Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mommy Files: My Son the Sponge

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m a talker. According to my family, this is a long-time habit. In fact, I suspect I probably tried to talk while still in the womb, which accounts for the fact that I inhaled amniotic fluid and caused my mom more stress than necessary when I was born.

My habit has led to me raising a long line of loud pets. From the family cat, Ginger, who used to wait for me in my bedroom when I returned from school, crying, “Hiiiii!” to a very expressive doggie who made noises to fit every emotion, to my current cat, who is constantly mewing me his complaints and commentary, I’ve always talked to my pets, and my pets talk back. Why should I be surprised I have a chatty child?

Unlike my parade of pets, however, my boy is gaining language and communication skills daily. Ever since he was born, I’ve been pointing things out to him; explaining and defining the world around him. His vocabulary and understanding, at age 3, are impressive. However, he’s still working on enunciation, meaning that I often have to “translate” his remarks to other adults.

My husband, who cares for our son in the evenings so that I can do my transcription work, came into my office earlier this week and said, “Do you know he knows the word ‘jug’?”

“Yes,” I told him. “We were talking about the milk container while waiting in line at the grocery store, and I told him it’s called a jug. That jugs are containers with handles that carry liquid. Then we talked about what liquids are.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon he brings liquids into the conversation.

Last night, he apparently impressed my husband by looking at the opening of a space-based video game and declared it was on the moon. The landscape did, indeed, resemble a lunar landscape. I attributed this to the planet stickers we’ve been using as rewards whenever he does something we’re trying to encourage. I’ve been talking to him about the planets every time I reward him with one.

I’d heard that talking to your child about things that you see in your travels together can help him to build his vocabulary and understanding of the world. It’s a lot of fun finally reaching the time when he’s demonstrating that learning.

Pluses and Minuses of Starting Older

Everywhere you look, magazines, TV ads and billboards extol the virtues of youth. We should all lament growing older, these voices tell us. For sure, we should attempt to erase any signs of the toll the years have paid on our bodies.

Here’s a shocking idea: Growing older isn’t just an inevitable fall into decline. Growing older actually has some advantages. As an older mom, I’ve discovered quite a few.

Now to be sure, there are some negatives, and since they’re the ones that people usually focus on, let’s get them out of the way quickly.

As an older mom (and medical practitioners define this as 35 years and older), you’ll be classified as a high-risk pregnancy and will be urged to take a battery of stress-inducing tests to ensure the health of your baby. Discuss those options carefully with your obstetrician and your network of support and decide if the information they can provide will be worthwhile.

As an older mom, who is considered high-risk, you will be unlikely to have as many birthing options. While it’s not impossible to find ob-gyns and midwives who will work with you, if you’re giving birth for the first time, you’ll most likely be encouraged to have the baby in a traditional hospital setting, with all of the monitors possible. Of course, this is a small price to pay for a healthy baby, as I think we’d all agree.

You might find that your resilience and healing process are slower than they would be for younger women. This can mean healing from the birth as well as losing baby weight.

If you’re an older adoptive mom, the previous points won’t apply to you, but the rest will. As an older mom, you might have a harder time dealing with the erratic schedule that your child brings. If, like me, you’ve been accumulating aches and pains since your 20s, it might be harder to get down on the carpet and play for extended periods of time.

And of course, as an older mom, you’ll have to put up with misguided comments: everything from people asking you if you’re the grandma to rude personal questions about whether you’re going to have another child and why you waited so long. Having talked to moms who started earlier, though, I can tell you that you’re not alone. Nothing brings out the nosiness in neighbors and strangers, it seems, quite like being a mom. Younger mothers also deal with invasive questions: just different ones.

Now for the positives, and there are plenty.

You have experience and perspective that younger mothers may lack. While you may not have personally been a mother until now, chances are you’ve watched from the sidelines as friends and family members raised their children. You may have been taking silent notes on what parenting practices you would want to adopt, and you’ve been in a unique position to benefit from watching their mistakes and successes.

Plus, you’ve gained life experience that younger mothers haven’t had. Many older moms start later because of having focused for years on their career or on hobbies. Chances are, you’ve got enough experience in your field to be able to make intelligent choices when it comes to whether you want to balance work and career or simply take some time to focus on family. Coming at motherhood later, you’re less likely to feel as if you got sidetracked by motherhood before you ever got a chance to see what you might achieve.

In addition, you’ve probably built a network of coworkers and friends who can provide you with a broad variety of perspectives and support.

While it’s not true for everyone, many older moms are more financially secure than they were in their younger years. That can help alleviate some of the stress produced by all those new bills for everything from pediatrician visits to diapers, clothes, and baby food.

