Monthly Archives: April 2008

My Feng Shui bitch fix.

I have only read one book about Feng Shui (Lillian Too’s 168 Feng Shui Ways to Declutter Your Home , and it was great, I recommend it highly) – so as as result, I will hardly call myself even a Feng Shui novice. I do find theories of Chinese medicine, Buddhism, Taoism and the rest of it extraordinarily interesting, even if half of it flies over my way too westernized, white bread head. But I have gleaned some very basic seeds of wisdom from reading that one book and cruising around various websites. I’d even go so far as to say that I’ve been officially enlightened. How, you ask? I have learned how to get myself out of a very bad mood. And THAT, my friends, is magic in a bottle. Want to know how I do it? I will share my insights.

To bring Caroline out of a deep and dark bitchtastic funk – usually brought on by PMS, money stress, parenting stress, random guilt stress, exhaustion or a combination of all five – I must bring together three important elements. And they are:

  1. LIGHT. First thing I do is run around my house and open every curtain I can. I throw open the sliding door and let that clean bright light and air pour in. If it’s night, I will light candles that have a bright open flame and put them dead center of the counter top, coffee table or where ever I can see it. (If the kids are still awake – groan – keep that candle up high and hope their bedtime procrastination rituals don’t cancel out the candle’s small bit of healing power.) I will also point out that a nice smelling candle certainly helps and I give props to any aromatherapy that might be curing what ails me also.
  2. MUSIC. I then put on the most relaxing, uplifting music I have. Sometimes Jazz does the trick, or India Arie, or even reggae can do wonders. Something positive. While I may feel tempted to put on my brooding chick playlist (Ani DiFranco, Alanis Morrisette, Sarah McLaughlin, Amy Winehouse), I avoid it. Positive, happy, upbeat music ONLY.
  3. WATER. I am so very lucky to have some fresh water ponds out back which truly bring me peace. (I’m not so lucky when gators take refuge there but lets not focus on that part, positive thoughts, right?) When my kids make me nuts, I walk onto my back porch (and throw them to the gators – I’m kidding!) – I just take it in. It’s quite something to just look at water. The reflections, the sounds around it, the smells, it all soothes me. The same thing happens at the beach or on a boat. If you don’t have this sort of access, take a bath. Or possibly invest in one of those small fountains that trickle water. And don’t rule out hydrating yourself too. They say we should drink 8 large glasses of water a day. It will keep us awake, energized and peeing like a mad woman on the half hour. However you find water in your day, it helps, I swear it does.

That’s it. Those three. Put them together and it’s a guaranteed fix for “mean Caroline”. And if all of those three still don’t work? I usually delve deeper into the water element. Did you know there is water in wine? Its true, a scientifically proven fact. So I pour myself a healthy sized glass of Pinot and call my best friend to bitch, with my light, music and water going on all around me. Now *THAT* always always does the trick.

These are my mystical insights for today. Be well, prosper and all that stuff.


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Filed under Deep thoughts, Religion, Self-analysis

Finding forgiveness on the grass.

A few weeks back, I saw a news story about Rwanda that struck a chord with me. This afternoon, I quickly did some research to learn a bit more and that chord is now humming a decent little symphony. Rwanda, the same country that experienced one of the most horrific mass genocides in modern day history, is practicing the art of forgiveness. And as we take stock of our souls and find peace of mind at the end of each day, we need to pay close attention to what this remarkable African country is trying to undertake.

In 1994, over 1 million men, women and children were killed in Rwanda. Today, there are over 800,000 suspects waiting trial for these deaths. Its mind boggling really. Firstly, how could any country handle such devastation and pain, and now face such an administrative nightmare as they struggle to bring these suspects to trial? Well, they have begun a pilot program where these suspects are brought to trial in Gacaca courts. From what I have researched, these courts are simply held in an open area of a small village (gacaca means “on the grass”). Community members gather, there is a judge and maybe a table and a chair or two. And the suspect faces the families affected and fellow peers as he is tried for his crime. If he has been found guilty and then apologizes, he is very often free to go. The slate is cleared, healing begins and the community can move forward. Granted, this is a pilot program and not everyone is able to forgive readily. But its a start. A very amazing start.

Reading about these courts makes me think long and hard about forgiveness and finding peace. Angry grudges are so insidious and damaging to our souls. The smallest peice of steely resentment will sit in our heart and rot it out. I have seen it happen and the seemingly irreparable damage that has resulted. Its exhausting, it ages people, it breaks hearts, families and communities. 

However, forgiveness is no easy task. It takes risk, trust and an open heart in spite of its wounds. It means rendering yourself equal to your counterpart and releasing whatever weight of right or wrong has gripped your being for however many days, months or years. Yikes. Very scary. I mean, c’mon, can you imagine finding it in your heart to forgive the man who killed 5 of your children? Impossible. I am sure, even in the Gacaca courts, the process has not been an entirely smooth one. But trying to forgive – rather than succumb to more hate or possibly more death – is my point. I am in total awe and consider this pilot program something for the world to look at very very closely.

