Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 16...Beauty and Brains - by Liimu

This week, I have a couple different topics forefront in my mind: Beauty and Brains. The first, beauty, is an interesting switch from last week’s discussion of pregnancy weight gain. Although I can’t deny that my weight gain is on the high end of the spectrum, I also can’t deny that this pregnancy is the first time I actually feel like I know what people are talking about when they talk about the pregnancy “glow.”

On Sunday, my sister in law was in town and she wanted to take photos of my children – she’s a photographer in NYC. She got me in a couple shots, make up free and all, and she just kept remarking on how beautiful I looked. I had to admit when I saw the pictures, they weren’t half bad. And often when I accidentally catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror as I pass by or as I’m washing my hands in the bathroom, I have to do a double take, because I really like what I see. Pregnancy agrees with me this time around. So, that’s an interesting shift in my perception – that regardless of the number on the scale, I can still look and feel beautiful during pregnancy and hopefully this is something I will carry on into my life well beyond my delivery date.

The second thing I have to talk about is Pregnancy Brain. I have had a lot of experience with the way in which pregnancy causes me to be completely scatter-brained. I can remember putting milk cartons into the kitchen cabinets instead of the refrigerator, and …. well, I’m sure there are other examples but I can’t think of them because I have Pregnancy Brain! Maybe it’s because I have three other children, maybe it’s because I’m working 70 hours a week, maybe it’s just because I’m getting old and there’s a little senility mixed in there with the rest of what’s going on, but this Pregnancy Brain is out of control. As an example, let’s talk about my 4-year old daughter’s birthday party. Granted, there are EIGHT birthdays in September in my family. No, I’m not exaggerating, there are eight: my sister, my two brothers-in-law, my sister-in-law, my two nephews and my two daughters. So, there are a lot of moving parts in September, but I’ve never really had a hard time managing it all before. Well, for my four-year old’s birthday, I decided to do a Little Gym party, which generally is pretty straightforward. You call them up, you make the reservation, they take the deposit, you send them the addresses, they mail the invitations, done.

Well, first of all, somehow they didn’t take the deposit, so I almost lost the reservation. Then, because most of the children I wanted to invite on my daughter’s behalf were in her class at day care, I decided I would take care of the invitations myself. So, I had a little help from my sitter – we put the invitations together, and then after forgetting day after day after day, I finally remembered to put the invitations into their little lockers at school. Then, I realized at 3 am one morning, that I had forgotten to include RSVP information on the invitations. So, I then very cleverly (I thought) made up notes with just the RSVP information. Of course, I didn’t have a guest list so I had to try to conjure up the names from memory. Then, I get a call from the Little Gym reminding me about my party, including the date and the TIME, which turned out to be an HOUR AND A HALF later than what I had included on the invitation. So, I created another “Oops” flier for all the locker (feeling not nearly as clever as I had before), and now could not even slightly pretend that I could remember who had been invited, and who had received the first Oops message. The best I could do was field the e-mails and phone calls that came in, including those from the Little Gym asking if I had my final guest count yet. It has been a mess. Fortunately, Sunday will come and the party will have gone off, one way or another. And people are very tolerant of the way in which the brain functions, or perhaps malfunctions, during pregnancy, due to all the extra attention it’s giving to the little project going on down below.

So, that’s what I have going on this week: Beauty and Brains. Maybe next week will be Brawn, if I can ever get my larger-but-cuter butt back to the gym. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There Goes the Bride by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

 This past Sunday was my Brother-in-Law’s wedding - my husband’s brother. I was invited, but chose not to go for many obvious reasons. My only wish was that I hadn’t been very ill because it gave my husband the perfect excuse as to why I wasn’t there. My husband is an awful liar. You could tell when he fibs a mile away. So, unfortunately he would be correct in telling family and friends why I didn’t attend the wedding. Bummer. I would have at least have enjoyed knowing how uncomfortable he would have been having to produce a reason why his “wife” wasn’t at his brother’s wedding. Oh well...there will be other occasions.

My Sister-in-Law (wife of my husband’s OTHER brother) will be having her second child in April. I am pretty sure that I will be quietly absent from that milestone event as well. He’ll have to come up with some type of story for that occasion, I’m sure.

And then there are all the Holidays in between. I assume my son will be spending all of the Jewish religious ones at my in laws. I’ll get my son and take him to visit very close friends for Christmas and Easter. But what to do about Thanksgiving? I’ve made the largest turkey I could find, to feed 20 plus people for just about every Thanksgiving for 15 years now. I guess those days are over.

My husband and I will have to trade off on Thanksgiving. Since my son went to the wedding, perhaps my husband will allow me to take my son to my best friend’s house for Thanksgiving this year. It will be very festive as my best friend’s birthday is very close to the Thanksgiving Holiday, so she celebrates her birthday then as well.

It is hard when you are breaking away from your spouse while having to go through the Holidays, especially with a child. The child is used to everyone being together and having a wonderful time. Now the child gets tossed between one family and another. It’s confusing and painful...for everyone involved.

Being an only child, with now both parent’s deceased, and no close relatives who live nearby, I grew up spending many, many Holidays with my best friend and her family. I recently asked her if it would be okay to resume that historical pattern. She was delighted. A little overwhelmed, but delighted. I kind of get the “warm fuzzies” just thinking about all of the wonderful times in the past that we’ve spent together during the Holidays. Like her Dad serving us spiked Eggnog when we were only 16! We couldn’t understand why the Eggnog tasted so good, nor why we were so giddy hanging ornaments on her tree! It brings back such warm and loving feelings!

My son is the same age as my best friend’s son, who is adopted. My friend chose to become a single Mom right before she turned 40. I wanted to have my first child before I turned 40. The stars aligned in the heavens for both of us! We both have boys and they are only 3 months apart in age! And both boys think they are “cousins!” In a way, they really are. They see each other far more frequently than my son’s actual cousins.

So maybe this can work, this Holiday swapping thing? As I’ve experienced, families don’t have to be related to be close and have fun! I think I’ve had more enjoyable and exciting Holidays spent with close friends than with relatives who critique your cooking!

I guess another chapter of my life is unfolding. Just like going down the tall Mayan water slide at the Atlantis Resort with my son, last month. I am ready to experience another incredible ride. The ride through the Holiday maze! I better hold on tight for this one, too!


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lessons For Me and Them by Laura Houston

I keep a running list of thoughts for Lyle and Wyatt that contains little bits of wisdom I want to share with them. In truth the list I started was really more for me, because I wanted the boys to have a record of what I value, and I want to remember, as well. This past weekend I took first place in the Queens County Arm Wrestling Championship on a fluke. The entire day was a series of lessons and experiences I want to share.
Diversions Along The Way: Sometimes on your journey, something unexpected happens that leads to something wonderful. On our venture to and from the Queens County Fair we had to take subways and buses and trains and taxis. It was a long trip, and we ran into many obstacles on the way: the first subway stop to the fair was closed, so we had to take another subway line and then switch again. When we finally got on the subway we were happy to see an empty car where we could all sit down, but as it turns out, there was a very sick man in the car. We had to get off the subway and wait for another train, and it took almost an extra hour to get to the fair. However, there was a reason we were delayed.

Be Nice To Everyone: When we finally got to Queens, we had trouble getting the big stroller on the bus. A big man with dread locks helped us get you guys and all of our gear up the steps and in position, and he helped us get you guys comfortable. His name was Big Dave. He had bad teeth and scarred skin. He must have weighed over 250 pounds. We started talking to him and his girlfriend. As it turns out, they were going to the fair, too. Big Dave used to be a champion arm wrestler, and he was going to compete. He asked us to come watch him. We said we would.
Indulge Once in a While: I don’t let you guys eat a lot of junk. I try not to eat a lot of junk either, but at the fair anything goes, so we had chili cheese fries and funnel cakes for lunch. Then you guys had some milk, and I had a beer. My stomach didn’t feel so good, so we walked around some and danced to a big band comprised of men and women over 60. That’s another lesson. You’re never too old to make other people laugh and love you for what you do. We kept moving until I felt better, and we ended up at the arm wrestling contest.
If You Say You're Going To Be There, Be There: We stood around and waited for Big Dave to get up and compete. We cheered for him, and he came over to say thank you. Then the announcer asked if any females wanted to compete against GiGi from the Bronx.

