Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Artist Formerly Known as Henry Does Not Do Santa Photos

Last year I congratulated myself on what a perfect little monkey I had. He sat on Santa's lap so nicely! He didn't cry at all! He was the sweetest little man in all of Little Man-dom!

Well, apparently, the Artist Formerly Known as Henry* does not do Santa photos any longer. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why Gun Sense Is Like Rome

On this day last year, the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, were abruptly and senselessly ended.

That same day, I wrote Hell Hath No Fury Like a Mother Enraged, completely unaware of the response that was brewing. In that post, I said:
Politicians, listen up. We don't want your "thoughts and prayers." We don't want your platitudes. Your "national conversation" on gun control. We want action. NOW.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Everything Else Is Gray

Today is my baby boy's second birthday.

When I bought his baby book just before he was born, I recall flipping through the pages and marveling at how long it would take me to get to "two." Yet here we are.

Words fail me too often these days. When I see him sleeping, when I watch him playing, when I hear him speaking English and Italian, when I see him hugging my 95-year-old Grandma.

The truth is, from the moment I first met him, everything else was gray.

Today I am honored to be sharing my birth story on The Day We First Met, a collaboration of MacKenzie of Raising Wild Things and Stephanie When Crazy Meets Exhaustion.

So if you haven't heard the ridiculous tale of how delusional I was about going into labor, click here to head over now and check it out. It will make you laugh, cry and probably shake your head in amazement at my pig-headedness.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, little man. Mommy loves you more than you know.

Everything else is gray.

Photo by Maria Domenica Rapicavoli.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Everyone Has Limits, Not Everyone Has Choices

Welcome back to The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on FacebookG+ or Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub.

And don’t forget to read what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn. Links to their posts are below.




I wanted to like Maxed Out. The premise spoke to something I believe wholeheartedly about the U.S. workplace: that it is institutionally biased against dual-income earner families with kids. From the excessive hours to the lack of maternity and paternity leave to the unfriendly childcare and sick leave policies, American families truly have the odds stacked against them.

I wanted to relate to the book because, although I do not feel maxed out myself, I know my sister is running at full capacity. She is the bread-winning, commuting, suburban mother of two, smart and talented, but often at the end of her rope, pulled in every direction. And she is not alone.

I also wanted to like it because, by all superficial measures, Ms. Alcorn and I are similar: a few years apart, upper middle class children of middle class parents, highly educated, parenting in an urban environment, striving to rise above "mediocrity," as she puts it.

But I didn't like it. There, I said it. In fact, were it not for my commitment to The Brilliant Book Club, I would have put the book down after a chapter or two.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

One of my favorite childhood memories is my grandpa's stories.

My maternal grandfather was not an easy man. A first-generation Italian-, nay, Sicilian-American -- a distinction he never failed to impress upon our young minds -- he was raised in a time of world wars and the Great Depression, a brilliant mind trapped in a chronically ill body.

He was a demanding husband and an overbearing father. But he was a great grandpa.

He spun stories of his early childhood in Oklahoma, where he lived for the first decade of his life. Politically incorrect stories of cowboys-and-Indians interwoven with traditional tales of cops-and-robbers. He recounted stories of places he had never seen -- and never would -- places I would one day go, but not until after his death.

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Marching to the Beat of Your Own Jamboree

I was lucky I met Nicole when I did. I moved to Brooklyn without a clue as to the neighborhood, the local parents list-serv, the playgroups, the playground situation.

(Although I used to think of myself as pretty organized, the move was not the first time I just jumped into something with two clueless left feet. See also: my brash entrance into the world of blogging.)

Nicole had arrived in our neighborhood only a month earlier, but she was already an expert on the Brooklyn mommiverse. She is the type of person who always has an extra snack packed in case someone named Deb forgets one for her child. She is also that person whom everyone thinks is her best friend, although the adjective "best" obviously rules out her having more than one. In any case, she is definitely my closest friend in the neighborhood. She is everyone's closest friend in the neighborhood. Without putting too fine a point on it, I would not have any friends in the neighborhood if it weren't for Nicole.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The Unfathomable


RIP, Lucian Merryweather, 2004-2013


Fort Greene Car Crash Kills 9-Year-Old-Boy, Injures Three Others, Huffington Post

Driver Charged With Negligent Homicide in Death of Boy, 9, New York Times

Police arrest driver in fatal Fort Greene accident, New York Post

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sorry to Inconvenience You with My Stairwell Navigation

A few weeks ago I took Henry to Manhattan for Italian "preschool," which he attends every Friday morning. We don't travel with the stroller or carrier anymore; now he can walk.

We arrived at the end of our journey to the staircase of the 14th Street and 6th Avenue F train station -- a large subway stop, with relatively wide stairwells -- and started climbing. I hugged the wall to make room for the stragglers who had yet to make it to work at 9 am. Henry was slow: left foot up, right foot meets it; left foot up, right foot meets it. He gripped my hand tightly as we made our way up the stairs.

