Sunday, February 26, 2012

De La Soul is Alive

A few years ago, a tragic event occurred; I sold my Ford Focus to my mechanic's son. Unbeknownst to me, there were 500 of my CDs in the trunk. Somehow they "accidentally" got thrown out. One of those CDs was the classic hip hop album "De La Soul is Dead."

Sadly, this album is not available on ITunes. Every time I would search for it and it wouldn't come up, I'd cry.

I posted on Facebook about my loss.

I couple of days later, after I had repressed my musical woes, my friend Justin sent me a message.

I downloaded a large file, not knowing what to expect. The file came through and a huge smile lit up my face when I saw what it was:

I was so excited. I wasted no time. I loaded the album into ITunes and the kids and I started dancing.

Thank you Justin :-D

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time Stopped

It was 1:25pm and I was in a rush. I had to pick Ari up from art class. I strapped Samara into her car seat and drove down my block. I arrived in front of the art class and parked the car in front of a fire hydrant. I opened the driver's side door and leaned my body diagonally across the car to unbuckle Samara and take her out.

All of a sudden I heard what sounded like an explosion. I was certain a bomb had just gone off. I turned my head to see glass flying through the air towards me and onto the street. I ducked and covered my face and my body. I looked back at Samara, she was fine. I was fine, physically. We were both fine.

I stepped out onto the street. I saw a small yellow school bus. A pregnant woman stepped out of it.

"Are you okay?!" She asked me "I'm shaking." She said looking at her hands.
"I'm okay," I replied. "I'm shaking too."
"How far along are you?" I asked
"33 weeks," she replied. "I have to get my kids!"
I looked at the driver's side door of my car. The window was gone. The door was hanging off it's hinge. How was I still alive?

I thanked G-d that Samara was okay, that I was okay.

A man came out of nowhere. He pointed to his phone.
"Miss, do you want me to call 911?"
"Yes. Yes. Thank you." I said without emotion.
He did.
I stepped into Ari's art class.
"Are you okay?" Karen, Ari's art teacher asked.
"Yes, I'm okay, just in shock."
"Do you want to sit down?" She said kindly.

I didn't know what to do. Ari and I went outside and he climbed into the car. He buckled his seat belt.
"No, Ari. We can't drive the car now. It's been in an accident. See? There's no door."
"Oh." He said, unmoving. I unbuckled him and he still did not move. I picked him up and carried him onto the sidewalk.

"We should exchange information." Said the pregnant bus driver.
"Yes. We should." I agreed. I went back inside the art class with Ari to get a piece of paper. When we returned to the street, she was gone. The bus was gone.

The police arrived. They took a report. They told me it wasn't my fault because it was a hit and run. My dad came and met us. The car was towed to my mechanic.

We're all okay...physically. I'm still in shock.

I took the train yesterday, and I was thankful that the windows were made of plastic.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Rules of Inheritance- A Review and Interview With Author Claire Bidwell Smith

I recently had the opportunity to read Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir, "The Rules of Inheritance."

When I first read the description of the book, I was filled with trepidation. It was described as a memoir about the author, Claire, losing both her parents to cancer by the time she was 25 years of age.

As an intrinsic rule, I try to stay far away from books like this one, books about death. I’m scared of dying, and I’m terrified of my loved ones dying, but something intrigued me about this particular book. Perhaps it was because it was about a taboo topic, or maybe I wanted to conquer my own fears surrounding death. Recently, after having my own kids, I’ve become hyper-aware of my own mortality, and that my parents won’t be around forever.

I decided to face my fears about death and read Bidwell Smith’s memoir.

It turns out that "The Rules of Inheritance" is about so much more than death and grief. The book is about a young woman who is trying to find her place in the world, which I could definitely relate to. I remember being 14 and having my very first panic attack. I was standing on the street on the upper west side of Manhattan with my mother, and I realized that I was so small in comparison to the very large universe. I grabbed my mother’s hand and didn’t let go.

