Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Always a Reason to Party

We had the party of our lives this past March - I shared the story of our youngest daughter's lovely wedding in my Mom Blog for the April issue of our magazine. I highly recommend celebrating our grown "kids" whenever we can - it's so easy to party when they're small.  Fewer occasions present themselves once they're grown and gone....

April is when we celebrate FAMILY Magazine’s “Birth”day. It means a lot to me since it is my “baby” - and it’s always a fun time for our staff. This year, as we celebrate our 23rd year of publishing, I’m as happy as ever to mark the milestone, but I may forgo a big celebration. I find myself still in recovery mode from throwing one of the biggest parties in my history - Brittany’s wedding. 
We will certainly still use the Magazine’s birthday as an excuse to have cake. I don’t want to
disappoint the office. Although my staff is probably celebrating having my undivided attention back after the wedding planning ate into good portions of my mental capacity.
Don’t get me wrong, I love parties and look forward to this time of year - we have several birthdays in our family during April and May that make for great parties. This year though, I hope my family members are okay with gifts and a quiet dinner.

I remember with great fondness the birthday parties we have had over the years, each as unique as the child we were honoring. We had a “sound” scavenger hunt in a mall for a thirteenth birthday party. We hosted 25 four-year-olds in our back yard – they created and decorated space helmets from grocery bags and blasted off into outer space. Then there was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party complete with a pizza-throwing contest – again, in the easy to clean back yard.  

This year, I’ll just revel in the wedding that was the party to end all parties for me (for a few months at least!). I have to say, with all humility and credit to everyone who made the wedding possible, we did a fabulous job! It was this time last year when I shared with you, my treasured readers of FAMILY Magazine, that Brittany was engaged and would be married in 2014.  

I trust you have enjoyed my year of the wedding (vicariously) through my musings in this blog. I love to share – you get all the fancy romantic details, and I did the heavy lifting. With pleasure! Parenting is a shared experience and although most of you are probably closer to your own wedding day than to your kids’ weddings, I remember what it was like to look at my then “little” girl and imagine her big day. Giving her that “princess for a day” experience. Watching her walk down the aisle on daddy’s arm.

Planning a big wedding is much like producing FAMILY Magazine each month. We planned, made choices, set deadlines and compromised when budget issues or delays cropped up. They always do. The ultimate goal was a perfect wedding, but also to set in place moments when we would all come together throughout the weekend.  

We did our best to cater to our guests’ wide range of interests. Activities ranged from a golf outing, to shooting for the hunters and a spa party for those more indoor inclined. The parties (every night!) for all our out of town friends just about did me in…I couldn’t tear myself away. The parents of the groom had a fantastic rehearsal dinner and then the big day! 

Brittany wore my grandmother’s brooch on her bouquet and my husband’s mother’s wedding garter on her leg. Inside her wedding dress was a piece of my wedding dress sewn in close to her heart. Doug and I gave her diamond and pearl earrings to match the pearls we gave her for eighth grade graduation. She was a beautiful bride – unbiased.

As if to give Brittany the perfect send-off, Mother Nature stepped in and gave us the dream backdrop for the wedding photos: the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. We had hoped the photographer could take a sunset shot with the bride and groom overlooking the beautiful lake at our venue. Just as the bride and groom were finishing up their photos, the sun dipped down, the colors flowed across the sky and red blazed out across the horizon. It was breathtaking.

Doug and I were watching the photo shoot from a balcony. When we saw the emerging sunset, we just looked at each other and without a word, raced down to join them out on the lawn. It was perfect – like the end of a favorite movie. I hugged Brittany and Randy. Doug and I hugged each other. The bride and groom were beaming. The photographer captured every hug and every resulting tear.  

Then we went in and danced the night away. And now I need to rest…I’ve earned it.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Here Comes the Bride!

Our big party is here! My youngest daughter Brittany said “I do” March 1. It’s a party a year and a half in the making! So as this letter is being printed, I am likely in sunny Florida seeing my little girl and her husband (gasp) off on their adventurous honeymoon to Norway to see the Northern Lights.