On a different level, it also makes me consider, once again, life in Africa compared to life here in the U.S. What a beautiful thing to bring a community together on a grassy field to work out this process of trial, apology and forgiveness. Can you imagine that happening here? Ha! Yeah right! Our world is so bogged down in rules, regulations, laws, order and the rest. But of course, of course – our laws do protect us. Yes, I know our life expectancy is longer, our lifestyle is so much easier, and our rights here are endless, comparatively. Yes, we are extraordinarily lucky and I appreciate my country. But life in Africa is something to be experienced, let me tell you. Time is a shifty concept (Have you ever heard of “Africa time”? Basically, don’t rush, get there when you get there) and the world is a wild thing. Rules are relaxed to say the least. Goods are traded, music is loud, livestock is everywhere, children play without shoes, things get dirty, food is good and made at the side of the road, stories are rich and laughter is plentiful. And the freedom of forgiveness can be found in a grassy field.

A few minutes ago, my husband wandered in here and I reminded him about this story. I asked him if he could forgive his neighbor for the deaths of our children during a community meeting. Nope. No way. But he wondered what choice he would have. He also didn’t seem convinced this was such an easy thing, perhaps over-simplified, and would it really bring peace and resolution?

But allow me to bring up another example. When reading about Rwanda, I can’t help but think about my father right now. He is in Vietnam, Hanoi specifically (northern Vietnam). Again, this country, like ours, suffered immeasurable loss during the Vietnam war. And he wasn’t sure what to expect from the people he would be meeting with and working along side. He had experienced Vietnam 35 years prior and wouldn’t blame any resentment that might come his way at all. On the contrary, he was met with an interesting sense of “brotherhood”, and a feeling of “we went through this together”. Those that he has met ask him questions about his experiences, they seem to compare notes about it all and nod together with understanding. The Vietnam people he has met seem truly past the anger that would be expected even all these years later. Forgiveness – it happens.

So, this post has gone on long enough. We need a bottom line here. I may come across a little idealistic and you may conjure up an image of me as an aging peace loving 60s guru-type,  but who cares. Here it goes. Let go of anger, seek out peace in your heart and dig deep inside you to forgive. When you can, if you can, where you can. A grassy field seems to work well…

The transcript of a radio broadcast worth reading on the Gacaca Court topic:

 PRI’s, The World: Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts


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Filed under Africa, Inspiring people

Avoiding road mines and other discussions about parental fear.

Helicopter Moms vs. Free-Range Kids:
A New York columnist lets her grade-schooler ride the subway alone, provoking a wave of criticism. But do kids really need more supervision than in generations past?

This morning I am revisiting a recurring theme around these parts – fear and parenting. I read this article, listened to a clip of the author speaking on NPR and visited her new blog Free Range Kids. I was fascinated. What she did sounds exactly like something my mother would have done. And sort’ve DID do. And I turned out fine, right? (right?) But here’s my question. Would I let my kids have the same freedom?

While I wasn’t turned loose in NYC until well past the age of the author’s son (9) I had my own share of more than comparable experiences. During our years abroad, my parents allowed us to do some CRAZY stuff. And while they didn’t like me dating a senior, or “hanging out” at a 7-11 with some friends, or getting home after 11pm – they actually let my brother and I do the following:

  • At 3 years old, I was allowed to run through the Tunisian Souks and stop in to chat with shopkeeper after shopkeeper and then find my way back to where ever it was I had left my mother.
  • At ages 9 and 10, my brother and I wandered and played aimlessly in the streets in Mogadishu, Somalia, often stopping into various huts to share some tea with locals.
  • By age 12 and 13, we were free to travel internationally which included multiple lay overs, passport and custom negotiations, currency exchange, taxi bartering and hotel seeking.
  • Around 14 and 15, armed with a map, a little broken high school French and some cash, we had complete freedom to discover such cities as Rio De Janeiro, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Paris, Rome, Lisbon and even New York City just to name a few.
  • Once we were driving at about 17 and 18, my dad would give us a “road mine” map of Mozambique and allow us to drive to Swaziland (past previously blow up vehicles who either didn’t quite miss a mine or may have been carjacked) to meet up with some friends.
  • My brother’s summer job was animal tracking at an African game park (yes, he toted a rifle for self defense) – I am proud to say that I didn’t think that was very safe and stayed home to sneak off to parties instead.

These are only a few examples of the craziness my parents encouraged. And I am betting when they read this, they will chuckle proudly and exclaim what bright, well-rounded, experienced world travelers we were. I am telling you, they are patting themselves on the back and rehashing these tales to co-workers and friends (who nod politely, I am sure unable to discern if they are horrified or impressed). Bottom-line, my parents think they did a bang up job with us.

And DID my brother and I learn to be well-rounded world travelers? For sure. Did we learn important self-reliance skills ? Heck yes. Did we have fun? Oh, you bet. Now as a parent in retrospect, do I think my parents were completely and utterly insane. ABSOLUTELY.

