Saturday, February 28, 2009

Asking Stupid Questions

Last week, I received a free trial for the mobile service which allows users to text message the KGB Team specific questions that are in need of immediate answers.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what types of questions I would be able to think of, but after I got the hang of it (aka, addicted to the service), I started using it at all times of the day (and night) to answer the weird and wacky questions that came to mind.

Having access to (nearly) immediate and accurate answers was fun and exciting!
At times, I treated it like the magic 8-ball, attempting to have my future told to me but the answers KGB provided made me smile and completely made my day!

After a few days of using the service, I asked my son what the one question is that he would like answered. His immediate response: "Why do they say the word 'crap' in the Transformers movie?" Well, I knew this wasn't a question that KGB could answer but I did find out, thanks to the KGB team, that the Transformers movie which came out last summer was rated PG-13 (and not PG like my ex-husband insisted). I was planning on having a little conversation with him about this and the appropriateness (sarcasm) of letting our five-year-old watch it....but my time is valuable and I digress.

To give you an idea about the KGB service and what they can do to help you, or entertain you, here are the list of questions and answers that I asked - and they answered.
Q: Where is the closest public parking lot to Wine Cabana in downtown San Diego?
A: We're very sorry, but every day we get a few questions we can't answer. This is one of them. No Charge. (Apparently, I was mistaken. Wine Cabana is not downtown so no wonder they couldn't help me.)

Q: What is the definition and origin of the word cabana?
A: Cabana is small cabin or tentlike structure for use as bathouse, esp. on beach or by swimming pool.

Q: Which actor played Batman before Christian Bale?
A: The actor who played Batman before Christian Bale was George Clooney in 1997.

Q: What's the name of the TV show starring Anthony Michael Hall?
A: Anthony Michael Hall starred in 2 tv shows in 2007, Final Approach and The Dead Zone. Busy guy!

Q: What is the average temperature in San Diego?
A: The average annual temperature in San Diego is 64.2F. The average temp for the month of Feb. is 58.6F.

Q: Should I move to Denver?
A: You will move when you have packed up your belongings and found a new place to live. Good luck!

Q: What is the world's deadliest creature?
A: The world's most deadliest creature would be the Mosquito. Some mosquito carry the disease Malaria.

Q: Why are the Academy Awards referred to as the Oscars?
A: The root of the name Oscar is contested. One biograpahy of Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson; one of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a TIME Magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards. Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932.

Q: How many iPhones were sold in 2008?
A: Apple sold 10 million iPhones in 2008, surpassing Steve Job's original stated goal.

Q: Who was the first woman to appear topless in a mainstream American film?
A: Annette Kellermann (an Australian swimming champion) in the film A Daughter of the Gods (1916).

Q: What is the secret to a successful marriage?
A: Never assume, compliment more than you criticize, always make time for each other and try to be fair!

Q: Do men who wear a suit and tie to work have more sex than those who don't?
A: Not necessarily. Quite a few women are attracted to the rugged outdoors look. Depends on the woman. (Apparently, KGB is slightly homophobic.)

Q: What is the most monogamous animal?
A: Zoologists now have solid evidence that monogamous pairs of animals are not always sexually exclusive.

Q: What is the most romantic city in the world?
A: Paris, France is the most romantic city in the world. It is a place that you must visit at least once!

Q: Why is the mother not present in fairy tales such as Snow White and Cinderella?
A: Original Grimm's story actually listed Snow White's mother as an evil, jealous mother. Disney changed!

Q: What is the easiest houseplant to take care of?
A: Devil's Ivy, aka Pothos: This plant is hearty at a vast array of light and moisture levels.

Q: Will opened alcohol go bad?
A: Alcohol does spoil when left open. It spoils due to oxidation in the same way fruit spoils. (I immediately threw out the ABSOLUT vodka bottles leftover from New Year's Eve...I typically don't waste alcohol like that...)

Q: Who will win as Best Actor in the 81st Academy Awards?
A: Should Win: Heath Ledger ('The Dark Knight'), Will Win: Heath Ledger (They were right!)

Q: Who will win as Best Actress in the 81st Academy Awards?
A: As the show has not aired yet, but should win = Meryl Streep (Doubt), Will win = Kate Winslet (The Reader). (Interesting...)

Q: When was sushi first introduced to the US mainstream?
A: The 1980s saw an increase in health consciousness, so sushi bars have increased in the United States.

Q: How long has Sean Penn been married to Robin?
A: Sean Penn has been married to Robin Wright Penn since April 27, 1996. They have 2 children together. (Asked as Sean Penn accepted his award for his role in Milk.)

Q: How many calories per day should one have when trying to lose weight?
A: Use the formula to figure it out: women: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years). (Um, what? You lost me at hello.)

Q: Should I wear red or black?
A: You can wear black all year round. It will make you look slimmer and black never goes out of style.

Q: When is Barack Obama's birthday?
A: Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is currently 47 years old.

