Thursday, December 5, 2013

Here's The One Christmas Carol I DON'T Want My Kids Listening To

You know by now that Christmas is a big deal in my house.  From our (naughty) Elf on the Shelf to my Operation Christmas Child drive, I am all about the holidays.  In fact, I am not past blaring Motown carols as a mood booster in the middle of August.

My eldest daughter was four and a half years old when she ran into the den last Christmas morning to see if Santa had visited.  Surely the excitement of a mountain of toys, shiny packages and some half eaten carrots left by the reindeer distracted her for a bit, but before long she was peering out the window sadly.

“There’s no snow?” she asked.

Later that afternoon we drove to my sister’s house, a mere 15 minutes from our own.  Quietly she sat in the back of the car, until we made our last turn.  “Ugh… There’s no snow at Gigi’s house, either?”

My heart broke.  One of our two previous Christmases in Connecticut had brought a blizzard, and the other at least some toxic slush- but did she really expect snow in Los Angeles?

Then I remembered my seasonal anthems.  Everyone from Bing Crosby and the Ronettes to Elvis and George Michael had been part of our daily dance routine for weeks, and they are all singing about snow on Christmas morning.  Clearly she was paying way more attention to the music than she does to my instructions to insert absolutely any task here.

Anxiously, my mind went immediately to one of my favorite carols, Band Aid’s “Feed The World (Do They Know It’s Christmas)”.  And while I’m not willing to admit how old I was when the song first hit airwaves in 1984, I was definitely old enough to be disturbed by the lyric “the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom… Well, tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you”.  Had my young daughters heard that line?  And what did they think it meant?  

Decades later, no matter how festive I feel, it still makes me cringe.  And I hope I’m not the only one. (I mean, of everyone involved in that production, at least Bono should have known better.)

Though a year older now, my girls taste in carols hasn’t moved much beyond “I Wanna Hippopotamus For Christmas” but I am preparing myself for when it does.

Somewhere in between watching music videos where George Michael ironically stares at a female beauty through sparkly garland and Mariah Carey sexes Santa up like no one has before, I hope to teach them how to handle the heart-breaking famine in this world with a bit more sensitivity.

Or maybe, just maybe, we will have found a solution by then.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving, I'm Thankful For What I DON'T Have

Moments after the first leaves have changed from green to brilliant orange, our lives are abuzz with lists of things for which we should be thankful.  However varied, ranging from friends and family to jobs and religion, there is one common theme.  People tend to be thankful only for the things that are present in their lives, not for those that are absent.

Honestly, it makes sense.  In assessing how we feel, we take into consideration the state of our health, home, employment, love life and even shoe collection.  We think about the gifts that have come into our lives, via hard work or good fortune, but rarely do we think about the gifts that have left.  Well, this Thanksgiving, I am bucking the system.

Tomorrow as I sit down for dinner with my sister, her baby bump, my brother-in-law, my husband and my two beautiful daughters, I will be expressing gratitude not only for the things that are in my life, but for the things that have left it.

I will be thankful as much for the marriage I have today as for the troubled one of just a few years ago, as it was those challenges that forced us to look closely at the weaknesses we both let damage our relationship-- and ultimately empowered us to majorly overcome them.

I will be thankful as much for the job I have today as the one I left at The Bachelor nearly three years ago, as it was the difficult decision to leave the excitement, stability and comfort of that opportunity which lead to tremendous personal and professional growth elsewhere.

And I will be thankful as much for the people that are in my life now as I am for the lasting impressions (both positive and negative) left by those that have gone.

The funny thing is, once you are thankful for the things that have left your life, they have an uncanny way of returning to you- multiplied abundantly.

Several months ago, Trista Sutter reached out and asked if I would contribute a story to her book, “Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart”.  Not long after we began exchanging ideas for what I would write, Trista sent a draft of her introduction to my piece.  For me to learn of the impact of just one friendship I created while at The Bachelor, likely one I would have predicted as fleeting, brought me to tears.  In fact, I had never been so grateful for the franchise.

