“Bully” Hits the Big Screen

March 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm , by

Have you heard about Bully? The documentary, which opens in select cities this week, follows kids and their families as they experience the devastation of being, well, bullied. After Bully received an R rating by the MPAA, the filmmakers are now releasing the movie without a rating, so individual theater owners can rate the documentary themselves. “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” says Bully director Lee Hirsch. “It’s what children who are victims of bullying face on most days.”

We talked to Hirsch about the film—and why for some parents and kids, it might be the most important movie they see this year.

LHJ: Why make a documentary about bullying?

Lee: I was bullied myself as a kid. I felt like I could give a voice to that experience, not just for the 12-year-old me but also for all the people who are going through it today.

LHJ: What shocked you most while filming this movie?

Lee: The physical bullying didn’t surprise me because I remember going through that myself all too well. But I was surprised by just how many people are struggling with this issue. When you’re being bullied you think you’re alone and you don’t have a voice. This film is helping band people together who’ve had this experience—whether they had it themselves, or its something their kid sister is going through. There’s not one family that bullying doesn’t touch.

LHJ: Why aren’t teachers and school administrators doing more to solve this problem?

Lee: I screened the movie for a group of administrators and one of them said to me afterwards, “To be honest, not one of us hasn’t gotten it wrong at some time.” But for me, the point is not to create division or fault. Instead, it’s to create an important conversation for educators to have about the value of social and emotional learning, about teaching empathy. I’d love to see school climates considered to be just as important as test scores and athletic victories.

LHJ: What advice do you have for parents whose kids are being bullied? 

Lee: I encourage your readers to visit our website where we have resources for victims of bullying. Parents should know that it’s your right to make sure your kid is not being bullied. If the teachers are not being responsive, you have to go to the principle, the superintendent, the school board, the office of civil rights, the local media. Just keep fighting. Some parents feel like they can’t win and they pull their kids out of school. But the most important thing is to let your kid know you’re fighting for them.

To learn more about Bully and what to do if your child is being bullied, go to

They Really Do Grow Up Too Soon

December 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm , by

When my son was a newborn, I had moments—usually when I was feeling particularly happy and in love with my boy—when sadness would rush through my body, instant and palpable, like a jolt of adrenaline, and my eyes would fill with tears. It wasn’t the baby blues. It was the realization that life is short and fast and finite, and that these moments that were giving me such joy were fleeting, never to be recaptured. I’m guessing that my age—I was 43 when Scott was born—had a lot to do with it. I’ll bet 25-year-old moms are a lot less likely to draw a straight line between Goodnight Moon and mortality.

I’m able to stay more solidly in the present since those first days—no more wallowing in the poignancy of it all—but I have to say, it really does go by way too fast, just like the cliché says. In our September issue, we ran an essay on this fleeting nature of childhood called “The Long Goodbye.” It really struck a chord with readers, staying on our “Most Popular” list for many weeks. I’m not surprised: What parent can’t relate? And it’s a beautiful piece. If you missed it—or if you’re one of the many readers who loved it—here’s a video of writer Melissa T. Shultz reading it, with lots of adorable photos of her son. Get your tissues, sit back and enjoy. If you’re in the throes of holiday shopping and stress, this ought to help you get back to the spirit of the season.


The Working Mom: Is She An Oxymoron?

September 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm , by

Ahh…back to school time! It’s that time of the year when stay-at-home moms rejoice over having a few free hours to relax. (And by relax I mean clean the house, do the grocery shopping without someone nagging you, run countless errands, volunteer and maybe even squeeze a little part-time job into the day.) But what about the working moms like me? The ones who juggle a full-time job, an hour-long commute, and two young kids in school/daycare with no nanny or family nearby. It’s not the most wonderful time of the year for us. It’s the guiltiest.

Listen, I love my job. Yes, I need to work but even if my husband made a million a year, you’d have to pull me kicking and screaming from my desk to make me quit. (Sorry to my kiddies. I love you more than anything but mommy really likes putting on her big girl shoes and going to New York City everyday and talking to grown ups. You’ll understand when you’re older.)

Since Sophia started first grade last week (yes, she absolutely loves it—thanks for asking!), there have been no less than 10 (TEN!!!) emails, fliers and invitations to sign her up for events that we will not be able to be a part of. Some are sports or cooking classes that take place in the afternoon but lots of them are school events—like the open house that was scheduled for 11 a.m. or the back to school picnic this Friday at 4:30. Where will I be this Friday at 4:30? At work. And Sophia? She’ll be at After Care at the Y.

It kinda makes you wonder if being a working mom is really possible. I mean, we know that a full time job is more than 40 hours a week and being a full time parent is 24/7 so it just doesn’t add up. Of course, the working parents with babysitters, nannies or even family nearby have it a lot easier. (Remember Amy Poehler’s great speech where she thanked her nannies for everything they do. Loved that.) But I guess for me, I’ll just have to do homework with Sophia until 9 p.m. and then maybe get a few minutes to myself before I crash for the night. (And by “minutes to myself,” I mean packing the girls’ lunches, folding some laundry and cleaning the house.)

