kids

Who’s the Boss in Your House?

March 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm , by

I remember the night like it was yesterday. Sophia was nearly 3 years old, I was six months pregnant and all the impending baby excitement had turned our little angel into a terror. Then I said it, “Sophia, if you don’t get into your bed now, then you won’t get your binkie tonight”. Pablo — knowing that I never make empty threats — glared at me as if to say, “Really? Are we really doing this tonight?”
Sophia had never been the kid that walked around all day with a pacifier in her mouth but it was a sleeping crutch. She used it at nighttime, during naps, even for a little shut-eye in the car. We knew that it needed to go. But how?
I think we dreaded losing it more than she did. Anything that gets a kid to sleep is a blessing, no?

As you can guess, she didn’t get into her bed that night and I did take her pacifier away. She cried for 15 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night she asked for it and I told her she was a big girl and she didn’t need a pacifier anymore and pacifiers are for babies. This time she cried for 5 minutes, then went to sleep. The next night, she didn’t ask for it and she didn’t cry. We were shocked. Taking away the binkie — an act we had dreaded more than she did because, let’s face it, it was more of a crutch for us — was done in 2 nights. And Sophia felt great too. Realizing she didn’t need the binkie made her feel like a big girl and we gave her lots of positive reinforcement and love to support it.

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My Life With A Celebrity Chef (Age 5)

March 8, 2012 at 1:06 am , by

“If you speak to me disrespectfully one more time, you will not be allowed to cook for a week,” I told my son in my best dispassionate, Dirty Harry “Go ahead, make my day” voice. His babysitter, who was on the way out the door, shot me a “WTF” look. I was threatening a 5-year-old with the terrible punishment of not being allowed to cook dinner for a week? Were we in Bizarro World?

Um, I guess so. I don’t know—it’s just the way things are these days at my house. My kindergartner has always loved to cook (check out the video of him making pancakes at age 1 and my blog post about his surprisingly good radish soup), but lately he’s become downright obsessed. And more than that, Scott’s suffering from, shall we say, a slight overabundance of self-esteem? It’s like I’ve suddenly become Bill Buford, author of the wonderful memoir Heat, which is about spending a year working in Mario Batali’s kitchen, getting schooled—and yelled at—by the famous chef. Scott, of course, is Batali.

“Most kids my age don’t know how to cook, but I’ve practiced a lot so I can,” he’ll say proudly. “That’s right,” I’ll reply, watching as he expertly cracks and scrambles eggs or slices up some potatoes with a disposable plastic knife and sautées them in olive oil with garlic, fresh herbs and a touch of freshly ground black pepper. (His idea.) But then I’ll come up against his inner Batali. I’ll give him some basic guidance or I’ll hand him an ingredient, and he’ll rebuke me: “Mom. I’M THE CHEF. Chefs don’t have people helping them!” Oh my goodness, the tone! I tell him that real chefs actually DO have lots of people helping them. And that he is not to speak that way to his mother. What I don’t tell him is that real chefs often have the same imperious attitude. They’re just a little older and wield a lot more financial power over their kitchen companions.

Night before last he had a bit of a come-uppance. Read more


Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s a Lousy Stepfather

December 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm , by

Combining homes with a new husband can be tough (“No, dear, I don’t actually store the clean silverware in the dishwasher), but blending families with kids offers even more unexpected hurdles. You just don’t know how things will shake out until everyone is under one roof, trying on new roles with names that start with “step.” This is what happened to Sheila and Will, and Sheila’s 8-year-old daughter Ashley. After the couple got married, and Will became the new family patriarch, things got trickier than expected. How did they make it work? Read our recap and check out the full version of the story here.

Shelia’s Turn: When Shelia and Will were dating, he seemed like he loved kids, especially Ashley. He’d bring her presents, play games with her, and he seemed psyched at the idea of becoming part of their little family. But after the wedding, things took a turn. Will suddenly became a super strict stepdad, scolding Ashley for watching too many cartoons, constantly picking fights and punishing her for offenses as small as spilling milk. Sheila’s thought about leaving Will, but soon after they married, they had a son, Billy. Will adores his well-behaved boy (and having Billy is the only thing that makes him happy since he hates his job as an accountant), but Ashley, well, hates him. Shelia doesn’t know what to do—her daughter is miserable, but leaving her husband might mean losing her son, which would be devastating.