Shortly after that, I arrived home to three enormous boxes delivered from my mother back east.  In them were my Barbie Dream House (circa 1978) and all of its original contents from disco print lounge chairs to wardrobe even Lady Gaga would kill for.  And while I have my mother to thank for meticulously packing and safe-keeping the items for decades, I am also grateful to my father (who we lost decades ago) for buying me the pad in the first place.  His gift has now returned to his grandchildren, whose creativity and imaginations will benefit greatly from his aged generosity (not to mention the positive message about body image sent by a less sexualized Barbie).

So, there is real truth in the statement that if you love someone (or something), you should set it free.  It may just come back to you in ways you never, ever expected.

Monday, November 11, 2013

These Parents Had An ENORMOUS Impact on Your Family (And I Bet You Have NO Idea Who They Are)

Do you know this woman?

Or this cute family?

Or this man about to give his precious daughter away?

How about this lady, who looks like the perfect neighbor...

... or this one, even if she's mid noise complaint?

Unfortunately, though, her distraught is warranted.

Same goes for this couple...

... and this one.

My guess is that none of them have done major harm more than the rest of us.  I'm sure they had high hopes, beautiful dreams and the indescribable desire to give the gift of life- and they did.  Still I wonder, if given the chance now, if they would rescind that gift from the very being to which they gave it.  Because if they could, maybe... just maybe... they could save a great many lives more than they created.

74 of them, to be exact.

These People Are:
1. Nancy Lanza, mother of Adam (Sandy Hook, 2012)
2. The Zawahri Family, parents & sisters of John (Santa Monica, 2013)
3. Sam Bishop, escorting daughter Amy Bishop Anderson (University of Alabama ,2010)
4. Susan Klebold, mother of Dylan (Columbine, 1999)
5. Cathleen Alexis, mother of Aaron (Navy Yard, 2013)
6. Arlene & Robert Holmes, parents of James Eagan (Aurora, 2012)
7. Kathy & Wayne Harris, parents of Eric (Columbine, 1999)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Made Me Question If I Am Abusing My Kids... Or You Are Abusing Yours

My daughters go to a nut-free school.  Well, let’s face it.  I live in Los Angeles.  There are plenty of nuts at her school, but no tree nuts.

On Back to School night, I asked in both of their classrooms if there were any children with food allergies or dietary restrictions.  Among several allergies, we also discovered some vegetarians and vegans.  My daughters are 3 and 5 years old.

Fast forward what felt like a mere number of hours, and Halloween was upon us.  Like many schools, ours too has a no candy policy.  So we dressed up for the costume parade, did some insane ‘Trunk’ or Treating that would put LA's finest set decorators to shame, grabbed some pencils, bubbles and stickers, and left our sweet teeth at home.

(This is not my trunk, but the fact that my children attend a school with a mother this talented is inspiring enough.)
The abbreviated school day concluded with a family style snack time in the classroom, cucumber sushi rolls included.  Teasing aside, it was a great morning, after which we went home to rest up for a night of "real" Trick or Treating where nut filled, non-vegan candy would abound.

So like any other time when I had a long list of to-dos that I should have been concentrating on, I let myself be distracted by a debate I have muddled over many times before.

Is it right for parents to force their own dietary choices upon their young children?

Now before you go pegging with me your organic heirloom tomatoes, give me the chance to say that I know many restrictions are in place for medical reasons.  I get that allergies are on a frighteningly rapid rise, and while I am lucky to have not (yet) lived the fear for my own children, I am very aware of its existence.  BUT.

Many limitations are imposed for religious or ethical reasons, and it is those that I put in question.  My daughters enjoy playing with a neighborhood friend who cannot eat in our house because we do not keep Kosher.  And though I feel terribly that I cannot offer her a snack, I know she does not pine for the Halloween themed Oreos in my cupboard.  Or does she?

I consider becoming a vegetarian at least once a month, before mixing up an incredible Sriracha based marinade (while I can) and throwing a flank steak on the grill.  I haven’t made the jump for a number of reasons, ranging from the fact that I am very anemic and crave red meat to fear of the extra effort it would cause me in the kitchen because I would not want to force a vegetarian lifestyle on my children until they are old enough to weigh in on the subject for themselves.

I feel like forcing one or the other is very wrong… I am just not sure which one.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And The Best Burger In Town Is...

