.  He knows that if he eats his veggies, he can get dessert.  Is it too much to expect him to eat five raw, crunchy, juicy baby carrots (which he likes)?

To date, we've allowed him to have some meals in the living room if we're not eating together as a family for
whatever reason.  Therefore, we never watched him like a hawk to see what exactly he was eating of what was put on his plate.

"Have you thought about only permitting him to eat in the kitchen?" the mom said.

As obvious as that sounds, we had not required that.  But, it makes sense.

We have put into place a policy that food is no longer to be consumed in the living room.  A snack perhaps...but not a meal.  At least until Seth earns back our trust, we told him.

It feels good to sit down with him in the kitchen and make conversation while he eats, even if I'm not.

I was amazed that we didn't have bugs or a mouse problem, with all the leftovers that were unearthed.

Funny.  Seth and I are similar....but just the opposite.  When I was growing up, I'd sometimes have a hidden stash in my room (under my bed) of food (sweets) I'd want to eat.  Chocolate covered jelly rings, tootsie rolls, etc.  I guess that's just as bad, in a different way.

I've since outgrown that habit...and I hope Seth will as well.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

After the Wrath - by Cara

All totaled, we were without power for five days. No refrigerated food. No air conditioning. And the constant buzzing of tree grinding that I am listening to as I write. Which has been ongoing now for over a week. Which also, incidentally, is getting on my nerves. At least they stop cutting trees at around 8pm now and resume at 9am. They had been cutting around the clock, 24/7.

I restocked my refrigerator. I found it coincidental that almost all condiments were on sale at my local grocery store. Yes, I’m sure it was in preparation for the 4th of July weekend. But I found it interesting because those were also items our community needed to stock up on. Our local newspaper, The Great Neck News, was quoted saying that, “Some 1,000 trees were downed, causing $10 - 15 million worth of damage. Some 25,000 customers in Nassau County, the majority in Great Neck, were without power.” As if we were not already aware of that. But that’s beside the point.

During those five days, in order to cool down and recharge my cell phone, cell phone battery charger, and computer, I would pack up my things (along with a multiplug adapter), and trek off to spend a couple hours at one of our local Starbucks. I would set myself up for the afternoon. The store was packed with locals who were doing the same thing. In fact, when I pulled out my multiplug, and offered those who were waiting for outlets to free up, to use the multiplug outlets I wasn't in need of, I made quite a few friends!

I came to anticipate those five days at Starbucks. I heard horror stories of damages to people’s homes. One family was desperately trying to find one room at ANY hotel on Long Island to go to, without any success. There was a gathering of the “lost souls” at Starbucks who had nowhere to go. We chatted. Got to know each other. And in a community that is known for it’s haughtiness, we were suddenly all equals. It didn’t matter who had a bigger home or a fancier car. We all were in the same power, no food, and no means of communication other than our cell phones, which we were all charging. And together we “let our hair down.” No one came “dressed to impress.” We just wanted a cool place to charge our cell phones and other technology. And get a cool drink!

Which brought me to my next observation. Americans are attached to our technology. I’ve gone on trips where I wasn’t able to use my cell phone or laptop. And I was well aware that I would come home to 100+ e-mails and 250+ junk e-mails. But when your only means of communication is your cell phone, for an undetermined amount of time, cell phones come close to brushing your teeth! And when going on the Internet for a couple hours to connect with the world in other ways, your laptop really, truly becomes your luxury. That is what my comrades in Starbucks all felt like. We were stripped of everything except our technology. And with that we were all on equal ground.

The last day that I spent at Starbucks, their Internet system was down. We were able to charge our items, but no one was able to log on to the Internet. Many of us had Apple laptops, as did I. As soon as all of our peripherals were fully charged, the Apple consumers came up with a great idea! Let’s go to the Apple Store a mile down the road and use their Internet service! We all scrambled to pack up and drove down the road. The store was so inundated with customers, there was not enough staff to assist the people who wanted to purchase things. I found a nice Mac Book Pro in a remote area of the store, sat down, and surfed the web. It was not as nice as being among the “lost souls” at Starbucks. But hey, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do!

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

All-theism -- by Laura Houston

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog about religion and the effects a zealous parent can have on a child. I received a lot of responses. Most of them were very thoughtful and eye opening. One reader asked if I had discussed the eldest son’s upsetting comments with his mother. I had. And as you can imagine, it did not go well. She was defensive. Rightfully so. I would be, too.

And so the conversation began in my local mom’s group: Do you tell another parent that you find their child’s behavior offensive?

Our answers were as mixed as our feelings on it. Most of us agreed that the right thing to do is to try to figure out a way to dialog about it. But too few of us who had done it successfully without alienating a friend.

Children learn through socialization. So do parents. As painful as it is to hear someone say something your child is doing, it’s still a valuable learning tool. A parent has to figure out what information is important and what’s not when filtering other parents concerns. It’s a delicate process.

