Memo from the Cats Regarding the New Puppy

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Domesticity | 0 comments


To: Our humans

Fr: The cats, Spaghetti and Meatball

Da: As long as it takes

Re: Your step Over the Line



There can be only two possible explanations for what you have done.

You may have completely lost your minds, in which case we suggest you seek treatment as soon as possible. Alternatively, you no longer value our happiness and selectively bestowed companionship, in which case you need to examine and re-order your priorities.

In short, we demand you look into your misguided souls to consider precisely why you brought home the cat-sized, mobile, fuzzy, whiney, barky thing, and get it the hell out of here.

For Morris’s sake, things were in a fragile enough state around here already. As you know, Meatball recently entered counseling for her anxiety; her Prozac has hardly had time to take effect. You heard that fight we had two weeks ago. You know we’re having problems. You think bringing in another four-legged “companion” is going to make that better? Throw in another species for diversity? What, you’re thinking some kind of interspecies ménage à trois? Keep your kinky thoughts to yourselves, people. We’re classy cats. Kids live in this house. We care even if you don’t.

We’ve heard a lot of sweet talk and praise coming out of your mouths since Saturday, and most of it isn’t directed at us. Don’t give us that crap about “you’ve been hiding under the king-sized bed most of the time”; that’s no excuse.

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“The Gift of Failure” – From Book to Real World Lesson

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This weekend, my son forgot his soccer cleats. We had traveled an hour away from home; there was no way to retrieve them.

“The one day you don’t ask me if I’ve got every little thing is the day I forget them.” Thirteen-year-old “Jack’s” voice rose as his eyes, shoulders and mood plummeted. The next few hours of Jack’s life began to take shape in his mind, and they didn’t look good.

Not a coincidence, I thought. I bet you don’t forget your cleats again. But all my husband and I did was tell Jack there was nothing to be done about it now. We didn’t get upset, or raise our voices. We simply informed him that he would have to present himself to his coach, tell him he’d forgotten his cleats and face the consequences.

As soon as Jack skulked out of the minivan in his uniform and his sneakers, I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Jessica Lahey,* author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. I told her what happened, letting her know that she’d inspired me to stop running through the “Do you have…?” list with Jack as I always had prior to his soccer games. He is, after all, just a few months shy of fourteen years old. Shouldn’t he be able to collect all his gear for a game on his own?

Yes, I believe he should. But I’d never given him the chance to carry this responsibility before.

The Gift of Failure takes on the American trend—one might even call it a crisis—of overparenting. Writer, speaker, middle-school teacher and mother to two boys, Jessica expands on her excellent writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic to offer breathing room to parents and kids struggling to keep up with crazy schedules, hyper-competitive parenting and other pressures that never seem to let up. In The Gift of Failure, she explains how our kids are capable of more responsibility than many of us parents allow seem willing to let them take on. By not granting our kids that responsibility, we’re depriving them of the much-needed experiences of trying, failing and learning how to recover. Our kids need to build, over time, the necessary skills and confidence to succeed on their own so that they don’t end up living in our basements when they’re thirty-five years old. (My words, not Jessica’s.) And that means we have to allow them to fail.

How does this philosophy play out in practice?

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Help Your Tween Start the School Year Right—with an Organized Closet

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning | 0 comments

Wow, that was fast. Summer is coming to a close, and the school year is upon us. It’s time to see reset sleep schedules, see how many sizes your kids have grown over the summer and buy them new clothes and supplies because inevitably, nothing they wore last year will fit them now. 

But once you buy the new stuff, what will you do with it? 

Today Uncharted Parent welcomes Danielle Hegedus, for, who offers some great tips regarding how to encourage your tween’s independence and start her school year on an organized, positive note by spending a little time on her closet. (You know your tween’s closet; it’s where the scary, fuzzy things live.)

Rubbermaid HomeFree series closet system

(Image: Rubbermaid via

By Danielle Hegedus

Sometimes you have to take a step back and let your kids fly solo. As your child approaches middle school, think about ways in which you can better prepare her to start navigating the chaos of her own life. Help her develop organizational skills to manage her time, chores, homework and extracurricular activities.

Your child’s closet actually factors into a lot of that chaos. Yes, there is always laundry to do, but one of the of the best ways to get your child to start preparing for what each week will bring is to use her closet as an organizational tool. With some simple organizational tips and your guidance, you can help your child breeze through the week, minimizing forgotten permission slips and soccer cleats.

With hectic schedules, “organizing closet” may feel like just another thing to do on both of your to-do lists. Try not to think of this activity as a dreaded chore. Rather, it’s an opportunity for your child to practice her organizational skills and a chance to spend some quality time together.

Prepare for the Week Ahead

Work with your child to help her pick out her outfits for the week on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

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If You Give a Cat a Ribbon*

Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in Domesticity, Miscellaneous, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments


If you give a cat a ribbon…oh, don’t bother. She will find one for herself—most likely when the rest of the household is absent, or asleep.

Then she will eat the ribbon—all eighteen inches of it.

