Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What About Sex? -- by Laura Houston

My eternally youthful, childless, single friend Tina recently wrote me and asked: “When are you going to write about sex? I hear having kids ruins your sex life.” I wish I could say that was just a nasty rumor, but it seems to be almost true. I say “almost” because it doesn’t last forever, but let’s be honest: that first year after the baby arrives is a bitch.

I think it’s important to talk about sex after having kids because you have to have a plan and you have to have a network of resources who will share their tips. I’m usually happy to convey my experience, but my experience isn’t enough. Plus, I had extenuating circumstances that first year. I had twins. I was 44-years old when I had them, and I had been through almost four years of infertility treatments, so my endocrine system was completely shot. Then we packed up and moved to the other side of the country just six months into parenthood. There were new jobs, new home, adjustments going on, and no network of support.

So my experience that first year feels extreme. However, I find that my parental colleagues are more than willing to discuss their challenges, especially on the playground when they are lacking sleep, freezing their butts off, and clinging to a cup of lukewarm coffee. They talk. Oh, yes, they do.

I reserve my discussions about sex to a few choice friends, but these more confident, more sophisticated Manhattan moms discuss sex with the same candidness that they discuss articles in the “New York Times.” Naturally, I asked questions and took notes. Over the course of many conversations I noticed two strong themes: the older mothers had a harder time finding the time and the energy for it, and the younger moms found time for it because they wanted to get pregnant again. But it was obvious among these women, who are mostly over 40, that saving a sex life is one of the greatest challenges of motherhood.

I know my husband and I talked about it at great length when we were planning our parenthood. We have always had an enjoyable sex life, and we didn’t want our intimate time together to change, so we promised we would work on it and make time for it. We wouldn’t become like those “other” couples who just let it slide and let themselves go. Oh no. We were above that.

Fast forward 18 months later and nothing is as we thought. (Insert your chuckle of smugness here.) Sex is still a priority, but we just don’t know where it falls on the list. The reality is that it’s hard to find the time, the energy and the privacy. When I asked my friends what they ranked sex on their list of priorities, it was right up there among the top five, but they echoed my sentiments: it’s hard to find the right moment.

My friends Kim and Susan tell me desire is not an issue for them even though they each have three children under the age of four. They most certainly yearn to have sex, to be close, and to enjoy the benefits of touch. However, for them the urge usually comes on around 10:00 in the morning. Perhaps right after they have just finished vacuuming or unloading the dishwasher. It’s the time of day when moms are not too exhausted from the labors of motherhood, and naptime is moments away. And our spouses are nowhere around. It’s unfortunate for them and us.

My friend Jen is a working mother here in Manhattan. She leaves her children every morning at 8am and does not return home again until after 6pm. She told me that along with some of the other women in her office, they acknowledge they think about sex frequently during the day. I asked her if it was because she was able to stay relatively clean throughout the day, but Jen said it was because she felt more stimulated mentally and therefore probably physically, as well. So I asked if she still had sex as often as she would like with her husband. But the answer was still “no.” She was too tired at the end of the day.

Apparently, we are all too tired.

So this is it? We’re just tired? Can't some Ambien, a margarita, and a good night's sleep fix that? Or is it that no matter how much rest we get, are our brains are more focused on what death defying stunt junior is pulling off in the next room than getting a little somethin’-somethin’ for ourselves?

Sometimes I think, hey, how hard could it be to introduce a little more sex? It’s a great opportunity to get in bed and lie down. How often does that happen to first-year mothers? Not often enough. Getting in bed any time of the day could be a great thing. But there are tricks to it. It requires skill to find the time, get in the mood, be playful, and most importantly relax. I just don’t know enough of these tricks. So I listen on the playgrounds. I read the parenting boards. And I depend on readers of this blog and friends to help me out.

So regardless if you have 10 kids or none, feel free to share with all of the sexually frustrated, stressed out, exhausted mothers out there. Unless, of course, you’re too tired.


Monday, November 29, 2010

I Need to Get Out of Here!—by Jamie Levine

I’m incredibly stressed out. My entire body and being are so tightly wound I’m suffering from persistent migraines and insomnia, and my mind is almost constantly racing. In the next three weeks, I have a an important test to take, a project due, three finals I need to ace, seven grad school applications to complete, a freelance assignment to finish, and of course, my daily parenting duties to attend to. It’s a lot. And though all of these obligations should consume 100% of my time, I’m still finding time to see Library Guy as much as I possibly can. And you know what? It’s a good distraction; he helps me cope.

Library Guy calms me; be it the physical or emotional intimacy I share with him, spending time with Library Guy clears my mind, soothes my soul, and lets me just be me. I’m no longer a compulsive straight-A student or an aspiring supermom, and I have no agenda except for being happy and feeling good. Even if it’s just for an hour or two. And that helps me get through all the rough spots in my life. That’s why I’m incredibly frustrated with my daughter’s recent behavior, and am feeling a bit resentful and, if it's possible—more stressed out than usual.

A week ago Saturday, I went out with Library Guy and my parents put Jayda to bed for me; when I left Jayda, she was fine. But when I came home at 3 a.m., my mother greeted me at the stairs to inform me that Jayda woke up at 11 p.m. crying for me, and didn’t calm down or go back to sleep until after 2 a.m. When my mom tried to explain to Jayda that just like Jayda needs to play with her friends, I need to play with my friends, my precocious daughter responded, “Well I don’t take as much time as my mommy does” and complained that her mommy was “staying out too late!” I was annoyed at my daughter, who usually sleeps through the night, and generally accepts the fact that I go out with my friends now and then. Most of all, I felt incredibly guilty for the sleep my parents lost that night; they had tried desperately to console Jayda, and my mom stayed in bed with her for hours.

Several days later, when Library Guy didn’t have to watch his kids, and asked me if we could go out for a little while, I assured my parents that I’d put Jayda to bed, myself, and that I’d only be gone for 2-3 hours; I also told them to call me if Jayda did happen to wake up, and promised them I’d come home immediately. Two hours into our date, Library Guy, who knew I couldn’t stay out late, suggested we go back to my house and just watch some TV so we could spend more time together. Almost immediately after I agreed, my mom called to tell me Jayda had woken up and was crying for me. I raced home, and into bed with her, where she clung to me...and wouldn’t let me go. Every time Jayda started to doze off, she snapped her eyes open to check to see if I was still there. I had Library Guy outside waiting to come in the house when I was ready…but I never was. For the next two hours, Jayda fought sleep and wouldn’t let me out of her sight. She even followed me to the bathroom. My date-night was instantly aborted.

I know I still deserve to go out (and lord knows I need to!), but now I’m gun-shy; I definitely don’t want to burden my parents with any more sleepless nights waiting for me to get home. I don’t want to be angry at my daughter for loving and needing me so much, but I’m a bit resentful of her behavior, and I’m not sure what to do about it. As much as I love being with Jayda (and even sleeping with her!), I need my stress-free time with Library Guy. And I also feel badly for not being able to give Library Guy a drama-free night out anytime soon. He’s been incredibly understanding, but it’s still not fair to him—or to me.

I’ve spoken to Jayda about her behavior, and assured her that she’ll always be safe and taken care of, even if I’m not home, and that I’ll always come back to be with her—no matter what. Is she really worried? Or too attached? Or is she just playing me? I’m not sure. But no matter what she's feeling or doing, it’s not easy to deal with…and right now, the stress is simply eating me up.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Teaching Gratitude to Our Children by Cyma Shapiro

Last week I discussed gratitude and its place in my life.  With the holidays quickly arriving, I’d like to address gratitude in my children’s lives. For me, it’s one of the most important traits I can pass on to them. But, until recently, I just couldn’t find the best techniques for doing so. Another check on the Internet (of course!), and I now have some wonderful ideas to pass on to you.

