Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is a Good Mommy- II? by Cyma Shapiro

Since I received a huge response to my blog last week on “What is a Good Mommy?” I felt compelled to continue with the search for this answer.

According to the blog Zen Habits, here are “12 Awesome Tips:”

Obviously, a great mom loves her kids, takes care of their basic physical and emotional needs, and spends quality time with them. But what are the subtler, less obvious ways to become a great mom?

1. Stay true to yourself. You don’t have to give up your own passions and interests once you become a mom. It’s important that you find time for what YOU love to do. Reading, writing, exercising – make these a priority and find a way to incorporate those into your routine. Easier said than done, I know, but you should at least aim to keep doing what you love, even if you don’t get to do it as often as before. If you take care of your own needs, you will be happier and will function better as a mom.

2. Don’t be a martyr. The kids didn’t ask for it, they don’t need it, and they certainly don’t need to pay the price that comes with being mothered by a martyr. Need some time alone? Let the kids watch TV for an hour and go read a book. Feel like you haven’t had adult interaction in ages? Leave them with Dad for the evening and make plans to have dinner with a friend. Getting to the point where you are utterly exhausted is not good for you or for your kids.

3. Don’t try to be perfect. This is true for life in general, and is a major personal goal of mine, regardless of motherhood. Striving for perfection is always a bad idea, because life is messy and unpredictable and full of surprises. Trying to create perfection, or to maintain complete control, is simply impossible and should never be your goal. Once you become a mom, life is messier and crazier than ever before, so it’s more important than ever to let go of that perfectionism. You need to accept that the house will sometimes be untidy, that once in a while dinner will be takeout, and that the kids will sometimes have to entertain themselves while you recharge and regroup.

4. Ditch the guilt. Guilt seems to be one of the most common side effects of motherhood. A friend once told me that she feels guilt every single day. I too am often guilty of feeling guilty. But I am working on it: guilt is unhelpful and a terrible waste of time and energy. Once you make a decision, whether a major one like staying at home vs. going back to work, or a small one like allowing the kids to play a computer game while you have some time for yourself, try to avoid second-guessing yourself. You are doing the best that you can. No one is perfect, and you are not expected to be a perfect mom or to never make mistakes. As long as you love them and provide their basic needs, your kids will turn out fine. Really.

5. Be Patient. Raising kids is hard work. Kids are noisy, messy and incredibly demanding. Yes, you will lose your patience once in a while. I do. But for the most part, try to take a deep breath and see them for the small, helpless people that they are. I am not a patient person by nature, but motherhood has taught me to be more patient than I ever thought I could possibly be.

6. Listen to your children. REALLY listen. This is a tough one for me, but I keep trying. We tend to assume that we know more than our kids do, which is true to some extent of course, so we don’t really bother to listen. In addition, we often act as problem-solvers, dishing immediate advice, when all they need is for us to listen to them. A couple of months ago, my 8 years old told me about problems she was having with friends at school. I immediately offered a solution, and it was obvious she was disappointed. She wasn’t looking for a solution. She simply wanted me to listen.

7. Be their mom, not their friend. Set limits. In a way, it was easy for previous generations. Parents were parents. Kids were kids. Families were patriarchal. Everyone listened and obeyed to the father. Now, families are democratic. We negotiate, talk things over, and listen to each other. We make important decisions together. This is great, but kids still need us to be their parents and set clear limits. We should listen to them and respect them – but we are not their peers. When I was a pre-teen, I used to snap at my mom, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore!” She would look at me calmly and respond, “Well, you are NOT my friend. You are my daughter”. It used to drive me crazy, but she was right. Our job is to be our kids’ mothers – not their friends.

8. Teach them simplicity. You will do them a big – a HUGE – favor, if you teach them at a young age to avoid associating happiness with the accumulation of material possessions. The younger they are, the more likely they are to listen to you, so start early. My kids are 6 and 8, and I often feel that now is the time to instill my values in them, before they are teens (or pre-teens) and peer pressure takes over. When it’s time to declutter, I allow my daughters to be part of the process, and we talk about how we don’t need all that STUFF. We never go shopping as a fun outing. They know that shopping is a necessary evil, something that you do when you really NEED something. Instead of buying books, we borrow books at the library. We reuse as much as we can. Together, we take pride in living in a clean, airy, uncluttered home.

9. Don’t push them too hard. I was raised as an overachiever, and I can testify from my own experience that overachieving does NOT lead to happiness. I do want my kids to be successful. I want them to reach their full potential and to be financially secure. But I am trying not to push them too hard and to maintain a relatively relaxed approach to success at school and to after-school enrichment activities.

10. Teach them self-esteem. I am borrowing this one from Leo’s list, because it is so important. In fact, I agree with Leo that high self-esteem is the single most important gift that a parent can give their kids. A person with a high self-esteem values herself and will not get into, or stay in, an abusive relationship. A person with high self-esteem is more likely to be happy and to reach her full potential. How do you teach your kids self-esteem? Exactly the way Leo said: by showing them that you value them, by spending time with them, and by talking with them and listening to them.

11. Teach them to be self-reliant. Another one that I struggle with every day. It’s very tempting to help your children in a way that robs them of the opportunity to help themselves. At every developmental stage your child reaches, she can do things by herself. If you do them for her, you are not really helping her, but rather holding her back. Gently teach her independence and let her do what she can do, and what is appropriate for her to do, by herself. The sense of accomplishment that comes with being independent is immensely important for a child. I once read in Penelope Leach’s book something that left a huge impression on me: good parents work themselves out of the picture – slowly. As much as I like to feel needed, I try to let my kids be as independent and self-sufficient as they possibly can. Ever so slowly, I am working myself out of the picture.

12. Laugh and have fun! When you’re a mom, it’s easy to become so absorbed in the logistics of taking care of your kids – what Leo refers to as the “mom stuff” – that you forget to relax and have fun. But kids are fun. They give you a wonderful opportunity to be a child all over again, and to do things that you never thought you would do as an adult (jumping in puddles is so much fun!) and see the world through their innocent, curious eyes. Haven’t noticed interesting insects and colorful butterflies in several years? You are going to start noticing them again once you have kids.

 Gagazine presents eight tips for being a Great Mom:

1. Always have time for family meals
According to a recent study, regular family meals can help develop good eating habits in children. To add to that, it also gives parents and kids the opportunity to communicate. With proper guidance, kids are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use.

2. Be creative
Even if you anticipate the needs of your children, there are just instances when you can overlook certain things. If you failed to purchase some school materials, or if you got the wrong costume, don’t give up just yet. With a little creativity, you can make equally good substitutes out of ordinary things at home.

3. Try to be always available
Give your kids the impression that you are always willing to help them out with anything at all. Whether its school related like homework or assignments to personal problems, let them know that you are always ready to lend an ear or to extend a helping hand.