Until:

"Walk your kid up the stairs! Jesus!"

A man's voice, loud, with all the exasperated vitriol he could muster.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Han Solo Went to Oktoberfest and All I Got Were These Expensive Lederhosen

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Rayne and I were newlyweds sans human children. (We had a dog.) Rayne went to Munich for Oktoberfest that year and came home with real lederhosen. Brown leather pants, the suspenders, the hat, the whole shebang.

The conversation, I believe, went something like this:

Me: What the...?
R: They're real lederhosen!
Me: I see that.
R: I didn't buy the shoes, though.
Me: Well, good for you.

A week or so later, I was perusing our credit card bill.

Me: Honey? What is this charge for $494.32?
R: Oh, those are the lederhosen. I told you about that.
Me: You paid FOUR-HUNDRED-AND-NINETY-FIVE-DOLLARS for them?
R: I didn't buy the shoes!
Me:



You see, when we got married, we pooled our financial resources and agreed that we would speak to the other if we wanted to buy anything that cost more than $500. So he didn't buy the shoes.

Right....

I proclaimed then and there that my dear life partner would wear those lederhosen on every Halloween or other occasion requiring a costume FOREVER IN PERPETUITY in order to amortize the cost over his lifetime.

And so four years later, I present you Halloween 2013: Yoda with his minions, Princess Leia and Han Solo (or should we call him Hans?), who apparently just returned from Munich.




Moral of the story: Don't mess with the Moo Cow.

ps - Why didn't anyone ever tell me that doing Halloween with a toddler is like entering a war zone? I'm scarred for life.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Monday, October 28, 2013

Playing to Win but Thinking for Yourself

Welcome back to The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on Facebook, G+ or Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub.

And don’t forget to read what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, Playing to Win by Hilary Levey Friedman. Links to their posts are below.



Pedigree Revisited

Last month, I asked the question, "Do I really have to do this?" in regard to obtaining the "Competitive Kid Capital" Hilary Levey Friedman argues is so critical to middle- and upper-middle-class youth in her book Playing to Win.



I concluded, reluctantly, that I probably would. While some parents will undoubtedly sign their kindergarteners up for competitive soccer with gleeful abandon, I will be a much more ambivalent, circumspect participant in the rat race.

Since then, I had a interesting encounter that served to underscore my conclusion. I was having a phone interview for a consulting gig. After I explained my background and experience, the interviewer asked where I went to school. I told him.

"Oh," he responded, "that explains it," the that in question being my Ivy League academic credentials. Not the lengthy explanation of my ten years of experience. My degrees.

The experience was demoralizing for me because it served as a reminder of how often human beings rely on easy labels for categorizing and identifying others. My academic pedigree is short-hand for competence, deservedly or not. On the flip side, my husband's west coast state school background does not equally corroborate his just-as-impressive-as-mine resume.

Pathetic? Probably. Human? Definitely. Here to stay? Most likely. {Sigh}

The Business of Competitive Kid Capital

Back to Playing to Win, the concept of the "business" of creating Competitive Kid Capital struck me while reading last month. As Levey Friedman notes:
[T]he teachers and coaches...make a living by creating an environment to create Competitive Kid Capital and by creating and sustaining a base of families who believe that Competitive Kid Capital is essential to future success.
From organizing the actual events to equipment to miscellaneous merchandise,
The cottage industry of childhood competition captures families in a vulnerable moment and charges higher prices because they can, similar to what occurs in funeral markets.
Unlike the funeral industry, however,
[T]he industry of competitive children's after-school activities has become so commodified and profit-oriented, with little to no regulartion of their practices.
Yikes. I had not thought of the business aspect before this, but it makes sense. Our consumerist culture has yet left no stone unturned... why start with this one?

A recent New York Times Room for Debate feature asked the question, "Do competitive sports overwhelm childhood or enhance it?"

Let's play a game (see what I did there?): Match the title of the article to its author.

Articles
1. "Sports Teach Kids Valuable Lessons"

2. "Give Children Variety and Time Off"

3. "Keep Sports Fun"

4. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Too"

5. "A Hoop Dreams Reality Check"

6. "Parents Should Focus on the Big Picture"

Authors
A. Nicole M. Lavoi, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports

B. David Geier, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

C. Earl Smith, Sociologist

D. Mark Hyman, Author, "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How it Harms Our Kids"

E. Stephen D. Keener, Little League International

F. Jim Thompson, Positive Coaching Alliance


Did you guess that Article #1, "Sports Teach Kids Valuable Lessons," was written by Author E, Stephen D. Keener of Little League International? He writes,
While striving to win, children learn about teamwork, leadership and sportsmanship, all of which can contribute to their development as solid citizens.
Well, of course he thinks so. It is in his best interest to believe in the benefits of organized youth competition.

