Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding My Happy Place by Liimu

Years ago, when my brother's branding business was thriving on Park Avenue, I remember us sitting at a fancy NYC restaurant called "America" while he grilled me on my plans for the future. "Be the best at whatever you do," he advised, unsolicited. "If you're going to be a singer, be the BEST singer. A teacher, hell, a janitor - whatever it is just don't settle for being anything less than the BEST."

I finished chewing my yummy mouthful of food, then turned to him and said, "See, that's the difference with you and me. You're so concerned with being the BEST at whatever you do, at beating out all the competition. I just want to be HAPPY."

I don't know if it's a disservice to my children that I still feel this way to this day. Sure, kids like the Jacksons rose to stardom after being pushed by their parents to be the best - of course, we also know the sad, darker side of that story. Now, I'm not saying that encouraging your children to be the best they can be is a bad thing, or that it generally leads to an unhappy adulthood. Quite the contrary - I think kids who are supported to follow their dreams with unbridled passion to be the best they can be grow up to be hugely successful. I think that whether or not they grow up to be happy has to do with whether or not happiness is ALSO a priority. I want my children to be the best they can be AND be happy, not regardless of whether or not they are happy. In fact, if we have to choose, I'm choosing happiness.

We have tons of enrichment summer camps to choose from in our area - I offered to send my kids to Future Stars, which offers science programs, computer programs, drama and music, or to send them to theater camp. They preferred to go to the camp they go to every year, at Ardsley Community Center, where they play card games and make string bracelets with their friends, learn songs with all kinds of fancy hand movements, go on weekly field trips to amusement parks and walk about 2 miles to the community pool twice a week. They have a July 4 parade, a carnival, and even a Nickelodeon-style set of games where they all get slimed with green goo. They see their friends from preschool (who they don't go to school with and miss all year) and basically overdose all summer long on activity and fun.

When I was a kid, we didn't go to camp in the summer. We just hung out and went to the community pool, saw our friends, relaxed and had fun. It's not for everyone, but I want my kids to grow up feeling like having fun is just as important as achieving academic excellence. Our family believes in a balance of work and play - for everyone.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I’m so Verklempt! - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

Definition: Verklempt - a Yiddish expression of being overcome with emotion.
Living in the outskirts of New York City, and in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I hear this Yiddish expression quite often. I believe it was even used in a Seinfeld episode once to explain Elaine’s overwhelmed state of mind! I, too, am verklempt! There really is no better word to use to explain this complex feeling. A mixture of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, maxed out of your energy, bordering almost at feeling unable to cope. That’s Verklempt!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the upcoming changes summer would bring. Particularly the ending of school and beginning of day camp for my son. Well, I dug out and through the pool bags. Tossed the old sunscreens, bug sprays, etc., restocked with fresh supplies. Dragged out the old, ratty towels and wrote my son’s name on them with black, permanent laundry marker. I found his camp shirts from previous years and was thrilled that the small ones just fit! I even bought these great stick on clothing labels to put into every item my son needs to take to camp. Here I was, thinking I was way ahead of the game until today, the first day of camp. Now I am verklempt with emotion thinking of all that still needs to be done! Starting with a fresh load of laundry!

My son came home with a soggy backpack filled with his wet towel and soaking wet bathing suits. Uh oh...forgot to send in plastic bags to put the wet items in. Oh well, no harm done. I’m sure the backpack will dry out by tomorrow morning. Then, as I was tossing my son’s wet bathing suit and SPF shirt into the washing machine, I realized that although I have enough bathing suits to get my son through a full week, I do not have enough SPF shirts!! I bought the only ones my son will wear (due to his sensory disorder) at a greatly reduced price, at the end of the season last year, but only purchased a few. I need at least 10. And at the peak of the season, this brand of SPF shirts are outrageous in price. They are seamless...they have no seams at all. It is the seams that bother my son to the point where he will just rip the shirt off and not bother to apply sunscreen on his exposed skin. So do I risk my husband’s wrath and shell out the money to buy shirts I know my son will wear? Or do I buy less expensive shirts, have them worn once and then tossed aside, only to be given away to someone else? Oy, I’m so verklempt!

Then we come to socks. Again, with my son’s sensory issues, he will only wear socks from one particular store. I have gone to 3 of these stores and looked on their internet site, only to find out that they are completely sold out of every color except black in my son’s size. My son has to wear a blue shirt to camp every day...couldn’t they have at least had blue? No blue at all. Only black. So I bought several pairs of black hoping others would think they were very dark blue. Oy vey.

Our next issue is my son’s upcoming birthday party in about a month. I still have to address and send out the invitations. I bought some of the party supplies. But the biggest issue is regarding one friend my son wants to invite. My son adores this friend. My husband loathes this kid due to some past indiscretions. My son has been begging my husband to invite this friend. My husband is literally threatening me with legal action if I invite this kid. Aghhhhh!!! Verklempt, verklempt, verklempt!!! Where is Calgon when you need it to take you away??

And, of course, why don’t we top it off with my son’s “birthday wish list.” I must admit, my son has very good taste. However, every item on my son’s list costs at least $50!! I tried to gently explain to my son that most people cannot afford to spend that amount of money on a birthday gift. It’s not sinking in. My creative son has come up with 100 different ways that guests can chip in and buy my son what he wants. I tried to explain that you can’t “tell” guests how to go about giving you the gifts you want. Guests make their own choices and you just have to hope to get what you want...or at least close to it. My son is just not “getting” it. He is “hyperfocused” (see last week’s blog for definition) on what he wants and only what he wants!!!! I’m so verklempt!!!

Since none of these things is a major catastrophe, only a miscellany of inconvenience, I think a dose of perceptiveness is really all I need. I mostly went through my son’s closet and replaced the heavy clothes for the lighter ones. I’m packing up my son’s second grade work and boxing it up to look through in the future. The one thing I haven’t quiet gotten to fully is my own closet. The cashmeres are still mixed among the sleeveless cotton shirts. But I did identify many items to give away. I also purchased some new summer clothing that will actually fit, so progress is being made.

I think I just need to sit down to a nice, cold iced coffee and bagel with just a shmear of cream cheese. That oughta do the trick!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Motherhood of Writing -- by Laura Houston

I spent four years of my life trying to get pregnant, doing things like injecting myself in the ass with long, thick, angry needles full of progesterone, or drinking Chinese herbal remedies that caused me to throw up half the time because they smelled and tasted so bad. It was such a traumatic, emotionally draining, incredibly sad time in our lives that neither me nor my husband David can talk about it. So when we found out we were pregnant with twins, and we knew it would not be fun during parts of the journey, we swore wouldn’t complain about parenthood. We had worked to hard to achieve it.

I recall after my first failed IVF I went to a baby shower where several of the moms were complaining about their lost lives, their ambivalence over their sense of self, and the way pregnancy changed their lives. One of them waved her hand at me and said, “Just adopt. You can keep your figure and save yourself some sleep.”

People don’t mean to be insensitive, but they often are. At that point in my life, I would have gladly gained weight, lost sleep, and endured a soul-searching journey just to have a child. And lo and behold here I am with two. And I try very hard not to complain. I work at enjoying every moment, and thanks to one key trick I know, I pretty much do enjoy every moment. That trick is writing.

More than anything else in this world I believe that writing actualizes the self. If you write about how much you love your kids, you tend to love them even more. If you write about how much your kids drive you crazy, very often you can let those feelings go and you don’t feel so crazy any more. Writing creates a framework for your life and for your feelings. It gives you control. What you put down on paper is in your control.

The Internet is fat with blogs on motherhood. Why? Because we are trying to rediscover our sense of self through our experiences and then writing about them. And blogging is more powerful than a diary because we are hanging ourselves out there for all to see – failures and all. Sometimes what we write is trivial to others. Sometimes it’s just downright complaining. But many times it’s reflecting upon this incredible seed of love growing inside us, and sometimes it’s growing so fast it hurts. Or it makes us drastically uncomfortable. Or it fills our lungs with oxygen, and we are so high we don’t know if we can ever come down.

