STRESS-FREE SUMMER GUIDE…FOR MOMS!

How to plan ahead for a happy & stress-free summer break

Summer’s almost here. The kiddos get a break from the grind of school work and routines.  They get to stay up past bedtime, go to camp, and do fun stuff they like all day.  What does mom get?  More often than not, a new job title – Camp Counselor or maybe, Cruise Director…and most certainly, Taxi Driver.  

If she’s not careful, summer creeps up on her and she’s stuck trying to keep the balls in the air while everybody else is cruising down the lazy river.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  As the clock counts down to summer vacation, NOW is the time for Mom to get things in order so that she, TOO can enjoy the summer.  

The secret is to use this H.A.P.P.Y. planning system:

  • HANDLE GEAR & SUPPLIES:  Purchase anything that is needed for camp, vacations, etc. Place gear, permission forms, etc. in backpacks, so they’re ready to go on the first day of camp.  Can also attach a hanging shoe bag on the back of the pantry]- or garage door and fill the pockets with supplies like sunscreen, repellent, goggles, flip flops, etc.  
  • APPOINTMENTS:  Review calendar of summer activities:  Make a note of any activity-free days and use those for the kid's annual doctor’s appointments and other errands.
  • PURGE: Toss old worksheets and papers from the kid’s notebooks.  Save notable artwork, essays, or other projects.  Save reading/writing/math tools and study guides for summer review. 
  • PLAN ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES:  Aside from summer camp and family trips, make time for summer enrichment.  Relax routines where you can, but have a game plan for academic activities like assigned reading (and reading for pleasure!), math review, and projects. Plan some field trips to the museum and the theater. Teach your children new life skills like banking, cooking, etc. Keep them off the summer slide!  
  • YOU: Moms, it is important that you don’t forget about YOU!  Plan your mommy outings now.  Get together with girlfriends, take a spa day, curl up with a good book, or do NOTHING for a day — You deserve it!

Motherhood and a Movement

Moms around America were spoiled, lauded, even glorified on social media as we celebrated Mother’s Day in May. Yet, how many people know about the organization that ushered this special day into our consciousness and ensures its special place in our hearts today?   That organization is American Mothers, Inc.  I was thankful and honored to be part of this glorious celebration of motherhood as the 2019 DC Mother of the Year® at the 84thAnnual Convention of American Mothers, Inc., held here the last weekend in April.  American Mothers, Inc. is a nonpartisan non-profit organization which owns the trademark to “Mother of the Year®” and is the official sponsor of Mother's Day.  Nominations for 2020 are being accepted now through September 15.  Visit http://americanmothers.org/nominate for more information.  

As we gathered at The Mayflower Hotel, a real ‘momraderie’ formed quickly.  We came together as strangers, but we all answered to the same name, ‘Mom’. On the first night, Mayor Muriel Bowser attended the Legacy Reception, where she was honored as a 2019 Mother of Achievement for her leadership of the city of Washington, DC.  During the second day of the Convention, each of the 46 state honorees in attendance shared heartfelt accounts of her motherhood journey in a three-minute speech centered around the theme, “America, this is your mother speaking…”.  We were white, black, Hispanic, stay-at-home moms, corporate managers, entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, and civil servants; we were Christians, Muslims, undeclared, and otherwise  — all with a message for our country.  As we told America what we wanted her to know, we were sometimes stern, humorous, wistful, and sorrowful, but always we extolled the virtues of commitment, tenacity, resilience, and most of all, love.  Wecheered, we cried, and we sat still in awe and admiration of the redemptive stories.  

This annual celebration, and fellowship, among mothers is rooted in the humble intentions of one Anna Reeves Jarvis who sought to restore love and friendship among families affected by the Civil War by setting aside a day to celebrate these ideals.  The special day of observance took hold and evolved into a national holiday known as Mother’s Day with support from Eleanor Roosevelt in 1931 as she launched a nationwide Mother’s Committee to help to elevate the importance of this occasion and as a way to help mothers in need. Through its Golden Rule Fund, the J.C. Penney Company sponsored this committee which would later be known as the Golden Rule Mother’s Day Committee.  In 1935, Sara Delano Roosevelt, Honorary Chairwoman of the American Mothers Committee of the Golden Rule Foundation, presented Lucy Keen Johnson as the first American Mother of the Year®.    

