I Have A Better Idea About How She Does It

As a mother, I constantly feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends and striving for perfection in all areas of my life.  Perfection is  a totally unrealistic expectation in motherhood.  And I’m not even sure why I feel the need to make everything perfect anyway.  There is nothing wrong with things being ok anyway.  And even as many moms in the world would like to appear like they are doing it all with the greatest of ease, most of the time they are not.  Yet, we still ask ourselves how does she do it?  That’s exactly the premise of the new film, I Don’t Know How She Does It featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as a mother who appears to do it all.

SJP talks juggling work and motherhood

I was invited to an advance screening of the film in New York City on Wednesday followed by a town hall style discussion with Sarah Jessica Parker and the author of the best selling book with the same title, Allison Pearson.  I am a HUGE SJP fan and was thrilled to attend the screening.  So I’ll just tell you now that any real unbiased judgement about the film is out the window!  But the discussion afterwards was very comforting and honest.

SJP along with the author Allison Pearson were joined by Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein from Moms and the City .  The discussion started out between the four women on stage and then turned to the audience at the request of SJP who wanted to hear what the other working moms in the crowd thought about the premise of ” doing it all”.

The questions and comments ranged from a working mom who was concerned that her children were spending too much time with their grandparents while she was at work. To a stay at home mother of five who felt like she was missing out on part of the career world while she raised her kids.  Another single mother of two, Nichelle Pace of StyleMom,  spoke of her upcoming 40th birthday celebration and her friends attempt to turn her all girls event into a bring-your-kids-along celebration.  Obviously Pace was very upset that her friends were turning her one chance to get away without the kids into a family event.

When a recently married woman asked Pearson about the right time to start a family, Pearson commented that the book could be viewed as “birth control” for many women. As all mothers know, parenting is extremely challenging yet very rewarding.  Trying to explain that to a woman who does not yet have children is a hard thing to get across sometimes.  The film doesn’t sugar coat any of the things that mothers miss out on while the are at work or away on business. SJP added that while she was pregnant with her son James Wilkie that she constantly worried about screwing him up in some way while raising him.  I had the same thought when I was preggers, too.

How the film is perceived outside of major urban areas will be of interest to me.  I don’t know many women or have many friends who have the high stress, high intense, travel heavy job that Kate has in this film.  I know lots of men with these types of jobs but they aren’t the ones who are typically trying to manage the family as well.  Most of these women will relate to part of Kate’s struggle but not all of it.  But I feel confident they will look at SJP and think back to Carrie Bradshaw and the Sex and the City days.

Now that I’ve had time to process getting to meet SJP,  I have had time to reflect on the film itself.  I enjoyed it and think you should go see it.  I get caught up in schedules, chores, lists and dates just like SJP’s character, Kate.   I often miss out on the in between and that is where life really happens. It’s not really lived checking text messages constantly, scanning news websites, managing three schedules, laundry, scheduling play time , date night and hurrying on the the next item on the to do list.  In the film, SJP tells her on screen husband played by Greg Kinnear that their life is a total mess.   But that it is their mess and they are the ones who have to live in it and manage it.  I think that sort of sums up everyone’s life.

p.s.  I can’t look at SJP and not take into consideration what she is wearing.   SJP looked “Carrie Bradshaw” fabulous in a sleek taupe knit dress with a fabulous cropped jacket that looked a bit like Chanel. Her brown suede Manolo Blahnik heels completed the look along with her simple taupe handbag trimmed in black.



First Day of First Grade

We have officially said so long to summer.  At approximately 8:30 am Thursday morning, Corbin started 1st grade.  It is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around the fact that he is not in Kindergarten any longer.  I would prefer to keep him sweet, young and innocent for as long as I possibly can!

He has already started using words like annoying with perfect placement in a sentence.  ”Mom, you are so annoy-ying.”  That is pronounced with two y sounds, too!  I realized that part of his sweetness is being chipped away at when he uses these big words that he picks up from older kids!! Oh, well!  What do you do?  Put them in the closet until they turn 18?  Think I’d get in trouble for that?  Probably so. And besides, one of the many joys of being a parent is watching your child grow up, right?  It’s what we have to do as parents.  Let them grow, nurture them along the way to the best of our abilities and pray they don’t turn out like Marilyn Manson!