Q: Is [insert man's name] "the one?"
A: Love is the mix of intimacy, passion, and commitment. If you feel these things for [man's name] - then maybe!

Q: What size does Beyonce wear?
A: Beyonce doesn't often share her clothing size but she auctioned two size 6 dresses for charity on Ebay.

Q: How old is Angelina Jolie?
A: Born Angelina Jolie Voight on June 4, 1975. She is 34, an actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN.

Q: When is the best time of year to visit Morocco?
A: Best travel time for Morocco is Sept - Oct, March and May. Worst time is July, Aug. It gets up to 104F!

Q: Who created the tooth fairy?
A: The tooth fairy tradition came from ancient folk methods of disposing of lost teeth and superstitions.

Q: How does one become a member of the KGB Team?
A: If you are 18 or older you can log onto and take the test to become a kgb Agent. Good luck!

Q: Will I have another child?
A: If you and your partner are trying to conceive you may be having a child soon. Good Luck!

A: WWJD became a popular phrase in the 1990s as a personal motto for thousands of Christians.

Q: What is the best cure for insomnia?
A: Not medical advice. To help insomnia avoid caffeine, have a warm bath and a milky drink before bed.

Q: What is the name of the book by the lead singer of Korn?
A: The book is "Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs & Lived to Tell My Story"

Q: What is the age difference between Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher?
A: Demi was born in 1962, Ashton was born in 1978. She is about 15 years older then [sic] him.

Q: Was Seven Pounds nominated for any awards?
A: The movie Seven Pounds, with Will Smith & Rosario Dawson, is not nominated for any Oscars this year.

Q: Has anyone been married more times than Elizabeth Taylor?
A: On Jan 4th, 2007, it was recorded that Kamarudin Mohamad had married 53 times. Elizabeth Taylor had 8.

Q: Where do hip thirty-something career women shop for clothes?
A: Chicos, Dillards, Macy's, and J.C. Penny are a few; but it really depends on your style and body type.

Q: Where did Annette Bening attend high school?
A: Annette Bening attended Patrick Henry High. She studied drama there before wining [sic] multiple awards!

Q: Who is the youngest person to ever win an Oscar?
A: Shirley Temple won a juvenile Academy Award at age 6. Tatum O'Neal won a competitive Oscar at age 10.

Q: What is the lowest airfare from Minneapolis to Las Vegas for travel in March?
A: Depends on exact date, but a one-way ticket from Minn to Las Vegas starts at $137.21 for March 9, 2009.

Q: What is the best-selling import beer?
A: Corono Extra and Corona Light are the two most popular brands of Corona Beer. It is the #1 import in US.

Q: What's the difference between a trademark and copyright?
A: Trademark: used to protect a word, symbol, or name. Copyright: protects original works like books.

Q: What's the lifespan of a hummingbird?
A: In captivity, hummingbirds can survive for more than 10 years. In the wild 3 - 5 years is more likely.

Q: When does the Lunar New Year begin and what animal represents 2009?
A: The lunar new year began on Monday, January 26, 2009. This year is the year of the ox.

Q: What is the Transformer movie rated?
A: "Transformers: Revenge of th Fallen" opens in theaters on June 24, 2009 and is not yet rated.

Q: What was the last Transformer movie rated?
A: The most recent Transformer movie is rated: PG-13.

Q: What's the best remedy for adult acne?
A: Not medical advice: For home treatment for acne, apply an oatmeal mask at least once or twice a week.

Q: What's a good dog breed to introduce to children?
A: American bulldog, American foxhound, American mastiff, American pit bull terrier...

Q: How long does pink eye usually last?
A: Not medical advice. Pinkeye needs to be treated by a dr, if it hasn't improved in 2 - 3 days tell them.

Q: What does KGB stand for?
A: kgb: Knowledge Generation Bureau. We can answer most anyting. Text us again & let us show you!

Q: What were the most popular baby names last year?
A: The most popular baby girl's name for '08 was Emma. Aiden took the top spot for a boy's name.

Q: What were the most popular baby names of 1979?
A: In 1979, the most popular names were Michael & Jennifer, followed closely by Christopher & Melissa.

Q: What were the most popular baby names of 1989?
A: Michael & Jessica headed the name charts in 1989, followed by Christopher, Ashley, Matthew & Brittany.

Q: What were the most popular baby names of 1969?
A: In '69, Michael & Lisa were the most popular baby names followed by David & James, Michelle & Jennifer

Q: What were the most popular baby names of 1999?
A: In 1999 the most popular girl's name was Emily. The most popular boy's name was Jacob.

Q: Who are the seven arc angels?
A: Traditionally the 7 arch angels re Uriel Raphael Raguel Sariel Gabriel Remiel & Michael. This may vary.

Q: When did pink and blue first start representing the gender of newborn babies?
A: History is not clear but before 1940, the opposite was true: blue was for girls, pink was for boys.