I have loved blogging about my experiences as a mother. Even more so, I have loved the myriad of responses I have received via email, Facebook, and on the blog itself. There are regular readers who reach out to me to tell me my words affected them, and when they turn around share their story with me, I am affected. It has been a tremendously rich, emotional, and fulfilling exchange.

But now is the time for me to make another change. I’m going to take some time off and do some writing of a different kind. Something more creative. Something more challenging. Something I don’t know if I can actually do, but it’s time I stepped outside my comfort zone and do what I always dreamed of.

My husband and I rented a house Upstate for a few weeks this summer. We’re going up to relax, enjoy the beauty of New York, and hang out with the family. I’ll do some writing. He’ll do some cycling. We’ll swim with the boys and maybe show them how to skip rocks in one of those perfect Adirondack Rivers. There will be no Internet or cable or satellite TV. No electronics. Just the family and my old, warped composition book. And a good old-fashioned ink pen.

So I say good-bye for the summer. And I have to thank both the readers who agreed with me and those who disagreed with me because you all taught me something. And most of all I want to say if you are feeling lost, confused, happy, excited, and you want to experience it at its fullest: write. Put pen to paper and write. It’ll change your life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Me and My Girl—by Jamie Levine

When I became pregnant as a single mother by choice, and discovered that I was having a girl, one of my friends declared, “you and your daughter will be just like the Gilmore Girls!”—which was one of our favorite TV shows at the time. Well, as the 41-year-old mom of a four-year-old, I can’t say Jayda and I are as close in age as Rory and Lorelai were, or that Jayda is my closest confidante, but when Jayda tells me that I’m her “best friend,” it does make me smile. And after spending six days together in Florida—our longest solo vacation together—I have to admit that my daughter and I do share a pretty powerful bond, and know how to have a lot of fun together.

Months ago, when I'd discovered that Jayda had two weeks off between nursery school and camp—when most of her friends would still be in school—I made plans to take Jayda down to a lovely hotel in Delray Beach, Florida, for a few days, to meet a single mom friend of mine and her son who live in Atlanta. Then, Jayda and I would continue on to Boyton Beach to spend some time with my college roommate and her family. I knew Jayda would have fun on the beach and in the pool with my friends’ children, but selfishly, I was looking forward to lots of girl-time with my old friends. So when my Atlanta friend’s son came down with a virus and she had to cancel her vacation plans the night before her intended arrival, I was extremely bummed—as well as concerned: How on earth was I going to entertain Jayda by myself for several days? But I soon discovered my worries were unfounded. Not only was Jayda easy to be with and easy to please, but she also turned out to be a great companion for me.

I’d intended to work out at least several times during my hotel visit—expecting to have my Atlanta friend watch Jayda while I hit the gym, and then reciprocating by watching her son while she went for a run. Without my gym-time, I knew I’d be completely stressed out, so I decided to speak to my daughter woman-to-woman about my problem: “Jayda, mommy really needs to go to the gym to feel good and stay healthy. If you help me out and let me do some exercise, I promise the rest of the day will be all about you. Working out will give me the energy to do whatever you want.” “Ok, mommy,” she quickly agreed, and every morning, armed with a ziplock bag of cereal, my ipod, and a tote bag full of coloring books and other toys we’d brought to the hotel, Jayda sat on an exercise bike at the gym while I ran on the treadmill or lifted weights. My workouts were shorter than they are in New York, but we both left the gym with smiles on our faces.

After my daily workout, my mornings with Jayda were spent on the beach, walking, talking, collecting shells, building sand castles, and playing in the ocean. Then we headed back to the hotel pool for some socializing. I managed to call a few friends I had in the area to come and visit us with their kids for lunch and a swim, but when we were alone—which was often—Jayda and I found plenty of people with whom to pass the time. Our first afternoon at the pool, Jayda introduced herself to a large group of adults who were at the hotel on a business trip—unwinding poolside with tropical drinks; after high-fiving my daughter every time she swam through their gathering, they happily included me in their conversations for the rest of the evening. And throughout the rest of our stay, numerous adults with small children floated over to me and my daughter for brief pool-time playdates. Our days—and social lives—were full.

Of course my daughter is only four, so there were still power struggles that occurred between us (mostly over Jayda’s desire to eat too much junk food), a few temper tantrums that were thrown (mostly by Jayda :), and forced early bedtimes for me (I had no one to talk to at night, and nowhere to read or speak on the phone without waking up Jayda). And our trip definitely turned out to be quite unlike the vacation I'd originally planned. It was different. But not disappointing. Jayda came home declaring, “I miss Florida!” so I know she had the time of her life. And I have to admit that I had a pretty great time, too: Just me and my girl.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST - Your Inner Vision by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

I’m writing on my way to the hospital for my grandson’s birth. Sonograms have taken the thrill away from psychics like me for predicting gender. Still, good news is welcome from anywhere.

There’s so much I’d like to tell the soon-to-be parents, but I stay in their good graces by keeping my lips zipped unless asked, so if you have a few moments, I’d like to tell you what I’d tell them. Believe that your child is on his own special path to a bright future and hold fast to it, no matter what.

That’s just what I had been determined to do when my son was born, but once he started school, the bright vision I'd held for him became as blurry as a windshield streaked by worn wiper blades.

In pre-school, his teacher phoned to complain that he was noisy during transition. I chuckled. “You should have heard me screaming during transition when I was in labor with him,” I said. She didn’t chuckle back. Instead, she rattled off a list of complaints. He dumped sand in the water table and water in the sand table. He festooned the bathroom with toilet paper and hid so long in the closet that she almost went crazy until she found him.

She’s crazy, I thought.

But in elementary school, the complaints kept coming. He didn’t do his work in school and rarely turned in his homework. Though he read encyclopedias at home, he was in remedial reading at school. It must have been as exasperating for him as it was for me.

Once, in the middle of the day, the doorbell rang. I looked out the peephole. No one was there. The bell rang again. I opened the door. Charles, a second grader then, stood there in his snowsuit.

“What are you doing home?” I demanded.

“There was a substitute teacher,” he said and continued nonchalantly to the kitchen to pour himself some milk.

Despite having crossed major streets and risked being snatched by a pervert, he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He moved to the beat of his own bongo drums.

I took him for hearing and eye tests. I took him to a neurologist, a psychologist, a learning disabilities specialist, a tutor. I gave him time-outs, took his favorite toys from his room, and cancelled play dates. Nothing helped. At home, he made costumes, clothespin figurines, strawberry carton towers scaled by plastic soldiers. He amassed a fund of knowledge about whales, the stars, and dinosaurs. At school, he only amassed poor grades and complaints. No matter what teacher he had, how stimulating the curriculum, he didn’t like tasks appointed by others. He wanted to do only what he decided upon.

My neighbors would say, I bet you just came home from your son’s school.” They weren’t psychic. They saw the tears in my eyes from hearing, “He’s such a nice boy, but…”

Then, when he was a junior in high school, he took a job in a local music store. There an angel in the form of a bratty rich girl turned his life around.

“CD Boy,” she’d say, snapping her fingers, “get me this. Ger me that.”

He figured if he didn’t buckle down in school, this would be his future—minimum wage and maximum scorn.

He managed to pick up his grades enough to get into a state school and while there, took a job in the outside world each semester to motivate himself to stay in school.

Today, he’s a well-respected, affluent financial advisor with family and friends who adores him. The moral, I guess, is that if your child isn’t doing well in school, don’t ever believe that he hasn’t a wonderful future. Get him the help he might need, but the biggest help you can give him is that no matter what his problem is, hold fast to your bright vision for him. It will come about somehow in ways you couldn’t have predicted..