Be Fearless: Your father told me I should compete. I laughed at him. But then there I was at the judge’s table signing a form. It would be fun, I thought. Why not? At least I might get a certificate and a story to tell you some day. The woman I had to compete against was 25 years old, tall, black, and had bright white teeth. She also had some powerful looking arms. I shook her hand and told her I was your mother, and I wanted to have some fun.
Big Dave came over and thanked us again for our support and then he coached me on how to win at arm wrestling. I practiced for five minutes and then it was time to compete.
Life Happens Fast: I got up on the stand in front of the crowd and waved to you guys and your father. People were yelling. Then I faced off with GiGi from the Bronx. I did what Big Dave told me to do. I pulled instead of pushed. I kept my wrist locked. I went from the word “go.” In 20 seconds I had her pinned, and I took first place. None of the other women wanted to go again, so it was over as fast as it had begun.

Being There Brings Good Fortune: Opportunities and invitations are often the keys that open doors to happiness. Ask yourself, is it safe? Is it kind? And if the answer to both is yes, then go enjoy something different. Have an adventure and add the story to your collection. When I took the stage across from GiGi, I didn't care if I won or lost. I just wanted to have fun. I thought about what Big Dave coached me to do, I took a big breath, and I won. That's all it took. Sometimes all you have to do is show up and you win.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Give Me an "A" (Aaaagh!) -- by Jamie Levine

Being back in school certainly has its rewards, and most importantly, it’s validated the fact that I’m a strong, independent woman who can take care of my child in the face of adversity; I lost my job over a year ago, and I’m embarking on a new career that will prove more stable and lucrative than my former one. But I gotta tell you…I am SO SO SO tired of studying. I’m exhausted—physically and mentally. I can name all the lobes of the brain—even the parts and functions of the brain stem. I can spit out the formula for measuring the intensity level of sound. And I can talk to you about language acquisition until you wish I’d never acquired any language myself! Most of what I’m studying is important stuff—and I need to know it. But I just wish I didn’t need to get A’s on all of my tests…and A’s in all of my classes. Mind you, I could never be a slacker…but I dream of only aiming for B’s. Boy would that take the pressure off me. Honestly, it’s what I dream of doing in grad school.

However, right now, I need to compete. My future, and more importantly, my daughter’s future, is banking on my grad school plan—and I need to get into a good program. So I’m constantly studying. The other morning, I sleepily opened the New York Times as I drank my coffee, and Jayda, who was watching TV, glanced over and asked, with a note of surprise in her voice, “Mommy—why aren’t you reading your text book?” It was a reasonable question, since I’m always perusing a text book when I’m home and Jayda doesn’t need me to pay attention to her. We’ve even made a deal that Jayda can sit on my lap to watch a TV show before bed…as long as I can read one of my text books while she’s doing it (wasting 30 minutes of study-time on “Hannah Montana” is out the question for me!).

Jayda recently started a new nursery school—and we both adore it. With its large playgrounds and array of exciting activities, Jayda is both physically and mentally stimulated all day long; she’s very tired when the bus brings her home at 4:30, and that means that she’s fast asleep by 7:30 p.m. most days. The new Fall season has started on TV, but you wouldn’t know it in my house—I haven’t watched an adult TV show since I enrolled in college last Spring. Really. And this former book worm sadly has no time for novels either. During the week, when Jayda falls asleep, I do work—be it school work or freelance work—until I’m too sleepy to stay awake. And unfortunately, that’s often the drill for me on weekend nights, too (though I do make exceptions to go out on dates now and then, or out for drinks with the girls…but not nearly often enough).

I’m not complaining. Or, well, maybe I am. But this is the path I chose to take…and I’m sticking to it. I just wish grades didn’t matter so much (and/or that I wasn’t such a perfectionist!). I really am enjoying my classes; most of my professors are wonderful, and the material is engaging and inspiring. It’s just a lot to study. Especially when my test scores need to be perfect. And I’m tired. Really tired. I’d like to watch a movie one evening—and not worry constantly about the study-time I’m wasting. I’d like to make a lengthy, unimportant call to one of my friends from a place other than my car while I’m commuting (I can’t study in the car, so it’s my only “free” zone). And I’d like to be able to not get stressed on the nights my daughter does stay up later than usual—and not worry so much about my “lost” study time that evening. Even writing my blog seems trivial sometimes—until I remind myself that I’m writing for Jayda; all of my blogs are for her.

My college is closed for the entire month of January, and I will not be memorizing anything that month except for Jayda’s smile when she’s laughing at her favorite TV shows. And as much as I hate “Hannah Montana,” perhaps I’ll be watching along with her. But one thing’s for sure—it’s the first time in my life that I’m really looking forward to the middle of winter!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Any Woman’s Holiday by Cyma Shapiro

I am Jewish. I will tell you a little story about our switching Jewish ‘houses,’ recently, all centered around our Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  However, I don’t think the religion or holiday even matters, here. I think it’s all about perception, reality, and the personal business of finding a home for one’s religion and spirituality.


We are Reform Jews. As such, we are ‘granted’ a relaxation of Jewish social norms and customs, religious practices and requirements.  In short, nearly anyone who is a Reform Jew can find some synagogue, somewhere, and some rabbi, who allows the practice of ___________.  Fill in the blank yourself.  If it is not harmful to someone, blasphemous, detrimental to one’s health or against the law, I think you can find someone in the Reform movement who might ok the behavior.

We belonged to a Reform synagogue.  It was comfortable, secure, and offered ease of dress, thought and worship practices.  We could attend services, have our children attend Sunday school, and then return back home and call it a day.  (In our case, we embraced additional practices during the week).
We were, however, alone.  When we stepped back, we realized that nearly no one associated with anyone else in the synagogue; there was little commonality among members; and almost no religious groups to join.  It was safe, comfortable and required little commitment .  But, it was not enough for us.
We began the arduous search for a new ‘home’ – one that offered safety, security, ease of dress, and community.  It was the community part that had been missing. Studying the many choices in our area, we decided to opt for a Conservative temple – more religious, more spiritual some might argue; and with many, many more requirements, both for ourselves and our children.  How could we do this? Land somewhere on one day, and land somewhere else with heightened rules, and much greater expectations and practices, the next?

We were truly scared. The practice of moving houses of worship was more traumatic than we expected; no longer were we simply finding a new house to hang our hats, or in our case, our yarmulkes.  We were seeking something that would help us reformulate our family and prioritize our religious needs. Already struggling with my Jewishness, I came with what they call “baggage” – years of indoctrinations, expectations and mismatches which I hadn’t fully reconciled. My husband had his own tsuris (Yiddish, meaning troubles) and my kids just didn’t want to attend Sunday School.  What would we do with all of those issues?

On the first day of attendance, we looked around us quickly, and began the (much longer) worship service. We spent the whole time looking around at what others were doing; others were wearing; and others were reciting. Only in this case, no one was looking at us which was a good thing. Everyone was immersed in their own practice(s), their own thoughts, their own prayers. We left, heartened that we seemed not to stick out like a sore thumb, and weren’t the worse for the experience, either.

Within two weeks, we were invited to a family-related party;  introduced to many other members; and within the shortest period of time, were made to feel ‘at home.’  When the holidays came and I surveyed the scene of women with their families, my long-held biases regarding dress, look and philosophies dropped swiftly away as I realized that we were all just women/mothers doing our job. Our children were trying to learn their religion; our families just trying to be good, perhaps righteous, religious and whole.