And that’s my dilemma.

Is this world more dangerous than the one I grew up in? Would I let my sons do what I was allowed to do? I just don’t know.

After all those years seeing a grand scope of our world and trying to find my place in it, I think I have figured out where danger lies in the context of most things. I think. But then I had children. And I am telling you, my common sense and “worldliness” has flown out the window. If my child is within 3 yards of our road, my heart begins to flutter with panic. If my younger son stands at the top of the highest slide on the playground, I want to faint for fear he could fall. If a bee flies by, I immediately tense thinking my sons could have the same deadly anaphylactic reaction to bees that my father has. I live in parental fear and it needs to stop!

So, after years of flying by the seat of my pants, where has this come from? What feeds this fear?

First of all, it’s love. I love my children so much, too much really. But love should not be paralyzing. As a parent, I think of the worst. It’s like a reflex. There is a coin on the floor and immediately I can imagine my youngest son choking for air. No doubt about it, these schizoid visions are hardly constructive and the kibosh needs to be put on them. Now. 

I also only have two children. My mother in law might argue that this is the problem. When a parent has more children, they don’t have the time or energy to worry as much. Parents naturally find the right balance that way – keeping them safe while giving them their freedom. Its a good point but, then again, my parents only had two kids and they seemed to let us figure it out. Yet, my parents were utterly insane so the point still stands as valid.

But, really, I blame the media and the general external pressure to be more careful with our children. Everything around us is so regulated and wrought with the possibility of danger. Parental panic has reached a fever pitch. Did you hear about the recent carcinogenic dangers of plastic bottles? Did you see the latest Amber Alert? Did you get the release about the newest sexual predator that has moved within a 5 mile radius of my house? Did you hear about the alligator that wandered into someone’s kitchen not so far from here?

It’s constant and I need to figure out how to filter all of this information – and quickly. Because if I don’t, my sons will really miss out. And while they may not be playing in the streets of Mogadishu anytime soon (honestly mom and dad, you are as mad as hatters, both of you), I really want them to understand context, to find their place in the world, to apply gritty common sense with everything they do and to respect themselves and the environments they find themselves in.

So buck up, Caroline. Remember your African roots, dig deep for your passport, find common sense, and unfold that “road mine” map again. The mines are out there but it doesn’t mean we’re going to hit them. We’ll just have a lot of fun avoiding them.



Filed under parental fear, Parenting, Self-analysis

Dream, girl Part Two: What did she just say?


By now, you know I love my Girl Groups. You know I am absolutely fascinated with those bee-hived, shoop-shooping wonders of the 60s and would do anything to fly back in time to see them live on stage. But, for the record, 60s Girl Group lyrics are completely and utterly insane – and there are a few that truly concern me.  Some songs make no sense at all like “Shoop Shoop De Doop Rama Lama Ding Dong Yeah Yeah Yeah”  by the Clinger Sisters or how about “When My Pimples Turned to Dimples” by Jeanne Hayes. Um… Huh? During my obsessive Girl Group period around 12, half of the time I hardly knew what most of these groups were going on about – and just appriciated the music at face value. But it’s really a good thing that I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics. The other day while reminiscing about those old tunes, I found myself actually listening to what the lyrics said. My dreamgirl antics were stopped dead in their tracks. Hold on a second… are you KIDDING ME with this stuff?


Let’s start with Lesley Gore. What is going on with this woman?


That’s The Way Boys Are by Lesley Gore


When I’m with my guy and he watches all the pretty girls go by…
Well I feel so hurt deep inside, I wish that I could die!
Not a word do I say…
I just look the other way!
‘Cause that’s the way boys are!
That’s the way boys are!
When he treats me rough and he acts as though he doesn’t really care…
Well, I never tell him that he is so unfair!
Plus, he loves me and I know it…
But he’s just afraid to show it!
‘Cause that’s the way boys are!
That’s the way boys are!
Oh, when he wants to be alone…
I just let him be!
‘Cause I know that soon enough…
He will come back to me!
When we have a fight,
I think that I won’t see him anymore!
Then before I know it – there he is…
Standin’ at my door!
Well I let him kiss me then…
‘Cause I know he wants me back again!
That’s the way boys are!
Yes, that’s the way boys are!
Oh, I love him!
Well now, that’s the way boys are!
I said that’s the way boys are!



