Tag Archives: Parenting

My Sympathies to Anthony Weiner’s Mom

Update from Weiner World: Anthony Weiner is at it again.

And Anthony Weiner’s mom is on my mind.

Now in his third public exposure, so to speak, Anthony Weiner’s peccadillos have again brought shame to his family and ridicule from around the world.

Who would have thought that this schmuck would still be sexting his private parts to random women online?

I feel very sorry for Huma. I can’t imagine the agony she’s had to endure, trying to keep her head high and her personal life out of the spotlight.

I also feel sorry for Anthony Weiner’s mom, who never in her wildest dreams imagined her baby boy would grow up to be a sexting addict.

So this post first published three years ago feels very deja vu.

And once again the message to Anthony Weiner’s mom is heartfelt.

Dear Anthony Weiner’s Mom,

We don’t know each other, but I’ve been thinking about you lately. Wondering how you’re holding up.

Yes, you. Anthony Weiner’s mom. I’m concerned about you.

Can we talk, mother to mother?

You see, I have adult children, as you do, although none of mine has been involved in a sexting scandal, as far as I know. Nor have they embarrassed the hell out of me on an international stage. Not yet, anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying my children are perfect, not at all. Are they wonderful human beings? Yes. Have they made poor choices in the past, mostly involving liquor consumption and sky diving? Yes.

But here’s the thing. We are meant to fall deeply in love with our children from the day they are born. I did, and I bet you did, too. Unconditional love. From their first uncertain steps to making the soccer team to graduating from college, our kids made us kvell over accomplishments both big and small.

Whether we should take credit for any of that is debatable, but admit it, every success made us glow knowing that we nailed the parenting gig.

Because we adore them unconditionally, we forgive them for their shortcomings. Kids are kids and make errors in judgment.

As parents, we hope they learn from their mistakes. It’s called growing up.

That’s why my heart goes out to you, Mrs. Weiner. Your son hasn’t grown up. He doesn’t get that it’s not all about him. That beautiful wife and son of his do not deserve the suffering that he has inflicted. But this is not your fault.

I know you love and support your son. Just between the two of us, though, be honest. Has he tested every last nerve? Do you really want to just smack him upside the head? Do you wish you could send him to “Time Out” for a long, long time?

If he were my son, that’s how I would feel.

My point is that whatever emotional roller coaster you’re on right now, please don’t allow parental guilt to be part of the ride. It is not your fault. There were many times when he made you proud.

But he screwed up, big time. Many times.

He did. Not you.

So continue to stand by your son, as any mother would do. But don’t tear your hair out wondering what you did wrong. Maternal guilt can be a killer. Just don’t even go there.

Between you and me, I think there is a lot of sympathy out there for you, especially from other moms. Moms who can’t fully relate, but know what it feels like to suffer in the wings while a child is in free fall. To agonize when your child has let you down, really hard.
Most moms I know would give you a hug, Mrs. Weiner, and tell you to hang in there.

And I am one of those moms.

 

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Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

You’ve heard of chick lit, but did you know that there is a new literary genre called “grip lit?”

Grip lit refers to the smoldering, tension-driven, dark crime novels written by women and featuring morally questionable female narrators.

Gone Girl comes to mind, of course. Its huge success spawned others in short order  — The Girl on the Train, for example.

Grip lit is a trend that is on the fast track, and understandably so. Who doesn’t love a dark, spine tingling domestic drama that keeps you on edge until the last page?

The Couple Next Door fits this bill, beautifully.

Book Buzz: The Couple Next Door

So, first, a warning. Do not read this book if:

You are on the beach or by the pool and low on sunscreen.

It is late at night and you have to get up early the next day.

You can’t handle suspense.

Written by the talented debut author Shari Lapena, the premise is one that will resonate with anyone, parent or not.

Anne and Marco are a young married couple whose life seems just about perfect: a loving relationship, a swanky townhouse, fancy cars, and a beautiful new baby girl.