Dateline February 29:  I know it will be a beautiful wedding, fantastic party and just the right send off for an adorable couple. It’s March, which brings us the luck of the Irish. I wish I could take you all with me to 1. Enjoy the weather (sorry to rub it in) and 2. So you smart, experienced spouses/parents could give my young couple the advice and good luck they will need to navigate this new phase of their lives.

 As a mom about to marry off her youngest, I’ll take a moment to share my advice to you who still have young kids under foot. First, enjoy. I know the days can drag on forever, but the years fly by. I remember my babies becoming toddlers (mostly due to home property damage), but then I swear the next thing I knew I had a house full of sullen, argumentative teenagers who ate more food than your average rhino herd.

So now that my “baby” is getting married, it’s her turn to start figuring out what her family will mean to her. She assures me there will be at least two years before we get any baby news. We’ll see – between her excitement and the “encouragement” they’re sure to get from extended family…well, good things come to those who wait. Impatiently.

Brittany and Randy’s family history has become a featured element of their wedding reception. We’ve worked hard to put together a Heritage Table to hold beautifully framed portraits of grandparents, great-grandparents and even a few great-great-grandparents. They wanted to include their heritage of long lasting marriages in their own ceremony of commitment. As I helped collect the portraits over the past year and a half, I was so impressed with the longevity of our shared families. We have several sixty and sixty-five year anniversary photos included in this group of portraits.

So in the spirit of the long marriages of our ancestors, it made me wonder what advice we could share with our kids about creating a marriage that stands the test of time. The problem for me is that I’m too “in the moment” right now with wedding jitters and the emotion of it all. As I reach for a tissue, I turn to Google.

Type in “marriage advice” – shocker: thousands of pages came up. As someone in a long (happy!) marriage, I feel quite qualified to sum up the advice. Shared below are a few of my favorites.

· Don't sweat the small stuff – leading with this little nugget since it’s also one of the top pieces of advice our readers say they would give parents of a new baby.

· Don't fight over money because there is never enough to go around anyway.

· Do not expect your husband (wife, in-laws, etc.) to change after marriage.

· Never date anyone you wouldn't marry – ooh, good thing Brittany didn’t need this advice! A bit late for us…but true nonetheless.

· Marriage is forever. You have to stick it out no matter how miserable you are. Insert smile emoticon – yes, forever, but it’s up to you to wring the miserable out of it!

· Never go to bed angry, even if you are not happy with the conditions.

· When having issues with your spouse, never ever talk about him/her with your friends or parents. Whenever possible, solve problems WITH the marriage withIN the marriage.

· Marriage should not be so much about looking at each other but looking in the same direction together.

· Fight fair. Really – you know what this means.

· Have a shared hobby.

· Be your spouse’s best friend, number one confidant, and romantic lover.

· Put your spouse first. If all goes to plan, you’ll be married long after the kids leave home.

· Show your children marriage is a positive commitment and make it your highest priority.

· Have a date night every week – before, during, and after kids. Doug and I have “dated” throughout our entire marriage, and I highly recommend it.

So now that I have my bearings amidst all that great advice, the one tip I didn’t find online but personally swear by is that marriage is not always 50/50. Some days you might have to give 90% and other days you may only be able to muster 25%. If you care about someone, you won’t keep score. Grown-ups know that it all balances out over time.

So Cheers to Brittany and Randy, let’s all raise our box drinks in honor of the new family. And in anticipation of a wedding party to end all parties, my last piece of advice (that hangs on my refrigerator which makes it official):  

Life is short, dance often.

‘Til April and our Birthday issue – Happy Parenting!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Giving Away My Baby

The Wedding is Days Away....

Welcome to February with that “love is in the air” Valentine’s thing it has going on. It has made me think a lot about what’s happening in my love lives. Yes, lives. With apologies to my spouse, I must admit my kids take up a huge piece of the room in my heart – they grew it to the size it is after all. So as my youngest gets closer and closer to her March 1 wedding date, one of the loves of my life is moving on.

To be sure, Doug, my darling husband, is THE love of my life. He’s my rock, my second half, my partner (on and off the dance floor). We fell in love and married with the assumption that we’d be “us” forever – kind of what ‘til death means, right? So here we are getting ready to take a significant next step in our relationship with our baby, Brittany.