And did you guess that Article #3, "Keep Sports Fun," was written by Author D, Mark Hyman, who writes,
We know why kids drop out of youth sports, too. They're not having fun anymore. They’re weary of the pressure. They’re tired of being yelled at by coaches and, sometimes, by their parents.
Not surprising from someone who wrote a book entitled, "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How it Harms Our Kids."

Think For Yourself

My point is, I suppose, caveat emptor -- buyer beware. Before you sign your children up for fifty sports at the urging of the local coaches or drop out entirely and leave your children's proverbial dance card empty, think about where all these messages are coming from. Before you succumb to buying fourteen teddy bears emblazoned with the logo of your little one's dance squad, decide what is right for your family, for your children.

In the chapter in which she interviews the competitive grade-schoolers themselves, Levey Friedman speaks to a first-grade boy who says he does not like competition, that it hurts his stomach. She writes,
His parents both jumped in, saying that the more experience he gets, the less his stomach will hurt. Obviously children sometimes tell adults about their stresses, but the adults often try to dismiss or rationalize them.
Oh, please don't ever let me be that parent.

The inevitability of participating in these activities aside, I hope we all know that destiny is not foretold. While my Ivy League degrees have undoubtedly opened doors for me, I sometimes wonder if I would have been better off at a less pressurized undergraduate program, where I might not have felt so unprepared following my mediocre public school education. My husband, on the other hand, has created a very successful career for himself in finance "despite," as one might say, his lack of academic pedigree.

Ask yourself honestly how much is enough and how much is too much for you and your kids. Small changes may help enormously with coping with the stresses of American culture while not really changing the end game all that much.

After all, these are pretty first-world problems to have.


______

I am thrilled to announce our next book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn. From Amazon:

Mothers are the breadwinners in two-thirds of American families, yet the American workplace is uniquely hostile to the needs of parents. Weaving in surprising research about the dysfunction between the careers and home lives of working mothers, as well as the consequences to women’s health, Alcorn tells a deeply personal story about “having it all,” failing miserably, and what comes after. Ultimately, she offers readers a vision for a healthier, happier, and more productive way to live and work.
Our post on Maxed Out will be on Monday, December 2. Read along with us and add your two -- or fifty -- cents when we post!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Anatomy of a Mom at a Pumpkin Patch

How do I know I am a mom? Well, I think it is pretty clear from my accessories. Behold:


Also, because... pumpkin patch. Who else drives out to Staten Island on a beautiful fall day to go to a pumpkin patch... just to browse?

Also... jam. Who else buys three jars of homemade jam at said pumpkin patch?

Of all the accessories shown in the picture, though, the dead giveaway has to be the Mom Clogs. Don't you think?


Friday, October 18, 2013

Banilla Pudding and the Mother of All Meltdowns

I was feeling grumpy tonight so I went out for a walk. I wanted a snack, but I have been trying to lose a few pounds (okay, more than a few), and I couldn't decide what, if anything, would be worth the calories. The internal conversation went something like this:

I want a snack.
I shouldn't have a snack, I'm trying to lose weight.
But I'm so pissy tonight. I just want a snack.
No, I'll regret it later.
No, it will make me feel better.
Not in the long run.
Okay, if I can think of something amazing, I'll get it.
Okay.
I know! Banana pudding with 'Nilla Wafers from that amazing cupcake place!
Good idea!
Yay!
Yay!

BANILLA PUDDING
Photo credit: Andy Ciordia

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dear Sanctimonious Brooklyn

Dear All of Sanctimonious Brooklyn,

Yes, it's true. I ride a Citibike -- the lovechild of evil corporation Citibank and soon-to-be-former Mayor Bloomberg -- AND participate in a CSA. No need to look so shocked. Or comment so dryly. Just keep minding your own business, and I will avoid pointing out the ludicrousness of your horn-rimmed spectacles and non-matching pant legs.

Oh, wait, one more thing. You should sit down for this. I am a progressive Democrat AND I love Bloomberg. Given the choice, I might even vote him in for a fourth term. According to Fareed Zakaria in The Future of Freedom, liberal autocracies have a pretty good track record. (Illiberal democracies, not as much.) I blew your mind with that one, didn't I?

Just kidding. I heart democracy. (But I would still vote for Bloomberg again.)

Hard as it is to believe, despite the complete absence of tattoos and superfluous piercings, I live in hipster Brooklyn, too. And although I function independently of the hive mind that produced the idea for artisanal mayonnaise, I still want to feed my family fresh, organic produce.



Woah, woah. Try not to breathe so quickly through your mouth. Do you need a paper bag?

Listen, I have an idea for a compromise. I won't comment on the amount of smoke you blow in my face, and you can shut your fat trap about my choice of transportation. If only Congress could come to terms so easily.

Mwah!

