Two little girls + stressed working mom + client meeting = ??? Let’s find out!!

Maybe it’s because I’m a curious soul, or because I like a good challenge. Or maybe it’s because I have a teeny, tiny chip on my shoulder about being a working mom, and feel like I have something to prove. Maybe it’s because I can’t say no, or because I am so stubborn that I won’t.

It could be some combination of them all, but today I tried a reckless experiment, bringing together two highly combustible elements: (a) my daughters and (b) my job.

Usually I keep my family life completely separate from my work life. I am so stringent about it that I won’t even schedule a client conference call while I’m at home watching the girls. That’s because I don’t want to be the source of any disruption to the adults on the call (disruption here meaning a girl yelling in the background, “Mommy, I’m hungry!!” or “Mommy, she hit me!!” or “Mommy, I need to poop!!” or simply “MAMA!!”). I’ve brought my girls to my office a couple of times to show them around, but never while anything too important is going on.

But around Mother’s Day, I read a very eloquent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, penned by a working mom named Athelia Woolley LeSueur, called “For My Daughter.”LeSueur is the founder of Shabby Apple, a vintage/retro clothing designer (and she’s a Mormon, too!). In her op-ed, LeSueur writes a moving note to her (apparently infant) daughter with such forward-looking assurances as:

“I will do my best as an entrepreneur. I will do my best as your mother.”

“I won’t apologize for being a mother. I won’t apologize for you. When I go to meetings with international buyers, I will carry you on my belly. When you cry, I will politely excuse myself to calm you. The fabric man from Shanghai will be surprised, but he will take me seriously because I take myself seriously. I will take you to trade shows. I will ignore the scowls of many and welcome the smiles of some. I will hold my head high and be proud to be there, proud to be there with you. I will choose not to work with people who sneer at us when I hold you during my company meeting.”

When I read this, I felt oddly empowered. Granted, I realized that she’s in a special category of elite working moms — those who found their own successful companies and get their op-eds published in the Wall Street Journal. At this moment in our lives, she and I do not have much in common. 

But still I felt empowered. Her words took flight in my imagination. Could I bring my daughters to a client meeting? Could I better integrate the “work” half of me with the “mom” half? Is it necessary that I so rigidly separate them? Could I loosen up a little, tolerate a little discomfort from embarrassing five-year-old behavior and changing dirty diapers, and allow my daughters into my work life a little more? 

While I considered these questions, an opportunity presented itself for me to experiment and try to find my own answers. One of our clients — a group of real estate developers — wanted to give me and a colleague a walking tour of the properties they just purchased. Hey, I thought — what if we scheduled it for a time that the girls could come along too?

Once it was scheduled, I didn’t give it too much thought — until yesterday, when I have to admit that I started panicking a little. What had I been thinking?? N could easily have a temper tantrum in the middle of the tour, lay down on the sidewalk and refuse to get up. She could start bothering S in the stroller and they could start fighting. What if N was trying to get my attention the whole time and I couldn’t hear a word the clients were saying? What kind of impression would I make — would they even want to continue working with me??

Boy, my sense of empowerment was beginning to seem deluded and irrational.

This morning I even explored the option of dropping N with a friend for a play-date in the park, but the drop-off would take too much time and I didn’t want to be late to meet the client. Besides, I actually like hanging out with my daughters (most of the time). So I decided to forge ahead with my Grand Experiment, and see whether it’s possible for me to mix my business and personal lives a little more.

When I picked up N from school, I realized that I was going to have to keep my stress level to an absolute minimum, and treat this outing as 100% FUN! I promised a quick walking-tour, followed by macaroni & cheese at a nearby kid restaurant with toys and games, capped off by a container of Italian ice on the way home. I gave N a map of the area where we’d be walking and she brought along writing utensils, to keep track of whatever came into her head.

When we got to the car, N started counting. “1, 2, 3,” she said — and continued counting aloud during the entire drive, up to 500. We got out of the car and walked up to greet the clients and my colleague. Instead of saying hello to anyone, she covered her ears and kept counting. We walked that way for a few blocks. I simply laughed and said, “We’re still working on social skills.” 

