Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, which means there are a lot of inspirational stories out there.

This news story is a year old, but still heartwarming. It is about a philanthropist who single handedly lifted a town out of abject poverty by paying for childcare and in-state college tuition for all of its residents. Property values have gone up and the town’s high school graduation rate went up from 25% to almost 100%. Amazing.

And this “Open Letter of Love to All Moms” in BlogHer made me smile. A mother of four kids 10 years old and under offered 15 pieces of advice. While she obviously had no tips for moms with tweens and teens, I thought these two pieces of advice were timeless and wise:

…12. Don’t ever judge other mothers. When you judge others, your children can hear you. When you love others, your children can hear you AND feel it, too.

13. Don’t ever judge other children….

At this point I’ve met so many parents and kids — clearly all doing the best that they can — now I know better than judge or be smug about the way that I parent. I know that what works for one kid probably won’t work with another or what once worked for a child won’t work forever…Sigh.

Do you have Mother’s Day plans? What are they?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, I want to wish our Cynmill — and Laura! — a very happy birthday. Here’s to a fabulous day for a fabulous trio!

In case you missed it, Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina this past Saturday. Here are detailed results courtesy of AP.

Brain, Child magazine ran a bittersweet story on the complicated history and nature of sibling relationships.

This blog post at BlogHer, in which a new mom claims that “parenting isn’t hard” and that yelling at your children in public is tantamount to abuse, perhaps not surprisingly, garnered a lot of reaction in the thread.

A couple in the UK that refused to reveal the gender of their baby for five years, just announced to the world that they have a boy, according to Yahoo Shine.

Parents magazine published a comprehensive story on the lack of paid maternity leave in this country. MomsRising executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was quoted in the second half of the story.

Actress Jessica Alba launched an organic diapering service called Honest.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

There are nurse-ins scheduled at more than 100 Target stores covering 35 states at 10 a.m. local time today. After a Houston-area woman was told by workers at a Target store to stop nursing, 4,500 moms got together over Facebook to coordinate the nurse-ins. For more information, check out the Best for Babes website.

The Boston Globe republished a column from 2007 on how to have the strategies of a preschool teacher to deal with your preschooler. I am glad the newspaper republished the column, I did read it and have been using some of the strategies, like making more eye contact with Eli and giving her more time as opposed to rushing her. For example, I liked the tip of telling a child, “You have time to see one more TV show,” as opposed to, “You have 15 minutes.” It seems minor, but I can see where that can make a big difference. What other tips would you add to this list?

Another column I read was at Parents magazine: “Four Ways To Discipline Ungrateful Children.” This came up a lot on Christmas Day when I heard a couple children — not just in our family — complain about not “getting anymore gifts.” I can say that this is not an issue with Ari, who saw children his age sell candy in the street in Honduras. He knows better than to complain about not getting enough stuff. But our preschooler and other kids we encounter? Yes, I read this column, too. How do you instill gratitude in your children?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


How To Instill Responsibility in Children?

Okay, MotherTalkers, I am having a parenting dilemma and could use your collective wisdom. How do you instill personal responsibility in children?

This is an issue that has come up a lot lately in my household. I recently received the kids’ report cards, which for the most part, were stellar. The one area that needs improvement? Taking responsibility for their actions.

Ari often forgets to do his homework. Eli has a meltdown when she is called out for bad behavior. She refuses to take any blame for any scuffles with classmates at school. I find this to be true at home, too, when she fights with her brother.

As for Ari, I have to remind him to complete certain — and necessary — tasks, like, completing homework and taking a shower. He is forever losing his sweaters and jackets, and even if it were sub-zero outside, he wouldn’t remember to put one on anyway. What to do, MotherTalkers?

I read an article at Disney’s family website, which recommends everything from checklists — I do find that they make a difference for my kids! — to giving children choices for better behavior. Maybe I am not doing it right, or Eli is too small, but I am having a hard time breaking through to her on the personal responsibility front. The other day, she fought with her brother and threw a tantrum when he hit her back. I saw it all. She started it and then acted like the victim when he responded.

I’ve forever told Ari to ignore her, but 4.5 years later, I am finding that this is getting old. Eli knows how to push people’s buttons, and not just her brother’s. Her teachers noted that she can be “aggressive” towards her classmates, but will cry when she is called out on it. Does anyone have any age-appropriate tools at their disposal?


How to Explain Occupy Wall Street to Small Children

OAKLAND, Calif. — I suppose this could apply to any political movement. However, considering that the raids on Occupy Wall Street are happening in this very city where my children’s school is located, a lot of kids here are talking about it with each other and at home with their parents.

The other day, my kids and I spotted a couple helicopters. “I hope everything is okay,” I said out loud. “I bet they are there because of the protests.”

