Seven!

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On this day, seven years ago, you arrived – two weeks early. You’ve not been early for anything ever since.

You are my funny girl, my ray of feisty sunshine, my karate ninja, my pop diva.

You know your own mind & I love that.

You can now read (oh the places you will go!)

You are blissfully unaware of your beauty. Your exquisite almond eyes and deep red lips.

You love love love your “rocky” music. And you move like Jagger.

You are my concert companion: first Bruno Mars, then Maroon 5. (Sshhh, there’s more in store this summer!)

Your appetite has grown as your beautiful body (that I made) has lengthened & strengthened. But you still consume food molecule by molecule. Meatballs, Mac & cheese, milk and chocolate rule your world. You are a broccoli machine. But NO SAUCE. Sauce is evil.

Your remain loyal to your main man Optimus Prime, but welcome his pals from Hero Factory, Lego Chima, and Ninjago. And Pokemon, of course.

You still want to be vet when you grow up. Or a pop star. Or a normal person.

You’ve mostly conquered your fear of new toilets.

You still burp like a beer-swilling trucker. (Grown men have been known to snort with laughter upon hearing such sounds emanate from one so small and cute.)

I’m training you to load the dishwasher to my exacting standards (this thrills me!)

You still maintain a freakish mental database of everyone’s ages and birthdays.

Most of all, you love to snuggle and give the tightest hugs!

Happy 7th birthday, my T!

 

Losing My Marbles?

I am not someone who loses things or leaves things behind. Over the years, I’ve known plenty of people who lose their car keys and such on a regular basis. At university, I lived with a girl who every day was in a panic about not being able to find something or other.

However, I am turning into one of these people, if the last two weeks are anything to go by. Let’s examine the evidence:

  • Wed of last week: Drove to a meeting in town. Returned to parking garage to the realization that I had left my wallet at home.
  • Fri of last week: Left my entire bag overnight at Dream Dinners.
  • Yesterday morning: Left for gym in the morning without my water bottle.
  • Yesterday afternoon: Left work without my laptop.
  • Yesterday evening: Left a restaurant without my credit card or signing for the check.

I worry about my sanity when these things happen as it’s so out of character for me. I’m well aware however that it’s a symptom of moving too fast and having too much in my head. And not enough sleep.

According to this new article “I Refuse to Be Busy” in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, being busy is a choice. I’m not completely sure that’s true or achievable, especially when you are a working parent. But one way or another, I need to tackle my busy work, busy home, busy head thing or else I will never find my marbles. Maybe I should start by trying to slow down and breathe. Breathing is good, right?

 

Encouraging Children to “Follow Their Grief” When A Pet Dies

(As many of you know, our golden retriever Angel passed away last December and, for me, one of the hardest parts was observing my kids’ grief and supporting them through it – an ongoing process, for sure. When Lisa reached out to me with a proposal to contribute a post on this very this topic, I said “yes please!”)

Guest post by Lisa Cohn

When our Golden Retriever, Lucy, died suddenly a year ago, I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep or eat. Every part of my daily routine felt empty without her—walking in my neighborhood, shopping in a dog-friendly store, or playing with my son in the park.

For my children, age 4, 14 and 24, Lucy’s passing was their first close experience with death. They looked to me to understand how to cope. My youngest, Michael, didn’t understand what death was.

Again and again, I encouraged them to follow their grief, to avoid pushing it away, and to see where their feelings of sadness and vulnerability took them. I tried to model this philosophy—and hope, in doing so, I didn’t overwhelm them with my own sadness. I cried every day, talked about Lucy to my friends, and engaged in conversations with people on the street about dogs they had lost.

Interestingly, my youngest, Michael, was most open to and accepting of my sadness. He listened to me, held my hand, and reminded me over and over that I had “three other babies,” (my three children). To him, Lucy was another one of my children.

Our family’s efforts to cope with grief over the loss of “my other child” focused on art, writing and communicating with others. First, we gathered photos of Lucy and posted them on Facebook and talked about our loss. It was comforting to hear from all our dog-loving friends.

Next, we created a few collages of Lucy, and hung them up in high-traffic areas of our house.

We also organized a “Remembering Lucy” party. We invited our friends and people who had cared for Lucy over the years. I thought it was especially important for Michael’s preschool friends to attend this event because they had all played every day with her on the playground (She happily went down the slide with them, which endeared her to them).

During the “Remembering Lucy” event, we shared stories about and photos of Lucy. I was touched by our friends’ and neighbors’ passion for dogs, and their comments about how much dogs give to them. Some of Michael’s friends spoke up, sharing stories about playing with her on the playground. And my 24-year-old son’s friends surprised me with their comments. One young man said he was always jealous of the fact that we had such a great dog. Another young man said that whenever he babysat Michael, Lucy guarded the two of them closely.