Q: What is the tallest point in the 48 states?
A: The highest mountain in the 48 contiguous U.S. is Mt. Whitney, California at 14,494 feet/4418 meters.
OK, so now you see the many lame and sometimes very personal questions that came up during the last few days and how KGB answered them so gracefully and professionally.

I love this service. It was fun, convenient and provided accurate information in just a few minutes. I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for ways to prove who's right in an argument, stats for sports teams or players, or interesting facts to help start a conversation with that cute guy or gal in line at Starbucks.

To send a message to the KGB team, simply text to 542542 (kgbkgb) with your first question to get started. You will be charged 99 cents for each answer.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How Healthy Are You?

If you're anything like me, you make sure your child is taken care of, setting up doctor's appointments in a timely manner and take him to the doctor when his fever is high, his cough lingers too long or something just doesn't seem right.

If you're anything like me, you haven't been to the doctor yourself for quite some time. So, how do you know if you're healthy then? What preventative measures can you take to make sure you remain strong and healthy so you can continue to take care of your child?

With a better general awareness of health, fitness, and nutrition, many people may feel that they are staying on track in doing what they need to in order to stay healthy. If you would like to see how you measure up, then take a few online quizzes and tests to see what you know and learn how you can keep yourself healthy and fit.

With categories including women’s health, men’s health, children’s and teen health, specific health issues, fitness, nutrition, and more, you will find plenty of quizzes to ensure you are on the right track with you and your family’s health. Remember, though, that these quizzes never substitute for a visit to your doctor.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Tomorrow, I am going to be attending a workshop on self-care, hosted by dear friend and Life Coach, Cathy Northcutt. The topic of this week's one-hour retreat is loving yourself. Next week, Cathy will discuss coping strategies, all while participants are surrounded by soothing sounds and images at the Revive Day Spa & Salon in La Mesa.

Cathy has created a Meetup group for women only, called The Extreme Self-Care Women's Meetup Group so sign up now to start your journey of caring for yourself and putting yourself first.

Another advocate for balanced living, Renee Trudeau, empowers and inspires women, men and families to create the lives they desire.

She has also written a book, The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal, which will inspire moms to put themselves first (for a change).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Second Annual Parenting Party

The second annual Happy Healthy Hip Parenting Party is taking place on Thursday, May 21st at The Airport Lounge! Save the date, book your babysitter and get ready for an amazing time. If you weren't at last year's party, read about it here and check out the photos!

Join parents and parent educators for the 2nd Annual Happy Healthy Hip Parenting Happy Hour! Sponsors will once again provide amazing prizes that will be given away throughout the night!

Parents will be able to unwind and meet other like-minded individuals while being pampered by local parent educators who will ensure that everyone feels supported as they go home and continue their greatest role ever, as Mom or Dad!

Come out and enjoy the special Happy Healthy Hip Parenting Happy Hour drink menu and half-price appetizers, not to mention some pretty amazing music!

Tickets are ON SALE now!

If you would like information about sponsorship and advertising opportunities, please contact me for details.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Surgery Concerns for Children

My son recently had to have a cavity filled at the dentist's office and was given Versed in order to alleviate his fear of the big needle they used to numb the area they worked on.

He had this procedure done once before and it was a strange experience that I was hoping we wouldn't have to go through again. The effects of Versed are similar to those of alcohol. We were told that our son would be unbalanced, perhaps say strange things and become very sleepy afterward.

His dad dropped him off after the procedure and I had to carry him inside since he couldn't walk. His legs were like rubber. Once we got inside, he asked me if he could go to sleep. Obviously, this is not like him at all, since he's an average 5-year-old with an abundance of energy that keeps him wanting to be active and move all the time.

I had the opportunity to ask an expert about Versed and other issues surrounding anesthesia since I was introduced to the book, Before the Scalpel, by Dr. Dhar.

Author Panchali Dhar, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology and Anesthesiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. She has demystified the process and terms associated with anesthesia and arranged the information in an easy to understand topic-by-topic sourcebook. In Before the Scalpel, Dr. Dhar takes readers into the complicated, fascinating, cutting-edge world of anesthesia.

Here is a brief interview with Dr. Dhar based on questions that many parents have about anesthesia:

1) Do patients really have options when it comes to anesthesia? How much of their choices depend on the insurance coverage they carry?

Certain surgeries do allow anesthetic options. For example, a face lift can be done under deep sedation with local anesthesia or under general anesthesia. A hernia repair can be done under deep sedation with local anesthesia, a spinal, an epidural of under general anesthesia. The right anesthetic is tailored between you, doctors and pertinent surgical issues (such as time length of surgery).

At no point does the type of insurance dictate the anesthetic choice. Every patient is treated equally regardless of insurance or social situation. That is what being a doctor is all about.

2) For moms (like me) who underwent a C-Section, I've always wondered if my child was affected in any way from the anesthesia administered or if there are any risks associated with this?