The four other people in the meeting were very nice and polite about me bringing my kids along. But I noticed a similarity among them: they were all men. (This is real estate, after all — not the fashion industry, like in LeSueur’s world.) Apart from my colleague, who has grandchildren and is a natural with kids, I don’t know whether any of the gentlemen in the meeting have kids. But they treated my girls as if they did not really know what to do or say to them — mostly, they ignored them.

I am not complaining about their reaction at all. In fact, it was better than I expected. The gentlemen were very patient when N had to stop and take a break, or started talking to me in the middle of a discussion. But it’s interesting to note that there is a HUGE difference in how me and my girls were received at this particular meeting, and how we would likely have been treated if all the attendees were female.

Thankfully, N was pretty well-behaved. She didn’t throw a tantrum and we didn’t have any major meltdowns. N did have a bit of an attitude — she continued covering her ears with her hands until she counted to 700 — but I guess social skills will come, eventually. And amazingly, I was able to focus on what the client was saying most of the time. 

Bringing the girls with me today induced a fair amount of agita on my part. But maybe it was worth it. Maybe, just maybe, more working moms of my generation will begin to bring their daughters (and sons) to work with them more often, not just one day in April. It sure helps when you have a flexible job, of course. But for those of us who can do it, perhaps we’ll make it just a little easier for everyone else, now and down the road.

I do like how Le Sueur ends her op-ed letter to her daughter:

“My life will be in a blender. I will be overwhelmed and frazzled and a little crazy. Sometimes, I will be so tired from mixing you and work that I will put keys in the freezer and show up for a conference on the wrong day. But I will love my work. I will love you. We will surprise each other.”

I think my girls and I all pleasantly surprised each other today. 

(And the mac-and-cheese and Italian ices were the perfect reward to a busy workday!!)

 

 

 

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Sex Ed for Kindergarteners?? Maybe it’s time.

Yesterday when I picked up N after school, she came running up to me and beckoned my ear down to her lips. “Please don’t get mad at me,” she whispered urgently.

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” I responded gently, in the middle of a swarm of parents and kids. “If you tell me the truth, I won’t get mad.” 

“I showed my underwear to a boy,” she whispered, embarrassed. 

As we walked home, I got the whole story. A boy in N’s class asked her to show him her private parts. When she told him no, he started badgering her with threats. “I’ll tell on you,” he said. “I’ll tear up my phone number (he had written it on a piece of paper and given it to her) and we’ll never have a playdate.” Eventually, his continued pressure wore her down. Embarrassed, she showed him her underwear, while another boy peeked under the table. She refused to show him anything else — she knew it was wrong. 

Had he ever asked her to do that before? I asked. Yes, N responded. Three times before.

Had he ever asked another girl to show him her privates? Yes, one of N’s friends. Several times.

Did you or your friend tell the teacher? No, she said. N was afraid that she’d get in trouble for showing her underwear.

Immediately, I called the school and left a message for N’s teacher, who was gone for the day.

Then I spoke with N. First I told her I was very proud of her for telling me the truth. Then I explained that what the boy asked her to do was wrong; that it was wrong for him to try to get her to change her mind after she first said ‘no’; and that she needs to raise her hand and tell a teacher if ANYONE at school ever asks to see her private parts. 

This morning, I waited for N’s teacher, Mrs. B., before class. I relayed N’s story to Mrs. B, who responded that she was “shocked.” (Frankly, I was a bit shocked that she was shocked — hasn’t this happened in a Kindergarten class before, with lots of kiddos who are just starting to get really curious about how their bodies work??)

In any event, I requested that N’s assigned seat be moved away from the boy’s, and also that Mrs. B. reassure N that she can raise her hand and tell the teacher if something like that happens. 

Today after school, Mrs. B. reported that she had indeed moved N away from the boy. And she did speak with N, although it sounded like a very general conversation (i.e., “you should tell a teacher if something is inappropriate” — not very specific or helpful advice for a 5-year-old). 

Mrs. B. also said she sent the boy to the principal’s office.

Clearly he got in trouble, because when the boy returned to class, he spitefully told N: “If you’re going to tell on me, I’m going to start telling on you.” 