This experience has been ground-breaking.  It mimics my experience with new mothers. Slowly, the ‘new older mother’ moniker has slipped away in favor of just ‘motherhood,’ and I see that my desires reflect the desires of so many other women to just promulgate families and family unification, step into our own womanhood, and love and be love. It’s really that simple.

And so, at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, I welcome all of you to reflect on your current situation in life, and find some kernel of truth in my story which could also be yours.  For me,  it’s the story of coming of age. I hope you find new growth, with me.




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Saturday, September 25, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: New Mom, New Image: a Mommy Makeover by Emily Roy

[photo: Janice (l) and Emily (r)]

After having four babies in five years, nursing for a total of forty-seven months and getting up at least once during the night for six years, I was groggy, saggy and stretched, to say the least. I hardly even felt like myself anymore. And every time I stepped out the door, I couldn’t understand how other moms looked so put together; they looked human, and I felt like a zombie! What were they doing to look so comfortable in their new mommy skin that I was missing?

For starters, they were probably showering, but upon further inspection, I noticed a few things about these moms who looked like real people. I was surprised to discover that it actually wasn’t as complicated or time consuming as the end result appeared. So here is a quick list of the best things you can do for yourself to reclaim a little of the woman you still are:

• Know your proportions. The end goal is always to create an hourglass shape.

• Don’t wear things that are too tight (the sausage effect – not good)…Or too loose (the eternally pregnant effect–also not good). If you like comfy clothes, go for softer fabrics, cute flats, even a sundress.

• Get a sitter before you shop (if only Ikea sold clothes!). Don’t even try a serious shopping trip with your kids. You’ll end up with just half an outfit before someone melts down.

• Be prepared. Don’t shop for an event last minute, be ready with an outfit for a bridal shower, date night, etc. You will save yourself money, frustration and probably rescue yourself from an outfit you don’t like.

• Wear a ponytail, just make it a cute one–put a little braid in front, or part your hair before putting it back into a low ponytail.

• If you’re hair is short, be honest with yourself: is it working for you? It may be time to consult with a stylist for some suggestions (I know, it feels like you’re cheating on your current stylist but a mom’s gotta look good!). And keep up on your haircuts; schedule your next appointment as you leave the salon.

• Keep your lip gloss handy. For me, this means they are everywhere: glove box, junk drawer, the Barbie castle, etc.

• Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. You will instantly look like you have it more together than you do! And scarves and long necklaces can have a slimming effect when used to create a vertical line down your chest.

• Expand your wardrobe beyond jeans. This was a hard one for me because I love my jeans, but I have discovered dresses which brings me to my last tip…

• Try a dress! They are generally more forgiving to your figure and they can easily be dressed up or down. An empire waist can hide a little leftover baby weight and you’ll feel feminine even if you’re playing cars with your two year old!


(Lisa - before)

Recently I worked with Janice Hurley-Trailor, The Image Expert, on a makeover of a new mom Lisa. Lisa owns a gym, teaches gymnastics and dotes on her two small children. Needless to say, her attire tends to consist of workout clothes!

Janice put her in soft gray cords with similarly colored boots, a layered long sleeved shirt under a tank with a belt and a sassy, face-flattering haircut. Her earrings are small so as not to overwhelm her delicate face, layering her shirts adds interest and sophistication (plus it extends a summer tank into fall), the belt adds definition and the boots lengthen her legs. Goodbye workout mama, hello hot mama!
(Lisa - after)

These are relatively simple, time-friendly ideas that any mom can implement even in the most chaotic days of early motherhood. Honestly, the hardest part is remembering that even as moms we deserve to turn a little of that love and attention we give to our children back on ourselves.

Oh and do shower—It really goes a long way toward feeling wholly human and not just a receptacle for spit-up, snot and drool!

EMILY ROY
Copy editor turned mother of four in five years, Emily Roy is just now coming up for air. She has led over a hundred moms as Director of Mom's Group at her local church in Tacoma, WA. Roy has written everything from Sunday school curriculum to website text to poetry published in The Trillium. She has a BA from the University of Washington, Tacoma in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a Concentration in Arts, Media and Culture. Between laundry and hugs, she trains for triathlons and patience. She is currently at work on a new book on makeovers for new moms with image expert, Janice Hurley-Trailor.

JANICE HURLEY-TRAILOR
Janice Hurley-Trailor is an image expert with 25 years of experience. She has worked with professional practices, businesses, and government agencies. She is the mother of four grown children and grandmother to seven.  Visit http://www.janicehurleytrailor.com/.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

FAMILY FINDS: by Robin Gorman Newman

Periodically, I'd like to share some cool finds I've come across, whether for moms or kids, that you might like to know about.


Little Pim is an award-winning foreign language immersion DVD series for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. You can give your kids a head start in cognitive development by introducing them to a second language before age 6, the language-learning window. Little Pim makes it easy and fun, and you don't need to be a second-language speaker for your child to benefit. They currently offer six theme-based DVDs that use their unique Entertainment Immersion Method™, which combines animation and real kids. Each DVD introduces over 60 simple words and phrases for everyday activities. They offer a line of products, including gift sets Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, German, Arabic, Japanese, Hebrew, English (ESL), and Russian. The method works, and most importantly, your kids will love Little Pim, the panda!  Use the code PimLater, and save 15%.



Want an easy way to decorate, and encourage the little artist in your child? Check out Write On’s - Chalkboard Vinyl Decals from Vinyl Attraction! Available in fun designs including guitars, dinosaurs, hearts, birds, alien spaceships, and football helmets, Write On’s are easy to remove, and the wall surface is not damaged. Just peel and stick! In addition to their new Chalkboard Vinyl Decals, Vinyl Attraction offers custom personalized monograms and designs that can be made to match the master bedroom’s décor, children’s bedding, the living room, or even the pet’s personal space. Choose one simple saying or create a mural effect with the designs – lots to pick from! 

Whether you’re suffering from heat due to hot flashes, sports, outdoor activities, etc., COOL OFF™, the pocket-sized, natural cooling towelette is here for you. The soothing and cooling effect and convenient packaging makes it easy to keep them around the house, in the car, at work, in your gym bag, and even in your jeans pocket. Infused with a clean-scented formulation of natural ingredients including cooling herbs, plant botanicals, and essential oils, these towelettes feel good.  Simply remove the towelette from its foil packet, shake lightly, and press it onto the back of the neck, inner arms and back of knees. Then blot the forehead and other desired areas. COOL OFF™ is available on CVS.com, Amazon.com, and Duane Reade stores in New York.



Do you suffer from allergies and/or asthma? Smartsilk™’s allergy pillow offers total protection from dust mites and allergens. The silk-lined pillows also ease the effects of night sweats and chills that may occur during menopause or while undergoing chemotherapy, resulting in a cooler, more comfortable nights sleep.  There are also pillows for kids and even the family pet (poor pets suffer from allergies too!). You can view more info on the allergy pillow at http://www.smartsilk.com/smartsilktm-pillow.html.
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(Note: Thanks to the companies featured for providing product samples.)

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Jekyll-Hyde Child by Robin Gorman Newman

What a day.  I just have to vent, so please bear with me.

Don't get me wrong.  I love my son.  There are days I can't get enough of him.  And, then there are days like today, when I can't wait for him to go to sleep.  Amazing how angelic he looks cozied up wth his countless stuffed animals, arms outstretched over his head...the way I often sleep....as my husband notes.  I want to scoop him up and give him a huge hug and hold on forever.

