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At Ease, Private Roiphe

Oh, goody the Mommy Wars are back on! Where do I enlist, and are my fatigues issued at Nordstrom? I’m joining the ranks because -thanks to Katie Roiphe’s recent article in the Financial Times which concerned citizens are spreading around the interwebs- this time we aren’t fighting about something trivial like every mother’s unique relationship with the issue of working outside of the home, or the right to breastfeed in public. Nope, Private Roiphe assures us that the threat at hand is of vital, global significance. It’s…gird your loins here…our Facebook profile photos. I know! I know. This is too big to ignore. I’ll let you have a moment to give yourself a buzzcut and change into your camo momjeans so you can join me on the front lines. Thank you in advance for your service.

Ready, Sarge? Hut, two three four…

In her article ‘Disappearing Mothers’, Private Roiphe expresses concern that women whose Facebook profile photo shows an image of her child(ren) instead of herself, demonstrate to the world that they have forsaken their own identities in favor of the identities of their offspring, or of motherhood itself. She further extrapolates from this compelling profile photo data that, as a culture of parents, many of us are overly devoted to our kids and that we give them too much control over their worlds, and our lives. Private Roiphe has identified a clear and present danger here, and she should probably be awarded a medal or a cookie. After all, we all know that if kids are given too much control and end up running the show entirely, before we know it they’ll mandate that everybody walk around without pants all day long and use Trick-or-Treating as our primary source of nourishment. Private Roiphe, you are a true patriot and you are also the bee’s knees. But if I may speak out of turn Ma’am, I would like to point out that the Facebook profile identity crisis clearly reaches beyond moms who, during a moment of weakness, upload a cute photo of their kid riding the family dog like a horse and use it as a profile photo. Let’s broaden the battlefield and target some other unwitting enemy combatants with our sniper fire. After all, it’s just too easy to join the battalions that spend their time and energy judging how other parents raise their kids or prioritize their lives. That’s like shooting nursing ducks in a bounce-house, and we can do better than that, Private. Sack up, brave soldier, and let’s get to the honest and important work of drawing sweeping conclusions based on minimal evidence. Tell you what: I’ll start with some of my own Facebook friends, because judging by their profile photos these people clearly have some problems. Ready, aim…

Roll Call:

*To my friend who is a gifted craftsman and an avid musician and cyclist, and who also holds a Doctorate degree but whose profile photo is a sketch of a chicken: I worry that if I invited you to a dinner party at my home, while I tried to keep up my end of the conversation by tirelessly imparting truly profound wisdom about what I pack for my kids’ lunches (right, Private Roiphe?), you would spend the whole time talking about how juicy your thighs are, and how moist and supple your breast can be when prepared just so. It would be disastrous. And that fiancé of yours, the one who travels to Haiti in order to provide medical care for children in need, besides being a beautiful soul who is devoted to her family and her work? Her profile photo is of Alice from ‘Through the Looking Glass’, so I can only assume that if she were at the same dinner party she’d sit around waiting for my cat to smile, then try to walk through the door of my daughter’s dollhouse. How embarrassing.

*To my kind, brilliant and hilarious friend from grad school, whose profile photo shows the Notre Dame clover: Listen, I am really concerned about you. When we knew each other before, like when we got together last week, you were a fun-loving, motivated and accomplished woman who had started her own tutoring business in San Francisco, and used any extra income and materials to offer free services to at-risk children in the city. Now I’m left to believe that you’re hiding behind your alma mater, or more likely that you identify yourself as a green, Catholic weed who may bring good luck but also lives in Indiana, even in the wintertime. What a waste.

*To one of my oldest and dearest friends, who has been like a sister to me through the best of times and the worst of times for almost 30 years, whose profile photo is of a peaceful sea turtle: Get your act together, girl. You are a devoted wife and public school science teacher in one of the most challenging districts in the U.S., and you have more talents and graduate degrees than you can shake a stick at. Your generosity of spirit is astounding, and you are a gift to everyone who is lucky enough to have you in their lives, but you ain’t no damn turtle.

*To my Facebook friend who I don’t know very well in real life, but who seems interesting and cool and also has many close friends and a deep love of music: Your profile photo is of a fish (maybe that’s spelled with a ‘Ph’?), which explains a lot about why we haven’t hung out much together. Because you live in the ocean.

*To my Facebook friend whose profile photo is the cover of her amazing, bestselling book: Come on. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, woman. Don’t let that book define who you are. Sure, it represents the fruit of your sweat, tears, love and devotion and it’s consumed nearly all of your time and every single ounce of your energy over the last few years because it’s something that you have committed to bringing to life, nourishing and helping  to achieve its full potential. It’s clearly a tremendous source of pride and joy for you, and I feel you, sister, honestly I do. But between you and me, showcasing that singular aspect of your life in your profile photo – even though it’s of paramount importance and yadayadayada – makes you look like a hot mess of a one trick pony. (Except for the obvious fact that most one-trick ponies don’t have a gaggle of tricks up their sleeve like you do, including being a popular columnist, blossoming TV personality and loving mom who somehow still summons the time and kindness to offer encouragement, guidance and support to some random nobody in central VA who’s just trying to get started and find direction in this crazy writing biz.)

