Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interfaith Holiday Mayhem - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

It is November 30th. The stores have had holiday decorations up since the beginning of November. Greeting cards for the holidays have been out for roughly the same amount of time. Even holiday music has been playing on the radio for the past couple weeks. Worst of all, my son has been making up his gift lists for both Hanukkah and Christmas.
We are raising our son in the Jewish faith, so we celebrate Hanukkah. Since I am not Jewish, we also put up a “Christmas” tree purely to celebrate my holiday traditions. There has never been any religious affiliations with our tree discussed in our home. I never even mentioned Santa. When my son was young though, he picked up on the notion of Santa and the bringing of gifts very early on. 
We obliged his fantasy when he was younger. I thought that because we live in a predominantly Jewish community, his fantasy of Santa would fade at an early age. No such luck. My son is still steadfast in his belief of Santa. His belief is adamant to the point that some children in his school vehemently told him that he was not Jewish because not only did he still believe in Santa, but that I was not Jewish, therefore he was definitely not Jewish (by definition, some Jewish communities believe that the child MUST be born to a Jewish mother to be considered completely Jewish. We belong to a Reform Temple that states that if one parent is Jewish, then the child is considered Jewish.) 
My son came to me saddened and confused the other day. We had a VERY long discussion about this tender issue. I first had to explain to him that regardless what others thought about him being Jewish, our Temple recognizes him as Jewish, therefore he WAS Jewish. You could see his whole body relax from that explanation. I subtlety also addressed the fact that he was a better person than the children who were judging him and making him feel bad about himself. My son is quite aware that we do not judge anyone else based on what they look like, believe in, or practice. My sister-in-law is from India, so we have discussed tolerance of other cultures and beliefs from a very early age.
I explained further that although I was not born Jewish, I still embrace Judaism through taking courses at our Temple and trying to learn Hebrew. I even have my son participate in Shabbat services at sundown on Friday nights and will be taking him to Shabbat services throughout the year (Shabbat is a Jewish practice through prayer and a meal, performed at sundown, and carried through as a “day of rest” all day Saturday until one hour past sundown, Saturday night).
As for our “tree,” I explained that I grew up with holiday traditions that are not embraced by Judaism, however it brings back warm, special memories for me seeing a sparkling tree decorated with a slew of my mother’s handmade ornaments. My heart swells every year when I decorate that tree since my mother died when I was only 19 years old.
About Santa...I felt as if I had to almost dig out the Polar Express DVD we have. I had been hoping that my son would have given up the notion of Santa way before now. My son, however, insists that Santa still exists. Knowing his personality, he probably wants to “prove” to his naysayer peers that they are wrong. Whatever the case, my son still “believes.” He still has his list for Santa as well as his list for Hanukkah (lucky kid, I often tell him!), with his lists getting longer and consequently more expensive. I think that when Santa does not deliver the $400 Lego set my son is craving, the reality of Santa may finally be over. We will see. Since I don’t know what small items my son wants for Hanukkah, and he knows we buy him those gifts, he has been pointing out some Nintendo games that he would like and some inexpensive action figures he is desiring. 
Interfaith complex and confusing to children. Yet giving up my “holiday tree” would take away so much pleasure for me. I embrace our multiple Menorahs we light up every year. I also have Hanukkah decorations that fill our home. I even have been collecting dreidels (spinning tops used in a traditional Jewish game played during Hanukkah) for my son, every year since he has been born. I write a heartfelt message on the boxes and date them so that he will have a collection of them, from me, once he is older. They are made out of all types of material: clay, metal, glass, wood. His first one is made from bone china. Yet the complexity remains.
I wonder if my son will be asking me next year, “Mommy? Is there really a Santa Claus?”

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moms of Little Boys by Margaret Hart

My soon to be seven year old is a somewhat obsessed with what I refer to as the three Ps: pooping, potties, and his penis. Whenever he gets together with his two best friends, the chatter inevitably ends up being about these three subjects. Why? Is it a boy thing? It seems to be, because I just don't hear seven year old girls talking about their vaginas, their breasts and the toilet?

So why do boys obsess about these things? And let's not forget farting and burping. You moms of boys know what I'm talking about and don't pretend you don't. I consider myself a very good mom. I constantly tell my son that it's not polite to say these things and that he better not say them in school or he'll be sent to the principal's office. But, yes, I have to admit that it's often very cute and very funny, and I'm probably to blame for being an "enabler."
But am I an enabler if my real goal is for my son to grow up with a positive self image? I don't want him to grow up with any hang-ups about his body. My mother taught me early on that it just wasn't right to make up silly names for body parts. "Don't call his penis his 'pee-pee'; call it a penis. That's what it is," she said, or something along those lines. I have to agree. And apparently she practiced what she preached: If I had a dollar for every time she has told me the story about when I used the word vagina in polite company, I'd be rich.

I have never said anything that would make my son feel ashamed or embarrassed about his body or how it functions. And that's probably why my son is somewhat of an exhibitionist. He loves to rip off his shirt and show off his "ripped" chest, as he likes to refer to it. And he has no qualms about being naked. He thinks it's hysterical when he burps and farts (again, a boy thing), and he enjoys pooping as much as the next man--I mean, boy. In fact, he really likes to sit on his little boy throne and asks me to give him math problems while he's concentrating! I have to admit, the boy is really good in math!

My friends and I who are moms of boys just grin and laugh, and when we get together we shrug our shoulders and let the boys be boys. As long as the language is not hurting anybody, we let them get away with occasionally talking about pooping, farting, and what not. It think it just comes with the territory. And somehow, it's weirdly comforting to hear...what's that about
frogs and snails and puppy dog tails? Even though the nursery rhyme from the early nineteenth century says sugar and spice and everything nice is what little girls are made of, I'd add that to boys, too.