Regional anesthesia is the most popular form of anesthesia offered to women in labor. It allows a woman to enjoy her labor pain free. Spinal and epidural anesthetics are safe and are provided to thousands of women throughout the world. The amount of medication placed through spinals and epidurals is just enough to make mom comfortable. These medications are targeted to nerves around the spinal cord, and almost zero crosses over to the blood stream. The baby does not get affected. The nice thing about epidural is that if a C-section is necessary, additional medication can provide for a stronger anesthetic level.

Sometimes it is not possible to provide regional anesthesia. This is usually due to technical reasons, emergency situations or various medical reasons. The safety of the mother is always a priority for the anesthesiologist. Some situations require a general anesthetic where the mother is put out completely. The dose of general anesthetic is kept to a minimum until the baby is delivered. Again, thousands of healthy babies are born through C- section under general anesthesia. Not to worry. There are no long lasting effects on the baby.

3) Parents don't want to think about the worst case scenario (their child needing an emergency surgery) but what is the number 1 thing we should know "just in case" this should happen?

If your child should need surgery, make sure the anesthesiologist is particularly trained in "pediatric anesthesia". Children are not miniature adults. The organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys don't function at adult levels until the age of 5! Precise medication dosing is based on the exact body weight. All equipment is downsized to miniature levels for the tiniest of newborns.

4) What risks are known about the sedative Versed, provided for children during dental procedures, and what is the difference between these liquid sedatives and a local anesthesia?

Sedative drugs such as Versed are basically short acting Valium type drugs. They make you sleepy, decrease anxiety, and block memory formation. In children under sedatives, monitoring the oxygen level and breathing are important for obvious reasons. Liquid sedatives do not block pain at the site of the dental procedure. A local anesthetic still has to be injected at the site of surgery. The sedatives simply allow the patient to be more accepting of that gigantic needle yet to come.

For details on surgery concerns for children, check out this video:

In Before the Scalpel: What Everyone Should Know About Anesthesia, Dr. Dhar walks readers through the various steps that ensure a safe and pain-free experience during medical procedures that may require or benefit from anesthesia. Before the Scalpel is formatted and illustrated for quick and easy reference in an interactive manner. This is a take-along-book to the doctor’s office, with outlines and room to make notations. Each chapter is a mini crash course for any person who is concerned about the anesthesia aspect of surgery.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview with The Successful Single Mom

I had the pleasure with speaking to Honorée Capron about her latest book, The Successful Single Mom. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
HipM0M: Honorée, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I recently discovered your book, The Successful Single Mom and I thought, I’m a successful single mom. The book appealed to me and I want all single moms to feel successful, too. Can you tell me how you came up with the idea for putting this book together?

SSM: Being a single mom is the toughest job. I don’t know if you’re a single mom…

HipM0M: I am!

SSM: Ok, so you know! It’s the hardest job times 500,000! ... I was watching the Oprah show last May and she had some people on, and they were kind of emulating the show, “Ten Years Younger,” and they were talking about how these women had kind of let themselves go and what was the impetus for letting themselves go. And the woman that they introduced - it was the third woman, I believe - she came out and she was introduced by Oprah’s staff as being a single mom. And Oprah says, “She focuses on bringing home the money and taking care of the children. Of course she is last on her list.” And I thought, well I’m a single mom and I’ve been a single mom for six yearsI never let myself go and I then I said, wait a second. Yes I did. I went through a tough time.

And I wondered if there was a book about making it through being a single mom that could’ve helped me get through that tough time and helped me feel successful and so I Googled and Amazoned and I couldn’t really find anything that really fit that criteria for me that would’ve been a book that helped me through the process, so I decided to write the book...from a coaching standpoint, but also, I had the experience of being a single mom.

HipM0M: What seems to be the number one challenge for the single moms that you’ve worked with?

SSM: Trying to do it all themselves, not asking for help, not creating a support system.

HipM0M: I definitely agree. I see that quite often. Now, why do you think that is? Why do you think single moms feel intimidated, or whatever it may be, to ask for help.?What is it about our personalities or just being a Mom that makes us feel we have to do it all? I mean, have you found the answer to that?

SSM: I think so! I think that we already have a list (of things to do that is) really long and if someone came and asked us for something we would be fine with it. We are so used to saying, “Yes.” As women we’re going to say yes, right? Because we’re taught to say yes to everything. But we also know that asking for help from someone else would mean that they would be adding to their To-Do list so we’re hesitant to ask for something from others but we would be fine with others asking us. In my work with moms, I encourage them to ask for what they need, which is something I wrote about in my latest blog post, Help a Sister Out.

HipM0M: I see that besides the printed edition of The Successful Single Mom, you can also purchase an e-book and the 100-Day Transformation Program. Can you tell me about what that is?

SSM: I actually started with the 100-Day Program. At 19, I created a 100-Day Program for myself. It was basically 100 Days, 3 Goals, a vision for each of those 100 days and things that I wanted to work on.

I then started using it about 5 years ago, I figured out that… single moms don’t want a big 350-page book. 100 pages is plenty…a quick book with a lot of meat.