Will’s Turn: Will was so excited to be a male role model in Ashley’s life. He didn’t just want to be a guy living in her house; he wanted to treat her like his own daughter, which, to Will, meant giving Ashely more rules and structure. He’d always felt that Shelia was too lenient with Ashley, that the girl could use some boundaries to improve her behavior and help her learn responsibility. But after the wedding, Will was surprised that Sheila didn’t want him defining Ashley’s upbringing, and now he’s upset that she’s constantly undermining his parenting tactics. If Will takes away Ashley’s TV privileges or tells her to clean up her room, Shelia just lets Ashley do what she likes and does the chores herself. What gives? Will and Billy are a perfect pair, but Ashley won’t even give him the time of day, and that’s not what Will signed up for. At this point, he’d rather take his son and go.

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Teach Your Children Well (because your words may come right back at you!)

November 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm , by

“No, I don’t wanna have radish soup, it sounds yucky!”

I’m sorry to report that was me, talking to my five-year-old son—not vice-versa.

Granted, I was a bit tired. It was the end of the day on a Sunday, after a weekend that was nonstop activity. Our last outing had been to a healthy food event at a local public school. My friend Jen is a big advocate of local and sustainable food, and she’d invited us to join her and her kids to the event, featuring a performance by her uncle Tom Chapin, a singer who was debuting his new kids’ album, Give Peas a Chance, all about healthy eating. There would be exhibitions about making veggie smoothies, composting and raising chickens in your backyard.  I figured it would be a fun outing with good music (it was), the boys would have fun playing, and maybe Scott would learn stuff. But me? I’m already an adventurous eater, well-versed in healthy options, I thought. I read “Chick Lit,” this month’s LHJ article on backyard chickens. My mom’s been composting forever. I had nothing to learn.

Enter the radishes. (For more of the story and an easy recipe, read on.)

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Can This Marriage Be Saved? My Infertility Is Ruining Our Marriage

August 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by

l_101756380Even the strongest of marriages can be tested by the wild ups and downs of infertility. Didi, a 37-year-old sales rep, who has been married to husband Mark, 35, for three years, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and is unable to have kids as a result. The couple desperately want a baby, but they can’t even discuss their options without a meltdown. (Read the full article in this month’s issue of LHJ, and here.)

Didi’s turn She is absolutely devastated that she can’t bear a child, and Mark makes her feel worse about it. He suggests using donor eggs like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal to Didi that she’d be carrying a child that’s not biologically her own. Plus, if something were to happen and she miscarried with a donor egg, she’d feel like a double failure. And she thinks he’s a class-A jerk to not even consider adoption as an option. The other issue is that Didi is East Indian, and donor eggs from that background are tough to find – not to mention expensive. With adoption, at least there’s a guarantee you’ll have a baby, but there’s no guarantee with IVF. She can’t understand why her husband is so concerned with passing on his genes and hates that he doesn’t acknowledge that Didi is grieving the loss of that chance for herself.

Mark’s turn He thinks acknowledging his wife’s infertility is dwelling on something they can’t change, so he doesn’t like to talk about the problem. He hates seeing her so upset all the time and thinks his encouragement to try a donor egg is a way to focus on the positive. Adoption terrifies him because of the horror stories he’s heard about kids hating their adoptive parents or biological parents coming back to claim their children years later. He’s also worried that he won’t love an adopted child as much as a biological one, and he resents Didi for telling him it’s ridiculous that he feels that way; she complains that he dismisses her feelings but she doesn’t realize she does the same thing. And life’s short – why not risk IVF and if it doesn’t work, use adoption as a backup option? He doesn’t think it’s fair he has to give up on his chance to be a father just because she can’t be a biological mother.