So here he is in all of his first day of 1st grade splendor.

I love him dearly, mo-hawk and all.

This weather report brought to you by Aunt Charlene…

A storm is a brewin' over Central Park

I marvel at how much information my Arkansas friends and family send to me about New York City. I often get texts and e-mails asking me if I’m going to see the Black Eyed Peas in Central Park. Or if I’ve tried a new restaurant in the West Village that just opened. I’ve always prided myself on being in the loop and on top of current events. But New York City is an enormous city with a zillion things happening at any given moment.

So this afternoon, a few minutes after I heard an enormous clap of thunder and realized there was a storm brewing, I received a text message from my Aunt Charlene. Immediately, I went to the dark side and assumed someone had died! She doesn’t send messages often and when she does, they usually are bearing some sad news. Today, however, it was a weather report and her concern for me and the boys. I love my Aunt Charlene and have since I was a little girl. Not only was she worried about our well being, she took the time to check on us, too! The storm kind of fizzled out thank goodness, but I’m thankful my family connections haven’t.

Magic of Capri

  There is truly not a more magical place to visit than the island of Capri off of the Amalfi Coast.  I’ve always believed that the true beauty of any island is discovered once you get in a boat and take it all in from the sea.  This is especially true in Capri

  We knew we were going to take a boat trip around the island, but we hadn’t booked it when we had lunch at Paulino or the Lemon Tree restaurant.  The manager at the restaurant gave us her father’s business card.  Vittorino is one of the most experienced boat tour guides – although that’s not really the best word for his many talents – on the island. 

  Vittorino met us at the marina and we set sail on our adventure.  He pointed out the different rock formations and caves along the way.  One of the “must see” items on my list was the blue grotto and Vittorino helped me fulfill my wish. 

  To gain access to the blue grotto, we had to get out of his boat and into a much smaller boat with a different captain.  We paid these guys and were on our way. 

guys taking money at the blue grotto

Money men at the Blue Grotto - cash only

 I wasn’t sure what to expect really and when I saw where we were headed, I began to have second thoughts!  

  The entrance to the blue grotto was a really tiny opening along the side of the cliffs.  Keep in mind that Capri is one giant piece of limestone that stands straight up out of the ocean.  There aren’t any long sweeping sandy beaches.  It’s one humongous rock with cliffs that drop hundreds of feet straight down into the ocean.  As we approached this small opening, I didn’t know what was about to happen.  Our boat captain – speaking enough English to keep us all alive – said, “lay down in the boat”.  We were already sitting on the bottom of the boat at this point.  I’m one to do as I’m told, so I stretched out as best I could in the bottom of the little boat as we were pulled through the tiny hole in the side of the island.  For a split second, I thought I was screwed!!!!  I quickly had a wave of claustrophobia set in as we were moved into the grotto. 

  As my eyes adjusted to the dark vast opening, and I sat back up in the boat, I started to feel a little better.  And again, using his select English phrases, our captain told us to turn around and look.  Once I turned around, I could see the dark cave was lit up in a beautiful shade of electric blue.

Looking back through the entrance to the Blue Grotto

   The sunlight shines down on the water and reflects under the cave creating this beautiful blue color.  It was truly magical. 

Seeing blue

  And of course, I jumped in the water! It was freezing cold.  I’m sure my lips were as blue as the water by the time I got back in the boat. To add to the magic of the experience, our boat captain began singing in Italian which echoed beautifully throughout the cave. For all I know he may have been singing the theme song to SpongeBob Squarepants at a slower tempo, but it sounded amazing boucing off the walls of the cave and the water.  Mother Nature is the best sound technician afterall.         

  We made our way out of the grotto

friends in small boat in Capri

Row, row, row your boat

 and back to Vittorino who took us around another point and tied up the boat so we could take a swim in what he called our own personal Italian pool…

vittorino's swimming pool

my personal Italian swimming hole

 and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of caprese salad with tomatos from his garden with lemon juice from the restaurant, Paulino, which sits under a 100 year old lemon tree grove. 

yummy food on the San Viovanni

fresh feast on the San Giovanni

He also surprised us with home grown capers and some really good wine he made himself. It was a perfect lunch for a perfect day in the waters around Capri. 