That’s when Ari replied (paraphrased), “Yeah, there are people protesting because one percent of the population was very greedy and did a bad thing in not sharing.”

“That’s right.”

I was surprised and also proud of my son, who at 8 years old was able to grasp the basic concept behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. But I can understand how all this shouting back and forth between the “1%” and “99%” could be confusing for small children.

Most recently, some of the parents at our school were discussing the matter online. One parent was concerned that the children were lumping people into groups of good and bad, which in many ways runs counter to our curriculum’s global philosophy.

Some of the kids don’t know what group they’re in. My own child asked me: “I don’t get it, Mama. Are we the 99% or the 1%?” Play the standard answer through the child’s mind: “You’re the 99%.” Translation: “I’m not bad. My parents aren’t bad. I’m on the right side. It’s somebody else who’s wrong.”

What are the consequences of lumping people into groups in a child’s mind?

I understand the 1%, and I can hold that information and respond to it without feeling my world divided. Can a child do that?

Another parent wrote a story to explain the “99% movement” to his first grader:

The Friends and the Cake (a story about the 99%)
Once upon a time there were 100 friends who had a yummy cake to share. (Graphic of friends and cake here.)

1 of the friends cut a great big slice of the cake all for herself, (again, graphic of a quarter of the cake sliced off)

and told the other 99 friends to share what was left.

When they split the rest of the cake between them, the 99 friends each got a teeny tiny piece. They didn’t think this was very fair. (Graphic of one of the 99 percenters yelling, “No fair!”)

What do you think would be fair?

What do you think the 99 friends should do now?

You can write or draw your ideas on the next page.

I liked the exercise at the end of his story because it allowed his daughter to explore and make up her own mind rather than have her dad do it for her. What do you think? What have you told your children about Occupy Wall Street?


How Much Of Past To Reveal to Children?

The New York Times ran this interesting essay by a mother who had written a memoir pre-children, and now she does not want her pre-teen son to know anything about it.

Everyone has a past, and it’s a very personal decision to reveal — or not reveal — the more unsavory bits to our children. It’s possible for most people to smooth out the rough edges of their histories, to edit out indiscretions or sanitize their mistakes. After all, some things are none of our kids’ business, right? They don’t need to know every single detail about their parents. On the day our son was born, a friend with teenagers gave my husband the following piece of advice: “If he ever asks you if you did drugs . . . lie.“ But for memoirists, the stories we’ve told of our own lives are set in stone. And while certainly some memoirs might whitewash the past, and others might omit unsavory details, the kind of memoir I wanted to write required being hard on myself publicly. I lifted up rocks and peered into the darkness. In my attempt to find the Emersonian thread of the universal in my story, I laid myself bare in the most unflattering light.

I’ve often wondered whether I would have written that memoir — one of seven books to my name, but the only one I would bodily throw myself in front of my son to prevent him from reading — if the timing had been different, if the idea for it had taken root in me only after he had been born. It’s a book I’m proud of, and the artist in me would like to think that I would have written it no matter what. But the mother in me isn’t so sure. I might have stopped myself, for fear of what he might think some day. Certainly, it would have been a very different book, bearing the marks of time, maturity, experience. After all, one can’t write with abandon if one is worrying about the consequences. And to have children is to always, always worry about the consequences.

Granted, my history is nowhere near as exciting as this mom’s so that’s probably why I still write with abandon. But I have always been an open book with my kids because, I figure, any peccadilloes, past or present, are going to come out eventually. Take for instance, certain family members’ addiction with alcohol. Ari has witnessed more than one fight I’ve had with one particular family member, in which f-bombs were dropped and tears were shed.

After the fights, he has asked questions and comforted me. At one point, when he was 4 or 5, he said, “Mami, I am never going to drink because sometimes you can’t stop.” I held him and assured him that I am his rock, that he could always depend on me. But I was also relieved that he saw the consequences of drinking too much, something in his genes that he is going to have to contend with in the future, and will encounter, especially if he goes away to college. In other words, I don’t believe you can behave like the perfect mother and shield your kids for long. If they are anything like you, they will find out what you were and are like and even be prone to the same mistakes.

What do you think? How much is too much to reveal to your kids?


Book Review- Simplicity Parenting

I’ve worked with Kim John Payne for many years and have been procrastinating this review for ages not because I don’t love the book, but because I struggle with it.  


But now Kim’s summed up his book nicely here:

Simplicity Parenting from Kim Payne on Vimeo.

What do I love about this book?  It gives me permission to not do so much.  I lets me off my (self-imposed) perfect-mommy hook in a lovely way.  I love the tone- it’s neither condescending (like so many parenting books) nor too glib.  It honors the reality that parenting can feel just too big while also honoring that it’s not rocket science.  