I decided to see if this program would work for other single moms so I actually picked other single moms and coached them all for a quarter and it worked. 100 days worked because it was long enough that they could build momentum, see the results … not so long that they felt like it was going on forever.

And we were able to actually see the results. On the last day we celebrated 100 Days and you could see the change in these women. The women actually looked different and were more positive and you could tell that their energy levels had increased.

HipM0M: How do you define success?

SSM: If the bills are paid, I have $5 leftover for a pizza, my child is happy, she sees a happy mom, if my husband is happy…It’s not about the things. I can have all the pretty shoes I want, but if I’m arguing with my husband or my daughter is not happy, I don’t feel successful.

HipM0M: You were a single mom for several years but recently remarried. Congratulations!

SSM: Thank you! I was single and celibate for three years! During that time, I focused on myself. My number one relationship was with myself and I was really protective of my time. But when I was finally ready to date, I knew that as I became more attractive to myself, I became more attractive to other people.

HipM0M: Single moms are often concerned about the right time and exactly how to introduce their significant other into their children’s lives. Can you share what worked for you, or what didn’t work for you?

SSM: I work with a lot of clients and have several friends so my daughter is used to meeting new people. On the second date I had with my current husband, we went back to my house to leso that my babysitter go home. Our first date was about 8 hours. This second date was about six so we had gotten to know each other pretty well by this time.

I introduced him to my daughter and they got to spend time together for about 15 minutes, very briefly but as I was tucking her in that night she said, "I hope he stays your friend.” Kids have that instinctive part of them that really allows them to tune into people, so I really wanted to see her first impression was of him and how he'd be around her.

The bottom line is, don’t introduce someone until you know they’re going to stick. And when you know – you just know!

HipM0M: Are you working on any projects right now?

SSM: Yes, in fact, you’re the first one to know – this is Breaking News: I’m working with a co-author on a cookbookThe Successful Single Mom Cooks! It’s going to be a recipe book filled with great menu ideas that from start to finish will be on your table in 20 minutes.

HipM0M: This is great news, since I know I never want to eat the same things, or at the same time as my son. It’s challenging!

SSM: Right! No more franks and beans or the same old thing each night.

HipM0M: I look forward to that and to letting my readers know about your book, The Successful Single Mom. Is there anything else you want to share?

SSM: I have a group page on Facebook so that single moms can connect with one another. I also just want to acknowledge single moms. If this book appeals to you, it’s because you’re already an amazing mom and you want to be able to continue to be successful. You should give yourself a pat on the back!

If you take care of yourself, you will be successful. I know that the happier I am, the happier my daughter is. If we can model this for our kids then they will be inspired and feel successful.

If you're a single mom, you are are success so raise your glass to you, and the other single moms who continue to inspire us all to be our best, take care of ourselves and support others on similar journeys.

Read more reviews for The Successful Single Mom:

Get Your Life Back and Your Game On!

Chicago Single Mom Examiner

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I remember adults asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and having no idea how to answer that question. I've only recently discovered what I truly want to do that would be fulfilling, provide me with a stable income and allow me to have the flexibility that I desire.

Young women have limitless options when it comes to the type of career they want but it certainly isn't easy to figure out as a teen or young adult what job would suit them best.

In Their Shoes is a wonderful resource put together by Deborah Reber that just might help young women narrow down their career choices. Interviewing women in different professions, from a forensic scientist to librarian, firefighter to architect and over a dozen more, Reber highlights successful women and what it took for them to get to where they are today.

Senator Barbara Boxer and actress Maura Tierney are two recognizable names - and faces - included in this collection of careers that young women will understand more clearly after reading through this book.

In the back of the book is a Career Chooser checklist to help readers determine which jobs fall into categories that they might find appealing, such as jobs involving travel to interesting places, careers that provide opportunities to attend hip parties or that allow you to work from home.

I wish I had this book when I was in high school, trying to figure it all out. With this book and the information provided, young women can select a career path that they will be confident and eager to dive into when the time comes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's a Boy!

Because I was a tomboy and have always felt comfortable around males (I had two male roommates during my last year of college), when I found out, five and a half years ago, that I was pregnant with a baby boy, I was very excited. I also looked forward to having my own father involved in his life, more so - I imagined - than he was during my childhood.

Growing up with a sister always made me that much more interested and curious about males since they were a little foreign to me. I was jealous of my friends who had brothers, either younger or older than us. But, for some reason, when it came time to thinking about raising my son on my own (when his father and I separated), I thought that it would be no problem. I thought, from my feminist point of view, that boys and girls were pretty much the same. They - all children - need love, attention and discipline in order to thrive and survive.

As my son got older, started talking and becoming more active and aggressive, I realized, for the first time probably, just how different boys and girls truly are. Yes, we are all still equals, but to ignore the differences between men and women would do us all a disservice.

I picked up a copy of Dr. Michael Thompson's book, It's a Boy! to figure out ways to enhance my son's self-esteem as he gets older and continues to develop. Since my son recently turned five, I grabbed the book off the shelf once again to read the chapters devoted to boys his age, boys who are getting ready to start school and who continue to become more masculine as they develop and become the "little men" that they are designed to be.