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, author of Miriam the Medium (Simon and Schuster), is a psychic who works by phone like her fictional character, Miriam. Shapiro’s psychic gifts have been written about in Redbook, The Jerusalem Post, Newsweek, The New Times (Lives), and more.  Visit her new site  


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Becoming A Free-Range Parent by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

I am follower of Lenore Skenazy’s blog Free-Range Kids. She has a book out by the same name, which I would very much like to buy. I bring this up because often to do the kinds of activities she promotes for Free-Range kids, activities that were once the norm, partly out of necessity and partly the world functioned differently, a parent needs to practice.

Letting kids have independence and freedom in today’s culture takes conscience effort and work, but the rewards are worth it. I have been practicing and I can tell you that at times it is a terrifying process to let my child move in greater and greater spheres beyond me—“out of my sight.” When she was little, two to three, I would let my daughter often walk a block or more in front of me in instances where there were no cars, but I could still see her. Now that she’s five years old, I am working on letting her out of my sight. When I do this in controlled environments, I still get huge knot in my stomach. I fight to overcome the urge to run after her yelling “you are too far from me.

Quick rewind to a blog I posted for Mother’s Day that included my mom’s fears that when she called me at night and I wasn’t home—when I lived in NYC—she told me she couldn’t sleep. Now as a review I was in my 30’s when I lived in NYC. So here’s my mom dealing with the same huge knot in her stomach. She couldn’t see me. Being a mom is living with this knot...and letting this human being you bore become the independent person they were meant to be.

The process of raising independent children is a difficult one. No matter the dictates of any culture, releasing a child into the world begins at birth. What’s sad is that our society has succumbed to our interior fears to the detriment of raising healthy, independent children.

Now I am starting to sound like a professor giving a lecture...easy to do since I am a professor. But let me move into a recent little moment I had with my daughter. She takes swimming lessons at the college where I work and last week she wanted to go for a walk. I responded by asking her where did she wanted to go and she said “I want to go by myself, Mom.” In my mind I was screaming to myself “You’re too little, you’re my baby, no, no, no!!!” I took a deep breath and instead decided that the campus side walk was a good controlled environment and that I could follow her in the car.

We got to the check point and she wanted to go farther. She had a sense of pride in herself. She was really happy that she was being independent. She wanted to go farther. We went farther. We did three legs of the walk and at the last leg she rounded the corner onto the main street. At that point, I had to go with traffic and so pulled out onto the main road. My daughter stayed walking along the sidewalk. I turned at the first block and pulled over. For me, this was the hardest part. She was out of my sight as she walked down the block and I pulled over. She knew this. There were no streets to cross just this stretch along the main road. It was too much for me to wait in the car even though I could see her after I stopped. I had to get out and meet her part way.

When I got to her dealing with my stomach knot was all the more poignant. She said “Mom I am so big I can really do this myself.” Ouch, I just wanted to cry and I was proud of her all at the same time. This to me is the hard work of parenting: owning the fear and walking into it anyway. This is also a definition of courage. Free-Range parenting takes courage and but the rewards are so worth it.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Life Lesson - by Robin Gorman Newman

The Rolling Stones got that right in their rock classic, "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Seth experienced this first hand recently, and it was a valuable reminder lesson for me as well and something I appreciated sharing with him.

We had tickets to see Gazillion Bubble Show for the third time in New York City....yes....we've become groupies!  And, if you haven't seen it, it's a fun family outing.  I've even gone with girlfriends who enjoyed it, so you don't have to be a mom to have a good time.

Marc drove to work in the city, so we'd have the car for the return trip home in the evening.  Seth and I were at the pool in afternoon and left early to take the Long Island Railroad to Manhattan.  When we got to the platform, there were hoards of people. Immediately I thought something is going on.  We heard an announcement that an earlier train was delayed, so we figured that was the problem. But, it was bigger than that.  Due to a heavy rain and thunder storm earlier in the day, there were electrical problems at our station.  We kept hearing announcements that trains were to arrive on time (which were clearly programmed before the problems), because ultimately they announced service was suspended.  We waited for over an hour with the hope that things would resume, but it didn't happen, and by then, it was rush hour and too late to consider any alternate mode of getting into the city.  We would not have made the show on time.

I called Marc, and my friend who was to join us, to say the show was a "wash", and we'd try to reschedule.  Seth started to cry and refused to throw in the towel.  I gave him credit for holding out for hope, but clearly the situation wasn't good.

I quickly came up with an alternate visit Game Stop....he had wanted to pick up Game Boy games using a Gift Card he received.  This proved a good distraction, but the situation prompted a talk that became a life lesson.

I explained to Seth that life has disappointments.  Things don't always work out as we plan.  It's important to be flexible, and keep the faith that if one thing doesn't come to fruition, something else will. 

I've always believed  we don't necessarily know why certain things happen, good or bad, but the universe has a plan.  It gives me comfort.  Especially when I'm in the gray.  And, isn't that life in general?  No one has a crystal ball, and while we might feel at times we'd like one, other times, going with the flow is the best and only viable course of action.

While I know we will have the opportunity to take in GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW on another date, I hope Seth will take away the postive message I iintended. It will serve him well in life, as it continues to serve me.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's On YOUR Mind? by Liimu

I know I've blogged about this before, but it's really important.

What we think about, we bring about.

How many times have you found yourself facing a horrible situation - financial crisis, sick child, or just general feeling of overwhelm - and then started "venting" to people about it, lamenting how horrible the situation is, and how horrible you feel as a result? What I have learned, and experienced, is that "venting" only makes the situation worse. That the more I talk about it, the more I wallow in it, the worse it gets.

Take this past week. We got back from Martha's Vineyard - a wonderful family vacation - only to find that all three of my girls somehow had gotten lice. Can you say, nightmare? To make matters worse, my babysitter had also gotten it, so I was faced with a Monday where I had an important meeting to go to in Delaware, and I had three children who desperately needed serious treatment for their conditions, a three-month old who is still extremely clingy and unpredictable, and no one to help me. Add to that the fact that it was my husband's first day back after paternity leave and you can understand why I began to feel like my life was spiraling out of control. I started to worry about my finances, my weight, my parenting skills - basically, I started to FREAK OUT.

Years ago, before I learned The Secret and the Law of Attraction, I would have let things continue to spiral, wasting days or even weeks whining to friends and family about how horrible everything was, and lo and behold, it would have gotten worse and worse. As a devout believer and practitioner of the Law of Attraction, I know better. I know to work my tushy off to change my feelings and my attitude and get my mindset back on a positive vibration as soon as possible. That's exactly what I did. I got help, did my part to take care of the situation and started praying, meditating and visualizing a better situation for me and my girls. It worked. Not even a week later, I am feeling on top of the world. Things in my life aren't much different (aside from the fact that we are all lice-free, thanks to RID, Nix, LiceMD, olive oil and shower caps, and good old fashioned nit-picking). I can FEEL things moving in a positive direction, and thankfully, the Universe is kind enough to show signs that I'm not imagining things. For instance, someone I had all but forgotten I loaned money to 9 months ago decided to start sending monthly payments! And suddenly, it doesn't feel so hard to resist the chocolate and whaddyaknow? The weight is finally flying off!

It's a choice we can make to decide to stay in the positive. When someone tells me I look skinny (which they have been recently - go figure), guess what? I don't say, "Oh, no - I still have tons of weight to lose." I say, "Thanks! I feel skinny!"

Here's the best example of this positive thinking at work in my life that I can recall. Forgive me if I've shared it with you before.

