Thursday, April 30, 2009

50 Days of Affirmations

We know our truth, but sometimes we need someone else to exclaim, "Girl, you're amazing!"  A couple of years ago, I was inspired by the dynamic life coach and best-selling author, Debbie Ford, who challenged me to join in the Summer Self-Esteem Game.  

Here's how it worked: First, I needed to choose a buddy, someone with whom I felt comfortable sharing my insecurities and fears.  Next, I invited her to join me in a 50-day challenge, where we would text, email, or phone messages that empowered each other to, as Debbie says, "blast through our limitations."  Thus, it was important to choose a buddy with whom I could honestly share those negative thoughts and beliefs that were keeping me from radiating my light.  

My youngest sister said YES to this challenge, and for 50 consecutive days we "blasted" each other with love.  Girl, you can't beat that!  Here are some affirmations that we exchanged: 

*God doesn't make junk.  I am good enough, just as I am. 

*I deserve to live with vast amounts of self-love and joy, beginning today. 

*I am a genius, and the challenge is to uncover the genius within my soul.  

*My ideas and opinions matter, and they reflect the kind and gentle person that I am. 

*I am a Goddess of Possibility.  I inspire others and help them to see that anything is possible.

This was a powerful process for me.  It confirmed my belief that when we open ourselves up to vulnerability, we open ourselves up to deeper relationships and enduring self-love.  This summer, I challenge you to take the plunge and invite someone to be a part of your world.  Play the game.  You can't lose.  I promise.

But please . . .come back and tell us about it!    

P.S. Click HERE for Debbie Ford's free affirmations.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dear Nina

A couple of months ago, my brother-in-law's mother, Nina, passed away.  I got the horrifying phone call late one evening.  They said she was dead.  They said it was a massive heart attack. They said she didn't suffer.  I was shocked, numb to the bone.  She was way too young.  And although I didn't have the privilege of knowing her for long, I miss her.  We had a simple, special bond; we are moms.  

Nina touched so many lives as a nurse, educator, and mentor at Rochester General Hospital. Today, on her birthday, the ViaHealth community gathered for a memorial service in her honor.   Although I couldn't be present to celebrate her life, I chose to remember Nina in a way that honored who she was, her legacy as a loving, generous, whole-lotta-fun MOM.  

In a nutshell, Nina was the kind of mom who made snow angels in the winter and snuggled inside cardboard forts on rainy afternoons.  She was there, for everything.  So, on this brilliant April morning, with record-breaking temperatures, I knew exactly how to celebrate Nina's life . . .at the park. 

Dear Nina, 
On this warm, gorgeous April morning, Liza and I went to the park.  We wanted to remember you.  That's what you would have done.  I pushed Liza on the swings.  She flew high, a smile splayed across her face as if to say, "More, Mommy!" We giggled and reached for the sun.  We crawled through tunnels, and scooted our little tushies down the slide.  We strolled around the lake and quacked at the ducks, our voices leaping when they waddled closer.  We lingered and laughed.  We smiled.  We hugged.  We laughed some more.  We wanted to remember you. That's what you would have done.  

They say moms are angels in disguise.  But you, Nina, are an angel with wings.  
Until we meet again, I'll miss you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's the Little Things . . .

I lose things . . .a lot.  The other day, I found an old lip gloss that I love, stashed in the pocket of Liza's diaper bag. "Lost and Found" is my life; and now that I'm a mom, more seems to be lost than found, including my marbles.  My sister gave me this gloss over 8 years ago (Way past expiration, I know), and I fell in love with the color and light vanilla scent.   It's called "Cutie Pie" by Bloom.  

I'm pretty low-maintenance- a minimalist, I would say- when it comes to beautifying.  I've had the same beauty routine since age 18, with the exception of additional under-eye concealer (Dark circles, I curse you!).  But a new, juicy lip gloss has the power to make my day.  A bit scary, but true.  I feel invigorated and delicious and fun!    

