Anecdotes

The Right (and the Wrong) Way to Praise Kids

Want to increase your child’s self-esteem? Make her more resilient and willing to face challenges? Stop praising her. That’s right, stop the atta-girl, you are so smart and strong. An intriguing longitudinal study on parent praise by Carol Dweck, a Harvard researcher, shows that too much positive feedback can backfire and hijack the very attributes […]

A Measure of Work

I’ve worked hard in my life. I’ve been what you could call poor. I never went hungry or without shoes, but I’ve been poor enough as a child to consider a Barbie doll an uncommonly generous gift, and new shoes a real splurge. I’m not poor anymore, but those lean years have added something to […]

Finding Love and Magic at a Rummage Sale

It was my idea of a great rummage sale. I skipped the tables with crowds around them and headed for the empty corners where creative possibilities were disguised as junk. I found old transistor radios and alarm clocks to take apart, horn rim glasses and a long blonde wig for the dress up box, a […]

Life as Plan B

I was at the kitchen table writing when our 4-year-old son appeared from his nap smiling sheepishly. “Ben! You cut your hair!” I tried not to scream. He had taken the scissors from an earlier project to bed with him and gave himself a magnificent reverse Mohawk—all the hair on top of his beautiful blonde […]

Learn to Let Go

What is good parenting? What is the good life? Picking your battles for one–with your child, your partner, at work, in your inner life. The reality is we worry about the wrong things—stranger danger, tornadoes, terrorists—when the real threats to our lives are under the kitchen sink for toddlers, in the car driving to work, […]

An Easy and A Hard Way to Travel with Kids

One day many years ago I was listening to NPR when a fascinating piece came on about zebras. Even though their distinctive stripes make them stand out on the African plain individually, collectively their patterns merge, making it difficult for a predator to visually isolate just one and pick it from the herd. Alone they […]

The Best Worst Mother’s Day

Once many years ago, I was hit with an immediate and sudden need to be recognized, appreciated even, on a very specific day, for a very specific amount of time: Mother’s Day. Our children were 9, 11, 13, and 15 years old. That little factoid right there should tell you something. Add an absent husband, […]

This Mama’s Take on Stranger Danger

We were on our way to a school celebration. The kids were excited even if they had to dress up and brush their hair and wear shoes instead of their customary rubber boots. It was the culmination of a 6-month study on the culture of Mexico and there was going to be a piñata! Tacos! […]

“Can I Play at the Dirt Pile House?”

  My friend Kate gazed out at the homes in her new neighborhood as her husband drove. Each yard was neat and perfectly landscaped, complete with swept walkways and expensive playground equipment, a kid’s heaven, she mused. Clean cars were parked in the driveways. Behind those big front doors Kate imagined tidy rooms and families […]

Tender Mercies: The Joys of Being Sick

Many years ago the impossible happened: I was struck down with influenza. Nick, our then thirteen year old, dragged himself home from school. He had it too. I can’t be ill! I’m the one who keeps the family rolling. Greg is in Alaska, I have a sick child! In the morning I attempted to dress. […]

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