Love,
Moo Cow

ps - You make me want to move to the Bronx.

pps - I'm sneakily linking this up with Finish the Sentence Friday because I love the hosts and have always wanted to participate. Once in public, I saw somebody... unleash a snark attack on an unsuspecting mom just trying to feed her family fresh produce and be a good citizen in the process. Oh wait, that happened to me. This evening.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Possessed by the Dishwasher

Today I am being interviewed over at Kathy Radigan's blog, My Dishwasher's Possessed. Kathy, if you don't know, is the very cool, very sharp and very nice (the trifecta!) co-founder of BonBon Break, an online magazine for moms.

In the interview, I talk about the origin of Urban Moo Cow, why my car hates me and the appliance I would do some kinky moo cow shit to possess.

What are you waiting for? Click the icon below to head over.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Let the Preschool Madness Begin

And so it begins. The dreaded New York City preschool application process.

Henry is only 21 months old. But the cut off in New York is December 31, a few short weeks after his birthday, and applications are due a year in advance.

And so it was that Rayne and I found ourselves sitting in a classroom at our local cooperative preschool, surrounded by palpably nervous adults, two guinea pigs and a yellow squawking bird. First we took a tour. Art work from children with names like Brixton, Tobias, DiDi and Zelig adorned the walls. Then we returned to the original classroom for Q&A.

The director of admissions seemed eminently reasonable despite being interrupted by the bird. She made a point of suggesting parents calm down. Her basic mantra was, 'our policy is this, but we work with what you and your child need.' Squawk!

Still, the questions were pointed and repetitive, as if the questioners did not believe her when she said it the first time. What is your separation policy? What is your discipline policy? Squawk! Where do the children nap? Do you teach the alphabet?

"I know it's controversial, but we do expose them to letters and numbers." She seemed to be apologizing.


Monday, September 30, 2013

How Harmful Is a Culture of Winning at All Costs?

Brilliant Book Club Playing to WinWelcome to the inaugural post of The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on FacebookG+ or on Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub.

And don’t forget to read below what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, Playing to Win by Hilary Levey Friedman.






I wanted desperately for her to tell me I didn't have to do it.

I read most of Hilary Levey Friedman's book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, with a tight knot in the pit of my stomach. I am not a particularly competitive person. "Winning" has never been an all-consuming need for me, which would explain my swift exit from the world of finance.



So while reading her book about competitive chess, dance and soccer among middle class elementary school students, I was praying for a chapter, a section, a paragraph, even, that would justify my a priori refusal to participate in weekend-long chess tournaments for my future five-year-old. Because I think competition among babies is ridiculous. Because I do not want to hand my life over to dank gymnasiums and my limited living space to burgeoning shelves of trophies.

Really? I wondered. Do I have to do this?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dilbert's Secretary's Pity Party

<Pity Party>

On Friday I had my hair cut. See that head shot over there? -->
The photo is from July 2012 and corresponds to the very last time I cut my hair. Yes. Over a year ago. It might be more accurate, then, to say that I had my rat's nest cut on Friday.

"What are we going to do with this?" my hair dresser, whom I have known for 13 years, asked.

"Cut. It."

And cut it he did. It is now well above my shoulders. And although my talented hair dresser made it "choppy" and "fun," it's still a bob. A mom bob, if you will. To match my mom clogs.

I met Rayne in the city that night for a pre-show drink in the theater district.

"Wait. What did you..." he trailed off.

"I cut it!"

"I can see that."

"I think I look like Dilbert's secretary."


Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Responsible

On Saturday afternoon I went to the playground (yes, that one) with Henry. I sat, again, with my back to the sun, no longer wistful at its setting now that September is upon us. I kept an eye on my little blonde rascal, prone as he is to escaping enclosed areas at the smallest sign of an open gate.

I was exhausted. My husband had been gone for all but two of the previous eight days, and it was starting to show.

Henry was over by the gate door with his doll stroller when a father entered with his daughter, who was maybe two-and-a-half. That sneaky little man inched his way toward the open door, and I started to walk over. 

I wasn't worried, however. Surely this father of a toddler was not going to let my son just exit the playground alone.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Untitled

I watched my son look out the bus window this morning, taking in all the sights of Brooklyn's less well traveled neighborhoods. I felt suddenly relieved, impossibly thankful that he does not know the horror, at least not yet. Not ever, hopefully. But at least not yet.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Please Don't Make Me Explain the Importance of Thank You

Welcome to the last week of the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks, in which we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

I'm joining Jessica, Sarah, Stephanie and Lauren in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

Since July 1, we've addressed co-sleepingfoodself-esteemacademic pressure and hover-parenting. This week we discuss: How do we raise children with good character? 



Last summer I encountered a friend who didn't make her three-year-old son say 'please' or 'thank you' because she didn't want to force him to say something he didn't feel.

Wait... what? Of course a three-year-old doesn't understand precisely what saying 'thank you' means, I thought to myself. But manners are an important part of co-existing in society. How else would her son learn to say 'please' and 'thank you' if no one taught him? I laughed it off, convinced she was an anomaly. I even told the story to a few other incredulous moms.