I could go on, because obviously my Facebook friends have some awesomely messed up identities.

Point is, I think we all know that it’s impossible to get (or portray!) a well-rounded picture of a person based on random findings from their Facebook profile – let alone one photo from it. For that reason, Private Roiphe and any followers who are nodding their heads in unison with her to demonstrate their judgment (I mean “concern”), I implore you to pretty please, for the love of all things Cyber, lighten up. This is Facebook, not real life. And if you have the two mixed up, I have a message that I urgently need to write on your timeline: Turn off your computer. Put your smartphone down, and walk outside your front door. Keep walking until you run smack into a real, living, breathing human being. Talk to him. Hug him. Suck on his toes, I don’t care. Just interact face to face. Or don’t walk out of your door; instead, grab your partner and explore your offscreen “like” buttons – if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Whatever you do, just LOG OFF. But before you do, please click on my Facebook profile photo and leave a comment telling me how cute my kids are.

 

Parents Say The Darndest Things

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Ivan and I frequently find ourselves saying things out loud that are completely, totally, clinically insane. But it’s not our fault: Our children push the boundaries of reasonable human behavior every day, and we have to respond in kind.  I knew we had a problem last 4th of July, when I heard my normally rational, sensible husband frantically imploring our 4-year-old daughter to “Get that sparkler away from your vagina!”.  (Hey, you try celebrating the Grand Old Fourth with clothing-averse children and see if you can get through the night without saying that at least one time. It’s impossible.) After he dispensed this gem of timeless parental advice – and it was heeded by its freewheeling recipient –  we looked at each other with the well-worn expression that we both know means, “Well, you don’t say that every day.”

The thing is, I know we’re not alone. You, my dear reader, must also say ridiculous stuff to your own little angels, and if you claim not to you are a liar liar pants on fire and I’m going to tell on you. Anyway, recently I’ve started harassing my friends to tell me some of the things that they can’t believe they’ve said out loud to their own children. The responses that I have gotten have been overwhelmingly hilarious, and often more than a little bit gross. Here are some of my favorites, roughly separated by category:

Sound Nutritional Advice

  • “You need eat your chicken nuggets and fries if you want to go play.”
  • “No more fruit until you finish that hotdog.”

Personal Hygiene and Manners

  • “Go brush your teeth in the dishwasher!”
  • “Stop licking your brother’s butt.”
  • “Get your finger out of your bottom.”
  • “Stop talking with your mouth full! It’s disgusting.” (Said, with a full mouth. Oops.)

 Man’s Best Friend

  • “I know they started it, but please no farting on the dogs’ heads”
  • To dachshund who was trying to assert his Alpha maleness on crawling five-month-old: “Hey, quit humping my boy. “

 This one we can all relate to, and if you’re anything like me you don’t know how you ever became That Parent Who Counts, when you swore up and down that you would never resort to such a thing:

  • “…….11111111111……..2222222222222……222222 1/2……….”

 General Nudity

  • “Yes, I know that the boys are doing it and yours look just like theirs, but it is just not socially acceptable for girls to lift their shirts and yell ‘Nipples!!’”
  • “We’ll have to make a rule that you can’t come to dinner naked if you can’t keep yourself from sitting on the table”
  • “Where are your clothes?”

 Penises (Yep, this appendage requires its own category. Take a bow, guys.)

  • During bath time: “No one is allowed to grab any penis except their own! Okay, that’s it! Separate baths from now on!”
  • “Put your penis back in your pants.”
  • ‎”Stop using your penis as a puppet, it can’t be good for the pee hole pulling it like that. Or at least give it a deeper tougher sounding voice”
  • “Get your penis off the dinner table. You don’t see Daddy putting his penis on the table, do you?”

 Just….Ewwww.

  • “Get your head out of the toilet!”
  • ‎”What are you eating? Oh God! Is that sh#*?!? Are you eating sh#*?!?”
  •  “No, really, don’t wash your hands, I don’t care what you just did in the toilet, MY FOOD IS GETTING COLD!”
  • “Don’t lick that!!” (in public restroom)
  • “Don’t pee on your sister!”
  • “Don’t put your boogers in your mouth! (pause) No! Don’t put them in MY mouth either! Child, get a Kleenex!”
  • “Please keep your own buggers in your own nose. Thank You.”