Then, I think back to the day's events, and I question my expectations of motherhood.  Yes I wanted to be one, of that I'm sure.  But it's just so incredibly hard that I honestly wonder what I was thinking. What did I anticipate it would be like?  I don't think you can really know until you're in it.  I think back to my life before Seth, and it sure was easier.  But, then I try to envision what my home and heart would feel like without him, and I know there would be a void.

Despite my love for him, he at times never ceases to amaze me.  And, I don't mean in a good way (though certainly at times in a good way.)

I'm writing this blog on Tuesday....so it's early in the week, yet it's already been a frustrating one.  At the risk of boring you, I won't detail every frustration.  But, I will share that Seth's misplaced his wallet which had a decent amount of allowance money in it, not to mention gift cards he's received for his birthday.  He swore it was in my car, which was not the case.  So, the reality is he has no idea where it is, nor do I.  And, I'm trying hard not to let it fester in my mind. He's certainly not losing any sleep over its disappearance.

Then, this afternoon, he came home from school, and was in his usual anti-homework mood, though even worse.  He claimed he misplaced one sheet of his homework. And, as I implored him to tell me the truth stating that I wouldn't get mad...he continued to insist that he had no clue what happened to it.

In the evening, I decided to clean the bird cage for our cockatiel, and as I went to replace the paper on the bottom, I found the homework sheet lining the bottom of the cage under the soiled newspaper I discarded.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  And, even as Marc and I confronted Seth while he took a bath, he continued to stick by his story of complete denial.

We then took away television and computer privileges, and I stormed out of the bathroom in disgust.

It's amazing how much you can love someone yet resent them at the same time.  Amazing how at times he can make me laugh like no one else and in the same breath, I want to spank him (which I would never do). When he comes to sit in my lap and plants a wet kiss on me, there is nothing like it, but those moments are so fleeting.  And, so much of parenting is work and frustration. 

I'd like to say I wouldn't trade it, but there are days when it feels tempting.

Tomorrow is another day.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 15...On Pregnancy Weight Gain by Liimu

I know, I know, we all get sick and tired of thinking about our weight, complaining about our weight, obsessing about our weight, and during pregnancy is the one time we won’t, don't, shouldn’t have to worry about it, right? WRONG.

My sister Skyped me a couple nights ago to say that someone had told her that the average pregnant woman only needs an extra 200-300 calories a day, and did I know that? Well, when I didn’t Skype her back (I was asleep – it was well past my normal pregnancy bedtime of 8:30), she worried that I got so pissed at her raising the issue of how much I should eat during pregnancy that I’d decided not to ever speak to her again. Seriously. It is that big an issue for many of us.

I’m not going to lie – my pregnancy weight gain stories have been pretty melodramatic, from the pregnancy where I gained 25 pounds by my first 8-week appointment (pregnancy #1 – I gained 90 pounds in all), to the one where I gained a mere 40 pounds (I weighed myself daily and worked out 5 days a week). I have run the full spectrum between not giving a single rat’s patootie to being borderline obsessive compulsive.

Last time I checked, we moms begin worrying the moment we pee on the stick. Is it really two lines? Is the second line too faint to really count? Will I miscarry? Should I have the amnio? Should I tell my boss? Will my husband still find me attractive? Will he mind if I don’t want sex? Will I be a good mom? Do we have enough money saved? Enough stuff for the nursery? Did I pick the right nanny/day care? Should I stay home with my kids? Will they welcome me back into the workforce if I take time off to be a mom? Will my kids resent me if I don’t? And on and on and on…So, do the doctors really have to add this little nugget into the mix, something over which many of us have so little control, especially when more than half of us are puking our guts up and just happy to eat whatever we can keep down and the rest of us are wishing we would puke already because we just spend the entire day feeling like we’re going to and eating is the only thing that seems to take away the nausea?

What I have come to believe is that as mothers, whether seasoned or first-time newbies, we have enough to worry about without adding some arbitrary guidelines about something we may have little control over into the mix.

Let’s take the 200-300 calories guideline, for example. I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m in my normal every day mode, I’m generally pretty diligent about how I’m eating and exercising. That means, I’m dieting. Pretty much all the time. OK, that’s not for everyone, I know. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’m just being honest. So, what I want to know is, when they say 200-300 extra calories, one would assume that’s on top of the regular maintenance caloric range of 2000 calories a day, not the Liimu-I’ve-been-dieting-since-I-was-9 caloric range of 1500-1600 calories a day. So, that means that by their standards I should be averaging between 2200-2300 calories a day. That’s significantly more than I’m used to, and about where I’ve been landing (at least since we entered the 2nd trimester and I stopped feeling like Sigourney Weaver in alien, except in my case the alien was going to gnaw it’s way through to the outside of my stomach, rather than popping out in a dramatic, scary burst).

And how about the guidelines around weight gain? I just read something today that said I should have gained about 5 pounds by now. Hopefully, they mean give or take 15 pounds. Seriously, though, I read a post on one of the pregnancy boards by a woman who weighed less than 110 pounds pre-pregnancy and when she went to her doctor for her 12-week checkup she had gained 6 pounds. He completely chastised her, saying for her entire pregnancy she should only gain 23 pounds. Where the hell did he get THAT arbitrary number? And honestly, there’s a part of me that feels like there should be a prerequisite for OB/GYNs to make commentary on the weight gain of their patients, unless they’ve been pregnant themselves or have seen their wives through at least three pregnancies. Otherwise, it should be like in the doctor’s office. You can not say anything derogatory or stress-inducing about the pregnant woman’s weight without a qualified nurse in the room, and by qualified, I mean she’s had a baby.

I’ve had three children, and have gained 90 pounds, 40 pounds and 65 pounds with them, in that order. Ironically, my first child just turned 8 years old and is nearly 5 feet tall and wears women’s size 8 shoes. She gets her incredible height from her dad and she’s not the slightest bit overweight. As for my second daughter, the nearly 7-year old with whom I gained the “ideal” amount of weight? A peanut. She’s in the 25th percentile and is barely an inch taller than her not-quite-4 year old sister. Not sure if there’s a correlation there, but I certainly intend to keep my eye on it. If this baby is tall enough to qualify for the NBA by the time he starts high school, I’ll get my answer.

And by the way, when I got pregnant with this child, I was within 5 pounds of my pre-first pregnancy weight, just like my mommy friends who gained 20-25 pounds with their pregnancies. My body knows what to do. It’s proven that time and time again. I’ve never had gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia or any other weight-related issues with my pregnancies and my children are happy and healthy.

Last time I checked, that was really what matters the most.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Over Scheduled...Mom? - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

We’ve all heard stories and read articles about children being over scheduled with all types of after school activities. And there have been a scattering of articles about parents whom are burdened by their children’s schedules. Lately, I have found myself falling into that trap, even though I always promised myself that I would never over schedule my child. It would be an unnecessary burden on my son as well as myself. Until now.

My son has been going to religious school since Kindergarten (he is now in second grade) and really enjoys going. There are more than a handful of students from his elementary school that he knows in this class. And at this point, it is rather low-pressure religious learning. So, we take him to that after school activity once a week.

Then, because my son has Auditory Processing Disorder, which compromises his reading and writing abilities, we have a tutor come one day after school. My son spends 45 minutes with the Tutor and gets weekly assignments to complete.

Following that is Karate, which my son LOVES and happens to be quite good at. In fact the Karate school advanced him to a more vigorous program, requiring him to go to class a MINIMUM of one weekday as well as once on the weekend! Incidentally, all of the professionals, from his ADD specialist all the way down to his Primary Care Physician, feel that if my son enjoys Karate, it is a perfect sport for him to excel at with regard to his ADD.

Finally, there is swimming. Another sport my son LOVES. Thankfully, this class happens to be on Sundays. My son was meant to be in water. He thrives in water. To the point of doing forward, aerial flips off of the diving board! And again, as Michael Phipps will tell you, swimming was his way of managing his own ADHD. Maybe it is my son’s, as well.