Maybe I Know by Lesley Gore


Maybe I know that he’s been a cheatin’
Maybe I know that he’s been untrue
But what can I do


I hear them whispering when I walk by
He’s gonna break her heart and make her cry
I know it’s me they’re talking about
I bet they all think I’ll never find out


Ohhh but Maybe I know that he’s been a cheatin’
Maybe I know that he’s been untrue but what can I do


My friends are telling me that he’s no good
He isn’t treating me the way he should
He really loves me that’s all I can say
Before my tears fall I just walk away


Ohh but Maybe I know that he’s been a cheatin’
Maybe I know that he’s been untrue
But what can I do


Deep down inside he loves me
Though he may run around
Deep down inside he loves me
Some day he’ll settle down
These songs honestly give me the heebie jeebies. You have to understand, I used to sing these songs over and over and over on my way to school, kicking stones in my Blessed Sacrament school uniform, dreaming about the pimpled, peach fuzzed boys in my class, even if they were a good head shorter than me. Good Lord, I was brain washing myself! These lyrics were putting insane expectations of relationships in my head! My poor sweet little innocent 12 year old ears! Where were my parents??? Oh yeah, they listened to this stuff growing up too. No WONDER Gloria Steinem jumped on her soapbox and declared enough was enough. No wonder women started burning those pointy horrid scary bras they wore back then. These songs were an atrocity!






Here’s another fav of mine. My awesome feminist college A Capella group actually sang this one because, honestly, what a joke…


Johnny Get Angry  by Shelley Faberes


Johnny, I said we were through
Just to see what you would do
You stood there and hung your head
Made me wish that I were dead
Oh, Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man
Johnny, show me that you care, really care for me
Every time you danced with me
You let Freddy cut in constantly
When he’d ask, you’d never speak
Must you always be so meek?


Every girl wants someone who
She can always look up to
You know I love you, of course
Let me know that you’re the boss
Johnny, get angry, Johnny
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny




One repeating theme through lots of these songs seems to go something like “He treats me like crap but I know he loves me anyway” It’s insane. Another example by the Angels.


I Adore Him by The Angels


When we’re with other people

He treats me mean

But when we’re off together

Oh, you know I’m his queen


Tho sometimes I cry at night

He makes things turn out alright

Yes, sir


When we walk hand in hand

Through the roughest part of town

I never feel afraid

Knowing he’s around


He may be cheating on me

But I don’t care

Cause when I need his loving

He’s always there


I can’t help but wonder why

I’ve been blessed with such a guy


But the group that honestly takes the cake is The Crystals.


He Hit me (and it felt like a kiss) by The Crystals


He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit me but it didn’t hurt me
He couldn’t stand to hear me say,
That I had been with someone new
And when I told him I had been untrue
He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit me and I knew he loved me
If he didn’t care for me
I could have never made him mad
But he hit me and I was glad


Yes he hit me and it felt like a kiss
And then he took me in his arms
With all the tenderness there is
And when he kissed me
He made me his.




Please Hurt Me by The Crystals


If you gotta hurt somebody, please hurt me
and if you gotta break a heart, then please break mine
I won’t cry if you deceive me
I’ll take it with a smile
I know someday you will leave me
but at least I’ll have you for a while
So darlin’, if you gotta hurt somebody, please hurt me
and if I have to be a plaything, that’s what I’ll be
Please hurt me, oh please hurt me
Come on and please hurt me

Why don’t you please hurt me


Seriously. What the hell. Reading their lyrics leaves me at a total loss. I am trying to wrap my head around the idea that these lyrics were not considered controversial at all but, in fact, were completely acceptable. They wouldn’t play Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las because it was a “Death” song, but *THIS* stuff was just fine?


And more importantly, does anyone know if The Crystals turned out ok? For real, I’m worried. Who were their fathers – and are they in jail? Did these women seek out heaps of therapy and eventually find loving partners and joy in their lives? Have they recovered from whatever abuse they must have endured?


But wait, did these women actually write their own music? Hell no! (Of course not.) After a quick stop over at our favorite search engine, Google, it has become apparent that The Crystals, amongst other 60s girl groups, were actually produced by the one and only (eeeks!) Phil Spector. AH. Everything has become a whole lot clearer. But no less worrisome.


Nevertheless, I continue to adore 60s Girl Groups. When they’re not asking their men to hit them, this  music is just fun. And at least we can be rest assured that our girl Lesley Gore did come around and find the strength within to tell those boys to step off. For whatever comfort it is worth, I will leave you with one of her hits, “You Don’t Own Me”.








Filed under Feminist tendancies, Music

Living a Dream, girl.

Shoo-wop, doo wop. That was me today. I just happened to be playing The Commitments soundtrack when I suddenly found myself on stage in front of my sons. The living room faded back and there I was, on American Bandstand, in some short sparkly dress with lots of fringe and a bee-hive up to here. But I wasn’t alone; there was another bee-hived chick in perfect sync with me while some outrageously talented more beautiful performer, with an even more sparkly dress, was up front at the mike. Me and the other chick were shoo-bee-do-wopping, doing the pony, the jerk and had perfect harmony. We were snapping and clapping our hearts out and just so cooooool. Both of my sons became a mosh pit in front of me, thrashing about probably exactly the way their mommy was thrashing about in real life. But in my mind, I was a back-up singer, I knew every move and Dick Clark knew our latest hit was going right to the top. Shoop shoop, doo wop, wop-wop.