A couple that defy any category but awesomeness…

  • ‎”No, I don’t think Darth Vader’s other vehicle is a minivan.”
  • Barreling down a mountain after a new skier: “French Fries! Now Pizza! I said Pizza, not French Fries!” (Anyone who has attempted to teach kids how to ski will see how this is possible.)
  • ‎(After long debate) “OK, yes, it’s *technically* possible that you could find one living example of every extinct animal.”
  • “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” (To 3-year-old son in grocery store line, who had recently received the lecture about how eating too many unhealthy snacks will make you fat – and consequently asked the overweight cashier, “Did you have too many snacks?”) Side Note: When you ask a toddler what they said, they do not care if you’re staring at them in disbelief. They. Will. Repeat. Themselves.

And my personal favorite, brought to my attention by my friend Jim whose wife said to him during the heat of an argument: “Mommy doesn’t have time for that!”

What have YOU said as a parent that borders on the insane/ridiculous/absurd? 

For Mother’s Day, With Gratitude

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Four generations of mothers and daughters

As parents, we spend a great deal of time teaching our children important lessons such as compassion, empathy and to avoid cramming beans into any orifice. We encourage them to treat others with respect and an open heart, and to recognize that when somebody is hurt or sad, their first reaction should be, “I’m sorry you’re hurt. How can I help?” instead of, “NOT MY FAULT!!!” (In my experience, the truth of this statement is inversely proportionate to its volume.) We consistently make an effort to demonstrate support, respect and kindness toward our children, and we hope that the safety and stability that this affords them will condition them to both offer and expect those things in their adult relationships of any nature. We try to teach them to be content, peaceful and to apologize when they need to. In my family we have the parent-mandated apology down, but our ability to gracefully forgive leaves something to be desired: The inter-sibling response de rigueur is “THAT’S NOT O.K.!!!! BAH HUMBUG!!” (yes, seriously). Hey, we’re a work in progress.

Sometimes I think that we parents get so focused on teaching that we forget to follow our own advice. We also become easily frustrated when faced with a situation in which we must deal with fellow adults who clearly and unapologetically behave in exactly the ways that we are trying to teach our children not to.

If you read my recent post about the yoga principles that I try to incorporate into my parenting style, and into my own life, you know that I blabber on about treating every person, including oneself, with compassion and respect. This exercise can be particularly challenging when we are faced with difficult or destructive people and relationships, but these are the circumstances under which it is most important to treat all parties with compassion. After all, most people express outward anger because of inner torment or insecurity. We may not be able to begin to guess the source of these emotions, and we can – and must – try to sympathize with their victim, but out of compassion for ourselves we cannot knowingly stand in their line of fire.

Recently I’ve had cause to wonder: What if we took the time and energy that would otherwise be spent dwelling on, and therefore giving power to, negative influences, relationships and circumstances that are beyond our control, and instead refocused those valuable resources toward fostering and being grateful for the abundance of entities that enrich our lives and bring us joy? After all, there are infinitely more things in life that have the potential to bring us happiness than the power to bring us pain. Somebody who was far wiser than I am once said, “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”

In my limited and stumbling experience, it is a difficult but eventually habit-forming practice to recognize that it is, in fact, a waste of time to give power and voice to the negative. To quote another one of my favorite mantras, “There is no such thing as wasted time. There are only wasted people.” Wait a minute, I think I got that one wrong but I’m pretty sure I actually like it better this way.

I have many, many things to be grateful for. They are too numerous to count. My wonderful husband and my very loud, relentlessly awake children are constant reminders that my life is joyful, messy, chaotic and full of love. As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for my own mother, the magnitude of which could never be expressed in this post. I mean the magnitude of the gratitude, not the magnitude of my mother. She has been my life-long personal cheerleader, sounding board and grammar police (I’m not kidding – that woman should have a siren). She is a phenomenal source of love, laughter, comfort and support but this is no surprise; she is her mother’s daughter. Their relationship of mutual respect, nurturing and admiration served as a model that I am tremendously lucky to have had. When my grandmother, with whom I was very close, passed away a few years ago, I clung to reminders of her physical presence; wearing her nightgowns every night for months, and her sweaters by day because they still carried a whisper of her floral scent. I was desperate to keep her with me, and I am just now beginning to realize how entirely she is. She is bound in the beating of my mother’s heart, in my own and in the hearts of my children. When others act with kindness and dignity, I am reminded of her own quiet but constant kindness and dignity, and I strive to follow her example (I usually fall short, especially with the quiet part, but it’s good to have a goal). When I am encouraged and strengthened by the words and actions of the many, many people whom I’m lucky enough to have in my corner -including another maternal figure: my mother-in-law, who is both constant and hyperactive with her praise for my writing projects- I remember that I never had a more vocal advocate than my grandmother (although my grandfather gave her a run for her money). As far as she was concerned, her children hung the moon and her grandchildren -and great-grandchildren- the stars. She sang our praises through a bullhorn, and what she lacked in accuracy when reporting our accomplishments (a lot), she made up for with her boundless enthusiasm and stubborn conviction. Out of her devotion to her family was born my mother’s and my own.