I was sadly disabused of my innocence, however, after reading the fourth and final part of Parenting Without Borders, "The Character of Children." In the chapter entitled "Raising Kindness: Cultural Notions About Raising Kids Who Care," I learned there is a whole swath of parents who believe that "insisting children have good manners feels antithetical to raising a spirited and independent child with a mind of his own."


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing The Brilliant Book Club: Illuminating Reads for Parents


Parenting is complex. Our intuition, our personality, our child’s unique temperament, our family wisdom, and, honestly, sheer accident and trial-and-error all play a role. But there is also a growing body of research and reflective writing that provides parents with data and insight to inform our choices and philosophies.

Enter The Brilliant Book Club!

The Brilliant Book Club is a collaborative project among five bloggers: Lauren Apfel of Omnimom, Deb CG of Urban Moo Cow (that's me!), Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha, Jessica Smock of School of Smock and Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy, For Real.

We all love reading non-fiction. Though as parents we are busy, we still want to read thought-provoking books and share our considerations with one another.

The Brilliant Book Club is for parents who want to read the latest books about parenting -- from research-based books on parenting practice to books that reflect on the emotional and personal aspects of childrearing.

Every other month, we will select a recent book about parenting. Over eight weeks, we will invite you to read along with us, and share your ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter and our blogs. On the last Monday of each month, each of us will share posts of our thoughts about the current selection and our own unique perspective on it as parents.

We encourage you to read, reflect and share with us as we illuminate research and insights that can help us all shine.

Read. Reflect. Share.
Shine.

The Brilliant Book Club.

***

Our first book pick is Hilary Levey Friedman's Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.

From the back of the book:
Why do American children participate in so many adult-run activities outside of the home, especially when family time is so scarce? By analyzing the roots of these competitive afterschool activities and their contemporary effects, Playing to Win contextualizes elementary school-age children's activities, and suggests they have become proving grounds for success in the tournament of life—especially when it comes to coveted admission to elite universities, and beyond.
In offering a behind-the-scenes look at how "Tiger Moms" evolve, Playing to Win introduces concepts like competitive kid capital, the carving up of honor, and pink warrior girls. Perfect for those interested in childhood and family, education, gender, and inequality, Playing to Win details the structures shaping American children's lives as they learn how to play to win.
And here is an August 6, 2013 post in The Atlantic adapted from the book: "Soccer Isn't for Girly-Girls? How Parents Pick the Sports Their Daughters Play" to whet your appetite.

Our first post on the book will be on Monday, September 30, 2013. We encourage you to read the book and join the dialogue on our Facebook page, Twitter (with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub), G+ page, Pinterest and our blogs.

***

Enter the Giveaway

To encourage you even further to join us, we are giving away a copy of the book to one lucky participant! To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below and do one (or all!) of the following actions, including liking The Brilliant Book Club on Facebook, tweeting about us with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub, or leaving a comment below. You can also get credit for the entry by liking/following the G+ page, Pinterest or each of us individually.


***

Be sure to follow us all on your social media channel(s) of choice to keep up with the latest!

Lauren
Blog: Omnimom
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @LaurenApfel

Deb
Blog: Urban Moo Cow
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @UrbanMooCow
G+
Pinterest

Sarah
Blog: Left Brain Buddha
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @LeftBrainBuddha
G+

Jessica
Blog: School of Smock
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @SchoolofSmock
G+
Pinterest

Stephanie
Blog: Mommy, For Real
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @MommyIsForReal
G+
Pinterest


What do you think of the new endeavor?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Assassin's Creed: Pigeon Revelations

This post is a proud contribution to the Character Assassination Carousel, developed by Nicole Leigh Shaw at Ninja Mom Blog, in which, each month -- and I quote -- a "highly trained shredder of childhood pulp" " blasts some kiddie lit to kingdom come."  

I would be remiss if I did not thank my husband, Rayne, for his contributions to today's assassination. For he, too, has been forced to read this book at least a thousand times. Thank you, honey, for all that you are, including, now, my co-assassin.

I hope you enjoy this week's assassination of The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!.
______

A few months ago, my darling then-16-month-old son became obsessed with a book he had received in utero at my baby shower from an unknown soul who was completely unaware he or she would be on my shit list for eternity: The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dream Deferred

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom -- as it was technically called -- and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s riveting "I Have a Dream" speech. I wasn't alive in 1963, but I still got chills when I heard the recording of King's voice on NPR this morning.

I have been thinking about race today, however, for a smaller, more personal reason.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Fun's Cousin

You know Fun's cousin, right? He's related to Fun. But he isn't quite, you know, Fun himself.

That's how we felt about last week's "vacation" in the country. We rented the same little three-bedroom ranch overlooking the same lake as last year. Almost the same week, even. But it was different this time.

Fun's cousin is just not as carefree as Fun.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Would Rather He Break His Arm

Welcome back to the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks, in which we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

I'm joining Jessica, Sarah, Stephanie, Lauren and Carisa in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

Since July 1, we've addressed co-sleeping, food, self-esteem and academic pressure. This week we discuss: How do we raise independent kids and foster their self-control?