I believe our “Remembering Lucy” event deepened my kids’ understanding of the gifts our “best friends” give us. It certainly strengthened mine.

Following my grief also led me to write a children’s book, along with Michael, that stars Lucy. This helped us keep her alive in our hearts. Michael and I even started Skyping with classes globally, encouraging them to express their grief through writing and other art forms.

“Follow your grief,” is the message we send over and over. We followed ours, and it led us to Skype with children from all over the world—kids who touch us daily with their emails, letters and enthusiasm for pets.

Writing, organizing a Remembering Lucy party and Skyping with kids globally has impacted Michael the most. There’s only one way to deal with death, in his mind: Share your feelings publicly.

Just the other day, his friend’s dog died. “Let’s help them write a book about their dog,” he said. “That will make them feel better.”

 

Lisa Cohn, along with her son, Michael, are co-authors of the award-winning children’s book, “Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence,” and were recently featured on the Today Show for Michael’s love of books and his role in writing the book. Visit them at www.BashAndLucy.com

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Wanted: Me Time

Like most busy Moms, the tradeoff for all the joy of motherhood and family life is the loss of “me time.” And we all know and read about the need for self-care: if we don’t look after ourselves, then how can maintain our multi-tasking superMom status for everyone else?

I don’t blame my kids, my husband or my full-time job. In fact, my husband, knowing me as well as he does, often asks me what am I going to do for myself each weekend. I’ve tried my hardest to make “me time” a priority at the weekends; sometimes it works, more often than not, it’s 30 mins grabbed here or there that, in truth, doesn’t amount to much of anything in the way of soul-soothing.

Truth is, there’s just not enough weekend in the weekend for “me time.”

So this morning, I decided it was time to take some action. I am demanding one whole Saturday per quarter for me and me alone. Because I need a whole 12 hours to unwind my mind and body. To do things for me. At my pace and to my agenda.

I am claiming my “me time” because I need to know that it’s there, carved out on the family schedule. It’s something to look forward to, to plan for. To decompress the depleting stress that creeps up on my brain and rattles my sleep. To recharge my silly.

I know that everyone will benefit from my “me time.” Not just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Mom Poll: Makeup Dilemmas

Most mid-week mornings, I pull into the parking lot at work, already running late and harried. And it’s there, in my car, that I hastily throw on my makeup. The goal of which is to mostly make me feel more put together/awake but also I feel it’s my duty to protect my co-workers from having to see their reflections in my shiny nose and forehead.

Like most working Moms, mid-week mornings are manic: trying to herd the kids while at the same time making ourselves presentable for the outside, professional world. Success (a sliding scale) largely depends on the age of your kids and how much of the morning routine they can do for themselves – but ultimately, kids are easily distracted and before you’ve had a chance to take a bite of toast, pack their lunches, iron anything (ha!) or hunt for library books, it’s time to hustle them – and you – out of the door and to school/preschool/daycare/work.

So I wondered, am I alone in my inability to apply makeup before leaving the house or do you, fellow working Moms, also find yourself slapping on the mascara and lipstick sitting in your car outside your office? You tell me.

Wardrobe Meltdown & a Stranger’s Words of Wisdom

While Spring may technically be here, in reality, it’s still winter in New England and has been since November.

Which means I’ve been wearing the same set of clothes for work for roughly 21 weeks.

Which means I am sick to death of every item of clothing I own.

Which means that, this morning, as I needed to look respectable for client meetings for the third consecutive day (while battling a head cold), I had a total wardrobe meltdown.

Let’s call it a Working Mom Style Crisis.

In that, I have no style. And most of my clothes are either old, boring, and unhip.

My random assortment of clothes are usually selected according to the following principles: price, fit/comfort, flatteringness, color, available time to shop.

Most often, the clothes I buy are pulled from a rack in Target – without being tried on – while doing the weekly shop with kids in tow. (It helps that the women’s clothes section is strategically just across from the area where all the Pokemon cards can be found …)

Given that my style left the building a long long time ago (around about the time I became a working Mom,) I have somehow managed to feign some masquerade of style through an assortment of flashy earrings and necklaces and my kick-ass boots.

But this morning, as I lamented how much I hated all my clothes to Twitter, someone (another working Mom) tweeted to me that: “Nothing looks better on you than confidence.”

And I realized that, tatty clothes aside, I have ship-loads of confidence. And I can fake it really good too.

So, until the day comes when I have enough time and money and patience to shop for new clothes, I’ll be trying my best to wear my confidence – with style.


 

In Defense of Silliness & Spontaneous Dance Parties

This morning during breakfast, as Bruce Springsteen was playing on the iPod, I jumped up, grabbed my daughter’s electric guitar and rocked out to “Born To Run.” I couldn’t help myself! My six year-old looked at me, wide-eyed, with wonder and glee. After calling me weird, she jumped up and joined in, followed by my husband and son and a spontaneous dance party exploded culminating in us all grooving and giggling to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

Every morning should start off with silliness and a spontaneous dance party. It’s good for the soul, not to mention the cardiovascular system.