Since 1935, American Mothers, Inc. has recognized an “admirable” mother selected from among the State Honorees from across the 50 states, District of Columbia and the territories of U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  This recognition is intended to serve as “inspiration to the nation that would represent a mother’s unconditional love, inner strength, and courage.”  Over the years, American Mothers Inc. has honored mothers of diverse backgrounds, but in a move that was certainly progressive for the time, American Mothers named Mrs. Emma Clarissa Clement of Kentucky, a Black mother, as the 1946 National Mother of the Year®.  Mrs. Clement was a civic leader, educator, and minister’s wife. Her great-granddaughter, Rebecca Bond, attended the Convention gala this year.  Ms. Bond who knew of her great-grandmother’s honor and was quite proud of it, did not realize the organization still existed.  She was very pleased to be in attendance and learn more about American Mothers.    

Golden Rule Grants are also awarded each year to select non-profit organizations which provide services that benefit mothers and children.  The Golden Rule Movement is integral to the American Mothers philosophy as a means to “empower, educate, and inspire women to lead by example and model kindness and compassion through volunteerism and acts of service in their local communities”.  

Ahead of this year’s Convention, American Mothers, Inc. launched a nationwide study to find out what matters to moms through the American Mothers Project.  Preliminary findings indicate the top three concerns are access to mental health services and resources, affordable childcare, and quality education for all children. America, your Mothers have spoken.

Real Beauty


“Some women feel the need to act like they're never scared, needy or hurt; like they're as hardened as a man. I think that's dishonest. It's ok to feel delicate sometimes. Real beauty is in the fragility of your petals. A rose that never wilts isn't a rose at all.” ~ Crystal Woods

As I gaze at this bouquet of flowers, I note that it is far from its finest hour.  Yet, I treasure it.  It was the centerpiece on our table at a luncheon I attended last week during the 84thAnnual Convention of American Mothers, Inc.  I had the ‘winning’ seat at my table and my prize was this lovely pitcher from the immensely popular Pioneer Woman collection and it was filled with beautiful flowers, in full bloom.  Of course, I had already won in so many ways.  It was my privilege to attend the conference after being named the 2019 Mother of the Year for the DC Metro area by American Mothers, a nonpartisan non-profit organization which owns the trademark to “Mother of the Year®” and is the official sponsor of Mother's Day.  American Mothers is committed to serving as an advocate on issues affecting our country’s 85 million mothers and their children.     

I was part of a special cohort of Mothers chosen to represent their states, with 46 actually attending the Convention.  I was awed by the energy, courage, candor, and kindness of this group.  I had read most of the bios, so I already knew I would be in very special company.  However, I was blown away by the speeches on Day 2 of the Conference.  We were challenged to address America in a speech themed, “America, this is your mother speaking…”. Moms being Moms, you know we could have gone on for hours — alas we only had three minutes.  Accustomed to making magic out of mania, we dynamic Moms rose to the occasion, delivering heartfelt testimonies of triumph and loss, joy and pain, uncertainty and revelation.  We approached the task through lenses tinted by different races, religions, and regions of the country as well as different educational backgrounds, career experiences, and lifestyles, yet we all cheered when the underdog won, were outraged at insensitivity and injustice, mourned the losses, and were in awe of the sacrifices our sisters had made.  There was a sense of knowing among us only Mothers possess.   A knowing that on most days not all of the flowers in the bouquet will be in bloom at the same time.  There will be some curled or wilted petals as trials set upon us and dry, discolored leaves as our resolve is tested.  Yet, like flowers pushing through concrete, there are always signs of hope and beauty in our bouquet.   