In May 2009, my 5 year old daughter began to complain of headaches. This wasn't unusual - she'd had a history of migraines. We gave her motrin and thought nothing more of it. Then, she started to run a fever for several days. We figured it was a virus and hoped the motrin would take care of it. When it hadn't lifted by day 5, we realized it might be something more serious. Long story short, she had contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever thanks to a dog tick bite we hadn't even realized she'd gotten. Less than a week later, the Fever had spread to her brain and her spine - she no longer recognized us and wasn't moving from the neck down. Teams of neurologists and doctors came into her room every couple of hours, each time with more depressing, scary news. She could need MRIs for several months afterward to rule out brain damage, she might need long-term physical and speech therapy, she was at risk of a stroke, which could even kill her. My husband and I cried, and kept saying to each other, "How did this happen? How did this happen?"

At some point I realized that I was getting caught up in the drama of it - not to be callous, I know that it was a dramatic and genuinely scary situation. But getting caught up in the drama of it wasn't helping her, and thank God I knew that getting into a positive mindset just might. I turned to my husband said, "That's it. I'm done with this way of thinking. I don't know about you, but from here on out, I don't want to think about anything else but her getting better. I don't want to imagine her doing anything but sitting up playing Uno and watching SpongeBob. If you can't do that, you should maybe go home for the night." He did go home for the night, not because he couldn't think positive about her - he could and did - but because he knew that in addition to thinking positive, we needed to also begin to take care of each other and ourselves.

That night, after hours of praying and visualizing her recovery, I sat next to Amelia's bed and asked her, "Which would you like me to read, Winnie the Pooh or Knuffle Bunny." To my delight and surprise, she said the first word she'd said in days - "Knuffle Bunny." I immediately began texting everyone to let them know she'd spoken as tears of joy spilled down my face. The next day, the doctors were amazed at her exponential progress. Within 48 hours, she was walking. When she left the hospital less than a week after she was admitted, they were amazed to proclaim her restored to nearly fully functioning. No additional therapy of any kind would be needed.

I always think back to our Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever experience when things start to look bleak - it helps me to remember how important and powerful the mind is, and to remember that life really is as good as I can imagine it to be.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Discovering a Piece of the Puzzle - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

It has been a while since I updated our readers on my still pending divorce. I found, by happenstance, a very interesting piece of information that may help me to understand the “I don’t know,” I’ve always received as an answer when I asked my husband why he doesn’t even want to try to work on mending our family. I think I found the answer. Or, at least part of the answer.

Months ago, I chalked up his, “I don’t know,” responses as him just being, “not that into you.” I believe I even wrote a blog about it. Yet, it still weighed heavily on my mind because I just couldn’t understand how you could love someone with all your heart for 20 years, and then just, “not be into you.” It made absolutely no sense at all to me.

I was asked to write a short article on ADD/ADHD children and their relationships with their Grandparents. Interestingly, I found four fairly decent articles, but I continued my search to see whether I could unearth something additional to refer to. I came across an article that had absolutely nothing to do with ADD children and their Grandparents, but the title of the article struck me. I tried to move on but couldn’t. This article was begging to be read.

The title of the article was, “I’m OK - You’re Not!” written by Melissa Orlov from Additude Magazine. Very fitting title for my circumstance. I was already aware of Ms. Orlov’s interest in ADHD, as I purchased one of the books she had written, but never read. I quickly skimmed the introduction, paying more attention to the main categories. Halfway through the article, I stopped in my tracks. The title of this category was, “The Hyperfocus Courtship.” For those of you who are unaware of hyperfocusing in an ADD/ADHD person, the individual’s brain chemistry continues to keep firing until a certain task is completed. Thus, the person gives 100% attention to that task until the person is satisfied with the outcome. I have seen it many times with my son. If he hyperfocuses on schoolwork, that’s very positive. If he comes to me at 9:30pm and wants me to help him write a “book,” this is undesirable hyperfocusing because my son needs to go to bed. It is pointless to argue with a hyperfocusing person. You just elicit more power struggles. So I just said, “Mommy is tired and has to go to bed. Please consider trying to work on your project tomorrow morning.” He fell asleep on his “book” at 11:30pm. He actually brought about his own consequence. He was very tired the next day. This is just an example of an ADD person hyperfocusing on a task or project. I never knew that a person could hyperfocus on a relationship, though. Here is where Ms. Orlov’s words hit home:

“The biggest shock to ADHD relationships comes with the transition from courtship to marriage. Typically, a person with ADHD hyperfocuses on his partner in the early stages of a relationship. He makes her feel she is the center of his world. When the hyperfocus stops, the relationship changes dramatically.” The center of his world. How many times had I said those exact words to my therapists when describing my early relationship with my husband? The center of his world. I read her words over and over. Ms. Orlov hit the nail right on the head...mine to be exact! I was stunned by this revelation, but it also made so much sense. I needed to pass it by my therapy professionals to get their perspectives.

My ADD therapist thought that I found my answer. She said, when a partner’s hyperfocus shuts off, the non-ADHD spouse is left bewildered. And if counseling isn’t sought immediately, the relationship is almost assuredly doomed. I asked her whether my husband’s hyperfocus of me could have lasted so many years. She replied that it was not common, but it could certainly be found. She told me she felt that I was probably the very unfortunate victim of a hyperfocusing partner whose brain chemicals just stopped firing. That is probably why my husband “doesn’t know” why he doesn’t want a relationship with me. He is in denial that he even has ADHD, so he wouldn’t know of nor understand his hyperfocusing of me and now the lack of it. The other therapy professionals agreed.

So there you have it. I am a victim of ADHD hyperfocus burnout. I suppose it is not much different than having been in a relationship with a partner who was in denial about their manic/depressive disorder or alcoholism or other myriad psychological disorders. I am in just an extremely unfortunate circumstance.

The good news is for my son. He already has an ADD diagnosis. He will learn coping strategies and techniques to work through and around his hyperfocus episodes. He will be able to identify when he hyperfocuses. He will have me to guide him through his younger years and help him figure out what to do in various situations. And because I know all of the tell-tail signs, I can gently discuss them with him and coach him through. With a blessing and a kiss, I pray he never finds himself or his family in the situation we are currently facing. Once is more than enough.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trying to Teach Compassion -- by Laura Houston

I am taking a break from teaching my boys the ABCs and their 123s. I have noticed that here in Manhattan where pressure is high for kids and parents to test into a good kindergarten that a more important lesson is being left out. Parents have forgotten to teach their kids compassion. I see it on the playground every day, and I don’t want to see it in my sons. Ever.

So I have started to make some changes. I am working on curbing my sense of humor, which leans to the side of teasing. Most of the time the boys laugh when I tease them, but sometimes I cross the line. For instance, when my boys try to climb on the TV set, I would squirt them with water. They would laugh and try harder to get at the remote. We’d all end up in giggles. Then one time I squirted Lyle without thinking, and I did it in front of friends. One of them said, “That was mean.” I was so shocked I had done such a thing I could not respond or explain it used to be a game.

It’s certainly not a game any more. Not just because I shamed myself in front of friends, but because I am well aware my sons could very well take this sort of teasing to the playground. It’s the sort of teasing that starts out fun for everyone but ends up with the person on the other end of it crying. It then becomes a power play, and it’s dangerous.

I have also stopped barking out behavioral commands. At the park I am usually a mad woman, trying to watch both of my active toddlers who systematically choose to play at opposite ends of the playground. This is not effective parenting, so I have tempered the barking. Lyle has trouble taking turns, so I now pull him from the slide or the fountain, and get down on his level, and calmly explain to him the importance of taking turns. He is not responding to my request to share, but he is listening.

One of the best lessons my parents taught me as a girl was the Golden Rule. I remember my mother sitting me down and telling me to play it out on the other person’s side. She would ask me how it felt if someone had done that to me, and she made me tell her how it would feel so I could walk in that person’s shoes. I think this is the most indispensable advice my mother ever gave me.