So what's a mother of a pooping, farting, burping, boy to do? Just keep reminding him that it's
not appropriate to say these things outside of the bathroom. It's bathroom talk, and it's not polite. But don't stress out over it. It's a phase, and all little boys go through it. And I have to admit, it makes me laugh!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks—by Jamie Levine

Thanksgiving in my home used to be a big, joyous family affair. It was my favorite holiday, and because I am a fan of turkey and most carbohydrates, the meal made me very happy, too. But over the last few years, our guest list has dwindled down to fewer and fewer people, and as a result of all the family drama and pent-up resentments brewing around our table, I’ve started to look forward to the end of our Thanksgiving dinner before it even starts.

This year was no different. However, I did try to have a better attitude about the situation: I simply focused on feeling good about myself (and the few positive family relationships I have fostered) and taking care of my daughter. We had a busy, active, social Thanksgiving, and the end of our meal signaled the start of a long weekend that proved quite joyous and fun for both of us.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were packed with play dates galore. The weather was remarkably warm and sunny, so Jayda and I spent hours at a different playground every day. Both of us enjoyed lots of quality time with our good friends, and amidst a constant whirlwind of activity, I was forced to forget the major stresses in my life that are currently plaguing me. And while I did break down and cry to a few of my friends throughout the weekend, having them to lean on helped me focus on all the wonderful things for which I should be thankful.

The obvious list-toppers are my amazingly supportive, always-willing-to-listen-to-me-whine friends, terrific parents, extraordinarily helpful and loving niece, and the most important person in the world to me—my daughter. But then there’s a silly short-list of stuff, which may also be worth mentioning:

*Dunkin’ Donuts French Vanilla coffee (without it, I'd never stay awake through my weekly eight-hour Sunday classes).
*CVS's 99-cent bags of butterscotch candies (also helpful for getting me though my classes…and for satiating my constant sugar cravings at a low cost—and without consuming a zillion calories).
*Self-serve frozen yogurt shops (amazing variety and personal portion control keep both me and Jayda very happy several times a week).
*Unseasonably warm weather (though I lived in Alaska for a year almost two decades ago, nowadays, I abhor weather that’s below 55 degrees).
*My ipod (packed with the cheesiest ‘70’s and ‘80’s music you can imagine—but so inspiring for long runs and workouts).
*Genes that keep me youthful-looking (my parents are much older than you’d ever imagine…as am I! Or at least most people think I look a lot younger than I really am).
*Online shopping (be it protein bars by the bulk, special shampoo for my curly-haired kid, or new jeans for me, buying things while sitting in my bedroom is so much easier and enjoyable than hitting the stores).
*“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray (I spray it, dip in it, douse with it—I should buy it by the case).
*Being debt-free (next month, my loans for my second semester of grad school will come through, but up until now, I’ve been supporting my kid and myself without borrowing a penny).
*Jayda’s amazing Sunday babysitter (as well as all of the adults who care for and inspire Jayda, including her teachers, ice skating instructor, and my friends and family who keep an eye on her when I can’t).
*Long, warm showers after a long, sweat-inducing workout (and the fact that Jayda now takes short, warm showers instead of long, annoying baths).
*The strength I somehow keep mustering up to save me from settling for less than what I deserve in a man.
*This blog (sometimes people who are close to me get pissed about the things I write…but I never write anything vengefully; writing helps me process things that are going on in my life, and posting about them frees me, and makes me feel so much better).

And, finally, I'm thankful to you...for reading (and hopefully appreciating!) what I write.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Steve Jobs....Foster Care....and Adoption by Adam Pertman

With seemingly ceaseless regularity nowadays, most recently in the coverage of Steve Jobs' passing, we are inundated by conflicting messages relating to adoption.

For the last few weeks, the wonder of adoption has been on display. November is National Adoption Awareness Month, so media outlets nationwide have written and broadcast stories about children whose lives are improved as a result of moving from foster care into permanent, loving families. President Obama even issued a proclamation, as he and his predecessors have done routinely in past years, extolling the benefits of the process and adding that “we celebrate the acts of compassion and love that unite children with adoptive families.”

At other times, of course, a very different picture is transmitted. Sometimes the focus is on parents who seem to regard adoption as child rental (remember the mother who "returned" her son to Russia?) or ones who purportedly use the child welfare system as a means of getting monthly support payments; the most sensational case took place several years ago in New Jersey, where a couple allegedly starved their four adopted sons in order to retain more of their state subsidies.

Press accounts cast an appropriately suspicious eye on parents who commit such horrid acts but, all too often, they also raise broader concerns about the competence and motives of adoptive parents per se; in particular, they implicitly or explicitly suggest that people may adopt children for dubious reasons or even that adoption itself is somehow a less-legitimate or less-desirable means of building a family. In the coverage of Jobs, for instance, we regularly saw and read reports that questioned his being "given away" by his "real parents" – language that hardly affirms adoption as a positive option.

So which is it? Lucky kids or kids relegated to second-class families? Good people trying to do the right thing for their children, either by placing their children for adoption or adopting them, or desperate people with suspect motives? What are we to think when we receive such disparate impressions, not just this month, but time after time when there's a high-profile story involving adoption? Or even when adoption is depicted in either very positive ways ("Modern Family") or chillingly negative ways ("Orphan") in the movies and on television?

Based on available research and extensive experience, two unambiguous realities emerge: that most adoptive parents are doing the same things as most biological parents – that is, providing their children with all the affection and care they humanly can; and that, with rare exceptions, boys and girls are far better off in permanent families than in foster care, orphanages or any other temporary or institutional setting.

But adoption's history of secrecy has afforded us with too few opportunities to learn about its realities. So we tend to assume we're learning far more from singular, usually aberrational experiences – man bites dog is a story, after all, while dog bites man is not – than we usually are.