Listen. Watch. Be present.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

One of the key pieces that I like is the concept of the Soul Fever.  The idea is that a kid can be sick in the heart/ soul in just the same way that they get sick in the tummy or the throat.  The cure is much the same- rest, quiet, and tlc.  The cause is too much- too much stuff, too much activity, too much adult talk.

I struggle with pieces of this book (as Kim is aware) because we’re not a Waldorf family.  Kim comes from the Waldorf world which is lovely if you can make it work.  I couldn’t (not that I tried that hard), so now I’m trying to adapt Kim’s ideas to the non-Waldorf household.  Some things work (less stuff, less schedule, less grown-up conversation), some don’t, some are freaking hilarious to me (like the idea of being able to get my kids to pick up their stuff every evening?  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!) but would probably work well for others.

Is it worth a read? Yes. Do I think our Katie would make mucho comedic hay out of it?  Absolutely.  Different strokes and all that.  But there’s good stuff in here and you should check it out if you get a chance.  It’s worth a read.  (And let me tell you- if you ever get a chance to hear Kim speak in person, GO!  He’s a freakin’ mesmer- and charming as all get out.)


Kel Kelly – CEO & Mom

For a while now, I’ve wanted to interview women I know or know of who have careers and full family lives.  I am fascinated and in awe of women who run their own companies, live their lives honestly, and speak their own minds, loudly & bravely.

My first interview is withKel Kelly, who I met on Twitter. Don’t ask me how. She’s not somebody I work with or would know through work. I work in the high tech industry, usually around a lot of men who wear suits.  That’s the beauty of social media — I’ve connected  with all kinds of people, all over the world, from Boston, to Malaysia to Tel Aviv.

Kel Kelly lives an open and out life online. She co-founded her firm with her spouse Ginny Pitcher.  She blogs about topics from working mothers to Scott Brown (yes, that Scott Brown). Kelly is a woman who refuses to take meetings when she’s scheduled to go to her kids’ sports games. How awesome is that?

Q: What does your company do?  

A: Kel & Partners is the anti-agency agency for public relations and social media. We build and leverage fresh, high ROI strategies for our clients and then execute the plans via standout public relations and social media initiatives. The majority of our clients are consumer-focused, internet-based businesses like Zappos, Swap, Spreadshirt, uSell, 6PM, et al. It’s a fun gig and I love what I do.

Why did you start your own company?

A: When I turned 40 I decided that I needed to get control of my schedule. My job at the time had me traveling all over the world and I needed more time to be with my kids. I started Kel & Partners and my primary motivation was to bring happiness and balance into my life and to control my schedule. And I did just that. I never missed anything in any of my kids’ lives. Whether it was a sports game, concert, teacher meeting, doctor’s appointment or whatever, I was always there. In nine years, I have never worked on Wednesday afternoon (except in the summer) because my kids always have a game. I remember one time a prospective client worth $300,000 of potential revenue said they could only meet on a Wednesday afternoon and I said no. I never compromised my integrity when it came to making my kids my #1 priority.

Q: How would you describe yourself, politically & socially?

A: Politically: I wear the term “bleeding heart liberal“ like a badge of honor. There are a lot of underdogs in the world and I think we have an obligation to help them.

Socially: I am definitely an extrovert. I do things that make me happy and enjoy spending time with the people I love.

Q: What are the challenges of living such an open life on social media?

A: Interestingly enough, I haven’t had any challenges living an open life on social media. I have never received any hate-driven tweets or blog comments. I believe in being who you are and not changing to please people. My heart drives every action in my life. I think people appreciate the honesty. I also think it helps change the perception some people have of gays.

Q: How have you guided your kids on using social media?

A: I always remind them that social media is like a genie in a bottle. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t stuff her back in. What they communicate via social channels says more about them than they can ever say about themselves and they need to be aware of that. Does that mean I approve of every tweet they have ever sent out? Hell no. However, I believe they need to walk their own path and learn along the way.

Q: Who were/are your mother/parenting & work inspirations and role models and why?

A: My Mom was my primary role model. My parents were divorced and I grew up relatively poor. I remember that she was constantly worrying about being able to pay the bills. One particular memory that stands out is the time our oilman filled the oil tank for free because my Mom didn’t have any money and it was the dead of winter. In spite of all of this, my Mom had an amazing work ethic. She would take the bus into Boston every single day to her secretarial job. She was a single working mother long before single working mothers were around. My Mom managed to raise three kids while maintaining a full-time job. I definitely got my work ethic from her. I also got my compassionate heart from my Mom. Everything my Mom did was driven by her heart and desire to help people in need. My life is driven by the same motivation. I’m lucky because my kids have that same heart. I was taught to stand up for the underdog and to spontaneously give to those in need. One of my favorite things to do is find people working minimum wage jobs — who looks like they need a break — and give them $100 for no reason. I can’t begin to tell you how much happiness that has brought to people who can’t get their eyeballs above water. Although my kids are poor students, they playfully tease me that they are just like me and find themselves doing the same thing, although the dollar amount is much smaller than $100.