One evening they are getting ready to go to a party next door. At the last minute, their sitter cancels. What should they do? The hostess (childless and clueless about parenting) has discouraged them from bringing the baby. Marco persuades Anne to go and she reluctantly agrees, provided they take along the baby monitor and return to check on the baby every 30 minutes.

When they return home at the end of the evening, they discover to their shock that the baby has been abducted. Snatched her from her crib in the middle of the night just minutes after the last time she was checked. The distraught parents can’t imagine who could have done such an evil thing. They are desperate to get her back.

As the police get involved, fingers are pointed and alibis are suspected. Whodunit?

And … I am not going to tell you anymore, because you should enjoy every twist and turn in this page-turner. In true grip lit fashion, author Lapena’s razor sharp writing will lead you to suspect one character, then another, then back to the first, and you’ll probably be wrong about all of them.

It is also a contemporary story that involves several provocative issues, such as the moral responsibility of parents, the pressure on new mothers to be perfect, the role of technology in solving a mystery.

If you are like me and love diving into a heart-pounding frenzy of a psychological thriller, you will love The Couple Next Door.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Couple Next Door. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Couple Next Door from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Brooding Over the Empty Nest

I awoke with a start in the wee hours last night, certain I heard one of my kids tiptoeing down the hallway outside our bedroom. In my sleepy confusion it took me a moment to remember that there are no kids in the house.

There were kids in the house, our three adult kids, but the kids are now gone.

The nest is again an empty nest.

The footsteps of my children echo in my dreams, but the pitter pattter of little feet in the night was not theirs. It was our dog and cat, Duncan and Lexie, moving restlessly through the darkness, perhaps searching for their human siblings whose constant attention they had relished the past week.

A week of intense joy. And lots of eating.

We were all together to celebrate the recent marriage of our son and daughter-in-law with parties and dinners and also downtime with old family and new (we already love our son’s new in-laws). It was a whirlwind week that was so much fun but over way too soon.

The chickens have left, I reminded myself, turning over with a sigh as I tried to go back to sleep.

I still refer to our kids as chickens, although they are grown and out of the house, with jobs and lives and responsibilities that do not involve me, their mother hen.

Remarkably, they all seem to be doing just fine without my constant clucking.

The chickens today ... and when they were chickadees.

The chickens today … and when they were chickadees.

They do not live in our house or even in our city. The older two are each a day of travel away and the youngest is in another state.

The distance translates into infrequent opportunities to be together – the three kids, my husband and me.

This is our reality which I have come to accept (grudgingly) and if nothing else, it makes our reunions even more precious. Carpe diem is the modus operandi. Seize the day. Our time together will be spent relaxing, laughing, reminiscing, hugging. These are the memories I cherish long after the final goodbyes have been said.

My son and daughter-in-law are perfect together. I think of their smiling faces and my heart is full knowing how happy they are.

Another wedding coming up

Our wedding adventures will continue in 2016 when my older daughter — child #2 — and her fiance will be married. Our family will expand, joyfully, again.

My daughter and her fiance are also perfect together. So in love, so right for each other.

In my now quiet house I will clean up the vestiges of the parties. I will do several loads of laundry. I will clean out the refrigerator and straighten up the bedrooms and throw out the wilted flowers.

I will go through the photos and the videos many times, reliving the week that will stand out as one of the best my husband and I have ever had with our children.

My chickens. Now there are four, soon to be five.

Brooding Over the Empty Nest

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Book Buzz: The Girl Who Slept with God

Novelists will tell you that the very first sentence can be the most difficult one to write.

It needs to be gripping, provocative; able to wrap its tentacles around the reader and not let go.

So let me share the first sentence from The Girl Who Slept with God, the stunning debut novel by Val Brelinski:

On the last day of August in 1970, and a month shy of her fourteenth birthday, Jory’s father drove his two daughters out to an abandoned house and left them there.

I was hooked. Wouldn’t you be?

The Girl Who Slept with God is a coming-of-age story infused with pathos.