In Carolyn Pennington’s “3 Steps to Teaching Gratitude in our Children,” Pennington outlines how parents need to model behavior they want their children to have. “A simple, sincere expression of gratitude when the kids do something they were asked to do is always appreciated. Taking an extra moment to thank a sales clerk at the store or to tip your gardener for really doing a great job lets them know that gratitude is a standard in your home...and you are always looking to reward those that demonstrate quality work with praise. We must be intentional with our parenting. We must actively look for opportunities to teach our children if we want to instill these important virtues into their lives.” 
Here are more of her suggestions:

1Offer Selfless Service. In our home, we eat a lot of fresh produce. Sometimes we over buy. Rather than letting the produce go to waste, we toss a salad or something similar together and my husband and son run it to the local food bank. They love receiving fresh produce because most of their donations come in the form of cans and boxes. Allowing your children to see how grateful the volunteer workers are as well as those eating there can really make an impact on your child's life.

2)  Try Going Without. From time to time, have a family project that involves going without something important. For example, try making bread for a week rather than buying it, or try biking to any destination less than two miles away. A little sacrifice causes us to miss things that we take for granted and helps us be a little more humble and grateful for the...car, or toy, or whatever. I find that the learning is more beneficial when this is done in a proactive way rather than a reactive way. For example if the child looses the privilege of a toy for disciplinary reasons...they child may not associate receiving the toy back with gratitude. He or she may learn the lesson that if I don't keep my room clean I lose the privilege of certain toys -a great lesson. Try "going without" as a proactive fun family adventure and be sure to express your gratitude for the usefulness of the items you went without!

3) Expect thanks, don't guilt thanks. "I work so hard every day for you, and I never hear a word of thanks." There is nothing wrong with encouraging a child to express gratitude or reminding them. In our home it is an expectation to say the simple words of "thank-you" for just about everything. But shaming children into saying it does not raise the vibration level of your home. They will feel bad about it, about you, about themselves...and probably resent you. Have expectations and allow your children to rise to the occasion. Invite them to say thank you. Tell them you appreciate their nice words and you will get more and more to be thankful for yourself!

Eliza Clark’s blog post on “On Shine from Yahoo” suggests the follow gratitude resolutions for the holiday season:
  • To set an example of thankfulness for our kids - we’ll remember to thank them for all of the lovely little things they do.  Children like being thanked.  Some so much that they’ll still say you’re welcome” if you forget. 
  • To make our thanks more than just pro forma  - telling people very specifically why we’re thankful makes them feel great.  This is something kids can learn to do too. 
  • To get our kids in the habit of working on thank you notes - preschoolers can decorate notes with stickers, draw designs, scrawl their names, affix stamps, etc.  Giving thanks can be a beautiful thing! 
  • To give our kids plenty of ways to help out around the house - this gives us more chances to thank them, and helps them comprehend a bit of what goes into all of the many things others do for them. 
  • To get the children involved in some kind of goodwill project this month - we might sort toys, clothes and books to give to charity, or put together a package for a sick relative. 
  • To express gratitude & amp; wonder for the big and little things – and to encourage our children, preferably at bedtime when they are snuggled under cozy covers, to tell us what they are most grateful for.
Carolyn Goode, founder of Parents International, unveils her list for teaching gratitude to teenagers (a life stage that I, for one, dread):
The first thing you have to do as a parent with an ungrateful teen is be clear.
One of the biggest factors contributing to the general lack of gratitude shown by teens these days is that they feel they "deserve" or are "entitled to" what they have or are given. As a parent it is your job to clarify the difference between rights and privileges. For example, you as a parent need to help your teen understand that while they have the right to be clothed, it is a privilege to have the name brand clothes, and sheer volume of clothes they have. This is just one simple example, there are many more. For example, it is their right to attend school, but it is a privilege to get to drive instead of ride the bus. One of the best ways to clarify the difference for your teen is to help them understand that they do not earn rights, but they need to earn privileges. Start making them earn it, and soon they will recognize the difference. It is when they receive too much for too little that they feel entitled.
The second thing you need to do is subtly help your teen more readily recognize their blessings.
If you want your teen to be more grateful you need to show them that they have a lot to be grateful for. If you sit them down and lecture them on how much they have to be grateful for, you can bet their mind will be on the things they don't have, or on their friends that have more, not on their blessings. However, if you take opportunity to discuss casually things like hurricane victims, or the homeless, your teen may start to see what they have. For example, at dinner you can casually start a conversation about the news story that indicated the number of homeless people found frozen to death after the first winter storm of the year. These dinner conversations will have a way of making your child more appreciative of your home than any sit down lecture where you tell them they need to be grateful. Hearing about and seeing people who do not have many privileges will help to make the distinction between their rights and privileges more obvious.
Third, you have to be the shining example of a grateful person.
If you want your teen to be someone who shows gratitude, be the role model. Show gratitude, recognize when it is shown to you, and be appreciative of opportunities for gratitude. It is important as we are a model of gratitude that we recognize and show gratitude to our teens, even if it is for something super small, like clearing their dishes after dinner. Show your teen, through example, to be grateful for the large and small gestures. It will rub off.

Lastly, do not expect too much too quickly.
Showing gratitude, and learning to be a grateful person is a process, and you need to recognize the steps your teen makes toward it, even if they are small, and do not get frustrated when they take a step back. Patience is key. Your teen will never learn if you blow your top when they mess up. While gratitude is a state of mind, and it takes a conscious choice to consider others and be more grateful, it is not something that you can change overnight in a selfish teen. So, be encouraging, and give them opportunities to be grateful, and eventually it will kick in.
Her conclusions: take each day to encourage your children to express gratitude; model thanks; establish family rituals involving daily thankfulness; volunteer; assign chores; write thank you notes; find your own gratitude.
Finally, excerpts from Laurie Meade’s “7 Easy Ways to Teach Your Children to be Grateful for What They Have:” 
  • Set the right example: It is better if you teach them by using the appropriate words at the right time (i.e. Thank you).
  • Teach it through role playing: You can play games with your children that implement the virtue of gratitude. Play the second chair and practice showing them how it feels to be on the receiving end of an unexpected “thank you.”
  • Teach by showing them how to be of service to others; even simple things such as holding a door for an elderly person. You would be surprised how many times a simple gesture can occur in places like grocery stores, doctor’s offices or shopping trips.
  • Make a list. An easy way to get them to make lists for what they are thankful for is to use “The Daily Gratitude Journal" software.
  • Show them how to be thankful for the little things in life. Although most of us would not consider heat and light little things, they are the simple things that they don’t pay much attention to.  
  • Teach them to see the good in someone they don’t like. 
  • You can even use a negative experience to teach them the value of being grateful. As you go through your day, show them the wonderful events going on behind the scenes that we all most usually take for granted – things like the police, the firemen and the clerk at the grocery store.
I love the Internet. I love these tips. I love being grateful and teaching my kids those values that I hold so dear. Thank you, dear Internet, for helping me be more grateful. What methods do you use? I’d love to hear from you and gather even more tips…

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Feeling Understood by Sharon O'Donnell

Sometimes I like to get in my car and just drive. Leave the family behind and just drive with no particular destination. I savor the time alone to think or maybe to listen to one of my Broadway CDs that nobody else n the family seems to like. I do this sometimes when I feel overwhelmed in my house with all the schedules and all the responsibilities.-- and yes, the very real pain of feeling unappreciated.