I often find myself torn when imparting information regarding a child. By no means am I an expert, but I have had a lot of training in behavior disorders and socialization. I used to be a social worker – a case manager to 57 at-risk youth and their families. I was also a foster mom to two high-needs boys. I took a lot of classes on parenting and mentoring kids with special needs. I have also attended 50+ hours of family and art therapy classes geared to help children attach, bond and better socialize. But all of my learning has been trial by fire. Books and classrooms are poor substitutions for real life.

My job to as a case manager was to mediate between child, parent, teacher, school administrators, lawyers, and juvenile court justices. Don’t let the title and the job description fool you. It was much easier to discuss child behavior with parents and teachers when it was my job rather than as a mother.

One of my foster sons had been sexually abused, and he had acted out with another child. Therefore the state would not allow him to be alone with other children under any circumstance. I also had to notify the parents of the children he played with that he had issues, and he was not to be left alone with their child. At the time, I lived in a “transitional neighborhood” where there was a mix of upper, middle and lower class residence. I found the parents to not only be tolerant of my son, but I found them to be supportive, as well.

I had a lot of parents come to me to talk about my son’s behavior. I could do it maturely and compassionately and with vested interest, but the moment I shut the door, I wanted to only to cry. It’s a terrible thing to watch a child say and do things that will eventually ostracize them. But thanks to the teamwork, my foster son is doing fine today. He knows the price he will pay if he ever steps out of line and acts out. He’s careful. He’s mindful. He fears shame and alienation of his peers. He knows people are watching, and he also knows people care about him.

So, yes, talk to the parents. I lost a friend in doing so, but if I look back, I gained a few along the way, too. After all, it takes a village. And I think how much better the world would be if we were all watching. Not judging. Just watching. And communicating with one another to keep our kids safe physically, mentally and socially. Because bigotry, violence, hatred, and unhappiness are all learned behaviors. It would be a better world if we called them out.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Making the Most of TV Time -- by Jamie

I guess I’m lucky that I don’t have a TV-obsessed kid. When Jayda was a baby, I tried to park her in front of those highly-touted Baby Einstein DVDs that everyone else’s kids seemed to love, but she just cried and cried and cried. When those same DVDs were recalled last year, it made me laugh; Jayda was clearly smarter than the rest of us.

These days, Jayda does like to watch a bit of TV now and then, but she’s rarely riveted by it. I still can’t get her to sit still and watch a Disney movie; she’s only interested in short bits of television—like ten-minute episodes of “Max and Ruby” or “Arthur,” for instance. And after watching a few of them, back to back, she’ll generally announce, “I want to play!” and will turn off the television, and beckon me to be her playmate. Most adults I know use television as a temporary babysitter for their kids; this marvelous invention allows many of my mommy-friends to cook dinner, do laundry, or accomplish any chores they need to get done, without having to “be there” for their children. I just wish that was the case in my house. When Jayda watches TV, she only wants to do it while sitting on my lap. And she wants me to be as engaged in the program as she is…which is highly unlikely since, unlike my three-year-old, I do not enjoy watching the same episodes of a show over and over and over again.

If I’m going to “be” with my daughter, I’d rather be coloring with her, doing a puzzle, or joining her in a myriad of other kid-friendly activities; I certainly don’t want our quality time together to be TV-watching—especially when there are a hundred other things I’m thinking about doing. So I was thrilled when we finally reached a compromise: Jayda can sit on my lap to watch her dose of TV, but I am allowed to have a text book resting on the table next to us so that I can do some studying. It’s become such a ritual for us that now Jayda automatically blurts out, “Mommy—I want to watch TV now. And I want to sit in your lap. You can read your big book.”

On Thursday, my summer class ended, and I suddenly found myself text book-free for the first time since February. Unfortunately, I still loathe the idea of sitting in front of the TV to watch something I’m completely disinterested in—even if I do have an adorable preschooler sitting on my lap. So, one night, I told Jayda I needed to make a phone call while she watched “Strawberry Shortcake.” She refused to get off of my lap, and also kept interrupting me with cries of "I want to say 'hi' to your friend!" throughout the entire call. It wasn’t a very satisfying conversation for me, and I won’t try that again. Another night, I flipped through an Entertainment Weekly magazine during a “Backyardigans” episode—but couldn’t really enjoy it; it felt too indulgent, and like such a waste of my time. I’m an inherent multi-tasker, and reading for pleasure—especially pure fluff—is something I haven’t enjoyed in years. Another night, I closed my eyes and just tried to “rest,” while I obsessed about a list of things I needed to accomplish after Jayda went to bed—but that didn’t work for my observant daughter, who soon bellowed in my ear, “Mommy—it’s not bedtime yet. Wake up! Watch 'Arthur' with me!”

I suppose I could pull out some “tough love” tactics and just tell Jayda that my lap is unavailable, but when I think about the years ahead—when I’ll have a surly tween or teen who can’t stand to cuddle with me—I can’t help but feel that I should take every chance I can get to show my kid how much I love being near her. And I really do. Just not when a “Max and Ruby” episode is on for the fourteenth time…