Today, when I am surprised or saddened by the occasional individual who acts out of anger and spite instead of out of love and generosity of spirit, I am comforted when I turn my attention away from that and instead remember and feel with renewed gratitude, my grandmother’s warm and constant embrace. When we turn our faces toward the sun, the shadows fall behind us. Grandma, I’m facing you now. Happy Mother’s Day.

Nudity Is No Big Whoop.

**Warning: The post you are about to read contains graphic –meaning accurate – terminology regarding personal parts and ladybusiness, and I’ll tell you why: Because I teach my kids the correct names for their body parts. (Gasp! What the Holy Vajayjay am I thinking?!) This is not just because it bothers me when children use cutesy expressions for their anatomy -although it does- but also because I refuse to be responsible for my future adult offspring uttering some dumb nickname down the road during a potential “business time” situation, which would obviously cause any otherwise willing party to burst out laughing at the very least, or at worst pack up their own hoohaa, weewee, or whatever they’ve brought to the table, and flee the vicinity. Hear that, kids? Mommy is not trying to c*#k block, or should I say penis block, the future you.

Gentlemen, listen up. If it did not enlist itself and serve overseas, it has not earned the title “The General”. No exceptions. Also, only if the first name on your birth certificate is Peter is any part of you  a “Peter”. However, if your name is Willy and especially if you happen to wear an eye patch for one reason or another, you may -and you must- rename your…you get it. You don’t want anybody expecting to discover a pirate or a kooky chocolatier down there. I think my new mommy blogger friend Jenny, self-proclaimed penis expert (interesting way to distinguish oneself from the pack of mommy bloggers, but that’s why I like this gal), would agree with me here.

Anyway, my kids use the terms “penis” and “vagina”, and they use them a lot. At full volume. They use them in the grocery store line, at the dinner table and liberally throughout stories-and-songs hour at the public library (and if you think about it, they’re right – “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” really is incomplete). To them, these are just regular old body parts like eyes or elbows, so they discuss them –and display them- with equal nonchalance. Makes for some uncomfortable public moments, but also some good stories. (Readers, puh-lease tell me yours in the comments section. I showed you mine; now it’s your turn.)

Once, when I was bathing with (then) 3-year-old Ben, he initiated a conversation about who had what and who didn’t (he had an all-important what and I lacked one, which he clearly saw as a deficiency). He felt sorry that I had been dealt a bad hand anatomically, and he just wanted his mama to be happy. Like most men, I think the notion that I could be content without my very own what to spend all of my free time with/worship/obey escaped him. So, he offered to make amends for Mother Nature’s oversight: “Mama, I could build you a penis”, he told me proudly.  Grateful for the sentiment, I assured him that I was O.K. with the current state of affairs and suggested that we both just be pleased with what we’ve got – or not got. (Like he needed encouragement to be pleased with his what.) But then curiosity overcame me, so I asked him what he would use for materials if he were, indeed, commissioned to build a penis for his mother. After careful consideration, he said: “Wood. And paint. Daddy would help me.”

Ben and I don’t routinely bathe together anymore, but there is still no shortage of unabashed nudity in our home on a daily basis. Ben’s getting to an age (almost 7), when many parents start to consider privacy – or rather, start to consider whether we should start considering privacy -and nudity- with our opposite gender children. At what point, if ever, should this become an issue? Here’s what I think, thanks for asking:

If it doesn’t feel like a big deal, don’t make it one.

One mom with whom I share many mutual friends, but don’t actually know personally, demonstrated this tactic perfectly or so I hear. I figure there’s no better way to make a new friend than by broadcasting her awesometastic nudity story all over the internet, right? (Nice to meet you, S.!)

A little while after giving birth to her third child, S. treated herself to a spa day complete with long overdue waxing and general maintenance in her Southern Hemisphere. The aesthetician/landscape architect who was employed to TCB (technical term) got a little over ambitious due to the magnitude of the project, and basically took her from the “Don King” to the “Military Recruit” as far as her lady’do was concerned. That evening, her eldest son (who is 6) entered the bathroom as she came out of the shower, and clearly noticed that something was abuzz(cut). S. wasn’t sure how to handle the awkward moment (I assume she was thinking, “Please don’t salute me, please don’t salute me…”) so she said nothing. Her son nonchalantly remarked with a shrug, “Hey, Mom. Got your vagina hair cut? Looks nice. Can you help me find a band aid?”

No Big Whoop.

