Dear Kids, VOTE

Dear Kids, VOTE

A black and white image of the letters f, g, h, l, m, n.

Dear Kids,

I’m writing to you because you are old enough to know the truth. Actually, you aren’t. You are innocent children who deserve a childhood without fears and nightmares. But the truth is unavoidable, and at this moment there is nothing else I can say. So here it is.

I cannot protect you from a gunman. Not at preschool. Not at a concert. Not even in temple. There is no amount of guns that can make you safe because those same guns will always find a way into the wrong hands. If someone wants to kill you while you are peacefully playing tag in the playground, I cannot help you. If you are having fun at a concert with your friends or enjoying the latest movie in the theater, I cannot protect you. You could get shot, and you might die.

My beautiful daughter, I can almost guarantee you will experience lots and lots of sexual harassment. You will have unwanted attention from strangers who will look at your body and sexualize it. You will probably have a boss who will discriminate against you because you are a female or while you are pregnant or after the birth of your beloved child. You may even be raped by a stranger, or worse, someone you know. And if you choose to speak up you may not be believed. You may lose everything in the process. There are people in powerful positions who will work to silence your voice. Even if you present the most compelling evidence and you are believed, sometimes nothing will change. Because lots of people don’t care.

I’d like to tell you that you get to make decisions about what happens to and in your body, but I can’t. The right to an abortion is a fragile one, and there’s a chance you may lose that right. Even if your life is at risk, you may not be able to have life-saving surgery because some will value your fetus more than you. Don’t think you can rely on contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy because that right may go away too. Depending on where you live or where you work you may not have access to an IUD or the pill. And you may not always have enough money for condoms. This makes me terribly sad, and I’m sorry.

My science-loving boy, I’d like to tell you that science and data matter. That people rely on high-quality research conducted by respected institutions around the world to make decisions about our planet. But that’s not always true. There are many people who look at widely accepted beliefs about climate change and deny the existence of overwhelming data. Some people will govern with the narrow focus of getting themselves reelected. They make the rules that we all have to live by. Your grandchildren may not have any water to drink or a dry place to build a house. I know it’s scary but that is already happening to many.

You have the right to vote and voting matters. You still have this right, but some will make it difficult to actually cast your ballot. People will change the rules at the last minute to favor their political party. They will try to minimize dissenting voices by making it difficult to vote by asking for identification or limiting voting hours or moving polling locations without notice. People will say every vote counts but sometimes it doesn’t. The popular vote can go to one candidate but an antiquated system will have the electoral college pick a different winner.

In these horrible times I wake up nearly every day with astonishing disappointment and pain. So it’s really hard to continue to pretend that these terrible things won’t happen here. I cannot look into your beautiful innocent eyes and say, “It can’t happen to you.” It can. It happened to school kids just like you in Miami and Newtown and Columbine. It happened in the supermarket in Kentucky and in a temple in Pittsburgh. It happened to a professor, just like me. The congressman in our district doesn’t believe in climate change. It’s all around you, and I can’t lie to you.

But in all of this painful uncertainty, there are some truths that might help you.

I will speak up to do my best to protect you. I’ll do this by fighting the school district or suing my employer for discrimination or by writing about injustice. Speaking up may not always change things but it will show people that I care and support them. That’s not nothing. If I see something that is hurting someone, I’ll say something. If I can right a wrong, I’ll do it. It will not always be easy. But that’s usually when it’s most important. I will do this for you and you must do it for others.

I will vote until my last breath. I still believe change can come. People sacrificed in significant ways to give us the right to vote. I’ll do what I can to protect that vote, and I’ll exercise my right in every single election.

I will create a home where everyone is welcome to Sunday dinner or Passover regardless of faith or race or sexuality. I’ll make Christmas dinner for our Christian friends or Iftar for the Muslim ones. Why? Because our lives are made better by people who are not exactly like us. I’ll teach you to be open-minded and have an open heart. I’ll be kind and generous whenever I can and sometimes when I think I can’t. I’ll show you that you can make a change in this world even if it’s just to one person. To that person, that might be the difference between life and death.

I will try to live my life to the fullest because bad things can happen. I can’t prevent a lot of the bad things I mentioned. But they are less painful when we live our truest best life. Go out and live your lives and enjoy it. We owe that to the people who have been lost.

I love you. I pray that’s enough to comfort you.
Love, Mom

Coaching from the Sidelines

Coaching from the Sidelines

A man and woman in the water wearing helmets.

Today’s parents are not just parents. They are coaches and referees and umpires. I don’t mean the kindhearted people who volunteer their time. I’m talking about the parents on the sidelines. As parents, we don’t just watch our children play sports any more. We are in the game.

Lately I have been focusing on how parents behave at my kids’ games. I have seen some ugly behavior. So many moms and dads have no qualms about yelling at umpires who are only behind the plate because no one else volunteered. I recently saw a parent scream at his kid, “Come on! You can do better!” The child was 8.

I never viewed myself as that kind of mother. For the first few years of parenting my husband and I avoided organized sports. Our kids weren’t competitive killers chomping at the bit to play on a team, and we were plenty psyched to keep our weekends together as a family.