When N relayed this to me, I asked her whether she was still glad she told us about the incident. After the boy’s threats today, she did not seem so sure that she did the right thing by telling us.

I feel that we handled the situation the right way, but I’m also very afraid of the day that N stops confiding in me. Clearly, something compelled her to tell me what happened with the boy — not the first time or the second, but the third time it happened. I’m extremely relieved that she was brave and trusting enough to share her story with me, even though she thought I might get mad at her.

Tonight we also sat her down and gave the first lesson in “sex ed.” We taught her the proper names for the private parts of boys and girls. We didn’t discuss anything further, but I know it’s just the first step down that road.

This was N’s first experience with sexual harassment. I know it sounds crazy to apply that term to 5-year-olds, that’s exactly what it was. 

Later in the day, I happened to hear another mom talking about the same boy. She said he got in trouble for pulling a girl’s pants down.

Did this stuff happen when we were in Kindergarten?? I sure don’t remember it, but it’s possible. 

It’s also possible that the world has changed, and little kids are not as innocent as they once were.

I am reluctant to say that we need sex ed in Kindergarten, but I do feel that some kind of talk or information might actually help to prevent classroom situations such as this. What if Mrs. B., at the beginning of the year and again at regular intervals, explained the definition of “bullying” and “inappropriate touching” — ? What if she actually explained to the kids that they should tell the teacher if someone is touching them in a way that is “inappropriate,” or asking them to do something they know is wrong? I don’t think we should be giving explicit talks about how to make a baby — that can wait. But in today’s world, maybe kids ought to be a little better equipped to handle inappropriate situations.

Otherwise, they run the risk of parents like me and G acting on our deepest impulses and collaring the kid in the schoolyards and making our own threats, such as “You better leave my kid alone, twerp — or else!!”

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Anger is a part of life – but “Frankenmom” is not

I’m ready to admit it: I’ve started reading a book on how to manage my anger.

It begins: “Anger is a part of life.” Unfortunately for this mom, anger is all too often a part of my daily life. My kids, especially my 5-year-old, push buttons that I didn’t even know I had.

When N was first born, I couldn’t imagine ever getting angry with her. I don’t think I ever raised my voice with her until she was three years old – around the time she really started having her own opinion, expressing a headstrong will and resisting our authority, especially at bedtime. Bedtime was the absolute worst; she simply did not want to stay in bed or be left alone. Our battle of wills could go on for an hour or more, during which time she’d get increasingly tired and hysterical.

And finally I realized just how angry my daughter could make me.

For the past couple of years, I’ve struggled to handle my parental anger. No one who knows me would think that I’m an angry person – I’m generally happy and friendly and quick with a smile. I don’t get easily offended, and I’m not a “road rager” – in fact, when another driver is being a jerk, I always let it roll off my back and give him the right-of-way.

But when N is refusing to eat her dinner, talking back, being disrespectful or ignoring my instructions, I transform from a mild-mannered, patient, fun mom into a totally different person –an angry Frankenmom, or Ms. Hyde. I yell, slam doors and act in ways that I’m embarrassed to admit later. I know that I am not setting a good example for either of my daughters on how to handle their most intense emotions.

So I’m reading an anger management book, which is a difficult admission for me to make. When I hear the words “anger management,” I think of angry old men who sit around their houses in their “wifebeater” t-shirts, yelling at the TV and their kids and at their wives to go get them another beer. Needless to say, I don’t care to be lumped into that category.

But I need to change. I must change, for the sake of my girls. I don’t want my anger to dominate or overshadow my entire relationship with my daughters. I don’t want them to be experience negative ramifications from my anger, on their confidence or sense of well-being. And I do not want to set a poor example for how they should handle their feelings. I want them to grow up to be strong, resilient young women who can handle anything that life throws at them with their equilibrium intact.