4. Learn as you go
Parenting is a skill that is mastered through time. Learn from your mistakes, and try to respond positively to a negative situation. Even if you had a bad day, take it as a learning experience that can help you become a better mom to your kids.

5. Spoil your kids with love
You can never go wrong if you shower your kids with love through hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.” But you have to make sure that you don’t give your kids material things in place of love. While we want the best for our kids, it will not do them any good if they have too much materially.

6. Take care of yourself, too
Squeeze in time for rest and relaxation, and don’t feel guilty if you have to do things for yourself. If you are too stressed out, it can affect the way you relate to your kids. If you are already too irritable, perhaps it is already a sign that you need to pamper yourself.

7. Trust your instincts
If you have this nagging feeling that something is not right for your kids, perhaps it is best to rethink a decision. Moms have quite a reputation for their instincts, and you need to use this for your child’s best interests.

8. Learn when to seek for help
Although we want to do everything for our kids, there are just times when we need to seek the help of others to save our own sanity. Moms who ask help from their partners or other family members are not ineffective parents. They are rather strong women capable of recognizing their limitations.

Trying to answer this question, offers parents a humorous quiz for parents, with questions like this:
  • When it comes to parenting, I feel:
Totally enraptured: I was born to do this
Like I've done my homework, and it'll all work out fine
Thankful therapy isn't so stigmatized anymore

  • Choosing a sleep method was…
Simple. We read a bunch of guides, and kept trying until one worked
Like this: I put the baby in the crib. Then she slept
Wait, what's sleep again? We've not nailed that one yet

  • How important is keeping your house clean and organized?
Very. My family benefits from a totally kempt home
Some—finding the baby's bathtub is helpful for giving him one
Are you joking again?

  • How much exposure does your baby have to the arts?
We go to museums and concerts fairly regularly
We own play dough

And, here’s their conclusion:

You sure are a great mom!
The truth is, whether you choose co-sleep, use disposable diapers, stay at home, only buy specific toys for baby … or any one of a million other decisions, there have long been children who turned out A-OK on account (and in spite!) of similar ones made for them. Parenting is a subjective series of actions and reactions, and it looks like you’re being proactive about your child’s health, development, and overall happiness…….. 
And while it may feel impossible to resist the temptation to compare yourself to other mothers, you need to take stock in the smart decisions you make every day on behalf of your family. Read more about why competitive parenting just isn’t worth it

Here’s my truth:  Today, my son said “You are a great mommy,” again. In that moment, the sun, the stars and the moon shone so brightly above that my heart nearly burst with love and joy.  If I’m like you, with (moments of) a lack of self-confidence and the feeling that I can always do better; with childhood wounds that cement the feeling that all is ‘not ok,’ it’s so hard, sometimes, to believe that especially in my children’s eyes, I am ok. And, I’m not just “ok,” but I am also, according to them, a “good” to “great” Mommy just the way I am.
It doesn’t get any better than that. I absolutely love being a Mommy.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Moms and Dads: Why You Should Invest in Your Past by Bob Brody

For more than 10 years I promised myself I would write something exclusively for our son Michael and daughter Caroline. It would be a family history, deeply personal, straight from me to my kids.

After all, I’d already cranked out just about everything for everyone else. I’d done essays, articles, memos, speeches, newsletters, brochures and two unpublished novels. I’d contributed to newspapers, magazines, websites, book publishers, corporations, clients and private citizens alike.

Surely I could manage to handle a writing assignment for my own children.

But I just never got around to it. Somehow or other, I never found the time, only plenty of excuses. I had a full-time job. I had a part-time job. I needed to watch TV every night and play basketball on weekends. You’ve heard the song.

But then I resolved to do it. And on January 1, 2008, I started to keep a booklike journal, one for each child. Every week I took an hour or so to capture a special memory – how my son as a toddler slept on the carpet next to our bed, how my daughter mourned the loss of a goldfish.

I also shared anecdotes about my own life, mainly about my parents and grandparents. I recorded my first date with my now-wife, how it felt to land my first job, my occasional successes and frequent failures.

Letters to my kids, these were – equal parts celebration and confession, more fact than opinion, heavy on encouragement but light on advice.

That Christmas, I presented the handwritten journals as gifts. The next year I completed a second set, also handed over on Christmas. The two volumes contained more than 100 entries, amounting to almost 70,000 words, equivalent to about half a book.

Later, the kids -- now 27 and 21 years of age -- read the journals and gave me pretty good reviews. Certainly they expressed appreciation for my efforts.

I now take this private initiative public, with my blog, for a reason. It is to urge other parents to do the same.

Keeping a journal is simple. Telling stories to your kids out loud is all well and good, too. But conversation is just air. Often little remains. Documenting your memories, on the other hand – either with a journal, a video or an audiotape -- lends the enterprise permanence.

Here are my top 10 tips for your historic new pasttime:

1. Decide To Do It. No, really. Decide wholeheartedly. You’re either in or you’re out.

2. Plan It All Out. Do at least an outline. Even Shakespeare needed a blueprint.

3. Vote For Reality. Kids can smell spin from a mile away. So opt for the truth about your family, however much it hurts.

4. Single Out The Highlights. Draw only from the richest memories at your command. Forgo trivia.

5. Stick To A Schedule. A little regularity never hurt anyone. Once a week is realistic.

6. Keep It Spontaneous. First thought, best thought, poet Allen Ginsberg said. The Bill of Rights protects this impulse.

7. Briefer Is Better. It’s the soul of wit, no?

8. Tell a story. Each entry will ideally have a beginning, a middle and an end. Maybe even a lesson.

9. Make every word count. Every sentence, too. Your readers will be keeping score, after all.

10. Anyone can write. We all have stories to tell and we’re all storytellers at heart. Period.

In the process, you’ll leave behind a keepsake even more precious than your wedding ring, an heirloom as valuable in its own right as your house, a tangible, heartfelt legacy for the next generation better than any insurance policy.

So invest in your past. As you summon memories to share, you’ll be in for a surprise. You’ll discover new truths about yourself. You’ll understand more about your life. Most rewarding, you’ll find out once and for all just how deeply you love your kids.

They'll find out, too.

Bob Brody is an executive and essayist in New York City who blogs at His pieces have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Smithsonian and Reader's Digest. By day, he's a senior vice president/media specialist at Powell Tate, a division of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

ROBIN'S SHOW REVIEW: Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage

After a successful run at The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center), Ken Davenport is presenting the New York City premiere of Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, & Marriage ( The open-ended engagement is playing Off-Bway at the Downstairs Cabaret Theater at Sofia’s (221 West 46th Street, next to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in NYC). Eve Plumb, TV’s famed Jan Brady, is making her New York theatrical debut in the lead role of Miss Abigail.

