How Do You Talk To Your Kids About Terrorism?

I didn’t post a “What Would You Do?” post on Friday because it seemed frivolous after the attacks in Paris. Then, on Saturday morning I opened the Wall Street Journal and saw a photo of a person in a body bag on the cover of the newspaper and a more serious “What Would You Do?” question came to mind: What do you tell your kids about terrorism?

Images like the ones in the Wall Street Journal are everywhere. You can’t turn on a computer, look at a newspaper or turn on the TV without a graphic image of the recent attacks in Paris or Beirut or Nigeria cropping up. And kids are on line all of the time – being bombarded by headlines and images. The image of the person in a body bag was nothing compared to the images my 15-year-old has viewed on the Internet since the attacks.

So, what do you tell them?

My kids were pretty young when the attacks on 9/11 occurred. My older son was 5 ½ and my youngest was only 1 ½. I was watching the Today show the morning of the attacks and actually turned the TV on just minutes before the second plane hit the tower. My older son saw the attack in real time. At that moment I knew exactly what was happening but he didn’t. I thought it was best not to say anything because he was so young so I told him it was a plane crash in an effort to buy myself more time to come up with an explanation that would be age appropriate. Of course, I lost all control over the story once he went to school that afternoon. He heard different versions of the attacks depending on whose parents had told them what.

He came home thinking that Chicago had been attacked and that the planes were bombs.

I didn’t really know what to tell him that would be honest but not too frightening. I certainly didn’t want him to worry about boarding a plane or traveling into the city. I recall not saying much and hoping that because of his age he wouldn’t ask.

I have chosen, through the years, to be fairly matter-of-fact about the news, telling my boys what has happened but not giving them too much frightening detail. Usually they don’t ask too many questions, which I always viewed as a good sign. I should have realized that they were getting their information somewhere else and not discussing it with me.

A few days before the Paris attacks my 15-year-old and I were talking about a video game that he wants for the holidays. I said that it seemed pretty harsh and a little disturbing. “Not more disturbing then the real world,” he said. “This is make-believe. Shooting in movie theaters and schools is real.”

Wow. I didn’t even know that he thought about any of this.

Apparently he worries when we goes to a movie theater, not enough to stop him from going to the movies, but he said that the shooting in Aurora, Colorado is always on his mind when he walks into a theater.

I told him to always sit at the back of the theater and if anyone stands to face the audience he should duck. I thought if he had a plan it would ease his fears. I don’t think I helped.

I don’t want my boys to be afraid to go to a movie theater (or run a marathon, go to a soccer match, see a concert or fly in a plane). I have always talked about those incidents as if they are isolated events. Unfortunately, now it seems that every day brings a new threat and I clearly need to talk about it.

Just last night, my son brought up all of the flights that have been delayed or rerouted in the U.S. over the last couple of days. Of course, we are flying in a couple of weeks and, although my son didn’t say he was worried about it, I still attempted to allay any unspoken fears he may have.  “Little chance of anything happening on a flight to Missouri,” I told him.

“But we are flying out of Chicago,” he countered.

I said something about not living our lives in fear or the terrorists win. Although I do believe that sentiment, I knew it sounded dismissive; I just didn’t know what else to say.

I’m certainly not going to tell my kids to avoid crowds or events on the off chance that a terrorist is targeting that venue, but there is a part of me that wants to bubble wrap my kids and lock them up—keep them away from all danger.

As if that’s possible.

Parents in Columbine and Newtown and even in our small town outside of Chicago thought their kids were safe. All they did was send their kids to school – a place that is considered a safe haven – and the unthinkable occurred.

So, as the unthinkable continues to happen, what do you tell your kids? Do you keep them away from the news (easier when the kids are younger and you can control what they watch)? Do you change your plans? I have a few friends whose kids were planning to study in Paris next fall. At least one of the moms I talked to said she would not let her child go. What would you do? What would you tell your kids to keep them safe?