In a house of four males, it is challenging to be a successful communicator. Did I write that politically correct enough or should I just cut to the chase and say males can't communicate worth a damn sometimes? With no other female around to talk to who would understand why some of the things my guys say hurt my feelings, I often feel completely misunderstood. So I drive. Go away for 30 minutes or so to get my perspective back. While driving, I envision what would happen if I just kept driving -- maybe go the full 2 hours to the beach and leave a message on the phone saying I'd be spending the night away by myself. Of course, I never go anywhere for the night, but the thought of being so spontaneous is appealing. But who'd go to the grocery store, do the laundry, find my middle son's basketball practice jersey (or whatever thing my 16-year-old lost most recently), replenish the toilet paper in all 3 bathrooms, and keep up with all the appointments, meetings, and practices? Maybe I should just let them try to survive for a while on their own, but my sense of responsibility won't allow me to do that.

Other times when I feel that I need to get away but can't, I go to my bedroom, close the door, get in bed with a heating pad on my neck, and watch back to back programs on HGTV -- you know, those shows where they show new home buyers various houses, and they pick one by the end of the show. Those shows are addictive for me. I'm not into real estate or home design, but I love to compare the homes and guess which one the person will buy. These are shows my husband or sons would never want to watch, which I think is also part of the appeal. I'm not reminded of any of them as I watch these shows, and it's a nice escape. I love my guys, but if ever there was proof of the Mars-Venus difference in the communications differences between the sexes, it is my household.

There’s a great bestselling book by Dr. Deborah Tannen called, “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation”, a look at communication problems in marriage and the differences in the way men and women communicate. I remember I started reading it on the bleachers at a basketball practice while I waited for one of our sons. I was devouring the book, couldn’t turn the pages fast enough because it all sounded so familiar. His comments, her comments. The author understood exactly where I was coming from; she understood my bewilderment about some of the arguments I got into with my husband and how something transpired into an argument when I never meant for it to. As I read one paragraph that described exactly what I was feeling, I started crying tears of joy – tears of joy that someone understood and that I was not going crazy after all. Suddenly remembering I was in a gymnasium, I pretended that I was having trouble with my contacts and that’s why my eyes were tearing up. But I’ll always remember how wonderful it felt to have a Ph.D. describe in writing exactly how I felt because she herself had felt the same way.

A person can endure a lot in life if they feel that someone really understands and appreciates them. And if you have one of those times when you feel like nobody does? Well, leave 'em all behind, get in a car and just drive. (Can you tell it's been one of those times at my house lately?)

Finding Joy by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

I had an amazing day today. My husband, five-year old daughter and I went and cut our Christmas tree. It is annual tradition since we moved to Prescott three years ago. Often around the holidays my husband and I fight. Stress, anxiety, unresolved issues in our past have made it hard to connect to each other and the moment with joy.

Today, though it was different. We had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, with us three, two good friends and my parents around the table. And then later in the evening we spoke to my husband’s 16 year old son, whom we love very much, but for a variety of reasons beyond our control, we have not been able to contact directly.

My beautiful daughter, who loves everyone and tells me regularly—was her loving and open self telling her big brother, whom she has never met, that she loves him. My husband was so happy that he was speechless, which I have never seen before. And I felt my heart relax, has I have wanted to connect to this child, whose presence is very much a part of my life even in his absence. It was, I have to say, one of the more joyful moments I have experienced with this family of mine.

And so today, that joy was with us still as we drove up the forested mountain beyond our home to find a Christmas tree. At one point I was trying to remember what we were fighting about last year at this time. One year later: I couldn’t remember the argument’s details only my anger. So true is this idea that little is worth fighting about when it is considered in the continuum of time. There is much to be thankful for this year as with every year and holding joy in one’s heart is the biggest part of remembering that gratitude.

For anyone who has wanted help in finding joy I recommend a workshop that can be done in person or online. I few years back I did the online version and hope to do it again in 2011. Check out: Awakening Joy http://www.awakeningjoy.info/. It doesn’t solve problems, but it did help me find what I was looking for and start me on the path of pursuing my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

Life can be a struggle with great ups and downs. I have experienced those downs in the context of my married and mothering life. I feel so thankful to have this moment—to internalize the joys happening in my life, which feels like I’m planting a garden. If I keep watering and tending to it, I think I can make it grow.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all...

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Friday, November 26, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Making Gratitude the New Attitude by Andrea Reiser

You’ve heard it time and again—from friends, other parents, your own parents, or parenting experts in the media: this generation is rife with selfish, entitled, impolite, and ungrateful kids. And if you look around, you see plenty of evidence. Too many parents, it seems, have conceded defeat and given their offspring tacit permission to sulk, complain, make demands, and generally behave ungratefully.

But your kids don’t have to become card-carrying members of Generation I (for “Ingratitude”)! It truly is possible to reclaim our capacity to parent and refocus our children’s attention and values. Specifically, we can teach our kids to have a profound sense of gratitude—and with the holidays right around the corner, it’s the perfect season to seize some outstanding teachable moments.

Let’s be clear: we’re not just talking about saying “thank you.” That simply reflects polite manners that should be expected anyway. Gratitude, rather, is a mindset and a lifestyle—a way of thinking that needs to be fostered and ingrained.

Why is gratitude so important? Because it grants perspective (even in kids), improves relationships, and counteracts the “gimmes.” And while cynics may find it corny, expressing what you’re grateful for goes a long way toward achieving happiness.

Most parents instinctively know this, but what you may wonder is how to instill this critical quality in your kids. Well, from firsthand experience with our four sons and from talking to other likeminded parents, we’ve developed some simple tips that can help promote an attitude of gratitude:

Be a grateful parent. As most parents know, how you treat your kids affects their development far more than the rules you set. Tell them you’re grateful to have them….and do it often.

Don’t shower them with too much stuff. This dilutes the “gratitude” impulse. Remember, all things in moderation. Yes, it’s okay to want to give your children the best you can provide; just don’t go overboard.

When your child wants something, make him pitch in. If he receives an allowance (or, for older kids, has a job), ask him to contribute a percentage toward the “big” stuff. This will foster a true understanding of the value of a dollar!

Keep a stack of thank-you cards on hand. Insist that your kids use them often. Don’t contribute to the decline of the thank-you note. Have your kids send them out regularly for gifts, sure—but also to teachers, Little League coaches, and others.

Set a good example. Say “thank you” sincerely and often. “Do as I say, not as I do” is, at best, an ineffective parenting strategy. The values your children espouse as they grow up aren’t those you nag them into learning, but the ones they see you living out.

Link gratitude to your Higher Power. After all, most religious traditions emphasize the practice of gratitude through acknowledging blessings and through serving others.

Don’t just count your blessings—name them. Have a minute of thanks in the morning. Even if you’re not the “praying” type of family, have everyone name one thing they’re grateful for to start the day off on a positive note.

Ask your kids to give back. The old saying, “It’s better to give than to receive” has stuck around for a reason. It really does feel great to help someone else out—plus, service tends to dilute selfishness.

Insist on politeness and respect all around. When your kids treat others with dignity and respect, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their own lives.

Look for teachable moments. Yes, it’s important to talk about values with your children—but be aware that from time to time, situations that illustrate your point perfectly will arise. Use them as the powerful teaching aids that they are.

Find the silver lining. We’re all tempted to see the glass half-empty from time to time…and kids are no exception. When you hear your child griping about something, find a response that looks on the bright side. It’s called an “attitude of gratitude” for a reason—it’s about perspective more than circumstance.

