How Did My Kids Get So Old?

April 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm , by

It’s just not possible that I am the mother of a 6-year-old and an almost-3-year-old. I mean, I am almost 39…but still! Just. Not. Possible. I remember finding out I was pregnant with Sophia—it seems like that was yesterday. But those 6 years have flown by. Here’s some proof that my girls are BIG GIRLS already:

Sophia’s favorite singers are Katy Perry, Ke$ha, James on American Idol, and Justin Bieber (who she says is her boyfriend).

Speaking of boyfriends, Lily told us last night about a fellow in her class named Adam. She said he’s cute, she likes him, and he is her boyfriend. (Let me tell you, this did not go over well with Daddy, who—until last night—was the only boyfriend she ever had.)

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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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Gay Teen vs. Traditional Family

December 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm , by

Ed Plata was a tough, traditional Marine. His son EJ was effeminate and gay. His wife Elizabeth was caught in the middle. Yikes! It’s the sort of thing that can tear a family apart, but the Platas (at right) emerged stronger for it in the end.

In our article this month on gay teens and bullying, which features the Platas and their story, Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., of the Family Acceptance Project in San Francisco explains what Ed and Elizabeth did right, and what parents can do to keep gay kids from becoming suicide, HIV, depression and drug-abuse statistics. The research findings she shared with us for the article were officially published today in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. At the same time, her organization released an amazing documentary video about the Platas. Click here to watch—and get out your tissues!

Halloween: Is It OK for a Boy to Dress Like a Girl?

November 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm , by

I just read the most amazing blog post, written by a midwestern momdsc_0007-e1288401371463, a cop’s wife, whose 5-year-old-boy wanted to dress up for Halloween as Daphne, from Scooby Doo, just like his best friend, who’s a girl. That’s him in the picture. Now, if you can’t wear something silly and fun on Halloween, when you’re five, when can you? But as Cop’s Wife discovered, you can’t, not ever, no sir, not if you’re a boy. She and her son ran into schoolyard bullies, bent on enforcing sex-stereotypical costume choices. Only it wasn’t her son’s classmates who were the bullies, not yet–it was the other moms, whose faces twisted  in disgust at seeing a preschooler wear the “wrong” Halloween costume. And we wonder why we have such bad bullying problems in our middle schools and high schools, where any kid who’s different–too fat, too skinny, too smart, too slow, too effeminate, not the dominant race, too poor, not dressed in the right labels–gets harassed and pounded? Where do those mean kids get their ideas from? Hello, mirror!

75122_450677623182_736913182_5417784_1624315_nMy little boy, age 4, loves to dress up, too, especially in his tutu-like black tulle skirt. Like Cop’s Wife’s kid, he happens to have some close friends who are girls, and they’re into the princess thing, and really, what is not fun about a tutu? He’s also obsessed with our good friend Nelson, aka “Cherry L,” who lives in the neighborhood and happens to be an amazing reggae/dancehall/hiphop singer. My boy currently refuses to wear anything but jeans, because that’s what Nelson wears. But sometimes he likes to mix it up: Here’s my main man in dinosaur pjs and the tulle skirt, doing his rendition of one of Nelson’s rap songs, “You Check  It.” Pretty hardcore/masculine, don’t you think, swaying tulle aside?

For Halloween, though, no tutus–he wanted to be a cop. I was relieved, frankly. And I got to crossdress, as an escaped convict, complete with beard. Since I’m a girl, no one cared. But what if my son had really, really wanted to be a princess? What should I have done? Read Cop’s Wife’s blog and then post your comments/thoughts below.

The Jonas Brothers, Camp Rock 2, Kids, Moms & Music

September 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm , by

Rocker ScottIt was a rockin’ end-of-summer for my 4-year-old son, Scott (that’s him at right in his electric guitar shirt), and me. Week before last was Scott’s music camp, where director Jeremy Zmuda brought in a different band every day (bluegrass, Caribbean, Brazilian, Bulgarian), shot the video for his new kids’ album, Use Your Words,  and recorded a CD of the campers singing and playing instruments along with all the special guests. Right after camp, we hopped in a rental car and drove the six hours to Grandma’s house, blasting Jeremy’s catchy tunes with good-behavior-encouraging lyrics and belting out the cool world-music songs Scott learned at camp (thanks to the CD, I got to learn them, too). We were so busy singing that we only got to one of the videos I’d brought to entertain Scott with on the long drive, and both of us had fun.

cherry-199x300Same story on the way back home this past Monday. We have a new friend in the neighborhood, Nelson Serieux (stage name Cherry L, photo at left), who gave us a homemade CD. I had low expectations—sure, aspiring singer/songwriter, how cute. Then we popped the CD into the car stereo Monday and I was blown away.  The man should be selling out arenas.  Every song was top-40 infectious—kind of reggae/pop/r&b/hip-hop fusion—and Scott couldn’t get enough, so we spent nearly 6 hours singing along with Nelson, the videos and car games forgotten. Scott’s fave was “Please Stay” (“I don’t want to see you go-oh-oh” belted Scott), which we probably replayed at least 25 times (glad I liked it, since I can’t get it out of my head). I had my own favorites, like crossover-hit-sounding “Candy”  and the more dancehall-style “Turn Me Loose,” best breakup song I’ve heard in awhile (I’m a single mom, what can I say?). Best of all, Nelson is someone Scott knows, so I took the teachable-moment opportunity and told Scott if he practiced, maybe he could do that, too. When we got home and checked out some of the Cherry L videos on YouTube, Scott said, admiringly, “Nelson had to practice a lot to sing like that.” Lesson absorbed, ding!

