Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Break in D.C. by Sharon O'Donnell

Two weeks ago my family visited Washington, D.C. on a rare spring get away. Actually, my oldest son, who is a sophomore in college, couldn't go with the rest of us since his spring break didn't coincide with my other two sons' break, and he couldn't miss class. It was the first vacation we've taken without him, and it seemed very strange at first. I really missed him, even though it was a lot easier to find hotel rooms that sleep four than it is that sleep five. I'd like to plan our next vacation so that he will be able to go, also; however, I realize it will become increasingly tougher to include him. He has a promotions internship this summer with the Carolina Hurricanes NHL pro hockey team, and already the dates of our August vacation are in jeopardy because his internship schedule will be very busy.

The destination for our spring break trip was a no-brainer. My high school junior has been studying Vietnam, Law & Justice, and other history-related subjects, while my 10-year-old has been learning about the various monuments. My husband and I knew that this trip would make it all come alive for them. We had a great time seeing the sights of D.C.; it had been ten years or so since I'd been there, so it was all almost new to me too. It's always thrilling that first time you climb the steps to the Lincoln Memorial and look up at that magnificent statue of our 16th president. We also got a tour of the Capitol building and took a wonderful nighttime trolley tour of many of the monuments at night. The Jefferson Memorial has always been an especially beautiful building to me, poised on the banks of the Potomac surrounded by cherry trees in blossom. Despite having been to Washington several times in my life, I had never been in the National Archives building to see the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Seeing these documents was thrilling, but I also marveled at the room they are in. The domed rotunda where the documents are displayed was nothing short of astounding, adorned with gorgeous murals depicting the historical signings. It was the most beautiful room I've ever been in. Check it out - here:

We wanted to see the view from the top of the Washington Monument, but it is very tough to get tickets. Advance tickets were claimed through June. My husband got up at 6:30 and in line at the Washington Monument at 7:15 in order to try to get 'day off' tickets. There were about 200 people there ahead of him, so it didn't look promising. But he had no idea how many tickets would be handed out, so he stayed. After waiting in line for almost two hours, he and about 30 others in front of him were told there were no more tickets for that day. Advance tickets are definitely worth it, but unless you plan ahead, you can't them. Spur of the moment trips like the one we were on are not conducive to getting to see some of the city's most famous things. In order to go on a White House tour, you have to write your Senator or Representative at least 4 months in advance. Oh well.

Another place we visited was Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot. Had been there before, and it was chilling both times. So hard to imagine such a huge event happened right there. A few days later when my husband and I were back home, we went to see The Conspirator, a movie about the people -- a woman in particular - who conspired to kill Lincoln. Some think it moves too slowly, but we thought it was riveting. We had just seen the very places in the movie right in front of us, and it was very intriguing to see it all acted out. Very well done. Go see this if you get a chance.

We also saw the Vietnam and Korean Memorials, the WW II memorial, Arlington Cemetery, and we toured the Air & Space Museum. And we walked A LOT. We knew this would not be what you call a relaxing vacation and we were right. Walked, walked, walked. My husband and I enjoyed it in a 'Boy I'm glad we went, but I'm glad it's done" kind of way. D.C. is somewhere everybody should see up close and personal. The city itself is cleaner and more beautiful than I remember it being in the past. There were lots of foreign visitors, and I was very proud of the city and knew those visitors were impressed. If you haven't been lately, go! But plan in advance if you can.

We had gone with our sons when our youngest was only one, so both of the other boys had some memories of Washington. Yet, our youngest one did not. Here's yet another dilemma for moms with age gap kids: you often have to repeat educational vacations with younger kids that you've already done with the older ones. Remember that the younger ones deserve the same opportunities the older ones got.

And still another conflict brought on my the age gap in kids: the parents and the teenagers want to sleep in on vacations, while the younger ones wake up early.

I Have Become A Tortoise by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

So it’s official. I have been rejected from nine film festivals. I am getting tougher. To be fair my film as been slightly in flux. The final cut of the film happened for me in January. All the submissions were in a couple different versions in connection to music and one key editing change. Now I feel ready to get this film out in the world. Also I would like to update my packaging and complete all of my marketing pieces.

I bring all this up because the “mommy factor” has been in play while I have worked on this film. What is the “mommy factor” one might ask? Mom’s everywhere know that what one wants to do and what one can do don’t often match, particularly in the area of time. I know there are the supermoms who appear to do everything and manage the whole “kid, husband, work, fun, passion” well. I am not one of those...

Before I was married with a kid I met intense deadlines. I pushed myself hard. I meet deadlines now, but I am still trying to create manageable deadlines in the areas where I have control of the project, like my film. The problem is that my internal clock for desired completion of projects does not match my life clock. What I want to do does not match with what I can do. My film is a case in point.

I have the film I want right now. It is up on my Vimeo profile, (Maureen Eich VanWalleghan) but it has taken eight months to get to this point—well beyond what my classmates managed to do. I have laid the ground work for the marketing component. I have learned a ridiculous amount about process. I can say I am a filmmaker as I start my second short film project.

With this new project I decided that I am going to cut myself a break about how quick I need to turn things around. I have a happy daughter. I don’t feel guilty about how much time I spend with her; she is at the top of the list. What I am learning is that my driven deadline mania from my previous life doesn’t have to rule me. I can slow down. I am nibbling my way through my passions. Really, at this point in life what do I need to prove? When I was in my 20s and 30s I was trying to get somewhere. I have gotten there. My job is to shape my life. Finally, I am getting this. I am not the power babe I once was, but Im working hard to have my work life function as I want. My persistence is paying off. But beyond the persistence, I have had a mind shift and this is really letting me move forward in everything as I want. Officially, I have transformed from the fast moving hare into the slow moving tortoise of the Aesops fable that I read to my daughter. Being a tortoise isn’t so bad...once one gets used to the idea.

I am getting it: success in life does not have to be measured in speed. Maybe the “mommy factor” is about having a more sane life. Balance is not possible, but enjoying the ride is.

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Friday, April 29, 2011


Wildly popular around the world, Blue Man Group defies simple description. A musical feast? Yes. A roller coaster of comedy? Absolutely. A stunning mix of technology and raw imagination? You bet. It’s all that and so much more. This explosion of color, humor, music, and technology comes to life every night in the custom-built Blue Man Group theatre at The Venetian® in Las Vegas. The show’s contagious energy engages the audience, thrilling adults and kids alike. It’s intense, exciting, interactive and above all – a must-see.

My husband, 8 year old son and I took in a show while vacationing in Vegas, and it was truly one of the highlights of our trip.  I  must admit, I didn't know what to expect.  We live in New York, and Blue Man Group has been performing here for quite some time, yet we hadn't gotten around to seeing them.  I'd caught performances on various television shows, and had decided I knew what it was all about. I was wrong.  They blew us away!  There is nothing like this live show....and I see a lot of theatre!

The blue-faced threesome were nothing short of -- Irreverent, Sassy, Smart, and Inventive. ....I could go on.   I found myself watching in awe/glee and asking "how did they ever come up with this?"....a real inspiration for those who aspire to think out of the box.