It is the story of an evangelical Christian family in Idaho in the early 1970s: scientist and church elder Oren Quanbeck, his depressed wife Esther, and his three daughters: pious Grace, pubescent Jory and innocent Frances. The family belongs to a devout religious sect with strict rules about everything, and the girls have largely been sheltered from the outside world.

The Girl Who Slept with God

Grace is allowed to go on a missionary trip to Mexico with a group from church, but is sent home early when it is discovered she is pregnant. Grace believes her pregnancy is a gift from God and a miracle, the result of divine intervention.

Mortified and determined to hide this sin from their community, Grace’s parents exile her to a house on the outskirts of town where she will live until the baby is born.  Jory is sent along, much to her resentment, so that Grace isn’t alone, and is switched to a public school nearby. Oren occasionally brings groceries and supplies but demands that the girls stay in hiding. Esther and Frances do not visit.

Grace and Jory have minimal contact with the outside world. Except for elderly widow Mrs. Kleinfelter next door and Grip, the guy who drives the neighborhood ice cream truck, they have only each other. Grace takes a correspondence course to get her GED and never leaves the house.

Oren informs Grace that her baby will be given up for adoption, and ignores her agonized pleas to keep the baby. This sets in motion a series of events that lead to the harrowing conclusion of this heartrending, achingly beautiful book.

Having switched schools myself when I was 14, I thought Brelinski captured the teenage angst of being in a new and strange environment where you yearn to be accepted and feel so very unpopular.

I remember my anxiety at not being able to find my classrooms in my new high school. Jory is scheduled for PE class and can’t find the gym. When she does, Brelinski writes,

“The inside of the gymnasium was large and dim and smelled like floor vanish and stale popcorn and armpits. Boys in shorts and tennis shoes ran and dribbled basketballs up and down the hardwood floor, the rubber soles of their shoes making agonized squeaks and squawks as they pivoted and leaped and ran.”

I also liked this description of Super Thrift Drug, where Mrs. Kleinfelter takes Jory on an emergency trip:

Inside, the smell was exactly the same as before: the new plastic of wading pools and Hula-Hoops mixed with Listerine. The air was artificially cool and somewhere over or underneath it all Glen Campbell was sadly insisting that the Wichita lineman was still on the line.”

Brelinski deftly describes how a family can spiral out of control when parents exert their will out of religious dogma, ignoring both the needs of their children and the realities of our modern day world.

Brelinski drew much of the content of this compelling novel from her own life as she was raised by devout evangelical Christians. I was very glad to read this Q&A in which she talks about the similarities between her family and the Quanbecks.

Thought-provoking, disturbing and eloquent, The Girl Who Slept with God shows how things can go so terribly wrong with religious extremism and parents’ imposition of will on their children.

 

I am delighted to give away a copy of The Girl Who Slept with God to one of my lucky readers. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly.

I received a copy of The Girl Who Slept with God from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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With Love to My Mother

Last weekend my family celebrated a very special occasion: my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower. Surrounded by love, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessing of family and friends.

With Love to My Mother

That’s me third from right, with my two daughters on either side. My mother is on the far right. My daughter-in-law and her mother are on the left.

My mother joked, “It all started with me,” and she was right. To honor her this Mother’s Day, I am sharing a post I wrote several years ago.

♥♥♥♥♥

Capturing lightning bugs and dropping them in a glass jar with holes slit in the lid. Running full force into flapping bed sheets drying on our clothesline that smelled like sunshine. Licking bits of cookie dough from my sticky fingers. Bike rides and lots of books and flashlight tag with the neighborhood kids and sleepovers and Saturday matinees and piano lessons and summer camp and July 4th fireworks …

These are the things of which happy childhoods are made.

curly hair, little girl, swing

My mother’s greatest gift was being a mother who knew that.

She and my father gave my brother and me a childhood filled with the important things in life: love, acceptance, passion, and humor.

She also knew when discipline was necessary and stuck to her guns despite my wailing protestations, something I found out years later was one of the hardest jobs of motherhood.