I can only imagine how Claire must have felt when she found out, at 14 years old, that her mother was dying.

At age 14, Claire finds out her mother has colon cancer. She spends her high school years, which are already fraught with teen angst, avoiding her mother’s sickness by hanging out with various boys, engaging in sexual experimentation, and attempting to be a “normal” teenager. When Claire's mother dies at 18, she is has to confront the world without her mother, which, as someone who considers her mother one of her best friends in the universe, I cannot even imagine. Even if you have a complicated relationship with your mother, simply knowing that she is there to go to in a time of crisis is comforting, Claire doesn’t have that luxury. Her mother is taken from her when she is barely an adult. I don’t really consider 18 to be an adult human. When I was 18, I was freaked out about life, and didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, if my mother had died at 18, I would have been distraught.

Claire is directionless when her mother dies. She travels from New York to L.A. to Europe to even to the Philippines. She goes half way around the world searching for herself. In fact, the picture on the book’s cover is a self-portrait that Claire took at a youth hostel in San Francisco shortly after her mother died. In the photograph, she is looking off to the side, seemingly lost, the photo is black and white, and blurry. Her hair is very short, because she shaved her head in frenzied action to cope with her grief.

The book was an incredibly quick read. It is nearly 300 pages and I finished it in two days, because I literally couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what happened next, and I wanted to know that Claire was going to be okay. I believe that was an intentional goal of Bidwell Smith in her writing. She draws the reader into her mindset, the character doesn’t know which way to turn next, can’t figure out how she feels at any given moment, but is trying so desperately to survive emotionally in the world.

I related to her in several parts of the book. My best friend also lost her mother when we were in college, and though I have recollections of that time, when I read this book, I got a better idea of what she must have gone through. The grieving process became clearer to me. There is nothing comparable to losing your mother. There is no way to explain it to someone that hasn’t gone through it, but if someone could explain it, Bidwell Smith does an excellent job of it.

In the end, Claire turns a corner. She finds the love of her life, has her own daughter and is healed through her new family. But it is only through her journey and learning to cope with her grief. In fact, she talks about how she goes to graduate school for psychology, and eventually ends up working in hospices as a grief counselor.

The Rules of Inheritance is a versatile read. It’s a great book for someone who is coping with grief, it’s also a coming of age piece, and it speaks to young women who are trying to find themselves.

I was able to connect with Claire, and she agreed to do an interview via skype. Here’s what she had to say:

This post is a part of the BlogHer Book Club! For more information on The Rules of Inheritance as a part of the BlogHer Book club, visit:

*Full Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What I Did Today...Uh Oh...

Ari had a very busy day today. I had no idea how he felt about it, until he recorded a video describing his escapades. It has subtitles in case you don't speak three year-old. Watch out for the end, where he incorporates the element of surprise.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Road to Mongolia

On Monday nights, I play Magic The Gathering with a group of guys. I was introduced to Monday Night Magic by my doula, Cori's, husband Kodjo. One of the regulars at Monday Night Magic is Ernie. One fateful night, Ernie mentioned that he was going to do something crazy over the summer. He, and a couple of guys that he trains with at New York Jiu Jitsu, Jumanji and James, were going to raise the money to buy an ambulance and drive it from England to Mongolia. On this journey, they would pass through 17 countries and they might even blare the siren on the ambulance some of the time, just because they can.

When I found out about this, I thought it was an awesome concept, and I told Ernie I wanted to make the guys a video describing their trip. Without further ado, here's what I came up with, The Road to Mongolia.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


In this photograph, you are barely three. It's hard to believe that you won't stay this small forever. You're growing taller every day, and with that physical growth comes along emotional change. You are no longer a baby, but a boy; a boy who questions things, a boy who will one day be a man. In three months you will be four. Four years ago you entered this world. I love your persistence, you never give up. When you're determined to do something, you try and try until you learn it. Never give that up. You are so strong, and so loved. I cannot wait to see the man you will become.

