Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quitting being a Quitter by Laura Houston

When it comes to being a mother, your first and natural source of inspiration, wisdom, and technique comes from your own mother. For me, this is a terrifying realization. My mother, who wanted to be a good mother more than anything else in the world, doesn’t measure up to what most mental health professionals would define as a good mother. She’s has the emotional maturity of an eight-year old. This is not an exaggeration, and it is not said to be mean spirited. This is the age my mother lost her mother. And so her maternal learning stopped. So did her emotional growth.
I get this. And I have great compassion for my mother in this regard. I feel sorry for her. She still talks about the pain to this day. Seventy years later. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her, and I wish it could have been different for her. And I wish she would have sought counseling in order to grow and move forward from this tragedy.
But as an adult, I have to set those emotions aside and take a look at what hand I was dealt, and then make a decision on how to best play it. My mother accidentally taught her children to embrace mediocrity. Although she wanted us to make straight As in school and be top athletes so she had bragging rights to the neighbors, she was more than willing to let us quit, fail, stop, halt, or regress whenever we wanted.
Because she wanted us to love her so badly that she would not enforce anything on us that might later cause resentment or alienation.
And you can guess what happened. I resent her. Yes. I do. And I moved 2,000 miles away to achieve the safety of estrangement from her.
I learned from my mother’s parenting style that follow through was unimportant. Therefore, I am a quitter. I have very little will power, almost no discipline, and it takes all of my effort to conger up motivation to do things that lean towards excellence.
I brought this conduct with me from childhood, and I take full responsibility for my inability to un-do the behavior. Yet. I am working on it.
So this week I hit a wall. I hit a wall in parenting. And I fell into the old, comfortable patterns of quitterhood. I find myself letting the boys watch TV way more than they should. Even worse, I am not getting on the floor with them like I used to. Once I heard them count to ten and sing their ABCs, I quit working with them every day. I stopped the reinforcement. The attention. The fun.
It’s like I hit a moniker and call it good. I did this with my dog when I trained him. Together we went through six months of obedience and then some agility. He was a fine, well behaved, attentive dog anyone could be proud of. And then I quit working with him because I figured we were done. And, yes, he started slipping. And, no, I didn’t get it or move to stop it.
I did this with my fitness and health, too. I ran a half marathon. Two of them. Never have I felt so good…so high for so many days. And then I quit running.
Sometimes it seems as if in my life I get out my checklist and start checking away. I gather the freshest, finest, smartest ingredients and then never bother to make the meal. In the back of my head I say to myself that this is good enough. Mediocre is just fine. Average is OK.
But this sort of philosophy and behavior do NOT belong in parenting. Take a look at my dog. He knows what to do and how to behave, and he chooses not to because he knows I have no follow through. He knows I am lazy. He knows my intent does not manifest itself into action.
This is the part in my maternal epiphany where I go screaming out of the apartment in search of a girlfriend. Another parent. Someone to talk to. Or if I am really, really, really lucky my friend Melissa perchance comes over and breathes new light into the darkness of my tired, mothering heart. She makes my boys laugh the way I used to. Yeah. Um. That kind of hurts.
But I need a good, swift kick in the ass sometimes. And I am happy to do it myself.
So parenting takes me on and gives me another round of humility. I know what the lesson is. Now it is time for me to quit being a quitter. So I am going to close my laptop, get out the color books and number books and alphabet toys and get on the floor with my boys. I am going to tickle them. I will read them the story about Nigel the sheep for the 100th time, and I will do it with vim and vigor.
Tomorrow, I’ll get up and do it again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until they are 18-years old. Yes. No. I won’t quit on them. I won’t. I can’t. I won’t.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Alone-Time vs. Lonely-Time—by Jamie Levine

Ever since Jayda was born, I haven't stopped moving. Well, technically, I was parked on the couch quite a bit during the first few months of my daughter’s life, when I was nursing her every two to three hours, but since I wasn't producing enough milk, and had to pump constantly in between feeding my baby, I was far from relaxed. When my maternity leave ended, I commuted 50 minutes into the city every day to my full-time job, and when I was laid off a couple of years later, I spent every moment possible networking, lunching, and schmoozing like crazy to snatch up any freelance project I could find—while still juggling play dates galore, and taking care of everything else a single parent needs to take care of on a daily basis. Then, a year and a half ago, I returned to college, and on top of my freelance work and mommy duties, I had three classes to ace every semester. I managed to secure a 4.0 GPA, and even spent last summer taking one class and preparing for the GREs. I also work out religiously, devote ample time to my friendships, and, last fall, dove into an intense romantic relationship. I'm not trying to win any "mom of the year" or "superwoman" awards here…but I’m just pointing out that as much as I've craved it, I never have alone-time. Or time to relax. Ever. Until now.

This fall, I’ll begin an intense graduate school program that runs year-round for two years, and now that my undergraduate finals are over, I’m finished with school until September. I'm still freelancing, but haven't secured as much work as I'd like to lately, and Jayda's in school full-time until the end of June. Then, she’ll be in camp three full days days a week for eight weeks. Originally, I'd planned to spend some of my free days with Library Guy (who is home this summer, too, and put his kids on a similar camp schedule), but we all know that's not an option now. So, I have free time. Tons of it. And while I know I'll kick myself in the fall if I haven't thoroughly enjoyed my free time and used it to it's fullest potential, right now all those empty days looming ahead scare the heck out of me. At a time in my life when I need to keep busy to keep myself from feeling lonely, I have oodles of hours to spend by myself. Isn’t it ironic?

I already work out 60-90 minutes a day, so bumping up my gym-time isn’t really the answer. And while I’m dying to curl up with a good, cheesy romance—or even ten of them—instead of a text book for a change, I can’t fill my whole summer with reading. Or movies. Or, shopping for that matter, since I’m trying to save money. Yes, I do have a number of projects to do around the house, and there’s always food shopping and laundry, and other domestic obligations, which can fill up a few hours…but is that really a way to embrace a summer I’ve been looking forward to all year-long? I think not.

Before I had Jayda, I was always solo. Sure, I had a slew of wonderful girl friends on whom I could always lean, but I never had a steady male companion. I lived alone, took care of myself, and entertained myself—often going to movies and attending social events on my own. I even traveled the world solo—making friends wherever I went, but refusing to “wait around” for a partner so I could live my life to its fullest. So what’s stopping me now? And why am I feeling so lonely and afraid? Maybe it's because it took me so long to find someone to share my life with, and I know being a singleton just isn't as fulfilling. And while I can serial date with the best of 'em, finding something that sticks isn't so easy. But that's a fact of life—or at least my life. And for better—or worse—it looks like I’m going to have a long summer ahead of me to figure out how to deal with it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Manhattan Theatre Club's new show Cradle And All seeks to answer the age old question "TO BREED OR NOT TO BREED?"

Annie and Nate have a baby who won't sleep. Claire and Luke are losing sleep over the decision to get married and start a family. In adjacent Brooklyn Heights apartments, playwright Daniel Goldfarb's (Sarah, Sarah; Modern Orthodox) newest look at love, sex, commitment and parenthood unfolds.

Tony nominee Maria Dizzia (In the Next Room) and Greg Keller (Uncle Vanya) star as both couples in this world premiere production, directed by Tony nominee Sam Buntrock (Sunday in the Park with George).

Dizzia and Keller have a good chemistry and are very appealing in their respective roles.  Dizzia brought to mind a bit of actress Mary Louise Parker who I have long admired on stage and television.

The format of the show is clever. Act I features Dizzia as 40 something "cougar" aspiring mom Claire with a high consciousness of embarking on her fourth decade of life yearning for more. She admits to her 34 year old live-in love, Luke, of five years, that back in her 20s, she had an abortion when she opted for a film part over parenthood with her old boyfriend Raul.  Since then, her career as an actress has not taken off as she  hoped, and she longs anxiously for a child. Luke, taken aback by this confession, does some sharing, including wanting to make it on his own professionally.  Clearly they are not on the same page, and you're left not quite sure what transpires with them as a couple.