One of the concerns we hear about in the media, regarding boys especially, is their risk for developing and being diagnosed with ADD. It's often difficult to gain our son's attention or have them focus on tasks or assignments in school. As parents, Dr. Thompson claims that there are four things we can do to help children gain good attentional abilities:
  1. Turn off the screen (TV or computer)
  2. Provide a quiet play space where you are nearby
  3. Play games with your son (regularly but not constantly)
  4. Protect that precious time by not scheduling him into too many after-school activities
Another important element to nurturing a young boy's self-esteem is to provide him with opportunities to explore the arts, whether it be music, drawing, clay or woodwork. As Dr. Thompson has seen in over thirty years of working with young boys, "experience in the arts allows a boy to feel a sense of satisfaction that he cannot experience in any other realm of his life. And it allows him insight into himself that he cannot obtain in any other way." He can look at the final result and say to himself, "This is mine. I made it. It represents me."

Many parents that I work with often have difficulties or challenges with communicating or dealing with their sons (more often than with their daughters). I am able to offer them some insight based on my own experiences, along with great advice that Dr. Thompson outlines in this book.

Some fathers often become frustrated with their sons because they feel as though they do not want to spend time with them. Around the age of twelve, young boys really need their fathers and will look to them as role models and companions, someone whom they will strive to be just like as they get older.

Moms raising boys on their own wonder what they can do to help their young boys feel capable and confident. Since boys like to feel needed and useful, simply asking for their help , beginning at an early age, will help. Thompson refers to author Thomas Lickona who says there are three things that will help a boy build strong character: habits of the heart (their desire to want to help), habits of the mind (recognizing situations where help is needed), and habits of practice (following through and providing help). Providing opportunities for your son to help out is vital and as they get older, their responsibilities may shift from having them help you in the kitchen to helping with a major task that requires a bit more "elbow grease."

Another question that comes up when working with single mothers is communication about their child's father, who are not be involved in their lives. Thompson states that it's important for moms to mention their father whenever her son does something that reminds her of him. "He needs to hear that he came from a living, breathing man and that that is a good thing in your eyes."

What else can a father do to help guide a young boy struggling to become more independent? Thompson lists several things that both mom and dad can do:
  • Listen and ask questions
  • Don't look over your son's shoulder at every move he makes
  • Draw the line between being an advocate and being an enabler
  • Be generous with praise, honest and vocal about your love and firm with discipline
  • Focus on his gifts and talents
  • Let your son grow
  • Don't make excuses for your son
  • Model responsible communication for solving problems
  • Set limits and stick to them
  • Never say, "My son would never do that."
  • Create realistic expectations by letting your son fail in order to allow him to figure out how to succeed on his own.
Finally, one of the most important issues that Thompson addresses is how to help your son celebrate the milestone of finally becoming a man. Since society doesn't honor any specific rituals for when a boy truly steps into manhood, parents can create opportunities for their adolescent son to have their own rite of initiation, perhaps something outdoors, where there is the chance for them to experience both commitment and courage, sharing a sense of mission with other young men his age.

Many examples and stories are gathered in this insightful and resourceful guide from Thompson's experience working with boys and men for the majority of his career. As a parent, educator or someone trying to understand their own development, this is a wonderful book to have during any stage of a young man's life as well as a great gift for those wanting a deeper and stronger connection with the male child.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting Myself First

My son got sick early this morning and is sleeping off whatever it is that made him ill. He doesn't get sick often so it's hard to see him so miserable. He woke up asking for more water and didn't have much energy to even lift his head.

Today was going to be a special day for him at school. It's the last day of school before Winter Break and also the day they share Valentine's Day cards with one another. He spent a long time filling out the Valentine's Day cards and was looking forward to the celebration.

I was looking forward to heading over to a spa in the area for an hour-long session on Putting Yourself First with a friend and life coach who put together the event. Sadly, I will not be able to be there now since I'm here at home while my son sleeps.

It's ironic that today, putting myself first is not an option. I work with parents who I encourage to set aside time for themselves and with their partner but realistically, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Life gets in the way and responsibilities shift depending on the circumstances and so it is that I am meant to be here, still able to put myself first in some ways since my son isn't needing my attention right now. I keep going in his room to check on him and although I love watching him sleep, it's never fun to see him sick.

He's not himself today and I don't know when he'll be back to normal but for the time being, I am getting some things done (coffee, laundry and writing) while I wait for his energy to revitalize him and get him back on his feet.

I promised him that I'd bring his cards to his friends this afternoon and pick up his box of Valentine's cards that will be set aside for him. He's leaving for a mini-vacation next week with his dad so I promised myself that I'll use that time to put myself first. No excuses.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eyes on the Shore

By Steve Goodier

A story is told about a bloodhound chasing a stag. A fox crossed the path, so the hound chased the fox. After a while a rabbit crossed the path, so the hound chased it. Later, a mouse crossed the path and the hound chased the mouse into a hole. The hound began his hunt on the trail of a magnificent stag and ended up watching a mouse hole!