Vittorino, seen here with me and Mark, took us back to the marina after our six hour tour where we reluctantly unloaded and said our goodbyes or rather our ciaos. 

Mark, Vittorino and DJ on the San Giovanni

Blue Grotto brigade

Promise me one thing.  When you find yourself on an island in the near future, please drag your lazy bones off the beach and get yourself on a boat and soak up the sun from there.  That’s my view from up here or rather down here off the coast of Capri.


Italy, baby!!!

  Two years ago Mark said, “we are going back to Tuscany in 2011.”.  I looked at him and said , “sure, whatever.”.  He’s a big planner and I’ve gotten used to him saying things like this.  I mean, who can even think that far in advance, right? So, it’s 2011 and I’m in Tuscancy.  Glad I have a super-planner, travel agent in my life…even though it wears me out most days!

DJ and Mark in Casole d' Elsa

In Casole d' Elsa with my favorite traveler

    This photo was taken last night before the high intake of carbs started. If you look closely you can see that I’m not with the “pasta baby” just yet!!

There are so many things to see and do along with many great places to just chill…

Pool in Tuscany

The View to a Chill

Ciao, for now.  We are off to San Gimignano!

All Hail, McQueen!

  In all of my previous travels to this incredible city, I never, not even once, stepped foot into any of its world famous museums.  Honestly, I’m not that into museums.  I’ve been in the Tate in London and the Louvre, in Paris- twice – the Mona Lisa is so underwhelming to me.  I’ve seen the works of the masters in Florence and in Rome.  Let me stop here to say that the art work in the Vatican is simply stunning.  I’d go tour the Vatican again in a heartbeat.  On Wednesday, however, I branched out and across Central Park  to The Metropolitan Museum or Art.

  I trekked across town the see the Alexander McQueen exhibit.  It is a unique collection of some of his incredible designs.  Many of which were made to be shown on a runway and never to be worn again!  Take this beautiful red number. 

red plume Alexander McQueen dress

what to wear to make an impression

The bottom of the dress is made from painted plumes.  The top of the dress is made from microscope slides painted red to depict blood.  I would like to be able to show you many more photos but I was reprimanded by the security officer at the exhibit…but not before I snapped this one!!

McQueen shell dress

Made to be shown and not really worn

  The dress is made from Razor clam shells – stripped and varnished.  It was from his  Spring/Summer 2001 collection.  There are many other pieces equally as fabulous as this piece.  You have to keep in mind that most of the pieces in the enhibit are made purely as art and not so much as every day wear!!!  If any of you happen to bump into anyone at Target wearing anything close to this, PLEASE take a photo and send it to me!!!

 Alexander McQueen took his own life in 2010 right before his Fall collection was to be shown and just nine days after the death of his mother.  Sarah Burton has since taken over as top designer at the fashion house.  You may recall she recently designed  Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress.  While it was a beautiful dress, I can’t help but imagine how McQueen himself would have designed the dress.  He was a master at detail and design.  There is no designer who even comes close to creating the amazing pieces of art that McQueen created during his time here on Earth.  R.I.P.

Every Little Bit Helps

When I first heard the news about the disaster in Japan, I felt like I often do when I hear this kinds of news – paralyzed.  It is the way I felt when I turned on the television and saw the images of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Thailand, the earthquake in Chile and the aftermath of the Westside School shooting.  My heart was heavy as I listened to the initial reports of what was going on and how the rescue missions were underway.  As the hours turned into days and all eyes turned toward the pending nuclear disaster, I really wanted to stick my head in the sand and try to forget about it. But I couldn’t forget about it and neither could the students at our school.

students sign advertising the bake sale

Sign designed by Kindergartener Remy Bhatia

  The kids and parents at PS 199 quickly organized a bake sale in an effort to raise money to help the victims in Japan.  Within a few days, the signs were made and hung all along the fence in front of our school.  Of course, Corbin asked if we could bake something to take to the sale.  He helped me whip up a Greek cake that my friend Mina turned me on to.  I highly recommend it.  It’s super easy and delicious, too.

  The sale started after school in the yard on Tuesday.  It continued until the start of the P.T.A. meeting at 6:30 p.m. The students and parents did an amazing job of baking and selling. The final count raised was $4581.00 All of which was donated to the Mayor’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Fund. I think that is a good amount of money to raise from a last minute bake sale!

