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contributing mamas


By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener

For family movie night a while back we decided to regale the children with a gem from our own past… “Splash.”  It had been about 20 years, but if memory served me, it held nothing but clean family fun.  Not to mention mermaids. And around here it’s hard to go wrong with mermaids.

Then along came the naked tush.

As in Naked.  Naked Tush.  I hadn’t recalled this scene — an extended shot of Daryl Hannah’s naked back asthe mermaid hero climbed out of the sea and into a mob of New Yorkers at the Statue of Liberty.  I cringed, then turned to watch my children’s faces.

Blank stares. And confusion.  Then questions, though none that had anything to do with the money shot.

“What’s the big deal?” my kids wanted to know. “Why are all the people crowding around her?” “Why don’t they leave her alone and go climb the statue?”

To say that my children were not offended by the nudity would be like saying that summers in the Sahara can be kind of dry.  They had nothing to say about the naked body parading on the screen before them.  What mortified them was the level of interest and excitement demonstrated by the uncouth rabble.  They could not understand why everyone was going crazy over something as mundane as a naked lady.

I’m at least partly to blame for their confusion. I have been a little lax in getting around to the social no-nos of naked sightseeing.  I have found the time to explain the societal emphasis on wearing panties under skirts, I just haven’t really taken it much further.

I was raised in a nude house.  Not a nudist colony, just a house in which the attitude towards nudity was relaxed.  Doors were not locked, and if Mom happened to be getting dressed at the same time that we needed immediate answers, well, that’s just the way we rolled.

And now that I am the queen of my own little castle I find that I, like my mother before me, rule over a nude house.  It wasn’t a conscious decision. My husband and I never ironed out a position on family nudity.  We just happen to be the proud owners of a couple of little girls who favor a minimalist approach to fashion.

I have no doubt that society will eventually take care of destroying their idealistic view by foisting perceived flaws upon their unblemished self-images.  Even so, I know I hold some responsibility for getting them to cover up.  Rules are no fun, but I don’t want to get a  call in twenty years that my kids are shopping naked at Target.

To that end, I’ve instituted some new policies around my castle.  First off, I’ve started a ‘no shirt, no pants, no service’ rule at the breakfast table.  And a ‘pajamas in bed when the babysitter is here’ rule, and an option of ‘closing the potty door for privacy’ rule.

Oh yes, and one more in light of warming temperatures and our upcoming road trip:  no nude sightseeing.

You can read more of Daphne’s work on her eco-fabulous site, A Greener Biener, or here on the mama bird diaries.


Our Contributing Mama Erin K. Butler is having a baby. Like probably today! While waiting for the good folks at Yale New Haven Hospital to induce her, she was sweet enough to submit this post.


Three years ago I gave birth to a sweet pink bundle of joy.

I could dress her in the dreamiest of outfits and it was rare she didn’t look close to perfection. I scoffed at these other parents who allowed their children out in public in a mixture of snow boots, tutus and tank tops.

That would never be me. I had everything under control.

And then she turned 3.

Our fashion sense went from sweet to a little disturbing.

Combinations include snow boots, tutus and tank tops.

Of course.

Katherine has even added her own flair, layering at all times as if she was preparing to hike Mount Kilimanjaro at a moments notice.

And as if my little fashionista wasn’t spinning my head enough, we are about to rock the household just a little bit more. We’re expecting baby #2 shortly.

My husband and I are elated, yet slightly terrified at the same time. Neither of us can remember how to actually care for a newborn, but are pretty sure there is very little sleeping and a whole lotta diapers involved.

We figured Katherine would be over the moon with this news as she squeals in delight anytime we come across a live one. And she was totally on board…until she asked, “Who will be the baby’s mommy?”

Uh oh. Guess we never covered that detail.

My response was met with an icy cold stare. Suddenly her wearing a tank top in December didn’t seem so bad.

While she has since bounced back and genuinely seems thrilled with her soon-to-be big sister status, my excitement is now mixed with an extra dose of guilt.

I worry about the time I will have for her with a newborn with 24 hour demands. If she will feel replaced. And how you go from giving all of your heart to one child to now two.

And this is all so silly because a billion-trillion women have more than one child. But still, I worry about the smallest things like coordinating feeding of the baby with preschool drop off and if it’s appropriate to make a newborn listen to the GLEE soundtrack because Katherine and I really do enjoy a good mash-up of Broadway tunes on the way to school.

So to cope with the impending change, I have thrown myself into nesting mode. Taking inventory of our batteries, purchasing an exorbitant amount of paper towels (like birthing this baby will create a chain reaction shutting down every TARGET in America) and scrubbing our bathroom nearly daily. Because we all know how much quality time a newborn spends hanging out by a toilet.

Finally, after months of trying to imagine life with two children, all I can come up with is that it will be much like when I had my first, blindly trying to find my way, but louder and with even less time to shower.