Written by Ken Davenport (Altar Boyz, My First Time, The Awesome 80s Prom) and Sarah Saltzberg (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, & Marriage is based on Abigail Grotke's popular book—the comedy’s namesake—that promises "classic advice for contemporary dilemmas." Davenport directs as Miss Abigail takes you back to a simpler time, before booty calls and speed-dating, back when the divorce rate wasn’t 50 percent and “Fidelity” was more than an investment firm.

It's the story of Miss Abigail, the most sought-after relationship expert to the stars—think Dr. Ruth meets Emily Post—and her sexy sidekick Paco, as they travel the globe teaching Miss Abigail’s  tongue 'n cheek (and sometime cheeky) “how-tos” on dating, mating and marriage.

During this nearly 90-minute comedy (no intermission), you’ll learn a thing or two . . . like how to have a perfect kiss (it’s all about lip position) . . . what you should and should not talk about on a date (don’t mention your troll doll collection) . . . and how to let a man think he wears the pants.

It makes for a fun afternoon or night out with girlfriends, and it's suitable for couples as well.  There's audience particpation, and a riotous short film on the subject of sex education.

Manuel Herrea, who plays Paco, provides sex appeal and considerable comic relief.

And, Ms. Plumb is in fine was fun to see her morph into a dating expert.....from her days of Jan Brady.  She's come a long way and has aged well!

With the code FUNNYDATE, you may purchase $45 tickets (regular price: $75) to Miss Abigail's Guide To Dating, Mating, & Marriage.  Check out more about the show at:

Eve Plumb & Manuel Herrera

Eve Plumb & Manuel Herrera

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Big Liimu

I know I should have been happy enough to have a healthy baby that I didn't even need to know the gender. I am painfully aware of the fact that many women my age want children but can't have them without the help of fertility treatments, if they're lucky enough to have them at all. And so yes, I felt guilty admitting that I had an opinion on the gender of my unborn child. But dammit, after 8 years raising three strong-willed, melodramatic, girly-girls,8 years of arguing about whether they could wear the same dress five days in a row, 8 years of trying to brush through three thick heads of hair, 8 years of princesses and pink and Hannah Montana, I wanted a boy.

Interestingly enough, my husband claimed he would be happy either way. He said he knew how to do girls, was content to just go on ahead and do another one. Was, in fact, tired of getting his hopes up only to have them dashed (as we both had the past couple of times) and expected a girl. I, on the other hand, was not giving up without a fight. First, there was the dream. For those of you who don't remember, check out my blog titled, "The Psychic Sister." Then, there was the fact that this pregnancy felt so different from the others - no tell-tale metallic taste in my mouth, no sweets cravings, no crappy skin breakouts. On the contrary, this was the first pregnancy where people (including my husband) were telling me I was "glowing." I had never experienced that before and assumed it was a cockamamie myth some guy had concocted to get women to get pregnant despite the weight gain, stretchmarks and painful labor. But sure enough, here was my frightfully honest husband telling me I looked like I was constantly bathed in soft lighting. I even tried the old strand of hair tied to a wedding band, and it went back and forth, just like it should for a boy. I was convinced.

All that being said, I was still not patient enough to wait nine months. I hadn't been with any of my other pregnancies, why start now? I did want it to be special, though, this being our last time. I convinced my husband that it would be a good idea for us to have the ultrasound technician seal our baby's gender in an envelope, and we would then open it over a lovely, romantic dinner. Flash forward to this past Thursday. Our ultrasound technician did exactly that, and then handed the envelope over to my husband, who promptly hid it so I wouldn't be able to ruin the surprise (I'm not THAT impatient...but still, better safe than sorry, I suppose).

That night, on our way to dinner, I was already getting phone calls and texts from people wondering if we had done our Big Reveal. (I mentioned we have had three daughters in the past 8 years, didn't I?) So, we sit down to a lovely dinner at Ristorante San Marco in Ambler, PA. (I highly recommend it if you're a fan of Italian and happen to be in the area.) I'm ready to bust out the envelope and here is my husband, reading the menu like it's date night. Needless to say, I told him that he needed to fork it over. "I'm a trained actress," I explained. "I can keep a poker face."

It was hard, though, I must admit. After months of praying for a boy, months of talking myself down from the ledge in case it wasn't a boy, even apologizing to my unborn baby for having such a strong opinion on what his/her gender should be, I wasn't prepared for how happy I would be to see the little ultrasound picture the technician had put in the envelope, annotated with the words, "I have a peepee, Mom! I'm a boy!" (Yes, that's really what it said.)

As for my husband, who was fine either way and entirely prepared for another girl, well I think I saw tears well up in his eyes. I know there are folks who will think this blog is slightly sexist. Maybe not. I hope not. We have three beautiful daughters and we love them all to pieces. But we are very much looking forward to seeing what it's like to raise a son, and our whole family is completely overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that we're going to get to do exactly that.

And as I brushed my daughters' hair the next day, I have to admit I was relieved to know that there wouldn't be another head added to the mix, waiting for me to tackle its tangles. If there had been, I would have been up to the challenge, but I am going to relish every new facet of life this little baby boy is going to bring.

Until next time!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Biggest Pumpkin EVER!!! - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

My son’s favorite time of year is not his birthday. Nor is it the winter Holidays. His favorite time of year is Halloween! I find this quite ironic because he hates candy or sweets of any type (I am blessed with at least this!). But he loves to dress up and pretend he is something or someone else for a day when other children are doing the exact same thing!

Last year I wrote about my husband taking my son out to get a Power Ranger costume and coming home with a Ghost Rider costume instead! This year, they at least included me in their decision-making, and also to lessen the chance that, “Mommy will freak out!” They chose a Ghost buster costume. I’m satisfied, my husband didn’t care, and my son is elated! All is well in that department!

This year, my son has been obsessed with pumpkins. We are reading dozens of books about pumpkins! We tried to grow pumpkins in our backyard garden, however no pumpkins ever grew. I discovered the culprit...we call him the “buffet squirrel.” Pumpkin flowers need to be pollinated and mature into baby pumpkins. However this “buffet squirrel” ate all of the pumpkin flowers! I actually caught him in the act as he was munching away on one of the flowers! So, alas, disappointment arose when we discovered that none of our pumpkin seeds were given the chance to mature into baby pumpkins.

So, from the beginning of October, straight through the entire month, my son has been asking me relentlessly to visit pumpkin farms to find, “the biggest pumpkin EVER!!!” See, he has developed an annual ritual with his Grandfather. My son finds the biggest pumpkin he can, and his Grandfather takes tremendous pleasure in helping my son carve the pumpkin!