So I’m reading Anger Management for Dummies, which is helping me to develop strategies for managing the intensely emotional situations that seem to crop up on a near-daily basis. I wrote down and personalized steps that N and I can both follow:

  1. Take a break. When we’re upset with each other, we both need a time-out, apart. Walking away and removing ourselves from the immediate situation is the best way to begin the process of calming down.
  2. Assess your anger. Why did you get angry? What is the intensity level from 1 to 10? Putting words and labels on your anger can help you feel slightly more in control of your emotions.
  3. Calm down. Try taking 10 deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Stop yelling and be quiet, and leave each other alone for a few minutes. Repeat a calming mantra; mine is “she’s only 5, she loves and respects you, you are not your father.” N likes kicking her legs on her bed, which I encourage, since physical activity can help the anger to dissipate.
  4. Once we’re calm, we need to come back and talk, not yell. We need to listen to each other and work it out. At this point, humor can be a great tool to help us both start feeling better.

These are my own steps, adapted from the book, which has helped me tremendously since I started reading it – not only in an intense situation, but in preventing situations from spiraling out of control in the first place. I’m learning to be more aware of my anger when I first feel it, usually as a mild feeling of annoyance or irritation. If I can calm myself down at that point, many times I can prevent it from escalating into anger.

N and I both have intense emotions, and we’re both sensitive. I can see us having these charged emotional interactions for our entire lives. So the smarter we can be about handling them, the better.

Already N has shown a lot of emotional intelligence, even when she’s experiencing really strong feelings that are tough for a little kid to handle. She’ll tell me, “When I cry one time, it’s easier for me to cry a second time, so go easy on me!” or, “I need some time alone in my room!” I do try to listen to her and respect her emotional needs.

Sometimes, when we’re starting to get really upset with each other, she’ll suddenly make a funny face and we both laugh, which immediately defuses the situation.

Unfortunately, last night I had one of my angry episodes that we weren’t able to defuse before it got intense. Thankfully, those episodes are becoming fewer and farther between, now that I’m investing time and energy into managing my anger. But yesterday N was especially touchy after a rough day at school (her teacher yelled at her and her friends weren’t very nice). She was feeling moody and sad at every little thing and getting cranky, and it took everything I had to stay calm and patient and let things go.

Finally at bedtime, after hours of keeping my cool, I snapped. N wasn’t listening to me, and the hour was getting later. I was feeling the pressure to get her in bed — if she’s not in bed at the right time, her emotions can really take a dive off the deep end. As she got loopy and stopped listening to me, my annoyance blew up into anger. Enter Frankenmom.

Thankfully, after only a few minutes, I remembered my steps and went to our bedroom to calm down. Before long, N and I were both much calmer, and she was cuddling with me on my lap.

Still, during my brief, intense outburst, I really disappointed myself. I acted in ways that do not reflect the person or the mom I want to be. Holding N in my lap and drawing her close, I started to cry a little.

“Mom, don’t cry,” N pleaded. “You’re going to make me cry!”

“Okay, honey,” I said, sniffling.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said sweetly, turning to hold my face in her hands. “When I was feeling sad after school because of Mrs. B., you took me to get a donut, and that made me feel better. You don’t have anything to cry about.”

Sweet girl! I hope that’s the “emotional intelligence” that the experts talk about.

Now I just need to continue trying to develop my own “E.I.” – so that I can finally stop turning into Frankenmom, and instead, be the parent I want to be.

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Kids Under Pressure: What Lessons Are We Really Teaching?

I didn’t realize how much pressure Kindergarten was placing on my daughter until last night. She was sitting at the table, complaining about the stack of homework in front of her and said, “I wish I was a baby again, like S! Her life is sooo easy!!”

My heart sank when I realized that she’s starting to resent her nightly homework load. And she’s only 5 years old, barely more than a baby herself.

Things have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. When I was 5, I began my school career in Mrs. Claver’s half-day Kindergarten class. From 8:30-11:30 each morning, we colored pictures and played. Letters were introduced as people — “Mrs. A” looked like a friendly middle-aged female letter with a handbag and flowered hat. We answered the roll call with silly phrases, shouting “Michael Jackson!” or “Boy George!” to indicate that we were present, as we sat cross-legged in a circle on the rug.