During the course of Act I, Nate (a neighbor in their building) with an 11 month old crying child Olivia, knocks on their door to borrow an egg.  In Act II, we meet Nate, an actor whose career is less than stellar at the moment, and his wife Annie, a stay at home mom, who are caught up in the challenging throes of parenting, missing how things used to be. They spend a long, torturous evening (Nate's attempt at stress relief is baking his famous chocolate chunk cookies, using the borrowed egg), as they are guided on the computer by an expert hired to teach them to enable their screeching daughter to sleep on her own.  Each experiences their share of frustration, and sex becomes an ultimate topic of discussion, as they attempt to rekindle their pre-parenthood passion.

Each Act features an actor whose career is not what it could be, and the line "I will be really hurt and upset if you walk away right now," establishing the parallel between the couples. Act II was the more entertaining of the two, offering both wit and insight.

There are no great relevations in the tales, but you will relate, whether you are contemplating parenthood or adjusting to it.  And, it makes for a validating girls night out with moms of  young children who will appreciate the break from their parenting routine and no doubt recognize the sentiments and humor captured with dead on candor by Goldfarb. 

Where: City Center, 131 W 55th Street, betweeh 6th and 7th Avenues, NYC

To get discounted $60 tix:
Visit NYCITYCENTER.ORG and use code 7554 or call CityTix at 212-581-1212 and use code CRA

When:  The show runs through June 19th.  Tues at 7 pm, Wed-Sat at 8 pm, Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm

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GUEST BLOG POST: The Spiritual Path of Parenting by Vimala McClure

An entirely different picture of "family" is emerging. Most of the paradigms we have developed over the last millennium are no longer viable. Because our family structures, our values, and our experience of family will continue to change, it is particularly important for us to understand that being a good parent and raising healthy, responsible children requires us to be grounded in the deeper meaning of the role of parent. We need to be able to change beyond what may now seem possible to us, and the only way to achieve that is to develop a firm rooting in the spiritual dimension of parenthood.

What I know without any doubt is that bringing everything I came here with, every iota of strength and wisdom, every drop of love and loyalty, everything I have to the task, the mission, and the gift of bringing up two souls to live their own lives and fulfill their destinies is the most important thing I have ever done, or ever will do. I don't expect this singularity of purpose from others, but because of it I have been able to pay close attention to the dynamics, the secrets, the lessons of real parenthood -- much more closely, I believe, than many academic experts who observe interactions in artificial environments and offer theories on what is healthy or correct in formulas that rarely work. What I attempt to do, rather, is to go deeper into the idea that parenthood is a mission, however large or small a part it plays in my life. From that perspective, everything I think about parenthood changes. It is no longer a series of problems to be solved. It is, instead, an important part of my personal growth and my spiritual path.

Where there is pain there is tension, and that tension creates more pain. Therefore, tension is the opposite of relaxation, probably the most important quality we can develop as parents. When we apply relaxation to pain, it diminishes. Underneath tension is its root -- fear. This is the key, the essence of the spiritual discipline of yielding; the release of fear. Fears and worries assail us at every point along the path of parenting.

If you are beginning on that path, let me tell you the truth: it never ends! Until the day we die, our children will produce, in a never-ending stream, the triggers that create anxiety in us. Some of these fears and worries are justified — such as the toddler who wobbles toward an electrical outlet. But most of our worries are neither justified nor helpful.

How we handle our fears determines how they impact our relationship with our children. Our intuition, if it is strongly developed, will help us understand what is truly worth worrying about and what is not. Much of what we concern ourselves with, especially with our first baby, is not really worth the tension and anxiety we create. Try to cultivate your own relationship with your Higher Power, so that you have a "parent" to guide you and to which you can take your worries before you manifest them unnecessarily.

We can't predict our children's lives or destinies, and if we love them we will always be there, accepting and validating them. We will be better parents, healthier role models, and happier people if we learn how to relax. One Tibetan master described it as "letting your mind sink into your heart." Fear hardens us as we try to hold on to the familiar. If we are fearful, we want to stop the flow of time and change. But the cessation of change is called death.

Yielding to the flow of change is essential for life. Acting out of fear, our inner "juice" slowly dries up and, like a dead tree, we are easily broken. If we wish to continue to be full of life, we must learn to relax and yield, to flow. Like the young tree, we will be flexible and strong, ever growing, with abundant youthful energy. If we cannot relax, we cannot listen to and truly hear our children, and we miss their messages, misinterpret their needs and wishes, and lose touch with who they truly are.

Acceptance is the hallmark of many Eastern teachings. To let tension go without effort, become aware of tension and accept it. This is an example of Taoist "doing by not doing." If we worry, we tense up and restrict the flow of chi or vital energy. Let go and breath deeply to enhance the flow and allow yourself to accept things as they are.

Author Melodie Beattie says, "Acceptance is the magic that makes change possible." We are able to make the space for change if we accept and validate what is. From this place, for our children, we can be blank slates, mirrors upon which they can test their truths and know that what will come back is acceptance and validation. Working with our children goes on forever. Our children are our spiritual teachers. Who knew!

VIMALA MCCLURE is the author of The Tao of Motherhood. She’s also the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Based on the book The Tao of Motherhood: 20th Anniversary Edition © 2011 by Vimala McClure. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. http://www.newworldlibrary.com/

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Impact of Losing a Friend by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Recently I had a falling out with a friend. And now my daughter, who considers this person a friend, is impacted too. At dinner last week, I was trying to explain something about the situation to my husband and I ended up saying that this person didn’t want to be my friend any more. My daughter then asked if the woman was still her friend and I said yes because I didn’t want my daughter to be sad about the situation.

What a drag that this really stupid adult situation can impact my child. My daughter doesn’t see this person a lot, but the woman works at the college where I work. At times my daughter and I used to drop my her office together. My daughter is a very social and loving person. This situation is unexpected and if I wasn’t a mother I would probably feel less sensitive about it. Recently, my daughter wanted to make a pot holder for the friend, which we did, but the gift hadn’t been given before this incident.

I’ve tried to see if we can talk, but this former friend has rebuffed me. So here I sit wondering when my daughter is going to ask to take the pot holder gift to this person—who is not thinking about how her actions are impacting a small child. When the gift comes up, I keep wondering how I am going to respond.

One thought I had was my daughter and I would drop off the gift together as we would have done before, but then, what? Maybe the woman would understand the difficult situation I am in? It seems risky at best, because frankly a trust has been broken, so do I really want to put my daughter at risk? No. The other thought was to mail the gift, which as I am writing this post seems much smarter. At least then I am in control and I can make it fun and even explain away, a bit, a possible “non-response.”

I considered this person a very good friend. We have known each other for three years. We have had family dinners together, at her place and at my place. I would drop by her office once every week or two. I didn’t consider the friend just an acquaintance. She wrote a number of letters of recommendation for me. I wrote one for her for the creative writing program she was applying to. I say all this to explain my shock. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t be friends.

As an adult I can move on, but what about my daughter? It’s really a drag that my daughter is now collateral damage in an adult situation. I don’t know how one can anticipate these kinds of situations. I know that loss and rejection are a part of life, but I feel cautious about future friendships. Being mom is complicated in very unexpected ways.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ask and Ye Shall Be Heard....Hopefully by Robin Gorman Newman

This past weekend was a hectic one.  In between spending time visiting my dad at the rehab facility, Seth had two kid birthday parties, baseball practice, kick boxing, and Marc and I had theatre tickets.

My husband and I split up the activities for Seth, as we played chauffeur, not to mention getting caught in the rain without an umbrella when the heavens suddenly opened up after party #1.