Inevitably, though, our kids decided they wanted to get in the game. My son played baseball and basketball. My daughter, who never cared much for sports, was strongly encouraged (by us) to find a healthy physical activity. She chose water polo–a game we knew nothing about.

Three times a week I watch my daughter in the pool and twice per week my son is on the field. After seeing the craziness many parents bring to youth sports, I was determined not to join the insanity. I wasn’t going to yell or advise. I wasn’t going to praise every minute play or action. My plan was to simply enjoy watching them enjoy themselves.

Only I couldn’t. As much as I tried, I still found myself shouting. I wanted my daughter to swim more aggressively. I wanted my son to put his hand behind his back while catching. He should swing through the ball more. She should call for the ball more. Blah blah blah. I became so disgusted with myself that I became determined to sit at a game and say not utter word of advice. But, well, I couldn’t do it. I failed. Repeatedly.

And then, in eight minutes, I was cured.

My daughter’s water polo team had a family polo game, kids against parents, yesterday morning. My husband and I suited up, put on the ridiculous headgear and eagerly jumped in. The old folks warmed up for a minute and tried to stay afloat. Everyone was laughing, giggling, having a fun ol’ time. Then, one second after the initial whistle from the coach, it became clear this was no laughing matter. We had to swim back and forth and back and forth. I could barely keep my head above water while trying to throw the ball. Another player nearly drowned me, appropriately, trying to get the ball (She’s 9). After three minutes I was tempted to tap out.

I didn’t, and wound up playing a whole eight minutes. I didn’t do the team’s requisite 20 laps as a warm up, and I didn’t practice for another hour after that. Eight minutes total. As I clumsily slogged out of the pool, deprived of breath and barely able to pull my own body weight, I realized I had no business telling my daughter what to do in the water (and there is no added benefit to nitpicking my son’s game, either).

My kids are not playing sports for the scholarship potential. There is absolutely no justified reason I need to coach them from the sidelines. The only outcome I can see is that they get so sick of hearing my commentary that they stop playing. I read in a recent survey that 70 percent of kids stop playing sports by 13. I can see why. There is so much pressure even without comments from the bystanders. From now on I am a spectator. I am not there to help my kids get better or stronger or more adept at the game. I am not there to teach the coach or the umpire how to do their jobs. I am simply going to enjoy the game, keep my big mouth shut …

Product Review: Lego Ideas: Birds

Product Review: Lego Ideas: Birds

Two children are playing with lego toys.

Lego Ideas: Birds
Manufacturer recommended age: 12 – 15 Years (Done by my 8 yo and 11yo with little supervision)

The other day my son and I were wasting a little time in the Lego store. He loves to look at all the sets, and I kind of do too. Lego now has this really cool imaging television. You hold up any set that has more than 250 pieces and it brings it to life. It literally shows you the models all built and moving around on the box. It is incredible.

So while he took every set in the store up to the TV screen I checked out a few sets. One caught my eye. The Lego Bird set contains a hummingbird and flower, a gorgeous blue jay and a red-breasted robin. I love those birds. Actually I am kind of obsessed with them. So I did something I never do. I bought the set for no reason. Not as a surprise. Not as a birthday gift. Just for me to do with my son for fun.

Turns out the entire family loved the project. My daughter who doesn’t play with Legos often got inspired to build the hummingbird. Not only that she decided she needed more Legos in the future. Score!

A set of three lego plants on display.

Here’s my review:
Fairly quick to build
Beautiful realistic looking birds, nicely displayed
The wings and heads move in awesome ways
Good for a girl or a boy or a kid or a grown up

Fairly quick to build (Yup, this one is a pro and a con)
Delicate. This isn’t a Lego set your little ones can “play with” after it is built. It is more of a show piece

On a side note, this Lego set is part of Lego Ideas. Lego enthusiasts are allowed to make up anything they want, build it, take loads of pictures and then pitch it to Lego. People in the community vote on it and if it gets enough votes Lego reviews it. If Lego decides to build it the original designer gets 1% of the profits. That’s really really cool. And that is why this set is different. It was build by a guy who loves birds. Not just Lego. Check out some of the other ideas currently in the review process here.

Great Idea Book

Great Idea Book

A girl is painting on the wall of her room.

I recently stumbled on Tinkerlab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors. It is a beautiful and thoughtful book chock full of ideas and not just for little inventors. Parents provide the tools but not necessarily the instructions. Furthermore, mistakes are part of the process. Here is a great book review by Rookie Moms too if you want to read more about it before you buy.

Green smoothies and yoga … not for me or most women

Green smoothies and yoga … not for me or most women

A woman holding a pizza pie in front of two men.

A few days ago ran an article with the eye-catching headline, “The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders.” The point of the piece was to show the not-so-famous women of America how the more-famous women of America kick off their days with routine as a way to reduce stress. As I began to read, I thought, “Great! I could definitely learn something to improve my morning routine.”

Eh, it didn’t quite work out.