Helicopter Mom

The Urban Dictionary defines a "Helicopter Mom" as:
A hovering & controlling, but well-meaning, parent who gets way too involved in her child's life to the point of doing things that are completely inappropriate, such as personally attending all of little Sweetiepie's extracurricular activities, writing medium-sized Sweetiepie's school application essays, and submitting full-grown Sweetiepie's job applications.
I am not sure any of us would want such a moniker. But how many of us secretly -- or not-so-secretly -- believe that our children need us to guide their every interaction? That is the topic of Chapter 5, "Hoverparenting: How Can We Foster Self-Control?"

There was a lot to digest in this and the accompanying chapter on unstructured play (of which I am also a huge fan). Ultimately, I decided to focus on two aspects: how we view our children's behavior and how much risk-taking is appropriate.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ten Tried and True Ways to Make Your Moo Cow Lose Her Mind

Henry's first blog post came in January, when he contributed "7 Fun Games to Play With Milk" at the tender age of 13 months. Weaning babies everywhere wrote in to thank him for his suggestions. Now that he is a big boy of 20 months, he is sharing his tried and true toddler shenanigans.




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fast Forward Twenty Years

"You want to get pregnant at that weight?" my physician asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, I was thinking about it," I responded somewhat sheepishly.

"No. You need to lose weight. Exercise every day," she said. "Every. Day," she added for emphasis.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Often Do You Eat Dinner Together?

Today I am at Today's Mama with a post about the link between family dinners and low rates of substance abuse among teens.

I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of the family dinner in teaching children good eating habits. The other day I came across a September 2012 white paper entitled “Family Dinners VIII“ by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia). CASAColumbia has been writing a version of this paper for a decade. Over time, they have consistently found “a relationship between children having frequent dinners with their parents and a decreased risk of their using drugs, drinking or smoking.”

Click here to read the entire article. 

How often do you eat dinner with your family? Does it help you understand your kids better?


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Should We Educate Our Children?

Welcome back to the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks. In this Carnival, we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

I'm joining Jessica, Sarah, Stephanie and Lauren in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

So far, we've looked at co-sleepingfood and self-esteem. This week we tackle the question: 
Do kids have too much academic pressure? Or not enough?


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guest Post: Why I Am Ungrateful For Pink, Plastic and Princesses

The BlogHer13 conference reminded me of something I wrote about in 5 Things I Learned In My First Year of Blogging: the most important and interesting aspect of blogging are the relationships one develops. It was fantastic to meet some of my favorite bloggers in real life, but most of them live far away.

Luckily for me, my soul mate bloggy friend lives in New York, too. She definitely deserves credit for preventing from my quitting this blogging experiment entirely.

That's why I'm thrilled to be hosting the smart and insightful Rachel of The Tao of Poop for a funny and painfully true piece about the ridiculous gifts our children often receive from family members.

***

Disney Princesses
Photo Credit: Tao of Poop
Pink, princesses and a plethora of plastic pieces. We specifically said "No presents" on the invitation to our daughter's second birthday party. This part of the invitation was universally ignored. 

Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? Probably. 

Do I need a place to vent about it anyway? Yes. 

Does that place need to be somewhere that said friends and family can't partake of my heroic level of ingratitude? Of course; that's why I'm here! Deb has graciously agreed to allow me to use Urban Moo Cow as a confessional of sorts. Behold my confession….




Monday, July 29, 2013

That Time I Didn't Spend $2.60 on a Blanket Out of Spite

I would love to write something deep and poetic about my experience at the BlogHer13 conference this past weekend. Something heartfelt and reflective like Sarah at Left Brain Buddha wrote this morning.

But I can't. I still haven't processed it all, and you know what's great about me is that I usually just ignore intense emotions that I can't process until they bubble up in a volcanic explosion of tears and obsessive Swiffering, and then I take it out on Rayne, complaining about the horrid smell of the Sriracha with which he ruins his pizza.

All I can say about this is, at least I am self-aware. I feel like I should get a few points for that.

So instead, I'm going to write about how I didn't spend two dollars an hour yesterday to increase my own comfort immeasurably. Out of spite.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

That Awkward Moment When Your Toddler Discovers Your Body

My 19-month-old son has discovered his body. Unfortunately, he has also discovered mine.


I noticed it a few weeks ago when he unceremoniously threw open the bathroom door while I was showering. He opened the curtain and squealed with excitement.

Yay! Moo Cow! I found you, my Moo Cow!

All of a sudden, he went quiet as his eyes slowly drifted downward, then back up to my face, then down again.

What's that, Moo Cow? I could see him asking.

It's all been downhill since then.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Which Is More Important, Intelligence or Resilience?

Welcome back to the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks. In this Carnival, we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

For the next several weeks, I will join other bloggers (see below!)in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

Two weeks ago, we looked at co-sleeping. Last week was on food. This week we tackle another touchy subject: Is too much self-esteem harmful to kids?