Our plan worked until Sunday morning when Marc announced he had two hours before they needed to leave for the party, and did we need anything at the supermarket?  I had just done a quick food shop the day before, so "no."  Clearly, I got the impression he was looking for a reason to get out of the house.  Perhaps I was mistaken, but that was how it felt in my gut.  I obliged and suggested he visit my father, and he seized the opportunity.  He asked Seth if he wanted to go with him, and he opted to stay home to play with this toys, or so Marc thought.

Marc presumed that meant he would amuse himself, but that's not how it turned out.  He wanted to play with me, and since it was the weekend, I felt badly turning him down, despite the fact I planned to work Sunday....at least for the afternoon.  I was counting on a decent chunk of time to craft a speech on Life in the Later Mom Lane for the MOM Conference in NYC that I delivered on 5/23.  Marc knew that.

When Marc returned, he was surprised to see me perched on the master bed with Seth instead of in my office.  He thought I'd be dilligently typing my talk on the computer, but instead I had Seth glued to me at the hip.  He anticipated I'd tell Seth I don't have time for play.  I responded to Marc by getting angry and suggesting  he didn't respect my needs.  I had made it clear I required time, so why didn't he insist Seth accompany him instead of putting me in the position to deny playtime with him?!  It made me feel like he had no problem with me being the bad one.  And, on top of it, I felt like a babysitter.  He didn't ask if it was ok if he went out.  In fact, I was kinda stunned at the moment that he didn't just stay home and engage Seth. Did he need me to tell him that?  Apparently....yes.

When I explained how I felt to Marc that evening, after they returned from the party and I declared he was in charge of Seth's bath, Marc was surprised I was upset.  In his eyes, he was trying to be helpful by offering to do an errand.

What I realized is that if you need or want something, you have to express it with total clarity and conviction.  I could have articulated I need you to stay home with Seth while I work, but I didn't think I had to spell it out.  I presumed he'd get it, and that was my mistake.  You can't get inside someone else's head, and the older I get, the more I realize that.  And, this is true whether family or friends.  Not everyone thinks as we do or has the insight or foresight to be there as we'd hope in a perfect world.  I experienced that just recently when I saw what friends were by my side during the stress of my father's surgery.

Loved ones do their best, and the more we can guide them, the better job they will do.  At the end of the day, they want to see us happy, and my husband is a big supporter of my goals and pursuits (for the most part).

Next time, I won't hesitate to ask for what I need.  His heart was in the right place, that much I do know.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Didn't We Almost Have it All ... by Liimu

Sometimes I buy into the falsehood that I can have it all. And sometimes I buy into the falsehood that I can't.

Let me explain myself. As I get older, I realize that whether or not I can have it all undoubtedly depends on what I perceive "it" to be. In my younger years, it was an insanely successful career as a movie star and headlining act at Madison Square Garden, along with a dutiful but alpha male husband with model-quality good looks and 6-pack abs, as well as equally dutiful children - 3 or 4 of them, at least one boy. I would also have clean and friendly relationships with all of my family of origin and an enviable relationship with God. Oh, and lots and lots and lots of money.

It was my birthday on Sunday. There have been many, many birthdays where I found myself incredibly disappointed because I didn't get what I wanted, even though I didn't even know what it was that I wanted. This year, I was pleasantly surprised to not receive very many tangible gifts at all. Instead, I was given the gift of a full-night's sleep by my husband, followed by a beautiful "Happy Birthday" serenade by the whole family. As I wiped the sleep out of the corners of my eyes and took in the scene - painfully handsome husband, three beautiful (and incredibly precocious) daughters and an unexpected miracle of a son - I felt myself choke up with pride and joy. Later, as I skated around the roller rink with my 7 and 5 year old at a birthday party and we laughed and laughed as they fell again and again and we sang our favorite pop songs as loud as we could, I felt it again. This is "it," I thought. This is joy. At the end of the party, someone actually recognized me as the girl who had sung with Patti Labelle. I had even slipped a little bit of fame in there a few years ago when I had my moment on the stage in front of 10 million viewers.

Years ago, sitting at dinner with my hugely successful (and incredibly unhappy at the time) brother, he was pressing me to reach for the stars, to push to be the greatest, the best, at whatever I chose to do. To crush the competition, to be NUMBER ONE! I turned to him and said, "If that's your dream, that's fine. But it's not mine. My dream is to be happy.

There "it" is - the all I had been hoping for. I am living the dream - the one I had given a voice to so long ago. And it may be true that I don't have the car and driver, the personal chef (and personal trainer), the millions of dollars in the bank, the paparazzi following my every move (yet). But I do have it all. I have all I ever wanted - and more. And as long as I keep that in perspective, I always will.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Sweetness and Sorrow of Ceremonies - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

A couple weekends ago, my son and I went to the Communion ceremony of my best friend’s son. Considering that I had never participated in a communion ceremony and my son is being raised Jewish, this was a brand new experience for both of us.

We were escorted to chairs on the side of the alter, with the other guests, and were lucky enough to get front row seats. While we waited for the procession of children seeking Communion to arrive, my son had many questions. Why did the “bad men” do that to Jesus (nail him to the cross)? Why are the children eating those round things and all drinking out of that cup? Don’t they know they can get germs by doing that? And many other questions about the differences between the two religions. I tried to answer each of his questions as simply but as completely as possible. A daunting task when it comes to religion.

At one point, my son wanted me to put my arm around him, hugging him close. He held onto my dangling hand. He then asked, “Mommy? All of the girls look like brides. Why do they have to look like brides?” I explained that by wearing a white dress and a veil, it is as if they are “marrying” or becoming closer to God in the Church. At that moment, my son pointed to my wedding band, which I wear on my right hand, the hand he was holding. He asked, “Mommy? Is that your wedding ring?” I told him that it was. He then carefully slid it off of my finger and immediately replaced it. Then he said to me, “See, now we are married, Mommy.” There is much to analyze about this, but we’ll save that for the professionals. His gesture, however, triggered an interesting feeling in my heart. Considering that my wedding anniversary will be this coming weekend, having my son pronounce his desire to be committed to me and love me unconditionally forever, brought back those giddy feelings I felt 16 years ago when my husband put that very same ring on my finger. Only when my son did it, the feelings felt deeper and truer. This is probably attributed to the fact that a Mother and child, especially a son, have an extremely close bond. I feel that bond with my son every second of the day. But with my son symbolically wanting to “marry” me, it made me feel that, unlike his father, my son will never betray me. He will never abandon me. He will always be there for me. “In good times and in bad.” Completely unlike his father. And instead of grieving for the loss of my marriage, I felt secure that there is one person in this world who WILL be mine forever. Until death does us part. Or he finds a spouse.

My therapist warned me about little boys my son’s age going through the Oedipal Syndrome (where the little boy wants his mother all to himself, while pushing his father away from his mother). Well, his father is about as far away as he can get, right now. But I am making sure that my son knows that Daddy loves him just as much as I do. And that there is no reason to push Daddy away. I will always be here for my son. Still, my son wants me. He needs me. He knows deep down inside that I completely understand him, inside and out. So let him hang on to me for a while longer. In a couple years, I will be, “Mommy who”?

As for my anniversary, I will dig up all the fun memories from last year when I whisked myself away to the Bahamas for 5 days. I tried to go this year, but although the hotel prices were reasonable, the flights cost half an arm and a leg due to the high fuel prices and surcharges. The rates were ridiculous. So, instead, out came the t-shirts, the cheap, beachy jewelry, and the photos I took on my excursion. Last year was a milestone anniversary. I had to remove myself from this continent and distract myself with pristine beauty and fun. I got what I went for. This year will be solemn. My husband has a wedding to go to on the day we got married. I wonder how or whether that will affect him at all? In any event, I’ll spend time with my son and maybe even go to our local pool. I’ll lie on a lounge chair, close my eyes, and reflect back to my time in the Bahamas. I will be with the sweetest little man, who loves me so much, he wants to “marry” me. At this point in my life, what more could I ask for?