I have stopped trying to guess of how it might be, and instead, relish over Katherine’s baby pictures. Putting the present day tutus and tank top wardrobe out of my head and remembering the months of delirious exhaustion and the endless cycle of nursing, burping and diapering…but also the most magical moments like this one, that make me think, this will actually be ok.

And I can only pray to be this blessed again.

Baby Update!

Erin did have a beautiful baby girl, Emily Kerry Lombardo!! Congratulations Erin. She’s gorgeous!


By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener

Who is that old chick in my mirror? And why is she going to a PTA meeting?

Here’s the thing about life: one minute you are doing the Love Shack Shimmy on top of a bar, and the next, bam! you find yourself juggling the logistics of piano lessons and carpools and running for a position on the PTA board.

Me? PTA? Oh no, not me. Not that I had given much thought to what life at this particular stage might look like, but I am not the PTA type. The type to twirl hula hoops on a circus high-wire? Perhaps. The type to ride off with a cowboy night after night into skies stained by glorious sunsets? Could be. But the PTA? That’s just silly talk.

Of course anything is possible, was possible, and yet as I look around these days I can’t help but notice a dearth of cowboys rolling around with me in the hay and an abundance of letter writing and meeting attending.

It doesn’t take much to set yourself down an unexpected road. One day you innocently volunteer to ghostwrite a letter from the PTA and the next you’re embroiled in a political bruh-ha-ha.

And embroiled I had become. Unaware, but embroiled as I did my part and penned the requested letter. They liked the letter. So much in fact that the Vice President of the PTA himself asked me to sit down with him to discuss a position on the board.

I declined.

He was persuasive.

I declined, and yet somehow a coffee date was set.

But before said date arrived, a kid caught strep and a deadline loomed and one thing led to another and wham bam thank you me my name was on the nominating slate and nary a coffee had been poured. The election, I was told, was set for Tuesday.

Whoa Nellie! Election? As in running against someone else who’s willing to do the job? No thank you, said I. I was willing enough to take a hit for the team, but run in an election? Um, no.

Oh yes, insisted Mr. Persuasion, we need your brilliant ideas. You’re sharp. And gorgeous. And hey, have you lost weight? It went something like that, I think and before I could vow to never again to raise my over-zealous hand I was immersed in an epic internal struggle–

An election? What if nobody votes for me? What if I’m just a grown-up loser who can’t even win a position that no one in their right mind wants to accept…and hey, wait, what if I win? Which is worse? Losing an election for the PTA, or winning it…

I shouldn’t have bothered with the debate in my soul; I barely had a chance don pearls and bake a bundt cake before the deed was done.

Unexpected, but true. I am set upon a path, and in my hands I hold the reigns to the PTA Vice Presidency. So belly up cowboy and help this little lady down off the bar. I’ve got a meeting to attend.


By Contributing Mama Diane LeBleu

I just attended my third preschool graduation as mother-of-the-grad. It was Sabrina this time in another completely over-the-top celebration of that grand rite of passage known sentimentally by parents as the pay raise when no more tuition fees are due. I was a wreck and completely unprepared for the tears that flowed freely. I don’t cry at anything – not even when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year – but when they showed the DVD and played the schmaltzy music, I found myself unable to stop the tears – even looking at photos of other people’s children.

It was just Tom and I today for Sabrina’s big event – a rare occurrence indeed, in a family of six. Danielle and Travis were off at camp and Caroline in her last day of preschool. As we were waiting for the lights to dim and the 5-year-olds to march out in their caps and tassels to ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ we were recalling the first two we had attended. As the ‘Memory Keeper’ of the family, I easily recalled the exact details of each, even Travis’ event when Caroline was just 3 weeks old and Sabrina just 14 months and I was in early days of sleep deprivation and hormonal mood swings. Tom said he didn’t remember the preschool ceremonies but he did remember Danielle’s graduation from elementary school last year. I had to remind him that he did not in fact attend – we were at the hospital for one of my many surgeries and a friend took some photos for us. His recall was a few great digital images, which is actually a very efficient way to make a memory. You don’t actually to have to go to the trouble of attending a long and painfully dull ceremony. Now if someone could just figure out how to do this with childbirth.

Why did I get so weepy this time around? I’m as sentimental as the next person, but I didn’t shed a tear when the first two stepped on the morning bus to kindergarten (Thank God, someone else has to deal with them for a whole day!).  I think it is because I feel like I missed out on getting to really know Sabrina in her 2nd through 4th years of life.

I look at the photo of me holding Sabrina on the day that Hurricane Caroline made landfall that day in May four years ago. Sabrina is just a baby herself and I am about to rock her world by bringing home another one. I have a very clear memory of me sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery when Caroline was just three months old as she cuddled in my arms, clothed in her footed pajamas, breathing softly as she slept. “This time,” I vowed, “I will treasure these moments because she is my last baby.” With the first baby, you are as clueless as they come and with the second, you are two tired dealing with a new baby and a toddler. Fast forward two months and four positive pregnancy tests later (Yes, I do know where babies come from) and it was MY world that would soon to be rocked.