Yes, financial payments intended to increase the number of adoptions from foster care can cause complications, but that's the clear exception. And, yes, families sometimes struggle because of the challenges their children face as a consequence of having been mistreated and/or institutionalized before they were adopted. But there is no indication that horrors such as the ones that typically make the news are being repeated with any regularity elsewhere, even though many thousands of parents throughout the country receive state subsidies – and even though the number of children being adopted from foster care is at historic highs.

Moreover, even in the most troubled systems, good things are happening daily. Most children are being reunited with newly healthy mothers, fathers and other biological relatives, while a fast-growing number of kids (over 52,000 last year alone and over 57,000 the year before that) are being adopted by loving parents who treat them very well. The same is true for the hundreds of thousands of girls and boys who have been adopted from orphanages abroad over the last couple of decades.

It's hard to learn much from secrets, so we as a culture don't yet know enough about adoptions from foster care and institutions to put the aberrational stories in perspective. That's changing, to be sure; organizations such as the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which I'm proud to lead, are providing more and better research and knowledge – please take a look at to read our most recent work – and, partly as a result, the media are doing a better job of informing the public, policy-makers and others who profoundly affect the tens of millions of children and families for whom adoption and foster care are daily facts of life.

Even as we make progress, however, the still-widespread lack of knowledge has tangible, negative consequences that play out in the attitudes all these people encounter and the policies that impact their lives.

I am not defending any system that does less than everything possible to protect the children within it. But we live in a society in which nearly every program that helps vulnerable children receives insufficient resources; in which well-intentioned quick fixes replace (rather than augment) thoughtful, long-term solutions such as post-adoption services; and in which cases like the ones I've cited above fuel our worst stereotypes about adoptive parents, birth parents, their children, and adoption itself.

A positive and interesting question for the media to explore (but I haven't yet heard it asked) would be something like this: Would the world have had Steve Jobs without adoption?

During National Adoption Awareness Month, states across the country have celebrated by holding public ceremonies at which hundreds upon hundreds of children have received the opportunity to move into permanent, loving and successful families.

I'd like to suggest it's also a good time for all of us to start learning more about adoption, foster care and institutionalization (orphanages), because the problems will be fixed more rapidly if faulty stereotypes are replaced by genuine understandings. And the ultimate beneficiaries will be the hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, in our own country and others, who will still need homes long after we turn another page on our calendars.

Adam Pertman is author, Adoption Nation, and Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute  Visit his blog

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sibling Dynamics by Sharon O'Donnell

My 17-year-old son took my 11-year-old son out to eat tonight while my husband and I attended an event. They went to Moe's, the popular Mexican fast-food, order and then sit down to eat place. It's a favorite of my 17-year old, David, and recently he told us of the new drink machine there that features over 100 different kinds of drinks. So he had to take his little brother Jason there to see it for himself. When I talked to him later on the phone, Jason described it as "a culinary experience". No doubt this is a term he learned from the kids TV sit coms he watches. (I know too much TV is bad, but I've found over the years with my 3 sons that watching appropriate TV programs can enhance one's vocabulary with words and phrases immensely.) Of course, if Jason thinks a drink machine is a culinary experience, something must have gone wrong somewhere -- most likely in the fact that there are not too many actual culinary experiences in our house -- I'm not the most adventurous cook. And the boys usually put so much ketchup on whatever they eat, the taste of tomato sauce is about the only culinary experience they get.
But at least David had taken the initiative and taken his little brother somewhere. It's nice to see that the six year age gap between them seems to be narrowing as they get older. Later they watched a hockey game on TV together and played Monopoly. Of course, they usually wind up roughhousing by the end of the night no matter how well they've gotten along the rest of the day. It's hard to believe that the same 17-year-old who was nice enough to take his little brother to Moe's and to play Monopoly with him would later terrorize him by sitting on top of him and bouncing, infuriating his brother. Yet, this seems to be the dynamics of the relationship.
I've noticed the two of them getting closer ever since my oldest son -- now a junior in college -- moved into the dorm, spending most of the past few years on campus. He joined a fraternity last year, and he loves to do things with his fraternity 'brothers'; but, I want him to realize that he has two real brothers back home who miss him and miss the way things used to be when he was around all the time. And a mom and dad who miss that too. Sure, I want him to grow up and be independent, but I was really hoping to see more of him this weekend than I have. Wow, time does go back quickly.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pay It Back by Robin Gorman Newman

Thanksgiving has become a huge commercial holiday.  I was watching an early morning news program earlier this week, and there was a feature on a place called Jive Turkey in Brooklyn, NY that specializes in preparing deep fried birds ( healthy is that?!) available with varied seasonings that they ship all over the country.  Apparently they're in high demand...who knew?!

My local chocolate shop is selling pricey chocolate turkeys wrapped in multi-colored foil.

Fine dining establishments jack up prices and offer fancy prix-fixed meals for those who opt to eat out.

It's a big occasion for diet companies to market their programs to those who gorged on stuffing and pecan pie, in preparation for New Year's, when many resolve to shed pounds.

It's also an occasion that has become synonymous with stores running huge times generating headlines in the news about people being injured in the feeding frenzy to snap up bargains in the wee hours of the morning or after midnight.  Doesn't anyone sleep?!

It all feels very commercial. 

Does anyone recall the true meaning of Thanksgiving?

As a parent, I feel an obligation to share that message with my son. 

We plan to bake brownies and bring them to the local volunteer firehouse.  We will do this again on Christmas. 

Last year, we also visited Ronald McDonald House and baked for the families in residence.  It was a moving and humbling experience.

I want Seth to know that it does a body good to give back.  I'd like this to be a lesson he shares with his own kids one day, and to know that it was something he practiced as a child.

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day and not stop to feel gratitude for what you've been given.