The Golden Rule, along with the rule that everything you do in life comes back to you, is being taught in my house now. The boys are not talking, but they are hearing me and getting the concept. When Lyle shoved his brother off the couch, I pulled him to me and explained to him how mean that was. I asked him if he understood why it was mean, and he said, “yes.” Then I asked him to repeat to me why it was mean, and he babbled off an explanation. I doubt he even knew what he said, but the thought process begins.

I am also trying to decide how to handle timeouts right now. I rarely have to give one to Wyatt, but one day when he was particularly cranky he asked me for one, so I put him in his crib with some books, and he had quiet time for almost an hour. He came back to the living room happy and calm. I have given Lyle timeouts for bad behavior, and it usually calms him, but it has little effect yet on changing his behavior. I’m concerned about timeouts because social alienation can increase bullying, and I am concerned how to find a balance. I have to think about this for a while to decide how to best handle punishments.

I used to believe that kids were born with compassion, and some of them lost it over time as they became wounded or mistreated. But now I know differently. It has to be taught, and Dave and I have to do it.

Last week in school a new girl with a speech impediment became overly shy at snack time, and she fled to the corner, curled up in a ball, and cried softly. Lyle left his snack, went over to her, put his face close to hers, and patted her back while babbling softly to her. The girl’s mom was impressed.

I was, too. But I also knew that in about 20 minutes Lyle would shove her, steal her toy, and go running off with it. And sure enough that’s what happened. But Lyle is good at apologizing, and he did after another one of our talks. It makes me wonder, does he get it? At all? His polar behavior baffles me sometimes.

Then there’s Wyatt. Wyatt rarely does anything to anyone. He’s a lone ranger – an easy kid to raise. But recently he has started laughing when someone falls or trips. It’s odd because he falls so much. The kid hasn’t had clean knees since summer began. The other day Lyle fell off a toy he was standing on, and Wyatt laughed hysterically. It was all I could do not to laugh at Wyatt’s laugh. I don’t want to encourage the guy. He has a contagious sense of humor.

So I have a little list of things to do to promote compassion. I need to give more hugs and practice forgiveness after an act has been punished. I need to spend more time on their level explaining things to them in a calm, matter-of-fact voice. The words I need to say as often as possible: be nice, play nice. Sometimes I can hear Wyatt chanting these as he tries to cross the busy playground. I have to believe it’s sinking in on some level.

Monday, June 20, 2011

CONTRIBUTING EXPERT - View from the Pediatrician's Office by Victoria McEvoy, M.D.

Summer is here. Children are released from the pressures of school. Play and exercise take place outdoors. Colds and stomach bugs are pushed to the back burner. Families may get to spend more time together. But summer brings a new set of hazards. Poison ivy, sunburn, bug bites, athletic injuries, and animal bites can bring a new set of hazards to children.

What can you do to keep your child safe during the summer months?

1) What should I use for sunblock for my baby?

New guidelines have been introduced by the FDA to abort misleading advertising in the sunscreen world.

* Babies under 6 months of age should be covered up and shielded from the sun. Sunscreen is not recommended for infants under 6 months of age.

* Sunscreen should offer at least SPF (sun protection factor) of 30. Over 50 is not incrementally better.

* Universal protection, meaning protection against both UVA and UVB should be listed on the sunblock. UVA rays cause aging of the skin as well as skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn and skin cancer.

* Umbrella and other sun shielding devices do not offer total protection from sun. Sunscreen should still be applied.

* Sunscreen listed as water proof is inaccurate; water resistance is the best that some sunblocks can offer.

* Most sunblocks need to be reapplied every 40 to 80 minutes.

* Check on the sunblock tube to be sure you apply adequate amounts of sunblock.

* Sprays are not thought to be as effective as creams or lotions.

2) Why does my baby have big red welts on his arm or leg when he gets a bug bite- is he allergic or are these bites infected?

* We all develop some degree of a wheal and flare reaction-i.e. redness and swelling- at the site of a bug bite. Young children seem to have a more dramatic reaction to simple insect bite. The wheal and flare reaction is an allergic response. Cold packs and/or Benadryl if itchy can suffice. Occasionally bug bites do get infected if a child picks and itches at the bite.

3) My child has eczema but he loves to swim- what should I do about the chlorine?

* It is wonderful for children to swim in the summer. Once he gets out of the pool, be sure to thoroughly rinse and wipe off the chlorinated water. Then apply a moisturizer after showering.

* Avoid having your child sit around in a wet diaper or bathing suit if he has sensitive especially on hot, humid days.

4) How can I prevent Lyme disease; I am worried sick about ticks?

* Children should play outside if safety precautions are observed. If he is in a woodsy are, have him wear long pants and shirt if you live in an endemic tick area.

* Do tick checks every night before bed after bath- go over all parts of the body including the scalp to look for feasting ticks.

* If you find a tick and it has been attached for less than 36 hours, it is unlikely to transmit Lyme Disease.

Victoria McEvoy, M.D., is the author of “The 24/7 Baby Doctor, a Harvard Pediatrician Answers All Your Questions From Birth to One Year," Lyons Press.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Written in the Stars by Elizabeth Allen

How does a woman become an older mom? Is it a conscious decision like deciding to wait until you’re financially solvent? Or postponing until you’ve experienced all the travelling, parties, fine dining, and spontaneity you can handle before you become permanently tethered to a dependent child? Or is it the luck (or not) of the draw? Are there fertility issues? Partner complications? Fear of motherhood?

I used to think my delay in becoming a mother was directly linked to the DNA I inherited from my mother. Okay, that’s not very scientific, but hear me out. She was 39 when I was born. My father was her fifth and last husband. They divorced when I was 12, which taught me that marriages and families are as disposable as tissue paper. It also taught me (or rather I decided as a result) that people, men in particular, would let me down.

Eventually I shelved my bitterness, tried to forgive my father, and grew up. During the Bohemian decade of my twenties, I tried to find the right man to share my life with. Oh, I met men, in fact, I was engaged 3 times, but I was too picky to settle and something in me knew they would make terrible husbands and even worse fathers. My mother laid on tons of guilt about wanting to hold her grandchild before she died. She even said, “If you wait for the right man, you’ll never have a child!” That said, I dodged the guilt and waited.

Guess what? I met the right guy at 30. I was 32 when we married. We were in no hurry to start a family. Even if I had known my mom would succumb to ovarian cancer and my dad would die of a massive heart attack within the year, we wouldn’t have rushed into parenthood.

At 35, I gave birth to my only child, my daughter. Of course, it still saddens me from time to time to imagine the portrait I never saw. I never saw my parents hold their granddaughter. I never saw my mom plotz over her youngest descendent. I never saw the look of absolute pride and overwhelming emotion when you regard your baby’s baby for the first time.

But I saw a child who was born to two parents who were madly in love with each other and were ready to be in absolute orbit around her.

It hasn’t been the easiest thing to raise a child at my age, but quite frankly, I don’t think it’s ever easy, regardless of age. Certainly younger parents may have more energy, but I see a lot of them harboring anger and resentment for giving up their independence and spontaneity too early. I see young mothers who have yet to figure out who they want to be when they grow up. What kind of a role model is that? At least I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to be a mother when we decided to conceive. It’s not all I am, but it’s the most rewarding role I play. And I see a lot of young divorced parents because the man was unprepared to be a father. Add to that, he lacked the emotional stability and maturity to be a husband. In all fairness, I’ve met plenty of men in their thirties and forties who still lack the essential tools to make good fathers and spouses, but by that point in time, they know it. No one is in denial. Except maybe their 80 year old mothers.