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FREE PASS - the gift that keeps on giving -- By Laura Houston

If you are a frustrated, tired, or exhausted parent, do this: get yourself a little business-sized card and write on the front: FREE PASS. Laminate if necessary. Then use it to remove yourself from stressful, stupid situations with strangers, husbands, your kids and other human beings in general.

Example: I was playing in the sandbox in Central Park with my boys. Another mother spoke on the phone while her twin daughters poured sand in each other’s hair. Her twins had the best sandbox toys in Manhattan and every other kid in the park wanted to play with them, too. So while the mom jabbered, she also shooed other kids away with her feet – often coming close to kicking them.

It was like watching “The Night of the Zombies” as seven or eight kids tottered back and forth, arms extended, glazed eyes, trying to get passed the mother’s gauntlet.

Finally she shoved one of the zombies hard enough to send him crying to his mother.

This is usually the part in the story where I get really mad and say something – usually something not so nice. Usually in a voice that carries. And there you have it: another playground confrontation.

But instead, I whipped out my FREE PASS.

“Let’s go,” I told Lyle and Wyatt.

As I left, I heard phone mom arguing with one of the zombie’s mothers. Let someone else handle it. FREE PASS. We went to another sandbox, and had a relatively nice time.

The FREE PASS also comes in very handy on Saturday afternoons. This is when I am topped off with annoyance at my husband. We manage the boys very differently. As we work as a team to handle naps, feeding, fits, fights and other toddler maladies, he flip flops from saying, “Tell me what to do,” to “Don’t tell me what to do,” and back again as things go from bad to worse.

Yes. By Sunday morning my tongue is but a chewed stub.

So last Saturday evening when the boys hadn’t eaten in five hours because my husband forgot that kids are not like dogs that only need to eat twice a day, and the little guys were bright red and sticky from bawling, I whipped out my FREE PASS.

“What’s this?” I said. “A snack? Who wants a snack?”

And I there I am at the baby gate passing out goldfish instead of advice. I even open a bottle of beer for the husband who is feeling dejected. A marital spat was thwarted, and we had a relatively nice evening.

I used my FREE PASS last week to get out a playdate with a woman I don’t like. I gave myself a FREE PASS to be 20 minutes late to art class. I gave myself a FREE PASS when I didn’t feel like cleaning or doing laundry all day.

Unfortunately, I also used it to thwart a workout I needed and to go off my healthy eating routine.

But I don’t care. I may abuse my FREE PASS once in a while, but over all, I think I’m gonna keep this thing. And I know what I’m giving for Christmas this year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Living and Loving Through It All—by Jamie Levine

It’s been a busy week of birthday activity; Jayda turned four on Wednesday, and the outdoor party we had slated for the Sunday before her birthday was moved to the Sunday afterwards because of impending rain. In the midst of all our party-planning and celebrating, I also had finals to take, and, of course, my recent break up with Library Guy continued to cloud my thoughts. After seven months together, he’s imprinted on my brain, and I can’t avoid some constant reminders of him.

On Tuesday night, I baked a batch of cupcakes to bring into Jayda’s class on her birthday, and there were leftovers. So, when Jayda saw them on Wednesday, she advised me, “Give one to Library Guy.” I responded, “You know he’s not my boyfriend anymore.” And she said “I know that. He must be sad he’s not your boyfriend. Cupcakes always make me happy!” I couldn’t help thinking, if only it were that easy…I’d give him a dozen, and eat a dozen, myself. Instead, however, I decided to let Jayda’s teachers take care of the leftover cupcakes, and went home with a smile on my face.

I’ve never had a break up like this one—on so many levels. I’ve never loved a guy like I loved Library Guy; I’ve never had a relationship end for the reasons this one did—and with as much mutual regret and emotion; and, most importantly, I’ve never experienced heartache with a child by my side. In some ways it’s harder, because I don’t want Jayda to know the pain I’m going through, or see me feeling sad, but in most ways, she makes things easier for me. Having a daughter like her to love makes it impossible for me to feel empty inside. She also shows me that there’s nothing about loving people the way I do that’s foolish…and that I shouldn’t worry about what other people think.

On Jayda’s birthday, I took her out for frozen yogurt after school, and when her favorite Katy Perry song came on the radio, she grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, let’s dance.” Without hesitation, I whirled her around the yogurt store, weaving in and out of customers, gyrating my hips along with hers. When the song was over, we returned to our table and happily finished our treats. And the next day, at the library, when Jayda peered down the long hallway to the circulation desk and said, “I’ll race you there, Mommy,” despite the librarian’s disapproving stare, I enthusiastically ran beside my daughter as she bolted across the library—and even rewarded her “win” with a hug.

No longer having the man I love in my life makes me extremely sad sometimes…but it doesn’t stop me from living. Jayda makes certain of that. On the other hand, I do think having a good man in my life helps me love Jayda even better. Jayda’s my child—not my partner—and she can’t fill every void. Being with Library Guy allowed me to reclaim my existence as a woman, and not just a Mommy, and I know I need to continue to embrace both roles if I want to be a good role-model for my daughter. But I’m just not ready to move on. So, in the meantime, I’m going to try to live and laugh with Jayda as much as I can. Celebrating her birthday means celebrating another year together, and if the first four are any indication of it, I'm confident there are plenty of good times ahead.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


“The Story Pirates teach kids a love of creative writing. It helps kids to see that their words and ideas are really important. I believe that what the Story Pirates are doing is helping America.   It's crazy entertaining." – Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

While many children’s theater troupes tell stories to children, the Story Pirates believe every child has a story to tell. This arts and education, based in both New York and Los Angeles, organization exists entirely because of kids. The group of first-rate comedians and teaching artists uses stories written by elementary students as source material for over the-top musical comedy sketches. Adding songs, props, music videos and puppets, they bring to life on stage what children scribble down on paper.

The Story Pirates won’t make you walk the plank; however, they will challenge your child's imagination and prove that his or her words are powerful tools worth celebrating. At a typical show, story topics run the gamut, from kung-fu ninja babies fighting crime to the eternal love between the devil and a guy she meets at Starbucks. It’s a world where cats sometimes fly and Tickle Monsters dominate the world. At every show, Story Pirates perform brand new stories by kids in the audience.

Founded in 2003, Story Pirates has grown to reach hundreds of thousands of children each year all around the country. Through in-school creative writing workshops and assemblies that focus on the power of communication and self-expression, Story Pirates’ goal is to provide children with the tools to become confident, literate students, and to encourage them to develop into more thoughtful and passionate writers, in and out of school.

Story Pirates CEO Benjamin Salka describes the Story Pirates show as "genuinely funny. It's not condescending. It's smart, it's silly – It’s our world, unfiltered, as only children could imagine.”

I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd annual After School Special this weekend, a fundraiser in NYC at Peter Norton Symphony Space, for Story Pirates, and it was my family's introduction to the performers.  This particular show also featured such celebrities as Jon Stewart, Ana Gasteyer (SNL) , Josh Gad (Book of Moron), rocker Lou Reed, and more.  It was directed by Lee Overtree, with music composed and directed by the Eli Bolin.  

The theatre was packed, with kids and adults, and I loved knowing that the money raised was going to support such a cool artistic cause.  The Story Pirates, including their band, are a hugely witty and talented troupe, and while it's hard to single out any particular skit, the one that stands out in my mind was short but hysterial.  It featured Josh Gad (who has a lovely voice) singing the catchy tune about Ed who wets his bed.  I still chuckle when I think of it.  And, I always enjoy Jon Stewart and Ana Gasteyer, though I would have loved more of both of them.  It was sweet to see them there with their respective children in the audience.