The only time I recall feeling anything close to “pressure” was once near the end of the school year, when each student was “tested” on whether they could perform simple tasks like tying a shoe. I got nervous when Mrs. Claver asked me to zip up my jacket, and the zipper got stuck. I had a vague feeling that I had failed the test in some way; it was the first time I felt anxiety in school.

Fast forward 30 years, to September 2012: my daughter N started Kindergarten at the age of 4, with a full school day from 8:40am-2:40pm. During orientation, N’s teacher explained the drill: all students would be expected to read at a “D” level by the end of the school year. They would learn addition, subtraction and the foundations of math (counting by 5s and 10s to 100, for example). They would learn to re-tell stories. And once they mastered writing letters, they would write “reading responses” and draft “how-to” books. They would have special classes — on Monday, supplemental math lessons; on Tuesday, gym; Wednesday, computers; Thursday, music; and on Friday, art.

And once a day, if there was time, the kids would be allowed 15 minutes of free “choice time,” where they could select an activity and play.

And then there’s the homework.

I don’t recall ever having homework until I was in a much higher grade in school. By contrast, every night N comes home with 3 or 4 worksheets; PLUS a writing assignment (e.g., a “reading response,” three original sentences using “word wall” words, etc.); PLUS her reading homework (4 books on her reading level). AND we keep a nightly reading log of the book that we read together at bedtime.

Each afternoon when we come home from school, N gets 20-30 minutes of down time before she starts her homework. She usually works for 40-50 minutes (with minimal breaks) until close to dinner time. After dinner, it’s not long before bedtime; maybe we have time for a bath or a quick “dance party” with S.

For most of the school year, N did very well with her homework load. She developed good study habits and was able to focus most of the time. But lately, ever since the weather turned slightly warmer and the days have started getting longer, N has had a much harder time focusing. She’ll sit at the table and play with her pencils, pretending they’re on a “Sharp Team,” for long periods of time. I feel bad about stopping her; isn’t this what a 5-year-old is supposed to be doing??

Also lately, she gets very emotional and reactive to my attempts to enforce a schedule. She’s strongly resisting the pressure that’s being placed on her — which, admittedly, is more pressure on a daily basis than my silly one-off zipper test.

At our spring parent-teacher conference, Mrs. B. (N’s teacher) gave N a good review. I used the opportunity to explain to Mrs. B. that I felt N was missing out on imaginative play because of the heavy homework load. N has a terrific imagination, and she tries to do “pretend play” much more than her tight daily schedule allows. It’s my feeling that kids her age should be allowed lots of time for creative play, to develop the parts of their brains that will later be used for problem-solving and critical thinking. There’s a narrow window of time during which kids’ brains have this terrific potential, and it seems that school is stifling rather than nurturing it.

So I informed Mrs. B. that I planned to start giving N greater flexibility with her homework, and more time to play. If she was engrossed in imaginative play, and I didn’t want to interrupt her, I would place a note in N’s homework folder indicating that she didn’t complete all her assignments and that we would schedule another time to finish the work on a different day. I told her it wouldn’t be more than once a week.

Mrs. B. responded, “Okay. Let her play now, because the workload will only increase in 1st grade.”

Wow.

According to news reports, my daughter’s experience is typical among NYC Kindergarteners. In a January 27th, 2013 article (“Playtime’s Over, Kindergarteners“), the New York Post writes: “Way beyond the ABCs, crayons and building blocks, the city Department of Education now wants 4- and 5-year-olds to write “informative/explanatory reports” and demonstrate “algebraic thinking.”

“This is causing a lot of anxiety,” one teacher said. “Kindergarten should be happy and playful. It should be art and dancing and singing and learning how to take turns. Instead, it’s frustrating and disheartening.”

Other reports confirm that Kindergarten is only the beginning, and that this heavy-handed educational approach will only continue as the kids get older.

Further, educational standards are getting more rigorous all the time. The New York Times recently profiled the new testing standards that are being implemented this year for 3rd through 8th graders in New York, as the city and state continue aligning their curriculum to the federal Common Core (Students Face Tougher Tests That Outpace Lesson Plans). Kids in NY are expected to get much lower scores this year because they haven’t been taught the lessons they’ll be tested on.