Truthfully, these last four years were pretty much a complete blur with the exception of some pretty nasty poop scenes and a flushed diamond wedding ring during the really rough days of potty training. And then there was the year of cancer and treatment. I did have enough wits about me to capture these years forever in pixels of every birthday and holiday that I can continue to enjoy as long as I remember to back up my computer. Most days, it took my best efforts to keep my head above water and I confess I have not enjoyed my children as much I should.

Most days Tom and I have to divide and conquer – he takes the big ones and I get the little ones as a high-energy, blonde, blue-eyed unit. The older ones have plenty of undivided parent time as Tom shuttles them to swim (Danielle) and football (Travis) but I have been incredibly remiss in making the time for these one-on-one sessions despite the advice from an older, wiser mother of four who urged me to make special dates with each of them – that her children always treasured these true mommy-and-me times.

I know how time flies. My daily reminders are a five-feet-tall, makeup wearing 7th grader that steals my shoes and a nine-year-old son that plays tackle football. So why is it that some days, I am in as much a hurry as they are for them to grow up? Is it because I am bone weary of Chuck E Cheese birthday parties and picking up plastic goody-bag junk from the back of my minivan? Or is it the lure of that mythical and highly-elusive me-time that seems just beyond my reach? Perhaps I am just counting the days when they can all do their own laundry.

I don’t know if Sabrina will remember the events of today but I do know that the smile she had on her face as her father shot the cursory video and her dopey tear-stained mother waved at her from the third row of folding chairs will stay in my heart forever. For an hour today, we were a family of three and the effort and cost to make it so seemed to be worth it to her as she was the object of our undivided attention and love.

In a scene from one of my favorite movies “The Parent Trap,” Lindsay Lohan (darling before she became Hollywood white trash) greets the grandfather she had never before met. She hugs him and smells his shoulder. “What are you doing?” he asks curiously. “I’m making a memory.” I’ve got two months before Sabrina’s first day of kindergarten and a year before Caroline’s. I won’t forget to bring the tissues this time and I won’t wait another four years before I figure out how to give each of my children a little bit of solitary mom time. I hope that they won’t think this is punishment for wrongdoing, as teens are apt to do, but instead a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon or two. It may just be my memories we are making but I’m ok with that. I’ll bring along the camera, just in case.


By Contributing Mama Karen Palmer Bland

When I was in my early 30s, single and living in the uber-cool Minneapolis, I loved Bikram yoga. I was taking the hottest class (literally) offered in town. Six years and four kids later, this body could use a return to the 90 minute-alone-time in ANY temperature…so I decided to go back.

But with four little kids, getting away ain’t easy. So on my birthday, my husband gave me the priceless gift of the “free pass” and I talked my friend, Anne, into joining me to find our inner selves at Bikram in the 105-degree studio. A mere $18 seemed like a small price to pay to find Namaste, balance, strength, tranquility, peace…all of those words that you see on Whole Foods’ magnets.

When we showed up we learned that enlightenment comes with rules. We were told that we couldn’t drink water in between poses, we couldn’t wipe our sweat and we couldn’t sit near each other. (Are you kidding? Were they scared we would break open the Cinnabons and overpower the sweaty smell, too?) My inner self told me not to ask about bringing my cell phone into the studio…that they wouldn’t care that the pre-school might need to find me. I would have to be a downward dog and unreachable to the world for 90 minutes.

I looked around and noticed that everyone had a plain white towel over their mats. I hoped that no one noticed my over-sized pink towel from the Juicy Couture outlet store that said, “BORN TO SURF AND SHOP” in cute, swirly letters. Can you say Faux-pas? Make that Yo-pas. The class was hard. It was friggin hot. And it was smelly. But I have to admit, I was enjoying my own, sweaty space. No one was bothering me, clinging to me, hanging on me, crying to me, whining at me. It was heaven.

And just when I thought I had achieved tranquility and inner peace, the teacher announced (over her yoga-phone), “Karen…please remove that noisy charm bracelet.” Eesh. I had forgotten to take off the Tiffany charm bracelet with the 4 charms on it – the ones that have my kids’ initials and birthdays on them. All I could think was, “Doesn’t anyone want to know about this noisy charm bracelet? About its significance? About the fact that I have 4 kids under 6? Aren’t you yogis curious about the fact that I am here with no phone and now no jewelry, with 4 little kids? Isn’t that amazing?”

I want to shout out to the rest of the class… Go ahead and take a drink.  Wipe your sweat.  Clang your loud jewelry. It’s my birthday. Namaste to me.

kelcey kintner