On The Slow Boat To Namaste: What Yoga Taught Me About Raising Spiritual Kids

My husband Ivan and I do not happen to adhere to the practices of any organized religion, and before we had kids that seemed to be working just fine. We come from different backgrounds (mine agnostic with varying degrees of Christianity in my heritage, his a mix between Jewish and agnostic), but had generally landed in the same spot in adulthood: We believe in a Higher Power, and He or She may or may not be bearded (which does not necessarily designate gender; perhaps just a divine aversion to wax). However, it’s hard for us to believe that there could be one correct path to Know It, or one accurate story behind It. Wouldn’t that one right imply so many wrongs? Surely His Awesome Beardedness would not make Himself available to only a select few with the most accurate tracking system.

As one philosophical analogy goes, he may, in fact, be more like an Elephant; while we mortals are all blindfolded, feeling only the part of Him that we can reach, bumbling around and trying to identify what He is. Some of us are touching the tail; others caressing the ears or the trunk, while I can only hope that child molesters and certain talk radio hosts have their hands right up the a**hole.

When we try to describe our experiences to one another, they understandably don’t jibe. But if we had some way to remove the blindfold, aside from getting hit by a bus, I truly believe that the Big Reveal would show that we are all, in fact, exploring different parts of the same entity. The world would be a much more peaceful place if we could respect one another’s quest to identify what’s within his grasp, and encourage each other’s pursuits with phrases like: “Keep stroking that tail, my friend”, “Feel the strength of that trunk, neighbor”, or “Rush, get your hand up there just a little further; I think you’ve almost got it.”

So Ivan and I are ambling along, not sure what part of the Elephant we are trying to identify but recognizing that it’s bigger than we are, when low and behold I end up pregnant. (Hahahaha, men who are reading this, you’re right, that wasn’t the elephant I was feeling that night. You’re hilarious and so predictable! Moving on.)

It became apparent to me after mere weeks of pregnancy that this child, who was currently the size of a rice kernel, had greatly elevated some family members’ level of interest in our spiritual beliefs, and lowered their tolerance for our nebulous, “We All Share The Same Light” approach to religion. We realized that we were going to be required to address some Big Questions; not just from adults, but more importantly from this tiny blank slate of a human that we had created. Since then, we have been trying to formulate our answers, and also our questions, in a coherent way. Our son Ben is now 6, and has a 4-year-old sister and a 2-year-old brother, so clearly we did not make quick work of our task. But a renewed fire was lit under us when Ben recently asked (after an apparent discussion with friends) if we could look up “Heaven” on Google Maps, because he didn’t know where it was. Before he asked if he could friend Buddha on Facebook, we needed to get to it…

Now before I go on, I need to make clear that I do not have any problem with raising children of specific faith. I think that great community, shared values and traditions can be celebrated if you feel the Elephant’s ear, and you find a group of people who also feels the Elephant’s ear and embraces its silky softness. Go For It. Ride ‘Em Dumbo. Maybe you come from a long line of Ear-Feelers and believe wholeheartedly in the tales of Ear-Feelers who knew this was an Elephant before they even got hit by a bus. Great! Just be sure that you also make an effort to know, and to respect folks who also feel his big toe, or his belly, or his kneecap. Don’t try to convince the rest of us that the Ear is the entire Elephant.

The danger lies in forgetting that while we may be separated by path and circumstance, we’re united in our commitment to humanity, morality and decency, and also in our quest for peace and spiritual enlightenment in some form.

As I was trying to come up with something tangible to refer to with regard to my kids’ moral and spiritual development, and also remind them to respect all beliefs as they embark on their own journeys to explore Dumbo while avoiding his a**hole, I recently attended an enlightening ChildLight Yoga teacher training course for my work as a kids’ Yoga instructor at Bend Yoga Charlottesville. In the training literature I found a list of ‘Yoga Principles’ that, I find, apply in a profound way to life outside of the studio as well. I modified the list minimally so that it could be easily understood by my children, and hopefully holds some meaning for them.  After I finished this project, I read through it with my kids with pride and gravitas; an act that was met with eye-rolling, sibling pinching, and constructive criticism in the form of “This is SOOO BORRRRING”. Well, at least I had given them the church-going experience.

Undeterred, as all parents must be when trying to make a point, I promptly displayed it on our kitchen bulletin board, where my kids routinely ignore it and act horrified when I ask them if they want to discuss any part of it. However, my hope is that having this doctrine on hand and in our consciousness will help guide our intentions when we need it, and remind us to treat every person (including ourselves) with dignity, and as part of our global community; even – no, especially – people who are much different than we are. I hope that you find it useful as well, whether or not you are committed to one specific part of the Elephant:

Yoga (and Life!) Principles for Kids and Grownups (**see Credit Below)

*Be Honest: Be truthful in what you say and what you do. Tell the truth, and be yourself (be true to you).

*Be Respectful of Others: Remember to say “please” and “thank you”, make eye contact and apologize when you need to. We do these things not just to be courteous, but also to show other people that they matter and that they are worthy of respect.