And, with the eight days of Hanukkah just around the corner, Seth will be looking for gifts, and I don't want him to take them for granted.  As an only child, no doubt he is somewhat spoiled, though my husband I have endeavor to have a consciousness of what we provide for him.  But, it's hard when you know something brings him much pleasure. His smile is infectious.  He doesn't get everything he wants, but he's not lacking either.

Seth helps to raise funds for his school by selling products and buying books at the fair.

I have yet to take him to a soup kitchen, but that is an outing I've contemplated. 

He did visit the Interfaith Nutrition Network with our synagogue, as part of Mitzvah month -- November.  They collected and helped distribute food to needy families on Long Island.  I thought that was a great outing, though Seth found it "kinda boring."

I want to give thought to other ways he might contribute to the community and world at large. We help sponsor the care of Kibo the elephant through The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and we follow his progress via emails updates they send.  It's a sweet cause.

It's important in life to know that some of our greatest happiness can come from giving and doing for others.  It's not necessarily about financial contribution, but taking initiative and acting out of love and kindness.  Putting someone before yourself and putting yourself in their shoes (especially if you can afford Manolo Blahniks).

What do you do with your children to instill a sense of gratitude and giving back?  Would love to hear some of your ideas.

Go forth and pay it back!!

Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving ... by Liimu

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful for the four beautiful children who made me a mom.

I'm grateful for the husband who helped me make them.

I'm grateful for having been given a second chance at life when I was 24 years old.

I'm grateful for the daily willingness to make the most of it.

I'm grateful for song.

I'm grateful to have something to sing about.

I'm grateful there are people who want to hear me sing.

I'm grateful that I want to sing even when no one is listening.

I'm grateful and happy and loving life.

What are you grateful for?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Going Biblical on Thanksgiving - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

Thanksgiving. I've always loved Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. There are no gifts to give. There is no religious affiliation. It always centered on family for me. A crackling fire in the fireplace. Lounging around in comfy clothes. Helping and testing the homemade delectables being prepared and cooked. I've had many wonderful memories of Thanksgiving.
Once I married, I started making the turkey for my extended family. No amount of preparation squelched my enthusiasm for making the most delicious turkey I could possibly present. I never let anyone down. I basked in the delicious aroma that permeated my house! Most important, I adore almost all traditional Thanksgiving food! Yes, even the cranberry sauce, even if it is canned!
Last year was the first year my husband and I began sharing holidays with my son independently. What is most important to me is that my son is with whichever household has other children he can play with. My lawyer goes nuts when I bring this up, but my son's happiness supersedes my "turn" to have my son on a holiday. I will probably always have my son for Christmas purely for the fact that my husband is Jewish. I am always invited to my BFF's home. She has a son who is my son's age and her sister has two slightly younger children of her own. My son has a fantastic time when he is there! Conversely, my in-laws usually have either my son's cousins over on Thanksgiving or friends who have children close to my son's age. Why would I want to deprive my son fun on a holiday purely because the judicial system says it has to be "fair and balanced." I don't give a hoot about "fair and balanced!" I care about what is in the best interest of my son.
Well, I have no meal plans this year for Thanksgiving. My son will be going to my in-law's, where other children will also be present. I will have my son until about 1pm. We'll watch the parade in our pajamas and do some quiet things together. Then I have something very unusual planned for myself. I will be going into NYC to see an exhibit of the "Dead Sea Scrolls." For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, these scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include the oldest known surviving copies of Biblical and extra-biblical documents. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. These manuscripts generally date between 150 BCE and 70 CE.
I have a passion and growing interest in theology, so, for me, this will be a special treat. I will be going in the late afternoon, once the throngs of parade watchers have moved on to gather at their feasts. I am looking forward to seeing something biblical, up close, yielding awe. The fact that these scrolls lasted a couple thousand years and are somewhat intact, is an amazement in itself.
For this Thanksgiving, I am shaking things up a bit. While I used to love Thanksgiving for it’s non-religious affiliations, I am now bringing a little bit of historic theology to this holiday. I am also doing something purely for myself. And, thankfully, I won’t be gorging on food and the extra calories my body doesn’t need.
may make a small turkey breast for my Maxi dog and myself. I’ll add a baked sweet potato for color, but that’s about it. A nice, quiet Thanksgiving. Even if I’m making it biblical!
Wishing all of our readers a very festive,
Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thankful Job -- by Margaret Hart

This year, as Thanksgiving approaches, I started thinking about all the things for which I'm thankful, and my mind literally started to race.  My list goes well beyond the three things kids get asked to list on their paper turkeys in school, and it starts with one very important item:  my son.  Seven years ago, on December 2, 2004, Ethan was born. He came into the world with the roundest, most perfect little head and cutest, tiniest little body. He seemed to know right away that I was his mom. He grabbed hold of one of my fingers and held it tight. He looked up at me as if to say, "Hello, Mommy."  He had me at "hello."  Truth be told, he had me at his first sonogram. The one where he was sucking his thumb.     

While I am thankful for my family and friends, my health, their health, the roof over my head, the fact that in this economy we still have jobs (knock wood), and much more, I am most thankful for my son and for the chance to be a mom–his mom.  To say he has changed my life for the better would be an understatement. He has given me the opportunity to do something really meaningful.  Yes, I do believe that I have contributed to society in other important ways, but I know in my heart that being his mom is the piece de resistance–for me.

I am thankful for my motherhood job that gives me the chance to utilize my organizational skills, my creativity, my negotiation skills, my socials skills, and all the other skills I have honed in my professional life. I am thankful that as a mother, I get to teach my son all the wonderful things that my parents taught me. And I am thankful that I get the chance to help shape a beautiful little mind and watch it grow. And feel good that, one day, when he grows up and is independent, that I was partly responsible for the wonderful man I know he will become. I see my role of mom as the one and only job that is really important, and I want to be the best CEO Mom for my son. I am thankful that I have been given the chance to try. 