I particularly liked the act re: The Frontier and Rock Concert Movement.  And, at the end (not sure I should say what happens....don't want to ruin the surprise), but it was a hands-on audience participation hoot.  My son couldn't get enough of it, and we'd love to next take in the show in NYC.

If you have yet to see Blue Man Group, and plan a trip to Vegas, be sure to include their show in your visit.
Ticket prices start at $59 plus tax and service fees. Call 702.414.9001 or 1.800.blueman for ticket and show information. Special military and children’s pricing available. Ask about Blue Man Group’s dinner and VIP packages. Visit for more information.

Currently, Blue Man Group theatrical shows can be seen in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, and Zurich. In spring and fall 2010, the popular Japan show will re-open and a touring production of the theatrical show will begin its journey around the US.

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GUEST BLOG POST: It's Not a Secret Anymore by Adam Pertman

Book Excerpt from Adoption Nation -- Chapter I (“Out of the Shadows, into Our Lives) of Part I (“Don’t Whisper, Don’t Lie—It’s Not a Secret Anymore”)

My son was three years old and my daughter had lived on this Earth for just two months when I met Sheila Hansen. She’s a tall, soft-spoken woman who laughs easily and exudes warmth when she speaks; she has the kind of comfortable self-confidence that immediately makes you think she’d make a loyal friend and a good mother. On that muggy July day, sitting in the conference room of a church in southern New Jersey, she told me a story that chilled me to the bone and forever altered the way I think about my adopted children, about birth parents, and about the country in which I grew up.

In 1961, Sheila was a twenty-one-year-old government clerk in Louisiana when she told her boyfriend she was pregnant. He responded by giving her the name of a doctor who performed abortions. The procedure wasn’t legal at the time, but everyone knew you could get one if you wanted to. Sheila didn’t want to. As frightened and confused and alone as she felt, the one thing she knew for sure was that she wanted to keep her baby.…

Not until 8:45 P.M. on November 30, 1995, when her thirty-four-year-old son telephoned her after a determined search, did she learn she’d given life to a boy. “All I did after we hung up was cry,” Sheila told me. Based on what she had endured, I expected she would feel only contempt for adoption, but she is wiser than that. While she knows the process is seldom as simple as people would like to believe, she thinks everyone can ultimately benefit if it’s done right. Besides, Sheila likes the way her firstborn son turned out (she went on to marry and have another boy), respects his parents, and appreciates the loving home they gave him. “But I’ll tell you this,” she says, wiping away a tear but faintly smiling at her optimistic conclusion: “The system we had didn’t work; thank God it seems to be changing.”

After a long period of warning tremors, adoption is “changing” like a simmering volcano changes when it can no longer contain its explosive energy. It erupts. The hot lava flows from its core, permanently reshaping not only the mountain itself but also every inch of landscape it touches. The new earth becomes more fertile, richer in color. The sensation of watching the transformation, of being a part of it, is an awesome amalgam of anxiety and exhilaration. The metamorphosis itself is breathtaking. Before our eyes, in our homes and schools and media and workplaces, America is forever changing adoption even as adoption is forever changing America. …

I remember the moment it dawned on me that we all might be in the midst of a phenomenon bigger than just a sociological blip caused by aging, infertile baby boomers seeking alternative ways of forming families. As West Coast bureau chief for the Boston Globe, I was covering the O. J. Simpson murder trial at the time. Dozens of us reporters sat shoulder to shoulder in a small pressroom on the twelfth floor of the Los Angeles courthouse. I was typing my daily story, on deadline, when the interruption came.

“This is awful,” said Diana, a computer specialist and the only non-journalist in the room. She was standing right behind me, rustling a newspaper and pointing to a story in it. I turned around and asked what was wrong. Diana showed me the offending article. It was about the Baby Richard case, in which an Illinois man won custody of his biological son from the adoptive parents with whom the four-year-old boy had lived nearly all his life.

“Imagine how I feel,” I replied. “I have an adopted son.” (We hadn’t adopted our daughter yet.)

“Really?” said the Chicago Tribune reporter sitting at my left elbow. “I’ve got two adopted kids.”

The Time magazine correspondent to his left looked amazed. “I’ve got two adopted kids, too,” he said.

Diana, wide-eyed with disbelief, whispered: “I’m adopted.”

I was surrounded, and so are we all. Suddenly—or at least it feels sudden—adoption is being transformed from a quiet, lonely trip along America’s back roads to a bustling journey on a coast-to-coast superhighway. The infrastructure has become so extensive that it has made all of us—not just adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents—into fellow travelers. We should do all we can to make this a smooth ride.

The Harvard Common Press
Copyright © 2011 by Adam Pertman

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Adam Pertman is Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also the author of Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America, which is being published in April 2011 and which has been reviewed as “the most important book ever written on the subject.” He  is the Associate Editor of the scholarly journal Adoption Quarterly and has written numerous commentaries, book chapters and articles for professional and mass-market publications. As one of the country’s leading experts on adoption, he has delivered hundreds of keynotes, trainings and other presentations internationally, and is the recipient of numerous awards for his work. He appears regularly in the media throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has been a guest on programs including “Oprah,” “The View,” and “Today.” He is a member of the Council on Contemporary Families, the Editorial Advisory Board of Adoptive Families magazine, the National Adoption Advisory Committee of the Child Welfare League of America, and the Advisory Board of Orphans International Worldwide.  Visit

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's the alternative? By Liimu

I know a woman who is raising nine kids by herself. They are all seemingly well-behaved, happy and active. And I wonder how she does it. I have four now, and although I know that with the newborn this is probably the hardest it will ever be, but there's a part of me that has to wonder whether part of the secret is to know what to let go of.

There is a lot of yelling in my house right now. And believe me when I say it's fairly evenly distributed amongst the lot of us, including the baby. There are heart-to-heart talks where we try to logically reason with our girls about why they should stop bickering so much, stop talking back, start helping out, start being more independent. They openly admit that they're acting out because they're jealous of the baby. While I appreciate their candor and their self-awareness, it doesn't help this constant headache I have from all the attention-seeking behavior. One child yelling at the top of her lungs the lyrics to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" in what vaguely resembles a singing voice would be bad enough. Multiply it by three, vary the songs and the singing ability and add stomping with all your weight (including a 4'8" 8 year old) and you start to get the picture.

I have a friend in recovery who I sponsor who recently drank. This morning she said she didn't want to do AA anymore. I completely understand why - AA is hard, it takes continual attention, commitment, discipline and work. It requires you to go deep within yourself and constantly work on improving yourself and the way you interact with the world. It requires a higher standard of behavior and accountability than most of the world adheres to. (Or maybe it just seems that way because I'm a reformed drunk. Maybe the rest of the world has been being well-behaved and accountable all along and it just requires a higher standard than I or anyone in my sphere ever adhered to.)