You have lived longer and had more time to gain the sort of useful knowledge that will benefit your child. Kids are little sponges: they’ll appreciate it.

I’m sure there are many other benefits, as well, but this is a good start to consider, whenever you start to doubt yourself. Celebrate yourself and all you have to offer.

What other advantages do you think go along with being an older mom? Share them in the comments.

Why I Waited

Sharing Miso
My son and I sharing some miso soup

If life had gone a different way, I would have a teenager by now, instead of the 3-year-old who is currently on the couch next to me, wrapped up a teddy bear blanket and claiming he needs a nap. For now, I will resist the urge to tell him, “So nap already” and instead appreciate where I am and where I could have been.

My first marriage ended 15 years ago, but if it hadn’t ended, I’m fairly certain we would have had a baby soon. Back then, I figured that not only was it the next logical stage in our relationship but also that it could, somehow, repair the marriage that had grown as stale as the freezer-burned wedding cake we had only recently eaten on our first anniversary.

That would have been a very different parenting situation, I know. Without going into detail about his issues, my first husband was definitely not suited to be a supportive partner during pregnancy and childbirth or, for that matter, a reliable dad.

In all likelihood, I would have found myself coping with a new set of troubles: how to care for a baby, and then a child, while still dealing with a host of marital issues. If it had kept the marriage alive, I would never have learned all the things that being independent of that relationship taught me about myself. If the marriage had still ended, I would have remained tied to my first husband; obligated to keep him in my life to some degree, for the sake of the child.

When I think of that bleak parallel universe, I give praise that my life took me in another direction. I would much rather be an older mom, raising a child with the help of a supportive husband and father, than a single mom still tied to her child’s troubled dad.

There was a time, however, when I wondered if I would ever reach this stage. I’d gotten married at age 26, just like my mom before me. Taking her as a role model, I figured I could have two — or even three — children before age 35, the time when fertility is known to drop and obstetricians begin recommending additional prenatal tests to assess the health of the baby.

But it was not to be. My destiny lay elsewhere, and my carefully laid plans went awry. I often joke with my husband that I wish I’d met him 20 years ago, but who knows if things would have worked out with us then? At that time, I was still leaning towards the wrong kind of guy. While I probably would have been attracted to him, I would have put him in the “friend” category. After all, he was too stable, kind and responsible for me to see him as a boyfriend until I got some self-esteem issues worked out.

Sometimes I want to have a serious talk with Past Me. Not just to ask her “What were you thinking?” but to assure her that, really, if she just believed in herself and kept trying, Things Would Work Out.

I needed to hear that message at 26, just to gain some assurance that Husband No. 1 wasn’t my only shot at a family. That I didn’t need to even worry that the invitations had already been sent out; I could follow my instincts and cut things short. While I don’t regret the lessons I learned then, I wish I hadn’t needed to learn them.

I needed to hear that message at 31, when a long-distance relationship ended and I worried that now I was officially too old to start all over again and hope to be a mommy.

I needed to hear that message at 34, when I was dating my second husband and spending Christmas Day with my family. My brother made an innocent comment about what sort of children we might have, and I broke down in tears, fearing that somehow, my dreams might not happen. What if, after all this waiting, we wouldn’t even conceive when we did finally try?

I needed to hear that message at 37, when I married my second husband and wanted to start a family right away, only to get the rude news, barely out of our honeymoon, that he’d been laid off from his long-time office job. With no medical insurance, we had to wait another year for him to find another position before beginning to try.

I needed to hear that message at 39, pregnant with the son I now know came out perfectly healthy, when we faced a very scary prenatal test result. An ultrasound showed he had more than the desired amount of fluid desired on the back of his neck, which could indicate either retardation or heart troubles. For several weeks, over Thanksgiving, we had no idea what to expect, as we waited for the results of a follow-up procedure which would give us information from a genetic level.

Both that and a heart exam showed our boy — for yes, this confirmed he was a boy — was developing normally. Until that point, I’d been convinced I was having a girl. So much for the predictive power of dreams!

I’d also dreamed our child would have my husband’s dark hair and my blue-gray eyes (which my son believes are green). Naturally, this predestined he would have dark blonde hair and his daddy’s large, warm, honey-brown eyes. I find this to be a delightful irony, since it was those eyes that first made me fall for him.

Despite the fact that both of my grandmothers were 40 when they had my parents, it’s still not unusual for my age to inspire questions amongst both friends and strangers. Rather than going through the whole long saga, I usually sum it up by saying that I was married once before but didn’t see him as a possible father, so I waited until the time felt right.

The time is right now. Much better than any previous time could have been, in my life so far. I don’t doubt it. I just need to remember to celebrate it.