All things considered, whether it was latent DNA, distractions, or slow-moving karma, I’m glad I waited. I recommend it, no matter how it happens; choice or circumstance. I know there are many women out there who crave a baby worse than chocolate, but I encourage you not to rush in. Healthy women in their 30’s and 40’s are having their first child and waiting seems to me the more logical progression. Think about it. Doesn’t it make more sense to find out who and what you are, love yourself, explore the planet and experience your life before you cultivate a new one? As women, we may have been endowed with the ability to create life, but there has to be a sound reason why our eggs have such lengthy expiration dates.

And for those of you who feel guilty about waiting so long to have a child, thereby saddling your kid with a—gasp—old parent, SNAP OUT OF IT! Regardless of what you think or have decided based on whatever, you’re still a mom. You will be a mom for the rest of your life and even when you leave the planet, you will always be your children’s mother. Besides, if it really bothers you, ask your child what they think. I asked my 15 year old daughter how she felt about her parents being older and she said, “I’m glad you’re older. It would freak me out if my parents were into rap…”

From the mouths of babes…

Elizabeth Allen found her literary voice at age 49 when she penned her first book Who Got Liz Gardner which was published in 2009 and has received worldwide acclaim. The sequel, Discovering Arugula, was just released in January 2011. Elizabeth’s short stories about mothers, women and relationships have been published in literary magazines and anthologies. She is a contributing writer for BriteGirl Magazine - Although she’s passionate about writing, she keeps her day job as a financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial.

Elizabeth is 52 years old. She lives in Longwood, Florida with her husband, 15 year old daughter, and Catahoula Leopard dog. Visit

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Is The Value of a Dad? by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

I have a dad. I have two dads actually. Defining dadhood can be tricky for me because at this point I have managed to make peace with my father and wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. And yet the father I have known in my adult life since I was in my early 20’s has really delivered in all things I believe a dad should.

My parents got divorced when I was graduating high school. My mom dated a bit and then really found her love when I was around 20 years old. Though they didn’t get married right away, my parents have been together for over 25 years. One of my first memories of my stepdad is him helping me move. He had a little truck and we loaded my things up and drove a few hours to my new home. It was just he and I. I don’t remember our conversation, but the ride was uneventful: no drama. It was a relief.

Next I remember, a few years later when I had my own little truck and I wanted to change the front brakes. At that time, I was in college and really into being a self-sufficient woman. I used to change my own oil etc. About half way through the brake changing process I asked my stepdad how often he had changed his truck’s brakes. He said never, but he thought together we would figure out how to do mine. I loved him for that.

Later when I had sold my truck and much of my stuff and was planning to move to New York City he gave me a pep talk. My mom was very upset and angry that I was moving across the country. My stepdad said that I should go for it and not worry about my mom.

The list could go on and on about the ways he has supported me and my endeavors. How lucky I am to have had the opportunity to connect as an adult with such a dad. Through much of my late 20’s and all of my 30’s I was not speaking to my father for so many reasons, but none that I want to spill in a public way. During that time of silence I learned to see men in a different way and really watched the example of my stepdad “in relationship” with my mom. I like to think that my dad’s loving example helped me in the selection of my husband.

Anyway this Father’s Day I have a lot to be thankful for: a working relationship with my father, a loving relationship with my stepdad and solid relationship with my husband, the dad to my daughter. Dads play such a huge role in the rearing of a child. A mother’s role is obvious, a father’s less so. It’s the balance that seems so essential. The presence of participation is finally what I consider to be the most important piece that dads bring to the equation. How great it is that we live in a time when dads’ participation is truly valued and desired.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Craving Community by Robin Gorman Newman

It's always amazed me that I'm a writer at heart because it's such a solitary craft, and in that sense, it doesn't suit me at all.

I love being around people and feeling part of a community.  That's one of the resounding reasons I launched Motherhood Later...Than Sooner.  But, for me, it's not just about connecting with other moms, it's about quality time with people you enjoy, and ideally, those who truly mean something to you.  If they happen to be moms, that's icing on the cake, but far from a requirement.

I have found that since becoming a mother, coupled with getting older, life for everyone I know is so full, with the operative word "busy" in constant use.  In people's minds, there is little time for fostering relationships (especially new ones), and pleasure is squeezed in between chores and what easily starts to feel like a stagnant daily existance.

I crave more than that.  I want to enjoy life and the people in my world.  This is a priority.  And, in my book, you're never too old to make new friends or reinforce longstanding friendships. It's worth it.

This past week/weekend was an unusual time in my home. For four days straight, we had a full house.  Marc and I felt like keepers of a B and B we called Chez Newman, and though a bit hectic, it was fun.  One very close friend who I worked with some 25 years ago and lives a distance away, came to stay with us for two nights, and it took me back to our professional days as single gals working in NYC.  While it was a time of spontaneity and enjoying all that Manhattan had to offer, ironically it wasn't all joyous since we were living in the gray.  And, that was a challenging place for us.  A frequent topic of discussion was our desire to meet the men we would one day marry.  We weren't in a rush to walk down the aisle that very moment, but in a perfect world, we would have had a crystal ball so we'd be assured it would happen.  And, we'd know exactly when and how.  Then, we might have been able to rest easy, and potentially enjoy our 20s all the more.

Fast forward, and we're now both married women with kids living in our respective suburbs.  We got what we wanted.  And, though we love our children and husbands, we yearn for the freedom that feels like another lifetime ago. 

This takes me back to my college days.  When I was an undergraduate student attending Hofstra University, starting my second year, I lived in a single dorm room.  It was small but had the necessities, and while I appreciated the privacy, I also relished company.  So, when I wasn't hibernating writing a paper or studying all night for an exam, my room was the "go-to" destination.  I had an open door policy (at times, even if I was in my pajamas), and fellow student friends would wander in 'n out, and I was in my element.

My good friend Alli (Aunt Alli to Seth), who also stayed with us this past week (for one night), has shared  how she and other empty nester friends have had conversations about communal living. They've discussed the possibility of one day buying a large house with ample space for all of them.

I can see the appeal of that or living in a gated or even retirement community, when the time comes.  If you're lucky enough to have neighbors you enjoy, you have a built in circle of companionship.  While I feel fortunate to live in our house, we are only friendly with one set of neighbors, the rest of whom keep to themselves.  I see many at our community pool in the summer, but conversations start 'n end there.

I don't want to think about old age at present.  I have no desire to wish the years away.  But, I do know that I appreciate the company of people I can have heartfelt discussions with.  Other women who get raging hormones.  Other women who decided to be a stay at home mom and grapple with the challenges that come with that.  Other women who yearn for topics of discussion beyond parenthood.  Other women who want to get to know you despite having an existing social circle.  Other women engaged in stimulating pursuits, who you can learn from.   And, I'm certainly open to getting to know men as well (of course, not romantically). all  who know and love us....Chez Newman is open for business.  Don't be a stranger.  And, if you are a stranger, don't be afraid to say hello.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cyma Chats with Samantha Parent Walravens, editor, TORN

1) In your new book, "Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood," you feature 47 women who have, at times, found ingenious ways to combine motherhood with a career. What compelled you to write this book?

The inspiration for TORN was a moment 10 years ago that I like to refer to as the “Box of Cheerios Incident.” I was working long hours at Silicon Valley SW company, with a two-year old at home and another baby on the way. My husband traveled quite a bit for his job and my family lived across the country, so I felt very alone and unsupported as a mother. Got home one night at 8 p.m. after a 12-hour day to find my husband and two-year old at the kitchen table, asking me what we were having for dinner. It was at that moment that my “inner Superwoman”—who thought she could DO IT ALL—snapped. I grabbed box of Cheerios, slammed on table, and told them to make their own dinner.

It was at this moment that I realized that I couldn’t DO IT ALL. I was raised in the 70’s and 80’s—post- Gloria Steinem—and women of my generation were told that we COULD DO IT ALL—pursue a career, get married, have kids, give back to the community by volunteering, and more. What our feminist foremothers didn’t tell us was that DOING IT ALL was a recipe for a nervous breakdown!