But here's the thing. The alternative is so much worse. Essentially, for me anyway, the alternative is to die (at best) or to live an angry, stagnant life, at worst. That's sort of like the situation we have here. Many days, I don't want to do this the way I'm doing it. I don't want to keep trying to figure out how to engage with my kids in a healthy way, how to raise them to be responsible, loving, spiritual beings. It's hard work and it makes me so tired. But what is the alternative? Unthinkable. So, I face another day, doing the next right thing in front of me.

So here's my questions to all you moms out there. How do you do it? What are your secrets for keeping the peace? Keeping your cool? What do you do beyond gritting your teeth and muscling through? I go to therapy. Off I go. Hope to hear your ideas.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Fantasy Explodes into Reality - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I woke up to the sound of my son sobbing twice over the past couple weeks. The second time I cried myself for a few minutes before I went in to console him. I already knew the reason why.

A couple weeks ago, my son lost a tooth completely without least to me. He hadn’t mentioned any loose teeth at all. He hadn’t been wiggling any teeth that I knew of. I was taken by complete surprise when he came home from karate and announced, “Mommy!! I lost another tooth! Quick! We have to tell Nute!!” Nute is my son’s personal Tooth Fairy. He wanted me to e-mail Nute to inform him that he had lost a tooth and request a specific, small gift. The e-mail wasn’t a problem. The gift was a huge problem. I had something similar hidden, which I planned to put under his pillow, but there was absolutely no way I could get the gift my son wanted with such short notice. And my son even added, “If Nute brings me what I want, then I’ll KNOW he’s real!” Ouch. Evidently friends of his with older siblings told his friends that the tooth fairy wasn’t a reality. And I could tell that my son wanted to prove them wrong.

I blame myself for this fiasco I found myself in. Every Mom I know only gives their children money when their children lose a tooth. I love lavishing my son with extra “goodies” whenever an event will allow it. I have him save up his own money to buy items he wants in between holidays and events. But I’m a sucker for my son’s happiness, especially in light of an impending divorce. I know I shouldn’t do it; I should either spend more time with him playing or give him extra attention, (and I usually do). But setting the precedent by giving him small toys as tooth fairy gifts is now not only making me want to kick myself, it forced my son to face reality in a terribly painful way.

Two weeks ago, I heard my son sobbing while I was still in bed. I panicked and raced out of bed and into his room. He was wrapped up with his covers over his head and the toy I had put under his pillow was thrown across the room. I didn’t even have to ask. I sat down next to my son and hugged him, rocking him back and forth. In between sobs, I heard, “Nute is not real!! They told me he wasn’t real and I didn’t believe them (evidently his friends)! But they were right! I hate Nute!! I hate the tooth fairy!!” The pain of reality was almost palpable. I started crying too. How do you apologize for wanting to be a really good Mom?? I tried to convince him that the toy was close to what he wanted and that maybe Nute just couldn’t get exactly what my son wanted? My son sobbed even more, “No!! There IS no Nute!! There IS no Tooth Fairy!! Nute would have gotten me what I wanted if he was real!! He’s not real!! He doesn’t exist!!” I didn’t say a word. I had nothing I could say that would take away his “growing pain.” The pain that every child has to feel eventually. The pain every child has to work through. The pain that slices through a Mother’s heart.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My son and I went to an Easter Carnival with some close friends and their kids. There were Hula Hoop contests and Sack Races, a Magician displayed magic tricks and crafts were available to make foam bunnies or sheep. Considering that it was indoors on a miserable, cold, raining day, it was perfect for our active kids. When the carnival was over and we all went back to my friend’s house. All of the children got into a discussion about what the Easter Bunny would bring them the next day. Knowing that my son is the only child on earth who doesn’t like anything sweet (definitely one of his redeeming qualities), he wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him the same toy that the tooth fairy failed to bring him. Damn! Why hadn’t I bought this toy and had it stashed?? Last year my son was obsessed with these toys called GoGo Crazy Bones. They are each small enough to put into a plastic egg, so I filled some eggs with the GoGos and put in other little trinket type items in some of the other eggs. The Easter Bunny ruled last year!! But what was I going to do this year?? I had nothing small enough to put into plastic eggs for my son. Or did I?

I have a basket that we put all of our spare change in. It is overflowing with pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I counted out five dollars in coins and dispersed them in some plastic eggs! This way my son could get a head start working to save up for the toy he wanted! How clever I was! I filled and arranged a basket and set it out for him to dig through when he woke up! I even included a seed packet of carrot seeds that we could plant because I remembered my son reminding me that we had to buy vegetable plants at the school plant sale that was coming up! I felt that I had redeemed myself after the Tooth Fairy fiasco.

The next morning I again woke to the sound of sobbing coming from my son’s room. I knew exactly why he was crying and I just couldn’t face my son’s pain so soon after his last dose of reality. I stayed in my bed, tears streaming down my own face as I listened to this heart wrenching pain. I finally dried my face and slowly walked into my son’s room. Coins were strewn everywhere. The basket was overturned and the shredded paper was pulled apart and littered the floor. Plastic eggs were among the shreds. My son sat on his bed, tears streaming down his precious face. Again, I had nothing to say. I walked over, sat next to my son and held him. He mumbled, “The Easter Bunny is a fake also.” I asked why. He replied that the Easter Bunny didn’t bring him the toy he wanted either. I halfheartedly tried to convince my son that the Easter Bunny probably gave him enough coins to come close for my son to buy the toy he wanted. I also offered to collect all of the strewn money and give him dollar bills in return. He just shrugged and continued to quietly cry. This time I not only wanted to kick myself, I wanted to give a swift kick to the fabricated Easter Bunny as well!

It’s impossible to avoid the growing pains our children must endure as they mature. If it’s not the Tooth Fairy now, it will be the rejection of a “crush” later on. And it will continue, right into adulthood when your child goes on a job interview, only to receive a call informing them that another candidate was chosen. Our children will survive each of these reality checks. And they will learn how to better cope each time another one comes along. But for a Mother, each of these will feel to her exactly like the first. And a little part of her heart will feel wounded with each “blow.” Many years from now, she even may find herself lying in bed, with tears gently sliding down her face. Almost like the very first time.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Toddler Vocabulary Translations -- by Laura Houston

I don’t understand why some words resonate with toddlers. Like washing machine. I’ve never thought about it, but that’s a fun thing to say. It really gets the mouth muscles moving and there’s a lot of air in it.

Here are some of the things the boys are teaching me about language these days.