*Be Humble: Understand that the needs and feelings of others are as important as your own, even though it might not feel that way. Humility also means accepting opportunity for growth and change.

*Be Generous: Be quick to share, and don’t take what isn’t yours (including things, ideas or time and attention – don’t interrupt).

*Practice Peace: Be gentle and peaceful in what you do and think. Be respectful and show kindness and love. Do not harm anyone or anything. Be tolerant.

*Practice Moderation: This has to do with self-control. Avoid doing or having or using too much of anything, from TV to sweets to toys to the Earth’s resources.

*Be Clean: Take care of your body and your mind, and also your community and your Earth. Keep yourself clean from the inside out by eating healthy foods, exercising, bathing and brushing your teeth. Care for your part of the Earth and be responsible with what you do and say. (Be respectful by remembering your manners and not using offensive language.)

*Be Content: Try to see the positive in everything and be grateful, so that you can be peaceful inside. Remember to be happy for others and avoid being negative toward yourself or other people.

*Work Hard: Always try your best, and finish what you start. Don’t give up!

*Have Alone Time: Spend time with yourself in a quiet place without electronics or other distractions. Know yourself so that you don’t worry too much about what others think/have/do.

*Believe In Something Bigger: Remember that you are connected with all things. You are a part of our family, our community, our Earth and the Universe. We all share the same light. Treat EVERY person with the Namaste principle, which means: “The light and love in my heart honors the light and love in your heart.”

 

 

 

 

 

**Credit: ChildLight Yoga and Yoga 4 Classrooms Founder, Lisa Flynn. Concepts expanded in Flynn’s new book, Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children (Adams Media, an F+W Media Co.)

Sleep Tight Little One, Because The Magic of Childhood is Sneaking Into Your Bedroom Again Tonight

Why do we insist on scaring the living daylights out of our children with the Magic of Childhood? It’s no wonder they’re all in a hurry to grow up. You would be too, if every time a milestone or major holiday came around it was marked by somebody sneaking into your home or bedroom at night, and either leaving something behind or taking a body part of yours.

You’ve got the Easter Bunny, who caused some serious panic at my house last spring, because apparently some children dislike the thought of a human-sized rodent hippity-hopping into their home in the night in order to hide hard-boiled eggs (which they hate). They flat out refused to go to sleep until finally, at about 10pm, I gave up and told them that I had just seen a bunny tail hopping back down the driveway away from the house, and the Easter baskets had been delivered OUTSIDE. I congratulated myself on averting yet another crisis with the help of a teeny little white lie (the cornerstone of effective parenting), but have been paying for it ever since with a daily barrage of questions from my bunny-obsessed daughter Janie (4): “What color was the bunny? Pink? Purple? Do you think it was a girl? Was she wearing anything fancy? Is it Easter again tomorrow? Was she pink? Was she purple? Did she sparkle? Did she have fingernails? Were they painted pink? WERE THEY PAINTED PIIIIINK MOMMYYYYY???!!!!??? Do you think she likes princesses? Was she wearing shoes? Party Shoes? Were they pink? Was she beautiful? Is it Easter again yet? Will it be Easter after lunch?”

Of course there’s Santa Claus, but he’s not any more unnerving than any other bearded, overweight gentleman taking a break from his seasonal work at the mall and his busy life breaking elf labor laws on the North Pole to slip down the chimney into your living room in the dead of night. His increasingly annoying sidekick, The Elf-On-The-Shelf (whose creator, I’m pretty sure, is sitting on her own private island sipping Mai-Tais and ogling her oiled-up poolboy, while collecting another cool million for every time one of us sucker parents wakes up at 2am in a cold sweat because we didn’t move the God D@*n Elf again) is also pretty innocuous, and definitely no more disturbing than your average garden gnome who’s been sent to spy on you for a full month before Christmas. Although our elf did have to send twice-weekly notes to the kids in order to assuage their constant fear that he would sneak into their rooms and watch them sleep. But never, NEVER did our elf consider suspending operations in our home. He is kind of like a Navy Seal of delivering Childhood Magic without hesitation or fatigue.

Then there’s the Tooth Fairy, and to be honest I kind of get where that’s a little bit unsettling:

“Yes, honey, I know that it’s strange and kind of scary that one of your teeth just fell right out of your head. But here’s where it gets SUPER freaky: Tonight a winged stranger is going to sneak into your room and take that dead tooth right out from under your pillow while you’re sleeping. Hmmm, good question: Actually I don’t know what she looks like. No, I don’t think we should ‘Google it’. (I’ve been hesitant to Google anything since I recently tried to find ideas for ways to get more exposure for this little blog project by Google-ing ‘Exposing Myself’. I don’t recommend this. Side Note: Hairy old men are surprisingly adept with webcams.) No, I don’t know how big she is, yes, probably bigger than a hamster…but with wings. Yes, I guess like a beetle that’s bigger than a hamster. Don’t be afraid though because you might get a dollar! No, that won’t buy you a Wii. Nope, pet armadillos cost more than a dollar too. Well, no, I don’t know what she does with the teeth, but if we ever go to somebody’s house for dinner and they’ve got a lampshade made out of baby teeth, we’ll know that we’re closing in on her.”