My older son wants to study abroad in Europe next fall as well. Initially he had suggested attending a program in a small town in Italy and I scoffed. “You want to be a in a big city! Go to Rome!” I told him. Now I’m not so sure. Sending him to a little town in the middle of nowhere sounds pretty appealing to me right now…


Top Five Things That I Miss About College

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I just spent family weekend at my oldest son’s college and boy, did I notice the age gap between college kids and me. I don’t usually feel old; I usually think I’m around 23 until I try to stand up too quickly and I pull something, but spending the weekend with a bunch of college students was eye opening. Let me clarify, it wasn’t so much that I felt old as it was that I felt that college was such a long time ago. It made me think about how different I was at that age and how I took certain things for granted back then. I don’t mean just the freedom of limited supervision or weekly quarter beer nights. I mean the less obvious things that you don’t realize won’t be available to you until after you get a significant amount of distance from those college years.

After my weekend I realized that these are the things that I miss the most:

1- An unobstructed view of the future. College kids think they can accomplish anything and they feel that they have all the time in the world to do it. Nothing is impossible in their minds. I miss that perspective. Now, as I approach my 5th decade (slowly, dragging myself there, actually) my perspective is colored by my experiences and, unfortunately, that “color” can be limiting. When you are in college obstacles do not exist. When you are 50, obstacles – whether real or imagined – are far more likely to be a deterrent. Take the issue of time. To me, time is short. At this point in my life if I realize that something is going to take 10 years to accomplish I am far more likely to ask, “Do I really want to be doing this when I’m 60?” But when I was a 20-year-old, five to ten years in the future was nothing. Just a blip on a time line. 

2- Access to learning. There is so much to know and the thought that there is somewhere where you can spend large chunks of your day taking in all that information is mind blowing (and, no, sitting on your couch and searching Google for info is not the same). Of course, when you are in college it doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as quarter beers and no parental supervision but from my view now, it’s the greatest thing ever. I wish I took advantage of that more than I did.

3- Which brings me to my next point: knowing everything. Despite the very real possibility that college kids are not taking in the vast amounts of knowledge that are available to them, they are still SO MUCH smarter than the rest of us. As I get older I know that I know very, very little. I no longer have all of the answers. But, college kids? They know EVERYTHING and the strength of their convictions with which they will let you know that they know everything is impressive. I want to tell them to wait until they are in their 40s when they realize that they really know nothing, but they wouldn’t believe me anyway, because, to them, I really do know nothing and they do know everything!

4- Fewer responsibilities. Even working and going to school while in college didn’t seem as heavy a burden as being a parent to two kids, a daughter to an aging parent and a citizen of this world. Being a responsible 20-year-old is completely different than being a responsible 49-year-old.

5- Energy. I don’t just mean the ability to stay up past 2 am then bound out of bed for an 9 am class (although I am a tad wistful about that), I mean the ability to absorb a lot of info, have a busy social life, work hard, dream big and do it all with energy to burn.  Seriously, if I could just have a tenth of that energy back…

My wish for my kids is that they could appreciate all of this now, while they are young, but they won’t. Hopefully they will use all of their energy and freedom to learn a lot and accomplish great things. I also hope that one day, when they finally realize that they, too, know nothing they will be surrounded by college kids who remind them of their limitations…and they will smile.

What would you add? Is there anything you miss from your college years?

Like this post? Let me know! And remember, sharing is caring!

Your Kid Gets Blown Off. What Would You Do?

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Here’s the scenario: Your kid has plans with a friend over the weekend to go to hangout. At the last minute the friend bails on your kid citing forgotten family plans or blaming his mom for being a total b**ch and not letting him go out. You find out that the “friend” has made other plans with other kids and is just blowing your kid off. This is not the first time this has happened.

What do you do?

Do you:

  1. Tell your kid that you know his friend lied to him and has made other plans then help him figure out how to handle the situation which, hopefully includes, never talking to that kid again (the last part is more wishful thinking on your part). Include a discussion about respect and what being a friend means;
  2. Don’t tell your kid that you know his friend lied to him but talk about how this seems like a pattern and maybe your kid should take a break from hanging out with this kid. Include a discussion about respect and what being a friend means;
  3. Say and do nothing and hope that your kid realizes that this person is not his friend and is not treating him very well. Silently hope that karma exists.

Do you have a different option?

Let us know your thoughts!

Have a pressing parenting question that you want answered by the readers? Send it to

New Friday Feature: What Would You Do?