Kay-kay = Cookie

Dang-du = Thank You

Daaaaay = Dave/Dad

Mamamamamam = Mom/Now

Manamba = Banana

Abamba = Banana

Balamba = Banana

Banananananana = Banana

Washeen Chamine = Washing Machine

Mick = Milk

Tay-Boh = Table

Ap-Boh = Apple

Ap-Boh = Computer (because of the apple logo on the back)

Whyyyyyyy? = Wyatt

Liar = Lyle

Dop Baning = Stop that banging

Peas = Please

Scheep = Sleep

Kay = Cat/Kitty

Sheesh = Cheese

Sheesh = Shirt

Shoosh = Shoes

Shocks = Socks

Di = Diaper

Mants = Pants

Shows = Cheerios

Binga = Cracker and they are speaking Mandarin here

Emmo = Elmo

What’s dis? = Get me out of my crib

What’s dis? = I like this toy

What’s dis? = I like this food

What’s dis? = Read this book to me

What’s dis? = I just pried the baby gate open

Pay = Play

Ba = Bath

Ba = Bottle

Ba = Sippy cup and it better have milk in it

Ba = Blanket

Stahhhh = I have no idea

Huh–Bow, Huh-Bow = Good job (Mandarin)

Gud-dob = Good job

Uh-oh = Mom’s coming and you’re gonna get it

Wah-day = Water

Go Go Go = We’re going outside

No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no = I protest


No-Kay = Maybe/maybe not

Body = poddy

I body = take a guess

Ne-ah = Sonia (best friend)

Monday, April 25, 2011

From a Child's Eyes—by Jamie Levine

The other afternoon, I took Jayda on a bike ride and, along the way, she stopped and asked me if she could pick some flowers; the flowers to which she was referring were the dandelions strewn across a neighbor’s front yard. I told her she could pick as many of them as she wanted and she quickly raced off and returned with a big bouquet of the pretty weeds. Then, she presented them to me and said, “Mommy—give these to Library Guy!” “Really?” I responded. “You don’t want to give them to someone else—or keep them for yourself?” “No,” she insisted. “Give them to Library Guy, and then he should dance with you—and kiss you.” My daughter, the romantic. She’s clearly been watching a lot of Disney movies lately.

A few nights later, I took Library Guy to see my favorite local funk band, which I haven’t seen play since I became a mother. It was their 25th anniversary concert, and, at the risk of aging myself, I must admit I started going to their shows at least two decades ago. Back in the day, their concerts never started before 10:30 p.m., and, after a long intermission and two music-packed sets, the show would go on until the middle of the night. But this time, the concert was called for 7:30, and while I doubted the band would get on stage by then, I was pleased that it wouldn’t be an all-nighter. Library Guy had gotten a baby-sitter and my parents were watching Jayda, and neither of us was planning to stay out too late. But when the band did go on at 7:30—and played straight through to 10:00, and then said “goodnight,” I was shocked. The show ended earlier than it used to begin.

Library Guy and I lingered for a little while with some friends of mine, and then left the club, only to find a long line of teenagers wrapped around the building; a D.J. was going on at 11:00—and hoards of hipsters were just getting their night started. As we got into his car, Library Guy complained that his ears were ringing; so were mine. He drove me straight home, kissed me goodnight, and when I texted him later from bed saying I was bummed we weren’t together, he complained about his ears again. Afterwards, I called a friend to recount my night; she remembers how much I used to crush on one of the musicians in the band, and how I always raced over to talk to him before a show. I told her that this time, he greeted me, “Hey, Momma!” and gave me a big hug as I responded, “Hey, Daddy.” We both have children now, and, though we did spend a few minutes reminiscing about the past, we mostly talked about how tired we are now, the challenges of parenting, and especially, how much we love our kids. And I happily walked away from him straight into Library Guy’s arms.

The next morning, when I saw Jayda, she asked about my night. I told her Library Guy and I had spent a really fun evening together—and that we’d even danced. “Did he kiss you, too?” Jayda asked. When I told her “yes,” she clapped her hands enthusiastically and grinned from ear to ear. I couldn’t help but smile back. I just wish I could always view the world—and my life—from my child’s sparkling eyes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cyma Shapiro Chats with Children's Author Pam Brooks-Crump

Q: As a midlife mother, yourself, the conception of your new children's book, "Mia Inspired," came to you during a recent inspirational moment. Explain what that moment was and why Mia is represented as a Monarch Butterfly.

A: It was two years ago when I began in earnest to ask within, “What am I wanting to do with the little bit of extra time that I have, now that my children are 9, 13 and 16?” I heard a laser sharp message within me, “Illustrate the book.” Funny thing(s) about this message - I had heard the exact same message with the same clarity five years prior, and this message seemed to be directed at the wrong person. I have an M.B.A. in International Business and I am a “MOM,” not an illustrator or an artist. However, with both trepidation and excitement, I accepted the 2nd call to illustrate the book. As the idea for the book unfolded over the next six months, it became very clear that this book was really my story. I was in the cocoon when I got the first message; I was not ready yet to become a new being with wings to fly. I was scared and my wings were not strong enough to fly. It took five more years of cocooning to be ready with strength, courage, excitement and ‘knowing’ to become the butterfly!

Q: What is the connection between your midlife, your children, and this symbolic creature?

A: I could not have done this book any earlier. For me, the years proceeding this career change were filled with not only my children growing and developing, but my own growth and development. I finally felt comfortable enough in my own skin to listen to an inner guidance, no matter how crazy it sounded.

Q: Does Mia represent you as you are or as you aspire to be?

A: Mia is me! She is all of us! I know now that I will go thru new stages of development and growth where it will be vital to cocoon, nurture, strengthen, summon courage and again stretch and ache to burst out of the cocoon again. This is the incredible, amazing reality of life.

Q: As the mother of children nearly 10 years apart, what has this personal experience brought you?

A: It has taught me to listen to my own guidance and heart. When I had my first child, I was 32 and had a loud “you should” voice. By the time I had my last child, I was 39 and I began to quiet that “you should.” It took more life experience, an intention to grow, and supportive women friends to bring me to this place where I followed my own heart rather than just my mind, what society said or the seemingly easier way.

Q: What has been your greatest midlife mother joy?

A: My greatest joy as a midlife mother is to ‘walk the walk’ and not just ‘talk the talk’ of Mia’s message: follow inner guidance, be patient, summon courage, connect with others, and most of all live your dreams.

Q: What have been your greatest sorrows or the negatives you might feel about mothering at this stage in your life?

A: I am just grateful to be where I am at this point; I would not have done it differently because everything has brought me to where I am now. I know that life is a continual process of growing and learning and discovering new joys and passions.

Q: What do you think about the increasingly popular trend of older or new midlife motherhood?

A: It just makes sense for many women to wait until later, because many of us have goals that we want to obtain before we become moms. For me, these were finishing a Master’s Degree, buying a home, getting some work experience, and traveling with my husband.

Q: What is your next goal?

A: I would like to nurture and grow “Mia Inspired!” in order to help people of all ages embrace the wisdom and guidance that is within us and all that it brings with joy.

Q: As you approach the half-century mark, how do you feel both as a woman and as a midlife mother?

A: I feel awesome! I have a line in the book when Mia sees herself for the first time as a butterfly. She says, “I am lovely and quite amazing!” This is how I feel. I actually say this to myself in my bathroom mirror in the morning before I start my day. Try it, it works wonders for me!

Q: What advice would you give to older mothers who are struggling with issues involving either their personal and/or professional lives.

A: First of all, know that “All is well.” Make an intention like I did for clarity; I wanted to know what it was that I really wanted to be doing. If you ask, it will come; be patient. Also, get support. For me, this happened to be with women in both personal and professional groups. Remember that life is good and that you are precious - quite lovely and amazing!