Cute I may have been, but I could be a handful, and I knew my mother looked forward to Saturday nights when she and my dad went out to dinner with their friends and got away from us kids for a few hours.

While my dad left to pick up either Sharon or Kay Lynn or Pat, our favorite babysitters, my mother let me sit in the bathroom and watch while she applied her makeup and shimmied into a girdle. I admired her skill in painting her lips red without going outside the lines. To me, she looked like a movie star.

I experimented with her lipstick, blotting my lips on a tissue just like she did to remove the excess, pretending I was glamorous. I got close to the mirror and kissed my image, saying dahling, dahling (my mother never said this). I powdered my nose and dabbed a drop of Chanel parfum on my wrist as she did, so I could be just like her. 

When I was about 12 years old people started telling me I looked like my mother. That filled me with happiness. If I bore a physical resemblance to my mother, I figured everything would turn out alright.

My mother taught me there is sweet a satisfaction in finishing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle and making a perfect pie crust, both of which she can do marvelously.

My mother taught me about traditions, why making the same Thanksgiving dinner year after year is OK. Why piano lessons are good for you even though you hate them. Why nice girls don’t swear or call boys. Why a dose of laughter, along with a vitamin and green vegetables, must be part of your daily diet.

My mother, the best mother in the world, taught me how to be a mother myself.

mom, grandmother, daugher, grandson

My mother, grandmother, me and my first child, 2-week old Evan.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, with all my love.

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Mother’s Day is Every Day

This is a Midlife Boulevard bloghop. Take a look at the posts shared by other midlife women at the end of this post.

This Mother’s Day, May 11, is the same day as my oldest child’s 35th birthday.

Wait. What? How can he be 35 years old? Aren’t I about that age?

Thirty-five years ago, my son arrived five weeks early, slightly jaundiced but a healthy size, suffering no worse for the wear other than, due to this sudden appearance, his mother’s lack of preparation. She never had made it to even one Lamaze class or a parenting lesson. Never learned how to do a cleansing breath. Missed out on Diapering 101. She (I) was clueless.

The first night home, the crying was incessant.

From both of us.

The early days of motherhood were fraught with both delight in my newborn and intense insecurity. Was I doing the right thing by jiggling my baby until my arms hurt because he wanted to be held? Or was I stifling his independence? Was I providing a sense of security, or damaging him for life?

Yes, these are the worries that crossed my sleep-deprived mind.

But I was lucky. I had the best role model in the world: my mother. She never told me what to do, but supported me and let me know I was doing a good job.

Six years later Evan’s sister arrived, and three years after that, another baby girl.

Mother's Day is Every Day

By then I realized that motherhood is something you must learn on the job. No amount of preparation can teach you how to comfort a colicky baby or disguise vegetables in applesauce.

Three kids and 35 years later, the memorable moments are countless. First days of school with new lunchboxes. Tryouts for basketball and tennis and soccer. Holidays and summer camp and weekends at the shore. Middle school drama and college applications. Friends and enemies and frenemies. Sweet moments, sad moments, times of tears and distress, of laughter and hugs to make it all better.

Mother's Day is Every Day

I remember …

The way we used to get down on the floor to build Legos with Evan and he would suddenly get up and say, holding up his index finger, “I’ll be wight back!”

Emily’s insistence on calling Roy Rogers (destination for her favorite chicken nuggets) Walter Rogers.

Laurie’s refusal to smile. “Smile, Laurie,” we would beseech as we pointed the camera. She just opened her mouth wide like she was saying ahhhh.

Mother's Day is Every Day

When your children are little it seems like time is going ever so slowly. Now, with the benefit of time and experience, I wish I could relive those days with the wisdom I acquired later in life, with a little less anxiety.

Mother's Day is Every Day

I wish I had known as a young mother that, in spite of my concerns and undoubtedly my mistakes, everything would turn out alright.

Mother's Day is Every Day

It’s been better than alright. It’s spectacular.

 

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I Want to Be Alone with These Women

Excuse me while I clean up the coffee I have spewed on my computer screen.