I'm not in the habit of wearing lipstick these days, mostly because my daughter is often poking at my face, squeezing my nose, tugging at my glasses, or twisting my lips.  But when I stumbled upon my old friend, I wiggled and twisted the wand applicator, determined to soak up every last bit of flirtatious fun.  Even though I wasn't heading out on a hot date, I smeared it on, pursing and smacking my lips.  It was just for me, but even still, it felt good.  So good.  

Makeup does have a shelf life, but I just haven't been able to part with this gloss.  What if I never find one as yummy?  Here's the good news (for me): Bloom still makes "Cutie Pie," and hell, I'm going to treat myself; it's the little things that make life sweet.  

Here are some other things that have the power to make my day: fresh-squeezed lemonade, pedicures, homemade cards, flip-flops, a brilliant sunshine, a great book. 

What little thing (other than your kids) makes your day?  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Lonely Chalker

As many of you know from my Staycation Report, my family recently spent a memorable afternoon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  I failed to mention, however, that right before heading home, I saw something etched onto the blacktop of a school playground, something glaring, scribbled in stark white chalk: 

"I am the most sadust won of all."

My heart sank.  What causes a child to write that?  Does she have a mommy?  Does someone tuck her in at night and scare the monsters away?  Or has someone punctured her optimism and hope?  I wanted to show this child a glorious afternoon (in part to alleviate my own guilt).  To explore shapes and colors in the museum.  To point to pigeons in the park.  To hold her and tell her that there is no one else in the world just like her, that God doesn't make carbon copies.  

Things are not always as they seem.  The Upper West Side is known as a wealthy section of Manhattan.  People have money.  Nanny money.  Memberships to the museum money. Bugaboo stroller money.  It's not my place to assume or judge what this child does or does not have; that's irrelevant.  She is sad.  Clearly, something is missing.  

That day, I was overcome with a range of emotions: joy, discomfort, awe, serenity, confusion.  But when I passed that playground, I felt a sense of loss, the same loss that I felt when I noticed many children accompanied by nannies in the museum.  I felt for all those children who are missing a connection with someone, anyone.  And I felt for all of those parents who aren't present to witness their child's curiosity, amazement, and imaginative play at work.  

Me? I felt lucky.  Damn lucky.  As I pushed my sensible stroller down the block, my cup runneth over with gratitude, for the opportunity to be a mom and the opportunity to witness the boundless joy and wonder radiating from my child.  

This experience didn't ruin my day; it was a reality check and a call to acknowledge the millions of children around the world who are craving love and affection.  And so, that night, as I tucked my daughter into bed, I hugged her just a little bit tighter, an extra squeeze for the "sadust won."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Go Green Expo NYC

Go Green.  Go Recycle.  Go sustainable.  Go solar powered.  Go this, go that.  It's everywhere.  This weekend I checked out the Go Green Expo in NYC, and I'm back to share some of the highlights!  

Did you know that Alka Seltzer cleans toilets?  Or that lemon and hydrogen peroxide are natural alternatives to bleach?  Featured speaker, Julie Edelman of The Accidental Housewife, put an interesting spin on being green.  Here's the good news:  It's about "being green enough," she said.  "Light green."  Okay, I can do that.  Edelman offered some practical, fun advice on greening your cleaning.  I particularly liked her Alka Seltzer jingle: "Plop, plop.  Fizz, fizz.  Away will go the poop and whizz."

LittleChickieWear had adorable 100% organic cotton onesies and tees:

IAGmedia displayed DVDs, CDs, books, and more that teach kids about caring for our environment.  Let's Go Chipper: Into the Great Outdoors was an iParenting Media Award Winner!  

Good Food Gardens displayed a live outdoor garden system that supports healthy, eco-conscious living.  I WANT ONE!  These gardens promote family cooperation and interdependency.  And with access to their own fresh produce, children develop healthy habits for life . . .love it!  