Well, off we went to the first pumpkin farm where my son found the “biggest pumpkin EVER!!! (See below). I have no idea how he managed to carry that thing! It weighed at least 25 pounds! And I pulled a back muscle hoisting that thing into the trunk of my car! But that was the pumpkin my son declared was the, “biggest pumpkin EVER,” so that was the one we bought!

After pulling a back muscle from this thing, I had my husband transfer the giant gourd to his car and take it to the “carving station” my Father-in-Law set up for the annual event! I stayed home and rested my aching back.

My son, his father and his Grandfather together had a hilarious and extraordinarily joyful time carving “the biggest pumpkin EVER!!! From what I understand, some type of power tools were involved in addition to the typical pumpkin carving tools I bought for this project. But I guess if you have to resort to using power tools on the, “biggest pumpkin EVER,” you have to use what is at your disposal to get the job done!

Below is the finished product both unlit, and lit. It proudly sits, decorating our front porch! I think it is beautiful and creative! But the most important aspect of this entire event was that my son’s wish was fulfilled by all of the family members who love him. And an annual bonding ritual once again came to fruition! I couldn’t ask for anything more for my son!

Although my son did ask to go to several other pumpkin farms to find an even bigger pumpkin than the one we originally found! I told him that I would be delighted to make play dates to meet with friends of his and choose some smaller pumpkins to decorate our home with. But the “biggest pumpkin EVER!!!” had already been found. We would have to wait until next year to resume our annual search.

Between you and me, my back was still on the mend from lifting the “biggest pumpkin EVER!!!”

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Parental Advice: Don't Give It -- By Laura Houston

I don’t know of one human being who enjoys getting unsolicited advice. Yet so many of us give it without thinking. I know I am guilty of this, but thanks to my husband and to a few good friends who have taken my head off for it, I hope I have curbed the habit.

In my mom’s group several of us have a saying: “The mom who gives the most advice usually needs to take it herself.”

The other day we were all enjoying our kids running around screaming while five of us sat on a picnic table in the middle of the playground with our backs to one another so we could watch our kids. Jennifer, one of the mothers whose name has been changed because sometimes she reads this blog, said to me: “Your boys are 18-months old and they’re not talking yet? You need to take them to a speech therapist.”

“I disagree,” I told her. I did not want to go into it with her. Child development can be complicated, and if she really believed that children should be talking by 18 months, then there’s not much I can do for her.

Jennifer proceeded to give all of the women on the table a lecture about speech development, behavior, tantrums and their relationship to one another. Then she left.

Now, if I were to ask any of you readers to guess whose children are the worst behaved in our playgroup, you could probably wager a bet. Did you say Jennifer’s children? Yes. Yes. You would be right. They’re little devils. Bless their hearts.

What I have learned about parents who give advice is that they usually give us the advice they need to hear, or they have no idea what they are talking about, but they have a point to prove based on insecurities. It’s somewhat of a chore not to take it personally, not to get frustrated, and not to tell the other parent to piss off.

Now, I am guilty of giving unsolicited advice in my past. I already admitted that. I admitted it before you thought it, so that makes me less guilty. There was a time in my life when I knew everything about parenting, and I was no different that Jennifer. I could dispense advice readily because I was rude and oblivious. Then I became a parent, and I realized I knew absolutely nothing.

Before becoming a mother to my sons, I was a mother to foster children and a case manager to about 47 at-risk kids. I spent my days taking classes on child development, behavior, parenting, and, of course, first aid and CPR. I read lots of books, did hours of research, and got to practice my technique on my foster children. At the youth center where I worked, we had social workers and nurses come from the state to teach our teenage mothers how to care for and love their babies.

The 15-year-old-mothers-to-be would practice soothing techniques on dolls while gathered in a circle in the basement of our building. The nurses would explain why breast-feeding was healthiest and why letting a baby cry itself to sleep was damaging to a child’s emotional development. After class, the girls would sit around and share the “advice” that other family members/friends had given them about babies, and the nurses and social workers would sit and have to debunk almost every myth.

The girls received some scary advice: such as drink a beer if you’re breast-feeding and it’ll put your baby to sleep. Give the baby Tylenol or cold medicine to make it sleep. Don’t let your baby nap during the day so it will sleep through the night. The advice given these mothers was sad and confusing. And mostly harmful for both the mother and baby. Yet these bits of “wisdom” had been handed down through families and across the coffee table at a friend’s house. And then these myths had to be deconstructed for the girls so they could be better parents. We spent a lot of resources and time undoing bad advice.

And whether the advice comes in the form of an alarmist bit of information like Jennifer dispensed, or whether it comes from Grandma who just wants to everyone to get some rest by having a beer, it’s usually annoying and can sometimes be harmful.

There is an endless amount of information and advice out there, and before giving it we have to check ourselves. We have to ask if it’s relevant based on all of the information we have gathered on the situation. We need to assess whether or not we are proper parental ambassadors for dispensing such nuggets of wisdom. And most importantly, we have to ask ourselves is our advice is wanted. And we can easily figure this one out because we will distinctly hear the words: “Hey, can I ask you for some advice?”

Parenting is a personal, private matter. And what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The real question here is: where can we go to get good information on parenting beyond the gates of the playground? Fortunately, there are a million resources out there, and it’s a journey to find which ones will work best for the individual parent. As to which resources I like best; I’m not going to tell you. Unless you ask me. I’m taking my own advice on this one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spending the Night Away -- by Jamie Levine

Ever since Jayda started attending a new nursery school in September, she’s been so physically and mentally challenged that she’s been sleeping like a champ. She gets off of the bus between 4:15 and 4:30 pm, and most evenings, after I whisk her off to the playground or the library for an hour or so, we have dinner, Jayda plays for awhile, and she’s snoring away by 7:30. As a mom who desperately needs my nights for studying or freelance work, it’s ideal; and as a single mom who recently started dating someone, it makes me feel less guilty about leaving Jayda to enjoy an evening rendezvous. Several times in the past few weeks, I’ve put Jayda to bed, and unbeknownst to her, have run out to have a drink with Library Guy (while Jayda’s grandma or grandpa listens to her monitor), only to slip into bed after midnight and have Jayda wake up in my arms the next morning, clueless about my evening’s activities. It’s deceptive, but it works for both of us.

Of course once in awhile, I like to meet Library Guy even earlier, for dinner, and my parents put Jayda to bed, but Jayda always falls asleep knowing that when she wakes up, her mommy will be by her side—and I always am. For almost 3 ½ years, I’ve spent every night with Jayda (or least most of the night!) and have woken up with her beside me. Jayda and I share a very special bond and she’s incredibly social and secure, so I’ve never given our arrangement a second thought…until now. Plenty of kids spend a night at their grandparents’ house—some even spend a week when their parents are on vacations or business trips—and I certainly did, too. My parents went on trips together when I was a child and left me and my siblings at home with relatives or responsible sitters, and while I do remember missing them a bit, everything worked out alright.