Let this be fair warning: put down the drinks while reading “I Just Want to Be Alone,” a collection of humorous essays written by some of the funniest writers around, and compiled by Jen of People I Just Want to Punch in the Throat (hilarious in its own right, by the way).

I just want to be alone

Had these humorists been around when I was deep in poop and drippy popsicles myself, when my kids were sucking the very life out of me in their persistent but adorable persistent way, I might have gotten through it with much less stress.

stress free and alone

If laughter is the best medicine, I would have been a very healthy mom.

I Just Wanted to Be Alone

I recalled some of my own funny-later-but-not-at-the-time stories, for example, When Daddy Burned the Brownies and When Daughter #2 Scribbled Magic Marker on the Back of My Mother’s Leather Chairs. Also, there is “DW,” a term my children and I still use, which stands for Dad’s World, an imaginary place where everything that Dad says makes sense.

I laughed at every one of these well-written stories, and several have me smiling still.

My Obnoxiously Skinny Husband, written by Lynn Morrison of The Nomad Mom Dairy.I would not have realized that I left the book open to this page if not for a question from my husband later that day.

“Are you reading about someone with a skinny husband?” he asked, smiling knowingly.

Hello! This is my life, Lynn Morrison. I’ve got a husband who can eat anything — including a piece of chocolate cake every day — and has weighed the same SINCE HIGH SCHOOL.

And me? As a lifelong eater of carbs and struggler of weight, I can simply read a recipe and feel my pants get tighter. If I leave a comment on a food blog I’ll gain a pound. My husband can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce. Sigh.

I think the actual spewing of the above-referenced coffee occurred  when I read That’s Beans, Bitch! by Lisa Newlin of Lisa Newlin … Seriously? One of my children was so picky that she ate a total of five unrelated food items for the first 18 years of her life. I’m one of those mothers who went to great lengths to hide vegetables in other foods, but it was kind of hard to mask pureed spinach in macaroni and cheese.

The True Love Story by A.K. Turner, about meeting a guy on vacation and falling in lust love and moving cross country to live with him and buying a mattress with your mother along … I was rooting for this couple to make it but you’ll have to read the story to find out.

Raquel D’Apice from The Ugly Volvo wrote Project Run Away and described her date’s questionable wardrobe choices with amazingly familiar precision. My husband, once my date, was clueless about clothes until, lucky for him, we became a couple and I was able to show him the way around a department store.

Funny memories of dating came back to me when reading Stacey Hatton’s The Perfect Man.com. Stacey, of Nurse Mommy Laughs, tried Internet dating for a while  and may not have walked away with a husband, but sure got some great material for a story.

Because I finished this anthology hungry for more, I was relieved to find out that there is a Volume I of this series that I haven’t read.,”I Just Want to Pee Alone.” and I can’t wait to dive into it for more giggles.

Fingers crossed that the dynasty continues and there will be a Volume III.

“I Just Want to be Alone” is available in paperback or for your Kindle

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My Mother’s Greatest Gift: a Daughter’s Love Story

Capturing lightening bugs and dropping them in a glass jar with holes slit in the lid. Running full force into flapping bed sheets drying on our clothesline that smelled like sunshine. Licking bits of cookie dough from my sticky fingers. Bike rides and lots of books and flashlight tag with the neighborhood kids and sleepovers and Saturday matinees and piano lessons and summer camp and July 4th fireworks …

These are the things of which happy childhoods are made.

My mother’s greatest gift was being a mother who knew that.

curly hair, little girl, swing

She and my father gave my brother and me a childhood filled with the important things in life: love, acceptance, passion, and humor.

She also knew when discipline was necessary and stuck to her guns despite my wailing protestations, something I found out years later was one of the hardest jobs of motherhood.

family photo

Cute I may have been, but I could be a handful, and I knew my mother looked forward to Saturday nights when she and my dad went out to dinner with their friends and got away from us kids for a few hours.