How will you know this? Suspicions will begin at approximately the fifteenth hour of cat vomit, when there isn’t anything else to see but a houseful of puke and a very sick cat.

Your suspicions will be confirmed when the x-ray at the emergency veterinarian identifies a “stringy thing” in the cat’s intestine.

The cat will then have emergency surgery.

The cat will not offer to pay the thousands—yes, thousands—of dollars for the surgery herself. She will expect you to come up with the cash.

When you ask about what the vet found in your cat, the vet will ask if you’d like to see it. You will decline.

You will reminisce about that time in February this same cat ate foam flooring, leading you to dislocate a kneecap and spend several weeks on crutches. You will consider how lucky this cat is that she is adorable and sweet, because, apparently, she came into this world utterly unequipped with Darwinian survival instincts of any kind, and you will have to make up this deficit for her.

You will announce to your family that while this cat is at the vet overnight, the house must be cleaned of “all the things.” When the family groans and rolls eyes, you tell them that if they do not do as they are told, “the cat might die.” Cleaning will commence.

Three nanoseconds after cleaning is completed, you will find a hair elastic sitting on a bathroom counter. You will wonder how many lives cats actually have. You will wonder how many lives your kids have.

You will pick up your cat at the vet the next day. When you see her, she will be shaved in three places, still under the influence of painkillers and sporting the “Cone of Shame.” She will mew pitifully. You will apologize to her, though you will not be able to think why.

The vet will tell you to keep your cat isolated for ten to fourteen days in a room with no furniture and nothing she can jump on or from. You will stare at the vet as you try to picture the kind of house she lives in.

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Uncharted Parent is Back!

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Domesticity, Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments


Hi! It’s been a while. Almost two months have passed since we last talked, and much has happened since then. Let me see if I can fill you in on the essentials:

  • I used to live in northern New England. Now, by the look and feel of things around me, I live in a frozen tundra somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. I haven’t seen any wildlife this winter, probably because all the animals are huddled up against the absurdly low temperatures, high winds and giant snow piles, trying to survive. But if when I finally do see an animal, it’s a polar bear, I won’t be all that surprised.
  • Since I last wrote about my daughter’s seizure, we received a diagnosis: benign rolandic epilepsy. Given the circumstances, it was the best possible answer to our questions. I’ll write more about it in a future post.
  • My thirteen-year-old son, “Jack,” officially became a man last month—at least in the religious sense. I did not freak out and everyone is still speaking to me—so far as I know. #Winning! Also, everyone in the house has survived the first few months of THE TEENAGE YEARS. (But my God, the mood swings…)
  • One of my cats has developed an eating disorder.
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10 Parenting Goals for the New School Year

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Adoption, Domesticity, Growing Up, Parents are People, Too | 2 comments

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year. (Image courtesy Stargirl806 via

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year.
(Image courtesy Stargirl806 via

The new school year begins today. I know my kids will be asked to set goals for the year: goals as students, specific class goals, sports goals, academic activity goals, etc. As their mom, I will try to help them achieve their goals by supporting them in various ways while also encouraging their gradual independence.

But what about my goals for the new school year?

Yup, I’m talking about my goals as a parent. Calendar years mean little when you’re a parent; December 31 is just an excuse to party (or, more likely, try to party but not make it to midnight). When you have kids in school, the academic year is the one that counts. So I’d like to set a few personal, parental goals as the school year begins:

  1. Surviving the first months of THE TEENAGER. This year, my son “Jack” will turn thirteen. It’s no secret that I have long feared this stage of development in my children. There’s the split-personality moodiness, the overall crankiness, the disdain for the existence of parents, the meanness of other teens toward my own kids, the possibility that my kids may be mean toward others, the cliques, the slammed doors, the limitless potential for serious trouble, the possibility that there might be serious trouble and I won’t know anything about it… I could keep going. (And believe me, I do keep going in my brain at night.) My own teenage years were less than spectacular–actually, there’s no reward in the world that could entice me to repeat them–and my biggest hurdle will be not projecting my own experience onto my kids as I shepherd them through this next stage of life. Good luck to us all. If you need me, I’ll be quaking in the corner.
  2. Allowing my son to attend his first school dances without embarrassing him such that he joins the Witness Protection Program and doesn’t even tell me. Because, come on, how cute? They’re going to dances this year! I already asked if I could be one of the parent chaperones, and Jack said “no” faster than I’ve ever heard him answer any question in his life. As I mentioned above, I remember my teenage years all too clearly. So I don’t want to ruin this for him. But a few photos couldn’t hurt, right? Maybe a hug in front of his friends?
  3. Pulling off a successful bar mitzvah without turning into the Jewish-mother equivalent of Bridezilla. This one I think I’ve got. There were enough over-the-top moments leading up to my and my husband’s wedding that I believe I learned my lesson for a lifetime. It’s a celebration for a thirteen-year-old. Read from the Torah, nosh, dance the hora. L’Chaim. Do not lose your head.
  4. Navigating the next part of the adoption journey with “Emmie.”
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