Yeah, so I’m coming clean. I have always fantasized about being a back-up singer. NOT the lead singer, hell no. I have no hope what-so-ever at that. But maybe I could do the dance, shoo-wop thing and that would just absolutely rock. And I’m NOT talking about being a back-up for any current day Fergalicious types (My Humps just don’t have it in them). I’m talking about The Supremes and The Ronnettes. Or my personal favs, those bad ass babes: The Shangri-Las. They sang such masterpieces at “Leader of the Pack” and “Give him a Great Big Kiss” . The Shangri-Las were so cool, they talked about going for the bad guy, and smoking and ignoring their parents. And, of course, I will absolutely dare to dream that I could become… drum roll, please… a Tina Tuner back up singer/dancer… (cue angel voices and bright light shining down on Tina warming up to “Proud Mary”) Now THAT is the ultimate, most out of hand, coolest back-up gig there is, right? And I am THERE…. “Rollin’… rollin’…. Rollin’ on the river…”



It all started way way waaaay back in middle school. A very close friend and I fell madly in love with 60s girl groups. We obsessed over our taped mixes, wrote the names of our favorites 60s songs on our paper-covered text books, danced and sang in the school halls (ruining any possibility of boy interest within a 10 mile radius) and I think I even sewed my mom’s old letter from her high school years onto an old white cardigan. And then we took it a step further. She and I tactfully coerced a crew of innocent 7th grade classmates to perform in the school’s talent show. We put together a dance to “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels. Yup, we got up there and we shoo-wopped. A lot. I think one of us fell. CRIIIIINGE. But we thought we were the BOMB.




However, in my sophomore year of college, my dream kinda came true. After a shaky audition, one very nice classmate actually chose me to be a part of an incredibly cool A Capella group (they needed bodies after a high turn over of seniors left the year before, I swear to you). God love her because I couldn’t read a stitch of music and could baaaarely harmonize at all. Solos up front? Ha! Not a chance, my voice shook so bad it would just disappear. But for a few years, I sort’ve, kind of, got to live out my dream. I swayed and snapped and put my heart into my important little percussion parts. I was at every practice, I could care LESS about any diva moments up front – I had HEART, dammit – and I adored every hopefully harmonized second of it. Ah, those were the days; I got my day in the sun.




Well, anyway, I’ve got my boys now. They will be subject to such shoo-wopping torment for many many years to come. They can be my personal Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan. And my husband will probably walk in on this fiasco, throw his hands up – unable to stop the force of the doo-wop – and just enjoy the show. But I do fear that as my sons grow up, and this routine begins to wear on my husband, I may ruin any possibility of a boy coming within a 10 mile radius of me… yet again.


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Filed under Music

Save the torch, shoot the people.

Nepal might use deadly force on torch protests:
Soldiers, cops authorized to shoot to stop demonstrations on Everest run

IOC chief: Olympics in ‘crisis’ over torch chaos:
Rogge tells China to respect vow to improve human rights, open up media

Mood turns ugly in Beijing

The Dalai Lama said Sunday that Tibet cannot make any more concessions to China and renewed his calls for the government to cease suppression in his former homeland and withdraw troops.

Taken from the 2007 Olympic Charter:

Fundamental Principles of Olympism

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.


2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.


3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organized, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.


4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organization, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organizations.


5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.


6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

If you can find anything at all congruent between these news stories and the Olympic charter, please let me know. If you can find ANY rational explanation why lives may be lost in order to allow a symbolic, cheesed out, silly with pomp and circumstance torch to reach Everest’s summit (declaring what, exactly?), you have to let me know. If you’ve seen proof that the IOC and China were ever on the same page about the expectations of a country that hosts such an event, clue me in.

Because, what the hell is going on here???

And finally from another mom blogger:



There is a popular argument that the games should transcend politics, but at their very foundation the games are rooted in democracy where any man could participate and leave celebrated as a true hero. Today, the official site declares in the mission statement, “The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles”. By it’s very actions China blatantly disregards this imperative. The protesters who seek to disrupt the torch are not violating a symbol of peace, but shouting in proxy for the voices who can not be heard.











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Filed under Politics

MTVs Sweet 16…..I mean, 5 year old birthday party!

$10,000 for child’s birthday party?

I really appreciated reading this article today. The timing could not have been more perfect. Next month, we are celebrating my older son’s 5th birthday. (5!??? When did that happen?) And, instead of the usual 20 kids plus parents and siblings (which don’t fit in my house anyway, so that means hiring, renting, depositing on something impressive to host such a crew of people… and then get gift bags and food and… ok, I am exhausted already and have totally digressed into my own flipped out panic about the scenario…) I have decided to have a small group of kids this year. Isn’t the rule of thumb: have as many kids as your child’s age? And as it turns out, my son picked 5 kids all by himself; I am thrilled.

But the stress is still there. I feel badly we won’t be inviting all the kids that invited him to their parties. And what if those 5 kids can’t come? And will he feel like this is ENOUGH of a birthday party when his friend’s got to have theirs at My Gym or Gymboree or Pump it Up or somewhere cool like that? And then (I can’t believe I am admitting this), what will the other moms think?