It takes a lot of heart, time and chutzpah to put your personal stories out there for anyone to read (or judge).  In the beginning, I really questioned if blogging was for me.  In fact, I still get butterflies when hitting "publish" on some pieces.  That's why I am incredibly thankful to hear when something I've shared touches enough to leave a mark.  It happened most recently when I was asked by a reader to donate something cool to an auction benefitting a very young girl with cancer.  I was happy to do so, and while I am hopeful that my gift will make even the tiniest difference in the life of that wonderful family, selfishly I am grateful to the reader for giving me the opportunity to help make a difference.

My girls say (oooover and over again) that sharing is caring... and it really is.

So, when "Great Moments in Parenting" asked me to share, I jumped at the chance...

"I love it when busy weekends are capped off with early bath-time and a movie on Sunday nights. That’s exactly where we were headed yesterday when I made (or at least reheated) dinner for my daughters, ages three and five.
As they sat with partitioned plates, using their favorite forks to dip pieces of hamburger into gobs of ketchup larger than their heads, I was excited to rest my feet and join them. But as I sat down with my own burger, dressed properly on a bun, I could practically see the mouth on my youngest begin to water..."
To hear what happened, visit Great Moments in Parenting.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Here's What Happened When My 5yo Watched Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball"

My 5-1/2-year-old daughter busted me watching the "Wrecking Ball" video by Miley Cyrus and while I am not proud of my behavior, I am not ashamed of it, either. Surely, had the images been of a more sexual, frighteningly graphic or violent nature, I would have slammed the computer shut to shield her. And though I realize that I may be setting myself up for criticism for letting her watch, I feel strongly about striking a balance between protecting my children and being realistic about the world in which they are growing like weeds. So, as she watched, I asked her what she was thinking. She had some pretty hilarious commentary.

"Oh, she's pretty! Her teeth are so white.  She must brush a lot."

"That's gross... Why is she licking it?"

"She needs a *bra-n." (* her word for bra)

"That's not a real swing!  When the wall grows again, and she hits it, she's gonna get hurt!"

"Why does she have pictures on her? She must be strong. Boys who are strong have pictures on them. Daddy is strong. He needs pictures."

"I don't know why she's naked, but maybe she has shoes on so she doesn't get a splinter."

"She's crying! Maybe she got a bit hurt on the wrecking ball."

"Now she's hitting herself. She is upset because she was wrecking the walls. She made a biiiiig mess."

"She got killed! She got killed!"

I can't say I won't watch Miley again (and again), but as far as my daughter is concerned, I'll let this video rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

BREAKING: You Don't Need To Be A Slut To Be A Superhero

We are one week into October, and I am already tired of hearing about slutty Halloween costumes for children.  Am I am in favor of them?  Hell no.  Have I been disgusted by them since the mail order catalogs began spamming my mailbox in early August?  Absolutely.  But I am also aware that we live in a society where people know more about Miley Cyrus’s ass than the government shutting down and Duck Dynasty gets higher television ratings than any news program could dream of.

Let’s face it.  Walmart isn’t to blame for this costume (which I actually find on the less offensive side of the argument) which they stripped from their shelves days ago after public outrage.

The designers, buyers, retailers, advertisers and manufacturers are not to blame.  We are.  You  are. And I am.

Well, not me, literally… But we, the consumer, are to blame.  As are we, the parents.

I’ve learned to trust very little on Facebook, especially after having seen an adorable photo of my college roommate's children stolen by a coffee company and falsified with a tear-jerking (but bullshit) slogan for their marketing campaign.  So, it was with a grain of salt that I took this recent post from the Facebook group (strangely) titled “My Room Was Clean, But Then I Needed Something”.

Still, it infuriated me. Even if the caption on the ridiculous meme is true, or isn’t, there is something inherently wrong with the photo.  I’m all for a tutu, legging and boot combo, but the unnecessary sexualization in this photo is ridiculous.

Let's hope the lesson is simple.

You don’t need to be a slut to be a superhero.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trophies for Childless Women? I Want One Too.

I have made many a life-changing decision, but never expected a trophy for even one.  In fact, it‘s often when I’ve made some of my larger, more difficult decisions that I expected more backlash.

Still, I am a little surprised by the wave of support for women who decide to remain childless.  But please, before you go getting your granny panties in a bunch, hear me out.