Andrea Reiser and her husband, David, are the grateful parents of four sons and co-authors of the new book Letters From Home: A Wake-up Call for Success & Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95). They are proud to contribute 100 percent of royalties and other income from the publication of the book between three personally meaningful charities: Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (http://www.mskcc.org/), and FORCE (http://www.facingourrisk.org/.   For more information, please visit http://www.reisermedia.com/.

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Midlife Mothering by Robin Gorman Newman

This past weekend, we made a trip to Hartford, CT to meet up with my friend Cyma, who is the "brainchild" behind a special new exhibit called Nurture, a collection of stories, told through black 'n white photos and words, of women who chose motherhood after 40.

We were invited to be part of this show, and a few months ago, did a photo shoot with the super talented Shana Sureck, (our portrait from the show at right) one of  two photographers who captured the images of the 20+ families on display in CT.  Cyma, an excellent writer and later mom who blogs for MotherhoodLater.com on Sundays, interviewed the mothers, and shared their poignant stories, including mine.

It was such a heartfelt experience, and I felt honored to be included.

One thing was evident.  Though all "later" moms come to parenthood through different means, motivations, etc., there was no doubt that each has such gratitude for the mothering experience.  Love was the commonality, despite potential challenges along the parenthood road...whether prior to becoming a mom and not knowing how or if it would happen....and/or by parenting a child with special needs.....or just being a mom, period, which isn't easy no matter how old you are.  (Anyone doing it, knows that.)

Some had both younger kids and older ones.

There were single moms. 

Lesbian couples.


Stay at home moms.

Working moms.

Even a surrogate mom.

You name it.

And, this was only a sampling of  the moms. Cyma has interviewed over 50 from around the world.  Her drive and passion is truly admirable.

Cyma's hope is that Nurture will become a traveling exhibit, resulting in more 'n more recognition of the choices midlife women have made and that they should feel empowered by their decision. Ultimately, she'd love the stories to be shared in book form.  No doubt it would be embraced by anyone who has chosen to become a parent later.

I couldn't agree more about the message at hand.

It is for this very reason that I launched Motherhood Later...Than Sooner when my son was less than one.  It has since taken on a life of its own with a website, online communities, free in-person chapters worldwide, bloggers, newsletters, etc. Who knew how it would grow when it was born?  It began quite simply as a support group in New York.  But, what I knew was that later moms need and deserve to be supported and embraced and connected to each other.  Parenting takes work, no matter your age, but there are unique pros and challenges to being 40+.  No one likes feeling like the oldest mom in the playground, myself included, especially if judgment from society comes along with that (which can indeed be the case).

I have often said, when I do press interviews, that in Hollywood, it's commonplace to be a 40+ mom, and even sexy.  Celebrities display their pregnant bellies proudly, making headlines when they do it later in life.  And, no one has a negative word to say, or at least the media doesn't present it that way. Yet, on a grassroots level, it can feel like a lonely place.  And, add to that the fact that you might be caring for a senior parent.  The term sandwich generation then applies to you, and that's not a simple place to be.  You are doing double care-taking duty and that can carry a lot of stress.

For all these reasons, us later moms needs to stick together.  It's a girls club that I am proud to be a part of.  And between MotherhoodLater.com and the efforts of a pioneering mom like Cyma, those contemplating later in life mothering will hopefully find themselves filled with more hope than trepidation.  We are paving the way as parents for those yet to follow in our footsteps.  And, the children of these later moms-to-be will be lucky to have been so very wanted....however they come into their lives.  They will know a bond and devotion unlike any they've experienced.  True love knows no age.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!! By Liimu

So, first of all, a follow up to last week's blog, which was essentially a long, disgruntled complaint about our recent stay at the Borgata. I am happy to report that after many e-mails and phone calls, I finally talked to their Director of Front Office Operations, who was extremely apologetic and more than happy to credit us for one of our nights' stay. Now that that's been made right, I can comfortably say what was amazing about it...in two words: THE FOOD. If you don't have plans for Thanksgiving and you live within an hour of the place, splurge on the Borgata Buffet! There's a reason why TripAdvisor has rated it the #4 eatery in all of Atlantic City!

I had another blog written up about our recent trials and travails of raising three young daughters (8, 6 and 4) while preparing for the birth of our fourth child. Then I realized that I would be posting my blog on Thanksgiving! I can't post a litany of complaints on Thanksgiving! Instead, I decided to list all the things I'm grateful for, with a bit of a spin...I want to find ways to be thankful for the things that might normally not be considered blessings. Of course, I am grateful for my wonderful husband, my beautiful children, our upcoming new addition to the family, our house, our family and friends, my relationship with God, our health and all the other obvious blessings, but I thought it would be nice to find a way to be grateful for the things that might not appear on the surface to be things that would grace the top of the list.

1) Working 70 hours a week. In this economy, this is probably one that is not particularly hard to spin into a positive, but I have to also say that what I'm grateful for about this fact of my life is that I manifested it. Earlier this year, I had very little work and we were working with creditors to manage our existing debt, including getting assistance with our mortgage. Things were looking pretty bleak. I am a huge fan and follower of the Secret and the Law of Attraction, and I credit them and especially the book, Money and the Law of Attraction, with helping me to redirect the energy in my life, shift my vibration and get to where I am now - working as much as I possibly can and reaping the benefits. Life is good, and we are finally able to see our way to financial freedom!

2) Our earlier financial troubles. Ditto on #1 as far as being grateful for understanding and believing in the Law of Attraction. In addition to that, I have a much greater appreciation for what we have now that I've seen what it's like to not have it.

3) My 6-year old's health problems. First of all, I am so grateful that we live so near CHOP, one of the most amazing hospitals in the country. I am far more familiar with its facility and staff than I would like to admit, and am more aware than anyone I know of how blessed we are to have it within less than an hour's drive and covered by insurance. Second, I have seen strength in my daughter and in myself as a result of this journey that I might not otherwise have seen. I am awed by us both and the grace with which we have all, as a family, been able to face this challenge. Third, I feel like this experience has drawn our whole family a lot closer. Fourth and finally, I think it has made us appreciate each other and the good health we do have a whole lot more.

4) Excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Ok, this one was hard to spin into a positive. But then I think about how lucky I am to have struggled with this one most of my life: it's led me to really appreciate the importance of healthy eating and exercising and after three high-weight-gain pregnancies, it's left me confident in my ability to lose the baby weight. I've never been one of those people who didn't really have to exercise. Quite the contrary. My struggles during pregnancy and even when I'm not pregnant have caused me to gather tons of information and skills around how to properly exercise and modify my eating so that I know what to do. (I just don't do it during pregnancy...hence the weight gain.) And that, my friends, is pretty much all I have to complain about these days.

Everything else is just obvious blessings for which I am obviously thankful. I have to also thank fellow blogger, Robin Gorman-Newman for asking me to join this site as a blogger earlier this year. At the time, I had no idea I was pregnant but as soon as I found out, I knew exactly why this was perfect timing. What a blessing to have the opportunity to chronicle, week by week, what it's like to be pregnant with our fourth and last child. So, thanks to Robin and to MotherhoodLater for giving me that opportunity And thanks to all of you for continuing to read!

What are YOU thankful for? Probably more than you think!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving and Gratitude - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

Thanksgiving. I love this time of year. I love the beautiful changing colors of the leaves. I love going outside at night and smelling the woody smell of a fireplace burning in someone’s home. I love the anticipation of a Thanksgiving feast! I love all of the typical Thanksgiving foods! I even love preparing the Thanksgiving turkey myself! All 22 pounds of it! But this year Thanksgiving is going to be very different for me.

