Author Archive

Tennis Time: Why Every Family Should Consider The Sport

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Any tennis players out there? Fans? People who think tennis is boring? (I’m here to prove that group wrong.)

My family is big into tennis—our dog’s name is Wilson, named for the ball. I grew up learning to play in the summers, mostly during free clinics at our outdoor Jewish Community Center. I forfeited around the age of 12 when I decided that 1PM lessons in the heat of the day with a heavy racket bothering my wrist and my flat feet pulsing was not my idea of fun. Which is why when the United States Tennis Association launched it’s Youth Tennis initiative in 2008, I hit my head and thought “Of course!”

The Youth Tennis movement emphasizes that kids should learn to play the sport in a world customized to their size—smaller rackets, bigger and softer balls, a half-size court. In the words of the USTA, why should a 5-year-old play with the same racket and be asked to hit the same distance as Rafael Nadal? Touche.

I stopped swinging at age 12, but I have become a SUPERFAN since. Even when I wasn’t playing, tennis taught me the lessons of dedication, perseverance, mental strength, and problem-solving.  Not to mention, the value of staying physically active.

In celebration of World Tennis Day this past Tuesday, I watched a Youth Tennis demonstration before watching tennis legends Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini, Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov take the court at Madison Square Garden. Throughout the month of March the USTA will host thousands of Tennis Play events across the country. Watching these players from age 7 to age 44 play in the same night emphasized one of the greatest things about tennis: You can play at any age. While I gave up the sport as a kid, you might say that I’m planning to come out of my retirement because tennis is a lifelong sport.

As former World number 4 James Blake said, “To have a lifetime sport like tennis, where my mom is playing at 80 years old, where [kids] can play and love it at any level, you can have fun playing the sport and it keeps you in great shape.” Since tennis is a great sport for all ages, it’s a great way to spend time with your family. My parents used to play mixed doubles against my two younger siblings and I’d play chair umpire/ball girl. (See? I got my exercise in.)

What’s more, tennis can be a great bonding experience off the court. Blake said his fondest childhood tennis memory was going to the U.S. Open with his dad, “I really cherished the ability to have quality time with my family. That can’t be substituted for. I got to sit there and watch three hours of a tennis match and talk to my dad.” A father of two girls under two—Riley and Emma—Blake looks forward to sharing moments like this with his daughters.

I’ve been going to the U.S. Open with my family every year since 2000. One of our greatest memories was watching a 5-hour-and-19-minute match on a tiny side court and cheering on American player Scoville Jenkins into the night. Now, when we watch tennis on TV, we text each other constantly. It’s a string that keeps us bound. If that’s not a reason to consider the sport, I don’t know what is.

Playing With Baby: Get Moving
Playing With Baby: Get Moving
Playing With Baby: Get Moving

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

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Are You Enough? All-Female Band The Mrs. Answers The Question All Moms Ask

Friday, February 20th, 2015

As I looked in the mirror this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. “Whatever you’re doing, KEEP IT UP,” read my hot pink sticker, courtesy of the all-female pop rock band The Mrs. If you haven’t heard of The Mrs. you need to. Their mission, put simply, is to make everyone feel good about themselves through their music.

The beginnings of the band began six years ago, when Mrs. founder, Andra Liemandt, started to learn the drums—since her daughter was learning piano. But Liemandt wanted to start playing music with other moms, so she, her friend Jenny Mason, and some other moms started gathering to play covers and rock out. Think band club in lieu of book club. The club took a more serious dive into the music business when Liemandt realized the songs she and her daughters were listening to didn’t apply to her life as a woman, a mom, and a wife. “I was in the car with my kids singing “Call Me Maybe” for two hours and I was like I would love to have a song that’s super fun that my kids could rock out to in the back seat, but that related to something more about my life today,” said Liemandt. “We want to write about motherhood, relationships, friendships, growin’ up, and trials and errors of life,” Mason explained. “The real stuff but that has a fun beat.”

When I first heard the premise, I was skeptical. Could a song about female empowerment or motherhood actually sound cool? Once I listened to their EP “Enough” and met The Mrs. I knew the answer. Yes. The power pop chart about how I (and you and all women) am enough without any alteration has basically been stuck in my head for ten days—in a good way. “It’s become an epidemic for women,” said Liemandt of the constant feeling of not living up to impossibly high standards. With “Enough,” the goal is to start a cycle of positivity and support to end the cycle of negativity.