I'd happily be the very first in line to say that many people should not have children.  In fact, there are way too many people who’ve had children that should never have, or should have them taken away.  I am also a huge advocate of (and likely future participant in) adoption.

I am not one of those women who dreamt about my fairytale wedding.  I had no idea what I wanted my gown to look like until I put it on, and even then I surprised myself.  But what I did always know was that I wanted to be a mother.  I could always picture a growing family.

Thankfully, I was not faced with a split “do I or don’t I” decision with regard to childbearing.  But if I had been, or even if I had known from the very start that motherhood was not in my future, I wouldn’t have expected any more accolades for it than I would for being a mother of many.

I commend the women who decide not to have children just as much as I commend the women who do, as long as it is done well*.

Shouldn’t we all?

* surely this leaves a lot up for interpretation, but that’s another discussion…

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why I'm Proud Of My Daughter For Embarrassing The Crap Out Of Me

We had one of the best and busiest weekends we’ve had in some time.

Friday night kicked off with a pizza party play date for the girls (and some killer apple cider sangria for the moms).

Next up was Saturday's trip to Underwood Family Farms where we picked our own fruits and vegetables and visited some really cool animals.

Then, as the mother of the youngest female boxing fan on the planet, I could not deny my 5 year old a chance to stay up late for the Mayweather/Canelo fight (which she didn’t actually watch).

And while you’d think a lazy Sunday morning was in order, you’d be wrong.  Instead we trekked up to Sunset Ranch where the girls got to meet (and ride) the newest addition to my sister’s family.

Come Sunday evening, I was exhausted, sun kissed and sore.  So when I put the girls into a hot bubble bath, I couldn’t resist joining them.  Admittedly, I’m usually in too much of a hurry to hop in the tub with them.  So this was a special occasion, for all three of us.

Bedtime stories brought upon an all too brief hibernation, interrupted by the race to get to school on time for Monday morning.  As we packed up for the day, the girls were excited to share with their classmates how they’d picked the berries and cucumber sticks in their lunchboxes right off the vine.  What a great way to start the week…

The day flew by, as they always do, and before I knew it I was chatting with my Kindergartener about her day.  “We talked about what we did on the S days”, she said.  Selfishly, I asked what she had told them, anxious to hear how she described our fun-filled weekend.  Her answer?

“I told them I took a bath with Mommy”

After all the excitement, the hustle and the bustle, it was bath-time that mattered to her most.  Looking back, though I am a tad embarrassed she told her entire classroom about it, I feel the same way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You The Day AFTER The World Stopped Turning?

We’ve all thought about where we were when the world stopped turning on September 11th, 2001 at 8:46am EST.  But more importantly, where were you on September 12th?

Credit: Natasha Japp Photography

I had set out on a cross-country drive for my move from Boston to San Diego.  My then boyfriend (now husband) and I had left the east coast several days prior to cruise the northern route on our way out west.  We had covered quite some territory come the early morning of September 11th, when he ran out to the car to grab something and a hotel housekeeper (ok, it was a motel housekeeper) told him to put on the news.

After a few hours glued to the television (and many calls to family and friends back east) we left Wall, South Dakota for Mount Rushmore, just a few miles down the road.  Of course, the spot would not open, nor would any other National Park on the duration of our drive.  We continued on.

It was the following day, September 12th, that the heavy dust began to settle not only in New York City, Washington DC and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, but also around the world.  And while most people were battening down the hatches, locking up their homes and holding onto their loved ones, I was driving down lonely highways and eating at dreary rest stops.

Still, I was incredibly inspired.  Almost every 18-wheeler we passed was plastered in American flags.  Bed sheets painted with words of inspiration hung from overpasses and car dealerships used their big, obnoxious signs not to advertise a great deal but to offer words of support.

It was clear the world had changed not only because “I Love Lucy” marathons looped on our televisions or because I had suddenly developed an unlikely obsession with NPR, but because the nation had suffered a tragedy not as individuals, but as one, and we had survived.

We survived in honor of those who didn’t.  We survived with new awareness of how fragile life can (and cannot) be.  We survived for the overwhelming need to support those who had lost.  And we survived, most simply, because we had lived.

While the 9/11 attacks are surely the most devastating world news event of my lifetime thus far, I fear they are not the last.  Most recently, in response to the school shooting in my home state of Connecticut or the bombing of the beloved Boston Marathon (which I completed, ironically in 2001), the same questions remain.