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I’m constantly faced with questions about the best course of action to take when it comes to dealing with issues regarding my kids and/or their friends. Until now I never really had anyone to ask, at least not anyone who would answer honestly. My friends are more apt to give the answer they think I want to hear and, while I appreciate their loyalty, I sometimes need a reality check. That’s where you, my fine readers come in. Every Friday I will pose a pressing parenting question and I would really appreciate if you could chime in with your thoughts. It’ll be fun! Something to mull over during Happy Hour, perhaps?!?

So here goes:

Scenario: You see one of your kid’s friends out in public and the kid pretends he doesn’t know you, even ignoring you when you say hi. Do you:

1) Forget about it. Teenagers can be oblivious/easily embarrassed/a**holes;

2) Mention it to his/her parent next time you see them, preferably in front of the kid; or

3) Say, as loudly as possible: “Oh my god, Joe, look at you! You have gotten so big! I remember when you were just this tall and you only wore your Batman pajamas to school. Oh, and remember that time I had to help you blow your nose with the bulb syringe because you couldn’t breathe.” (Or something equally embarrassing making sure to point out everything you have ever done for that kid).

What do you think? Really, I want to know. I’m leaning towards #3 but only because I think kids who spend time in your house and your car and have no trouble eating your food should at least say hi when they see you in public. If they don’t, well, all bets are off. But that’s just me.

What would you do? Let us know!

Having a pressing question of your own to ask the readers? Send it to

Why Creating Family Traditions is a Bad Idea


Hey, you, over there, taking the photos of your lil’ punkin in the pumpkin patch, put down the camera and step away from that cute family moment.

I’m doing you a favor here. You may think that this is the beginning of a great family tradition that will last a lifetime but really you are merely starting down a path that will lead to pain and misery.


Sure, right now it’s adorable to watch your 2-year-old try to lug that ten pound pumpkin and to see your daughter grinning from ear-to-ear as you lift her overhead to reach the apple at the top of the tallest tree in the orchard.

But right now doesn’t last forever…they eventually become teenagers and that’s when the fun ends.

The child who one day loved all of your family traditions will turn on you the next day and demand that you stop engaging in traditional family activities that bore them/embarrass them/make them hate you because you are making them participate.

Just save yourself the pain of one day trying to get your teenagers to go pick out a pumpkin with you or go apple picking or decorate the Christmas tree while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas music.

They won’t do it.

“But you LOVE apple picking,” you will remind your 15-year-old and he will look at you as though the very idea of eating an apple is repulsive and you have lost your mind because he never, never, ever enjoyed that activity.

“Help me put out the Halloween decorations, please,” is met with: “Why would we put out decorations? We aren’t little kids anymore—mom.”

Last year I “threatened” (i.e. screamed for a good 30 minutes) to take away Christmas unless someone helped me decorate the tree; five minutes later the tree was decorated but it was shrouded by a cloud of disdain for all things jolly.

At that point I officially hated Christmas.

Eventually your teenagers’ contempt for your heart-warming family traditions—the traditions you lovingly developed to create routine and joy in their lives—will just suck the joy out of the season.

So what do you do when the family traditions you’ve created no longer fit your family (but you still want them – damn it!)?

You could:

A) Have every family tradition involve a gift exchange because, somehow, my family is still ok with the traditions of gift giving for Christmas and Hanukkah.

B) Wait until you have grandchildren and do it all over again while secretly waiting for the day that your child calls you in a huff because his kid won’t pick out a pumpkin without several friends in tow. (This, of course, is my personal favorite.)


C) You could just adapt.

Unfortunately, option “C” eventually wins.

Until recently, I never thought about not being with my children for a holiday but, of course, my husband and I did that to our parents once we started dating. We had to divide our time between events or, as was often the case once we had kids, trade off between families every year. We solved the agony of making three Thanksgiving stops by forcing everyone to come to our house but even that has changed, as our siblings have had to adapt to their own extended family plans.

But significant others aren’t the only ones who force changes on family traditions. Once my son left for college even something as silly as giving him a half-birthday cake on his half-birthday (one of my favorite traditions) turned into a logistical nightmare since it fell on a weekend and I couldn’t send a homemade half cake. I compromised by sending a half-dozen cupcakes from a local bakery but that turned a simple idea into quite a pricey event and, besides, it just wasn’t the same.