I’ve always celebrated Thanksgiving at home. First, when I was young, and my mother was still alive. She would set the dining room table with all of her fine china. And while I watched her cook her fabulous feast, I learned her “tricks” as to how her meal always came out so delicious! Then, when I celebrated Thanksgiving with just my father, he always made the first-of-the-season fire going all day in the fireplace! And while the fire was glowing, we would prepare our own, smaller feast to enjoy! Later, when I got married, we had Thanksgiving every year at my in-law’s home. My father was always there with his signature praline sweet potato pie! And for the past 15 years, I have always made the Thanksgiving turkey! Even when we lived in our first apartment and I had a small, dinky oven, I managed to get that bird into it and it always came out delicious!

My plans are different this year. I was invited by my cousins to celebrate Thanksgiving in a restaurant. This will be a whole new experience for me, as I always welcomed the warm, fuzzy, homey feeling of celebrating Thanksgiving in a home. My son will be going to my in-laws. I requested having him for Christmas to take him to my best friend’s house, where children his age will be frolicking and merriment will abound!

It feels odd for me to celebrate my favorite of all holidays in a restaurant. Even one that is going to be rather upscale. And although I have celebrated other holidays and events with my cousins, we never celebrated Thanksgiving together and I never spent it “alone” (meaning going by myself without other immediate family with me). This feels odd. But at the same time it feels loving and warm that my cousins thought enough of me to invite me with them.

Things change, I know. And the alternative was that I would have been at home with the dogs, probably eating a cheese sandwich. But this whole change really does feel so unsettling for me. I’m sure to get caught up in plenty of conversation with my cousins. Once we start, it’s hard to get us to stop! And I’m sure the food in this particular restaurant will be 5 Star. So I am certain that I will enjoy my meal. But, still, all of this feels “funny”. I just can’t shake this feeling, no matter how many positive spins I put on the occasion.

Well, I will certainly let you know how I fared with my next blog. In the interim, I thought I would leave you with a saying that is framed and hangs besides my bed:


There is no greater act than giving thanks.
Remember to acknowledge
the goodness in your life.
Quiet your mind, listen to your heart
and fill your soul with gratitude.

To all of our readers, I wish you a safe, joyful, warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Feeling Thankful for Family—by Jamie Levine

As Thanksgiving draws near, people everywhere—including the kids in Jayda’s nursery school class—are contemplating all the things for which they’re thankful. The other day, Jayda brought home an adorable turkey napkin holder she’d made in school—adorned with three feathers covered with comments about what she was thankful for. The first feather said, “My mommy, because we go to the ice cream store and I get vanilla ice cream with sprinkles.” The second one stated, “My grandma, because she gives me a tissue for my nose.” And the third one said, “My poppy, because he kisses me. He’s a good boy, my poppy—he helps my grandma put her coat on.” Jayda’s words made me smile, but most of all they made me more thankful than ever for my family. Jayda doesn’t have a father—but she doesn’t seem to be suffering because of it; instead, she embraces the family she does have—and she’s grateful for them. Who can blame her? They fill her life with an extraordinary amount of love.

When I first decided to have Jayda, I knew my parents would be an important part of my daughter’s life—but I never realized just how integral they would be. I moved back into my parents’ home late in my pregnancy with the intention of moving back out when my daughter turned one; she’s three-and-a-half now. I never expected to lose my job, and I certainly never planned to go back to graduate school to embark on a new career, but both of those things happened, and my parents have continued to keep their home open to me and Jayda throughout it all. While we do have our conflicts now and then, their emotional support has been incredible, and, most importantly, they’ve helped me create a family for Jayda that makes her feel safe and secure.

When Jayda and I talk about families, I always stress to her that every family is different—and she automatically pipes in that she “has a mommy and a poppy and a grandma,” and then lists several other family members whom she adores. I know she’s still very young, but so far, she doesn’t seem to mourn the fact that there is no father in our family; she simply celebrates the family she has. She’s a really happy child, and I have my parents to thank for much of that.

I never planned to be a single mom, and it’s not always easy, but I do think I’m creating a good life for my child; I’ve focused on making her feel secure and loved—and have surrounded her with positive role models. These days, when so many people I know are going through nasty divorces and admitting to me that they married their spouses for the wrong reasons—and that they “settled”—I’m thankful that I never had to do just that. And I’m grateful to my parents, who have been married for over 50 years, for showing me what a good marriage looks like—and for allowing me to hold out for one that’s right. When my daughter does see me in a relationship—as I hope she will in the future—I’m confident it will be a happy, fulfilling one.

This Thanksgiving, life is pretty stressful for me; money’s tight, my classes are demanding, and I’m juggling work, school, motherhood, and a new relationship, but when all is said and done, I have a lot to be thankful for. So does my daughter—and I’m so thankful she’s thankful for the wonderful family she has.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gratitude, the Internet and One-Half Year to Mother’s Day by Cyma Shapiro

My shaman and I are working on my keeping gratitude – living with it as a daily, inherent practice; praying or meditating frequently; keeping the glass ‘half-full’ rather than seeing the glass as ‘half empty.’ For me, the basis for this is to maintain myself as a woman and as a midlife mother. However, in order to do so I must stay grounded, humble and full of gratitude and grace. Some days I can barely breathe.  I must remind myself often of what is most important.

 When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.  --Sam Lefkowitz

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

I ended that blog with this:  “Although my childrearing years have come at a later age than most, and there are certainly days that I ponder and sometimes grieve the truth of that, I am now nearly always hopeful about myself, my life and the lifetime of potential for my children.  Having gratitude provides a constant stream of strength and power which I draw from daily in my quest for a good, compassionate and life-affirming existence. I pray often and constantly give thanks. I am now just grateful to be alive, AND to have my children.”

Nearly daily I seek to reinforce my gratitude in a variety of ways. Today, I found it on the Internet – a place I seem to be residing in, lately; a place which is having a profound impact on me. While searching for Gratitude websites, I stumbled on these: gratitudephotoblog; gratitudebook; gratitudelog; barbaraquinnyearofgratitude;  gratefulness.org;  Opgratitude and the mother of all  of these - the Gratitude Directory. NetworkedBlogs showed me even more: Once a Millionaire’s Daughter; Attitude of Gratitude; Following Your Joy; Gratitude Blog; Still Life With Noise; Without Fear; Gratitude with Attitude; the Power of Gratitude. But, I hadn’t found what I was seeking….

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy - because we will always want to have something else or something more. -Brother David Steindl-Rast

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving .-  Kahlil Gibran.

Then I stumbled on writer Bethany Saltman’s blog post, “Zen for Moms: Letting Your Life Teach You,” and I felt at home.  Here are some excerpts:
1) Let your life be a question
Instead of resigning yourself to everything you encounter—irritating people, sibling rivalry, exhaustion, jealous feelings, diarrhea—approach it all as a question, a puzzle that is worthy of your investigation. Assume you don’t know what’s going on, or the whole story. 
2) Move your awareness in, instead of out
This is simple, but first it’s important to become aware of awareness. When we get upset about anything, bring awareness to our bodies in whatever way we can muster: our racing heart, our streaming tears, clenched jaw. And when we feel happy, hungry, bored, again, move awareness back in. Relax the body. This doesn’t mean we get self-obsessed. It’s one of those great paradoxes and one of the central teachings of Zen: embodying ourselves is the only way to become truly available to everyone else, including our kids.
And, finally:
3) Cultivate gratitude
Easier on some days than others, I know. When kids are screaming, it’s raining out, you’re broke, you haven’t washed your hair in a week, and all you want to do is eat bread and butter. It’s tough to slow down the train of despair and get in touch with gratitude. But since so much of our agony stems from self-concern; if what we really want is to feel some relief, it’s helpful to get some perspective. Take a moment. Look around. Is everyone healthy? Are you able to feed your kids? Do you have a home?  Friends?  Chances are, you’ve got something pretty incredible to be grateful for. Take a deep breath and start over.
I’m breathing better now. The words envelope me; the thoughts resonate deeply. It’s ok to be me and more than ok to be a midlife mom. Six months to Mother’s Day.  I’m grateful and I’m smiling.
Next Week’s Blog: Teaching Gratitude to Our Children

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Thanksgiving Cake by Sharon Johnson O'Donnell

There are other signs of getting older that don’t have to do with wrinkles, weight, or age spots. As a woman ages, her priorities somehow change, too. With mothers, this usually means something involving her kids. This first became obvious to me on Thanksgiving about eight years ago. My father’s side of the family always meets in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city about an hour away from my home, on Thanksgiving for a family get-together. He comes from a family of 12 children so you can imagine how many people are there.