How do we pick up the pieces?  How do we pay due respect to the victims, but not let grief destroy the living?  How do we teach our children about tragedy and loss but keep their perspective positive and healthy?  And how do we remember the past but still move on with the future?

There are so many answers to each of these difficult questions that I fear sometimes they are best asked rhetorically.  In the coming days, and years, every news outlet from tabloid programs to medical journals will try to answer them, as will I right now.

Do what I did on September 12th, 2001.

Drive on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Parenting Rite of Passage I Almost Got Wrong

I have palm and fruit trees in my yard.  I don’t own a winter coat that would actually keep me warm in real cold.  I wear flip flops on Christmas.  And though I rarely take advantage, I could hit the beach close to 365 days a year.

Clearly there’s a reason why Southern California is consistently voted the most desirable place to live in the United States, but having been born and bred in the North East, living on the left coast definitely requires some sacrifice.  We’ve missed many a birthday, barbeque and blizzard, but that’s not all.  This summer taught me that we’ve blown one of parenting’s greatest rites of passage.

(hint, hint)
Unlike many who use Facebook only to put their best foot forward for others, I use it to take a step back.  I actually read your posts and look at your photos (assuming they are not of abused animals).  I enjoy seeing where people’s lives have taken them partly because I truly care, and partly because of the perspective it gives me on my own life.

So to all of you that hopped planes to Orlando this summer to spend tons of hard earned money on airfare, hotel rooms with fold out cots, pricey character breakfasts and day after day of long lines at Disneyworld, I envy you.

My mother treated my girls to their first trip to California's Disneyland to jointly celebrate their 2nd and 4th birthdays.  We slept at home the night before and the night after.  We drove less than 90 minutes, round trip.  We didn’t have to deal with time zone changes, monorail stops, or forgotten toiletries.  And we visited the park on a holiday, so the lines were minimal.  It was simple… and perfect.

Now for those of you mumbling “screw you” under your breath, I say “right back at you”.

My friend Kim Trespicio O’Brien, Bolton, Massachusetts mother of Mason (7) and Kenzie (5), says she asked her husband Joe how long they’d have to wait to bring her firstborn to Disney just moments after she brought him into the world.  And while they did end up waiting until both kids were out of diapers and over naps, they’ve taken the trip more than once since.  I will say that the kids enjoyed it more than us” she says, “but I wouldn't bet everything on that.  I'm appreciating it through new eyes as an adult and a parent.”

Well I saw the photos Kim posted on her Facebook page, and my money is on her.

My mother often jokes about the time we drove from Connecticut to Orlando.  I was three years old when we took off from our home in the middle of the night to pick up friends that were traveling with us.  As we pulled into their driveway, less than 30 minutes from ours, I awoke and asked “are we there yet?”

When I think about the sacrifice my parents made for that trip, just like Kim and Joe made for theirs, my perspective on so many things change.  Parenting isn’t just about the times you say “no”.  It is about the times you say “yes”, and the joy you feel as a result.

My girls don’t yet know that Disneyland is just a speck compared to Disneyworld.  They have no idea what that big golf ball is, or what the tasty lollypops are that everyone would bring back to their classroom from “overseas”.

Still, one thing is quite clear.  Someday, they will start asking for things bigger and better than what I can offer them…  a new car, help with college tuition, or the wedding of their dreams.  And while there is definitely value taught in having to say “no”, I look forward to the few times I can say “yes”... including, of course, the day I can say "Yes, we're going to Disneyworld".

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This High School Teacher Broke My Heart... And Enabled Me To Put It Back Together Again

My favorite class in college was an Adult Psychology course for which the main premise was that we cannot become healthy adults if we maintain unresolved issues from our childhood.  A colossal assignment for the semester was to identify the issue from our youth that remained most unsettling, and then confront it head on.  The idea was to write an explanatory letter to the person with whom the issue remains and then follow up with a face-to-face meeting aimed toward resolution.