So here I am, with all of these important, but certainly not necessary (except for tutoring) activities my son is involved in. And we haven’t even discussed how play dates fit in with all of this! Is my son over scheduled? Am I over scheduled? I certainly know that at this moment in time am, given that I have an antibiotic resistant germ in me that is wearing me quite thin. Going on 4 weeks now. But what about my son?

Most parenting experts will tell you that the most extracurricular activities a grade school child needs is 1 or 2 activities a week. In my experience, my son needs daily physical exercise of at least an hour a day or  else he will be literally climbing the walls. So perhaps all of these extracurricular activities are good for him.

My husband and I have worked out a schedule, which more or less divides which parent takes my son to certain activities on specific days. But then you have to add homework into the mix. My son can barely manage the load of second grade work during his second week of school. I contacted my son’s teacher regarding the issue of homework. I also plan to make an appointment with the school Psychologist. Other than that, I am at a loss as to what to do.

If my son's schedule cannot be modified, I think I am going to ask my son’s teacher whether my son can do some of the homework over the weekends. It would ease the burden on everyone and allow my son the ability to participate in the extracurricular activities that are good for him, while extending his homework load across 7 days rather than 5.

As for me? I’ll still be over scheduled. But I will either enlist help to manage either dropping my son off at certain activities or miss them entirely if I feel his schedule is getting out of hand. I guess you’ll just have to continue to call me, the “Over scheduled Mom.” Stay tuned.


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Best Intentions -- By Laura Houston

Something happens to a husband the very day he becomes a father. He makes the horrible mistake of trying to be more thoughtful. Whereas this may sound like a noble thing, it only causes more work for the new mother. I know. This very transition happened to my husband. He went from being my sweet, romantically bumbling, laid back, casual husband to being a driven, conscientious, Super Dad and Uber-husband. And it’s completely annoying.

Now, keep in mind he has the best intentions. I know this. I remind myself of this all the time. But there’s a reason why William Blake said the road to hell is paved with them. The best of intentions don’t guarantee the best of outcomes.

Allow me to give you an example: My husband and I are ready to get out the door with the boys, the stroller, and the 20 pounds of gear required to enjoy an afternoon at the park. I realize I forgot my watch and lip balm, so I sprint back into the apartment.

Overly Thoughtful Husband thinks: I’ll give her some time to herself so she doesn’t have to rush, and I’ll go ahead and take the boys down to the lobby and wait for her there.

The reality: I am out of the apartment and dashing toward the elevator just as the doors are closing. Now I either need to just walk the 12 stories down to the lobby or wait for the elevator to return, which can be lengthy since we live in an old building and there is only one elevator in our tower, so waiting can sometimes take up to five or ten minutes. It’s faster to walk, so I take the stairs down, and I scold him when I see him. I explain that it is an inconvenience to me when he doesn’t wait, and that it hurts my feelings.

He doesn’t understand why I am frustrated after running down 12 flights of stairs carrying a diaper bag, my purse, and a blanket, so he’s defensive. He thought he was being helpful.

Another example: He wants to engage in conversations to stimulate communication, so at 8:30 at night when my brain has only six cells still functioning, so he asks rhetorical questions like this: "If you were raised in a different country, what do you think your life would be like?"

The reality: That’s a big question. My first thought is: "What country? And then, would I still be a girl? Would I be white? Would I be poor? What religion?" I stop to think for a second, and then I can’t remember what I was doing even though I have a big basket of laundry in my arms. I cannot hide my annoyance when I say, “I don’t know.”

He therefore feels hurt and dejected, and I am a bitch.

OK. Truthfully, I probably say something closer to: “What the hell kind of question is that? How am I supposed to answer that? What are my perimeters? What country? What is it you need to know, honey? Why are you asking me this?”

Ah. I pine for the days when he could go weeks without asking me how I was doing.

My husband also seeks connection. He wants me to slow down, give him my undivided attention, be romantic and sweet. Unfortunately, his timing to achieve said bonding usually occurs at the same time the boys need to be changed, fed, bathed, and I haven’t had so much as a bite to eat all day, or he tries at 10:00 at night when my mascara has welded my eyes shut, and my neck won’t move. He’s genuinely friendly and sincere when he tries to find out what I want from life, but all I can think of at 11:00 at night is this: “I still have 17 years before the boys go off to college, so I better get them into a good preschool by reading to them every day, and, shoot, I forgot to read to them today because Lyle threw up in the stroller and Wyatt destroyed the book I was reading, making a huge mess all around, so should I go wake them up and read them Are You My Mother? It’s their favorite. I think.”

It’s a safe bet to say my husband feels just as irritated and frustrated by my changes in motherhood as I do with his in fatherhood. Fortunately, we are strong together. I don’t always know how it works – how I can be so irritated with someone whom I never want to go a day without.

Yeah. I know. Welcome to motherhood. I have nothing but the best intentions.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Just Imagine…One Big, Happy Family -- by Jamie Levine

My daughter, Jayda, adore babies. As soon as she sees a stroller glide into the playground, she immediately stops whatever she’s doing and races over to say “hi.” I’ve trained her to only touch the feet of a baby whom we don’t know, but sometimes Jayda can’t help herself, and gently reinserts a pacifier, when she sees that it’s fallen out of a baby’s mouth. Both strangers and friends have often remarked that Jayda “needs a little sister or brother,” but as a single mom heading to grad school, I certainly don’t have the resources—or the desire!—to have another baby. And oddly enough, Jayda has never asked me to have one—nor outright expressed the desire to have a little sib. Instead, she simply enjoys role-playing; sometimes she asks me to pretend to be her baby, and sometimes she plays this game with her friends, trading off the mommy-baby responsibilities with them. Other times, she announces that she “has a baby in her belly,” and struts around proudly. I play along and congratulate her and ask when the baby’s “coming out,” and she lets me know, as she pretends to race off to the doctor, and then plans a party to celebrate the birth.

Other times, Jayda simply dotes on her doll-babies. She has a variety of them—in all ethnicities—as well as a high-chair, bunk beds, and various bottles, binkies, and clothing for her babies. She even has her own “Baby Bjorn”-like carrier that she straps on so she can strut around with a baby pressing close to her chest. I know Jayda would be a wonderful big sister, and though I do feel pangs of guilt every now and then when I see Jayda fussing over one of her friends’ baby siblings, Jayda never pressures me, personally. She only asks to spend time with friends’ babies—never to bring them home. And back at our house, she happily greets her own “babies” with no regrets. In her own amazing way, Jayda has figured out how to use her imagination to shape her reality—without putting any pressure on me!

A few weeks ago, Jayda and I went to the city for a dinner party at my friend’s apartment. Jayda was delighted to discover that my friend has a little dog, and spent the entire evening enjoying the dog as her playmate. When it came time to walk the dog, Jayda begged to join my friend’s daughter on the walk—and insisted on holding the leash the entire time. She assured us that “I can do it!” and insisted “I’ll be very careful!” and she proved to be an exemplary dog walker. Later in the evening, when we were back at the apartment, Jayda asked to walk the dog again, but my friend turned her down. After pouting for a few minutes, Jayda came up with a compromise: She put the leash back on the dog, and happily walked him around the apartment, again and again…for the rest of the night.

Back at home the next day, Jayda rummaged through one of my drawers, and came up with a “toddler-leash” that I’d used on her over a year ago when were visiting Sesame Place and a few other crowded places. She immediately asked me to put it on her, and when I curiously obliged, asked me to take her for a walk. Huh? After stepping outside with her, I soon discovered that Jayda was pretending to be a dog. She ran down the block (with me tugging on her as I raced to keep up with her), and stopped several times to squat. “What are you doing, Jayda?” I demanded. “Peeing!” she answered with a giggle. When she started wandering onto a neighbor’s lawn, I reprimanded her: “Get off of the lawn, Jayda—it’s not ours” and she remarked, “I’m just sniffing around—I’m not doing anything!” Lest I feel foolish for yanking a little girl around the block, Jayda barked at strangers, letting them know she was a dog. It was quite amusing…up until the end when she asked me to get a plastic bag (“I don’t have one, Jayda!” “Well, just ‘tend to get one, Mommy!) and instructed me to pick up her invisible poop. Yet again, Jayda’s imagination proved to be a remarkable thing.