The counselor’s turn There are no easy answers in the IVF-versus-adoption debate, and many couples have the same issues that Didi and Mark are confronting. Didi’s emotional ups and downs and Mark’s temper were an issue, so they took steps recommended by the counselor to manage their feelings better (read more here). The counselor suspected Mark’s anger may be masking depression, so he visited a psychiatrist, who confirmed the diagnosis and put him on antidepressants, which helped his mood immensely. The couple had to take the time to mourn their loss and acknowledge that they’d never have a biological child together, and their pattern of ignoring the issue just kept them mired in it. They had serious questions to consider: Would Didi regret not attempting to carry a baby? Would she feel guilty she denied Mark the chance to be a father? Would Mark resent Didi if she refused to try IVF? After nine months of discussion, they reached an agreement: They would try to find an Indian egg donor but if they couldn’t, they’d adopt. They searched and searched and eventually did find a donor who looked a lot like Didi, but the woman changed her mind and Didi and Mark were crushed. That was the catalyst for their ultimate decision to adopt a child from India. They’ll travel to meet 18-month-old Nikel next month and bring him home to their family.

Have you struggled with infertility? Adopted a child? Do you think Didi and Mark made the right decision? Share your thoughts with us below.


Green Nail Polish and Gay Marriage

July 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm , by

One day when I was about 16, my mom came into my bedroom and looked with horror at the skirt that was hanging on the back of my armchair. “Oh, no,” she said in a low voice that managed to communicate judgment and despair at the same time. “You’ve become one of those.”  She meant a hippie, druggie, unwashed alternative person. It was one of those wrap-around Indian-print skirts that, in the late ’70s, you could buy on streetcorners in New York. They were all the rage at my preppy, fairly conservative Southern high school. Having it in my bedroom meant I thought it was cool and wanted to fit in with the other girls. But my mom read an entire lifestyle into it.

I thought about that moment this week when a somewhat conservative male friend saw that my son’s toenails were Kermit the Frog green. I had gone to buy myself some shiny pink polish and my 5-year-old son had grabbed the green bottle and asked if he could have some, too. After pausing for a moment to calculate the risk factor, I’d said sure. It wasn’t a pink tutu. And given his current obsession with cars, trucks, guns, competing to see who’s fastest, and generally being stereotypically male in every way imaginable, I thought it was a nice change of pace.

“You let him wear nail polish?” my friend said, in a low voice, full of judgment. “A boy should not be wearing nail polish.”

“It’s just paint!” I said. “And it’s GREEN, for godsake. Don’t be silly.”

It was just after Gay Pride weekend in New York, where thousands were celebrating their new right to get legally married. And so my friend replied, “All those people in the street, representing their viewpoint. I gotta represent mine.”

Wow, back in the day, I became a drugged-out hippie with the purchase of one wrap-around skirt, and now, with just 10 swipes of a green brush, my  five-year-old son was on a path to get gay-married. (To Kermit, maybe?) Read more


How to Get Kids to Read Music? Introduce them to Freddie the Frog

April 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm , by

Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the NightMy 4-year-old son, Scott—”I’m not four! I’m four and three-quarters!”—was not quite two when, of his own accord, he started tapping out the rhythm of the subway trains. Ba-bum ba-BUM. Ba-bum Ba-BUM. The boy loves music, has great rhythm and sings right on-key. So naturally I’ve tried to encourage music at home.”Hey, Scott, can you do this?” I’ll say, as I tap out a rhythm on the conga drum. Scott practically rolls his eyes and wanders off. I’ve tried to teach him simple songs on the keyboard, using whatever his current favorite tune is, and no dice—he’ll either start randomly banging and laughing, cracking himself right up, or he’ll play two notes and then bail. If Mom’s trying to teach it, it must not be worth knowing. Same reason I had to sign him up for swim classes, even though I was on a fricking swim team! God help me when he’s a teenager.

So anyway, when I heard about Freddie the Frog, a four-volume children’s book and CD series designed to help familiarize young kids with musical notes and rhythm notation, I thought, “Surrrrrrrre.” But I was willing to check it out. We’ve been Freddie the Frog and the Bass Clef Monsterreading the first three off and on for a couple months now, and I’m a total convert. The books follow the adventures of Freddie and his best friend Eli the elephant. They are typical kids’ picture books with mystery, drama, humor and fun illustrations—and a nefarious plan to teach your kid about music.

Each book has an accompanying CD that helps the story come alive with music and voice characterizations.The first book in the series is set on Treble Clef Island—can you guess what it covers? Second one is on Bass Clef Island, and the third, Tempo Island. The music-reading stuff is kind of woven in to the story, but not really… Like, in the first book when it mentions azaleas, there’s a drawing of an A note on the treble clef, just kind of jammed in there. But you know what? After just a few reads, Scott’s already starting to recognize the notes! Read more

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