 

When we adults reach a certain age, our bodies start to morph as well, and not in a good way like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. More like a caterpillar turning into a Sophia from the Golden Girls, or Gary Busey. But I don’t think many men would toss their beer across the room and do a Tom Cruise-style couchdance of excitement if we told them: “Ooh, that’s so exciting you lost three more hairs! That bald spot is really beginning to take shape; you must really have a lot of testosterone, big guy. Now here’s what’s going to go down: When you go to bed tonight, put those hairs in this adorable little pouch I made just for you, and a creepy little dude is going to come in and take it from right under your increasingly shiny noggin. But don’t worry because he’ll leave you a Starbucks gift card for like eleven cents! No, I don’t know what he looks like, but he may very well be wearing a hockey mask with little metal bars over the mouth. Maybe he’s a huge, spooky antique baby doll, you know the kind whose eyes are always rolling back into his head. Or perhaps he’s just a giant clown with X’s for eyes. But remember: Starbucks gift card! Sleep tight.”

 

When Ben lost his first tooth last year, he was overjoyed and beside himself with excitement!!! No, no he wasn’t. He Freaked The Hell Out, and the other kids threw tantrums too, just for good measure. These weren’t just any run of the mill crying fits like kids have when they find out that you snuck vegetables underneath the cheese on their pizza and they accidentally ate something green. No, these were full blown meltdowns, like they have when they are already strapped into the moving car and they’re told that their destination is the doctor’s office for S-H-O-T-S. (Yessss, maybe I DO know exactly what that kind of meltdown sounds like. Don’t judge me, just because I don’t want my kids getting Hepatitis. Yellow eyes do NOT look cute on Christmas cards.) Oh, and by the way: Kids learn how to spell ‘shots’ really early. I don’t know how Janie, who thought up until about last week that her name started with the letter “Three”, learned how to spell that as a toddler.

Anyway, after the lost tooth tantrum waned, Ben immediately posted a note on his bedroom door that read: “No Tooth Fairy allowed because tooth is downstairs. Please leave reward in kitchen.” He then made me sleep with the tooth under MY pillow, while Janie refused to sleep in her own bed on the off chance that the Tooth Fairy wanted her teeth too, which were clearly secured in her mouth. We all enjoyed this experience so much that the next time Ben lost a tooth, which happened to be during a large extended family holiday dinner, he immediately threw it under the table in hopes that nobody would notice…and I really, really wanted to let him get away with it. But I couldn’t, because at the end of the day I had to uphold my parental responsibility to make him suck it up and endure the Magic of Childhood. Abra-Ca-Freaking-Dabra.

Ladies, Shed Your Leopard Print Snuggies: It’s Business Time. (My First Parenting Advice Column)

My eldest is 6 ½, so I’ve been doing this “parenting” thing for a while now. Now, I’m not saying I’m the Larry King of being a mom or anything (although I, too, bear an uncanny resemblance to a garden gnome when I’m rocking suspenders), but I do have some years of experience under my belt. Therefore, I feel pretty qualified to give parenting advice, but the problem is that not enough people ask me for it. In my head it happens all of the time, and the conversations usually start something like this: “Mary, you clearly have it together. You hardly ever leave the house with both your shirt and underwear on backwards, and when you do you definitely notice after less than eight hours of walking around like that. Your children have the self-control and table manners of some of the very politest species of rabid raccoons, and you are usually not hung over at PTO meetings. Also, you have only left your bra at the pediatrician’s office ONCE, and for a really good reason I’m sure. How do you do it, and would you be willing to take a break from your grueling schedule of being a perfect mom and housewife to give the rest of us some advice?

And then I respond: “Well, thank you imaginary-friend-in-need. It’s true that I pretty much kick bottom and take names at the parenting game, and I’m kind of A Big Deal at my end of the cul-de-sac. But before I drop wisdom-bombs on you, I need to clarify something: I have actually NEVER left my bra at the pediatrician’s office. That was my friend Ali, and I have to admit that I was so jealous when she told me that story. I would give my right eye to have left my bra at the pediatrician’s office (nursing moms will understand how this could go down, not in a bow-chicka-bow-wow way) and then had to have them call me to tell me about it before I noticed. That’s just pure blogging gold, right there, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Cups off to you, Ali.”

