Friday, January 29, 2010

Mojo Mom Podcast and Kidpower -- Skills for Safety and Independence

I am having a great time talking with my Courageous Parenting contributors on The Mojo Mom Podcast. We'll be mixing things up in this series, not doing all of the Courageous Parenting interviews back-to-back, but I hope to have everyone on before the book comes out. We are just putting the final manuscript to bed, so this is a big week, hooray!

I always love talking with my colleague and mentor, Irene van der Zande about the personal safety skills she teachers as the co-founder of Kidpower. Her training is amazing--I am doing my best to tell everyone about Kidpower, and I teach classes in the Triangle area as the Center Director of Kidpower North Carolina. I taught four Kidpower classes myself this week, which was a wonderful opportunity to get into action with kids in my community, after doing six intensive days of instructor training in Santa Cruz, California earlier this month.

So I encourage you to listen to the podcast, check out the international organization's web site, and consider getting real-life Kidpower training.

Listen to the podcast now:

Here is the description of this week's show, Courageous Parenting Series: Mojo Mom and Kidpower

How can parents teach their kids to be independent and safe? Kidpower personal safety skills are designed to do just that, for people of all ages. Listen in and learn how to "co-pilot" your kids (without becoming a "helicopter parent") as they take their first steps out of the nest.

You can register to get a free electronic download of Courageous Parenting when it is released in Spring 2010 by signing up on

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Apple, you hardly knew me. Why the iPad naming fiasco matters.

So, we ladyfolk finally got our own viral internet giggle yesterday when Apple really did name its new tablet computer the iPad. "iTampon" quickly became a hot trending topic on Twitter.

Even as the "Mac's-i-Pad" period jokes continue, a little bit of a backlash has begun ("really from all the noise we should just call it the i-bitch,") and people are also asking will period jokes will hurt the iPad?

I think the iPad name is a major mis-step for Apple, but not just because it's embarrassingly funny. For me the iPad naming fiasco pulls back the curtain on Apple Computer's branding and marketing and reveals it as another Silicon Valley boy's club.

I say this as a devoted Apple user. I got my first computer as a college freshman back in 1986, a "Macintosh 512K enhanced." I was in one of the first college cohorts in which just about everybody had a personal computer. And yes, there was a day when you could put "512K" and "enhanced" together and it made sense. (Take that, Fanboys, I've been using a Mac since some of you were in diapers, or, egads, before you were born.) Over those 23 years I have personally bought at least a half dozen desktop Macs, four laptops, two iPhones, and more generations of iPods than I can keep track of. I run my whole Mojo Mom media empire, from book authorship, to blogging and podcasting, on a Mac.

And all the while Apple's branding made me feel like I was part of something, "I'm a Mac," after all. And with their intuitive, elegant design, as Apple brought new products to life that I hadn't even known that I needed, but now can't imagine living without, I felt like Apple knew me, too. But now with their naming choice of the iPad and all it's testosterone-fueled cluelessness, it became immediately more noticeable how overwhelmingly male Apple computer is. Can you name one woman associated with Apple, as an employee or its image? Watch Apple's own near-orgasmically-fawning video promoting their new gadget. It's eight minutes of male developers talking about how awesome the iPad is.

So then we get thinking about the iPad and wonder, "Were there any women involved in its design process? Its naming or marketing?" And reporting comes out, such as Business Week (via Jezebel) saying that "women account for 40 percent of gadget spending..." and the inconvenient fact that Apple doesn't have any women in its top corporate positions.

I have spent a lot of time in the tech world socially (my husband is a computer guy) and professionally, when I was a freelancer writing the parenting and technology blog for CNET in 2007 and 2008. I appreciated that opportunity and I thought I did bring a different perspective to the conversation. Unfortunately, my opinion was not always appreciated. I received a lot of nasty, hurtful comments. I had not how realized how radical it would be to bring a mom's-eye view perspective to the tech world. Many libertarian, male commenters seemed to instantly view me as the enemy, someone who represented the "nanny state" that clashed with their worldview. I should have realized what a culture clash I was walking into. It's a shame that a wider diversity of opinions are not represented and respected on tech websites, as I did report on some interesting stories that other journalists may have overlooked, some of which made it to the main front page of CNET. (I should say CNET was great to work with. And I know there were people who liked what I wrote, but they tended to email me directly rather than leave a public comment.)