While my dad left to pick up either Sharon or Kay Lynn or Pat, our favorite babysitters, my mother let me sit in the bathroom and watch while she applied her makeup and shimmied into a girdle. I admired her skill in painting her lips red without going outside the lines.

Once they had left, I experimented with her lipstick, blotting my lips on a tissue just like she did to remove the excess. I kneeled on the sink to get close to the mirror and kissed my image, saying dahling, dahling (my mother never said this). I powdered my nose and dabbed a drop of Chanel parfum on my wrist as she did, so I could be just like her. 

When I was about 12 years old people started telling me I looked like my mother. That filled me with happiness.

I was an awkward pre-teen with oily skin and clothes that never fit right, but if I bore a physical resemblance to my mother, I figured there was a glimmer of hope.

My mother taught me there is sweet a satisfaction in finishing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle and making a perfect pie crust, both of which she can do marvelously.

My mother taught me about traditions, why making the same Thanksgiving dinner year after year is OK. Why piano lessons are good for you even though you hate them. Why a dose of laughter, along with a vitamin and green vegetables, must be part of your daily diet.

If I am like my mother, I am the person I always wanted to be.

The greatest gift from my mother, the best mother in the world, was how to be a mother myself.

mom, grandmother, daugher, grandson

My mother, grandmother, me and my first child, 2-week old Evan.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, with all my love.

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Separation Anxiety: Mine

suitcase

My cheerfulness sounds forced to me as I chatter incessantly on the way to the airport. There is little traffic, and for once I wish for a delay, just a short delay so I can sit beside my son a little longer. I pull up to the terminal and get out to say goodbye, wrapping my arms around him and wishing him a safe flight. Don’t forget to text me when you land, I call out. I watch as he lugs his bag over the curb and makes his way to the entrance. He turns to wave, then disappears into the crowd of holiday travelers, sealing our separation.adult son, airport, Philadelphia, luggage, travel, international, airplane, leaving

And with that, the last of my three children has left the family nest for a home many miles away.

I come back to a house that is much too quiet, devoid of the shrieks of laughter, good-natured ribbing and late night comings and goings that marked my children’s stay over the holiday season. My husband is already going from room to room, picking up a stray sock or an empty soda can, getting our house back in order. Tomorrow I will return to my normal routine, but tonight I will wallow in a bit of sadness.

My son and two daughters have grown up to be delightful young adults, funny, thoughtful, affectionate. We have great times together.

Problem is, we just don’t see each other all that often.

For the past six years my son Evan has lived in England, a whopping 3,500 miles from our home outside Philadelphia.

Last June my daughter Emily moved to Montana, just a hop, skip and a 2,200 mile jump from home.

And Laurie, my youngest, lives the closest, just 100 miles away. But it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if her next move takes her just as far away as her siblings.

Where our children get this wanderlust, don’t ask me. I’m pretty much a homebody who thinks the best part of a trip is coming home, and my husband feels the same.

I’m reminded of the lyrics sung by Carole King: “So far away, why doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” Families used to stay together, sometimes out of necessity but other times just because … well, because that was home. For some, multi-generational households made sense, financially and otherwise. Growing up, most of my relatives lived nearby.

My husband and I raised our family just an hour from my hometown where my parents still reside. In my mind, that’s the way things should be. An hour away is about right.

Not so with my children.

My husband is sympathetic, to a point. He misses them, too, but is adjusting quite easily to being an empty nester. I have mixed feelings.

In a way, I would prefer my little chickens to repopulate the coop. But I know that’s not the way it should be.

Because as much as I miss them, I am proud of them for being self-confident, ambitious and adventurous. I admire their sense of independence. I love that they are savoring new experiences and learning about different parts of the world. Knowing that they are healthy and happy and living life to the fullest is truly the best feeling a parent can have.

And in their absence, new technologies have given us many unexpected ways to stay in touch. If we can’t reach out and hug each other, Skype, Facebook, texting and Instagram are the next best things.

I don’t know when we will be together again, but we’ve got their rooms ready. Just in case.

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