  When events like this happen, it gives teachers and parents a great opportunity to teach our kids about many things.  From the disaster itself, recovering the dead, finding family members to where the victims will sleep and what they will eat, the lessons to be taught are endless.  And the other lessons such as organizing an event, team work and sales skills can be quickly learned and used during a time like this.  The older students were working the sidewalks asking everyone to take a look and buy something from the sale.  Some were as vigilant as those perfume girls standing in the isle at the department stores.  They didn’t take “no” for an answer very easily!   It’s an important step in teaching our kids that no matter where disaster strikes, everyone can help out in some way whether it is a million dollar donation from a celebrity like Sandra Bullock or a smaller amount from some school kids on the Upper West Side.

My Lunch with American Royalty

  You know when you have a day all planned out and then in a split second it changes?  I had one of those days on Wednesday.  I got a call from Mark who was away on business, asking me if I could attend a luncheon.  The topic of discussion was charter schools in New York City.  Public education is something that Mark is very interested in, unbeknown-st to me, and I was basically dispatched to the Monkey Bar to take notes!!  And being the professionally trained journalist that I am, I was very curious, excited and  eager to learn more about www.publicprep.org  And I was also a little hungry, too.  My morning plans of yoga and running errands were quickly dashed and replaced with a mad rush to shower, blow out my hair and figure out what to wear, of course.
  I made it to the Monkey Bar in time to see if my name was on the “list”, check my coat and find my table.  The room was packed with men and women and lots of flashes from the cameras in the room.  I found my table, took my seat and introduced myself to the ladies and man who were already seated.  When I aksed Michael who he worked for he said, “Women’s Wear Daily“.  An odd assignment, I thought,  for a reporter with a magazine that focuses on women when this was a talk about charter schools.  So, I asked him why he was here.  He said, “I’m here to cover Mrs. Kennedy”.  What?  Mrs. Kennedy?  What was he talking about, I thought. So I turned and looked over my shoulder and there stood Caroline Kennedy!! 

Photo of Caroline Kennedy
Caroline Kennedy

 Obviously, I had NO IDEA she was the keynote speaker at this event, but was I ever thrilled to be in the company of a Kennedy!! And not just any Kennedy, but the daughter of John F. Kennedy. 