I know it’ll get better. It’s just this time of year that is so stressful for working parents. And while we’re at it… whose brilliant idea was it to have Fashion Week the same week as back to school? Certainly not a mom.

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

A Shoppable Video Storybook from Ralph Lauren

August 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm , by

I love children’s books. Who doesn’t, right? Luckily my daughter, Sophia, and I tend to like some of the same themes: a little fashion (like Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes), great art (like Abuela), and imaginative kids (like Olivia). So, when I saw The RL Gang, A Fantastically Amazing School Adventure, I know she’d be as smitten as I was.

But The RL Gang is no ordinary book, it’s a completely shoppable video storybook featuring Ralph Lauren childrenswear. It’s a treat for the eyes (thanks to live action kids—adorably dressed, of course—against an animated background) and the ears (it’s narrated by Harry Connick, Jr. who my singing, piano-playing family just loves). It begins: “This is the story of a not so ordinary group of children who came to school and had a not so ordinary day.” The children go on an adventure thanks to “an incredibly incredible book” brought by their teacher, Professor Randolph Lattimer.

And here’s the bonus, after you enjoy the great fantasy story (and I’m sure you will), you can click to buy any of the kids’ clothing featured in the book. (I’m thinking about Zoe’s purple dress for my girls.) Love it so much you want a hard copy? No problem. You can order one here. Enjoy the story!

Cooking With Your Kids

July 8, 2010 at 9:04 am , by

Sophia - pizzaThere are a few things I’m good at, but cooking is not one of them. So, what do I do with a kid who says she wants to be a chef when she grows up?

Somehow, we manage to have a great time in the kitchen. We wear matching aprons and use princess spatulas. We make a lots of brownies, cookies, and cakes from box mixes. And we spend way too much time on the decorating part—see our Ariel birthday cake for evidence of that. (Another Erneta family fun activity is getting store-bought cookies and decorating them with frosting.)

Recently on a trip to my parents’ house, my mom got a few Boboli pizza crusts and the kids (both of them, the 2yr old included!) had a blast making pizza. Their sense of pride was enormous as everyone complimented the chefs.

I asked our savvy Food Editor, Tara Bench, for some tips on getting your kids in the kitchen and she had lots of great ideas. She told me, “Anything that they can layer or build feels like a big treat for them.” That must be why Sophia loved helping me make lasagna. Tara also recommends sandwiches, tacos and fruit kabobs for more layering fun. Some other great cooking ideas for kids: peanut butter cookies (kids love mixing and they’ll like making marks with a fork), no-bake cheesecake (so fun to press in a graham cracker crust),  and easy drop cookies. Pancakes and puddings can be fun too—just reserve the hot stove part for bigger kids only. Happy cooking!

So, tell me: What do you cook with your kids?

A Heart to Heart with Emily Giffin

May 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm , by

HEART OF THE MATTER C 3I happen to be a huge fan of chick lit. Not the sappy, preachy, predictable-ending kind where the heroine gets the man and the job and the cake and eats it too, but the realistic, emotional, relatable kind where the heroine finds herself and her happiness and maybe a man, if he’s lucky. So I was excited to get the chance to talk to Emily Giffin, author of Something Borrowed (currently being filmed in NYC) and Something Blue, about her new book, Heart of the Matter, which hit stores on Tuesday. It’s the intertwined story of a single, working mom, a stay-at-home mother and her pediatric surgeon husband, the event that links the three of them together and what happens when they all make decisions they can’t take back.

This book is a little more serious than your earlier novels.

My characters have grown up as I’ve grown up. I think as you get older and you make the decision to have children,  things become more serious in that your mistakes can impact somebody else. But I don’t see this as a radical departure from what I’ve done. I’ve always written about the complexities of relationships. As I wrote this book I thought a lot about how we tend to view our lives as these fairy tales, these picture-perfect stories, and when something doesn’t fit within that – when somebody disappoints us or a relationship isn’t exactly what we thought – we tend to panic. I write a lot about redemption and forgiveness, because I think forgiveness and empathy are the keys to so much in life. I also think it’s important sometimes to say, okay, there was a mistake made or a misturn, and we need to embrace it. I think there can be beauty in the mistakes.

Where did the inspiration for the new book come from? Did you know what would happen when you started writing?

I definitely start out with a premise, like what if you ran into your one who got away, or what if you and your soulmate suddenly wanted very different things, or if you fell in love with your best friend’s fiancée. From that premise I come up with characters, and the characters really drive it. That said, I definitely have a sense of beginning, middle and end when I write. I have this very basic outline of a story, it’s just fleshed out so much as I get to know the characters.

How’s the movie, Something Borrowed, coming along? Are you involved in the production? [It's currently filming in NYC, and stars Kate Hudson, John Krasinski and Ginnifer Goodwin.]

I’ve been very involved. They have included me in everything from discussions about the script to casting and everything in between. It’s been really fun. When I saw the set design for Rachel’s apartment, and I went back and read the book, I hadn’t even described some of the things yet it was exactly how I pictured it to be. It’s crazy how much it feels like my vision is being brought to life. So it’s really exciting. And I have a cameo!

[BOOK SPOILER ALERT!!!! Well, semi-spoiler alert. The bit I'm giving away happens pretty early! Read on after the jump.]

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