This post is a part of "Memories Captured."


Mama/Son Day Out

Last night, Ari and I did something we haven't done in a long time. We spent a night together. It was just Ari and I, no Samara, no Wil. Just us. We ate pizza and cupcakes, rode the D train and made funny faces. I had a blast, and I think he did too.

It was really nice for us to spend time together. I didn't realize how much I missed indvidual time with my boy, until we had our night together.

I've noticed lately, that Ari has been doing a lot of baby talk and general regressing because of Samara, but there was none of that happening last night. We had full on conversations, and enjoyed hanging out and being silly.

This night was a reminder that I need to make a concerted effort to have a regularly scheduled individual time with my boy.

I also noticed that he was really well-behaved, and didn't act out, which is unusual as of late. I realized that he's been acting out in order to get attention from me.

Last night, we were hanging out and having one on one time, he didn't need to act out to get attention. We could just be ourselves and have fun!

Ari, I had a blast last night. Maybe you'll read this one day when you're a teenager, and too cool to hang out with me. I loved eating cupcakes together and talking about the different subway stops on the D train. I love that every time we get on the train you make a stranger get up so that I can sit down. You always demand two seats. You're going to go far in life with that determination. I love you Ari bear!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Samara's favorite word to say is "Hi." In fact, "hi" was her first word. Ari's first words were "What's that?" He was, and is, a curious boy. Samara, it turns out is a social butterfly. I've compiled a few videos of her saying hello to other people, and to herself. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Sad Day- The End of Nursing

Today is a sad day. Today is the last day I will nurse Samara.

I didn't want to wean her just yet, but I'm in a situation where I have to stop breastfeeding to preserve my own health. I have another MRSA infection, and it's on my face.

MRSA, for those of you that don't know, is an more aggressive form of staph bacteria. It is not responsive to typical antibiotics and requires the use of stronger medications.

The dermatologist has prescribed me a more potent antibiotic that will probably make me shit my brains out, but will also ward off MRSA. I'm taking probiotics so here's hoping they will combat the gastrointestinal war that is about to take place in my body.

Earlier today, the dermatologist laid it all out for me:
" The most effective treatment for an abscess is drainage. Since you're breastfeeding there are limited medications that we can give you." She said matter-of-factly.
"What would give me if wasn't nursing?" I wanted to know.
"A stronger set of antibiotics. We want to knock MRSA out."
"Okay..." I said, bewildered. I didn't know what to say, or what the right decision was. Should I go with drainage alone, or opt for the more aggressive antibiotic?"

As I was sitting there staring into florescent light, having my facial abscess drained, I started to cry.
"I don't want to do this again."
"Okay..." said the stoic dermatologist as she continued to cut my face open.
When she was done, and I was sitting there with a facial bandaid, trying to reconcile what just happened to my mandible, we continued our conversation:

"I want to take the antibiotics."
"That's what I would do if I were you," she said.
"She's been nursing for a year, she's had a lot of breast milk." I said trying to reassure myself more than my emotionless dermatologist.
"She'll be fine." She said without smiling.

I know she'll be fine. She's had a year of breast milk, but I'll miss the intimacy of nursing :(.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Playtime! How I Went to the Theater While Ari Made Art With an Artist

Today, my mom and I went to the theater. We saw a black comedy called Assistance about trying to stay sane while working for a crazy abusive boss.

While we went to see a show, Aunt Mimi and Uncle Mike watched Samara at their house. I'm told she had a great time playing with toys, eating a banana, and attempting to say the word "banana." Thanks guys!a

I cannot remember the last time I've been to the theater, which is bizarre since I'm an actor myself and come from an extensive performing arts background. I was a theater major at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts and went on to study theater at Ithaca College and New York University.