Q: How do you think being a mother has affected the way you are as a CEO?

Being a Mom is the driving force behind how I am as a CEO. I am not driven by money. My sole motivation is to bring happiness to my employees, my clients, my family and myself. The vast majority of my employees are Moms. Kel & Partners gives them the respect, compassion and flexibility to ensure they never have to sacrifice their family for their jobs. That means my employee who has a son who is a cancer survivor can go to all his appointments without worrying about having to be out of the office. It also means that my employee who has an autistic son can miss a really important meeting and not be judged because his situation means she can’t make a critical work commitment. I love and value my employees more than anything else in business.

Q: What has your hardest parenting moment(s) been so far?

A: I would say the hardest parenting moment is seeing the sadness the kids are dealing with over having their Dad – who I divorced sixteen years ago – drop out of their lives. He has addiction issues and if you know anything about addicts, their addiction drives their every action. In this case, it means going from being someone who was a consistent, healthy part of their lives to virtually dropping off the planet. Although he shows up a few times a year, there is no consistency in his presence. This is so hard for the kids and brings them such sadness. My three oldest kids are happy, well-adjusted, accountable, fun, amazing young adults and their Dad has missed sharing this experience. It’s incredibly sad for everyone.

Q: My son is about to be a tween. What’s one (or two) things you think I should know (and others on about parenting tweens?  

A: The one thing I think every parent should know is that really good kids can and will make really dumb mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. They are not destined for a lifetime of being a derelict. They just made a mistake. If you raised them to be accountable, they will learn from the experience. I honestly believe that some of the bad decisions my kids made were the greatest learning experiences of their lives. Just love them unconditionally and all will be fine.


What Do You Say to “Busy Bodies”?

This recent letter in Emily Yoffe’s aka “Dear Prudence’s” column struck a nerve with me.

One of the shocking things I learned when I became a parent is how judgmental and unhelpful onlookers could be. I’ve been lectured, for among other things, letting my baby cry. (I forgot his pacifier.) One mom at the YMCA accused me of “torturing” my daughter by pulling her hair while I washed it. Now that was one ugly, ghetto fight.

At least a few times, strangers told me I was letting my kids wander too far. I felt for this mother:

My two year old has started throwing tantrums. She drops on the floor and flaps her arms and legs wildly and screams at the top of her lungs. On the advice of my wise MIL I respond with “okay Bella mommy is going to go now, bye” then take a few steps away and pretend to be busy with something else. After a short period of wailing she will begin to calm down, pick herself up, and toddle over to where I am with a reconcilatory hug. I find this approach works beautifully, as her screaming usually escalates if I try to force her to stop. My problem is that when her tantrums happen out in public, some onlookers glare at me and even criticize me openly for either failing to discipline a naughty, screaming child or neglecting a toddler who’s distressed. One elderly woman was horrified when I pretended to walk away, thinking I was actually going to abandon my child in the middle of the supermarket. How do I respond to such nosy adults? Signed Good mom.

Oh yeah. I’ve done the “I’m leaving now” schtick to get my kids to calm down. Thankfully, no one has lectured me on that. Here is what Prudie had to say to “Good mom”:

“I’ve found the less attention she gets, the faster this will be over.” And how wonderful to hear someone say that her mother-in-law is wise and gives helpful advice!

That’s a good response. I will have to tuck that one away. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when strangers come up to us and offer help during a trying situation. But lecture me? Mind. Your. Own. Business.

Have you been lectured by strangers? What did you say?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Tiki Tiki Blog, published by fellow Cuban-American writer Carrie Ferguson Weir, ran a series of essays and resources on infidelity in light of the revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child with his Latina maid. Unfortunately, marital infidelity is not uncommon in Latino households — nor American households for that matter! — and a running joke between DH and I is that when a man dies in our family we hold our breaths wondering what woman or child is going to come out of the woodwork. Have you or anyone in your family dealt with infidelity? How did you cope?

A 35-year-old single woman at BlogHer wondered whether she should have a child without being married.

Also in BlogHer: a homeschooling mom is honest about what she would change if she had a “do-over.” I suppose the same could be said about all aspects of parenting.

In trashy gossip break: TMZ is now reporting that the story of a mom injecting her 8-year-old’s face with botox is a hoax. My gut tells me that you know there are moms out there doing it — I am thinking the Disney Club and beauty pageant set — and it should be illegal. What do you all make of this story?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?