My convention speech

Leading up to this year’s  Convention, American Mothers launched a nationwide study to find What Matters to Moms through the American Mothers Project. Preliminary findings indicate the top three concerns are access to mental health services and resources, access to affordable childcare, and quality education for all children.  On Day 3, we got a glimpse of how we could use our knowledge and personal experiences to make a difference in our country. First, we witnessed an engaging bipartisan discourse between Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) about such topics as women in leadership, sex trafficking, foster care and others.  Next, we headed to Capitol Hill to meet with our elected representatives, armed with our states’ respective concerns as well as the early data from the American Mothers Project.  We felt powerful.  We were powerful. As the Convention began to wind down, I was thankful that one of my college-age sons was able to join me at the Gala on the last day, along with my husband and mother. Without them, and my other son, I none of this would have been possible. Together, they have watched me and often caused me to stretch and grow, and to stay firmly planted with arms folded when I might otherwise have given up. After my son listened to the speakers that evening, he wondered aloud why practically all of the discussion centered on the love and nurturing Mothers provide.  He thought it sounded patriarchal and somewhat dismissive of all that mothers do. He said he appreciated my staying home to raise him and his brother.  He also remarked “that [love and nurturing] was the least of what you did.  You did so much more – you were working.”  I was touched by his sentiments, but I had to remind him that love and nurturing was at the heart of all the work I did. It’s how Moms everywhere make everything fall into place like only they can. Motherhood. It's a thing of real beauty.

Ready for a Miracle?

As I consider the new year I have been blessed to see, the butterfly and its transformative journey has captured my spirit for 2019.  We admire the beauty of the butterfly and its grace as it floats through the air. Yet, the metamorphosis of a butterfly occurs in distinct stages that each exact a certain amount of growth and struggle as it progresses toward its ultimate grandeur.  The butterfly’s beginning does not foretell the miracle of its imminent magnificence while flitting and floating through the air.  In the year 2018, I experienced and witnessed moments that I couldn’t have predicted in the beginning. Some were pleasing and others less so.  Some events were marked by promise and possibility while others signaled resolution and conclusion, depending on its appointed life cycle.      

In 2019, I am ready to continue my journey.  The fact that I am still here tells me that God wants me to birth more ideas, make more connections, give more, live more, and love more.  I’ve been considering how I might use this precious time I have been given and I found 5 quotes that reflect where my head and heart are right now:

New Years Day is every mans birthday. Charles Lamb

New Year’s Day is as good a day as any to make a fresh start.  Two areas where I want to “begin again” are nutrition and fitness.  I have made progress in fits and starts, but I am hoping real change takes hold this year. 

You will never win if you never begin. Helen Rowland

This past year, I encountered many opportunities. There were moments, when I just had to say to myself, “What do you have to lose?” and plow ahead.  Actually, I was rewarded nicely in some instances.  In those cases, where things did not turn out as expected, I learned a lot. Neither the blessings nor the lessons could have happened if I hadn’t made the leap.  I’m determined to be brave again this year.  

Celebrate what you want to see more of. Tom Peters

I have observed that I often talk about what I want in terms of what I don’t want. I’m not going to speak life to what I don’t want anymore.  I plan to affirm what I see that feeds my vision and disconnect from whatever disrupts it.  Period. 

If youre brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.– PauloCoehlo

It can be hard to say goodbye – to people, ideas, even outdated clothing.  However, holding on to what is no longer serving me has really become a burden. Letting go of what I don’t need or want makes room for something new.  I am excited about reclaiming lost mental and emotional energy, physical space, and ultimately, PEACE.

It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot

Sometimes, I work with discouraged parents who want to change the way they interact with their children, but feel like they’ve done “too much damage” already.  Here’s what I've been saying to them – “It’s never too late to be the parent you want to be.”  I thought I was original!  I just don't recall seeing this quote, attributed to George Eliot; I promise!  Yet, this sentiment is how I encouraged myself as I approached each new day as a mother of young children.  It has also encouraged me on this entrepreneurial journey after careers in the public and private sectors.  I have many friends who are much farther along in their life’s pursuits and I applaud them.  However, as long as I have breath, I still have time to become a miracle.