But what about when he studies abroad and isn’t home for Thanksgiving? Or what if he decides to stay for Christmas in his new locale? How will I manage to arrange for his favorite holiday tradition, hanging his stocking on his door for Christmas morning?

It just occurred to me that there will come a day when my boys will not wake up in my house on Christmas morning and their stockings will sit on the mantle, unfilled, as mere decoration, much the same way our uncarved pumpkins decorate our porch now.

“It’s what’s supposed to happen,” my husband just said to me. Clearly, he isn’t quite as moved by this as I am. 

Screw that.

I changed my mind. I’m not going with option “C,” I’m going with option “A” above. A little bribe, I mean gift, could go a long way.


Top Five Things to Know About a Newborn


I’m not around many soon-to-be or completely new parents much. Although our neighborhood is filling fast with young families, by the time they move to the ‘burbs they usually have at least one preschool or school aged kid in tow. But today I got a peek into the mind of a soon to be new parent when my dentist told me about his plans for his new role as a dad.

He knows I write this blog so he asked me what advice I would give him. At the time nothing really important came to mind. To be fair I was also drooling a bit and I’m not sure when I spoke that I was actually articulating words since my mouth was so numb but I did come up with one piece of advice – when you change your newborn boy’s diaper make sure you cover his penis or you will get sprayed.

I thought that was pretty useful information!

But now, several hours later (although still numb and drooling) I’ve come up with a few more the things that I wish I knew when my oldest was a newborn. To be fair, I probably knew all of this – I’m sure some well-meaning parent told me but I either forgot what they said, I thought I knew better, or I didn’t believe them.

Just in case my dentist wants to know, though, here is my list of the top five things I wish I knew when my kids were babies.

  1. You will not consistently sleep through the night while you have kids living in your home. I knew the first few months would be tough but eventually we would reach that magical point when the baby would “sleep through the night.”  Well, yea, he slept through the night.

And then he didn’t.

There were nights when he was teething, or stuffy, or scared or just wide awake for no apparent reason at 3 am. And then they become teenagers. Not to freak you new parents out but I don’t remember what it’s like to fall asleep and wake up in the morning without interruption – and my youngest is 15.

  1. If you are a type “A” kind of person, learn to let go. You cannot control what happens with a baby (see teething, stuffy, scared above). I did not know this. I like to control things. I was positive that I knew best and I could get my kid to comply.

I was wrong.

For instance, I thought my kid should sleep because I said so:

Me (to Baby #1 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): Shhh! Go to sleep.

Baby #1: bursts into fits of giggles

Me: (sobbing) This is not funny! It’s dark out! It’s time to sleep!

Baby #1: giggles more

 And then I had my second kid:

Me (to Baby #2 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): I’m just going to sleep on your floor with my earplugs in. You do whatever you want in your crib.

Baby #2: bursts into a fit of giggles

Me: (curled up on the floor) zzzzzzz

  1. Which brings me to my next point: your first kid is like an experiment. You won’t know what you are doing. No matter how many babies you have been around you will not know what you are doing with your first child. BUT, you will figure it out…eventually. This will only become apparent if you have another kid or two.
  2. Don’t read too many books or consult too many websites. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, too much information can make you crazy. I had to laugh when my dentist mentioned that he needed to get another book to read for the weekend because he just finished his copy of If You Read This You Will Be the Perfect Parent or something with a similar title because really, the only reason you read these books is because you want to know everything before the baby comes. You truly believe that armed with ALL of this parenting knowledge you will be able to deftly handle every situation that comes up and you will be the “Perfect Parent.”


Sure, I read What to Expect When You are Expecting and What to Expect the First Year. I considered the latter my “bible” and consulted it for everything from the step-by-step instructions on how to bathe the baby (this made my mother laugh so hard she actually left my house) to what a normal baby’s temperature is (hmm, same as an adult’s). The more I read the more I thought I was doing something wrong. I found, after the fact, that the best books to read were the ones that were humorous. Like The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and Go the F**k to Sleep.