This is the one time a year that I see all these relatives, so I’ve always tried to make a good impression. I usually wear a new sweater and I even attempt to style my hair so it won’t frizz so much. I noticed the relatives of my generation made this same effort to look their best for this annual ‘scrutiny of the relatives’. Except for an easy casserole, my cousins and I left the cooking to the older generation – our moms. They are the ones who baked the homemade from-scratch cakes and added secret ingredients to the delicious potato salad.

But that year, I decided to make a homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting just like my mother made a few times before. But she hadn’t made it in years, and I missed it. So the night before Thanksgiving, I grated carrot after carrot, realizing I never thanked Mama nearly enough for all the stuff she’d cooked over the years. I eventually got all three layers out of the cake pans with only one of them sticking, ripping out a chunk of cake. I pieced it back together like a jigsaw puzzle and discovered if I positioned the cake just right, nobody could tell.

By the time I was ready to make the frosting, it was past eleven. I plodded on, determined. The frosting, however, did not cooperate, looking too thin and runny. The cake looked nowhere near like Mama’s. Or for that matter like any other cake I’d ever seen. I decided the only thing to do was to get up the next morning and make a second recipe of frosting.

The next day, I began my baking in earnest once more. The second recipe did the trick, covering the three layers with thick, swirled frosting. I still had to chop the nuts and put them on the top and sides of the cake. I checked my watch. We were running late. If we were going to get to Fayetteville on time, then I knew I had to make a choice: I could either spend the time getting myself ready or perfecting my cake. And this is where I knew I was getting older – I chose the cake. Instead of putting on a nice outfit and getting jewelry to accessorize – instead of using a curling iron on my hair -- I threw on an old pair of jeans and got my cake ready to go. A new generation had arrived. The torch had been passed. I was now one of the women at the Thanksgiving dinner who cared more about how their food was accepted than what anyone thought about the way they looked. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who suggested perhaps this new perspective means we’re now more comfortable with ourselves – more confident in who we are – and that we don’t base our identity so much on how we look. And indeed this might be part of it. But the other part is, of course, as we get older, we see ourselves in different roles.

No, it’s not about who makes the best pies or cakes; it’s about creating heartwarming memories of family gatherings – times to be recalled fondly by our children years from now, so vividly they can remember how the sweet potato pie tasted or the wonderful aroma of turkey filling the house.

The carrot cake was quite a success with only a few crumbs left on the plate. As a cousin complimented me on it and asked for the recipe, I smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and lied through my teeth: “Oh, it’s pretty easy to make.” I’ve taken the cake to the get-together every year since then and make it for a few other holidays too. My sons all like it, so I feel that it’s something special I can make that they truly appreciate. I like to make this cake every now and then when my oldest son Billy comes home from college for a weekend bringing a bag of dirty laundry and textbooks with him. It feels good for him to be home. And then I say, “There’s a carrot cake on the counter,” and I hope that shows him how much I love him and that home is even more special to him.

So, as all of you ladies do your baking this Thanksgiving, remember it's more than about following a recipe but the memories you are making for your kids. Remembering that makes all the measuring, grating, stirring, and chopping worth it.

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Letting Go of Perfection by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

I want to write a book about what I have learned from having a baby in my forties. It’s a book I want to read myself. Of course, whenever I give advice or “important tips” as I like to call it when I am teaching, it often involves things I really need to hear for myself. So here goes...this is my message to myself.

Let go of perfection...and now I will use my “out loud” voice to remind myself of this...Let go of perfection.

Perfection is a cage I find myself trapped in so much of the time. At this very moment the two bathrooms in my house need cleaning. I am having company tonight and frankly I have been lazy since Monday. That internal voice that tells me how little I got done this week is beating me up right now and if weren’t for this blog it would be winning. Truth is, I have been tired and somewhat overwhelmed by the process of having a child in kindergarten.

My daughter goes to a charter school and there are lots of activities that require family participation and volunteer hours. Not that I want to chat about that right now, but I am in the emotional place where I must decide what comes first: my work or my daughter. It’s a struggle and a balancing act. And here’s where perfection comes into play. When I hold in my mind all the things that are important to me (and by proxy, my husband) a clean house is high on the list and yet resting this week was all I could make myself do. Usually I rest by cleaning, but not this week. Literally, I have been sleeping and vegging, i.e. watching movies. As filmmaker, I try to justify this as research, but mostly I cry and I think about the movies I want to make. Not very productive.

Let go of perfection...and now I will use my “out loud” voice again to remind myself of this...Let go of perfection.

I am making a film. My short film is on the very final stages of completion. I have been working with a composer and, and, and, “look ma, no hands”...I have a film...that I will be sending out to festivals during the next two weeks. Holy sh*!@. I have made a film.

My “out loud” voice again...The only way I could have done it is by letting go of perfection, which I did. Remember?

Magic happened. Frankly, the entire year long journey of going to film school, writing, producing, shooting, editing, and everything else in the filmmaking process was about letting go of perfection. I did do it: make a film and let go.

Will I remember this week and my dirty bathrooms one year from now? Maybe...because now the Beatles are on iTunes, but in the bigger scheme of things probably not. Will I remember when I send off my first film to the Tribeca and SXSW film festivals. Yes, that I’ll remember because it will be another letting go process, but this time a letting go of outcomes. It seems that motherhood is all about letting go...of so many things. The more I practice that “letting go” in my parenting the more it carries into other areas of my life, like my work. The beauty of being a mom, now in my midlife, is that I am listening to myself. Life experience crashes into personal introspection and insight happens: I learn something that I might actually remember. And I am forced to practice it everyday with my daughter and my husband.

Let go of perfection...but I do have to clean at least the guest bathroom. Okay, just the toilet or I won’t be able to enjoy my guests for worry that they will be appalled by my lack in the feminine arts. (I’m faking the cooking with frozen spaghetti sauce...wink, wink, homemade, yes, but not today.) The rest of the kid piles around the house will just have to wait. I’ll start again next week and continue to nibble, nibble, nibble at all the things on my plate: my work, my marriage, my daughter, my housekeeping, my life. I will definitely need to make some more spaghetti sauce.

And so next week look for more on this useful tip: frozen food is a mom’s secret weapon to looking perfect...wink, wink.

Let go of perfection.

I’ll keep trying.

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Friday, November 19, 2010


Disney On Ice presents Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story 3 is bringing the smash-hit box-office sensation, Toy Story 3, and memorable moments from Toy Story and Toy Story 2, to the ice in this really fun live production.  I recently took it in with my family at the Nassau Colseum in NY, and we really enjoyed.  It is one of the best Disney on Ice shows we have seen.