What encourages you as you head into 2019? Please share!    

She’s having………….a Baby!

As I was having breakfast this morning, I was intrigued by a newspaper article about expectant parents. Specifically, the article focused on the letdown some feel when they discover that the baby they have been eagerly awaiting is not the gender they had hoped for.  In fact, this devastation even has a name – gender disappointment.  I had to stop for a moment to take that in. I immediately went back a century or two, in mind, and imagined moms- and dads-to be, who had no earthly idea whether their babies would be alive, or have deformities when they were born, let alone what the gender would be.  Somehow, they muddled through.  Of course, I know  even back then, expectant parents had visions of little girls to dress up in pink frills or to help Mom around the house and dreams of little boys to help work the land or to wrestle with (gender roles were practically codified in those days!).  But how much time did these parents spend wallowing in disappointment when things turned out the other way?  

I don’t know about you, but when my husband and I wanted to start a family, I became fascinated anew at the mechanics of all that has to occur within not just one, but two human bodies, in just the right sequence, at just the right time for an embryo to even be created at all.  And that’s just the beginning of the miracle.  I understand preferences and I even get having a comfort level with a certain gender, but have we lost sight of the wonder it is to even create another life?  Or have we just become so accustomed to ‘having it our way’?

As we have seen in recent years, women are waiting longer to have children and couples often contend with additional health issues.  Consequently, the road to conception has been anything but a straight line for some.  Thankfully, fertility techniques have made it easier for many to realize their dreams of parenthood, through various means.  The fact still remains that when conception occurs between consenting adults, with or without help, it is a blessing!  It can be fun to find out the gender, for some couples.  I mean the technology is there.  We have the capability, so they figure ‘why not?'  Once we know, though, let's remember that the baby who’s coming is ultimately a blessing.

I must confess, I did find out the gender of my twins.  Right or wrong, I reasoned that, since we had two babies to buy for, we should go ahead and purchase the kinds of clothing and other supplies we thought they’d need and not have to worry about it later.  I didn’t have a preference, but I thought at least one girl would be ‘easier’ because I figured I had a frame of reference for that (the fact that I have an older brother notwithstanding).  However, when the technician performing our sonogram told us I was carrying two boys, that was that.  I imagined they’d be energetic and active, thus motivating, if not requiring, me to be as well. I envisioned myself getting out of my comfort zone and exploring pastimes that were a little different from what I had enjoyed when I was growing up with my girl friends.  Parenting is a unique and transformative experience in that way.  It calls upon you to reexamine beliefs, values and ideas you held as truth.  Some are reinforced while others are discarded or refashioned to match your new perspective and circumstance.  All of this happened for me and life with these boys has  been a wondrous adventure.  I imagine this to be the case for others as well.  

Finally, I believe we all get the children we are uniquely assigned and equipped to raise.  They don't come with an instruction book, but they each  come with a purpose.  We parents are here to prepare them to fulfill it.  Their gender, among other attributes, is just part of the tool kit that will enable them to be who they were created to be.  You eagerly awaited your child’s arrival and society needs what your child came here to offer, no matter the gender.  Why not settle down and help bring it to fruition?  

My Journey to the Red Table | October 22, 2018

My friends have been asking how I got to the New York celebration of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk.  Well, here’s what happened….

Early last week, I saw an announcement on the Red Table Talk Facebook page about a celebration in NY to kick off the show’s next season.  I LOVE RTT, so this was intriguing.  The announcement indicated that guests would have an opportunity to meet Jada and her lovely Mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, affectionately known as “Gam”. If you haven’t seen the show, I strongly urge you to take a look (I even take notes.).  Anyway, all I had to do was post ‘RSVP’ in the comments and I might have a chance.  I decided to give it a shot with ‘RSVP.  Would love to attend.’ and went on with my day.