117777_3241Well, he’s no Scott Sloan, but Joe Jonas and his brothers (screeeeeeam!!) and Demi Lovato are back at music camp themselves this Friday, September 3, when Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam premieres on the Disney Channel (8 pm ET/PT). For the occasion, Radio Disney shared some exclusive data with Ladies’ Lounge on the impact of music in the lives of kids and moms. Basically, it’s what Scott and I have been living this past week: Kids love music, it’s a great way for moms and their kids to connect, and it benefits kids creatively and intellectually. More specifics after the jump. Read more

How to Get Your Tween Boy Interested in Reading

August 20, 2010 at 12:41 am , by

How can you get your tween boy interested in reading? Well, how do you get any boy interested in anything? The answer is pretty consistent: Scare ‘em or gross ‘em out! (Preferably both.)

My friend Sally is the kind of “auntie” that kids adore and mothers cringe over. (That’s her on the right, in the middle of a pillow fight with my 4-year-old son, Scott.) Young boys worship her, because she’s super fun and engages them on exactly the kinds of topics they’re most interested in, like poop. Thanks to Sally, Scott has learned all about coyote poop and has spent time on an educational website that helps him differentiate between ostrich poop, zebra poop and giraffe poop.  Poop, poop, poop, poop, poop. Fascination, peals of laughter, you get the idea. She also juggles and plays a mean game of sidewalk hide & seek. When the three of us are together I may as well not exist, as far as Scott is concerned.

When Sally is not leading my young son astray, she’s drawing cool pictures. And last week, her first two children’s books hit bookstores: The Rat-Brain Fiasco and Curse of the Bizarro Beetle, #1 and #2 in an illustrated children’s book series called Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys, aimed at ages 9-12. She produced it with her sister Julie, a writer who, as it happens, is mom to four such boys.

The sisters are currently hard at work on the latest book in the series about a boarding school where the teachers are really monsters. Sally (Sally Faye Gardner) draws the pictures and Julie (Julie Gardner Berry) writes the words, but I’m sure both of them are a bit to blame for all of it. They took a break to visit the Ladies’ Lounge. Read our interview after the jump.

What was it like working with your sister?

Sally Faye Gardner: Collaborating with Julie was the best part of this project. Because we are litter-mates, we already think the same things are funny. Having someone snort and giggle with you at every step made the work fun, and I hope it made the books funnier. At least we made each other laugh, so that’s something.

Julie Gardner Berry: We never had to waste time on politeness or manage each other’s feelings. That made us very efficient. Sally would call me on any given afternoon, and I might be chauffeuring kids, and she’d say, “On page 57 we need to shorten the dialogue so it fits in a speech bubble, and we need a better excuse for so-and-so’s disappearance.” I’d say, “Hold on,” pause to pay for my drive-through takeout, suggest some shorter dialogue, and say, “How about … oh, body snatchers?” “Perfect,” Sally’d say. “Oh, I’m getting a call. Talk to you later.”

Can you give us a snippet from the weirdest work conversation you had about Splurch Academy?

SFG: Hmm, it’s hard to choose.

“This Were-squid transformation just ain’t working. Let’s lose the moon.”

“Quick, I need some humorous names for an old vampire’s bathroom products!”

“What happens if our real middle school teachers recognize themselves in this?”

Sally, you’re a favorite, bad-influence kind of aunt. Do you secretly like disruptive boys?

SFG: It’s no secret; I PREFER disruptive boys. Disruptive kids are more creative, playful, funny, and adventurous than mild mannered obedient kids. I wish I were more like them.

What about you, Julie? Is Splurch Academy fiction, really, or is there an element of memoir?

JGB: These books bear no resemblance to my own angel boys. Honest. I swear.

Seriously, as the mom to my sons, I’m forced to play teacher and lawgiver and disciplinarian, but I think I can empathize and imagine enough to picture what it must be like to be a young boy, full of energy and curiosity and mischief, with all these dragonlike authority figures telling you to hold still, be quiet, and suffer boredom patiently.  In some sense I see these books as letters to my own boys. Maybe someday they’ll read them and know that Mom was on their side, too, at least more than they probably think.

What do you hope your young readers will take away from these books?

SFG: We mostly just want these books to be fun for the all the disruptive little guys we know. We also hope that reluctant readers will be motivated to keep reading because they’ll like the comic-hybrid format.

Final question to Sally: Scott loved playing with the model rats when you were working on the Rat-Brain Fiasco. What gross toys will he have access to when you’re working on book #4?

SFG: That’s proprietary information, I’m afraid. You don’t have the appropriate clearance level. Have Scott call me directly.

Girly-girls and Princesses: Are We Really Born That Way?

June 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm , by

My three-year-old son and I recently stopped into a hardware store to buy some spackle. Scott carried the spackle and a plastic putty knife to the front of the store and put them on the counter by the register. “You’re helping Mommy,” the cashier gushed at him. “What a good boy!” Scott scowled and shot back, “I am NOT a boy. I’m a PRINCESS.”

I’m not sure who was more taken aback, the cashier or me. Scott’s pretty rough-and-tumble, for one thing, and there have literally been no princesses, no stories about princesses, no movies about princesses, not even any commercials about princesses in our house. But he does have a couple of good friends who are girls and apparently it didn’t take long for him to suss out that a princess, whatever that is, is the thing to be.

I’m always amazed when people speak confidently and sweepingly about the vast differences between boys and girls and how innate they are. How could any of us really know? Moms get excited about future mother-daughter mani-pedis the minute they get the amnio results, and 4-month fetuses are assumed to have a strong future interest in football, if they are boys. Nurture is so powerful and starts so early that it’s hard to tell what nature really intended. Read more