My problem, if you could call it that, was that I didn’t have a living person in my life that I had any real issue with.  So unless going up to the Heavens to confront my deceased father on the one fat joke he ever made (to my face) was an option, I was in a pickle.  Requiring a more tangible option, my professor allowed me to turn toward my adolescence, in which there were plenty of untapped issues.  One inscription from my high school yearbook read:

“KLP, I am not going to say anything important in a yearbook.  You know how I feel about how you’ve managed through the years, especially this year.
See you when I see you.  I’ll be in my office. – SMacM”

In the CliffNotes version of this story, I’m KLP, the jovial yet sensitive high school graduate known for her (now maiden) initials, and for having learned in her freshman year that her father had terminal brain cancer.

SMacM was my advisor, which in my tiny private day school meant that he was like a homeroom teacher for me and about 8 other students for four years straight.  He was the “cool” one.  He wore aviator sunglasses, coached lacrosse and dated one of the other teachers.  But this all meant little to me after I got to know him, and it means very little to me now.

As my advisor, SMacM was responsible for making sure I didn’t fall through the cracks.  Yet to use any of this brief description as a way of defining my relationship with him only trivializes all that he meant to me- and all that he made me mean to myself.  Our relationship was atypical, as were all of my years with him.

I identify with my high school as much as anyone.  It’s the place where I shared my first real kiss, developed a passion for writing, and a hatred for algebra.  And it’s where the acronym I’d used all my life developed much more meaning than just it’s similarity to the theme song from that show about a radio station in Cincinnati.

SMacM, or Sandy, knew it all- even the stuff I tried to hide from him.  He knew when my free periods were, who I was dating, how many cigarettes I smoked a day and how fast I drove in the parking lot.  Once in a great while, you find someone who knows you better than you know yourself.  For me, he was that person.  And he knew it.

Sandy went above and beyond his call of duty.  I was required to meet with him way more often than the average student was.  In the beginning, I resented this.  Like all teenagers, I believed I could handle anything, and felt no need to pour my heart out to him merely because he had been assigned to me.  Until, that is, he proved that I was more than just an assignment.

My father’s life began to wind down just as my senior year did and though my graduation was a milestone, it does not bring back the happiest of memories.  Commencement meant a new group of advisees for Sandy, and that unfortunately, under the circumstances, my father had found the most perfect time to find his peace.  Already in a Hospice, my Dad was unable to attend my graduation, though he did see me in my cap and gown.  Sandy did what he could to lessen the blow, stepping in as a “father figure”, with a gripping hug as I held my diploma in hand.

Less than one month after that ceremony, my father had a ceremony of his own.  Next summer will mark 20 years since his passing, and I have little more clarity about it now than I did then.  The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and strangers was unprecedented.  But one face was missing.

I never heard from Sandy after my father died.  No visit, no phone call, no card and no fulfillment of the promise he had made to see me through the challenge whenever it came.  Despite the yearbook inscription that his office door would remain open, it closed on the day I received my diploma.  I was made to feel that because I was no longer a student, I was no longer part of his job description, his assignment.

So to fulfill my assignment, I wrote Sandy a letter, addressing the wound that clearly had not healed.  As you may have guessed, there was no reply.

Still, I consider myself a healthy adult.  Though unable to discuss the issue with him in person, as outlined in the assignment, I was able to face it on my own.

I can honestly say that I have forgiven Sandy, but more importantly, I have forgiven myself.  I have forgiven myself for the judgment I placed upon him in his absence and for the disappointment I let myself experience.

Many (many) years later, I can confidently disagree with my Adult Psychology professor.  Our health as adults is not based solely upon our ability to resolve, but our ability to forgive.  The challenge then becomes doing so before time runs out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two Terms I Never Expected To Use Together? DIY & Toilet Paper

It's impossible to regurgitate all that I learned (and saw be regurgitated) at preschool last year.  But one important lesson made such an impact on my family (and my wallet) that I felt it was worth sharing.

Everybody poops.  Therefore, (almost) everything you need to have an incredible yet inexpensive afternoon with your children is already right there in your home.

My daughter's school prioritizes teaching the importance of conserving our resources and protecting our environment, as every classroom should.  So, how better to teach a young child about recycling than through art... and toilet paper?

After months of saving toilet paper and paper towel rolls, I was desperate to come up with a creative idea to get them the hell out of my storage closet.  Here's what we came up with:

Don't laugh... I've said many times before that I have a crafty side, and it took a lot of guts to go "public" with this.  Plus, I know many of you are wondering how I did it.  So, here goes.