Not that there is anything wrong with spontaneity. Some of the most wonderful things have come into my life by beautiful accident. But there is also something to be said for knowing where we want to go.

Florence Chadwick learned the importance of keeping a goal in mind on July 4, 1952. She waded into the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island and began swimming toward the California coast 26 miles away. The day was cold and her attendants drove off sharks throughout the journey. Florence had already swum the English Channel twice and, if she could finish today, she would be the first woman to have swum both. But after fifteen hours in the water, for the first and only time in her long-distance swimming career, she gave up and climbed into the escort boat. Others had urged her on, but in the fog they could not tell her how near she was to the coast. She later learned that she was less than half a mile from shore.

When asked by a reporter why she gave up, Florence replied: "It was the fog. If I could have seen land, I could have finished. But when you can't see your goal, you lose all sense of progress and you begin to give up."

On a warm, sunny day two months later Florence Chadwick swam the Catalina Channel, handily beating the men's record. Only when she kept her eyes on the shore did she eventually arrive there. Keeping that goal constantly in sight will get you where you want to go.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Finding That Special Someone

My male companion (for lack of a better term) and I recently discussed whether or not we'd ever get married again. We didn't discuss marrying each other, but talked hypothetically, of course! While I flirt with the idea of having more kids and someday walking down the aisle - older and wiser - I have to admit that the idea is just as scary as it is exciting.

A while back, before my best friend from high school got married, I wrote a post about Susan Piver's book, The Hard Questions. It's a small book filled with great topics to get couples discussing issues that will come up throughout their relationship.
Issues such as money, work, sex, family, and children are addressed as well as several others.

Photogurrl sent me an article recently which discusses A Dozen Ways to Get to Know Your Real Partner. Author Stacy D. Phillips mentions great signs to watch out for which are ones that I wish I had paid more attention to in my relationship with my ex-husband.

And just today, I discovered another amazing list through PT Law Mom's blog: 276 Questions to Ask Before You Marry.

Between these three resources, there is plenty to learn about yourself and your partner which makes for a fun and exciting activity that will bring you closer to the person you are with.

What these lists have helped me realize is that I have dozens - if not hundreds - of conversations yet to have with my current love interest. What's holding me back from bringing up these topics? Am I afraid to find out that we may not be the best match for each other or would it be scarier to discover that we are?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Gift of Fatherhood

Parenting is certainly not easy. And even though I can't even possibly know what it's like to be a father, I can tell you, based on personal experience with my dad and the father of my son, that fatherhood presents unique challenges that are different than those that mothers deal with.

Aaron Hass, PhD, puts it all together in his book, Gift of Fatherhood. In his work with families that spans over twenty years, Dr. Hass has acquired a great understanding of the issues men face when becoming fathers.

Twelve Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Spend More Time with Your Children:
  1. Parenting is difficult
  2. You wait too long before becoming involved
  3. You made an attempt to engage your child and you were rebuffed
  4. You see your child as a burden rather than a joy
  5. Your children seem to have arrived from another planet
  6. You feel more comfortable with your son than your daughter
  7. The temperaments of you and your child don't seem to fit
  8. You have a very difficult child
  9. You feel financial pressures
  10. You believe parenting is your wife's responsibility
  11. Your children prefer to be with their mother
  12. You avoid being with your child to avoid marital conflict
Why You Should Want to Spend More Time with Your Children:
  1. You will understand their abilities better
  2. You will enhance your child's self-esteem
  3. You may be able to forestall childhood problems
  4. You will have more influence on them
  5. It will enhance your self-esteem
  6. Because of your epitaph
  7. You can do it right
  8. Your child presents you with an opportunity to grow
While I happen to think that some of these issues are a bit out-of-date (do some men still think parenting responsibilities lie with the mother?), I again have to wonder if perhaps they are issues that men deal with. I'm hoping that the fathers reading this can offer some feedback and let moms know what it is that may cause you to seek time away from your children and what it is that motivates you to spend more time with them than your father may have spent with you.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

For those of us who have lost a child, having something to remember him or her by is the key to moving on. I came across a website devoted to bereavement photography for infants and stillborn babies which I think is a lovely testament to the ways in which our loved ones live on in our hearts and memories.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a non-profit organization providing resources and volunteer photographers to provide lasting images for parents who have experienced the loss of a child. For families overcome by grief and pain, the idea of photographing their baby may not immediately occur to them. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives.

With her two daughters looking on,
Jennifer Clark holds her son Connor soon after he was born.
He died the same day. (Photo by Miyo Strong)

Each year nearly 3.3 million babies are stillborn, and more than 4 million others die within 28 days of coming into the world. [World Health Organization] With advanced medical technology, it is a parents expectation that those born unto us will out live us. When a baby dies, it is outside the natural order of life and families are left devastated and forever changed.