But it’s not just through music that The Mrs. is spreading their mantra. You may have heard of the band’s Magic Mirror Project without knowing who was behind it. They created an interactive mirror that tells lookers to rate how they feel (on a scale of WOOF to I’m Enough) and when the negativity inevitably comes out, the mirror builds you up. While the very first mirror-gazers received customized experiences (with video thank-yous from family and friends) the mirror is now on tour for anyone to look into and receive messages of love.

Mason explained that even kids, especially insecure teenagers, need the support the mirror offers. “We need to feed them [with these messages] so they can feel strong and know that they’re gonna wake up tomorrow and know that The Mirror told them ‘I’m an awesome person, I’m an awesome friend.’”

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the mirror’s current home. Download the app! Not only will your mirror recite messages of support, you can cultivate your own personal network. On a day you feel like a “Hot Mess,” the mirror notifies your network so they can Pile On and send Enoughies—real messages from those you love lending the helping hand you need.

While the message of “I’m Enough” has exploded, The Mrs. has not abandoned their musical roots. They’re set to release their first album this coming fall and they continue to write new songs and perform around their home state of Texas. “We are today’s woman,” said Liembandt. “We are married, realized women who live complex lives. So we want to write music that relates to our lives.”

For all you mamas, there may finally be a soundtrack to your life.

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

Photograph: Jenny Mason, Ruthie Fierberg, Jennifer Zavaleta, Andra Liemandt (@themrsband)

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Revealed! The Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage

Friday, January 9th, 2015

My parents have been married for 28 years. Before my grandfather passed away, he and my Grandma were married for 57. Seriously. I remember their 50th anniversary celebration, standing there in awe thinking, They’ve been married for a lifetime. How do people stay married for that long?

Clearly, I’m not the only one to wonder. Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, began the Marriage Advice Project, conducting research to answer the burning questions of love and marriage. He spoke to 700 retirees in America with an average marriage longevity of 43 years. Yesterday, his answer: 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, hit bookshelves across the U.S.

We’ve heard the tried-and-true tidbits before: set aside a date night once you have kids, try new things in the bedroom to stoke the fire, don’t go to bed mad. Is this really the key to the unsolved mystery?

While some of Pillemer’s wisest Americans did offer up similar pillow phrases (Know how to apologize; Respect each other; Forgiveness. No revenge. No pay-backs) others offered up some new tokens: LEAVE YOUR PARENTS OUT OF IT! You are starting something new, not doing a remake of an old film.

Words to live by.

The marriage veterans that Pillemer interviewed also emphasize the importance of a mutual respect and the work that goes into a fulfilling relationship. Not to mention the idea that committing to someone who is a lot like you in the first place with similar core values (not opposites attract) will take you far. Noted. (Also according to the gurus, we should be wary of anyone who your friends and family don’t like. Again, noted.)

Even in an era of constant innovation and change, what makes a long and (keyword) happy marriage is something we can learn from the legacy of our elders.

“When you hold somebody’s hands in the movies, it’s really a thrill no matter what age you are,” gushed one woman. “You know that when your husband puts his hand right next to yours you say ‘Oh G-d everything is just great.’” Here’s to hoping everything will be just great.

Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life
Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life
Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life

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Photograph: Emma and Lester Pahuskin (Z”L)

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

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Tags: | Categories: The Parents Perspective

This Mama Makes a Big Difference

Friday, December 19th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I was researching young moms doing cool things for a project here at Parents. So when I reached out on Facebook to crowdsource who of my friends knew an inspiring mom, I was surprised to hear from my cousin Sally Shatzkes.

A drama therapist and mom of four, I had no idea that Sally runs a program called Witness Theater. It uses drama therapy as a way for Holocaust survivors to share their stories and connect with community members as they listen and respond to those accounts. Not gonna lie, I didn’t know much about drama therapy. It’s a way to learn solutions through action, not just reflection. So if I had a fight with my mom, two participants can act out that argument and I learn from an outside perspective what went wrong, how I was really feeling, how she was really feeling, and how a different response can change the ending. Often done in groups, there is an inherent sense of camaraderie.