SodaStream distributed free samples for soda and sparkling water lovers.  It was a delicious alternative to the bottles and cans "that are suffocating our planet."  In fact, the average American consumes 600 cans or bottles of soda and sparkling water each year.  SodaStream boasts less sugar and sugar-free options . . .with fizz.  Santa, please add this to my list!  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Baby Food: The Courage to Make Your Own

Expectant mothers have great intentions . . .that die. Reality sets in, and hectic lives necessitate actions you vowed never to take, like feeding your child that strangely orange mac & cheese from a box. You know what I'm talkin' 'bout!

In the beginning, while I wasn't about to boycott the jarred stuff, I had a desire to experiment with homemade baby meals. I was surprised by how quick and easy they were to prepare with my trusty old blender, (Forget the expensive Beaba Babycook from Williams-Sonoma.) and I found a real sense of purpose- to raise a happy, healthy baby with an adventurous little palette.

It's comforting to know that there are alternatives to mass-produced food. Once I garnered the confidence to make my own, I knew that my daughter was gobbling up the freshest, most nutrient-rich foods possible. "The jarring process necessitates the use of very high heat under pressure, much more than you can generate when cooking at home. Unfortunately, many vitamins are destroyed by heat," says Lisa Barnes, founder of Petit Appetit, a cooking service for infants and toddlers in Northern California, and the author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook. I never would have blended black beans and yogurt if it wasn't for Barnes.

I recently stumbled upon a great website: NurtureBaby, founded by loving mother, Christen Babb. This site provides healthy, budget-sensitive, simple recipes for busy mommies. Take a minute and stop by.

As a new mom, it's empowering to know that you can make conscious decisions that will impact your child's health and well-being. And yes, sometimes that means packing jarred food. I love this motto: You do the best you can in every situation, and your best always changes. And when all else fails, trust your gut, and your tastebuds.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Experience the Spa at Home *Giveaway*

One month after Liza was born, a friend invited me to her home for some girl bonding.  I didn't really want to go; I couldn't squeeze into anything cute or stylish, and I felt ugly.  Besides, how can you feel good with leaky boobs?  C'mon.  Honestly.

But this girls' night was different than others.  I was encouraged to dress in comfy clothes.  Check.  And the Evite said, "Don't wear makeup."  Check.  It turns out that I had been invited to experience the spa, right in someone's home.  What woman can pass up quality girl time while soaking her feet?  We exfoliated and moisturized with delicious mango and peppermint scents.  And all the while, we laughed, really laughed, about our hairy legs, creeping lines, and imperfections.  It was just what I needed.  

The party was given by Sensaria Representative, ML Banino, who was attracted to the company 3 years ago: "It's a way for mothers to find sanity.  Using high quality, naturally-based spa products provides a daily ritual that helps moms feel better."  

We all deserve to feel beautiful and whole.  That's why this month I am giving away Sensaria's Beach Scent Bundle (pictured below), a $60 value.  And, it's just in time for Mother's Day!   All you need to do is send a comment before April 30 for a chance to win.  The winner will be randomly selected using  Good luck!  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Children's Museum of Manhattan

I'm so glad that I stumbled upon CMOM.  It's a hands-on environment that supports and celebrates creativity and the imagination.  We spent most of our time in the Playworks exhibition, perfect for young children under 4.  Below are some pictures that highlight our adventures!

Remember Lite Brite?  Here's a giant one where kids can say it, draw it, design it in lights!  Woah, did that take me back!  

We fed Alphie the Talking Dragon.

We crawled through tunnels and peered into mirrors.  

And we played Plinko (from The Price is Right) for toddlers.  The grand prize: endless fun!  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Staycation Report: 3 Things I Learned

1. Planning is Key. Spontaneity is the spice of life... in an ideal world. When you take a vacation, there's a lot of prep involved- packing, stopping the mail, taking out the trash, yada yada yada. In some ways, it's no different when you go on a staycation, even if it's only for the weekend.