  1. The above wreath used 16 toilet paper rolls, 3 paper towel rolls, one 8.5 inch paper plate, green Crayola paint, one foam paint brush and a hot glue gun. (You are on your own for the decorations...)

  2. First, paint the rolls, using two coats.  You'll notice that the adhesive left on the rolls will cause the green to appear darker or lighter in spots.  Just roll with it.

  3. Once dry, hot glue four rolls onto the plate, positioning them like the cardinal directions on a compass.  Then, glue the next four equidistant between them, like the ordinal directions. (See, Mom!! I did pay attention in school!)

  4. Next, use one toilet paper roll and 2 pieces of a paper towel roll (cut slightly smaller than a TP roll) to create a "t" shape on the top layer of the wreath.  Fill in empty spaces by cutting the left over rolls into slices approximately one inch thick, and layer as needed.

  5. We glued buttons and rhinestones onto ours to decorate it, but anything colorful will do- like stickers, painted macaroni or broken pieces of crayons.  Use a hole punch to make a hole in the plate, add a ribbon and hang.  Then, thank me for being so crafty.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Breast Isn't Best

In honor of National Breast Feeding Month, here is a piece I wrote for LA Parent Magazine some time ago.  As it turns out, breast isn't always best...

I was a swimmer growing up.  When I wasn’t in a racing suit at the elementary school pool, I donned a cute one in my grandparent’s backyard, but covered it up with a thick, oversized cotton t-shirt.  Ironically, I was more self-conscious of my over-developed chest than the baby fat I held onto through high school graduation.  Foolishly, I thought the cover-up disguised my insecurity.  Luckily, with receipt of my diploma, came the realization that I might really benefit from a breast reduction.

Many years later, I stand by my decision, and remain thankful for my supportive and generous parents.  The only thing I regret is not having given more thought to the surgeon’s warning that as a result of the surgery I may lose my ability to breast feed.  I was 18.  Childrearing seemed decades away.  “They’ll be able to fix that by then”, I thought.  I was wrong, and quite possibly had made my first parenting mistake in the same year I became eligible to vote.

Once pregnant with my first daughter, the stress began to set in.  Would I be able to provide properly for her financial, emotional, and lactational needs?

Before I knew it, my husband was in the delivery room swaddling our tiny angel for the very first time.  Peaceful as she was then, her first desire to nurse was only moments away.  If it weren’t, a sorority of pro-breastfeeding nurses was reminding me to encourage her, like clockwork.

Although I’ll admit that breastfeeding felt quite unnatural to me, I did give it a solid effort, as did my daughter.  There was a learning curve, as there is with all firsts, but we were an incredible team.  Then out of nowhere, she cried, and cried, and cried.

I knew in that moment that the reserves she had been born with were used up, and she was experiencing hunger for the first time- a hunger I could not satisfy.  In my heart I knew that though a wonderful bonding exercise, she had not received nutrients from the breastfeeding. 

Upon expressing my concern to the nurses, I felt instantly like the maternity ward black sheep.  As adamant disagreement, suggestions of what to differently and never-ending visits from lactation specialists ensued, my frustration grew.  More importantly, my daughter grew more agitated.  Finally, I asked for a breast pump, with which I proved my point.  I was drier than the Sahara Desert.

Several ounces of formula later, baby was sleeping and I was under fire.  My hospital room had become a revolving door of doctors, nurses and staunch supporters of breastfeeding.  Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t mind the support.  What I was offended by, though, was the determination with which each delivered their advice.

Everyone had an opinion.  I needed to take hot showers.  I needed to massage.  I needed to change my diet.  I needed dietary supplements.  I needed to put her on the breast more and skip the pump.  I needed to pump more and skip the breast.  The list went on and on.

Apparently, what I really needed, was a good cry.  Once that happened, I realized that while I would consult my mother, my friends, my OB-GYN and my pediatrician throughout the years, the opinion that mattered most was my own.  This was the greatest realization I’ve had as a parent.

I decided (with my husband’s support) to bottle feed with formula, but continue pumping several times a day for 2 weeks, with the hope that my body would catch up.  Unfortunately, a decision I made well over a decade before my first child was born made the breast or bottle debate a non-issue.  Thankfully, I left the guilt attached to it in the maternity ward.  In it’s place, I brought home a commitment to make all of her baby food from scratch, a commitment to her health that I knew I could fulfill.