At some point, whether it’s an overnight with Library Guy, or even just a short get-away with a good girlfriend, I’m finally starting to feel like it’s time I left Jayda to sleep on her own. It’s also time I stopped worrying about staying out too late or that Jayda might wake up before I get home and feel betrayed that I’m not there. But I wonder if making such a move is going to be harder for Jayda or for me. There’s something to be said about stability and routine, and what we’ve been doing for all of these years has been comforting to me, too. When I hear my little girl breathing comfortably next to me, I know she’s ok; and when she’s having a nightmare, I’m right there to comfort her. And as much as I complain about being woken by my daughter in the wee hours of the morn, waking to Jayda’s hugs and kisses is always a wonderful way to start my day. Being a mother is who I am—and I always put Jayda first. But I’m starting to realize that being a good mother is more than focusing on my daughter—it’s focusing on myself, too, and making sure I’m fulfilled. I always find the time to take care of myself, physically, so it’s time I did so emotionally, too. I’m working on it…and I’m hoping there’s an overnight trip in my future. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

“You’re a Great Mommy” by Cyma Shapiro

My son said I’m a great mommy the other day. I was stunned. I can’t ever remember telling my own mother that; I’m not even sure what that means. So, I set out to investigate by asking him. He responded by telling me that I make him good sandwiches, give him good food, play with him, and go to school with him. I responded by telling him that he’s a good son – he’s cute, charming, sweet, loving, smart and just an overall good kid. After big hugs, I walked away.

Now, I’m on a quest to find what really does make a good mommy.  I think I might write a few more blogs on the subject. To start, here are a few on-the-street comments (ok, most of these people are my friends):

For me, a great Mommy is one who can put aside her own wishes for who her child will be, in order to listen to, and nurture, the person the child really IS.IP

A great mommy drops what she's doing to answer a question, or stops cooking or cleaning or fussing to play. In the words of Anna Quindlen, "I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less." – JH

The person in your child's life who will stop whatever needs to be finished to just sit down, legs crossed, and watch ants march in single file from the sidewalk to your garage...for an hour. 

The one person who will wear her hair in the style (to work) that your five year has coifed...butterfly burettes and all. 

The one person who will lay beside her son in his single bed and watch him throughout the night...making sure his fever isn't so high that he doesn't have another seizure. 

The one person who loves so hard, that the first waking thought she has is their welfare and their future and the last thought she has before slumber is the blessing it is to be their mom. - KR

A good mommy is patient – AV
A good mother is one who respects her child as the individual he/she is. 
She listens, although may not agree on certain issues and will discuss why she doesn't agree. A good mommy will not demand that certain things be done only HER way, or not at all. A good mommy will never spank her child or yell rudely or condescendingly towards her child. A good mommy will show and verbalize the love she has for her child, no matter what the circumstance.
That's only the beginning of what a good Mommy is...CM
Flexibility makes a good Mommy. Your expectations and approach to parenting needs to be flexible. Physical dexterity helps too…I once nursed my screaming infant daughter in a traffic jam on the Bourne Bridge without unbuckling my seatbelt or her car seat. Thank god I didn’t have to drive too. - MF
T. Suzanne Eller, contributor to, outlined her thoughts in the article,  “Three Principles Every Mom Should Know” 
  • Moms can’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Moms will sometimes make mistakes, but we can learn from them. 
  • Moms must nurture the nurturer
I love this last one the most. She explains, “The last key to providing a loving home is to nurture yourself along the way.” I love that word, NURTURE.
According to Anonymous and several other contributors on wikihow, the following list applies:
Be patient. Being a mother is a little challenging sometimes, especially if you have a son. But keep your cool and try to stay patient. Try this approach to other problems. Stay calm, explain the practical reasons not to do something, and then why YOU don't want them to do something. 
Take an interest in your child's interests. If your son likes music buy him a guitar and watch him play. Ask questions, like what is your favorite type of music, what is your favorite song, etc. If your daughter is interested in fashion, take her out for a shopping spree. Ask her what her favorite thing about fashion is. Don't be afraid to ask just don't be pushy.
Don't be tight about money. Okay, so blowing money day after day isn't the best thing to do, but don't automatically say no to everything your kid asks for. If you always say no and follow this with a lecture about saving money, you will be known as the "Tight Parent", the one who never buys anything. Buy something small every now and then.  
Make sure you are an approachable person to talk to. Try your hardest to always be understanding and a good listener. Knowing that they can go to their mom for friendship advice, information on puberty, homework help, or just a hug goes a long way for kids. Not having someone they can talk to can cause kids to retire into a shell, so make sure you talk to them about how they feel regularly. 
Be supportive, and never laugh at your kid’s hobbies, interests or friends. So, your daughter doesn't want to study medicine and become a doctor? Don't get angry, this is your child's life and they can make some of their own decisions. Understand that it's okay if your child thinks differently from you. Don't get mad because they have a different opinion to you, or your son wants to become an engineer and not a doctor. Don't laugh at them, or their friends. Who cares if you daughter listens to hip hop music and wears too much eyeliner? She's still your daughter. And so what if your son is friends with a guy who speaks in a funny accent or who has a different skin color? You might not do what your kids do, but that is their decision, not yours. You have a big impact on their lives already-you choose what school they go to, when they eat dinner, the amount of allowance they get a week. Don't overdo it. 
Be able to admit that something you did may have been wrong and don't be afraid to apologize. It might be hard, but it's better for everyone if you just admit to your mistakes and apologize. It saves everyone the trouble of being mad that you're being stubborn and teaches your kids that it's okay to make mistakes, as well as the importance of an apology. Simply calm yourself, evaluate the situation, determine what you did wrong and why. Then apologize and explain how or why you acted the way you did. 
Respect your child’s love for the other parents. You cannot be jealous of your child loving your husband or ex-husband. 
Stacey in her Blog, Is there a Mommy out there? posted this:
Quite often, the comments here, which I love and adore, which make my day and make me laugh and make me think and introduce me to new lives and stories all over the world, frequently these comments - you - tell me that I'm a good mother. That I care. That I am perceptive with my kids. That I have good ideas.

And quite often, I try and I am and I do.

But, it is easy, in all honesty, to be perceptive and loving on paper. On blog, I guess I should say. 
It would be a sweet story. True in its own right and so incomplete. So there you go, I give you the ugly underbelly, the moment before the moment. Because you know what, I am still a good mother. I am just not a perfect one. 

And, Jill Smokler in her Blog, Scary Mommy, writes the following – a testament to how far good mommys often go:
For the first five years of my children’s lives, I baked all of their birthday cakes. Come to think of it, baked is not an adequate word; I slaved over their birthday cakes. Poured my blood, sweat and tears into cake pans time and time again. I am not a natural baker and the process made me far more miserable than happy, but the hours I spent creating them was a proof positive of my undying love for my kids. Good mothers bake their own cakes, so bake the cakes, I would, dammit.