Pam Brooks-Crump, BS, MIM, and “MOM,” wrote and illustrated “Mia Inspired! A Caterpillar at a Crossroad.” Having graduated from the University of Georgia, in 1983, with a B.A. in French, she subsequently pursued a M.A. in International Management from Thunderbird, The Garbon School of International Management, where she completed three study-abroad programs: two in Paris and one in Mexico. It was there that she experienced the migration of the Monarch butterfly - the journey of her main character in “Mia Inspired!” In 2008, she was led to pursue writing and illustrating children’s picture books, paying tribute to her inner and outer experience and knowledge. “Mia Inspired!” is her first published book. She can be found @

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Wish I Was An Earth-friendly Mom by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

I have always revered the earth, which over the years became a conscious decision to make good choices for the environment. When I lived in New York City, I composted, recycled and bought food with very little packaging. I was also single and lived alone. I always felt good that I usually only had one small grocery bag of garbage once every week or so.

Contrast that to now: I am married with one child. We have the largest recycling container, (the size of a large square rolling garbage can). We also have the same size garbage can. Because we live at a park my husband is actually the one who takes our “curbside” recycling to a city recycling dumpster where it gets picked up. The city garbage truck comes to us and empties the park dumpster which includes our garbage as well.

Regularly, when I deal with garbage and recycling, I have a pang of remorse for what we generate. Since I am not the person in charge of shopping and because my husband does not share my views, we generate more garbage and recycling than I care to admit. The reason this is sad for me—beyond the obvious desire to do right by the environment—is that some of the convenience that my husband has insisted upon directly impacts my life. Paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, floor mop wipes, cleaning wipes, garbage bags, disposable dusters, precooked meals and single serving food are all conveniences that make my life easier. I fight against this convenience in small ways insisting on cloth napkins and china dishes most nights. I usually grab a dish towel for cleaning up spills.

But here’s the drag: when I am tired or the day is especially full of activity (which can be once or twice a week) convenience wins. Open up the prepackaged lasagna that I can cook in the microwave. Sink full of dirty dishes I have not had a moment to wash, grab the paper plates. Laundry’s not done, use the paper napkins. Company's coming, spot mop with the “wet mopping refills” followed by a quick touch up with the cleaning wipes in the bathroom. All these products add up to garbage and help maintain the illusion that I can do it all: work, take care of my family, cook, clean and generally maintain the lifestyle of an overworked mother.

I know there are mothers who have made lifestyle choices that mean they are doing a great deal to keep their garbage to a minimum and have implemented other earth-friendly choices in their life, but what gets to me, is how much prepackaged, disposable products are targeted at mothers and how much those products directly impact mothers’ lives.

From my viewpoint, being a better environmentalist really means changing my lifestyle and slowing down. My husband jokes that I am usually “trying to pack tens pounds of stuff into a five pound bag.” That is my life now, right this minute...we are heading to a birthday party; I am writing this post; I have to get ready myself; and I will be opening the instant oatmeal packet for my daughter’s breakfast before heading out the door in an hour.

It’s hard to see when, where and how I will change, but change is definitely what I want to do. Oh and did mention how little my husband helps with all the mundaneness of making “our” life go. My life looks like most mothers: overfull. I wish I wasn't in conflict with mother earth, but rather in harmony with her. Really we are in the same business of growing life.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Personally Crafting Creative Bedtime Stories for Your Child by M.J. Rusaw

Child-rearing is challenging. Crafting creative bedtime stories for your child is a rewarding way for both you and them to overcome some of those challenges.

There are many advantages to writing and telling bedtime stories. Bedtime stories have happy endings, bring joy, and prepare children for sleep. Importantly, bedtime stories allow a parent to take their child’s hand and with a soothing voice, lead them onto the “magic ground” where they can, through character identification, psychologically process life lessons in a safe and satisfying way. The carefully crafted bedtime story is an excellent tool for moms or dads to convey the views, beliefs and values—the moral of the story—they wish to impart, which goes a long way in pre-empting later conflict (the child acquires ownership of the lesson by prior right), and through narrative dramatization of the lesson, allow their child to experience and retain the lesson emotionally.

Every mom, especially midlife moms with more life experience, have at their pen tips this marvelous device for nurturing and training their children. Why rely on classic folk and fairy tales when you, who know and understand your child better than anyone, can craft specific bedtime stories to entertain, inspire and emotionally satisfy your family? It’s not as hard as you may believe.

Here's some tips:

• Create a central character your child can identify with. The spark of the Divine lives in each of us; a hero lives in every heart. When we connect our hearts we connect our heroes. Create a central character your child can connect with from the heart—hero to hero. Pay particular attention to the central character’s “Cardinal Quality”, or the quality we see when we first meet the character which defines the character throughout the story—Cinderella’s graciousness, for example.

• Select a theme—the moral of the story—you wish to dramatize in the story, being careful to write “the moral in the story”, rather than writing the moral of the story in an obvious way.

• Select a location. This is the “magic ground” of the story which governs its operation on a conscious level. This is the world in which theme and central character work. Like character identification, location, though it may be fantastic, should be crafted with familiar features to foster identification and deepen your child’s emotional experience.

• Craft your narrative around your central character, theme and location. The narrative element of the story is the dramatization of the whole story which transforms it into an emotional experience for your child, ultimately bringing him or her to “the sudden turn”, which brings the happy ending. Through narrative, we unfold the moral in the story.

• Write the ending of your story first, paying particular attention to “the sudden turn”, the moment when the story turns in the favor of the central character—after suffering difficulties and overcoming them through his or her own efforts (with maybe a little supernatural help from fairy godmother). Next, write the beginning, introducing the central character, the location and central conflict. Lastly, write the middle, dramatizing the central character’s struggle to overcome the conflict and achieve his or her story goal. With each failure show first the character’s emotional reaction followed by their intellectual reaction and recommitment to the goal.

• Finally, from introduction, through difficulties, to the happy ending, show how the central character changes. The central character must change (possess the moral of the story) and “return with transcendent truth” to live happily ever after. As a Mom, you don’t need to be a Hemingway or a J. K. Rowling to craft a compelling, joyful bedtime story for your child, simply connect your heroes and connect your hearts. The rewards are priceless.

M. J. Rusaw is the author of the fantasy epic The Tides of Eternity. He wrote the epic for his daughter, Rheannon, over a nine year period while she was growing up. He endeavored to inspire her to the heroic virtues of faith, hope and love. Rheannon was richly satisfied by her story—a hero lives in her heart. M. J. loves Deborah, his bride. They also have two sons and two grandchildren. The Tides of Eternity is available at in paperback and on kindle. For more information visit

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011


If you want a treat that the whole family will enjoy, then you must see the production, “MADAGASCAR LIVE” and become immersed in this highly creative venue. For the first time, DreamWorks Theatricals and Broadway Across America are bringing “MADAGASCAR LIVE,” the first-ever live family touring show to Radio City Music Hall, in New York City, and later to over 70 cities across the United States throughout this year! For those of you who remember watching Madagascar, the movie, you will recall the cast of characters who made the movie such a success. A brand new stage show, aimed at family audiences, stars the cast of popular characters from the beloved “Madagascar” film series, which include Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo and members of the madcap Madagascar crew, King Julien and the crafty Penguins.