2) What is the single most common trait that these mothers share?

The women who wrote stories in TORN are college-educated and career-minded. That doesn’t mean that they are all affluent, by any means. Most of the women work out of economic necessity. Not all are still working, but they all had jobs at one time or another.

3) What is the single most common experience that these mothers share?

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a common experience. I can, however, pinpoint a common feeling-- that of “mommy guilt.” There is a whole section in the book titled, “Got Guilt?” It's interesting how guilt is part of the female lexicon-- whether we work, stay at home, or do both. Why don’t we ever hear about “daddy guilt?” In one of the stories, “Moms Just Can’t Win,” the writer talks about the “S” word—“Should.” As women and mothers, we get so much unsolicited advice thrown at us about how we "should" raise our kids, how we "should" stay in shape, how we "should" feed our kids organic, unprocessed food, how we "should" find a healthy balance between work and family. All of the "shoulds" that bombard us every day are driving us mad!

4) With the increasing pace of technology and the often resultant isolation these women feel, what have you/they concluded about their seeking commonality/community among other women?

I wrote this book, in part, because hearing the stories of other women struggling to meet the demands of home and work life made me feel less alone. My hope is that the stories gathered in this book will benefit the thousands of mothers who struggle with the same concerns day in and day out. Many of us are too exhausted at the end of the day to find the time and energy to meet up with girlfriends to share our experiences, and many of us lack the opportunity to learn from one another’s efforts.

Knowing that WE ARE NOT ALONE when we cannot seem to handle a particularly difficult situation will go a long way in helping us avoid self-blame. Knowing when our expectations of ourselves—and others—are unrealistic will also help us to avoid feelings of self-doubt and frustration. And appreciating that there sometimes ARE no perfect solutions—that sometimes GOOD ENOUGH has just got to do—will offer us comfort.

5) Midlife mothers are, perhaps, in one of the most problematic situations. (Often) already immersed in very successful careers, motherhood becomes an even greater struggle given their own accomplishments, especially when combined with other external forces such as aging parents, perimenopause, etc. What do you suggest for and conclude about for this group?

Women who have children at a later age have often achieved a level of professional success and financial security that younger mothers have not, and, in many cases, are very ready to welcome a child into their lives. But older or younger, having a child rocks your world. Just the day-to-day tasks that you once took for granted-- sleeping, eating, showering, exercising, working—become difficult and sometimes impossible to accomplish when you have a tiny, helpless human being clinging to you for survival. On a more spiritual level, your visions and hopes for the future can be dramatically altered. You are no longer living for just YOU. Being responsible for the life of another human being makes you think about the things like global warming and the future of our planet, the chemicals and hormones that we put in our food, the safety of the water we drink, the federal deficit and the economic stability of our country. We want to leave the world a better place for our children to live in.

6) A reviewer noted that the women in your book need to balance the "need to nurture with the need to work." I love that thought. Can you speak further about this dilemma?

TORN is all about women speaking the truth about motherhood today. Sure, you can go ahead and keep telling all the women in your book group how beautiful your whole life is, but for me, it was time for a reality check. I didn’t realize that being a mother would make me feel so unsuccessful. I didn’t realize that motherhood would involve so many sacrifices. I didn’t know I’d lose control. I didn’t know the skills I honed at work would not be transferable or, worse, would be transferable in really unappealing ways. As one mom told me, “I was on an important conference call one day when I watched my two-year old—through glass doors—paint the white dining room furniture RED. When my husband asked me later on what had happened to our beautiful dining room set, I told him I was just ‘multitasking.’

Women need to get real with each other and admit that: 1)Motherhood is really, really hard; 2) No one does it perfectly and, 3) There IS no real balance when it comes to kids and career.

Just when you think you’ve figured it out and life is rolling along smoothly, something WILL happen to throw you off balance.

7) It appears as if many of these high-powered women, who are accustomed to success, must often restructure their thought-processes and often accept defeat -- that is, the realization that they just can't “do it all," or "do it all well." What are your own personal thoughts about this?

Sure, you can go ahead and keep telling all the women in your book group how beautiful your whole life is, but for me, it was time for a reality check. I didn’t realize that being a mother would make me feel so unsuccessful. I didn’t realize that motherhood would involve so many sacrifices. I didn’t know I’d lose control. I didn’t know the skills I honed at work would not be transferable or, worse, would be transferable in really unappealing ways. As one mom told me, “I was on an important conference call one day when I watched my two-year old—through glass doors—paint the white dining room furniture RED. When my husband asked me later on what had happened to our beautiful dining room set, I told him I was just ‘multitasking.’

The illusion that often clouds our vision is that other women are doing it better. Other women are getting it right. They are managing to have it all, with energy and spirit to spare. Yet the very fact that this illusion exists does a great disservice to the majority of us who are striving to get it right and just can’t figure out how the heck to do it.

And that’s why I wrote this book. When I reached out to other women to find out how they were managing the demands of family and career, I received a passionate response from so many of them, who told me, in their own inscrutable words—“WE ARE NOT DOING IT ALL! And who the heck ever told us that we should be doing it all in the first place?” That’s not liberation. It’s hell!

8) As the mother of four children, you must have experienced much of what was written. How did writing this book help you in your personal search for answers?

I wish I could tell you that I've discovered the "magic elixir" for achieving balance in my life, but alas, balance is an elusive dream. I remind myself to "let go" and not seek perfection in all that I do. My kids will be fine if they don't eat an organic, made-from-scratch meal every night. My house doesn't have to look "guest ready" at every moment. I try to compartmentalize my work-- since I work from home-- and work from 9-3 when the kids are in school. That is where I fail most. I call my iPhone my "5th appendage." I have a hard time putting it down and not constantly checking emails. Lastly, my husband and I try to go on "date night" once a week. Keeping your marriage intact through the craziness of kids and career is tough.

9) What single piece of advice would you give new midlife mothers regarding combining careers with the desire for new older motherhood?


If there is one message you can take away from this book, it’s that THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT WAY TO DO motherhood. Women need to stop judging each other for the choices others make—and stop judging ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. The women who are the happiest are the ones who delete the SHOULD word (I call it the S word) from their vocabulary, and do what is best for them and their family. Also—the issue of work-life balance is not just a women’s issue. Until men take part in the conversation, change won’t happen.

Samantha Parent Walravens is an award-winning journalist, writer and mother of four children. She started her writing career as an editor for PC World magazine, where she covered business and technology, and launched the magazine’s first web site, PC World Online. She left journalism to chase the “Internet dream” in the mid-1990s, helping to grow a small Silicon Valley software start-up into a multi-million dollar public company. She has since returned to her true passion, writing, and has authored articles on topics including politics, business, lifestyle and women’s issues. TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career &the Conflict of Modern Motherhood is her first book. Samantha is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University and has a Masters in Literature and Women’s Studies from the University of Virginia. She can be found at

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time for Transitioning - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

 It’s almost the end of the school year. Summer will officially be here in a week. It is time to get ready for “transitioning.”

To me, “transitioning” means making changes, both good and also a little burdensome. One thing I adore about summer is the longer days. Casual weekends. Less structure. Freedom to just “be.”

It also means a break from the stress of my son’s school and after school schedule. A break from the stress of homework and finding non-threatening ways to encourage getting the homework done. A break from the frantic race to get my son to school on time. A break from the seemingly unending “mundane.”

But with sending our son to day camp come some additional “burdens.” Instead of daily homework will be almost daily laundry. Lots of stain remover. Remembering to pack certain camp items on certain days. Sunscreen, ad nauseum. Bug spray and anti-itch remedies that actually work. And no after camp activities. Perhaps a dunk in our local pool, instead, which certainly is not a burden, especially on wickedly hot days!