Meal planning allowed us to stock the fridge and steer clear of last minute trips to the supermarket for one last thing (I'm famous for that!). Rachel Ray's "Make Your Own Burrito Bar" recipe was a big hit. Yes . . .we ate out too ( dishes), and left room for spontaneity; my sweet tooth couldn't resist stopping at Ben & Jerry's for some mint chocolate chunk ice cream. Twice. But the second time- totally planned.

Often, the weather dictates how you'll spend the day, take it or leave it. Thursday turned out to be a beautiful afternoon, one Tim fondly referred to as a Ferris Bueller day. After visiting the Children's Museum of Manhattan, we strolled through Central Park and people-watched over a packed lunch. Plan B involved sleeping bags, popcorn, and Mary Poppins. While that would have been fine, nothing compares to breathing in some fresh, spring air!

2. Get Unplugged! We live in a fast-paced, impatient, dot-mom world. Phone calls, text messages, emails, downloads. They're all nice, in moderation. The problem is that we don't moderate. I wanted to eliminate these distractions and be more attentive to what matters most in my life . . .spending time with the people I love. Besides, someday I'll never wish that I'd spent more time on my computer. Eat more ice cream? Maybe. (Hence the two trips to Ben & Jerry's.)

I did tell friends and family about our staycation, just as I would if we were vacationing. Yes, in case of an emergency, I could still be reached via cell phone. Yes, people still called. No, it wasn't an emergency. At one point, we did check messages. Big mistake. The bottom line: it's uncomfortable being disconnected, especially when you're lying on your own couch. I think it actually takes practice, something I'm more than willing to work on. You know, the "stuff" was all still here when I got back. I didn't miss much, if anything at all.

3. Make it a Habit of Smelling the Roses. For me, the whole point of a staycation is to practice slowing down and to live well (which doesn't require $$$) right in your own backyard. Every now and then, I think it's important to break up the monotony and do something fun or different, inspiring or creative, whatever that means for you. My husband felt that this was definitely easier to do once we hopped in the car, destination bound. It was much more challenging to ignore the to-do list at home and to relax, or god-forbid, do nothing. We're so accomplish-oriented; it's a tough habit to break.

Every adult speaks of how quickly children grow, and heck, I'm not about to miss these awesome years. My personality necessitates that I have to consciously put on blinders, carve out time, and create a space that offers enrichment of the soul. The flowers are on the table. At least that's a start.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Shower for Your Brain: Who Would Have Thought?

Since becoming a mom, bathing has taken on a whole different meaning.  It means fending off the stink with a quick washcloth wipe-down.  I bathe to get the job done.  I haven't fogged up the bathroom mirror in ages.  No time for that.  There's a little person standing at the side of the bathtub, launching her toys into the water, trying herself to dive in.  I now consider a shower (one that's long enough to shave my legs) somewhat of a far-off luxury.  

As an educator, I always did my best thinking in the shower.  It was home to countless teaching "aha!" moments, and thus, scrapped lesson plans.  It was in a hot, steamy shower that the mental fog lifted.  I often thought God, why didn't I think of this sooner?  The answer: I wasn't in the shower.  

In the July 2008 issue of The New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer writes a fascinating article entitled, "The Eureka Hunt: Why do good ideas come to us when they do?"  He says that it is common for insight to come to us in a warm, relaxing shower. (If that's really true, I'm doomed.) Lehrer believes that insights originate as a result of a flood of neural activity in the right side of the brain, and that we are best able to tap into that hemisphere when we are relaxed. 