So this week when I am eating my turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy (which are not on my 1,000 calorie a day diet), and trying to get my son to eat his, I will be thinking about how thankful I am to have food on the table and the chance to nag my son about eating his vegetables.  Afterward, when the Triptan has kicked in and we're all taking a nap, I will be thankful that my son turns down the volume on his 3DS so I can get some much needed rest. 

But seriously, this Thanksgiving, I am thinking about how thankful I am for the opportunity to have the job of a lifetime.  My paycheck comes in many forms:  a running, leaping hug that nearly knocks me over, a lick-kiss because he thinks it's funny, a sweet drawing of a heart that says "I love you Mom," a cookie saved for me from his lunch, a flower he picks for me from our garden in the summertime, and the wide smiles he beams when I say something funny.  

This Thanksgiving, I am more thankful than ever that I am the mom of a very excited almost seven-year-old for whom I am baking and decorating 24 custom angry birds cupcakes! By the way, does anyone know where I can find black shoelace licorice for the eyebrows?!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! 

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Monday, November 21, 2011

A Virtual Disaster—by Jamie Levine

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful for me. But instead of seeking solace in Library Guy’s arms (which, admittedly, I was tempted to do when he tried to comfort me), I leaned on my friends, tried to dive into my school work, and even looked for some distractions online. Online dating, I mean.

A recent New York Times article revealed that "between 2007 and 2009, 21% of heterosexual couples met online," and I, personally, know of several relationship success stories that began on JDate or But I haven’t been very optimistic about online dating for me. After Library Guy dumped me, my friends urged me to sign up for JDate or, and despite my bad memories of pre-motherhood Internet dating, I joined both sites. But I should have saved my money, and trusted my gut. The only thing I gained from my well-written profile and attractive photos was an amazing new guy friend. True, a good friend is priceless—and I’m grateful for him—but I certainly didn’t find the new relationship I'd been seeking. Or even a future fling. And when my subscriptions were up for renewal, I cancelled both of them.

Recently, while looking for an escape from my home life responsibilities, I logged on to a couple of new dating sites and decided to try again. I should have known better. In a matter of days, I received tons of incredibly flattering responses…all from the under-30 set. In desperate need of a diversion, I broke down and had drinks with a persistent 32-year-old, and while he was sweet and adorable (and dying to have a second date with me), he was also 10 years my junior, and intellectually waaaaay too young for me.

So, I decided to be pro-active: One night, I scoured a popular dating site and sent out emails to 10 guys who seemed reasonably appealing to me. Two wrote back. The first explained that he only wanted to date women who lived in New York City. And the second admitted that he hadn’t responded to anyone in ages and told me I seemed incredibly cute and cool…but he needed to take his profile down because he’d stated dating someone and wanted to see where it went. He seemed like a great guy, and his message frustrated me. And the other eight men? I never heard a word back from any of them.

Then, a couple of days ago, a decent-looking 36-year-old professional contacted me to say that he thought we had a lot in common, and asked if I’d like to chat. I told him I was overwhelmed with work at the moment, but would have time to talk in a few days. Two days later, I followed up with an email asking him if he wanted my phone number, and didn’t hear from him for almost a week. All that email said was, “how are you?” I told him I was ok and asked about him, and he wrote back saying, “Are we ever going to meet? I’ll give you the best massage you ever had in your life.” Huh? I took a moment and responded, “Wow. Why don’t we start with a drink first? I’m busy this weekend, but maybe Sunday or early next week? Why don’t you call me and we can discuss.” And his response—verbatim? “Does it matter? I am just looking to pretty much fool around and have sex!”

Suffice to say, we’re not meeting for a drink this week—or ever. And unless I want to test out another 32-year-old (or under!), or consider some highly-unattractive older men who have also written to me, I think I’m done—again—with online dating. I’d rather be alone than with Mr. Wrong; it’s why I had a child on my own in the first place. My Mr. Right may be out there, but I've gone back to hoping I’ll meet him someday in the real world...not in a virtual one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Watching Your Children Suffer by Leta Hamilton

My husband is reading, of all things, a history of the Donner Party (The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown for history buffs reading this). I seem to keep picking up this book and reading random passages of unspeakable horror. It has, to say the least, solidified my appreciation of food. What I find particularly hard to fathom is the heartbreak it must have caused those mothers to watch their children slowly fading away before their eyes. And yet, only yesterday, I was faced with a heart break of my own when my 7-year son sobbed uncontrollably after a particularly tough week at school. There is no bully involved, nothing tangible per se to which I can point a finger or in any way “fix.” If only it were that simple. No, it is just a case of a little boy trying to find his way in a big, confusing, world where friendships and school work are not as always as easy as he would like them to be.

As mothers, we will all face moments when we must watch helplessly while our children suffer. Our mothers, no doubt, did the same with us and perhaps it is something that largely went unnoticed. I know my son has no idea how much his tears yesterday have affected me – resulting in no shortage of my own tears and a blog post to boot! If we cannot solve all of our children’s problems, nor do I believe we are really meant to, what can we do when we see our children in pain for which there is no answer?

For me, all that I could offer my son in that moment was the space for him to release his pent up frustrations and obvious sorrow over the difficulty he was facing with the challenges of second grade. Then I was able to go one step further and provide reassurance of my acceptance and unconditional love for him. This may not have been totally satisfactory, but it was enough to see him through the tears and into the evening as a happy 7-year old, safe in the comfort of home. With him finally settled, I did some soul-searching of my own.