  1. Parenting requires humor. Sure, parenting is serious business. But it’s also not. Watching your toddler walk the dog (or the dog walk your kid) is funny. So is your 5-year-old making you breakfast or your 7-year-old singing like Justin Timberlake. Even tantrums are funny (really, they are, especially if you join in and act like a toddler, too). Just remember: if you don’ t have a sense of humor you will never survive the teenage years…

What would you add to the list? What do you know now that you wish you knew when your first kid was a newborn?

Is it Wine O’clock Yet? Awesomesauce!


Every year the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) adds new words to its online dictionary. This year’s crop was very exciting for me because the word “hangry” (meaning, “bad tempered or irritable because of hunger”) made the cut and, about four years ago I used that word in a piece called, Feeding the Hangry.

Four years ago! I was so ahead of the curve on that one!

I immediately told my kids how cool I am.

Never one to allow me to bask in my coolness, my younger son informed me that other cool words also made the cut, like “rando,” as in “a person one does not know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behavior,” and “mkay” as in “to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation,” (in other words, “okay” spelled with an “m” instead of an “o”). Then there was “beer-o’clock” as in the right time to start drinking beer and “melty” because, apparently, melted is too difficult to write.

Not only did I not feel cool anymore but, I started to become very worried about my children’s use of the English language in the future.

I’m all for making up words. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to do as I get older and I can’t remember words when I’m speaking. Just the other day, for instance, I suffered from a total brain fart. I couldn’t remember the words: real estate broker. So I went with “thepersonwhoputsyourhouseonthemarketwhenyouaretryingtosellit.”

Thankfully most of my friends also suffer from “old age brain” as well (see what I did there? I coined a phrase) so everyone can figure out what I’m talking about or at least not make fun of my new words.

But sometimes, made up words should have a short shelf life. Unfortunately with the advent of the Internet (one of 1974’s new words) new words crop up often and get passed around and, unfortunately, they never seem to die.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for new words. Before text-messaging evolved in the 1980s there was no need for a word that described sending a message via text. Hence the need for a new word. Similarly, Goldendoodle dogs didn’t exist until the 2000s so that’s when the definition of Goldendoodle became relevant. Once they became a breed they were given a name.

Those words actually refer to something specific and definable. The word “fur-baby,” as in “a furry pet,” is neither specific nor definable. Call it your dog or your cat or your hamster. Or, call it your fur-baby. But does that word really have to be included in an archive of current English usage like the OED?

Well, yes.

According to the Oxford Dictionary website it does. It is also one of the top 5 most popular words in the U.S. as of today.

Right up there with:



-Butthurt and, my favorite,

unthaw – which now has a new meaning. The new definition as set out in the OED does not mean to freeze something. It now means to thaw. So, what’s with the “un” which means to negate?

At this point I don’t even know if I’m using real words in this post.

The interesting thing is that the tag line for the Oxford Dictionary’s webpage is: Language Matters. I assume that means that they are discussing matters of language instead of trying to tell us that the language we use makes a difference, because, if that is the case, then the word “swole” should not be a word. You know why? Because we already have the words, “swell” and “swollen.” SWOLE IS NOT A WORD!

But, apparently it is.


In fact, it has, according to the peeps over at OED, been used so much as to demonstrate “continued historical use.”


According to Fiona McPherson, senior editor of the OED’s new words group, in an interview with The Telegraph, new words are only added to after they “have been around for a reasonable amount of time and are in common use.”

Which means that enough people in the world have been using the term “cat café” (“a cafe or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises”) to warrant the term’s inclusion in the dictionary.

Now do you understand why I am worried for my children and my children’s children??

Thankfully, words do fall out of fashion. For instance, the 1950s brought us the words aerospace, brainwash, artificial intelligence, do-it-yourself, and decaf but it also brought “Nowheresville” and “noshery.” Similarly, the 1990s gave us emoticon, gastropub, carjacking, and World Wide Web but also gave us “geeksville” and “poptastic.”

So there may be hope…or not.

Ms. McPherson believes that including slang words like “bants” (to banter) and “weak sauce” (“something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality”) isn’t “really about dumbing down, it’s more creative ways that people are using language.”

Great, next year all of our words will be creatively missing vowels.

NBD, rght?


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