At the dinner party in the city, several of my friends had warned me: “Jayda’s definitely going to ask for a dog now—watch out!” But she never did. She simply took things into her own hands—and her amazing imagination—once again, and let me off the hook. Who needs another baby or a dog, when I have a daughter who can be anything she wants to be? It’s reassuring to see that our family is just perfect for both of us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CYMA SHAPIRO CHATS with Rallie McAllister, co-author of The Mommy MD Guides to Pregnancy and Birth

Q: What compelled you to write this book?

The idea for The Mommy MD Guides to Pregnancy and Birth came from my co-author, Jennifer Bright Reich, a mother with two young sons. In her career as a writer, Jennifer has interviewed hundreds of doctors. She was especially intrigued whenever a woman physician offered her tips that she had used in her own life to deal with common challenges that most mothers face, especially in terms of keeping her children safe and healthy. We (also) loved the idea that physicians who are also mothers have expertise and experience in two very important areas: motherhood and medicine.

Q: What might be the most common myth which you debunk in this book?

I think the myths held by moms-to-be fall into two general categories, depending on the woman’s personality. For those who have always felt that they have their lives perfectly in order, and that they must maintain total control over every aspect of their lives, the book dispels the myth that you can control all aspects of pregnancy and delivery. You just can’t! These women learn that they have to relax and leave some things to Mother Nature, and she knows what she’s doing! For women who tend to feel less powerful, on the other hand, the book debunks the myth that they can’t influence their pregnancies in any way.

Q: It is interesting that this book is written from the viewpoint of the working mother -- someone relegated to working through common pregnancy and childrearing issues ranging from morning sickness, and heartburn to time restraints and daily scheduling. What are some of the tips these mom-physicians have shared?

One tip that all of our Mommy MD Guides agreed upon is the wisdom of banking babies’ umbilical cord blood. It’s important for moms-to-be to consider, since they’ll only have one chance to do it: in the moments following birth. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, considered to be the master cells of the body. After collection, cord blood is delivered to a cord blood bank, where it is stored in liquid nitrogen. Theoretically, the stem cells it contains can last forever if stored properly. For more information and additional important benefits of cord blood banking, moms-to-be can visit http://www.cordblood.com/

Q: Do working mom-physicians bear burdens or have experiences different from other working mothers?

I believe one of the greatest challenges that mom-physicians face that may not affect women in many other careers is their knowledge of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy. It’s perfectly natural for expectant moms to experience occasional concern and anxiety. With their medical training and experience, mom-physicians have lots of fuel for the fire.
Another challenge for mom-physicians is that because of their medical training, they may believe that they’re prepared for all the changes that accompany pregnancy and motherhood. Wrong!

Q: What are some of the positive attributes about being a mother and a physician?

As a physician, it’s wonderful to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. If we’re able to think objectively about ourselves and our children, this can be very helpful in terms of knowing when to seek medical attention. But this positive attribute doesn’t even come close to the on-the-job experience we gain every single day of our careers. I think most of our Mommy MD Guides would agree that our patients are the greatest teachers of all.

Q: New older motherhood presents challenges often singular to this group. Did your older women subjects offer any advice?

Several of our Mommy MD Guides were older when they became pregnant for the first time, having completed undergraduate school, medical school and residency training before they conceived. They offered lots of firsthand, heartfelt advice about going through in vitro fertilization, dealing with fatigue, changing their career plans, enduring (or choosing not to have) all of the extra diagnostic tests of pregnancy recommended for older women.

Q: Your section on "When to Call Your Doctor" is, perhaps, the most commonly asked question, especially for new mothers. When do you call your doctor?

While the book offers hard and fast signs and symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor, the more important, underlying message to moms-to-be is this: If you are concerned, or if you have a feeling that something is just not right, you should feel free to call your physician for reassurance or advice. If you don’t feel comfortable calling, you probably don’t have the right doctor.

Q: What have you learned from writing this book?

I learned so many important tips that I wish I had known during my own pregnancies! They would have made my life so much easier. I also learned that motherhood creates a wonderful bond between women that transcends all boundaries. It’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world for one mother to identify with and feel compassion for another mother. We’ve have shared so many of the same experiences, fears, and joys.

Q: The image of a physician is often overworked, stressed, and stretched-thin. Your book presents women physicians taking care of themselves while pregnant or with their children. Do you think this group represents the larger group as a whole?

I do. Like most female physicians and hard-working women in any occupation, our Mommy MD Guides placed enormous demands on themselves—physically and emotionally—when they were not pregnant. But in virtually every case, these same women were not willing to sacrifice their babies’ health during their pregnancies. So while they may have been perfectly willing to miss meals, sacrifice sleep, and work to the point of exhaustion before they became pregnant, all that changed with conception. There’s something incredibly powerful and instinctual about motherhood that drives us to put our babies’ health first and foremost.

Q:  What one final tip would you give any working mothers with children?

I would encourage working mothers to remember that their children only have one childhood. A baby’s first years are absolutely critical in terms of emotional development, and a mother’s time and love are the greatest gifts she can give her baby. More than expensive toys or clothes or books, babies yearn to be close to their mothers. Moms should feel good about relinquishing some other responsibilities in life to spend time with and enjoy their beloved babies.
     
Some of the 900 tips that 60 doctors who are also mothers use during their own pregnancies and births:                                                                

Coping with morning sickness:
At some point in the pregnancy, I stopped being able to tolerate flat liquids of any kind—even water. Seltzer water always came to my rescue. It worked best during those times when I was at a restaurant and I felt the nausea wave coming. If you don’t like plain seltzer, try one with fruit flavoring.
—Tyeese Gaines Reid, DO

Easing the (heart)burn: When I was pregnant with triplets, I had terrible, unrelenting heartburn. I discovered that eating ice cream and sipping a little milk helped. So I coated that heartburn with some ice cream! The ice cream (plus medication my doctor prescribed) eased the heartburn enough that it wasn’t waking me up anymore. Of course, by then I was waking up for a zillion other reasons.
—Sadaf T. Bhutta, MBBS

Enjoying sex during pregnancy: Before I got pregnant, my husband and I had a healthy sex life. We had a lot of sex while I was pregnant too. In fact, we had sex the morning my water broke. We just found ways to make it happen. Sex was relaxing for me and lovely for him. It’s good to bank up a lot of “credit,” because after the baby comes, you won’t be able to have sex for a while.
—JJ Levenstein, MD

Seeing your baby for the first time: I cannot adequately describe how I felt when my babies were born. At the time, the analogy came to me forcefully that it was just as if I had died and there really was a Heaven with the Prophets and the Angels, and that you could look at them clearly and see they were like real people, with eyelashes and fingernails. My baby’s eyelashes and fingernails seemed that impossible
and vivid to me. Just to look at them seemed impossible.
—Elizabeth Berger, MD

Rallie McAllister, MC, MPH, is co-founder of Momosa Publishing, publisher of MommyMDGuides.com and the Mommy MD Guides book series.  She is a board-certified family physician and a nationally recognized health expert.  Her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Your Health, appears in more than 30 newspapers in the US and Canada and is read by more than a million people each week.  Dr. McAllister has been the featured medical expert on more than 100 radio and television shows.  A dynamic public speaker, she educates and entertains audiences from coast to coast with her upbeat, down-to-earth delivery of the latest health news.  She has three sons.