If you have yet to experience Story Pirates, and your child has a love of writing and/or story telling, take note of their performance schedule below.

          (Jon Stewart performing with puppets from Story Pirates)

Show Schedule
Weekly each Saturday at 2pm at The Drama Book Shop in NYC.  Tickets are $15 online at http://www.storypirates.org/

Education Programs
Story Pirates works with over 150 schools each year from coast to coast. For more information, email: info@storypirates.org.or phone (347) 878-6798.

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GUEST BLOG POST: Joy and Exhaustion: In Other Words, Being a Mom by Diana Fletcher

What is it about being a mom?

It’s confusing and wonderful and fulfilling and aggravating. It’s fun, worrisome, oftentimes hectic and it can even be calming. (When they are asleep.)

It is all these things and more, but many times, we come to the conclusion that it is just plain tiring. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, being a mother can exhaust you.

In your effort to be everything to everyone, you may forget a basic truth and that is, in order to take care of everything and everyone you want to take care of, and in order for you to accomplish what you want to in your life, you have to take care of yourself.

When you do not take care of very basic self-care, you cannot truly enjoy your life. I firmly believe that we are meant to enjoy our lives. You are meant to be happy, healthy and free. If you take good care of yourself, you will live in a happier state. I am not saying that you will skip merrily through your days or have the perfect amount of patience, but you will approach your life in an entirely different way.

There are many serious issues in the world. There are many serious issues that we face as parents. We cannot change that. But what we can change is how we take care of ourselves and how we view the world.

Is it a scary place with only danger and worry? Or is it a place of adventure and wonder and learning that you can approach with a positive outlook?

When you take care of the basics of self-care, you look at the world with different eyes.

When you have enough sleep, your body is prepared for whatever you are exposed to physically, and your mind is rested enough to think through issues and react well in emergencies.

When you fuel your body with the proper foods, you will enable it to fight off viruses and you will feel physically able to keep up with the demands of being a parent.

When you drink enough water, thereby hydrating every cell in your body, your body will feel and be healthier. When you drink water, you are also hydrating the cells in your brain. This will also enable to think more clearly and be a sharper, more creative decision maker. (Proper hydration will also keep headaches away—added bonus!)

When you make sure you get some exercise each day, you will be building the strength that will serve you well in being a mom.

The trouble is, you may equate self-care with being selfish. I have had more than one women tell me that she is concerned that people will think of her as selfish and not a good person.

This is what I believe: If you live your life with integrity, if you act out of love and truly care about yourself and your family, you cannot go wrong.

Come from a place of strength and know that you are doing what is right for you, your family, and all relationships.

Just as you cannot control the world around you, you cannot control what people think. What matters is what you think.

The first step is making the commitment to taking care of yourself. Once you truly commit, you will begin to notice where you can make changes. You will begin to see how you can change or tweak your schedule to allow for more sleep. You may notice that you want to sit and have lunch and eat mindfully, instead of in front of the computer. You will recognize negative situations that you can avoid.

Most importantly, you will figure out what to say no to, and what you can say yes to. (By the way, as far as saying no, I guarantee that you will get better with practice!)

Saying no to being exhausted and giving in to everyone else, will be saying yes to all sorts of joyful, wonderful surprises!

Diana Fletcher is a Stress Reducing Expert Life Coach, Speaker and Author. She is the co-author of four books in the Outstanding Life series. Diana travels extensively for speaking and makes her home in Murrysville, PA where she lives with her husband and three children. Her most recent book, Happy on Purpose: Daily Messages of Empowerment and Joy for Women can be purchased at http://www.dianafletcher.com/programs/HOPbook.
©2011 Diana Fletcher www.dianafletcher.com

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learning to Make a Connection by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Has anyone heard of Nonviolent Communication (NVC)? I know I have mentioned it here before and I thought I would write about it again. This is revolutionary stuff. In a nutshell: nonviolent communication is making a CONNECTION with another person through communication by identifying one’s own needs and the other person’s needs as well and then working to meet both.

This really is revolutionary in that so much of my communication is about power...power over another. Me asserting that I am right. That my way is the correct and often only way. That what I want and need is the most important thing on the table or that the other person’s needs are more important than my own.

Nonviolent communication addresses all of that. I first discovered NVC when I took a local NVC workshop for parents. The eight-week workshop not only helped me improved how I interacted with my daughter, but it impacted my marriage as well. I took a second eight-week workshop, which gave me more skills with my daughter, but I didn’t use it with my husband and I basically fell off the wagon because NVC is a discipline. To really commit to this style of communication is to connect deeply with the self.

The “fall off” for me has been the process of being consumed by difficulties in life: lack of work, money issues and a general malaise I have felt about trying to pursue filmmaking as a career. Also my husband’s work has been a roller coaster ride and my daughter’s school has been tiresome in its general disorganization. In short, I have felt powerless and with an overwhelming sense that I had no control in my life. Oh yeah, I did I say I was a mother?Nuff said!

A retired friend, who I went hiking with last year, is very into NVC. In our discussion about the NVC process she explained that NVC for her was about self talk. This notion has stuck with me. As someone who yells way too much and has spent a great deal of time speaking unkindly to my husband, I realized that every crappy thing I say to him, I also say to myself. I have spent a deal of energy berating myself for pretty much everything. And so it has been in the muck and mud—of my consuming anger about everything—that not much communication has happened.

So here’s where I could go into a big sell moment about NVC, instead I am going to pose a few questions and list some books and websites below for anyone who wants to check nonviolent communication.

Here’s the questions: When you speak what is your goal? Are your words spoken to connect deeply with another human being? Consider the everyday interactions, particularly the interactions that are difficult. Talking to a child’s teacher. Dealing with a store clerk regarding an error. Negotiating help at home with a child who’s room is messy. Planning a family vacation with a harried husband. This list goes on and on. Everyday one must communicate and that is a very big and difficult task. I invite you to check out NVC as a way to lighten your heart and feel a sense of connection in the thing we spend so much time doing: communicating.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Mentor by Robin Gorman Newman

I'm out of sorts this week.

A mentor who I highly respected and cared for passed away unexpectedly.  He was a huge supporter of my writing and a real cheerleader for my career.  Not only was I shocked, but so sad.  Tears came pouring out.  He was a mensch of a guy, true professional and talent, and a teddy bear in the best sense of the word.  I grieve for him, feel for his family, and understand all the more the twists 'n turns and fragility of life.

On his Facebook page, there is an outpouring of love and kind words.  Clearly this was a man who touched many lives, and I want to do him proud by continuing enthusiastically to work on projects he encouraged me to pursue. He would want that.

My son never saw me cry so much (he wasn't alive when my mother passed away), and he rose to the occasion admirably this week.  He sat in my lap, gave me a big hug and brought a box of tissues, as I explained why I was so shaken and what this man meant to me and so many.

It made me aware of the notion of having a mentor and being a role model.

I am grateful to have had him in my life, and I'm now wondering who will provide that to my son as the years go by?

I want to be a positive role model for him, but I know there will be skills and pursuits that are important to him that he'll seek out, and I won't be the one to teach him.  Someone else, we have yet to identify, or more than one person, will fill those shoes.  And, it's BIG shoes to fill.  Inspiring a young mind...or for that matter....a mind of any age....is such an admirable task.  You have the ability to help someone fulfill their dreams, and to know that you did good in the world.  What could be more gratifying?!

I'm all about helping people, and I do it becasue it feels good.  I don't expect any payback.  In return, I receive gratification.  I'd like my son to feel the same way and to appreciate those who live by that creed. 