The Times writes: “The sink-or-swim approach is of particular concern to students (and their parents) in the fourth and seventh grades, whose scores could determine where they go to middle or high school in 2014. ‘It really makes me nervous,’ said Patrick Timoney, a seventh grader at Intermediate School 2, on Staten Island. ‘It’s a big deal and if you don’t get a good grade, it’s not the best.'”

It seems that the anxiety continues right on through the grades.

As an advocate for my daughter to get the best education possible, I (like many parents) am concerned about the atmosphere of anxiety that today’s schools seem to be creating. I’m certainly not against high standards or testing to meet those standards, but when those standards and not the love of learning become the sole focus of a student’s educational experience — then what lessons are we really teaching our kids?

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Hi Honey, I’m Home!! What the…??

When I’m drinking a glass of wine at home on a Friday night, I sometimes like to read old anti-feminist texts from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. While I don’t consider myself a “feminist,” I do get a kick out of reading some pretty amazing — and frightening — old passages about “the woman’s role” in the family and in society. I can’t believe the ideas were contemporary for my Granny, and even for my mom.

Life can be wonderful

Here’s a gem: one well-known book in its day, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, published in 1947, “attempted to explore the causes of…women’s confusion and despair…which [the authors] identified as women’s rejection of their essentially domestic role, and their desire to compete with man in the public arenas of business and politics.” Also, the book “denounced feminists for being aggressive, maladjusted and unable to accept women’s fundamental role as wife and mother.” Yikes! Maybe the authors should have joined in a glass of wine to take the edge off.

One of my particular favorites, The Fascinating Womanhood — which I discovered in 8th grade and read cover to cover — was published in 1963, the same year as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. However, The Fascinating Womanhood couldn’t have had a more divergent view of what it meant to be a woman. My enduring memory of this book is its recommendation that a woman adopt certain personality traits in order to keep her man interested and happy. She should strive to be cute and childlike and express admiration for him, similar to a literary protagonist named Dora; but at other times she should embody the mature, angelic nature of another character named Agnes. Basically, the book instructs women to transform themselves into fictional representations — and not even of themselves, but of these “ideal” women.

retro-housewife

What hogwash! (Unfortunately, no one told me that it was hogwash when I was 13 years old and seeking out tips on how to attract the opposite sex. Let’s just say that time and life disabused me of whatever notions I took away from this book, which remains in print today and claims to have sold over two million copies.)

I find it amusing to read passages from these old books — until I remember that real women lived  these lives not so long ago, trapped unhappily in a limited world with very few choices for personal fulfillment.

It’s incredible to juxtapose these passages with those from The Feminine Mystique. Tonight, re-reading Anna Quindlen’s introduction of the book, I paused when I came to: “Friedan described a generation of educated housewives maniacally arranging the silverware and dressing to welcome their husbands home from work.”

Now, I have never maniacally arranged silverware in my life. And I definitely do not dress up to welcome my husband home from work, a point which couldn’t have been clearer on Friday evening.

After working my part-time day (9-2), then picking up the girls and managing our afternoon/evening at home, I was eagerly awaiting G’s return home from work. Fridays are typically the toughest day of the week, as N has hit her stress-tolerance level and she’s tired to boot. This particular Friday night was worse than usual — defiance, talking back, and a near-hysterical tantrum to top it all off. (Another blog post for another night!!)

So by the time G walked through the door, he barely had time to take off his coat or say hello before I was agitatedly asking him (in a very un-Dora and un-Agnes-like way), “Can you put S to bed?”

Let’s just say that the reaction from Dad wasn’t very “Leave It to Beaver.” He didn’t respond well to my less-than-effusive greeting, but he did take S upstairs to bed.

Later we agreed that we’re both tense at the end of the day, and especially at the end of the week. Our brains are fried and our reactions are not exactly calculated for the other person’s comfort. Our interactions are real and honest. At the end of the conversation, we agreed to cut each other some slack at that moment in the day, not expect any grand gestures and just allow the other person to be tired and cranky, if that’s how they feel.