You can see how easy it is to get spun out about this. And I am trying very hard not to… as I sit here and wring my hands frettfully…

But what makes this decision easy is that my son does NOT like any excessive attention put on him. He doesn’t want the fuss that is made at those cool birthday party places. When we go to one, and they ask him his name in the big group circle with all the moms and dads watching to see if he is a “nice” boy and if he will be cute when he responds… he runs and hides in the ball pit. He’s just not into that whole deal. I get it.

So not this year. Not for us. We’re going OLD SCHOOL. 5 kids and pointy hats.

So what kind of party should we have?  He loves Star Wars so we’ll go with that theme. Did you know my son has NEVER played pin the tail on the donkey?? Shoot, I’m not even all that sure I would know where to find Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Maybe I can find a big Darth Vadar poster and we can pin the light saber on the Darth… (oh wait, I’m having flashbacks to my bacherlorette party when we pinned the “macho” on the man… snap out of it! This is about your SON’S BIRTHDAY! Get a grip, girl…). I am also thinking about taking all 5 kids to a movie once we’re done with cake and games. And that reminds me, you better believe I am making the cake. I only hope a simple round “death star” cake passes muster… although he did mention a Boba Fett cake. Uh-oh. I am fretting again.

Anyhow, the point is I agree with this article whole heartedly. We moms desperately need to take the pressure off our own shoulders and stop feeling so bound by this new over blown form of birthday party etiquette. And here’s an idea, lets ask these kids of ours what THEY want. They could really surprise us. So all the moms with birthday parties to plan in the near future, repeat after me…

“I (insert cool mom name) do solemnly swear that I will make sure whatever party we choose with our child is really fun, really reasonable and really not about what everyone else is doing.”

Ok, now I feel 100% fine with my small but oh-so “old school” party for my son. Its kind of freeing really.

By the way, does anyone have a Boba Fett cake pan???

p.s. I guess I am not the only one flipped out about this issue. This website has been designed entirely to curb out of control parties. While its a good educational site for moms like me, I wish there were more suggestions about how to keep parties reasonable and imaginative. Their ideas are kind of lame!


Filed under Parenting

“My Beautiful Mommy”: the kids book about Mommy’s boob job.

“My Beautiful Mommy”; Newsweek discusses this new children’s picture book addressing a mother’s plastic surgery experience.

After reading this article about a new children’s book called “My Beautiful Mommy”, I was itching to find my trusty soapbox and climb on up. First of all, I had a visceral reaction to the illustrations. The post-op picture of a “Barbie like” mommy standing there, twinkly stars all around her while her daughter looks on in awe, well… gag gag gag. I was grossed out. In the name of all that we know about The Beauty Myth, what the hell are we trying to teach our children about our bodies for cripes sakes?


But then I stopped, took a deep breath and reminded myself how I am actually totally cool with plastic surgery. I get it. Women have every right in the world to opt for it. If the size of your breasts (too big or too small) have made you unbearably self conscious, if your post partum belly has made you scream in horror at the mere sight of your bathing suit, if there is a part of your body that has practically driven you to avoid every mirror you encounter and surgery is an option for you, then go for it. It’s your body, you have every right in the world. Find yourself, figure out how to love yourself and be well.


However, it’s not the plastic surgery I have an issue with here. It’s the focus on beauty and its relevance to a child. I don’t think this book should be about making mommy “beautiful” per se. Rather, this should be about making mommy feel happy again with herself. Children honestly don’t care about beautiful mommies, but they DO care about happy mommies. Children love their mommy because they’re mommy, not because their breasts are now perky “c” cups. In fact, chances are, your child may not want you to change at all and the idea of surgery changing you physically in any way is an extremely frightening concept. Plastic surgery is about making the mom feel good about herself – and then her child will respond to that happiness, not her actual “beauty”.


So, can we call the editor? I obviously have some changes to make to “My Beautiful Mommy”. I am sure they won’t mind, right? Here’s what I would do. First of all, this book needs to clearly reflect the child’s point of view. And as we look through a child’s eyes at the prospect of her mother going through plastic surgery, I would argue a child will immediately react to two issues:

·        How their mother feels: first, their mother is sad about her body, then she is in pain from surgery, and finally she is happier about herself.

·        How their mother will look but not actually change: their mommy will have bandages, and then will look a little different, but that child needs assurance that she will be the same loving mommy she has always been.


So how would I address these issues? Let me give you an outline:

1)     First and foremost, the book should state that we are born with wonderful, unique and dynamic bodies.

2)     However, sometimes mommies can feel sad about their bodies. Each mother reading this book may explain how they feel in more detail if they think it’s appropriate.

3)     Surgery should be explained as the final option and not an easy choice to make for any woman.

4)     It is very important to discuss that their mommy will be in pain but she will get better. The bandages and pain will frighten children a great deal and they need to be assured mommy will be heal and she will be back to their usual routines soon.