Come Wednesday morning, I received a Facebook message thanking me for my interest and requesting that I RSVP with an email address for myself and any guest(s) I wanted to bring.  Hmmm…I quickly called a dear friend and sorority sister whom I thought might be game IF this thing worked out.  She said, “Sure!”.  I continued that day with a speaking engagement.  And later began excitedly preparing for an upcoming road trip to attend my college homecoming celebration.  It would be my third trip in as many weeks, but there was no way I was going to miss it. Next thing I knew, I received an email indicating that I was now on the waitlist for the RTT event (Seriously, Red Table Talk team, stop teasing me!).  I should mention that all of their correspondence included the caveat that there was no guarantee I would get in as admission would be “strictly first-come, first- served”.  Not very promising, right?? Well, I headed out to my alma mater on Friday afternoon.  I didn’t think too much more about the event because, really, how likely was it that I’d get in?  Anyway, IF I were selected to attend the celebration, I’d have to hit the road AGAIN the very next day after returning from this trip….aaaarrrgh!  Fast-forward through a fun-filled reunion with friends on Friday night and all day Saturday and I came back to my hotel room and discovered an email from my willing partner in this boondoggle saying, “We’re going!!!”  I responded with, “Going where??”  She wrote “We’re going to Red Table Talk.  Didn’t you get the email?”  I checked and, sure enough, it was there.  We briefly discussed potential itineraries and I got off the phone and headed to another event.  Even on Sunday, as I described the situation to my college friends, I wasn’t so sure about this as I kept remembering “first come-first served”.  What if we took the train up to New York only to be shut out because folks had been camping out on the sidewalk for three days?? Ultimately, I reasoned it would be worth the trip because I would be with my sister-friend whom I hardly ever get to hang with…#winning!  I got home Sunday evening and, yep, headed out to New York on an early train Monday morning. The event wasn’t until 5 PM,  but we decided to go scope out the venue, so we could easily find our way back there later.  We got some strange looks, showing up so early and all, but ‘Anthony’ one of the staffers assured us that if we showed up at 4:30, we would certainly get in.  We were skeptical, but walked away in search of lunch.  Along the way, we came upon Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) – an interesting moment for me.  I was accepted there for college more than 30 years ago, but had never even seen the place because I got cold feet at the last minute.  After lunch and a little exploring, we made our way back to the venue and there was a line, but Anthony was right — we were most definitely getting in.  Once inside, we snapped a few pics and noshed on some tasty fare as we waited for the event to start.  There was an aura of optimism and sisterhood among the women.  The waiting area was abuzz with conversation – twenty-somethings debating whether women truly can “have it all”, an entrepreneur touting the benefits of her natural skin care line, others discussing the pros and cons of living up North vs. down South, and so on.  We made our way in to the main event and, shortly after that, Jada and Ms. Adrienne appeared.  They were literally aglow – light surely emanated from their attire, along with the air of warmth and authenticity they brought into the room.  We were invited to sit at red table stations and hold our own talks on selected topics.  Those who awaited their turn at the table were encouraged to go up and meet Jada and Ms. Adrienne.  They made time to connect with every women there offering hugs and gratitude for our support.  I asked Ms. Adrienne if I could call her ‘Gam’ and she said I certainly could.  Finally, my sister-friend and I got our turn at the table.  I tried to resist sitting down at the ‘Motherhood and Parenting’ table, but that’s where I ended up.  I sat back and listened for a bit and the ladies shared inspiring testimonies.  Our moderator was Vanessa Ray, a delightful actor on the show, “Blue Bloods”.  She talked about trying to figure out the right time to start her family.  Most of us had older children, while there was one young woman who had a 2 year old. We offered a lot of Mommy wisdom and she eagerly soaked it up though, honestly, we learned a bit from her, too.  Soon, it was time to leave, but we wouldn’t leave, much to the staff’s chagrin. Everyone was busily chatting and taking pictures around the space, not wanting the evening to end.  Finally, we headed out into the night toward the train station.  A divine, full moon shone bright as we made our way through clusters of folks on the sidewalk trying to capture its magnificence on their smartphones.  On this journey, I learned:

  1. If you want to see something new, you’ve got to do something new. Even a year ago, there would have been so many reasons why I wouldn’t have made this trip even after being selected:  short notice, too many things to do at home, fatigue, etc.  I’m glad I did something new, this time.
  2. When you make choices, trust yourself and wring what you can out of the situation. Even today, I know the girl I was 30 years ago was not ready to be on her own, attending college while navigating New York City.  Seeing FIT up close, though, made me ponder how dramatically the trajectory of my life was likely changed with that decision.  I was also struck by how much I have changed since that time.  The truth is I’ve made a lot of wild bets since then and they’ve mostly paid off, including making a different college choice. I soaked up knowledge imparted by a nurturing community of faculty who expected greatness and I connected with students who are like brothers and sisters to me today.  Ultimately, the experience provided a springboard from which I could pursue a graduate degree at one of the top business schools in the country.  No looking back.
  3. You gotta play to win. The odds were slim that I would get to attend this celebration, but slim was good enough. Sometimes, you have to go for it and you just might come out on the other side with something magnificent.

 

(More pics in the Photo Gallery – On the Go with The Parenting 411.)

My Guest Spot on Awesome Women Entrepreneurs Radio Show

I had a blast today talking with Karen Bate, host of the AWE Radio Show on WERA 96.7 FM in Arlington, Virginia.  We chatted a bit about how I got into parent education, the work I do with Gardener Parenting Consultants, The Parenting 411 and my take on challenges parents face today.  Check it out!  To learn more about Awesome Women Entrepreneurs, visit www.awesomewomen.com. (Air Date:  April 12, 2018)

Beauty and The Breast

A woman’s breast is a thing of beauty.  For generations men and boys alike have been enamored with the sight of it, whether clothed, bare, captured in portraits, off in the distance or close up.  So, it puzzles me that, lately, society seems to have a love-hate relationship with the breast.  On one hand it is to be ogled, caressed and admired when tumbling out of bustier, over a plunging neckline, or peeking through a clingy blouse.  BUT, heaven forbid, even a few centimeters of it is revealed as it performs its life-sustaining, God-ordained function – breastfeeding a young child!

I was struck anew by this paradox when I recently watched a video of an online social experiment.  The researchers wanted to see how passersby would respond when they saw a voluptuous woman baring her breasts in a revealing blouse vs. a woman breastfeeding her baby in public, in a comparatively low-key fashion.  The woman in the revealing blouse got many admiring looks and a few compliments from men, with one man asking for permission to sit down beside her.  Women who passed by offered no comments or disapproving glances.  When the breast-feeding mom replaced her on the bench, people could not contain themselves.  Reactions ranged from lectures about how inappropriate, even disgusting, her behavior was, sharp questions about why she needed to “do that” there, to advice that she should find someplace else to do “that”.  To do what?  Feed her baby?? How many of us adults eat in a closet or bathroom?   Suddenly, the same body part that only moments ago was admired effusively became a disgusting appendage meant to be covered.

It is hard to believe that, today, when there is so much science to substantiate the preeminent nutritional value provided by breast milk, women still have to defend themselves for offering this sustenance to their hungry little ones.  The World Health Organization offers these guidelines when it comes to breastfeeding1:

  • Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. 
  • Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

Yet, recent studies conducted in England and Canada suggest that not only are bystanders often resistant, but a third of nursing mothers report feeling embarrassed about breastfeeding in public. It is no wonder, then, that champions of breastfeeding felt vindicated and took to social media expressing their admiration when this photo started making the rounds this week:

What was essentially a candid moment of a mother lovingly feeding her child during a break in a photo shoot became a portrait of empowerment and encouragement for mothers who are committed to breastfeeding.  That this was ‘a moment’ this week suggests the battle is still on for the dignity and wide-open respect for this practice; a battle that was being waged as far back as the 1950’s when La Leche League was launched by determined mothers who fiercely promoted breast-feeding as “God’s plan for mothers and babies”.  It’s time we evolve and recognize that, indeed, the breast is a beautiful thing – in form AND function.

 

1 World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/