So, there you have it. I think, in part, that being a good mommy is in the eye of the beholder. I also think that love, nurturing, respect and support go a long way in parenting children.  In all cases, I’ll take my childrens’ compliments, any day.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Flying High: Transitioning from the Corporate World to Baby in Coach by David Couper

One moment you are being a leader, leading meetings and leading the herd onto the plane as the privileged frequent flier and the next you are bring up a baby, meeting with no-one and you are leading your toddler – no dragging your toddler - down into the back of the plane and into coach as your career morphs into motherhood.

What happened?

Motherhood and your executive career collided! So how can you transition from a high-powered job, or actually any job, and to a role as mom?

1. Accept it’s going to be different
Any change is going to be different. If you were an executive, manager or working in a team, it will be different now you have a child. You can’t just work late, go on a business trip, or plan to work over the weekend even if you have great childcare, great family and great organization at home. You’re going to need to check if that’s OK and not being able to make an immediate decision will probably be different. But this change doesn’t need to be good or bad unless you choose to see it that way. Yes you may not be able to do that European trip or worse you may not even be asked now you have junior around. But in exchange you get time to spend with your family, avoid those security lines and the meetings with your boring counterparts that you never liked anyway! It’s different and you get to choose how you feel about it.

2. Work out your long-term strategy
Obviously you are planning what your work and home life looks like. Obviously? Well for some people it’s obvious. For others it may not be. But it’s good to work out how much time you want to spend at home once you have a child, or whether you want to or need to work fulltime, or if you intend to change direction or careers with the new family. Work out how to balance your new life and how you are going to finance it. Will you get a nanny or will grandma help out? Will you be at home 24/7 or will baby be at daycare during work hours? Plan out your first five years at least. The first five years takes you to kindergarten. The next ten to fifteen takes you through education and out of college. It’s worth thinking about those too and making some decisions.

3. Decide what you are going to give up and what you are going to take on
One of the hardest things to do is to accept that you can’t do everything. OK superstars give the impression they can be career woman, mother of ten, Nobel peace prize winner and able to make perfect brownies at the drop of a hat. But usually it’s with a team of hire-priced helpers. You can try and do 110% for your job and 110% for you family and you will probably find yourself going 110% crazy. For example, immaculate clothes are the sign of a high-powered executive. Ones with a throw-up stain are the sign of someone who is caring for a little one. You can make a pact that you will always be turned out perfectly and go ballistic the one time you aren’t or decide to never pick up your child in your business attire and let the au pair do it instead or just accept that your Prada may get poop on it. Life is not always going to be perfect and you decide to be OK with it.

4. Partner on the plan
As you work out your strategy and what is going to change you need to partner. Partner with your partner or spouse, your family or childcare providers and your co-workers and boss. It is better to be open and discuss possibilities rather than keep it to yourself. Your boss will not like surprises and if you don’t discuss your future he or she will make up something, which could be worse than the truth. Ensure your boss and co-workers that you can make the job work but also discuss any changes you will need to make to your schedule or on work expectations. Also do the same with your family and friends. Be honest; ask for help and set expectations. For example, you will still want to see your friends but the expensive lunches you used to have won’t work with junior around but a potluck at your home will.

5. Monitor and check in
As you go through this great adventure you need to check and see how the plan is going and what is working and what is not. The important part of this monitoring is to see if you need to do any course corrections. You may find that your mom loves looking after your baby for a couple of hours and is willing to do it twice a week instead of the once she does now. Or you may find that staying at home full time is driving you nuts and you need more adult company! Either way it’s OK to revise and change your plan.

Becoming a mother is a huge step made even bigger if you are trying to balance work. But it can be done. Just be realistic and don’t try to be superwoman (or mom).

At age 46, David Couper and his partner adopted a baby boy. Their son, Teddy, is now four years old. David is an author and career coach with many professional women and mothers as clients. His latest book: “Outsiders On The Inside: Creating a Winning Career…Even When You Don’t Fit In!” came out in August 2010.  Visit

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Trust by Robin Gorman Newman

I am disgusted with my son today (Sunday).  I woke up this morning (while he was at ice skating with his father) to find out that various cables, cords, etc. had been unplugged to my computer, modems, etc. in my office.    I was livid and unable to function until Marc, my husband, came home to help put things back together.  Technical matters are not my strength.

It got me thinking.  There was a horrible story in the news last week about a son (30 year old) who brutally killed his parents and then took off on a plane to Israel.  Granted he had documented psychiatric problems,  but it led me to consider the fact that as parents, we never know what/who we are raising.

We do our best....and especially if a child is is my son....we don't always have all the biological information we would otherwise be privvy to from our own lineage.  Not to say that adoptive children are any more troublesome than others, it's just that we are operating often more from a place of unknown.

That said, I am in a state at the moment of  distrust with Seth.  

What he did to my office was a total violation of my personal property and a complete lack of respect for my things and the time I spend at my computer (too much I recognize).  It felt like a huge slap in the face and one that I am still having trouble grappling with in my mind.

Additionally, during my senior dad's latest weekend stay with us, Seth took bills from his wallet which we discovered as he was preparing to return home.  Seth denied it, then ultimately admitted it.  It was upsetting, especially to my father, and I've told my dad that he should never leave his wallet in the room they share at bedtime.

I plan to go to the hardware store later today and purchase a padlock for my office....or will call in a locksmith if it comes to that.  I'm not thrilled feeling the need to go this length...but I DON'T TRUST my son.  And, I told him so.

In a fit of rage, while he was at skating, I took out two large garbage bags and loaded them up with some of his favorite toys in the living rooms, and took his wallet, and various other items, and tucked them away/out of sight in a closet in a garage.

I asked Seth why he did what he did, and he offered no explanation.  I also asked if he thought an apology might be in order, and he said "sorry."  He looked sad.  But, was he truly remorseful or was he sorry because I took away his toys and he wanted them back?  Can you teach regret or remorse to a child?  And, if so, how?

Was this punishment the right choice, especially for a child who has so much?  For how long will he miss the toys?  And, will it truly bother him that I said I don't trust him anymore or will he be over it tomorrow?  Does having my trust mean anything to him?  I feel like it does...or at least it should.  Other than my love, if he doesn't care about trust, then what?!

I love him, but I can't look at him right now.  I know my emotions are raw as I write this, and they will ease.

It's just that we put so much time and energy into our children, if we endeavor to be what to us feels like a good parent.  Everyone's definition and perception of that is different, and there's no right or wrong. 

But, how do you raise a child who values their property and that of others?