There's a lot to be said for helping others.  And, isn't that what good teachers do?  They share their acquired expertise and training and mold impressionable minds.  As adults, we might also call them mentors, though I guess that's more a one-on-one relationship.I Googled the word, and this is a definition I turned up.....A mentor facilitates personal and professional growth in an individual by sharing the knowledge and insights that have been learned through the years.

I hope for my son that as he matures, he is lucky enough to find himself in the company of a mentor or two who will help him travel along his chosen path.  Given that I'm a midlife mother, I know my son will spend a good portion of his adult life holding the memory of me in his heart, and I keep the faith that he will surround himself with good people who he can teach, and others he can learn from.

We're never too young or old to be inspired and to seek out people who can help us think out of the box, put aside self doubt, make discoveries, achieve things we might not have thought possible, and empower us to be the best we can be, both for our own benefit and that of the world at large.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sometimes the Greatest Gift is the One We Don't Give....by Liimu

Today is my husband’s 46th birthday. What I wanted to give him more than anything else this year was the freedom to launch his own music production studio. Before I found out I was pregnant with our first child last spring, my husband and I talked about his plans for starting his own business. When I started my business over three years ago, he supported me without hesitation. Even when the economy tanked in my second year of business and it looked like we might not make it, he never suggested I throw in the towel and go back to working for a traditional company. He helped me to brainstorm how we might get through it.

So when I realized that my company was going to be successful in good times and bad, I knew it was time for me to give him that same love and support he had given me for so many years.
My husband has been on leave with me for these past nine weeks and we have loved being together. We have loved being with Max, snuggling him and watching him grow. So naturally, I didn’t want it to end. I suggested maybe he should just stay home with him, rather than pay to have someone else watch him, and then he could grow his business at the same time. On paper, it sounded great to us both.

What I was forgetting was my type triple A, controlling, take no prisoners, take no mess personality. In a matter of days (fueled not in small part by spending some time with my sisters and my mother, who are just like me), I began bossing him around, telling him how I thought he should start his business, what I thought he needed to do to make it work, how he needed to HUSTLE. Finally, after days of this, he finally confessed that I was beginning to scare him and he thought he’d actually rather go to work and build his business at night rather than continue on listening to me nag at him about all he needed to do. I professed to be loving and supporting him, doing what I could to help him make his dreams come true. Meanwhile, what I was actually doing was scaring the shit out of him and at the same time sucking every last drop of happiness out of his journey. Clearly not my intent.

So instead, we decided to go with his plan. I am backing off and waiting for him to ask for my help or advice (which he has, once or twice). He’s going back to work in a few weeks and the time we have left together is all the more precious, and his desire to make his dream come true so he can leave his job for real is even stronger than it was before.
I am extremely blessed to have a job that I love, one that pays well and affords me the flexibility to spend time with my children and doing the things that I love. I’m not kidding myself or stretching the truth at all when I say that all I want is for my husband to have a job he loves just as much. What I realized this past week, however, is that the dream has to be his and how its realized has to be his decision. I can’t dream it for him and I can’t realize it for him. I can believe in it, though, and I can watch eagerly and with pride and baited breath as he makes it come true.

For more information about my husband Glen and the music production services he offers, visit www.maadmusicpro.com.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keeping Up With the...Benjamins? - Cara Potapshyn Meyers

 The following is a direct quote from a posting on Facebook last week, written by a Mom friend of mine:

“I was just told by my kid that I’m the worst Mom ever for not buying him a new (Nintendo) DS. While that was hurtful, I told him that there is special training for that at Mom School and that I won the Best ‘Worst Mom in Training’ award! The nerve!”

This posting elicited more than fifteen responses from other supportive Moms, including me:

“My son said that there were only 4 kids in school who didn’t have (Nintendo) DS games and he was one of them. I responded by asking him, “Do they have their own laptops like you do (my hand-me-down), and not have to share them with a brother or sister? And do they have their own iPhone to play a thousand different games on (also my hand-me-down...no cell service though)? He said, Um, no.” So I told him that he was pretty lucky and privileged even without a (Nintendo) DS. That left him speechless.”

I bring this up because my husband and I have been going through this “DS Drama” for a few weeks now. And although the Mom I quoted received quite a few accolades for the creative comeback she quickly thought of, it still is not getting to the root of the problem, nor is it teaching her child where the line has been crossed. This same Mom posted after mine that although she liked my post, her kids were, “So teched out, it wasn’t even funny.” So where is that line?

I wrote a few weeks back about wanting to “fit in” with my peers at age fourteen by having Levi jeans with the leather tag on the back. But that was probably a $20 pair of jeans. Yes, expensive for jeans 30 years ago but not in comparison to a $130+ Nintendo DS, where each game costs between $15-30! There is even a service similar to Netflix called “GameFly” where you can rent games for an unlimited amount of time, but with a monthly fee attached.

My husband and I have been intensely debating this “DS” issue and how to make it purposeful. During this time, with my assistance, but with my son’s own money, he bought an accessory kit for a DS he doesn’t even own yet. I suggested he could temporarily use it to carry his iPhone in, (which he constantly misplaces. More on that in a minute), and his response was, “No, Mommy. This case is ONLY for my DS.” The one he doesn’t have yet. He also has a DS game, this time with my husband’s assistance, but with my son’s money to purchase it. (This kid has been offering and doing quite a lot of extra chores around and outside of the house).

Right now many of you are thinking, “But both you and your husband are in the position of Enablers! You are giving this child what he wants, but in a circumferous way!” Yes, and no. We made a deal with our son that he has to save up his own money to pay for half of whichever DS he wants. At a starting price of $130, that’s a lot of saving. And the cruel part of this is that Nintendo has just released a 3D DS game, which costs close to $300. And guess which kid is going to be one of only four kids in the whole school who does not have a 3D DS game, six months from now? You guessed correctly.

Now, here’s what I don’t quite understand. My son uses my old iPhone, which he plays pre-approved games on. There are probably close to 100 games on this little gadget, so you don’t have to carry (and risk losing) any of the games. Most of the games were either free or close to $.99. Many of them are quite similar to DS games. And the best part? My son’s phone is wirelessly connected to a service I have for my own iPhone, where if it gets lost, I can lock it down so that it cannot be used and even post my husband’s work number on the screen with a message saying, “If found, please call xxx....” Try doing that with a DS!

There is also another concern I have. Children with Auditory Processing Disorder and ADD, like my son, are notorious for losing and misplacing things. I can’t tell you how many mad dashes there have been, on most mornings, looking for my husband’s keys (he also has ADD). I even put up a key holder for him to put his keys on when he walked in the door. He never used it. We use it for dog leashes now. My point is, why give a kid, who is prone to misplacing/losing things, an expensive item, which has styluses which can easily get lost, game cartridges which could easily be lost, heck, the whole DS could easily be lost! But as a Mother who has continually allowed her son to take chances and face the consequences when necessary, I am allowing my son to have his DS. If he has to work to obtain it, he might covet it enough to limit losing all of the little accessories. And he will have to pay for whichever accessories he does lose. And if he loses the actual Nintendo DS, I will comfort his loss, but will not replace it.

It is going to be a few months before my son saves up enough money to buy whichever DS he chooses. In the meantime, we will be working on responsibility. Coming home with a forgotten lunch tote or rain jacket is not conducive to being a responsible person. However, my son didn’t purchase those items himself. We have an interesting test coming up in our lives.

Stay tuned...I am certain there will be more to come!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Working to Get A Rest -- by Laura Houston

And so it happened. The phone rang. A job offer. A great job offer. Contract. Full time. A progressive, creative company with a brand I respect. I threw out a figure. They called back and asked if I could interview with the team.

Yeah. Ummmm. The thought of getting out of this apartment and away from my boys is tempting. Especially after this long winter and what looks to be a wet spring. And – a job interview – a chance to dress up, exchange ideas with actual grownups, and to talk about myself for 45 minutes – it’s better than therapy! I rubbed my hands together. I might even get a great cup of designer coffee. I scheduled the time and called a sitter.