Anyhoo, on to a few of the questions that, had any of my friends had the good sense just to ask me them, would totally be in my inbox:

Mary, last Halloween I waited to shop for my costume until the last minute. All they had left at the costume store was a French Maid’s outfit, so now I’m pregnant (due at the very end of July). While my husband and I are in awe of the miracle that’s taking place right now and stuff, and I do wholeheartedly enjoy going to the grocery store and feeling no remorse whatsoever about purchasing only eight different kinds of salami and a box of Lucky Charms, I’m unsure about what to expect as far as labor and delivery are concerned. Was it magical for you?

 

With baited breath, or maybe that’s just the shrimp chips and American cheese concoction I had for lunch, Betty S.

 

Ahhh, Betty, my first was also born at the very end of July (wink, wink). I feel your pain, and have since then shopped for Halloween costumes no later than August. For the past three years I’ve been Scooby-Doo. Anyway, the experience of giving birth is one part magic to nine parts total freaking torture. Get ready to have your mind blown, sister, and not in a good way like when you’re flipping through the channels and that one scene from Fight Club is on where Brad Pitt has his shirt off, but before he’s all bloody and chucking that disgusting lard all over the place.

Newborn Ben, born late July 2005

I do think that you will find magic in the moment when you look into your child’s eyes for the first time and know for certain  – regardless of what you thought you believed (or didn’t believe) about God, and how He feels about your eating meat on Fridays, or bacon-wrapped shrimp or what have you – that there is definitely something more powerful than we are facilitating this transaction. After all, this moment is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. It is bigger than eggs, sperm, fertilization and genetics. In fact, I think you’ll agree that at all of seven squirming, suckling pounds, this tiny human is much, much bigger than you are. Enjoy that moment, Betty, because it is pure bliss and disbelief. But I digress.

For me, one of the less magical moments was when I had been laboring for hours and my husband nonchalantly asked the doctor if she thought he had time to “run out and grab a quick sandwich”. He only did that ONCE, believe you me.

Equally un-magical was during the birth of my third child, when I had declined an epidural, was almost ready to start pushing, and my husband (same one, which may surprise you until you hear about some of his good days) complained to the nurse that he had a giant pimple on his forehead that was really sore. Ivan has many, many strengths, but timing and awareness of audience are not among them.

 

 

Mary, it seems to me that your home is not unlike a zoo, and that some of the attractions are actual animals. What are the advantages to keeping pets in an already chaotic household?

 

Yours truly,

Janet E.

 

Dear Janet,

I will answer your question in two parts. First, we got a puppy when we also had one, three and five-year-old humans because I did not have quite enough poop to keep track of, to be quite honest. When you love nothing more than having to be aware of when and where pretty much everyone in your family is doing their business, and being required to direct placement of, and clean up after a clear majority of their waste, then my friend a puppy is for you. Or another toddler. Same basic maintenance requirements.

The second part is that it is my firm belief that having pets during childhood helps children understand that all living creatures deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, as my daughter Janie demonstrates with Hunter The Outdoor (No Exceptions!) Cat:

 

 

Hi Mary, Long Time Fan First Time Writer Here. I am currently eight months pregnant, and I’m wondering how to re-ignite the “spark” in my marriage. How can we be sure to maintain an intimate connection throughout the rest of pregnancy and into the parenting years?

 Thanks,

Julie B.

 

Mister B., please stop sending me emails and signing your wife’s name to them. You and I both know that she’s passed out in front of ‘Dancing With The Stars’ with a half-eaten box of doughnut holes on her lap right now, the way that Mother Nature intended for her to be during this Glorious Time. That said, I do feel badly for you. Probably the most provocative thing she’s worn to bed lately is a leopard print Snuggie, and that is difficult for both of you. Well, mostly for you…but that’s why I’m going to help you out.

First, get yourself to the nearest jewelry store. Buy the shiniest thing you see; the item that says “Honey, I love you and I understand that you’re tired and uncomfortable but I really miss business time. How’s about you put down the salted caramels for a couple minutes and join me in the bedroom? I promise I don’t notice that your caboose is growing at an alarmingly faster clip than your belly, and that you can no longer control your emissions.” Now give that item to your wife before 8:30pm. You’re welcome.

Now, if your problem is further reaching and you’re wondering how to maintain the same kind of, shall we say, spontaneity and regularity that you once knew in your marriage, here’s what you do: Wait for the birth of your baby and for him to go to college. Now get after it, you two lovebirds, because you have four whole years before he moves back in with you! Wait, did you go and make a younger sibling or two in the meantime? Suckers.

Now it is officially happy hour at my house (definitely after 10am), and it’s really hard for me to type with a glass of wine in my hand even though I can change a diaper that way, so I must sign off. In the meantime, if any of you actual other people have questions for me, please post them in the comments section. But, fair warning: There is definitely such a thing as a stupid question, and that’s my favorite kind. But if you send me one, I’ll likely ridicule you publicly while I’m secretly really grateful.

 

Until Next Time,

Mary

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