A young Caroline Kennedy and her dad, JFK
Daddy’s Girl

  I was in the presence of the last remaining member of what many of us consider American royalty.   It was one of those moments where you had to pause to pick your chin up off of the floor. 
  Kennedy was introduced by Joel Klein, the former chancellor for New York City Schools.  He and Kennedy, as Klein explained, are personal friends.  Klein took the opportunity to discuss why the overhaul of the public education system in NYC and the whole country is vital to the success of students across the city and county.  It’s the joint effort of both the public and private sector that is going to be the future of our public education system, Klein said.  Not only the future, but the success of the system.  Acknowledging that the current system is both broken and broke, Klein said that the innovative joint effort of both sectors will provide students who are in an otherwise dead end social situation with a school that is not dead end, too.  Klein went on to say that the success of Girls Prep Bronx and Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary proves this point.
  When Caroline stepped to the podium,  she said that in order for us to once again be the leader in the fields of science, math and innovation, we are going to have to revamp the current school system.   “It’s becoming clear to everyone that cities and countries with educated and empowered women are healthier, smarter and more prosperous,” Kennedy said. “That’s the change that your students are going to bring into the wider world, and in this economy we need each other. Schools are no different. They need outside energy to break through the isolation of poverty.”
  Kennedy pointed out the role that women play in the education of our nations children. It is, according to Kennedy, the role of the Mom or female, that drives the education of our children in this country.  She also encouraged the women to continue blazing the trails of innovation and education to ensure that our children complete their basic education and pursue a college degree.
  As I sat there in awe thinking to myself…that is Jack Kennedy’s daughter…I was also struck with the thought of…what would JFK think of our current education system.  After all he is the man who so famously said at his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  If you think about what JFK said on that cold January day in 1961 and apply that to what you can do for your local school, that may shift the way you think about public education.  I feel that too many parents have decided that it’s up to the schools to take care of the education of our kids.  When in reality most teachers will tell you that it is a combined effort between the schools AND the parents that makes for a stronger education for our kids. 
  At our school in NYC, the PTA coupled with an enormous amount of  parental involvement has made this public school one of the top in the city.  Last year, our PTA raised over $250,000.00 for our school.  That money is used to help pay for the para-teacher or assistant teachers in the classrooms, the janitors, the computers and smart boards in the rooms, the art, gym, movement and music teachers.  That is the short list of the amazing things our PTA does to make our school one of the  top in Manhattan.  You can check out the schools website www.ps199pta.org and see the many things this organization is doing in our school.  From revamping our school lunch program and having some famous neighborhood chefs prepare some healthy meals to encouraging diversity, our PTA is doing what JFK talked about in his inaugural address. 
   The other factor that makes our school top shelf is the parental involvement in the classrooms.  On any given day, there are parents participating in some form or fashion in every class in the building.  Kennedy said most teachers when asked what they needed most in their classroom said involvement from the parents.  I assumed they would have said more money.  Guess money isn’t everything!
  Turns out the luncheon was a namesake luncheon and not really an information only kind of event as I had assumed. The classrooms in the schools are named after influential women. As you might have guessed, the next classroom will be named after Caroline Kennedy. I did, however, get an overview of the whole charter school concept from Boykin Curry who was seated next to me.  He sits on the board  of trustees of Public Prep which has succesfully started three charter school in the Bronx and on the Lower East Side. 
  I encourage all of you reading this to get involved on any level to help make your school- public, private or charter- even better than what it already is.  It does not have to be as huge of an undertaking as starting a charter school.  It could be as simple as offering your talents in an art or math class.  Instead of complaining about the school and what they aren’t doing right or what they aren’t offering, find a way to make it right and make things happen.   If you feel so compelled, run for the school board! Each of you has the resources to do many things.  See if any of your resources could be of use in your local schools.  Or encourage a business to get behind an innovative project at the school with the kids.  Better yet, encourage all of the local businesses to reach out and support the school not only with money but possibly with their other resources.  These businesses are going to want and need educated employees.  Their direct involvement can help make that happen.  In the end it’s a win-win for both our children and communities. We end up with educated, inspired kids and also productive citizens for the communities in which we live.
What I learned that day was priceless.  I finally “got” what JFK was talking about when he said those famous words.  For many years, I had some pie-in-the-sky idea about what that meant like doing  public service, the peace corp, etc.  But seeing the faces of the girls who are attending the charter school in the Bronx (they were there, too) and excelling in their classes and not only dreaming of college, but PLANNING on college, really put it into perspective.  The effort to get the charter school opened and running by the group of people who wanted to make a real impact is what I think JFK was talking about.  These schools are doing great things for these neighborhoods by providing a quality education to a group of children in a predominantly low income neighborhood where the public system is failing them. The charter schools are at the same time very controversial and a political hot button issue for local public school administrators and politicians.
  I also learned several other things that day or as I like to call them Notes to D.J.
1.  Never assume a luncheon is just a luncheon.
2.  Always leave the house looking put together. You never know who you will meet or who will ask to take your picture or what publication it may end up in.
3.  Take a camera (a real one) with you everywhere you go.  You never know who you will bump in to.
4.  Never, ever leave the house without a business card.

What would you stand in line for??

In case you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard that the iPad 2 is out!!! 

iPad sign at Apple store announcing closing only to reopen

Y'all come back when we're open!!

Crazy techy local folks stood in line for up to 41 hours to buy the hottest gadget on the planet.  Racked NY reports that the first person in line at the Apple flagship on 5th Avenue actually sold her prized position for $900.00.   

line at Apple flagship on 5th ave for release of iPad2

View from the Apple flagship on 5th Avenue before the release of iPad 2

 Turns out a guy who develops apps was going on a business trip and wanted to get his hands on the new iPad 2 before he left town!  In my neighborhood, the line at the Apple store snaked from the corner at West 67th and Broadway, down 67th, up Amsterdam, turned back up 68th and then turned back up Broadway.  I can think of only one thing I’d stand in line for…a FREE Hermes Birkin bag.  And that will take place the day after hell freezes over!!  So tell me, what would you stand in line for?