The interview went great. The offices were clean and orderly. The creative team consisted of four talented designers, another writer, and a creative director with a montage of awards on her wall. And, yes, the coffee was excellent as were the little designer chocolate mints they passed around. In the 55 minutes I sat at that clean, long, shiny conference table with a view of Park Avenue, ideas and words flew around in ways that I forgot possible. It all clicked. We all liked each other.

I came home and Lyle threw up on my shoes.

I want that job.

But then I think about it. I think about that first day when I sit down at my finger-print-free Apple computer, and I scoot toward the wireless keyboard in my ergonomic, breathable, adjustable chair. I know what will happen. I will start to cry. I will miss my boys. The clock will say 9:03am, and that means I have roughly eight hours and 57 minutes to go before I see them again. I will think to myself: “I wonder how they are. I wonder if they miss me.”

Then on to my control-freak thoughts such as: “The nanny better have the strollered up and ready for class by now. Shoes on. Sippy cups full of half juice half water. Snacks. And she better do Wyatt’s sandals tight because he kicks them off and then cries for when he loses them.”

It was my goal to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s why I worked so hard in my 30s. So I could be debt-free in my 40s. So I could stay at home without a car payment or a credit card payment. I’ve done my time so I could enjoy this time.

I hate this.

I hate how hard it is to be a mother of twins in the city. Without my friends. I hate the isolation and the constant schlepping. I hate how the days roll into one another. I hate the thanklessness.

This is when I open my book on Buddhism and motherhood. I can’t remember the title because I lose it every other day. I try to stay in the moment. Yes. I try to get Zen about scrubbing stains off the floor. Wax on. Wax off. I tell myself to breathe and ignore the smell of the diaper genie. Relax. I am not going to lose my skills. I can go back to work at another time. Another day. Another year. Just not now.

But then I think to myself, well, wouldn’t I be happier if I went back to work so I could get a break? So I could get a rest from this endlessness? And doesn’t a happier mom make happier children?

I tell myself I am lucky I have choices. I tell myself not to be impulsive. I try to picture myself running barefoot on the clover in Central Park, chasing my boys who are wearing overalls that are still clean and not bulging in the crotch from full diapers. Then I imagine myself walking to the subway in my clean slacks, soft, silk blouse, and serious shoes that click on the sidewalk, announcing my upcoming presence. And what’s that on my lips…is it…is it lipstick? Yes! It is. And some of it is rubbing off on the lid of my 16-ounce, piping hot latte I am enjoying without interruption. There’s even a copy of The New York Times tucked under my arm.

There’s also that moment when the HR manager discreetly hands me that white envelope with the blue check inside on Friday. I can smell the freshness of the ink. I open the envelope with my manicured fingernail, and inside I see appreciation and reward for my work. Fabulous! I am taking myself out to lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant, and I am ordering wine with my meal. WINE! A crisp, citrus-y white. Maybe two glasses followed by another latte. And perhaps a quick dash into a boutique to find some hand-made earrings that make me look slimmer.

Then I think about my boys. The ones I worked so hard to have. The ones I begged for. Cried for. Injected myself with so many hormones I ruined my endocrine system for. The ones who make my heart do acrobatics at strange hours of the day. The boys who rely on me for kisses when they slam their fingers in the radiator cover. The boys with my father’s eyes.

Nothing in that daydream compares to the melodious sound of laughter when I kiss their stomachs or threaten to bite their toes. Nothing swoons me like the inquisitive, toddler accent on the word, “Mamma?”

So I can sit in the moment, Buddha. Yes. I can. In fact, I am stuck right here. Torn. Trapped. Immovable. The irony is not lost on me. Oh no. Going to work to get a rest? Seriously? But fortunately creative solutions are my forte, so I should best find one for my own little company in my own little household and execute that strategy first. So I am going to sit here, insistently, until I do.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Little Love Coach—by Jamie Levine

While Jayda and I were driving home from a party last weekend, she blurted out, “Mommy, I had a really bad dream last night.”
“Really?” I asked. “Do you remember what it was about?”
“You and Library Guy broke up,” she answered.
“Honey, Library Guy and I did break up,” I responded, my voice breaking a bit, though I tried hard to control it.
“Nooooooo. You can’t break up! Why?”
“Library Guy needs to be alone with his boys for awhile, honey. But we’re still friends. And everything is going to be fine,” I tried to assure her.
“Library Guy can be with his boys…but then he needs to give them back to their Mommy and be with you.”
I turned around and smiled at Jayda, hoping to end the conversation, but my little champion continued, “Are you sad, Mommy?”
“I’m a little sad,” I admitted, “but I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll make you happy, Mommy. I’ll give you lots of hugs and kisses when we get home.”
“I’d like that Jayda. You always make me happy. You’re all I need,” I answered, feeling a swelling of love in my heart.
“But Mommy…I’m sad, too.”
“Oh, don’t be sad, Jayda,” I responded, about to remind her that I really was going to be fine and she’d be fine, and that Library Guy would always be someone whom we cared about. But she continued, “I’m sad because my boyfriend broke up with me, too!’ And then she proceeded to bawl. Oy.

It was true, Jayda did have a “boyfriend” at school, though I surmised a break up hadn’t really occurred between the two of them in the prior few days. Maybe the boy hadn’t been playing with her lately—or maybe he was as devoted as ever—but clearly my dramatic-daughter felt the need to really commiserate with me. And I found it adorable, if not a little disconcerting. Who knew a four-year-old girl would be this well-versed in the logistics of dating and dealing with heartbreak? She even continued, “Mommy! I don’t want you to be sad. I know…you can get a new boyfriend!”
“That would be great, Jayda. Maybe someday.”
“No—soon! I’ll help you find one,” she insisted.
And again, I smiled. Because it’s true, Library Guy and I truly did find each other because of my daughter. She watched him at the library with his boys; she approached him; and he spoke to her before he spoke to me.

I’ve always had an interest in discovering how couples met each other. I know all my married friends’ stories, and, every week, I hone in on the “how they met” part of every tale in the New York Times wedding announcements section. I know it’s true that online dating works for some people (and I certainly secured my share of short-term relationships through J-Date and other sites before I had Jayda), but in my heart, I’ve always believed that I’d meet the man I wind up with in a much more serendipitous way. And because much of my spare time is spent with Jayda, and she’s an incredibly social child, I’m guessing she may just have something to do with finding me my next boyfriend, as she suggested. Or maybe she can find a way to reunite me with my old one. Just the other day, Jayda was picking dandelions and handed me a bunch, instructing me to “give them to Library Guy.” I reminded her that he wasn’t my boyfriend anymore. “That’s ok,” she replied. “Flowers will make him happy, so go ahead.” Clearly, my little girl knows a lot about love.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Even though Blue Man Group has been playing for quite some time in New York, we hadn't yet gotten around to taking in the show.  My family and I saw them recently in Las Vegas and loved the show so much that we decided it was time to experience them in Manhattan.  They did not disappoint.  The theatre is much more intimate than the Vegas venue, allowing you to get up close to the Blue Men as they make their way into the audience, toss things out, etc. A teenage girl in the crowd was celebrating her birthday with a bunch of friends, and they made a point of acknowledging her presence.  The audience got a kick out of it!

Continuously renewing its productions to best resonate with audiences, Blue Man Group has added new material to its long-running production at New York’s Astor Place Theatre, 434 Lafayette Street.

The Blue Men find themselves in a variety of new environments to discover, engage with and explore of-the-moment situations and cutting-edge technology. Much of the ontent is from the company’s larger-scale productions, adapted for use in the intimate venues. Several of the signature scenes that have made Blue Man Group such a hit remain in the production, though in most cases have also been updated.