This widely successful production, popular across audiences of all ages, adapts the original story and brings it to new life in this 90-minute stage show. Audience members are transported from the Central Park Zoo to the wild of Madagascar. In addition to featuring everyone’s favorite characters,“MADAGASCAR LIVE” takes the audience on an action packed adventure with an imaginative set, costume and puppet design, magnificent singing and dancing, and of course, everyone’s favorite hit song, “Move It, Move It,” for an experience the entire family will enjoy.

My son (age 7) and I had the opportunity to not only see the show, but were also invited to experience the Radio City Stage Door Tour, interact with King Julien and even meet an actual Rockette! It was exciting to learn about the architecture and design of Radio City Music Hall, see photos of the legendary Rockettes from their origin in 1932 to present day, and finally encounter and take photos with one of the real Rockettes. But of course, for the children, meeting King Julien off stage was the biggest treat! With gifts and stickers to go around for Madagascar questions answered correctly, no one was left empty handed! The tour guides were also extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and kept the tour group in suspense every step of the way!

Once seated, the audience was engaged from the start. Between the story line, interspersed with delightful singing and dancing, both my son and I were overjoyed. My son sat mesmerized by the show. And, of course, all of the children were singing and dancing when the cast sang, “Move It, Move It!” The audience interaction by the youngsters made this aspect of the production even more of a pleasure! It almost made me want to get out of my seat and, “Move It!”

The creative team for “MADAGASCAR LIVE” includes: director, Gip Hoppe; assistant director and choreographer, Jenn Rapp; writer, Kevin Del Aguila and music/lyrics, Joel Someillan and George Noriega. The performers include Nigel Jamaal Clark (“Marty”), Rob Marnell (“Alex”), David Perlman (“Melman”), Aurelia Williams (“Gloria”), Drew Hirschfield, (“King Julian”), and Darren Lorenzo (“Maurice”).  istant Director & Choreographer

“MADAGASCAR LIVE” will be performing 18 shows at Radio City Music Hall beginning April 15 through April 24. Tickets for the general public are on sale now by calling 866.858.0008, online at or in-person at the Radio City Music Hall box office. For groups, please call 212.465.6080. Members of Motherhood Later can get 50% off select tickets with code EM412.

For more information about “MADAGASCAR LIVE,” visit or on Facebook (

This is one show you and your family won’t want to miss!


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Small Spaces for Closer Families -- by Laura Houston

Tuesday April 19th

We started house hunting recently. We were looking up in Westchester, which is just north of New York City. Good schools. High taxes. And a little more room to breathe. But the search has not been easy. We don’t want a big house. After living in 1300 square foot apartment, we have found that we rarely use most of the space we have because we would rather be out looking at stuff and doing stuff. So it doesn’t seem that tall of an order to find a house that offers the right kind of space. But Westchester is over populated with McMansions. The houses have living rooms, family rooms, dens, home offices, bonus rooms and play rooms. A place for the adults. A place for the kids.

It sounds like a great idea, but in the end, is it really? Isn’t it better for the kids to know you are close by? Super close by? Within an arm’s reach away should they decide to do something stupid, dangerous or devious, which some kids are known to do? And then when they are teenagers, isn’t it even more important to keep a look out. Think about that. What kid hasn’t stayed up way too late texting, talking on their cell phone, IMing, or trolling Facebook?

When I was 12, I made it a regular practice of sneaking out of the house once my parents were asleep. My exit was a safe distance from my parent’s room. It would almost be impossible for them to hear me. I got away with it every time. My kids are less likely to get away with it if I can hear them or see them.

Kid monitoring aside, it’s a challenge for me to find a balance between space and privacy. I like having rooms, but I prefer them to be small. Back on our farm we had a cavernous master bedroom. You could play racquetball in there. Here in New York our small bedroom also serves as my home office and a laundry room. We spend only about 20 waking minutes a day in this room. It is, in our opinion, a waste of space.

There are two rooms that answer my concerns for privacy and togetherness: the kitchen and the bathroom. I want a big kitchen. I want it to be a gathering place for friends and family. I don’t want a formal dining room. Just give me a big Italian kitchen where pots and pans, a long, informal table surrounded by mismatched, comfortable chairs, a big bowl of fruit, and tattered cookbooks bring us together.

Then I need a large master bathroom with my own entry code on the door. This bathroom will flourish with light and air. A toilet will hide itself behind closed doors with a powerful fan lurking above, and a roomy shower shows off enough shelves for eight different shampoos, two kinds of body wash, bar soaps, razors, and more. There will also be a large tub, a skylight and a window. A stereo wouldn’t hurt either.

The rest of the house can be small. Think about how much money this will save us. We won’t need a gargantuan TV because we’ll be sitting right there. We won’t need a sofa play pit, more tables and chairs, extra pictures on the walls and big rugs. And we won’t have to pay a small fortune to heat the place either.

I used to dream of having a big house with lots of room to roam. Now I know a big house only means more to clean, more to pay for, and more to keep us apart. So our house hunt is on hold for now. We’re going to take a closer look at what we want and where we want to invest our money, time and family. And we’ll see where we land next.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Surviving Spring Break—by Jamie Levine

My boyfriend, Library Guy, who doesn’t go on too many play dates with his boys, is constantly amazed by the social schedule that Jayda and I lead. The other day, he blurted out, “these play dates are for you—not Jayda!” and I agreed that he was partially right. Both my daughter and I are very social creatures; we both like to talk a lot, and we both have a pretty vast and varied circle of friends with whom we like to spend time. We’re both also quite busy with school and other weekly obligations, like Jayda’s Sunday school and dance classes, and my dedication to the gym. And so, I’ve become a zealous scheduler in order to keep our social lives rich and thriving; it makes us both happy.

Because Jayda’s barely four years old, play dates are a mutual effort for us—I can’t just drop her off at a friend’s house, so I make sure her friends have mommies with whom I want to be friends, and so far, that plan has worked well for us. I’m always happy to have a cup of coffee and a nice chat, or on occasion, even a glass of wine, with one of my mommy-friends while Jayda plays with one of her friends. We both get to exercise our social muscles, and come out of the play date thriving. But keeping us busy—and in synch with our other social-and-often-quite-busy friends—takes a bit of work. Fortunately, I’m a planner—and an extrovert—so I know how to make things happen.

A month ago, as spring break loomed ahead on my calendar, I started plotting. I thought about friends whom I wanted to see—and asked Jayda for her wish list, too—and then I sent out a flurry of emails and made a bunch of phone calls. The result is a friend-filled, fun-filled, event-packed week of entertainment for the both of us. And while we’re both looking forward to it—it’s potentially exhausting, too.