This brand-new ice spectacular visits Newark’s Prudential Center from November 17 - 21 and East Rutherford’s IZOD Center from November 23 - 28.

Catch all the heroic action when Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie and the Toy Story gang escape from the rambunctious tots of Sunnyside Daycare and race for home, in their most daring adventure ever! A few new faces join the fun, including Barbie’s groovy bachelor Ken and Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear. The effects are very cool, and your kids will love the fast-paced adventure such as Buzz’s galactic battle with Emperor Zurg and a hoe-down on the set of “Woody’s Roundup.”  Girls will love seeing Barbie, and my son particularly adored the military toys and outerspace creatures.

Tickets for Disney On Ice presents Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story 3 are $80.00, $55.00, $32.50, $27.50, and $20.00 (prices do not include facility fees and taxes). Tickets are available at arena box offices, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster Charge By Phone at (800)-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com. To learn more about Disney On Ice, log on to http://www.disneyonice.com/ or visit them on Facebook and YouTube.

Note: Toys for Tots has bins at all the arenas to collect new unwrapped toys to give to underprivileged kids this holiday season.

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment's productions have appeared in more than 70 countries on six continents and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Feld Motor Sports, Disney On Ice and Disney Live!.

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I recently had the opportunity to see MEMPHIS, the hit Broadway musical, on a "date" night with my husband, and we both thoroughly enjoyed.  If you're looking for a rousing night out, I highly recommend it.

MEMPHIS stars Tony nominee Chad Kimball (Huey) and Tony Nominee Montego Glover (Felicia) with Derrick Baskin (Gator), J. Bernard Calloway (Delray), James Monroe Iglehart (Bobby), Michael McGrath (Mr. Simmons), and Cass Morgan (Mama).

The critically acclaimed show won four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score (David Bryan and Joe DiPietro), Best Book (Joe DiPietro), and Best Orchestrations (David Bryan and Daryl Waters). It also won four Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Performance by an Actress (Montego Glover), Outstanding Music (David Bryan) and Outstanding Orchestration (David Bryan and Daryl Waters)....and four Outer Critic Circle Awards including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Score (David Bryan & Joe DiPietro), Outstanding Actress (Montego Glover) and Outstanding Choreography (Sergio Trujillo).

MEMPHIS takes place in the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated 50’s, where a young white DJ named Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) fell in love with everything he shouldn’t: rock and roll and an electrifying black singer (Montego Glover). MEMPHIS is an original story about the cultural revolution that erupted when his vision met her voice, and the music changed forever.  It's heartfelt, spirited, engaging and just plain fun.  The cast is terrific.

The show, playing at the Shubert Theatre in NYC, features a brand new score with music by Bon Jovi’s founding member and keyboardist David Bryan and lyrics by Bryan and Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), who also pens the musical’s book.

MEMPHIS will launch a U. S. national tour in Memphis, TN, beginning in October, 2011.  Additional cities, dates and casting will be announced at a later date.
Tickets range from $41.50 to $131.50 (including a $1.50 facility fee). The performance schedule is as follows: Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 8pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm, and Sundays at 3pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.Telecharge.com or call 212.239.6200.

MEMPHIS is produced on Broadway by Junkyard Dog Productions, Barbara and Buddy Freitag and Kenny and Marleen Alhadeff with Latitude Link, Jim and Susan Blair, Demos Bizar Entertainment, Land Line Productions, Apples and Oranges Productions, Dave Copley, Dancap Productions, Inc., Alex and Katya Lukianov, Tony Ponturo, 2 Guys Productions, and Richard Winkler in association with Lauren Doll, Eric and Marsi Gardiner, Linda and Bill Potter, Broadway Across America, Jocko Productions, Patty Baker, Dan Frishwasser, Bob Bartner/Scott and Kaylin Union, Loraine Boyle/Chase Mishkin, Remmel T. Dickinson/Memphis Orpheum Group and ShadowCatcher Entertainment/Vijay and Sita Vashee.

For more information, visit http://www.memphisthemusical.com/

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My Head is Spinning by Robin Gorman Newman

If you regularly read my blog, you know about the recent, highly challenging antics of my 7 year old son.

Thought you might be interested in a follow-up.

In response to his latest behavior, which was to take the key to the recently installed deadbolt lock to my office and then return it when I threatened to take away all his toys.....we took away his beloved toy safe (where he hid the key)....and proceeded to reach out to various experts and others to weigh in.

And, what has resulted is a total lack of consensus.....and enough frustration and confusion for any parent who just wants to do the best for their child.

The school psychologist said he will speak with Seth, so we are awaiting his feedback.  Our goal with him is to see if he might be able to ascertain Seth's motivation.

A close friend of mine who is a therapist, said that she thought Seth was directly crying out that I spend too much time in my home office, yet he couldn't express it verbally.  She said, while I might not like to hear it, that I need to adjust my schedule.  Get up earlier in the morning with him and carve out time to meditate (teach him) with him.  She knows I'm not a morning person, and my response was also that I can't watch him 24-7, nor do I want to feel that I have too.  And, as far as meditation, she said she's had success with children she's done this with professionally...I didn't see this as overly viable for a busy child like Seth (maybe I'm wrong).  Not to mention the fact that if we do this in the morning, I will likely nod off.

She also suggested we create a Behavior Chart.... where we record positive behaviors we want to encourage and those we want to discourage and set up a reward system.  So, this past weekend, we sat down with Seth and did this together.  It seems to be having some sort of impact....mostly because he's waiting with baited breath for the rewards when he gets a certain no. of positive tally marks.  I wonder...should it truly take a reward to instill in him good behavior?  And, is this setting him up to expect that that's the only reason to do what is asked of him?  If we took the chart down, would he just resume his old ways?  Hmmm..........

Another friend suggested we consider seeing a family therapist.  We might actually give that a go for one session (my husband isn't overly keen on it)...at the very least....to have the opportunity to share our challenges. It would feel good for both of us to get it off our chests and not feel judged or inadequate.

I spoke to a parent trainer who sometimes consult with us who has been very helpful in the past.  Curious to She initially recommended, after the first incident, that we urge Seth to try to stop himself before he acts impulsively and to ask, "would mommy and daddy be happy if I did this?".  I sat him down and share that he should work on doing this, to no avail.  Now she is recommending that we take him to a cognitive behavioural therapist.

A good friend who is an experienced psychic, and knows Seth, shared that she thought it was important to make sure, that however challenging Seth is, to work on creating positive energy in the house and have a consciousness of our body language and facial expressions that we might not be aware of.  Seth could be picking up on these unspoken signals and reacting to them.  OK....so will try to work on that.

Another friend who works as a coach...and is a wise soul.....said that she just thought Seth thought it was cool to unplug the wires in my office.  He is a talented technical kid who loves to explore. It wasn't his intent to be bad, nor should we read into it that he was striking back at me for working from home and logging too many computer hours.  She said it could be as simple as the fact that he was curious....bored for the moment....acted impulsively...and that rather than punish him, we should try to engage him in discussion about it.

Yet another friend said that we should empty out his room entirely of toys to teach him who's boss.  That she has done this with her daughter and found it to be effective.  That it's a control issue, and you, as a parent, need to communicate who is in charge.

All I can say is that my head is spinning.

Parenting has got to be the most complex and gray task in the world.  Mentally and physically exhausting...it is far from a science....yet we work so hard to try to understand the little people in our lives, when they might not understand their own actions.

What's a mom to do?  Who to listen to?  There is no one way to parent.  Everyone means well when they come up with suggestions, and I appreciate the outpouring of love and support. 