This day would not have been possible if it hadn't been for an awesome organization called Playtime

I found out about Playtime on Twitter. Once my nemesis, now Twitter and I are becoming friends.

Leslie Marcus, Managing Director at Playwrights Horizons and mother of two, along with her co-workers, dreamt up Playtime.

Playwrights Horizons noticed that there was a lapse in theater goers who were parents. The reason for this was that it was too expensive for parents to hire a babysitter, and they felt guilty leaving their kids at home while they went off to enjoy a cultural experience.

Enter Playtime, a program that provides childcare for kids ages 4-12 while parents go to the theater. There is something very unique about the childcare provided by Playtime; the "babysitters" are also artists. They are musicians, photographers, actors, and writers from an organization called Sitters Studio. Here's how it works: you buy tickets to a Playwright's Horizon's show. For $15 you can purchase a slot in a Playtime for your child. While you attend the performance, your child is engaged in a artistic experience with real artists.

After my mom and I saw the show, I had a chance to sit down with Leslie to talk a bit about Playtime. Here's what she had to say:

My mom and I loved Assistance. It was very clever, dark, unique and entertaining. I'm thinking about dragging Wil to see it.

Ari had a blast with the Arts Sitters from Playtime.

I felt great knowing that while I was watching a play, he was involved in creative projects too!

For more information about Playtime visit their site here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guest Post By Leah: The Medela Manual Breast Pump Kept Me Breastfeeding!

My amazing friend Leah recently gave birth to her daughter, Suri in January. I've known Leah since we were 18, we met at Ithaca College. I can't believe we've been friends for 13 years!

She was intent on nursing, but ran into some trouble in the begininnng. Thankfully she happened upon a manual breast pump that actually ended up helping her nursing experience. She talks about her experience with The Medela Manual Breat Pump here.

When I gave birth to my daughter, one of the first things the nurse said to me was "your baby is tongue-tied." Having no idea what this meant, I looked at my doula, Gail. She told me that my baby's frenulum (the one under the tongue) was too short and it might make breastfeeding difficult since her tongue can't extend far enough. The first couple of nights home from the hospital were tough, whether it was related tothe short frenulum or just getting the hang of things, I can't be sure.

I think she was having a hard time getting the colostrum. After being home for two days, she latched incorrectly on one breast; it was incredibly painful and impossible to nurse! Looking closely, I saw as mall red scab had formed and I started getting nervous that I wasn't going to be able to nurse on both sides. Was I going to have to giveup breastfeeding?

Consulting books and the internet was absolutely no help. All the books said to put Lansinoh on my nipple and to expose it to air. Theoretically these were nice suggestions, but they didn't help with the actual feeding of my baby. My nipple wasn't going to heal instantaneously and everytime she nursed, it felt like being poked with needles. I asked my doula what to do and she suggested getting a manual pump so that I would at least be producing milk on that side and I could feed it to my baby with a syringe.

My mom (thanks, Mom!) bought me the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump. I wasreally wary of manual breast pumps (one author of a baby book likenedit to milking a cow on the farm), but it was one of the best purchases! I was able to pump without pain at my own pace and it gave me time to heal. After a couple of days the scab healed, fell off, and I was able to go back to nursing on both sides. I hope that a new breastfeeding mom having trouble with sore nipples gives a manual breast pump a try because it can be a lifesaver! The Medela Harmony Manual pump is extremely easy to use, clean, andvery affordable. On Amazon is priced at $30.49.

This wouldn't be a practical purchase for someone who is going back to work
and needs to pump quickly and every day, but it is great for occasional pumping.

Leah Greenwald lives in Monsey, NY, with her husband, six stepkids, and
new baby Suri!

Video Games are Better Than TV For Your Child

What I am about to write is based on some scientific research, but I am way too overwhelmed and lazy to come up with reliable statistics and research for you look at. If you're so inclined, please do the research yourself.

I have in my house a giant television.