Yesterday, a day we had both been happily anticipating for weeks, turned out to be a wonderful one—until late in the day. We started out at the gym: Jayda played in the daycare while I worked out, and then she and I wandered around the gym floor saying “hello” to all the people whom we knew. Then, we raced off to a play date with a school friend of hers whose mom I befriended recently, and have been anxious to spend time with and get to know better. The afternoon was so enjoyable we stayed at their house for almost four hours—and then raced home for a pre-Passover sedar my mother was cooking. We’d invited other good friends to that dinner, and on the ride home, Jayda and I discussed how excited we both were to see them. The first part of the evening was great—but then Jayda had a melt-down; too much sugar and stimulation transformed my little princess into a teary, tantruming, over-sensitive monster who clearly needed to go to bed. But because there was a houseful of people—including our dear friends—she stayed up later than I would have liked and went into over-drive. And her melt-down led to my melt-down…and an overscheduled day gone awry. Did I plan too much for us? Is the week ahead filled with potential problems? Maybe. But when I was finally able to force Jayda’s head down on her pillow (and in exasperation, hissed “go to sleep!”), my little girl looked at me and said in a soft voice, “Mommy—I had a great day!” And I answered back—and meant it—“so did I, Jayda. So did I.” Social creatures need to be social; it keeps us sane. And if it makes us a tired, too, so be it; we can sleep when we’re done.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Take Time to Smell the Roses by Dr. Susan Bartell

It’s April and spring has finally sprung! The sun is shining and flowers, bursting with color, are pushing up through the warming ground. Life is insanely busy, but for just two minutes go ahead and jump off the merry-go-round and take a deep breath. Appreciate nature’s miraculous offerings of the season. Now, do you think you can do this for a couple of minutes every day? I’d like you to try it!

It’s so easy to get caught up in our busy, aggravating, stressful and sometimes even mundane lives that we don’t always take the time to appreciate the beauty in our children; nor do we take the time to teach them to appreciate the positive in their own lives.

To begin your daily two minutes of reflection, ask yourself this question:

“As a parent, what am I most grateful about today?” Is it the sweet kiss that you got as you left for work? That, just this once, your teenager didn’t argue with you? That siblings helped each other with homework?

Some days the answer will come easily to you, in fact you may have a long list that makes you feel grateful. However, on more stressful parenting days, feeling appreciative of your child may be somewhat more challenging. These are the days it is most important to stop for a moment to ask yourself the question AND then really search until you find a meaningful answer. Doing so will help you keep a clear perspective on what is most important in your life as a parent. No matter how upset, angry or frustrated you may be right now, you can find the beauty in your relationship with your child when you stop and look for it. You simply have to take the time to stop and do so.

This is also an important skill to teach your child. Begin by helping him ask himself the following question each night before going to sleep:

“What was the best thing about today?” Was it that we had outdoor recess? Am I happy because I made a new friend? Did I have my favorite lunch? Did the teacher give me a compliment? Did I get my homework done really quickly?

Of course, as with parents, kids will have an easier time on some days than on others finding the ‘best’ in their day. If it was a difficult day, it will be harder for your child to find the good in it. This is when it is most important for you to help your child find something positive about the day—don’t accept ‘nothing’ for an answer!

You probably realize that being a good parent is hard work largely due to regular challenges from the very child you are trying to raise! So take a little time each day to appreciate the true beauty in your child (and also teach your child this skill). This will help melt away the frustrations you may feel as you go through the tough parts!

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

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Til Death Do Us Part by Sharon O'Donnell

In the past month, I've been to three funerals -- all parents of my friends. I guess this is the age when this starts to happen, but it is rude awakening. Death and funerals are certainly sad events, but there is a certain side of death that can be mildly amusing when looked at from a certain perspective.

When my husband Kevin and I were engaged, I realized that although he wasn’t quick to make decisions on purchases, other family members of his were more impetuous. A few months after Kevin’s father died in 1986, we were eating dinner at his sister and brother-in-law’s house when the topic of the cost of cemetery plots came up. His sister informed us that she had bought extra plots at the time of Kevin’s father’s death because they had gotten a good deal. “We went ahead and bought a plot for each of us,” his sister said. “Five of ‘em.” I looked around and suddenly realized I was one of five people in the room. Whoa, what a second. Did she buy me a plot, too? I wasn’t even married into the family yet. I’m all for southern hospitality, but this was a bit extreme. I should’ve spoken up right then, but I couldn’t open my mouth because the news was too shocking. I mean I like to feel accepted into the family and all, but I kind of preferred to discuss arrangements for the rehearsal dinner before we discussed the after-life. I hadn’t even said the “I do” part yet, and already they had me dead and buried.

“They had a sale,” she explained, shrugging, smiling at me, like it was a two for one buy on ground chuck roast at the grocery store. Eternity beside his family. I glanced at the engagement ring on my finger. It had never occurred to me to ask about burial arrangements before I’d said ‘yes’. I don’t think they mentioned that in my “How to Plan a Wedding” book.

Yes, we still have those plots; I guess looking back on it, buying them was a good decision. I still plan to be buried because I like the thought of my sons and grandkids coming to my grave to perhaps feel a connection to me that they wouldn’t feel anywhere else. And of course, they can put flowers beside my tombstone on Mother’s Day and my birthday (okay, guys?). Kevin, however, has decided to be cremated. I know many people prefer this these days, and it’s growing in popularity. But I’ve always had a bit of a problem with cremation because I dwell on the act of burning, and it’s hard for me to fathom. When he told me of his cremation decision, I reminded him that when I give him a compliment like, “That sweater looks good on you,”, his usual droll reply is, “Bury me in it.” If he really wanted to be cremated, then why would he repeatedly say that? “That’s just a phrase,” he explained. “It doesn’t mean I really want to be buried.” I told him that was only confusing the issue.

Others are okay with cremation, and that’s fine. I’d just really rather it not be my husband. I’d sort of always thought we’d be buried side by side like my grandparents who were married for 65 years. My own parents, married now for 62 years, have already met with the funeral home and planned their own funerals and burials. I remember the day several years ago when the two of them came home from the cemetery after making their ‘arrangements’. “The music on that organ over there was a little bit too loud,” Mama said, “so you might want to tell the organist to play softer at my funeral.”

I tilted my head sideways and looked at my mother, pondering her bizarre comment. “Did you really just say that?” I asked. I know it makes sense to plan ahead, but her matter-of-fact attitude – like she was reminding me to ask for extra cheese on a pizza -- really threw me for a loop. When the conversation disintegrated into talking about the interior linings of caskets, I had to leave the room. It’s okay to plan, but let’s not debate the fabric choices over lunch.

One of the problems with having Kevin be cremated is that if he goes before I do, I’d have to keep up with the dang urn of ashes. What if something happened to it? My good friend’s father was cremated, and her family kept the urn in a closet until they decided what to do with the ashes. That wouldn’t work at my house – I’m known for losing things, and I don’t want the pressure of having to keep up with someone’s remains. Instead of “Guys, have you seen my glasses?”, it’d be “Guys, have you seen Dad’s ashes?” “They were here last week, I swear!” That’s just too much responsibility for me.