As I read about the various CEOs and TV personalities, I found myself feeling … worse. As in–more stressed out. The accounts of their mornings didn’t feel real, and they didn’t read like any women I know who have busy careers. Well, except for two or three (In full disclosure, Sharon Epperson is a good friend, and her morning sounded just right).

The more I read, the more it dawned on me that this article exemplified the exact reason so many women hate so many other women. Stay-at-home moms judge working moms (and visa versa). Women working the grind judge highly successful CEO women.

Many of the successful women profiled in the article seem to take a certain sadistic pleasure in displaying how absolutely amazing they are. I mean, they’re able to juggle all elements of their busy careers while still making time for highly specialized yoga, green smoothies, and working out seven days a week.

At 4:45 am, one woman says she does, “an hour or so of third or fourth series ashtanga yoga.” By 6 she’s prepared her kids their breakfast of green milk–made from almond milk with coconut water, banana and steamed baby spinach. Another healthy leader makes her fair trade coffee and has a vegan Zen Bakery muffin. Bravo!

Two other women start the morning with prayer and intentions for their day. Among the many who have time to work out seven days a week, one heads down to the home gym for an exercise session while watching Squawk Box (I didn’t know what this was. So I looked it up. As stated on the Squawk Box webpage “Squawk Box is the ultimate ‘pre-market’ morning news and talk program, where the biggest names in business and politics tell their most important stories.” Now you know.)

Another leader wakes at 6:43, doesn’t snooze but has time to “pull on John Eshaya sweatpants and clogs.” Those sweats cost $110. Glad she got the plug in.

You know what I was hoping for? Truly hoping for? Humanity and humility. I get that the article was prepped to show how their morning routines reduce stress and set them on the course to be successful. But real-life demands–such as tired and overworked parents, a toddler temper tantrum, a sick dog, a misplaced permission slip, or a late babysitter–usually set the stage for a much different routine.

So in response to this piece, I would like to start a new trend. Every woman (leader or otherwise) should write their real morning routine, warts and all.

Here is my morning routine …
“¢ 6:40–Alarm goes off. Snooze
“¢ 6:48–Alarm goes and I begrudgingly get up. I am not a morning person (although I would like to be)
“¢ 7:00–I head downstairs in my husband’s free running shirt from a long-ago race and the free sweatpants my mom got five years ago on Virgin airlines.
“¢ 7:03–Make the first of many cups of tea for the morning while also checking my email and Facebook.
“¢ 7:05–I yell up to remind the kids they are late (This happens almost every morning).
“¢ 7:08–I put a bowl and spoon in my daughter’s spot for her several bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios. I make a plate of whole-wheat waffles, berries, and juice for my son.
“¢ 7:10–I make a predictable lunch of cheese, bread, granola bar, and dried apples for my daughter and a healthy lunch and snack for my son. Inevitable complaints ensue.
“¢ 7:15–I ask the husband if he can take the dog out because I’m lazy and it is a little chilly in the morning. He complains, but ultimately does so.
“¢ 7:25–I rush my son to finish his breakfast so he can use the bathroom before we leave the house.
“¢ 7:28–I run around the house barking questions and orders. “Did you refill your water bottle?” “Pick up your dirty socks and put them in the laundry!” “Do you have your gym shorts?” “Get your shoes on!”
“¢ 7:33–My husband takes my son to school. As they leave we realize they are running late again and we will probably get that call from the principal telling us our son was not in line on time.
“¢ 7:45–I put on my very worn clogs and drive my daughter to the school bus in my pajamas that almost look like regular clothes but, well, aren’t.
“¢ 7:55–I sit down with what is probably my fourth cup of tea, eat a roll from Costco with my favorite almond butter with maple and begin my workday.

It’s weird how Forbes didn’t give me a call.

What is your morning like? Share your morning on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or tell a friend.





Video Games, Broken Stereotypes, and A Great Read

Video Games, Broken Stereotypes, and A Great Read

Lately I have been obsessed with young adult literature. Wonder, The Book Thief and The Fault in our Stars are some of my favorites. I enjoyed them as much (or more than) any ‘grown-up” books. Somehow, when they’re done well, teen-themed books seem to get to the heart of life’s struggles.

I recently read an advanced copy of Game World by C.J. Farley. Game World, released this week, is a story about an unpopular boy who is really good at video games. It turns out that he has an opportunity to not only play the game, but live the game in reality when the game world becomes the real world through a portal.

I am not much of a video game person and, quite frankly, I try to limit my kids’ use of screens. So I didn’t think a book about video games would be for me or my kids. But this book is special.

Farley sought to write a book that showed characters not readily visible in other books for young adults. Typically there aren’t people of color or those with disabilities offers as main characters. But Game World highlights both. And stereotypes are turned on their heads. Instead of the kid in a wheelchair being timid and afraid of life, he is so strong that he boosts up the courage of his able-bodied friend.

Another area of C.J. Farley’s brilliance is that he found a way to get kids who are interested in video games to read. Game World is an adventure set in a video game. What a smart bridge for kids resistant to reading!

I highly recommend Game World for kids in 4th – 12th grade. Parents can read it too and love the characters and story just as much as the kids.