I need a shower.  Maybe that's why I can't think straight, why I walk into the same room five times and can't figure out why I'm there.  Although, to be honest, I'm not looking for an epiphany, just a few coherent thoughts.  As a mom, it's a real challenge to find time to linger, to open ourselves up to possibility, to "aha!" moments.  While I can live with a little stink, maybe I've underestimated the value of a shower.  Perhaps my daughter is onto something.  She's inviting me to dive in! (with her, of course.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jack Johnson: The 3 R's

I love the idea of learning through music.  When Liza was born, my chunky granola sister introduced me to the 3 Rs song by Jack Johnson.  It doesn't disappoint.  In fact, I love his tone and message in this song; it's fun, catchy, and mellow enough for mommies to listen to over and over again.  And, ready for the bonus?  We can raise happy, smart, environmentally conscious little citizens all at the same time.  Nice, right?  

Check out this short video: Jack Johnson Video

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fight or Flight: Dealing with Negative Feelings

For the past couple of months, I have been taking a memoir writing class, instructed by award-winning author of Writing Motherhood, Lisa Garrigues. For our final class meeting, we were invited to select a few pages from our writer's notebook to read aloud in class. No editing permitted. I debated whether or not to show up. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, the very thought of sharing something unedited made me uneasy. Okay, that's a lie. It freaked me out.

I sat down with my notebook, flipped through pages of crap, and settled on a piece inspired by Hemingway in a letter he wrote to John dos Passos: "Remember to get the weather in your god damned book-- weather is very important." So I decided to pick the time it was too hot to sleep. Fine; it was something. I typed up my entry, made a few irresistible changes, and reluctantly headed off to class.

I took a seat amongst my peers, and thus commenced the readings- rich, deep, powerful, thought-provoking readings. One woman read about surviving a bombing in Cuba, another about the nanny who was her last lifeline in a failing marriage, another about how the birthing process is like riding a giant wave. These were readings about loss, love, and spiritual growth. And I had written about the god-damned weather. Holy crap. Get me outta here. I wanted to jump out the second floor window. A broken arm or leg wouldn't be all that bad. At least I wouldn't have to read. There must be a way I could gracefully bow out. I began praying for an emergency call on my cell phone.

I needed a lifeline. This was supposed to be a celebration of our writing, and yet, dread and anxiety roiled about in the pit of my stomach. Maybe what I really needed was to share these negative feelings with somebody, somebody who would look into my eyes, listen, and then admit, "me too."

As a kid, I can remember a classic response to my fear of trying something new: "There's no reason to be afraid." Bullshit. Try telling that to a six-year-old's nervous system, which is now flashing hazard lights. What I needed was someone to validate my fear, to help me understand that it's okay to experience a range of emotions; it's what makes us human, and real. The problem is that we often dismiss our feelings, judging them as silly. In turn, we never learn how to be with them and stare them down.

At some point, my daughter is going to tell me that she's afraid. And when she does, I am going to stroke her head, hold her hand and whisper, "It's okay to feel afraid. Let me tell you about a time when I wanted to jump out the window."

P.S.  I did survive the reading.  Thanks a lot, Hemingway.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Kids love playdough. Why? Because they can dig their little fingers into a gooey blob and create something totally cool. I'm a big fan of simple things that encourage creativity and ingenuity in children. But there are two things that bug me about playdough. One, that smell (You know exactly what I'm talking about!). And two, it inevitably ends up embedded in the high-pile carpet, and weeks later you're still scraping away at these irritating bits, now painfully wedged under your fingernails.  At last, here's a simple recipe for homemade playdough . . .perfect for a rainy day!

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • food coloring optional
  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat until smooth.
  2. Knead into a ball and allow to cool completely, kneading every few minutes. It becomes more firm as it cools.
  3. Store it in a container with lid. It lasts for days.
I wish I could say that Liza loved sinking her fingers into my homemade playdough, and that it supplied us with endless hours of fun. I was all set to whip out the cookie cutters with animals and shapes, but truthfully, she just wanted to eat it. That's what I get for making my own. I guess, in her own way, she loved it too. At least it's not decorating my carpet!