Parenthood is all about love. How else could we survive what we experience with, for, and because of our kids? It takes heart to go from one crisis to the next for DECADES. And we do it all with the full expectation that they’ll break up with us in the end. It’s actually a parental goal to be left behind by our kids. All good in theory. But I can tell you, being days away from the last time our daughter will share our family name, I’m a bit shaken.

Brittany is ready to become Mrs. “someone else.” She won’t be “my” Brittany Hyde much longer. My husband has recognized the significance of her name change from the beginning. He’s the last of his Hydes and would love Brittany to carry on. While understanding Doug’s perspective and commiserating with him on the subject, I kind of filed his angst in the male ego drawer. Now I’m realizing that Brittany by deed AND name is going to be first and foremost a full-on adult, married woman and my “baby” second. “Second” sounds so unfamiliar.

It’s just another of those innumerable parenting moments where your heart gets broken because everything is going exactly as it should. Brittany and I have had a very close relationship over the years. We’ve never really had a period where she “left me behind” as I expected she, appropriately, would.

Brittany is our last of four – and spoiled luckily not rotten. Her siblings dubbed her the princess (she STILL can’t stand it when they tease her). She’s quite a bit younger than her siblings so she and I had significant one-on-one time. To include a forty minute commute to and from school. Amazing what you can get kids to talk about in a car! Even having left home a few years ago, Brittany stays in touch and still asks for my opinion and guidance. Big mom blush.

I fully expected Brittany to do the whole separation thing complete with the sporadic hating on mama thing. Just about every mom/daughter pair that I’ve ever known has gone through it. I was so sure it would happen, that I found myself waiting for some rebellion to rise up during her wedding planning process. Even though I know we’ll still text and chat, her marriage is a milestone for all of us. I can now say the wedding planning process has been very enjoyable even though the end result is painful.

It is like giving birth all over again to give her away to a husband. We’re saying goodbye to baby Hyde and hello to the newest Mrs. in the family. All the “stuff” we’ve been ordering for the wedding has Mr. and Mrs. all over it. To include, in the spirit of a Florida wedding, golf tees, sunscreen, and water bottles. Doug practically has had to learn Lamaze breathing himself to handle all these name change reminders.

So we are counting down to the big party. The golf outing is set and spa reservations are in the works for our "Refresh and Renew Before They Say I Do" time with aunts and grandmas. RSVPs are starting to roll in and rooms at the hotel are booking fast. Doug bought a new tuxedo shirt and tie. I have a final fitting for my dress and am stressed over those few remaining holiday pounds. All in a year’s work toward a wedding….

My favorite text conversation with Brittany this past month sums it up for me:

Brit: Just mailed the invitations…
Me: OMG. Now you're committed.
Brit: Good!
Mom: It will be a great party!

It better be – and not because of the money and time we’ve put into it. I’m sending off a greatest love, and I want it to be a celebration worthy of life’s significant relationships. Parent-child, mom-dad, newlyweds. Happy tears!

And happy parenting love to you!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Mine an Einstein?

I'm thrilled to share the great information we gather at FAMILY Magazine from our child and parenting experts.  Read on for an informative overview of how to identify a gifted child and how to best foster a student's talents.

Identifying the Gifted Child

By Susan Gold, MEd & Robert Gold, ESQ

We hear and read of gifted artists, gifted athletes, even gifted speakers without making too much of it. “Gifted” is part of the everyday vernacular.

Use of the word “gifted” to describe a child of high academic or intellectual ability, however, prompts visceral, heated reactions, charges of elitism and a number of stereotypes grounded more in myth than reality. Here is a glimpse at gifted education with an emphasis on the early childhood years.

Who Is a Gifted Learner?

To effectively identify young gifted learners, multiple criteria are used, including both subjective and objective measures. Such measures include achievement and ability testing, teacher observations and parent questionnaires.

An IQ score of 130 or higher—approximately the top 2 percent of test-takers on the WPPSI, WISC or other similar aptitude test—is a commonly used benchmark for entrance into gifted and talented programs. Current research indicates that IQ is malleable, particularly in young children, as their brains undergo rapid physiological development. A child generally cannot, however, obtain an IQ score of 140 just by having a “good day.”