As a young Jewish woman, the importance of the Holocaust is ingrained in me. I know survivors. Every time I visit a Holocaust museum, I cannot tear myself away from the video interviews of individual stories. Listening and hearing is the key to never forgetting. Yet, it’s not lost on me that in a few years the last generation of survivors will be gone.

Witness Theater first began in Israel 15 years ago (under the name Edut), and landed on the radar of Selfhelp Community Services Inc. about seven years ago. As the largest provider of services to Holocaust survivors in North America, Selfhelp wanted to bring a sister program to the United States. Three years ago, in partnership with Selfhelp Community Services, Witness Theater debuted at the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York under Sally’s tutelage. This year’s program is a collaboration of Selfhelp, UJA-Federation of New York, Yeshiva of Flatbush, SAR High School in Riverdale, New York and The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. As a result of the expansion, Sally serves as the Drama Therapy Coordinator for the three locations.

From September to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) high school seniors at Flatbush meet weekly with a group of local survivors,served by Selfhelp, to learn and interpret their stories, culminating in a performance of stories on Yom HaShoah. “In Witness Theater, the stories are so emotional and difficult and deep and traumatizing. There are no words to respond,” Sally explains. Hence, the approach of drama therapy. “When there are no words, you can respond with actions, you can respond visually, you can respond with role play.” For example, when a survivor shared a heavy story, Sally realized that the key emotion in the story was fear. So she asked her students to create a human sculpture of fear—whatever that meant to them. As the structure came to life, the survivor said, “That’s how I looked and that’s the way my mother was holding me.”

“We’re not only going to tell your story, we’re going to become your story,” says Sally. That connection breeds healing for these survivors and understanding for a generation that will be responsible for telling their stories.

I believe that the key to preventing a repeat of history is to keep that history fresh, not only in the minds of Jews, but in the minds of us all. Witness Theater is a therapeutic way to preserve memory and keep us all honest.

Get more interesting news and helpful tips from Parents here!

Are you a working mom like Sally? Find some tips below:

Working Moms: Best Tips
Working Moms: Best Tips
Working Moms: Best Tips

Photograph: Courtesy Sally Shatzkes

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Tags: | Categories: The Parents Perspective

Should Nestle Be Allowed to Partner With Girl Scouts USA? One Mom Says No.

Friday, November 7th, 2014

The holidays are coming up, the most wonderful time of the year. But I know many people who might disagree. For them, the most wonderful time of the year is not in the winter. It’s Girl Scout Cookie season. Seriously, I know people who wait all year to stock up on their Thin Mints, to get their hands on Tagalongs, and munch on their Samoas—or Peanut Butter Patties and Caramel Delights, #wheresourcreativity. Well, Nestle realized people clamor for these flavors and so they decided to partner with Girl Scouts USA and infuse their famous Nesquik drink with Girl-Scout-cookie flavors for a limited time.

But one mom thinks that this pairing is not in the honorable spirit of the Scouts. Monica Serratos, mother of two, has started a petition on Change.org for Girl Scouts to end the partnership. In her eyes, Girl Scouts should be promoting healthy habits and a drink with 48 grams of sugar per bottle is not in line with that ideal. According to ABC News, a Nestle spokesperson said the beverage made with the adult consumer in mind. But Serratos is not convinced given the drink’s mascot is a furry brown bunny. She believes that endorsements like these contribute to the growing childhood obesity epidemic in this country.

To date, over 6,000 people have signed the petition following the beat of Serratos’ drum. The Girl Scouts have responded, so far, with silence.

Serratos also objects generally to the Girl Scouts’ use of cookie and candy sales in general, though there is no official call to end these on the petition. The Girl Scout website emphasizes that their cookies should be a snack or special treat.

I was a Girl Scout as a kid and my favorite part of year was the annual cookie sale. Ironically, I wasn’t a huge cookie person. I just loved the competition to prove how many boxes I could sell. But there was no doubt I sold to adults and families who LOVED the chocolate-y goodness of their Girl Scout sweets. I had friends who sold cookies but were not allowed ANY sugar in their diets. I had friends who were allowed to eat Twinkies after school.

Yet Serratos’ call to action raises an interesting question: Should organizations like Girl Scouts be allowed to promote sugary drinks and snacks to children, be it through cookie drives or Nestle partnerships? Should it be left to parents to decide if and how often their children indulge in these products?

Sound off in the comments below!

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Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos

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