A Shout Out For Perseverance by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Recently, I had two appointments with a “spiritual coach.” A woman whom I know through my film work. I knew that she did other things besides acting and one day I bumped into her card on my desk. It was in a basket and I sifted passed it as I was looking for another little piece of paper. Since I am at a place where I am feeling the rejection of not yet having my short film accepted into any of the biggy film festivals where I submitted, six rejects so far...I have been feeling a little deflated. And having an English course not make this semester, I have also been struggling to keep a head of my portion of the family expenses. Just a little beat up is how I am feeling these days.

After my second appointment (which she let me do at a very much reduced rate) she told me I needed to watch Finding Nemo. So I put that on my list of “to do”s. Lucky for me my five year old kept asking to watch it after I brought it home. So the beauty of this site, Motherhood Later, is that most readers will be somewhat familiar with Finding Nemo, possibly having watched in the very recent past, say...maybe last night or last week even. Or maybe the movie is irrevocably burned into their memory center since it was played an inordinate number of times as a favorite movie. It’s easy to see how this might happen with the catchy music and brightly colored animation that children so love.

I had seen if before, but I don’t remember when or why. So my daughter and I watched it. If ever there was a movie about perseverance this is it. The father’s search for Nemo and his task to overcome obstacles and his own fear of the unknown was inspiring. Nemo himself is brave and also inspiring, but at this moment on my own personal journey, the father for obvious reasons is where my mind rested. Thinking of my process to change careers and fully embrace my dream to make money doing what I love—writing and making films—is proving an arduous task fraught with many internal obstacles, not the least of which is believing I can do it...meaning make money at it.

The thing that is most intense is being a mid-lifer stuck in the middle of this tight economy. Before I was a wife and mother, I never hurt for work. Now in the last five years I am “over the proverbial hill” and struggling in ways I could never have fathomed. Anyway, watching Finding Nemo reminded me that if I just keep plugging away in my process no matter how slowly I will eventually get to my end goal of supporting myself as a writer and filmmaker. It was a fifteen year journey before I got myself into and through film school. And now, I do have a unique short film to show for it. A film I really love and that I am very happy to have made. It is my vision.

So in an attempt to “keep swimming, just keep swimming’’ I have decided to let folks see my work on my Vimeo site. It is a moment of being brave and throwing myself into the big blue ocean. Maybe someone will see my work and realize that they have a project that I could do for them. Or maybe a few comments of encouragement will come my way. The journey is long and fraught with danger, mostly imagined. Also I am not swimming in my home turf of NYC, but rather very deep into unknown waters of rural Arizona. I don’t just bump into potential clients. The WAHM situation is always tough, but all the more difficult when finding work. It's not like so many little morsels of work can be plucked at will. So if any reader wanted to check out my work then head over to Vimeo. My student assignment is less than three minutes. The fundraising video is a seven minute investment (my first scriptwriting project ever.) And, my short film, entitled A Blue Uncertain Buzz, is a 13 minute investment in time, but be prepared for crying. It is intense and emotional. Click the link (Maureen Eich VanWalleghan) or paste into the browser bar.

Here's to swimming deeper into the unknown. Think of Ellen DeGeneres here, singing: "I am just going to keep swimming, keep swimming, keep writing, keep writing, keep working, keep working." My dream to become a WAHM working as a writer and filmmaker can happen...I'm just not sure how long it will take to actualize that.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

A Trip Down Nannny Memory Lane by Robin Gorman Newman

Seth's former nanny called.  It's been nearly three years since she left.

We were in the middle of eating dinner in the kitchen, so the answering machine (on speaker)  picked up, and I was stunned (we were all stunned) to hear the words "This is Eunice....."  She went on to say timidly that she'd been thinking about Seth, had wanted to send a birthday card but misplaced our address, so decided to swallow her pride and pick up the phone.

I was going to jump in and grab the receiver, but I was so taken aback and didn't want to interrupt our family meal (it's not too often we get to all sit down together, and my dad was visiting).  She asked that I call her back, yet she didn't leave her number (I still had it on my cell.).

She was always loving and devoted to Seth....and honest.  These are important things when you take someone in to live with you.  She spent nearly five years dwelling in our less than swanky basement, caring for Seth from age 8 months to close to 5 years.  She was dependable (for the most part), and she became a friend to me. We had many close conversations, and she got to know all of us, including my senior dad who frequently stays over when his aide goes home weekends.

On the challenging side, Eunice didn't take good care of her health.  She had scary high blood pressure (and would sometimes forget to take her pills or run out), and asthma (including bouts of misplacing her inhaler, only to inform me the morning after that she almost died during the night until she got her hands on it.). 

This was all worrisome, to say the least. Here was a woman we hired to watch our son, and help with light housework and occasional cooking, yet ultimately, I started to feel like her caretaker.  I grew more and more ill at ease with the situation, and things came to a head one Friday. 

Eunice informed me that she had yet again made an appointment to visit her clinic, and it was on a Monday.  She knew that Monday was my standing gym appointment, yet she persisted in going that day of the week.  I suggested she make her appointment on a Friday, and she got all flustered and upset, accusing me of not showing concern for her health.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I was glad to see her taking action, but it impacted my workout schedule with a trainer that wasn't flexible.

We wound up having a heated argument, and she left.  We did intend to let her go in a few months due to our plan to do major construction in our basement, but we never anticipated things would come to a head as they did.  It was a big disappointment.  She left in such a rage that she barely said goodbye, despite our giving her a generous severance (which we scrambled to provide...quickly ran to the bank....since this was not planned).

So, when Eunice called, all these thoughts came flooding back.  But, since three years had passed, I wasn't harboring any ill feelings. In fact, I felt sorry for her at the time, leaving without another job. 

What was interesting to me was that when I returned her call, and we got past the initial awkwardness,  I found myself falling back into the familiar.  I appreciated hearing her voice and respected the interest she was once again taking in my family, asking about all of us.  There was something comforting about it.  It felt genuine.  I even put Seth on the phone to say hi....though he's not much of a phone conversationalist.  I invited her to visit us, if she wanted to make the trek from Brooklyn, as she used to.  She said she'd like that.  She wants to see Seth again, and I am curious how Seth will react to her.  We'll see if she makes it over here.  I'll always hold a fond place in my heart for Eunice.  She was there for us during a time when childrearing felt like unchartered territory.  She was there during the potty training struggles, diaper changing, walking, etc....many a milestone.....much of which almost feels like another lifetime ago when Seth was that young.  It went by in a flash.

As a mom who doesn't have a mom, Eunice made me know that I wasn't alone, and there was a lot to be said for that.  We've never had any parental or family help, so having a nanny was the way to go for us.  I'm grateful that we were in a position to afford childcare, and I'm grateful for the fact that we chose a kind, big-hearted person to embrace Seth particularly in his younger years.  Kids can never get enough love, and moms deserve to be supported in any way possible.

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