Is this a phase typical for a 7 year old? What was his motivation?

I may never know.

But, I would love to hear from you.  Has your child exhibited behavior that felt destructive or wrong?  And, if so how did you handle it so that they learned a lesson that would stick with them?

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Very Special Place - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I experienced another stressful and unexpected event in my life last week. I think I am getting used to all of these stressful and unexpected events that occur almost daily, if not weekly. This one, however, truly touched my soul. And it pertains to my dog, Maxi. My favorite of my two dogs. My “doggie soul mate,” if you will. Yet, unlike all of the other stressful and unexpected events that have been occurring in my life, this one has a very happy ending. However, I digress.

Last Thursday my husband and I took our dog, Maxi, for a check up. I knew going into the appointment that I had many questions and some anxiety about certain issues Maxi was experiencing. The biggest of those issues was that Maxi had 3 golf ball size fatty lipomas in his upper chest. We had one biopsied a year ago, which turned out to be benign. However, over the past year, Maxi developed two more, with one extending under his armpit. The Veterinarian who examined him last year, was concerned about the spreading of the lipoma because he told us that if the lipoma spread much more under the arm pit, it could put pressure on some nerves that run through the arm pit area and cause some nerve function difficulties, possibly making it difficult for Maxi to walk.

Maxi had other issues as well: He had something on his chest that looked like a Melanoma. He had a growth on one of his front paws that he licked constantly. The licking was causing a minor infection. He also had dental problems. And to my surprise, there was a mass growing on Maxi’s gums that the doctors were most concerned and suspicious of. And all of this had to be taken into consideration with Maxi’s age of 12 years old.

Knowing that Maxi is truly my dog, my husband deferred the decision of Maxi having surgery to me. And I had the option of having some of the issues taken care of, all of the issues dealt with, or do nothing. I asked the Vet what the procedure would entail if I decided to have everything taken care of. He outlined step by step what Maxi would be going through. Additionally, because we would having the surgery at this Veterinary Hospital, we were also told that we could leave Maxi for a few days in their “Rehab” area. In that area, he would be watched 24 hours a day by a Vet and assistant staff who would be doing all of the aftercare for Maxi such as change bandages, give medication, etc. That sealed the deal in my mind. Because we have another dog in our home along with a rambunctious child, I was enamored with the fact that Maxi would be in the main hospital facility for two days and then transferred to “rehab” after that for several days of aftercare. I gave the Vet the go ahead as my poor dog sat on my feet, trembling, and looking up to me for reassurance. I bent down, hugged him close and with as much mind power that I could muster, I told Maxi, through my eyes, that he would be perfectly fine, but that I would be there for him and he would absolutely be coming back home to me. I could swear I felt him trembling a little less after that.

Due to the fact that my husband had to go back to work, and we came with only one car, my husband drove me home so that I could get my own car along with my laptop to keep my mind distracted with busywork during the surgery.

As I was driving back to the hospital, the Vet called me on my cell phone to say that they took blood from Maxi and did chest x-rays to see if the lipomas has spread to a more dangerous or complicated degree. I was told that Maxi’s blood work was like “that of a puppy,” which meant that he would probably withstand anesthesia well. And the chest x-rays showed the lipomas with the spreading of tissue under the armpit, but nothing that looked dangerous. This meant Maxi was cleared for surgery.

From start to finish, the surgery took 6 hours. And this incredible Vet took the time to come out and explain what had been done with each issue that needed intervention. He was calm, warm, caring and compassionate. I needed this Vet as the one to oversee Maxi’s surgery. Heck, I needed this Vet to oversee me!

I prayed for a good outcome every step of the way. I asked God to watch over Maxi because besides my son, Maxi is all I have in this world. I wrote on Facebook for my friends to please pray for Maxi. I received an outpouring of well wishes and speedy recovery messages from that post, along with messages to help me think positively. My friends are a huge part of my world. They comforted me to no end.

And now for the special part. Once the surgery was over, the Vet came out to tell me how successful everything went. He knew I looked drained. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, as I felt nauseous throughout the whole 6-hour ordeal. He helped me pack up my things and told me to go home and that I could call later to check up on Maxi. I could have kissed this man. He was a hero in my eyes.

Now, the fact that this animal hospital has a “rehab” center is amazing in and of itself. It also has a boarding facility where healthy dogs are boarded when their owners go away. We board both of our dogs there too. And the staff in the boarding facility love Maxi just as much (well, maybe not just as much) as I do. When I spoke to the clerical staff, they put me on the phone with one of the young men who I knew well from the boarding area. He told me how well Maxi was doing. He also told me that he crawled into Maxi’s cage and laid down with him for about 15 minutes and rubbed Maxi’s back as Max gave this young man a “face bath.” I was shocked. Where would someone at an animal hospital get into an animal’s cage to comfort them? I told this young man that I absolutely couldn’t thank him enough and that he made my evening much less stressful knowing that someone gave my dog some extra attention.

The next day, Maxi was doing so well, that instead of spending two days in the hospital facility, Maxi was going to be transferred to the “rehab” facility a day early. When I spoke with another young man who happened to also love Maxi, he told me how well Max was doing and offered to take a couple pictures of Maxi with his cell phone and e-mail them to me (see below). I was blown away!! Where in the world would employees take the time to take a picture of your animal for you while in the hospital and e-mail them to you?? I told him he made my day like he couldn’t imagine.

And the most important thing was not only the love, caring and attention Maxi received, but that the same doctor called every single day, right after he finished “rounds” to give me a medical update on Maxi! I am blown away by this incredible and amazing facility. I have had family members in real hospitals that never received this level of care and attention!! And to even track down a doctor, any doctor, to find out how your family member was doing was a full-time job in and of itself!

My Maxi will probably be home and resting on my bed as you read this. I needed to share this incredible situation because I kept thinking, “What if it was my son who had this type of surgery?” I would be allowed to stay in his room and hold his little hand, but would he get the same level of caring, love and compassion from the employees? Would he be made to feel as “special,” as my dog was? To be quite honest, I highly doubt it. I do know that Pediatric hospital staff tends to have more compassion and caring than employees who take care of the adult staff. But to find such exceptional care for a dog is beyond incredible. Perhaps actual medical staff that takes care of people should do rotations at this veterinary hospital. Maybe medicine, like old dogs, could be taught some necessary new tricks.

I would like to thank the entire staff at the Long Island Veterinary Specialists hospital. Every single employee made me and my dog feel special and cared for. The surgical team was exemplary. The rehab employees were priceless. And a very special thank you to Anthony and Eric for loving my dog as if he was their own!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Life is Suffering -- By Laura Houston

When I was 20 and studying Buddhism, I decided it was not for me. One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism states that “Life is Suffering” and this negative kind of thinking just didn’t sit well with my youthful, ignorant, girl-from-Kansas self. Back then I was an optimist. Hopeful. Naïve. When you are 20, have big hair, wear size 8 Jordache jeans, and drive a 1978 Camaro with a killer stereo, there is very little compassion or understanding for suffering in life.