Did I have the strength to let him be sad and go through this knowing that part of his journey is to navigate the stormy seas of second grade? My experience of second grade was pretty good. I met my best friend in second grade and she is still my best friend to this day. I don’t remember having much difficulty with school work, but I am not my son and he is not me! I must accept that his experience of life will be unique to his spirit. I do not have to judge what he is currently going through as either good or bad. All I have to do is hold the space for him to communicate his feelings in a safe environment, do what I can when and where it makes sense (like picking him up from school from now on instead of making him ride the bus home) and offer him unconditional love and authentic acceptance for who he is now in the world.

Apart from that, I can continue to do the soul searching I am called upon to do as pain and sorrow arise in my own life experience. I am always and in all ways a role model to my children. They see so much more in my actions than they hear through my words. The women of the Donner party had to find the strength within them to use the meat of their fellow travelers to keep their children alive. I, thank God, do not have to make such a choice. However, as my heart breaks and will no doubt continue to break, over the suffering of my four sons as they become men, I will also have choices to make about how I respond to that suffering. Sometimes it takes the greatest strength of all to do nothing, to let your child pass through a storm and into greater understanding on the other side. All the while, how can I break free of my own chains? With fewer burdens, my soul is free to soar. Now especially, while they are so young, I have the chance to carry them to the mountaintops of personal responsibility and true authenticity.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Worse - Almost -- Than Trying on Swim Suits by Sharon O'Donnell

I'm a creature of habit. I get used to wearing certain things (jeans, comfortable shoes that aren't particularly stylish, and shirts that you just let hang rather than tuck in). As I've gotten older, I've found that my practical side is winning over my adventurous one in too many aspects of my life. There was a time last month, that my husband and I had planned to meet one of my college friends and her husband at a nightclub to dance to a popular local band. The band didn't start playing until 10:30. By 7:00 that night, I'd lost all desire to go dancing even though I'd been looking forward to it: it was cold outside, I was tired, I'd already scratched my dry eyes and had smeared my mascara that I'd have to reapply. I didn't feel like going. Neither did my husband. So we ended up staying home.

Being a creature of habit sometimes needs some shaking up. I had seen women wearing those long boots over their jeans and even with dresses, and I loved the way they looked. But on me?? I couldn't see it. Yet, this week I found myself in a local store trying on various kinds of boots in an attempt to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try a new look. I tried on five pair of boots, not sure what color I'd want -- black or brown -- or the style. I did know I wanted some heel. I rarely wear anything with heels because 1. I'm already 5 feet 10 and 2. heels make my feet hurt, especially the bunion on my left foot that I'd bought special but clunky shoes for at a shoe specialty store. I reasoned that if I wore the boots, it would not be in one of those situations -- like teaching writing -- in which I'd have to be on my feet a lot. It'd probably be more of a social occasion -- if indeed my husband and I could ever make it out somewhere. And so I wanted heels. Not the tall really skinny kind, but the medium thick heeled ones; I want to change things up again but I am still sane enough to know that those tall skinny heels would be recipe for disaster in more than one way -- think falling down in front of others or aggravating back problems.

But there were some styles of boots I could not even get my foot in! I was too embarrassed to ask a salesperson, so I'd just put those back in the box and move on to another pair. I don't think my foot is shaped quite right or something because it doesn't bend where it should when trying on some of these boots. Then there were those that zipped all the way up the sides. Sure, I could get those on -- no problem -- but getting them zipped back up when I got to my calves was another story. Note to self - ride the exercise bike to lose an inch or two in my legs. Another thing to add to my list of things I needed to do. I felt like one of the women in Cinderella, desperately trying to fit my foot into the beautiful shoes. After I failed to zip them up, I'd glance quickly around to make sure nobody had been watching my failed attempts. Who wears these things anyway??? My experience was oddly similar to my memories of trying on swim suits -- back before I'd settled on one with a skirt and said to heck with it. I hadn't known trying on boots would be this detrimental to my self-esteem. Boots are the new swimsuits. Damn.

I did finally find a pair that fit and was comfortable -- relatively comfortable anyway. And it looked okay but not quite the young women I'd seen looking so fashionable and sexy in their long, tall boots. With my jeans stuffed into the top of the boots, I looked more like my late 1960s heart throb Bobby Sherman when he played the role of Jeremy Bolt on the TV show Here Come the Brides. He was a lumberjack, and I kind of had a lumberjack look. If I put on a plaid shirt and put an ax over my shoulder, it would make a pretty good Halloween costume. I must have stood looking in the mirror at the boots for about 20 minutes, turning this way and that, trying to decide whether or not to spend the money. I liked the brown ones better, but I wear more black, so black would be more practical. Then the sales lady said she bought a pair of brown ones just like those last year, and she loved them. She might have been telling me that just to get me out of the store. I don't know. But it worked. I bought the boots -- the brown ones. At least I could get them on and off, which had become, sadly, my main criterion for selecting boots. When I told the sales person I felt strange in the boots, she assured me that it was only because I had to get used to it if I hadn't worn boots with tucked in pants before. The whole creature of habit thing haunting me again.

The boots are still in the box in my car because I expect I'll wind up taking them back. Even though they were on sale for $49 (usually $100), I don't feel like I'll wear them enough to justify the cost. I wanted boots but not the lumberjack effect. I'd love to hear from you ladies who wear the long boots and the styles you wear them with -- tights with dresses? Dress pants?? I just don't know.

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Friday, November 18, 2011


They were two small-town kids from the middle of nowhere who became the biggest folk heroes in all America. They craved adventure—and each other. Their names were Bonnie and Clyde. Laura Osnes (Grease, Anything Goes) and Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, West Side Story) star as the 20th century's most infamous duo, as the daring story of love and crime that captured the imagination of a country takes aim at a whole new generation.

Featuring music by Tony® nominee Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde), lyrics by Tony® and Oscar® winner Don Black (Sunset Boulevard) and a book by Emmy® Award nominee Ivan Menchell, this sexy new musical began previews at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street in NYC) on Friday, November 4th and will officially open on Thursday, December 1st.