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for this transitioning. I AM ready for my son to finish Second Grade. I gladly welcome the break from the insane homework. But I think I need a little vacation between school ending and day camp starting the very next week. The forms that need to be filled out. Medical forms as well. Making sure that I have at least 10 bathing suits because my son needs to take 2 to camp each day. I am desperately hoping that my son will still fit into some of the camp shirts we “accumulated” last year. Otherwise, the one camp shirt they provide for the campers needs to be washed e v e r y   s i n g l e  
 d a y.

I also need to transition the trunk of my car. Every summer I restock my first aid kit. I make sure I have plenty of water resistant bags to collect impromptu wet clothing from swimming excursions or water fights at a friend’s house. It also means going through the bag of clothes I keep in my trunk and take out the fall/winter/outgrown clothes and replace them with some summer items, including shoes, crocs and a rain jacket. And towels. You never know when you need extra towels.

Speaking of towels, I have surrendered sending my son to camp with expensive, colorful, monogrammed beach towels. For three years in a row now, I have had these nice towels “taken” from my son, never to be seen again. With my son’s full name monogrammed on them! In BOLD block letters! Two inches in height!! This year the nice beach towels go to the beach or the pool. Instead, my son is going to camp with old, ratty, light color towels with his name boldly printed on each side with a black laundry marker. If anyone wants them, they can have them. They were almost ready to become rags anyway.

Summer also means having to go through my and my son’s summer clothing to see what still fits and what can be given away. It also means filling our closets with the summer wear and putting our bulkier clothing into drawers or other closets. Same with shoes and coats. Right now I have in my closet cashmere sweaters mixed in with sleeveless tops. What’s wrong with this picture? I also buy clothing for my son “off season.” There’s only one problem. I often forget that I bought him certain items at greatly reduced prices, shove them in the “to grow into” drawer, and pull out 3 of the same item come next season. Which is not an entirely a waste because the “doubles” can be used for the car bags come the end of summer.

Finally, there are the “pool bags.” Expired sunscreens and insect repellants need to be tossed and replenished. Goggles and sunglasses for my son need to be checked to make sure they still fit. Various sundries need to be gone through and updated. Even the pool bags need to be inspected for overuse. I almost feel like I have to remember to replenish diaper bags after an outing!

All this transitioning for 10 weeks of summer.

But ain’t it grand?!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mother Pants -- by Laura Houston

Motherhood didn’t always fit me. It often felt too tight. Too restrictive. Awkward. Impossible to zip up.
But this week my pants fit. After moving 3,000 miles away from the home I loved, adjusting to a big, new city, making new friends, missing old ones, and trying to find a place where I sort of fit in, I am finally hitting my stride as a mom.
I had a great week.
Here are a few random thoughts and things that happened:
I learned that my sons are not being rude at the dinner table when they say, “F@#k peas.” They’re actually being polite, asking for a “fork please.”
Most Saturday evenings we meet other parents at the playground across from a luxury high rise. This Saturday I said to one of the dads, “Whenever I see those people all dressed up and getting into a taxi to go see some show or eat at a fabulous restaurant, I sometimes wish I could do that instead.”
And he said, “Every time I stepped out of that building all dressed up and headed somewhere fabulous, and I saw parents playing with their children in this playground, I wished I could do this instead.”
I have a pair of mimics. Wyatt and Lyle regularly play with another pair of twins who hail from London. Now they no longer call me Momma. Instead I am now “Mummy” complete with the accent.
I still can’t get Lyle to sleep through the night, but I can calmly get him into bed at 8:00pm. He won’t necessarily go to sleep right away. No. In fact, he cries and whines for the first half hour, but when he finally agrees to sleep, he stays that way for almost six hours. A record!
The boys can count to 12. We live on the 12th floor, and we always count going up. And going down. Now they do it without me.
They can dance and actually hit the beats.
Instead of throwing the blocks, we are finally starting to build stuff with them.
I gave Lyle a timeout and a lecture along with it, and it actually changed his behavior.
Most nights when Dave comes home I ask him if he wants a glass of wine or a beer, but I didn’t realize how much of a habit it was until Wyatt greeted the babysitter with the line: “Do you want a glass of wine?”
It has been fun.
What changed? Well, sure, the boys are getting older. But I can also credit changes I made. I started exercising again. I had to. I threw out two discs in my back, and I am finally out of pain for the first time in two years. Also, I am working part-time, and that makes my brain work a little better. And there are things to look forward to: swim classes, father's day, vacation, summer in Central Park, not cooking every night because it's too hot, and reading a really good novel.
It feels like I am finally returning to me. And even if my pants don’t fit me like they used to…in that they are way too loose in some places and too tight in others….well….that’s OK. They still pull on easily, and they’re comfortable. Finally. My mother pants are comfortable.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

I Just Can’t Force It—by Jamie Levine

As Jayda was settling down to sleep the other night, her little head suddenly popped up from her pillow as she asked, "Mommy, when are you going to get a new boyfriend?" I responded, "I don't know, Jayda...someday." Jayda then blurted out, “You need to get one soon!" With a smile on my face, I said, “Ok, Jayda, you'll have to help me find one." Jayda looked at me and thought for a second, then said, "Ok. We need to go to Stop and Shop!" When I didn’t say anything (for fear of laughing out loud), Jayda continued, “I think we can find one there.” Clearly, I’ve raised an excellent shopper.

But all kidding aside, it’s starting to bother me that almost everyone I know seems to think I should be out there dating with a vengeance right now. I know I do ultimately want to be in a long-term committed relationship, but I’ve never settled before, and I’ve spent several good years as a successful single mom, so what’s the rush? When I mentioned to some friends that I’d flirted with a single dad at my gym and had even given him a ride home, they were thrilled. They didn’t care when I said he seemed kind and cute, but definitely didn’t have any long-term potential for me. Still others couldn’t contain their excitement when I told them I’d gone on a date the other day with a smart, successful tennis player who was thoroughly smitten with me. When I added that despite enjoying his sense of humor, I hadn’t felt any sparks at all when I'd let him kiss me—most everyone ignored my obvious distress and asked about when the second date would occur.

Library Guy dove into a relationship with me too soon after his divorce, and all of my friends know this was a major factor in his break up with me. So why do these same friends think it’ll be healthy for me to dive into something so quickly after my own heart has been broken? And if I’m actually telling my friends and family that I’m not so sure I’m ready to date yet, why can’t they listen? I’d like to think that if Mr. Right passed into my life right now, I would recognize it and go out with him…but is it really necessary for me to force myself to “grow to be attracted to” that thoroughly smitten guy, or worse, start scouring J-Date to keep myself busy this summer? Maybe that’s right for some women (and maybe some day that kind of dating will even be right for me), but if I’m still thinking about Library Guy and trying to figure out the mistakes I made in falling for him, is it really right (or fair!) for me to be dating up a storm right now? I think not.

As I’ve mentioned here countless times before, being single again isn’t easy for me; though it is getting smaller and smaller, there’s still a significant hole in my heart—and in my life. But I need to fill it with the right man at the right time—when I’m ready. I'm in the best physical shape I've been in since before Jayda was born, and everywhere I go, men seem to notice me, so I'm not looking for a quick self-esteem boost. I want the real thing. The right thing. And that doesn't happen overnight. Fortunately, I do have several wise and understanding friends who have been where I am and know that it takes time to heal—and have assured me that it takes more time for some people than for others. Even a couple of therapists to whom I've spoken have promised me that what I'm feeling is normal, and that as long as I'm living my life fully, and taking care of myself and my daughter, it's ok if I'm not ready to move on completely yet. So I'd like people to know that if I still bring up Library Guy’s name once in awhile, it’s less than helpful to tell me that he’s not worth my thoughts, and that I shouldn't waste any more of my time on him. My time isn’t wasted if I’m learning and growing and figuring out who I am and what I want. And I'm doing just that. Every single day.