But fast forward only 15 years later, and that same unaware girl had gotten fat, had been married and divorced, hated her career, and drove a four-door Mercury. I was miserable, sad, lonely and afraid. So I turned once again to studying a spiritual way of life to turn my heart back on, and I kept coming back to the phrase, “Life is suffering.”

This is one of my favorite journeys into wisdom. And, no, I won’t tell you the complete lesson. You have to figure it out yourself or it’s no fun for the rest of us who ran around bumping into walls for ten years. But I can tell you this: the recognition of this truth does not bring about sorrow or loss or depression. It brings on freedom.

No matter what choice you make in life, you are going to have to pay a price for it. You cannot escape suffering. This insight is magnified in parenthood. I watch my boys make choices every day in their development that causes them pain and pleasure. I'm learning the lesson all over again. What follows is a very small, simplified example, but when it comes to wisdom, it’s good to start small sometimes:

Lyle and Wyatt both love little girls. They are fascinated by them – drawn to the bright pink clothes, the sparkly hair ties, and the fistfuls of curls on their head. Any girl brave enough to play with my boys will come away sans barrettes, headbands, hats, gloves or anything else that’s shimmering and pink. So on the playground Lyle follows the girls around, hoping for some attention. Sometimes an older girl will take a fancy to him and quickly makes him her baby by swaddling him in her coat and stuffing him into a makeshift crib under the jungle gym. Most of the time the girls scream and squeal and tell Lyle to go away.

Ah. Poor Lyle. He gets his heart broken. But the next day there he is again, trailing after the girls. But maybe this time he has learned something and he chooses not to be so grabby and aggressive. As a result, the girls are not so repulsed by my little boy. They tease him and won't let him on the slide. But then after some clapping and smiling on Lyle's part, the girls come to an agreement: Lyle can come inside their "fort," but only under the slide. He's glad to do this, but he's not exactly cooperating with all of it.

Outside of the female fort, Wyatt is teetering back and forth on his feet, pressing his fist in and out of his mouth, and making his "wubbawubba" sound. He wants to follow his brother into the fort, but he is a little more leery. He has also had his heart broken by a girl in the form of a good shove when he tried to play the wubbawubba song on her arm. And as he stands there rocking and making his strange sounds, the girls begin to shriek at him.

“He’s creepy,” they say. “It’s that creepy baby again.”

Then one of them takes a closer look.

“He’s cute,” she says to her comrades. “This one is much cuter than that one.”

She points at Lyle.

“Let’s take this one, too. He can be our slave.”

So the girls bring Wyatt into their fort and after some discussion that turns into arguing, they decide to kick both boys out.

They shove Lyle and Wyatt out into the bright, warm sunshine of the playground and ban them from returning to the home under the slide. My sons cry a little. They try to get back in. They whine. They push, but the girls push harder. Wyatt falls down, gets up, and starts to play his wubbawubba song. He toddles off in search of me, but detours when a falling leaf skirts across the air and lands close by. Lyle sees a soccer ball bounce across the path, and he gives chase. The girls and their rude dismissal are forgotten.

I hope my children can always recover from rejection so bravely. I hope they understand that if they want to play, they are going to get hurt. They are going to get kicked, bit, shoved, pushed and run over any time they try to have fun or do what’s right for them. And someone will always try to make them a slave. Even in fun. And, yes, it’s going to hurt. Sometimes more than others.

The alternative is to choose differently. They could choose to stay inside, to stay safe, to not take risks, to not chase girls, or balls, or dreams, or anything else that makes life so wonderful. But no matter what they choose, they are going to get hurt. They are either going to cry from loneliness or cry from heart break. They are either going to ache with ignorance or ache with experience.

I cannot always choose for them, and if I did, I may not choose wisely. I want to protect them from mean people. I want to spare them the bullies of the playground. And I will do my best to be a fair and just buffer between them and the world. But in the process of watching them choose, if I am a good mother, I will teach them that they are also learning to live. And it’s hard. Yes. It’s hard. But after all -- life is suffering. And I mean that in the best possible way.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

JAMIE LEVINE’S SHOW REVIEW: Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical

Almost four years ago, when I was eight months-pregnant with Jayda, and still working as the children’s book buyer for Barnes&, I was invited to a lunch with the actress Julianne Moore, who was promoting her soon-to-be-published first picture book, Freckleface Strawberry. As I hobbled into the restaurant on a cane (I was suffering from the intense pain of pregnancy-induced sciatica), with my bulging belly in plain view, Ms. Moore graciously greeted me and thanked me profusely for coming to meet her in my state—and then we bonded over lunch, sharing our pregnancy stories and her lovely anecdotes about motherhood.

This down-to-earth celebrity impressed me with her warmth—as well as with the premise of her delightful picture book, and I bought quite a few copies of it to promote on my site. So, when I was recently given the opportunity to take my daughter, Jayda, to see the new off-Broadway musical based on Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry book, I jumped at the chance. Both Jayda and I were rewarded with a thoroughly entertaining afternoon at the theater.

The star of the show is Hayley Podschun, who charmingly portrays Strawberry, a seven-year-old girl who is constantly teased by her schoolmates for having bright red hair and freckles. Hayley accurately captures the gawky self-consciousness of a young girl, and her opening song, “Look at Me,” will capture the heart of anyone who has ever felt different or inadequate as a child. The show follows Strawberry as she attempts to scrub away, bleach, and put make-up over her freckles—and finally resorts to hiding behind a ski mask. Along the way, she bonds with a seemingly-perfect ballerina, who admits to Strawberry that she has no friends, and delivers a message that nobody’s life is perfect—and we all have challenges to overcome. And with the help of her loveable schoolmates—a hunky jock, a loveable ditz, and two nerdy brains—who ultimately show Strawberry that they love her simply for who she is underneath the freckles and red hair, Strawberry learns that everyone is different—and that's what makes everyone special!

Seventy-minutes long—the perfect length for my easily-distracted kid—and filled with inspiring songs like “I Can Be Anything” and “Be Yourself,” Freckleface Strawberry is both a lively, entertaining musical, and an encouraging boost to any kid's self-confidence. I’m so happy Jayda and I were able to join Strawberry on her journey of self-discovery, as she learned to love the skin that she’s in, and highly recommend that everyone—with freckles or without!—does, too.

Freckleface Strawberry plays New World Stages/Stage 4 at 340 W. 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Ticket prices range $39-$68.50. Tickets are available at or call (212) 239-6200 or visit the New World Stages box office. For more information, visit

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