The cast includes Melissa van der Schyff (Big River) as Blanche Barrow, Claybourne Elder (Road Show) as Buck Barrow, Joe Hart (The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) as Sheriff Schmid and Louis Hobson (Next to Normal) as Ted Hinton.

Also featured are: Talon Ackerman, Rozi Baker, Leslie Becker, Mimi Bessette, Alison Cimmet, Dan Cooney, Jon Fletcher, Kelsey Fowler, Victor Hernandez, Sean Jenness, Katie Klaus, Michael Lanning, Garrett Long, Matt Lutz, Marissa McGowan, Cassie Okenka, Justin Matthew Sargent, Jack Tartaglia and Tad Wilson.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show.  The cast is stellar. The material compelling.  Osnes is indeed a ravishing redhead, as Bonnie is described by a newspaper, and her voice and presence are lovely, with an angelic sassiness.  Jordan has the voice, looks, charisma and acting chops to have us fully buying into the allure of renegade Clyde.  It was a thrill to watch his star turn performance.

Songs like Dyin' Ain't So Bad, sung beautifully by Osnes, and then also by Jordan, sing the praises of how living a short, but well-lived life can be better than living long and without passion.  How true that is!

Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman did a great job as the young Bonnie and Clyde, and I liked how they popped up at strategic times during the show to remind us of the aspirations of their younger selves.  I found the story more affecting than I expected, as it got me thinking about the dreams of childhood and how they can manifest. 

Menchell's book was both witty and heartfelt.  Not only was the story of these gangsters presented in a grippingly staged manner, but we come to understand the economic climate of the times and the motivation behind their robbing/gun-slinging streak.  Additionally, the impact of Bonnie and Clyde's escapades on their parents was palpably affecting.

The show was minus any big dance numbers, and had a more subtle ending, but you didn' t miss either. It is packed with emotion and energy. The shooting sequences got your blood churning (and the actors...with more fake blood than I've yet to see on stage), and I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. Can't think of the last time I did that for a Broadway musical.


Orchestra/Mezzanine (A-E) $79.50 (reg $136.50 – $121.50)
($82.50 on Fri and Sat eves)

Mezzanine (F-H) $69.50 (reg $91.50 – $81.50)

Mezzanine (J-K) $59.50 (reg $71.50 – $66.50)


CLICK HERE and use code BCMHL1025

Call 212-947-8844 and mention code BCMHL1025



If you enter the general sweepstakes, you are entered to win 2 tickets to see BONNIE and CLYDE the Musical. If you get five friends to also enter the contest using your custom link, you are entered to win the Opening Night package including two 2 tickets to the Opening Night performance and official after party.

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Family and Friend Time in DC by Robin Gorman Newman

It's been quite some time since we've vacationed with another family.

Seth was off for Veteran's Day, and we decided to take him out of third grade for a day, so we could spend four nights in Washington, DC.

Seth is learning about the Presidents and history in school, so this was a terrific real life educational experience.  I recall visiting DC as a child with my parents, but didn't recall the details of the this was a trip down memory lane and something special to share with my son.

Our good friends Laura and Ira joined us with their son Jeremy, and that made the boys all the happier. 

We stayed in the lovely Willard Intercontinental (photo below: Seth in the lobby).....conveniently located only a few blocks from the White House.  Seth got a huge kick out of the fact that he felt like we were temporarily living practically next door to President Obama. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the concierge was always helpful and on the mark with restaurant recommendations, directions and sighseeing tips. The fact that our room was next to our friends made it a particular treat for the kids.

Known as the Crown Jewel of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Willard InterContinental has been the center of the social and political life in Washington DC since it first opened in 1818. The Willard InterContinental Washington is internationally known as one of the best DC hotels.

Time flew during our stay.  There is so much to do in DC, and we had full cooperation of the weather, which allowed us to walk a ton.

Our first day was spent visiting the Museum of American History, followed by lunch at Chef Geoff's Downtown, souvenir shopping, and an early evening visit to the White House (photo below...with Seth).  American History is one of the many Smithsonian Museums in DC, and admission is free.  A highlight for me was seeing The Ruby Slippers, as worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz (one of my favorite movies).

Day two was a tour of the U.S. Capitol.  Quite a beautiful structure inside and out, packed with lots of history, statues and grandure. Totally recommend taking a tour.  Afterwards, we had a quick bite and a visit to the National Air and Space awesome place, according to my son....and I would agree.  You could easily spend hours here, so allow ample time if your child is an aviation fan. Our dinner spot was Daily Grill at Dupont Circle.  Great family restaurant with the hugest chicken pot pie I have ever seen!

Day three was a long-awaited visit to the International Spy Museum, followed by gift shopping at the The National Museum of Crime and Punishment - Cop Shop, a stroll around Dupont Circle, and dinner at Chef Geoff's Downtown.  At Dupont Circle, we stumbled on a local transit police officer who was kind enough to show Seth his equipment, explain his job, and pose for pictures.  You couldn't pay for a more opportune experience for Seth!  The International Spy Museum was impressive and fun...totally worth a trip.  It's interesting for kids and adults, and they offer enough interactive elements to keep you engaged...not to mention they have a super cool gift shop.

Day four (1/2 day) started with a visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (first photo below), National Building Museum (third photo below) featuring a terrific Lego architectural exhibit, local firehouse (fourth photo below), and a visit to the majestic Lincoln Memorial (second photo below), plus quick looks at the Jefferson Memorial, George Washington Memorial, WWII Memorial and Martin Luther King Memorial.  Capping it all off, much to son's delight and excitement, was the two miliary air craft carriers he got to see heading toward the Pentagon.

Washington, DC is truly a feast for any family, and a must-do destination!