Chapter Four, "Feeling Good: Can Self-Esteem Be Harmful?" packs a punch. Gross-Loh touches on research and anecdotes about a range of topics, including self-esteem, entitlement, intelligence versus hard work, happiness and others.

With so many important and varied topics from which to choose, I felt uncharacteristically tongue-tied. I'm writing here on one aspect -- the idea of intelligence as a "fixed" trait -- but I reserve to right to circle back to this chapter in the future! (It's my blog, I can do what I want.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, Again

Welcome back to the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks. In this Carnival, we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

For the next several weeks, I will join Sarah from Left Brain Buddha, Jessica from School of Smock and others in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

Last week, we looked at co-sleeping. This week we tackle a subject that is anxiety-provoking for many of us: How should we teach our children to eat?



Food, unlike co-sleeping, is a hot-button issue for me. Consequently, Chapter 3 of Gross-Loh's book, "Global Food Rules," was incredibly difficult for me to read let alone write about.

Frankly, I could not care less if you co-sleep with your child or banish him to the east wing. I don't care a whit if, by virtue of your sleeping philosophy, you create your very own Buster Bluth or produce the next Dexter Morgan.

Well, maybe I care if you create a serial killer, but you catch my drift: Your personal sleeping habits and those of your family do not concern me.

But eating? Eating is communal.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Where Should Your Baby Sleep?

Welcome to the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks!


What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?


When we first heard about Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, we were intrigued. Gross-Loh addresses many of the tough questions of parenting: Where should kids sleep? What should they eat? How do we raise our children to be happy, successful and kind?

Sarah from Left Brain Buddha, Jessica from School of Smock and I will be writing about our own experiences with these topics as parents, as well as our reactions to the book.




We'll tackle many provocative topics raised by the book. We invite you to join us in the coming weeks. Contact any of us -- or comment on a post -- and tell us if you're interested in linking up with us for any (or all) of the upcoming blog posts. {We're calling it a "blog carnival" because blog carnivals are collections of blog posts, written by different bloggers, all focused on the same topic.}

Here are the questions we'll be exploring in the Parenting Carnival:
1) How should we teach our kids to eat?
2) Is too much self-esteem harmful to kids?
3) Do American kids have too much academic pressure? Or not enough?
4) How do we raise kids with good character?
5) How do we raise independent kids and foster their self-control?

We'll also be giving away a copy of Parenting Without Borders, signed by the author Christine Gross-Loh. Enter the giveaway by commenting on any of our Carnival posts during the next two weeks. We'll announce the winner by July 15.

Let's read and talk about how culture shapes our parenting. Join us!



***

Today, we’re starting with the number one subject on the minds of new parents: SLEEP! And it's a minefield: Co-sleep, or put baby in a crib in a separate room? Rock baby to sleep, or let her cry-it-out? Allow baby to sleep whenever, or put baby on a schedule?
____________

When I was pregnant, Rayne and I were pretty clear about one thing: the baby would not be sleeping in our bed. Instead, we borrowed the Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper from my cousin and hitched it to my side of the bed. And that is where he slept the first five months of his life.

If you look beyond the extreme cuteness you can see
the co-sleeper attached to my side of the bed.
The co-sleeper made it easier to breastfeed, check if he was breathing (which Rayne did with surprising regularity by blowing in his little face) and comfort him when he fussed. We had a changing table and a rocking/nursing chair in our bedroom; when we went to sleep, we had everything we needed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Choice and Childrearing

Did you see the recent post, Nine Reasons I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom, from Lisa Endlich Heffernan at Grown and Flown? It made the Huffington Post, and the author even did an interview on Fox and Friends.

I didn't read the comments on Huff Po or F&F. I didn't think I could stomach what I am sure were some vitriolic gems from people safe behind the soft "anonymous" glow of their computer screens.

But I did read the post. Because I know Lisa from my former place of employment, where she sits on the Board of Trustees. I know her as brilliant and accomplished (three books! three sons!). She was also a warm, genuine person, easy to work with. Everyone on our management team thought she was great.

Which is why I was surprised when I detected a harsh note of self-criticism in her post. She writes, in her ninth reason for regret:
But far and away my biggest regret about my years at home was that I lowered my sights for myself as I dimmed in my own mind what I thought I was capable of.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

This morning I took Henry and Hudson* the crazy corgi to Fort Greene Park during off-leash hours. That's before 9 am for those of you not up on New York City's dog-park rules. Or just not up at that time, period.

Rayne is traveling for "business" this week. I put business in quotation marks because he is technically away for work, but he also gets to go out to dinner and drinks with people and sleep wholly undisturbed in a king-sized bed all to himself.

Meanwhile, I'm up at 5:55 am with Henry needing -- absolutely needing with every fiber of his being -- for me to read him The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Immediately. If I don't read it to him, he will spontaneously combust. That's a fact.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Yeah, Well My Kid Didn't Get That Memo

A good friend of mine gave me the book The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph.D. when I got pregnant. I trust her judgment, so I started reading it several months ago.