5)     Finally, once mommy has recovered, she will be happier and her child can be happy for her too. Does she look a little different? Ask them how she looks different. Explain that mommy has changed a little bit but she is still the same mommy.



When the mother and child close that book, it should be understood that while the mother may feel more beautiful, her child won’t see that. Her child will see she is happy and that’s what counts. The child should also feel comfort knowing that not only is mommy happier, but she is still the same mommy and loves her in exactly the same way as she did before.


Oh and how could I forget? Please. Those illustrations. (Excuse me as I am overcome with another bought of nausea.) I highly doubt any woman recovering from a tummy tuck will have the “wasp” thin waist this cartoon does. No Honey, Mommy won’t look like Cinderella when surgery is over. And no stars will twinkle or butterflies will flutter about her when those bandages come off. Plastic surgery is not Disneyworld and it disgusts me that these pictures even slightly allude to that. And did you see the muscle-bound “superhero” plastic surgeon? Oh don’t even get me STARTED on what that implies to me. I promise, I won’t digress any further. But ew.


Now that I have that off my chest, I do need to address one final point. There is no doubt that plastic surgery is becoming more accepted, common and affordable. I will support the “idea” of this book in that we need to be ready to address the choice and realities of plastic surgery with our children. But I will make one final plea to all parents: let’s do everything we can to give our children the ability to carefully mine out and treasure their own inner beauty. Let’s do everything we can to allow them to grow into happy confident adults who, with some luck and love, may never have to consider plastic surgery. It’s a lot to ask (we all know that, as I write this, soccer moms are promising breast augmentations to their daughters this June for high school graduations all over America)… but we can certainly try. And I don’t know about you but I am going to be dusting off “The Ugly Duckling” and reading that golden oldie to my sons tonight. They might not quite get its moral quite yet, but it will make this mommy happy – and THAT they get.


A postscript: Obviously, we are assuming in my edited version of “My Beautiful Mommy” that this mom will have done some work on the inside to resolve any body images issues as best as she can and is emotionally sound and ready for the physical change. We are assuming that no mother would think plastic surgery is a quick fix to any body image issues. That being said, then we can assume a post-op mommy would be a happy mommy and a happy mommy is a good mommy.


Filed under Feminist tendancies, Parenting

Philosophical ramblings about my child’s Never Never Land

 “Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!”

– James Matthew Barrie









Peter Pan exists. Or at least the concept of Peter and Never Never Land certainly does. My children – and I am thinking MOST children – live in such an extraordinary reality. In their world, magic is real, imagination overrules reason and anything is a possibility.


Let’s think about it.  Children are born with no idea why a light turns on, or why rain falls from the sky. “Tabula rasa” (blank tablet), right? As parents, what we say is truth. We tell them why and they except the explanation without question (or at least until they turn 4 and then all bets are off and consider everything questioned). What an enormous responsibility we bear. I mean, I could tell them a light turns on because there are fairies behind the switch making it work and that would be absolutely acceptable. But each day I venture out with my children, the truth unveils itself a little more to them. The earth is round, 25c is a quarter, that road takes us to Daddy’s office, birds eat bugs not pizza like us… you know the drill. Everyday something new is stored in their processors and filed away, pieces start to fall in place and the mysteries that surround them slowly make a bit more sense.


Still, as children, the world is filled with an endless number of unknowns. We ensure a comfortable predictability about their lives by providing routine. If they are thirsty, my bag always has a cold cup of milk at the ready. When they are tired, a bed (loaded their favorite stuffed animals, blankets, flashlights, books, and water cups) is ready for them. And what magic we possess – if my child falls, my kiss on their boo-boo actually makes the hurt go away. They trust that with Mommy or Daddy at the helm, everything will just magically fall into place and they will be taken care of. Without that routine, there is the unknown. Because at this young age, they aren’t exactly SURE there aren’t fairies working that light switch or even real ogres in the woods in our backyard. They can only take our word for it. Honestly, is an ogre stepping out of those woods out back any less expected than a rabbit? Not until we see that rabbit on a daily basis. We tell them the truth but routine tells them the truth also. They come to expect the rabbit over an ogre because mommy says they aren’t real… and, unlike the bunny, they have yet to really see one.


And yet we mess with these poor kids, don’t we? Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? We think its fun to share the magic of holidays that we once experienced, right? And my 4 year old absolutely LOVES Christmas and Easter. Every year, he is giddy with the possibility of presents and candy magically left out for him. He believes in this stuff whole-heartedly because I told him to. But I also have to assure him that Santa never comes into his room and he only comes when he is sound asleep. My 4 year old isn’t scared anymore. And why? Over these past couple years, and after experiencing the routine of the holiday, Santa hasn’t bothered him. So he’s cool. The Easter Bunny is too. In their lives magic happens, enough said.


But if the Easter Bunny is real and Santa is real and new concepts such as tornados, alligators in the water, and car accidents are also real… how to do I convince my son tonight that there are not scary monsters in the closet? There never have been monsters before so their shaky logic tells them they should be ok. But if something new and seemingly impossible is introduced to their world everyday, who’s to say that monster doesn’t just appear out of their closet tonight?