In addition to a giant overwhelming looking thing known as a television, I also have a tiny human who is addicted to watching this structure. His name is Ari and he's 3 and 3/4 years old.

To my dismay, Ari's favorite sentence to utter is "I wanna watch something!" I've tried various things to combat his television addiction. The other day I was talking to my best friend and early childhood teacher, Mint. She suggested that instead of watching television, as an electronically based alternative, Ari might play video games.

Now, before you start judging this statement, hear me out. As it turns out, when a human being, adult or child, sits and watches television, their brain goes into a trance like state. Television has an effect on a person's alpha brain waves where they simply zone out.

Video games, on the other hand, are not entirely passive. If you, or your child, is engaged in a video game, preferably an educationally based one, he/she is critically thinking. He/she is considering her next move, processing the game, and most importantly interacting with the game. This is a better alternative than sitting on the couch, mindlessly staring at the television and consuming copious amounts of chips, popcorn, or cookies.

Ari likes to play games on Wil's Ipad.

He plays both educationally based games and fun ones. I've started to wean the TV time, and when he asks to watch something, I ask him if he'd like to do a puzzle on the Ipad. He gets just as excited about this as he does about watching Dino Dan, so I'll take it.

He's also particularly taken to the Wii, and is really good at Wii Tennis.

As for myself, I hardly watch TV anymore. I'm mostly addicted to the Internet and my Iphone. I wonder what those things are doing to my alpha brain waves.

Let me clarify something, I'm not advocating that you let your child sit there on the couch playing video games all day long. Ideally, I'd like my son to be playing with real toys, reading books, and interacting with other children all day long. But, this is not reality. Sometimes, we need a distractor as parents. Occasionally, I need a break to sit and not think, or to do the dishes, or to go to the bathroom for G-d's sake!

Video games serve as a helpful alternative to the mindless contraption that is the television.

So what's you take on video games? Would you use them with your kid as opposed to letting him or her watch the boob tube?

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Have Ideas And I Need Somewhere to Put Them

I have a lot of ideas!

Creative concepts run through my head throughout the day constantly. But I have nowhere to put them. I think I need to start walking around with a notebook. That way if I'm walking down the street and come up with something I think is neat, I can stop and write it in down in my notebook.

However, a notebook might not work. I have a hard time organizing my ideas. If I had a notebook, it would be scattered with so many different concepts and no familiar thread. I would need something like a binder.

A binder would be great because I could organize my ideas by sections and categories. The only trouble with a binder is that it would be heavy and bulky to carry around.

I need some place to put my ideas other than letting them sit in my brain.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Warning Pre-K Approaching

I can't believe it, but it's nearly been four years. On May 6th 2008, after three days of labor, I gave birth to a 6 lb 80z baby boy, who Wil and I named him Ari Wilhelm Fader-Van Luyn. In four months, he will be four years old. Next year he will be starting Pre-K at an undetermined universal Pre-K location here in Brooklyn, or possibly Manhattan, because the spots are so few and far between. I'm going to have a Pre-K kid.

I've started to explain to Ari that I won't be with him during the day at school, but that I'll see him at the end of the day, and he can tell me all about it. He doesn't quite seem to grasp the concept, or doesn't want to believe it.
"But, you're going to be there, right?" He says eyebrows raised. "You'll be with me at school?" He asks with wide eyes.
"No, baby. But I'll come pick you up at the end of the day. And you'l be with a teacher, who's an adult, like mommy, and there will be lots of kids there just like you to play with."
"Oh okay." I think he gets it. And I breathe a sigh of relief. Suddenly he asks:
"So, you'll be there right?"

Yeah...this is going to be tough. I know he does great with other kids when I'm not there. He goes to Hebrew school and art class at The Barking Cat, and he's fine without me. I'm just a little nervous about the adjustment period for Pre-K, because I've been home with him since he was born.

So, any advice for me? How do I break him in? What do I tell him to make him feel comfortable about going to school? What can I tell myself?