Five years later, my daughter towers over all of the girls her age.  She is healthy, intelligent, beautiful, and has never had an ear infection or allergy.  Most important, she is abundantly happy.  Her smile is contagious.

I am going to keep an eye out for either of my daughters covering up at the pool.  Should they ask for my opinion on my breast reduction, I will be honest.  It was one of the best things I ever did, right behind becoming their mother, and was instrumental in teaching me the greatest parenting lesson I’ve learned.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Just The Tip" Can Be More Dangerous Than You Think...

My first real job was at an ice cream parlor so when I spotted this at the local Ben & Jerry's, I was instantly reminded of how greatly things have changed since (waaaay) back then.

A second reminder came seconds later, when I pulled out my phone to snap a picture of it.  My husband, likely embarrassed by my behavior, excused my shock to the teen employees (who clearly had a strong threshold for embarrassment) by laughing it off with a quick "sorry... she's a blogger".

Well, that's what his words sounded like.  They felt much different.  They felt like an excuse for me to behave inappropriately, an excuse for me to lack manners, an excuse for me to make my negative opinion known.  And however unnecessary, that's exactly what they were.

Honestly, I believe the ice cream parlor employees are just as entitled to their freedom of expression as I am to mine (although I doubt the Ben & Jerry's Board of Director's would agree).  But with that freedom, especially in today's society, comes great responsibility.

And that's just the "tip" of the iceberg.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You've Got 109 Days To Collect On The Greatest Gift I Can Give You

Sometimes the most rewarding journeys are those that have no clear destination.

I set out on such an adventure last September when I asked each of you to help me make a difference in the world by donating a small holiday gift to a child who would receive nothing else on Christmas morning.

I had no idea where the journey would lead, but the outcome was extraordinary.  I received packages of crayons, coloring books, puzzles, stickers, toothbrushes, washcloths and even wild flower seeds.  As the collection deadline drew near, last minute monetary donations came in via PayPal, which I used to purchase socks, underwear and clothing.  Together we donated nearly 200 pounds of gifts to Operation Christmas Child via Samaritan’s Purse.

But for me, the greatest gift was having my own daughters, nearly 3 and 5 at the time, assist in the packing, wrapping and delivering of boxes.  A close second was receiving notification from the charity just before the holiday that our gifts were en route to children in both Panama & Mongolia.  I couldn't wait to share the news with each of you...

Here's a glimpse at what Christmas morning looks like in my house.

If you could do something so simple to create a smile so grand, wouldn't you?

Well, I can help.  The idea behind Operation Christmas Child is simple.  Pack a shoebox (or plastic tub of the same size) with items for a child in need.  You choose the sex, age range and what to give.  Then drop it off at one of numerous locations nationwide.  You can choose where you’d like it to be delivered, domestically or overseas, and track it’s arrival.

I am asking for the same deal as last year… I’ll buy the plastic (reusable) tubs, divide the gifts by age and sex, pack them, wrap them and deliver them.  There is a $7 shipping donation suggested per box, which I will cover, but I’d love for you to help me collect the items to fill 'em up.  No donation is too small or large, as long as each individual item fits into a standard size shoebox.  (I’ve listed some suggestions below.)

Every box we fill is one more smile created.  And while the holidays may seem far away, I urge you to get into the spirit a bit early.  

This year, instead of just celebrating the season of giving, celebrate being able to give…

Now, some housekeeping.

* Click here to check out Operation Christmas Child.

* There’s a list of suggested items on their site.  I have included personal items like soap, toothpaste & toothbrush, shampoo, combs, band aids, socks, underwear, flip flops, sunglasses and sun hats.  Or something a little more fun like flashcards, toy cars, crayons, stickers, a yo-yo, a jump rope, puzzles, coloring books, sidewalk chalk or a personal holiday card.  The possibilities are endless, and stores like Big Lots are a great resource.

* If you’d like to donate, please email me directly at for address information.  (I am also happy to provide proof of last year’s donation.)

* Collection Week begins November 18th, so please don’t delay!  Thank you (109 days) in advance... and Happy Holidays!