Every living being instinctually knows how to grieve. It is learning how to heal, that some need help with. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation.

Remembrance Photography is a very important step in this healing process. Photographs are one of the most precious and tangible mementos that a parent can have, showing the love and bond that was given and shared with their baby. These portraits will last for generations, and will honor and remember a tiny life that is forever loved and cherished.

When I experienced a miscarriage - just about ten years ago - I knew that in order to heal, I needed something physical to hold onto, something to allow me to never forget. My tattoo is something that I see on a daily basis, when I look in the mirror or when I'm in the shower. It's there with me, everwhere I go, just as my unborn daughter is and I welcome questions from people wondering about the meaning behind my body art.

I am smiling now, thinking of my first pregnancy and how confident I was, thinking that I was prepared to be a mother at the age of 22. Little did I know that the world had something else in mind for me. Things fell into place as they were meant to and I am now a mother of an amazing little boy who energizes me, inspires me and fills me with pride.

Knowing that organizations such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep exist puts me in awe of the many people who have made it happen. Although I know the pain and suffering the loss of a child brings, I hope that sharing this resource will provide someone with a way to move forward without the fear of forgetting about the past.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Adding a child to a relationship definitely changes the dynamics of a partnership and will usually make things more stressful. People do it every day, though, so there's gotta be something said for creating families and making the beautiful babies that make the world go around. How do couples survive the tumultuous times ahead of them? What can they do to make things easier on their marriage and friendship?

I work with couples all the time who speak of marital issues that stem from their disagreements on parenting and problems that didn't occur before children. There are several books I recommend to parents looking for ways to get their relationship back on track and be the happy, loving couple they once were.

Oftentimes, parents don't take the time to focus on their relationship. They're busy disciplining their children, paying bills, cleaning house, and putting their children before their marriage. While I don't tell couples to neglect their kids or set aside their responsibilities, I do encourage them to make time to go out on a date once a week with their partner. Whether it's a walk through the neighborhood, or dinner and a movie, focusing on your relationship - and not talking about the kids - is a positive thing for the entire family.

With Valentine's Day coming up, I hope that you and your spouse are taking time to do something special alone, without the kids.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Long-Distance Love

Illustrator Valeri Gorbachev is an amazing artist and she teams up with author Sandra Horning in The Giant Hug, a wonderful book about sharing love and spreading joy.

In this adorable picture book, little Owen wants to send his Grandma a hug even though she lives far away. He comes up with a great plan that requires the participation of many people in the community, sending a hug to his Grandma in a unique and inspiring way.

Readers will be able to recognize the power of love in this story. It makes a great gift for far away grandparents and a wonderful book to read with your child when a hug is needed.

Check out more great children's books for Valentine's Day (or any day).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Love Stories

John Gray, PhD, is known for his series of books focusing on the differences between men and women and how to use this knowledge to strengthen relationships.

In Mars and Venus in Love, Gray shares the stories of couples he has worked with over the years and asks them to explain what types of problems they've had in their relationships and what works for them as far as communication and expressing love is concerned.

It's essentially a book of love stories - a collection of true-life tales that will show you something about your own love story that may have eluded you for a long time. A few insights, techniques, and changes in habits of mind and body nourish love and make it grow, and like little one-act plays these stories show you how. Mars and Venus in Love gives you the opportunity to see yourself in the stories of others and to recognize your own communication and behavior patterns in the circumstances they describe. It shows you, in many different ways,that:
  • Problems in love are normal
  • There's nothing wrong with you if you have difficulties in your relationships
  • Almost everyone who tries to love has problems getting it right
  • Even when people are deeply in love their relationships won't work if they don't recognize certain truths about men and women
  • Men and women are different
  • The key to falling and staying in love is to recognize and embrace those differences.
Offering you creative ideas for solving problems in your relationships and opening up new avenues for communication, Mars and Venus in Love is an invaluable resource and a perfect companion to Gray's previous books.

For ways to enhance the passion and romance in your life, check out Mars and Venus in the Bedroom.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Questions You'd Never Ask Your Parents

Having an open and trusting relationship with our children is a goal that most parents have, but let's be honest. No matter how open and respectful our relationship, there are many subjects that are a little embarrassing for both kids and parents.

I remember my mom telling me (over and over) how I could talk to her about anything and oftentimes I found myself (and still do) sharing too much information. But the fact remains that there were certain questions I had or things I wanted to know about that I just could never bring up with her.

Elisabeth Henderson and Nancy Armstrong put together an amazing book that I plan on purchasing for my son and slipping under his door someday. 100 Questions You'd Never Ask Your Parents answers many questions in thoughtful, simple ways for those curious and developing teens and tweens.

Providing your child with a safe environment to ask questions is a wonderful thing, but for those kids who just can't seem to say some of these things out loud, this book is a must-have. I even suggest that parents buy this book before their children are ready for these topics so that they can come up with ways to answer their children's questions if and when they are asked.