Now let me venture further into this philosophical haze a bit. Really, what we are discussing here is the value of empirical evidence. As adults, we say that what we experience with our senses is the truth. And confidently repeating that experience routinely will satisfy our child and they will accept it as truth also. Mommy puts gas in the car and she says that’s what makes it go. If I eat my spaghetti and meatballs, I won’t be hungry. Put this jacket on and I won’t get cold. While children accept empirical evidence as proof of their world, that kind of proof is not always enough. There is always a possibility of something more because everyday something more is shown to them. My children don’t judge their world based on only what they sense empirically and THAT is why there are, in fact, monsters in my son’s closet. Who’s to say there aren’t? Just because we have never seen one, doesn’t mean it’s not real. My son has thought it and that’s enough. His fear is real, his faith that it is there is real, so it’s as good as there. A lesson can be learned here. Are we so afraid of the unknown, are we so locked into our social norms, that we limit ourselves to believing strictly what we can physically sense? I think so.


Here’s the bottom line: for a 4 year old child, magic exists. Reality (an empirical one) and Never Never land are only slightly discernable. And that very fine line is based purely on what “grown ups” say. That doesn’t give our real world all that much credit but they seem to buy into it – for the most part. And this world of theirs is amazing – magic exists and it will only exist for a few more years. Let’s celebrate the possibility in their minds that we no longer possess. There is NO WAY Peter Pan would exist to us anymore, right? While our children would take him at face value, we would smugly find those cables and CGI effects so fast the magic would be gone in mere seconds. So let’s just calm down and open ourselves up to it – we are parents, we can do it, our kids think that we can do anything. And I’ll be honest, I have double checked those closets in my sons’ room for his peace of mind as much as mine. Sure, have a good laugh at me and tell me to get on the next boat out of Never Never land ASAP. Well, maybe I don’t want to, maybe my kids have it right and anything at all is really possible. And if I were you? You might want to check your own closets tonight, you really never know.


“I concluded that I might take as a general rule the principle that all things which we very clearly and obviously conceive are true: only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive.”





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My Morningside Menagerie

I like to think that my years in Swaziland prepared me to truly love and embrace all varieties of wildlife. Its a good thing too because Africa and my little part of Florida are in serious competition when it comes to frequent animal encounters. Friends joke I should charge admission to my porch to see the many wonders that crawl, scurry, graze, amble and jump through my backyard. While some other Florida folks might not consider this a bonus to my property, I do. I consider it a wonderful blessing honestly. I love wildlife and here it is, literally at my backdoor.

However (as I have previously posted), while I love these animals, I struggle with how two naturally curious and blissfully ignorant under five year old boys and these beasts can safely co-exist. I always worry a bit. While my boys play soccer out back, I stand guard at the trees and water with one eye out. But again, just like they did in Africa, these animals would rather avoid us loud, smelly, annoying humans; I know they aren’t all lined up in the woods ready to pounce on us at any moment. So I watch out but usually just enjoy our personal, live and up close, “discovery channel”.

No matter what we see, my goal is to teach my children a true love, understanding and respect for all beasties that travel through our neighborhood. Granted, my son will hardly even look up from his coloring book if I mention there an animal in the yard. So what. There is always something out and about. Both of my boys find having a turn with the binoculars much more thrilling than actually looking at the softshell turtle the size of my car tire crawling by. But I still get that thrill. And I thought I would share some pictures of what I have seen with you. This is only a sampling. And I may come back and add more.

Just a deer but one of many… 

Deer... one of many.

An aligator sunning himself on the far bank. Its safe to assume there is an aligator in most ponds or lakes in Florida. I have only seen an aligator walk through my yard once, but once is certainly enough.

Sandhill Cranes – very common in Florida but they are fearless and seem to have real interest in getting into my garage.

Sandhill Cranes

A Water Moccossin snake, also known as a Cottonmouth. Out of 100 species, this is one of the 4 poisonous (however less common) snakes in Florida. They are potentially deadly. This was taken in my front yard as I was coming back from an afternoon walk. I quickly wheeled my children into the garage and locked them in the house while I took this picture.

Water Moccossin also known as a \

One evening I went out my front door to find a spiderweb suspended from a tree and spread across my front yard. And there in the middle, seemingly floating, was this huge spider. I never found out what type it was. There was no trace of it the next morning except for one last bit of web still intact on a branch of the tree.

Unknown Spider from front yard

Probably one of the most amazing sightings I’ve seen. This mother and young bobcat were first playing in my backyard in the sun. Very relaxed with each other but wary. They did see a person in the distance out front and disappeared into the bushes for about 20 minutes. Once the coast was clear, they came back out, walked past my house and across the street and disappeared over a fence. Amazing.

Mother and young bobcat

The first bobcat seen in my backyard. I honestly thought it was just a large stray cat but no. It saw me, marked its terrotory, and stalked off.



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Filed under Africa, Florida