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

I've Fallen and I WILL Get Up (Week 9) Liimu

PMS hit me hard this month. I swear, I turned into a whole new person. I was so tired, I was counting the minutes to bedtime before I'd even finished breakfast. Literally. I was craving salted chocolate balls. I found myself getting weepy as I watched my kids do their homework. Worst of all, I had no idea I was suffering from PMS. It all seemed like I was just entering a new, horrific, emotionally charged phase of life and so I decided to just go with it.

When I finally realized what was happening, the damage had been done. I had already woken the sugar monster, and so I now find myself struggling to get the nasty critter to go back to sleep already. (The bowl of cereal with raisins I just ate to sustain my writing of this blog did not help matters any.) I have a wonderful, miraculous angel of a friend who is helping me to learn how to work with the Law of Attraction, seeking only joyous eating and exercising experiences. I'm still not sure how to distinguish between joy and comfort, but I am working on it.

I went to the gym today and literally looked around as if I had just hopped off the bus at Port Authority after never setting foot out of Podunk, Iowa. You'd think I had never seen a treadmill, let alone spent 6 days a week at the gym for the past 15 years. I'm not sure what's happening to me, but I know it's good. Change is always good. I've always been passionate about getting in my best shape and now is no different. It just seems to be taking shape in a different way than what I'm used to, pun intended.

As a huge fan and advocate of the Law of Attraction, I get and read daily messages from Abraham sent by Esther and Jerry Hicks, co-authors of the wonderful book, "Money and the Law of Attraction." This one I got a couple days ago and it really resonated with me:

"Don't try to recreate peak experiences. Instead, just accept them as the gift that they are, and don't beat up on yourself for not being able to stay there. Because if you stayed there, they wouldn't be peak experiences. They would be normal, every day in time hum drum boring, experiences. So, savor the peak experiences and compliment yourself upon your achieving of them, and expect more of them, and leave everything else out of the equation."

I've been trying to recreate the past experiences I've had of losing weight successfully, and I'm clear now on the fact that however it's going to happen this time, it's going to be completely different from times in the past. It's going to be joyful, gentle, and awe-inspiring. I will continue to share it with you!

BodyFit Update: Still wearing the BodyFIT band, though I don't have many steps to proclaim this week. I was interested to see that I got more exercise than I thought I had on my days "off." This weekend is the big 1/2 marathon for which I've been faithfully training all these many weeks. I look forward to wearing my arm band and logging all my steps. For more information on the BodyFIT armband, click here.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's in a Bag? by Margaret Hart

This week I got together with a group of women I hadn't seen in a while for breakfast. As I was driving to the coffee shop, I reached into my purse, as I often do while driving, and dug around for my phone so I could double check the address in my contacts at the next red light. It's true that women can put on lipstick and makeup, brush their hair, and do all manner of things while driving, but I draw the line at texting, emailing, or trying to look up addresses–it's just too dangerous, not to mention illegal in most states.

So there I was stuck in traffic with the perfect opportunity. I looked down and there, staring me in the face, was a zip lock snack bag containing a two-day-old ham and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread.  "I'm really losing it," I thought.  I didn't even remember putting it in there.  But there it was.  Pink ham. Yellow cheese. Smear of mayo. Yes, I did remember! It grabbed it from the refrigerator as I was racing out the door on Wednesday to serve my volunteer shift at my son's school.  I was so busy checking out books to the first graders that day, I never got to eat.  And so, kind of like the emails that aren't read on time, the sandwich got pushed to the bottom of the abyss of my handbag and, two days later, on Friday, it surfaced.  None too worse for the wear, I might add.  It wasn't moldy and it didn't even smell.

When I got to the coffee shop, my good friend Margot arrived first.  I couldn't wait to tell her.  Her daughter and my son have known each other since diapers, and we've shared a lot of parenting experiences. This morning, her story was just as good.  "Don't feel bad," she said.  "Before I left, I took out a pair of socks, two pairs of underwear, and some crayons."

We continued to compare notes.  My purse: one stretchy monster leftover from Halloween, three washable markers, two tattoos, three stickers, one orange lollipop.  Her purse: crayons, candy, hair clips, and miscellaneous girlie stuff.

Now that our children are potty trained and in elementary school, we've long since traded in our fashionable diaper bags, but we still carry snacks, juice boxes, water bottles, toys, and gadgets in our designer handbags to keep our kids happy–along with an extra pair of underwear or socks for those little emergencies. 

My handbag is also typically filled with notes I make when I'm running errands, despite my Smartphone having so many apps for these kinds of lists that I should never need to write anything down on another sticky note as long as I live. Not to mention that my new phone talks to me, reminding me to pick up milk or stop at the post office to buy stamps. God, I love technology!

In addition to the items I often carry for my family, a quick inventory of my handbag reveals the regular contents, and it's really boring: a zip lock bag filled with store coupons for sales that have mostly expired (guess I didn't have time to get to the sale), my checkbook, sunglasses in a large case that takes up too much space (but for what I paid for those sunglasses, I'll deal, so they don't get scratched), two bottles of hand sanitizer, two tubes of lip balm (after all, it's chapped lips season), a makeup bag filled with makeup I rarely wear during the week, reading glasses, crumbs, miscellaneous papers and receipts, a mint from the salon where I get my mani/peddi, a credit card holder containing store gift cards, my oversized wallet, my key chain with my favorite photo of me and my little man, a digital camera, pocket tissues, gum, and three pens. All hidden inside a really expensive designer handbag that I got for Christmas a couple years ago. You'd think the contents would be more exciting.

On any given week, my handbag serves as my mini-office. It's also a slice of my life at the moment, and a place where I know something can go and hopefully it won't get lost. But chances are, it will get shuffled down to the bottom of the abyss. And next time I'm stuck in traffic, I'll find it. And I'll either eat it or I'll throw it out.

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