Admittedly, it’s a distraction from the “business” of the morning. Making lunches, brushing teeth, playing Minecraft on the iPad, packing backpacks. Yes, we were rushed as the minutes ticked by on the clock ….. but it was so worth it!

Every kid needs to see their parents being silly, every now and then. If we are always instructing, nagging, shuffling them from A to B, focusing on chores and homework, well, it’s all quite dull. The occasional goofiness provides healthy perspective. It tells them that we don’t always take everything so seriously, that we can be light-hearted and laugh at ourselves. Seriously folks, it’s even the secret to my happy marriage!

Silliness defies age. In fact, it keeps you young at heart. Being silly keeps you present and in the moment. If fosters togetherness. And, later in the day, you can reminisce about your antics and giggle a little to yourself.

Silliness has its time and place, for sure. Not every morning is suited to spontaneous dance parties. but, if the music moves you, I say go for it, let it rip. Your kids will start the day smiling and what’s better than that?

Why Am I Doing So Much For My Kids?

“I cannot help you; you’re too independent.”

My Mom said these words to me a few months back. I think she was complaining but I’ll take it as a compliment. After all, I’m the middle child. The older one got all the first son status. The younger one got all the youngest child attention. So I was always determined to chart my own course. Consequently, I firmly believe that happiness and success are my own choice. I alone am responsible for the decisions I make and their outcomes. I create my own destiny.

So why the heck am I doing so much now for my kids? I do their laundry, I clean up after them (I use the word “clean” quite loosely), I remind them (when I remember) to take their swimsuits/library books/signed forms to school, I arrange their playdates, I (sometimes) check their homework. I organize their clothes, get new ones when they outgrow current ones. We buy groceries, new shoes, toys. My husband folds their clothes, packs their lunch every day. We plan and cook their dinners, recycle their trash. We ferry them here, there and everywhere.

Is this not part of the definition and commitment of parenthood?

Yes, they do have some basic chores but inconsistency is ubiquitous (our fault, largely.) Take your plate/glass/cutlery over to the sink when you have finished your meal. Put your shoes/coat/hat/mittens away when you come in the house. Hang your towels up after you use them. Make sure dirty clothes find their way to the hamper, at some point. To me, these are all part of respectfully co-existing in the same household.

But I have decided it’s time for the grown-ups to back-off and for these kids start stepping it up. There is much much more that they can – and should – be doing to be active contributors to our home and hearth, otherwise known as this working Mom’s domestic crisis.

Starting today – albeit gradually and with best intentions – I’m doing less and they are doing more. They are nine and almost seven years-old and I believe it’s time. Maybe even beyond time. It’s going to start with bringing their full hamper down and then folding and putting away their own laundry. We’ll move on to making their own school lunches. Stacking and emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping the kitchen floor. On the weekends, they can make their own breakfasts and lunches. They can call their friends and arrange their own social schedules (checking with parents, of course, who still have to do the ferrying.) I’m sure my husband would appreciate help putting the trash out.

The whining will certainly be loud. Eyeballs will roll. They will be plenty of “fine” and “whatever” and pushback. There will be days when the particular pair of pants he wants to wear are not clean because he won’t have realized that the hamper was full.  They will inevitably say “I’m hungry” and get all stroppy when food does not instantly appear. They will learn. I know other parents who have successfully drilled these duties into their kids’ and I feel ashamed that I am still doing it all for them.

Over time, I’m hoping, these chores will become natural, second nature and hopefully, this household will hum with organization, goodwill and less mayhem. But this isn’t just about making my life easier (though that’s a huge incentive, I’ll admit.)

It’s about getting them to think, anticipate and understand the ingredients of an independent life so that, as they get older and obstacles (emotional, physical and academic) plant themselves in their path, they’ll have the muscle memory to face them. Be responsible for their actions. Take failures and inequity in their stride and ultimately, create their own success – whatever that will be.

Emptying the dishwasher, putting away clean socks and remembering their library books are just stepping stones in this journey. Independence is the goal, but happiness is always a choice.

Puppy Love

Guest post by Vikki Friedman

First there was just me. Then ‘me’ and the love of my life became ‘we’. We became three with the arrival of Harper, our fluffy champagne coloured kitten. The next five years whizzed by in a blur of nappies, sleepless nights and the juxtaposition of joy and insanity that our three unique, loveable and crazy baby boys (Hugo, Milo and Luca) bought into our world. Next came Molly, our fluffy white bunny (formally known as Buster the boy bunny – but that’s another story!).