I'd like to say TRUST YOUR GUT....but my gut is working overtime right now, and I'm worn out.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Borgata or Bust? by Liimu

So, last week was all about me trying to reclaim my sass. I'm happy to report that I did exactly that during our anniversary weekend, no thanks to the lame BorNOTTa. (Tee hee - I just made that up. Like it? Me too.)

In lieu of telling you what went WRONG with what was supposed to be a luxurious weekend in a Borgata Suite enjoying the tastes of Borgata at their event, Savor Borgata, I'll share with you a little from my complaint e-mail to them, to which I have yet to receive a response:

"My husband and I chose the Borgata for a much-needed getaway (without our three children) to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. As I am 6 months pregnant, the Savor Borgata event seemed like a perfect choice, as it boasted offering tastings of the finest Borgata chefs, including the world-famous Wolfgang Puck. The price tag to stay in a suite was high, but as it was a special occasion, we decided to splurge. Pregnant, I was looking forward to being treated like a “VIP.” We were more than slightly disappointed to discover that the extra $450 we spent on the room would not even entitle us to free Internet or use of the fitness facility, let alone the bathrobe, slippers and turn-down service we were used to at other hotels for which we are frequent-stay customers (e.g., the Hilton, the Marriott).

While we did enjoy the somewhat pricey buffet – we were encouraged by how good the food was and really looked even more forward to the Savor Borgata event. Upon checkin, we had not been told we would have to wait in line for entry so it was a good thing I thought to check with the concierge 20 minutes before our “reservation.” Of course, there was a line for the Box Office, where we had to go pick up tickets (again – how difficult would it have been to make us feel like special guests by delivering the tickets to our room or having them ready for us upon check in?), and then stand in line to wait for entry. When we entered the event was when things began to get really bad. To make a long story short, there was nowhere for me to sit, even after I complained to management that it would be painful for me to stand the entire two or three hours of the event. (When I got back to my room, my feet were swollen and sore.) It was impossible for us eat and have a drink in our hand at the same time, and we waited in lines that took us 30-40 minutes to get through, only to be rewarded with a tiny plate of appetizer-size food. Further, there was NOTHING for me to drink besides water – they only offered WINE, BEER and water! I was so unhappy and disappointed at what was supposed to be our big celebration, I was near tears by the time we got back to our room at close to 10 PM.

After the event, we tried to salvage our evening by finally getting the VIP treatment that was promised us if we went to one of the two nightclubs. Despite my aching feet, I was determined to feel like a VIP. We had spent close to $1500 on two nights’ stay! That is a lot for us, with three kids and one on the way. How disappointing to find that, yet again, if we didn’t order “bottle service,” we would again have nowhere to sit.

I know Atlantic City caters to gamblers and young people, but I have to say, I had counted on the Borgata, with its reputation for class and elegance, to know how to treat people who were willing to pay for VIP treatment. Instead, we were not only treated like every other clientele, we were constantly encountering folks who were being comped for meals or entertainment, and were given not even the most basic accommodations during a very expensive, supposedly world-class event."

Anyhoo...what I learned from that weekend was that my sass has nothing to do with hanging out in a smoky nightclub or luxuriating in a fancy suite in 4-inch heels and la Perla lingerie. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...) I felt absolutely beautiful, sexy and SASSY all weekend long, and it had more to do with the romantic moments I shared with my husband than anything the lame Borgata had to offer. The most fun moment of the weekend was when I woke up from a luxurious 2-hour nap and immediately broke the silence in the room by chattering about nothing, then had a sudden "aha" moment that I am responsible for the fact that my three girls rarely stop talking unless it's to breathe or eat. As soon as I realized it (and my amused husband confirmed it), I could not stop laughing, even as the tears streamed down my face.

So, maybe the money was well spent after all. Because what I got from last weekend was realizing that the blessings I already have in my life are worth more than any amount of money could ever buy.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children as Individuals - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I came upon a post on Facebook from a friend last week that brought up a topic that elicited quite a few comments...most of them pretty intense.

The gist of the post was that teachers don’t see children as individuals. (This coming from a teacher, no less!!) We already know how I feel regarding my son’s teacher (see last week’s blog), but here was a thread of responses mirroring the very issue I brought up last week.

My friend did not express that ALL teachers present themselves in this manner. She did, however, give an example of how the teachers in a particular situation in my son’s school, completely disregarded a child’s needs because it went against their agenda. This frustrated the child and caused a huge scene. Many angry Moms related similar stories or validated the posts that were written.

So I asked myself, if this is going on with children other than my son, (and yes, it could just be our particular school, even though the school district is listed as one of the top 25 in the nation), what is going on in other schools? And how can teachers see their students as individuals? When I explained to a cousin that there were only 17 children in my son’s class, her response was, “Seventeen!!! When my daughter was in 2nd Grade (10 years ago), she had close to 30! How can children in a class of 17 NOT get more individualized attention?!” Good question!

So I investigated how teachers can see their students as individuals, and came up with this list:

The 9 Temperament Traits
Classic child development research conducted by Doctors Chess and Thomas has identified 9 temperamental traits:

Activity Level: This is the child's "idle speed” or how active the child is generally. Is the child always on the go? Or, does the child prefer sedentary quiet activities? Highly active children may channel such extra energy into success in sports; may perform well in high-energy careers and may be able to keep up with many different responsibilities.

Distractibility: The degree of concentration and paying attention displayed when a child is not particularly interested in an activity. This trait refers to the ease with which external stimuli interfere with ongoing behavior. Does the child become sidetracked easily when attempting to follow routine or working on some activity? High distractibility is seen as positive when it is easy to divert a child from an undesirable behavior but seen as negative when it prevents the child from finishing school work.

Intensity: The energy level of a response whether positive or negative. Does the child show pleasure or upset strongly and dramatically? Or does the child just get quiet when upset? Intense children are more likely to have their needs met and may have depth and delight of emotion rarely experienced by others. These children may be gifted in dramatic arts. Intense children tend to be exhausting to live with.

Regularity: The trait refers to the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep. Does the child get hungry or tired at predictable times? Or, is the child unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness? As grown-ups irregular individuals may do better than others with traveling as well as be likely to adapt to careers with unusual working hours.

Sensory Threshold: Related to how sensitive this child is to physical stimuli. It is the amount of stimulation (sounds, tastes, touch, temperature changes) needed to produce a response in the child. Does the child react positively or negatively to particular sounds? Does the child startle easily to sounds? Is the child a picky eater or will he eat almost anything? Does the child respond positively or negatively to the feel of clothing? Highly sensitive individuals are more likely to be artistic and creative.

Approach/Withdrawal: Refers to the child's characteristic response to a new situation or strangers. Does the child eagerly approach new situations or people? Or does the child seem hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things? Slow-to-warm up children tend to think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.

Needless to say, my son falls high in every one of these categories. But does that make him a “bad” child? Not at all. In fact, if you channel these traits in positive directions, you can help a child reach even more than their potential. And these temperamental traits are not only helpful for teachers. Parents can use the same information to help see their children as the individuals their children are and channel their attributes appropriately.

I feel that both teachers and parents need to work together when a child has high needs in each of these temperamental traits. It CAN be done. But both sides must be willing to work together for the sake of the child! Ignoring or demeaning a child with high temperamental traits just leads to a combustible situation, as my Facebook friend relayed. Wouldn’t it be far easier and less stressful to use these traits and apply them to the children teachers are working with, so that a positive outcome or resolution of a problem can be quietly resolved?

Is this really too much to ask of a teacher?
Is this really too much to ask of us all?

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