 






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Saturday, September 18, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Together by Susan Pohlman

Like many couples, my husband, Tim, and I could not wait to have children. Though it was not something we rushed into, we were not prepared to navigate the uneven terrain of the emotional landscape of family life. Following every cultural norm as our guide, we found the perfect house, landed the perfect job, and sent our over-scheduled children to the perfect schools. We never imagined, even for a minute, that this formula would bring us everything but real happiness.

In May of 2003, on a business trip to Italy, we took a break from entertaining clients and walked along the Ligurian sea where Christopher Columbus had learned to sail as a boy. The elegant beauty of Santa Margherita lulled us into silence as we ambled along, lost in our own thoughts. We had been married sixteen years, had two beautiful children, and a cozy home on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

From the outside, our lives were idyllic, but on the inside we were painfully disconnected and confused. Neither one of us could figure out why we were so miserable, but we both agreed that we were tired of trying. I knew that our days were numbered since I had quietly hired a lawyer prior to our trip. What I did not know was that a mere five minutes in the future Tim would utter the phrase that would change our lives forever. He stopped, asked me to move my empty gaze from the blue of the sea to the blue of his tear filled eyes and said, “I could live here.”

These four simple words began an unexpected, heart wrenching, two day conversation that ultimately ended with our signatures on a year’s lease to an apartment in Genoa-Nervi and Tim’s resignation from his job. We made an unexpected decision to sell our house and move our two children, ages 11 and 15, to Italy. It was irrational, ridiculous, reckless and the best decision of our lives. It saved our marriage and our family.

By embracing adventure and drastically simplifying our lifestyle we realized that over planning our days had stifled the excitement of discovery. Dawn to midnight schedules extinguished any possibility of happenstance. Letting go of shoulds and musts and adopting an attitude of “let’s see where this takes us” allowed for the rebirth of enchantment and delight, two important elements that feed one’s soul. Adventure became a surprisingly powerful and restorative way of life. It forced us to live in the moment and be present for each other.

Halfway to Each Other, the story of our year, began as a series of emails to trusted girl friends who insisted that I share with them the moments along the way. (Truth be told, they were worried about my sanity!) It evolved into a manuscript when a writer suggested that I consider sharing, in a broader way, the powerful life lessons that brought our family joy and renewal at a time when we felt hopeless.

Though our story is extreme, couples do not have to relocate in order to foster a stronger sense of unity. The challenge is to make the commitment to remain aware of the hidden downfalls of living in a culture with so many wonderful choices. Though most of the things that fill our lives can be argued as good in and of themselves, too much is still too much.

Points to Consider:

• Give yourself the permission to step out of the norm and do what is best for your family to maintain balance and emotional health. It is the “doing” together rather than the “owning” together that creates family culture and a treasure box of memories.

• Slow down to recognize the times that matter. Relationships strengthen or weaken in small moments. Be present.

• Embrace adventure in the everyday. Adventure is simply stepping out of your routine: a picnic dinner on the back lawn, a surprise trip to the movies on a school night, a cup of hot tea on a cold night under the stars. One does not have to travel the world to experience delight.

• Simplify life to allow time for rest and to create the emotional space needed to interact in meaningful ways.

• Stop planning and controlling every moment of the day. Leave room for happenstance. And as the Italians so aptly taught us: what’s your big hurry? There is always tomorrow. Domani. Take a deep breath and relax already!

Susan Pohlman is an educator and freelance writer. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband and two children. Her essays have been published in The Washington Times, Family Digest, The Family, Raising Arizona Kids, Guideposts Magazine, HomeLife Magazine, AZParenting, and Italiannotebook.com. She has written three award-winning short films.

Halfway to Each Other is her first book, and it was awarded WINNER in the Relationships category at The 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit http://www.susanpohlman.com/.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

My Travels by Robin Gorman Newman

For those who read this blog and know that my family did a bit of traveling in August, this is the long-awaited sharing of that experience.  Now that my son is settling into school, this being his first full week (second grade), I can turn my attention more fully to some other things.

August, being my birthday month, and a "big" one this year, having turned 50, I decided that I wanted to do something especially memorable as a family. 

And, as one of my "direct" friends put it.........it's time to cross something off your "bucket" list.....so you can move forward and make room for other things.

I debated long and hard and ultimately decided that this was the year I wanted to visit the Greek Islands.  How best to do that with a 7 year old in tow?  It felt like a very big idea and trip, but I was ready to go for it!

I had taken a Costa cruise years ago (with Marc and my dad), before becoming a mom, and wasn't entirely sure it was something I yearned to do again.  But, one day I was reading a conventions and business magazine featuring a write-up about Norwegian Cruises which caught my eye.  They were promoting a new ship and its capacity to accomodate corporate meetings.  Something about it struck me (in a good way), and I decided to explore the notion of taking a cruise.  After some online research and asking around, it became evident that a cruise is a great option for a family, especially with a young child.

Checking our calendar and pouring through lists of foreign ports, and establishing priorities of "must visits," we contacted Jenny Reed of http://www.ourcruiseplanner.com/ and booked a cruise for 12 nights on the Ruby Princess.  It was a trip of a lifetime.  My son's first overseas trip, and our first voyage abroad since becoming parents....so it's been over 10 years.  I discovered this when I dug up some old Frommer's and Fodor's guides in our basement.

Jenny was very patient and a big help with all the details and worked with us to add on a few days before and after the cruise to stay a bit longer in the ports of arrival and departure.

With major anticipation, we prepared for weeks.  Packing, making lists, boarding our bird and beta fish, etc., etc.  So much work when your plan is to go away and have fun.  Isn't it always like that?!

video
We flew to Venice over night (tiring to say the least....and the time difference was challenging), but once we landed and hopped in the water taxi, it was as if we were living a dream.  My son loved it, and even though I had been to Venice before, as did my husband, there was something different about this trip.  Maybe because we saw it through the eyes of a 7 year old who was awestruck.  Plus, the weather was comfortable in Venice, and we saw things that  I didn't recall from the past, like the Rialto Bridge with its great views and many enticing shops. And, let me not forget to mention the awesome gelato and pizza.  And, we took a Gondola ride, my first, that was so much fun.  It was a highlight of our visit for all of us (watch above video...click on arrow on left side of box to play).

We stayed at the five-star, historic Bauer Venezia (above - water entrance pictured) for two nights before boarding the ship, and I'd highly recommend it.  It was lovely and well-located.  The room was spacious and comfortable, and the buffet breakfast on the outdoor patio overlooking the canal was a treat.  I wanted to bottle the feeling each morning we ate there.  And, particularly special about the Bauer is their new program just for children and families. We were excited to take advantage of it and took a two hour private city tour with an English-speaking guide named Silvia who specialized in taking children around to enjoy the sights. She was lively and knowledgeable, and knew what would appeal to a child. The Bauer children's program also includes outings like: A Perfect Venetian Crime - a special crime mystery tour of the Doge’s Palace; Workshops at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana and a Tour of the Venice Natural History Museum, visiting the Tenùe Aquarium, the Specialized Library, Searching for Dinosaurs, Stone Creatures, and The Path of Life, accompanied by an English-speaking guide.  

It was hard to leave Venice, but we were excited, especially my son, to board the Ruby Princess (pictured above.)  It was quite a sight when we first saw it arrive as we toured Venice.  Its grandeur took your breath away.  We took a water taxi from our hotel to the ship, and from that moment on, we felt well taken care of onboard.  We enjoyed most of the ports, in Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Greece.  Favorites, aside from Venice, were Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini in Greece and Kusadasi in Turkey (great shopping...surprisingly.)