Celebrity-Inspired Celebrations for Real-Life Moms

I am pleased to introduce my first guest blogger. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while: to provide new perspectives. Arianna Pierce is an energetic writer and mom with some terrific ideas, which she shares on her blog, Arianna Knows Best. I hope you enjoy her post.

Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey and children in royal gear

Nick Cannon, wife Mariah Carey and
their kids in royal regalia at Disneyland

If your life is anything like mine, summers are probably far from a vacation. Lately, with rising temperatures and bored kids to entertain, all I’ve wanted to do is jet off to an island and find some peace and quiet. However, since I’m not rich enough to be a jet setter, my girlfriends and I have decided that this summer, we are going to figure out how to live the luxurious life right here at home, using our favorite celebrities as inspiration!

Celebrity summer: Sailing to St. Tropez on a Yacht

St. Tropez is known as a hot spot for celebrity sightings. Fans of this gorgeous coastal town include Rihanna, Leonardo Dicaprio, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, among many others. Leo was recently seen arriving by a chartered private jet and boarding his private yacht with a large group of supermodels.

Reality summer: Sailing at the Lake

We may not be able to make it to St. Tropez, but my girlfriends and I can certainly strap life vests on our kids and spend a day on the water! If you don’t own a boat, check out your local waterfront, as many offer sailboat, kayak and canoe rentals. Pack up a few sand toys to keep the fun going during breaks from the waves on shore.

Celebrity summer: Partying at the MTV Video Music Awards

The Video Music Awards are a huge event, bringing out the best and worst in all of our favorite celebrities. Whether we are talking about Britney’s not so innocent striptease or Lady Gaga’s meat dress, the Video Music Awards always leave the viewers wanting more and gossip magazines with something to discuss.

Reality summer: Organizing Your Own Award Show Party

None of us are likely to ever make an appearance on MTV, but we can still host our own award show parties at home. You can ask your guests to dress like their favorite artists and have a karaoke jam based on all your favorite award show performances. Then, at the end of the night, have everyone vote for their favorite artists and hand out prizes, such as iTunes gift cards or funky colored headphones to the winners. Funny acceptance speeches are required!

Celebrity summer: Shutting Down Disneyland for an Anniversary

When Mariah Carey and husband Nick Cannon celebrate their love, they follow one simple motto: Go big or go home! After they renewed their vows, the pair took over Disneyland for the day, shutting it down to the general public and ensuring that their family would get the royal treatment!

Reality summer: Booking an Evening at a Great Local Restaurant

Unfortunately, when my family goes to Disneyland, we have to wait in line just like everyone else. However, it seems much more realistic to scrape together enough cash to book a private room at a restaurant for a special occasion. Not only does this allow you to celebrate in private, but many restaurants will also offer you a custom menu, discounts on drinks and even a special cake, just for you!

Arianna is a full-time mom and a fashion-lover, world traveler, animal lover, and family woman extraordinaire. She loves to cook and bake, travel to new places, share great fashion finds, and spend time doing crafts and projects at home with her kids. She’s got a crazy busy life, but she wouldn’t have it any other way! Follow her blog at!

The Mommy Files: Busy Mommy, Not Busy Grandma

It’s been way too long since I posted anything here, and for that I truly apologize. I’ve been very busy working on a number of projects, including an ebook version of Dedicated Idiocy: A Personal History of the Penn State Monty Python Society, and putting together a rough rundown for my upcoming book, Now with Kung Fu Action Grip, a collection of poetry and writings about my son, age 2.

I’ll make more of an effort to post something here, even if it’s just about my everyday parenting challenges. This morning, for example, I was thrilled to run into one of my son’s little friends at the YMCA. She was waiting in a hallway with two older children (possibly siblings, though I don’t know for sure). As my Kung Fu Panda and his friend exchanged shy pleasantries (you’d never know the two of them had been holding hands while running through the park just last Thursday), the older girl asked me, “Is he your son or your grandson?”

If I had $1 for every time someone had asked me that, I could be building quite the college fund.

This time, I had to remind myself that she was only about 8. It’s entirely possible that she knows a lot of 40-year-old grandmothers. After all, if I’d had a kid at 20, and my child had done the same, I would indeed be a grandmother. It’s just not the sort of thing you want to hear — ever, really, but especially when you’re sweaty and walking around in exercise gear. Only five minutes previously, I’d been smiling silly after an invigorating Zumba class with a guest instructor who kept us all on our toes.

So I reminded myself not to take it personally, and I just smiled brightly. My son bid his friend bye-bye, and we walked away, still smiling. After a short while, I didn’t even have to force it anymore.