Life in the Friedman family to this point could be described as semi-controlled chaos. Although my kids had begged us to get a puppy, the answer had always been a resounding “No way!” This was despite having grown up with the most wonderful four legged-friends, our gorgeous Shelties Leo and Ollie.

A few of my reasons were as follows:

  • Dogs are smelly and have really stinky breath
  • They pooh and wee everywhere
  • They destroy everything – your house, your garden and, according to my sister, steal and bury multiple household items including remote controls amongst other things!
  • I would end up doing EVERYTHING associated with looking after the dog!

Pretty good reasons not to get one, eh?

But I remember the day something seismic shifted within in me. My eldest son was having a lousy time getting to sleep and was really worried about ‘bad guys’ breaking in. He seemed to feel responsible for listening out for all the creepy noisy in the house that might mean trouble. That night I had an epiphany – a puppy would bring him the sense of security that he needed and deserved.

Suddenly, I was like that possessed woman who is desperate to have a baby and only sees pregnant women around her! Everywhere I looked everyone had a puppy and my doggy hormones just went into overdrive and I wanted one RIGHT NOW!

But of course it’s not that easy. There is a gestation period involved! First you have to decide on a breed that will suit your situation. We needed a puppy that was low maintenance, child and pet friendly and definitely not fluffy! After hours of research, we decided on a Pugalier – a Pug/Cavalier cross. However, finding one that did not come from a ‘puppy farm’ or other dodgy breeder was a tough task and it took months of research to eventually find a family who we felt comfortable buying a puppy from.

The next consideration was timing – it was important to introduce our new ‘baby’ into our crazy household at the right time, so I waited for the last two weeks of the summer holidays to do this. So, on a steamy 44 degree Melbourne day, Coco (or Puppy as she was known then) took a JetPets flight down from Sydney and flew straight into our lives and we haven’t looked back since.

“So what’s the verdict?” I hear you ask. Well yes, she is a bit stinky. And yes, she is still in the “here is my pooh as a present on the carpet” phase! She is nuts and sometime nips and sometimes steals things she shouldn’t and digs holes in the garden so that the bunny escapes under our back yard deck! She chases the rabbit around the garden and the cat has basically moved out since she took up residence!

But despite all this, she is friendly, loveable, playful, fun, loyal, so cute and has bought endless joy and entertainment to our family life. Our kids adore her. She adores them. They play with her first thing in the morning and first thing when they get home from school. There is less iPad, computer and TV time in our household and more fun and puppy play time. All she wants is love and be loved. And really, what more could any family ask for?

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Vikki Friedman is a English mum of 3 boys, who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She works in online fundraising, runs her kids’ school parents’ association and is starting her own face painting business. (Editors note: she’s also my sister!)

Busted By The Art Police

Art appreciation is hugely subjective. Especially when it comes to kids’ art.

As new parents, we naturally pore over every scribble, finger painting and nascent stick figure with enthusiasm, curiosity and caution. Will my kid be a future talented artist? What does this picasso-esque rendering of our family reveal about my kid’s psychological state? Why is Mummy’s head so much bigger than Daddy’s?

We proudly stick these pictures to our walls. We photograph their artwork, we post them to Facebook and Instagram. Heck, I even created an online gallery of my son’s best works.

But, really, seriously people: there’s art and there’s art. The reality is that 90 percent of the “art” that our kids bring home from daycare and school is junk. Go on, admit it.

Just recently, a good friend posted on Facebook that she had been “busted by the art police” – again!  Discussion followed with other parents about their strategies for clandestinely disposing of crappy art work, including these cunning maneuvers:

  • in the dead of night, I remove all traces immediately to the outdoor recycle bin
  • I fold them into tiny pieces and stuff them way down at the bottom of the big can in the kitchen under the icky wet coffee grounds
  • I hand shred and place them into old envelopes that bills came out of
  • I wait until recycling morning, then put it all out at the curb after they go to school

Genius! Me, I wait till they are in bed, rummage through their backpacks and then if there’s a roaring fire ….. Alternatively, if they come out of school or worse still, after the craft table at Papa Gino’s on a Thursday night, proudly showing off the paper doily decorated toilet roll snow man they just made, then I put it on the passenger seat of my car as we drive home. Inevitably, as they bundle out of the car and into the house, said artwork nonchalantly slips into the trash can in my car ….. and nobody ever seems to notice. Lucky me.

Parents, trust me. There’s a time to ooh and ah over your kid’s latest masterpiece and there’s a time to find a way to get rid of it.

What to do, however, if your kid insists of keeping his or her drawing? Well then, I’m not above grabbing some tape and sticking it to an assigned wall somewhere. But don’t overdo it or the kids will insist that their art is plastered everywhere. Better to finesse your sneaky disposal habits, trust me.

Have you been busted by the art police?

P.S. For greats tips on how to talk to your kids about their art, check here.

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