It was scorchingly hot and sweaty, and that part was a huge challenge, especially with all the walking we did.  But, on the couple of free days at sea, we got massages at the Lotus Spa and reclined by one of the pools, and it was wonderful to relax, read, be served cold drinks and look out at the water.  To me, there's not much more mellowing than having the opportunity to be near a body of water...and you can't get much larger than the Mediterranean Sea.

Seth had a blast in the kid's program (Princess Pelicans) where he was well-supervised and engaged.  We took him off the ship for certain excursions, but other days, when we felt it might be too much for him, he was just as happy to remain onboard and play with other kids.  He loved the bunk bed in our room with a balcony, despite the fact that he fell out one night (luckily didn't get hurt).  And, the special tour of Navigation Bridge was interesting, and we got to meet the captain and learn how a ship operates.

Marc and I particularly liked Movies Under the Stars....when we had a chance to watch a film on a huge outdoor movie screen, while laying on a lounge chair after dinner by a pool.  They'd come around and serve you cookies and milk and popcorn.  And, one "date" night, he and I had dinner at Sabatini's....a specialty Italian restaurant on the ship that was not included as part of the regular cruise...but we'd recommend it.

The ship was massive, and the cruise was sold out (over 3,000 passengers) , yet it didn't feel over-crowded.  Embarking and disembarking was relatively smooth, and we enjoyed the tours we chose, especially when we had the opportunity to be on an air-conditioned bus for a bit.

The Ruby Princess featured a Piazza-style atrium, casino, four duty-free shops, Lotus Spa and fitness center, The Sanctuary, sports deck, wedding chapel, children’s and teen’s centers, disco and observation lounge, nine-hole putting course, golf simulator, library, Internet Café, art gallery, and more.  So, there was something for everyone.

After the cruise, we spent one night in Rome at the Hotel Artemide (a good choice). It's on a popular (lesser priced) shopping street and walkable to many sights.  I always enjoy Rome, and we visited Trevi Fountain, saw the Coliseum, Piazza Navona, ate gelato at Tre Scalini, shopped, etc.  It was a full day before we flew home....exhausted (and with bad colds) yet fulfilled and chockfull of memories and stories of a trip that none of us will ever forget. 



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Thursday, September 16, 2010

And Then There Was...The 2nd Trimester...by Liimu

Ahhh...the 2nd trimester! Cue Disney music...

After more than two months of feeling like I should be living in a dark cave, with my husband throwing food outside the entrance for me to slither out and devour every 90 minutes, I finally feel like a human being once more. I wish I could say that I am now running 4 miles 5 days a week, but let's not push our luck, shall we not?

I have to say that God sure does know what He is doing, because my resurgence of energy and feeling human times perfectly with my life getting INSANE. I won't even touch on the fact that work has ramped up to an unprecedented level of busy-ness. It's a good busy, so it feels almost blasphemous to complain about it. (Plus, it's going to pay for the bouquets of flowers I intend to send to myself in the hospital in advance of my scheduled c-section so that for this last baby, I have the experience of having a room full of flowers that I've sort of secretly always wanted.)

The other thing that's suddenly happening is that our family has gone from watching on the sidelines (pun intended) as our friends shuttled their kids here, there and everywhere all fall to having a ton of activities happening in what feels like 18 different directions. Devon begins winter swim on Monday - practice 5 days a week and weekend swim meets - and our not-quite-four year old is actually really good at and really enjoying soccer. We had always promised ourselves that we wouldn't push them into doing any activities, but that if they showed a true interest in something we would support them and strongly encourage them to pursue it. Autumn has been kicking the ball around all summer with dad and is settling into soccer like the game was invented for her. The funny thing is that I have friends who's kids are already on traveling teams, my sister's three kids have all been playing soccer for years, and it has seemed like a staple of suburban parenthood that our family was just not going to experience. Just goes to show that kids are different. My three kids have very different interests and what works for one definitely does not work for the others. Still trying to figure out what the middle one is into (other than singing and monologuing in the mirror).
A hectic pace, a frenetic schedule, but through it all I am somehow managing to stay in flow. Just this morning I got a meeting cancellation that freed me up to take care of some other work-related activities that I had been trying to figure out how I was going to complete. I swear, for the past three days I have felt like there was a mixed up Rubik's cube in my head and then today it's like someone just took a paintbrush to all the different sides and it is now miraculously solved. It's flowing like that.
Speaking of Being in Flow, someone asked me when I told her I was pregnant how I was going to manage a fourth kid - "It's so expensive and you complain now about the logistics of the kids you already have!"
I said to her, "In my experience, God doesn't come up with HALF a plan."
My thought for the week...there is a God and it ain't ME!!! Hope you'll tune in next week for all the Week 14 FUN!!!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Celebrating Holidays - by Cara

I was quite saddened during this past Jewish holiday called Rosh Hashanah. And I anticipate many sad holidays to come. At least for a while.

I am not Jewish. My husband is. Before we got married, by husband requested that we raise our children in the Jewish faith. Not comfortable at that point to consider converting to Judaism, we elected to raise our child through what is known as Reform Judaism. In Reform Judaism, at least one parent must be of the Jewish faith. In more strict areas of Judaism, the mother of a child MUST be Jewish in order for the child to be considered Jewish. This is not the case in Reform Judaism, where only one parent, mother OR father has to be Jewish.

I chose to raise my child to be Jewish for several very important reasons. My first is that although I am a spiritual person, I do not have any direct connections with any particular faith, as my parents were not very religious. My feeling is that if a child is going to experience a religion, this child should be exposed to religious family gatherings, rituals and traditions on a fairly regular basis. I felt that although my husband was not terribly religious (and is even less so now), that at least there would be my husband’s family who would introduce and carry out these important customs for my child to eventually relate to and internalize.

We have been sending our son to religious school, at the Reform Temple we belong to, for going on three years now. Our son enjoys his religious classes and we can tell is learning, and retaining a fair amount of his studies. But now that my divorce proceedings are underway, I’m in between a rock and a hard place.

Since I wasn’t raised in the Jewish faith, I am hardly equipped to truly raise my child with the customs and traditions that become assimilated into a person if the religion is practiced routinely, beginning in childhood. I did take a 7-month Introduction to Judaism class along with a 3 month Beginning Hebrew class...still, I feel lost. My husband has practically no interest in celebrating the Jewish Holidays. In fact, he blew off the second day of Rosh Hashanah to go to the Jersey Shore with his friends. He is working on Yom Kippur, the most holy of all Jewish holidays. And he is planning to be at a convention the first 5 days of Chanukah. My husband’s family wants nothing to do with me, so there goes the family support for the traditions and customs. I am at a loss. I did not choose to do this alone. Had I ever thought I would be teaching religion to my child by myself, I would have at least chosen a religion who’s customs I am much more familiar with. But it is not fair to my son to suddenly redirect him towards a different religious path at this point.

Since my husband is choosing to disregard the holidays of his own religion, I felt that the minimum he could do would be to drop our son off at religious school, pick him up, and do our son’s religious homework with him. My Rabbi, a warm, sweet, loving woman, is going to help me learn more as my son and I go along. She wrote down family get-togethers and child focused events, such as helping to build a Sukkah (an outdoor dwelling where all meals are eaten and you can choose to sleep in the Sukkah, weather permitting, for 8 days. It is actually a celebration of the harvest season and typically is celebrated in the Fall.), as well as some Chanukah family events we can attend together.

It is somewhat comforting to know that several of the children in my son’s religious class have also been in one of his classes at his elementary school, so I am at least familiar with some of the parents at our Temple. Still, I feel overwhelmed and abandoned in yet another area of my son’s and my life. I chose to do this in the best interest for my child and with the understanding that I would have family support. Now, I have none of that, and I am resentful. I guess I just have to resolve that this is yet another area in my life where my son and I are going to plod through as best we can.

And, of course, it doesn’t help matters when my son loudly asked in Temple the other day, “Mommy, when is Christmas?”

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