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of parenting books. I find them contrived and contradictory at best. This book, written in 1993, explains the basis for attachment parenting. While it is interesting and sometimes helpful in explaining tantrums and such, the level of psychobabble is slightly too high for me.

For example, this gem on page 27:
It is generally accepted that girls wish they had a penis and express this wish in many overt and covert ways.
Really? Is that actually still generally accepted?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Introduction to Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders 101: I'm Fat?

Spring 1988, Suburbs of New York

"Girls, raise your hand if you think you are thin," Dr. M said to her seventh-grade science class, or, more accurately, the female half of the class.

Photo credit: sattva
I do not recall what this question had to do with science, what lesson she was trying to impart. I do remember, though, that the class, in the midst of self-loathing puberty, went deadly silent.

I was sitting at a lab table in the second row. I raised my hand without thinking about it too much.

"You?" she said to me incredulous. "You think you're thin?"

I looked around bewildered. No one else was raising her hand. I had made a terrible mistake. I slowly lowered my hand.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Blogiversary: 5 Things I Learned In My First Year of Blogging

I launched Urban Moo Cow one year ago today.

I decided to start the blog approximately two days before launching it. (Once I make up my mind....) Not six weeks later, I stumbled, green and clueless, into the BlogHer '12 conference in Times Square.

"Hi!" I chirped with a big goofy smile. "I'm a blogger!"

No, I was not. I did not have the first clue.

Thankfully, Liza Hippler, who is developing a cool new way to organize your blog life called Bloganizer, took pity on me and directed me to the SITS Girls website to learn a little bit about what I was getting myself into.

A year later, I have learned a lot. My husband even conceded that I wear the "interwebs social media" crown in our family. That's a big concession from a computer nerd. (He quickly clarified that he is still family king of the entire interwebs; he's just giving me the social media sliver. Thanks, honey.)


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Greatest Gift

Today I am over at Kristi's Finding Ninee with a guest post for her Our Land series. The series started with Kristi's poignant and beautiful post called The Land of Empathy and Wonder, in which she describes the world she wishes existed for her maybe-on-the-spectrum-maybe-not young son.

The only thing important in my imagined land is a person’s heart. And his empathy. And his ability to find wonder. To find joy in blowing bubbles on a breezy spring day rather than worrying about a job, a disease, a bill, a blog…

Monday, June 3, 2013

To My Son, I Sound Like a Hyena

"Hello?"
I've written before how much Henry covets my phone. The buttons, the flashy lights, the fact that it often has my rapt attention... what's not to love?

I catch him with it sometimes, "talking." He holds it up to his ear and says "Aah?" in a distinctive tone that I know means "Hello?" Then he talks for a few minutes, pausing and laughing as if having a real conversation.

Who knows, maybe he is.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Where In the World Is the Moo Cow?

Credit: samuiblue
I didn't post much here this week, but, believe me, the Moo Cow can't keep her trap (or laptop) shut. Here's where I've been this week:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fever

I've got a fever of 102. Which is why I'm up late at night writing (and completely ignoring my recently published advice about turning off the computer screen at night).

When I have a fever, the following comments do not help:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Problem With Sleeping

Now that I'm "working," Fridays have returned to their earlier meaning: end of the week. Frankly, by Friday, I am ex-haus-ted and beyond grateful that Henry and I have nothing scheduled.

This past Friday I was particularly tired. Besides working, I'd also spent EIGHT-AND-A-HALF HOURS commuting. Last Tuesday was National Fender Bender Day. Did you know that? Neither did I, but everyone else seemed to have gotten the memo.

As Rayne was getting ready to leave for work, I put Henry in the Baby Fun Zone, site of March's Pooptastrophe. Although he clearly did not like the earlier rebranding exercise, these days if you distract him for a few minutes, he will happily play on his own for at least a half hour.

And then I went back to sleep. Mama needs her beauty rest, you feel me?

At one point I dreamed that Henry was right next to me babbling in my face. The next moment I woke to him slamming the bedroom door. My train of thought went approximately like this:

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Asshole Brigade, Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

#1 Asshole
I've written a couple times about my gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood.

There is a lot about Brooklyn that differs from Manhattan. But there's one aspect of life that is the same the world over. No matter what neighborhood I'm in, I meet people on the street with my dog.

He's cute and clearly wants to be petted and played with by you (read: any sentient adult). People fall immediately, just as I once did, for his puppy eyes and nubby, quivering tail.

While my son is also adorable, no one, thankfully, asks to pet him. (The hordes have no qualms, however, about insisting I put a hat on my baby or keep his stroller uncovered lest he dehydrate.)

But Hudson makes friends; he always has.

The other day I was walking up my block when a woman on her stoop got an attack of the corgi-crazies. "Oh my god, a corgi! I love corgis! Love!!!"