“As Blue Man Group has evolved, we have taken our productions to an enormous array of venues, from 200-seat theatres to arenas and even amphitheatres across the globe. As artists, we have grown and the world around us has transformed, so our new material is curated to reflect this. We’ve taken our most dynamic audience interactions and specifically put them in the venues with the most direct interaction with the Blue Men” said Chris Wink, who co-founded Blue Man Group with Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman. “We like to call it ‘alternative Broadway’ – a synthesis of our intimate Off-Broadway roots with the spectacle we created for our larger shows.”

New passages include Blue Men interacting with “GiPads;” a funny and perceptive look at contemporary communication vehicles; and a pulsating new finale featuring an original Blue Man Group music score. As always, the production fuses innovative theatrical spectacle with improvisation and vaudeville-inspired comedy, art, science and irresistible original music performed by the Blue Man Group band.

“Many of our audience’s favorite passages, including ‘Paint Drumming’ and ‘Gum Balls/Marshmallows’  continue to be a part of the production,” added Stanton. “And, yes, the first few rows still will need to wear ponchos. But we have developed some brand new elements of the show that provide a larger-than-life, rousing, interactive experience that I hope will really speak to all cultures and give some of our most devoted fans a new reason to check us out again.”

“The heart of our show is, and always has been, the Blue Man, and his inquisitive, wide-eyed take on the world,” said Wink.

About Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group is best known for its wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts that combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The blissful party atmosphere created at the live events has become the trademark of a Blue Man Group experience. Currently, Blue Man Group theatrical shows can be seen in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, Tokyo, and on tour throughout the U.S. Blue Man Group can also be seen onboard the new Norwegian Epic by Norwegian Cruise Line – the Official Cruise Line of Blue Man Group.

Blue Man Group’s appeal is multi-generational, with several projects specifically designed for young people, including “Making Waves,” a popular touring exhibit for children, and the recently launched national “Invent an Instrument” competition. The company’s music, featuring custom made instruments and signature, percussive sound, can be heard on five albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Audio,” as well as various film and television projects. As the company grows, it remains true to its vision of providing exciting experiences in a variety of media, appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds. Learn more at http://www.blueman.com/.

My son, age 8, really enjoyed the show.  It's a good time for kids and adults, and they've become a "New York institution" for good reason.  The interactive show is innovative, witty, engaging, clever, memorable....I could go on 'n on.  Suffice it to say, Blue Man Group is a true original and worthy of being on your "must see" list in NYC.

Ticket prices are $85 for main floor and mezzanine. Blue Man Group also offers $99 premium seats in the center orchestra and $95 “poncho” seats for those who want to be close to all the action. Select limited-view seats are $75.

Tickets may be purchased at the Astor Place Theatre at 434 Lafayette Street or by calling (800) BLUEMAN; by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787; at all Ticketmaster ticket centers or via the Internet at http://www.ticketmaster.com/. For group of 15 or more, call Astor Place Theatre Group Sales at 212.260.8993. For more information, visit http://www.blueman.com/.

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GUEST BLOG POST: Consent to Freeze: Reading the IVF Fine Print by Carolyn Savage, author, Inconceivable

Our names will be forever connected with one of the most significant medical errors ever made inside a fertility clinic. In February 2009, through a process referred to as a frozen embryo transfer, another couple's embryos were mistakenly transferred into my body. Eight months later, I gave birth to a baby boy who we relinquished to his genetic parents a few minutes after delivery. Following the pregnancy, it became important to us that this mistake never happen again. Through research and asking questions of fertility specialists, our list of concerns has grown past the obvious need to make sure proper patient safety protocols are in place, to include even graver concerns with regards to how human embryos are handled. Who is making decisions about which embryos are transferred, cryopreserved, and discarded?

We thought we had control regarding how our embryos were handled. Turns out, we were wrong.

As part of the investigation into how the wrong embryos were transferred into me, we requested my medical records. While reviewing the documentation from our first in vitro fertilization in August 2006, we were saddened to learn that three of our embryos were handled in a manner that conflicted with our personal beliefs, which we thought we had clarified when Sean and I signed a Consent to Freeze form provided by our clinic. This form directed the clinic to cryopreserve any unused, viable embryos following my embryo transfer. The morning of my original IVF transfer, we had five viable embryos that had developed to the blastocyst/morula stage. We chose to transfer two. What we didn't know was that our three unused embryos were going to be held out of cryopreservation for two additional days, in an attempt to see if they eventually met the clinic's unique quality standards that determine which embryos are frozen. Sean and I assumed that if they were alive the day of transfer, they would be frozen following our transfer. We had no idea that behind the scenes, in a lab that we had no access to, our three embryos were going to be measured against a standard that had never been explained to us.

Consent to Freeze forms are signed by patients every day inside fertility clinics across the world. Yet embryos that qualify for cryopreservation in one clinic may not qualify for cryopreservation by the standards of another. There is no industry wide standard for grading the quality of human embryos. Clinics determine which grading scales they use and set their own unique criteria to freeze. We have even learned of instances where doctors within the same clinic use different criteria to determine embryonic viability.

The truth is that no embryo grading scale can determine, with certainty, which embryos will turn into healthy babies. High-grade embryos often fail to yield pregnancies and poor grade embryos are capable of producing perfectly healthy babies. Logan Morell, the little boy I gave birth to as a result of the mistaken transfer, was born from an embryo that was given a poor quality grade. We have learned through research that many fertility doctors would have canceled my frozen embryo transfer because Logan's embryo wasn't good enough. Thank goodness our doctor left that decision to us. We believe the choice of whether to transfer or not, whether to freeze or not, belongs to the patient.

Do fertility doctors play God during the IVF process? When they take decisions about the fate of human embryos out of the hands of patients, we believe they do. Sean and I admit we made an incorrect assumption about the meaning of a Consent to Freeze form. We didn't know to ask about our clinic's criteria. We didn't think to give specific instructions to freeze our unused embryos immediately following my transfer regardless of their quality ratings. These are mistakes that we have to live with, and it's tough. All three of those embryos had higher quality ratings than Logan's embryo. We'll never know if they might have become a child.

Sean and I believe decisions regarding medical treatments should always be between a patient and the doctor. But with little regulation and almost no oversight in the fertility industry, it is imperative that patients educate themselves thoroughly about their clinic's procedures. Patients should ask for a copy of their fertility clinic's embryo grading system. In addition, the clinic should provide couples a detailed explanation of the criteria used to determine if an embryo is fit for transfer, or fit for cryopreservation. After reviewing these policies, patients must clearly communicate in writing their desires. For patients to make informed decisions, they should communicate daily with the clinic staff about embryonic development. If a doctor refuses these requests, find a new clinic!

We believe in vitro fertilization is God given technology, just like open heart surgery, chemotherapy, and antibiotics. We are also aware that the science of assisted reproductive medicine poses ethical questions that require serious thought. Many have condemned the medical treatments available to infertile couples because they believe it "interferes with nature" or "circumvents God's role in creation." Sean and I wholeheartedly disagree. IVF has helped us bring our daughter into the world, and we have no doubt that in time, she will positively impact the lives of the people around her. Regardless of one's opinion about assisted reproductive techniques, it is in the best interests of fertility professionals and patients that protocols ensure patient safety; that communications about human embryos are clear and concise; and that there is complete transparency in the process of assisted reproductive techniques.

© 2011 Carolyn Savage, author of Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift
Sean and Carolyn Savage's, story was covered widely when they gave birth to the baby boy in September 2009, including People magazine and on The Today Show. In Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift, they are telling the entire story for the very first time. Sean and Carolyn live in Ohio with their two teenage sons and a two-year-old daughter.  For more information, visit http://inconceivablebook.com.

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