Tonight when I re-read all these texts from previous generations, I was so very glad that my husband and I have the open, honest and equitable relationship that we do, as do many couples of our generation. It doesn’t mean that we never have marital problems or that we always agree — but at least we can talk to each other in a way that leaves us both feeling like the other person heard what we were saying, and that we have each other’s mutual respect.

And maybe that’s a big part of what the whole feminist thing was about.

Good job, ladies.

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Raising Two Kids in this Crazy, Modern World

In anticipation of my blog’s upcoming third birthday (yea!), and in recognition of the way cooler WordPress themes that are available now, I’ve given my blog a fresh new look. (Whaddya think??)

But it’s not just the appearance I’m retooling. I’d like to think that, in addition to being three years older than I was when I started blogging, I’m also three years wiser as a parent. (My kids are 5 and almost-2, so three years is a big relative chunk of time!)

As I present my refashioned blog to my faithful readers (much appreciation & love!!), I’m also introducing myself and my family to a new audience (thank you, Twitter!).

Let me start by saying that I do not have a fascinating story.

I do not have:

  • Eight or more children
  • A mansion for a home
  • My own reality TV show
  • Relatives who are more insane than usual
  • A wicked bad Brooklyn accent

If I did have my own reality show, you’d see me wearing jeans and a ponytail every day, sometimes showered, sometimes not. My home would not be spotless — there would be dirty dishes, piles of laundry, Play-Doh smashed into the rug and many toys conveniently underfoot so that the cameraman would probably trip on them.

Someone would probably be having a dramatic crying fit or a burst of anger — usually one of the girls, but sometimes me.

And there would be rum.

And maybe I would have discussions about topics I find interesting. Like:

  • How are parents of our generation facing the challenges of raising kids in this crazy, modern world?
  • How have things changed since our parents’ and grandparents’ time? And even our own childhoods?
  • What are we doing — as parents and as a society — to prepare our children for the world they will inherit?
  • Is our educational system really broken? Is it working? What are the flaws, and where are the successes?
  • How are families handling today’s economy, in which two parents working is the new norm? And how does that fact change the nature of parenting itself?
  • Are there values (e.g., hard work, persistence, delayed gratification) that previous generations of parents knew and practiced, but that we have forgotten and would do well to remember?
  • How do I raise a confident, self-assured, resilient child — especially a girl — in today’s society?

As the working mom of two beautiful little daughters, I’m constantly thinking about these topics.

(Well, maybe not “constantly.” It’s more like “sporadically,” when I’m not fixing a meal, cleaning up after a meal, cleaning up after the girls, working at my job, dropping off the girls, picking up the girls, taking the girls to the park, falling on the couch exhausted, etc.)

So this blog is my version of a reality TV show: a sometimes embarrassingly-honest record of what it takes to survive, and hopefully to thrive, as a family in the modern world.

Except that it’s better than a reality TV show, because you can join the discussion. And I very much hope that you will!

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The 12 Days of Christmas…MESS!!

In honor of the daily Christmas MESS that I am perpetually cleaning up during the holiday season, I wrote this little ditty. Hope you enjoy!

On the first day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

All the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the second day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the third day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Sugar on the counter (yes, I’ve stopped counting)

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Glitter on the table (yes, I’ve started drinking)

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Christmas cards off the shelf

Glitter on the table

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Mittens on the floor

Christmas cards off the shelf

Glitter on the table

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!!!! (Again?? Where are you getting all this wrapping paper??)

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Tissues from the box (Yes, you’re using all of those anyway!!)

Mittens on the floor

Christmas cards off the shelf

Glitter on the table

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Crayons on the wall (seriously??)

Tissues from the box

Mittens on the floor

Christmas cards off the shelf

Glitter on the table

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!!!!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree.

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my children gave to me —

Spilled Christmas candy (hand over the chocolate!!)

Crayons on the wall

Tissues from the box

Mittens on the floor

Christmas cards off the shelf

Glitter on the table

Sugar on the counter

Five empty wrapping paper tubes!!!!

Four untied gift bows

Three unstuck gift tags

Two temper tantrums

And all the ornaments off the Christmas tree-e-e-e!!!!!

 

Happy holidays from our family to yours!!!

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