Do too many “pushy” parents claim their children are gifted? Not necessarily. Parents are usually accurate in evaluating their child’s intellectual abilities. From time to time, parents underestimate their child’s giftedness, especially in the case of a first-born child. Oftentimes, it is only when the child enters preschool and quickly exhausts the available learning materials that a bell goes off.

Things to Watch For

In a typical classroom (with same-age peers of widely varying intellectual ability and academic readiness), young gifted students often downplay their talents to fit in. Therefore, gifted learners’ placement within an intellectual peer group is critical, not only for their intellectual growth, but for their emotional well-being. They prefer friends with similar mental age rather than chronological, seeking close, stable and trusting friendships over mere playmates early on.

Young gifted learners often exhibit perfectionist tendencies. Generations of well-intentioned teachers have unwittingly reinforced these tendencies by offering academically gifted children praise such as, “Wow, you got 100% and finished so quickly. Great job!” In the care of well-trained teachers who consistently praise effort, strategy and resilience, however, these children can view their perfectionism in a positive light, celebrating accomplishments with an understanding that “mistakes” are inevitable in the process of mastering new, appropriately challenging skills and material.

Myth vs. Reality

Proponents of mixed-ability classrooms argue that having one or two gifted students in a class elevates the entire class’ performance, as the gifted students serve as role models, provide challenge and help teach other students.

In reality, average or below-average students do not look to gifted students as role models; teachers do. Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels.

Dr. James Kulik of the University of Michigan found that highly talented students achieve more when taught in specialized, enriched classes—rather than regular, mixed-ability classes—gaining on average 1.4 to 1.5 years on a grade-equivalent scale in the same period during which control children of initially equivalent intelligence gain only one year. Kulik noted that teachers of enriched and accelerated classes often have special training for work with gifted and talented students.

One of the nation’s foremost experts on gifted education, Dr. Tracy Cross of The College of William and Mary, puts it this way: “Amazing things happen when you get a critical mass of intellectually gifted students together with a faculty who wants to work with them.”

Susan Gold, M.Ed., and Robert Gold, Esq., are director and executive director of Feynman School, a nonprofit, independent school for academically gifted children in Bethesda, Maryland.


National Association for Gifted Children, supporting the needs of high-potential learners

Virginia Association for the Gifted, supporting gifted education

An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping,” 1992, Dr. James A. Kulik, University of Michigan

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Business Break…The Economy Matters to All of Us!

As the Publisher of a Magazine that caters to DC parents for over 20 years, I've come to really appreciate how smart and informed our readers are. We in DC, more than other areas of the country, truly live and breathe what is going on with the Federal budget.  

I wanted to share what I consider great news for all of us - as a small business owner and a parent in the region, I know about being buffeted by the economy. I really believe that with this new two year budget in place, our readers should be encouraged.

Here's my take on the budget - I an certain our readers will: 
  • Feel a renewed sense of stability
  • Invest in their child's education
  • Invest in their child's enrichment
  • Have confidence in personal careers and income
Parents are going to want to invest in their children and will feel more confident to spend their income.

Here are some facts to back up my claims. The market in the Washington, DC area is poised for significant growth. Our readers and our advertisers will benefit from this. 2014 is going to be an exciting year for all of us.

Unemployment rates -
Washington region counties have declined up to 1.6% (national rate of decline is 0.6%)
19 out of 22 counties have a lower unemployment rate than 2 years ago.

Income in DC area - 
Income in our area increased 23.3% between 2000 and 2012. Nationally median household incomes dropped. The Washington, D.C. metro area — which includes the surrounding suburbs in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia — ranks highest in income among the U.S.’s 25 most populous metro areas.

This article from the Wall Street Journal details the income statistics in our area.

Housing prices on the rise in DC area -
Our home prices went up 4% in November alone. We are back to peak levels with competitive bidding taking place in many home purchases.

Inventory of houses -
The inventory of available houses (new listings) jumped 13% in our region this summer.  A greater inventory means more opportunity for sales and people are jumping back into the real estate market.

This article by Forbes details the movement in our housing industry.