So, just as we women have an uncomfortable relation with public displays of pads, perhaps all the brouhaha also has a connection with how women feel overlooked and excluded from the world of high tech. I had been pretty happy with the illusion that Apple knew me. But now, while they can still win me over with their products, my decades-long relationship with the Apple mystique has evaporated in a flash--surely not what the Apple marketing department was hoping to accomplish with their sexy new product release.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My fave iPad slam: "Are You There, God? It's Me, Marketing."

So, Apple Computer has named their shiny new gadget the iPad. That confirms one thing for me, that we women might as well say whatever the hell we want on the internet, because men really aren't listening to us.

I mean seriously, you get four women around a table, suggest the name iPad, and they will shoot it down in three seconds flat, possibly falling out of their chairs laughing at the suggestion. has an awesome list of period-related jokes that was posted within hours of the release. My favorites were from Begorrah: "Are you there, God? It's me, Marketing," and Mary McCarthyite, "Everyone, just try to Stay(free) calm and Poise(d). It's Always nice to see a new product on the market. I Depend on Apple to come up with great ideas. Maybe we're taking this out of Kotex."

MadTV had a parody of a potential iPad years ago (the sound cuts out near the end but this was the best video quality I could find):

So to both alpha male and senstitive-New-Age-guy Apple developers: you can have your Mac and Phone and Tunes, but we women own the word Pad. If you insist on calling your new "magic slate" an iPad, we will make fun of you until you come out with a new version that doesn't have such a dumb name.

Seriously, what were they thinking? It really shows that they are not thinking, not listening to women. Do they have women on their team? Do they talk to women? How much did Apple pay for this magical piece of Silicon Valley marketing genius?

And how, oh how, can this happen the week that the awesome Sarah Haskins steps down from her Current TV feature, Target Women? She HAS to come back for a special edition to take down the iPad.

Somehow the Target Women about "How to Get Hot Chicks" seems appropriate here...spoiler alert, it boils down to convincing men that hot chicks will drool over...stuff that guys like anyway. Hmmmm, like the iPad?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Suze Orman Show on what happens to overindulged kids when they grow up. (Hint: It's not pretty.)

Suze Orman provides a lot of great resources for women and money, including her book by that name, just out in paperback, which I recommend. Even though Suze does not have kids herself, she is usually right on target when it comes to the psychology of women, money, and parenting.

Last Saturday's show, January 23 2010, has one of the most striking examples I've ever seen of what happens to helicopter parents and their overindulged kids in the long run. I dare say it makes the case for both of my books, Courageous Parenting and Mojo Mom, in stark terms.

The Suze Orman Show is now available as a free, full-episode podcast, so you can check it our for yourself. Here's a link to the show's podcast list, and it is also available free through the iTunes podcast directory.

Suze's first segment on her show with the theme, "People First, Then Money, Then Things," clarifies that when Suze says "People First," she means taking care of yourself first, not taking care of everybody else, as some people misinterpret it. Suze's first guest is a woman named Donna, who is 43 years old and in conflict with her 24-year-old son. Her son is taking complete advantage of her, and as the details come out, the story just keeps getting worse. Her son is living in Donna's home, rent-free. He got into credit card debt, and made a "settlement" with the credit card company, but guess who paid off the settlement? Mom and Dad. And now her son has stopped paying Donna back, and is telling HER that "he doesn't like her attitude" when she ask him to pay her.

And there's more....Donna earns $1600 a month. Her son makes $3500 a month. He's just asked his girlfriend to marry him. He bought her a $5000 engagement ring...paying with a credit card.

Suze tells Donna that she has to kick her disrespectful son out of house to make it on his own. Donna has given her whole life away to her son, she's subsidizing her high-earning yet irresponsible adult son to the point where has no savings and no retirement account for herself. Suze believes that the rest of Donna's life cannot turn around until Donna stands up for herself and gains back some power, self-respect, and respect from others.

Donna admits that she's spoiled her three kids rotten all their lives. She stayed home with her kids and she's struggling to learn how to "take care of Mama now." I intuit that she is not sure who she is anymore without her mothering role. She seems unable to make the switch between a mother's role to care for her child, to an adult-adult relationship, holding her adult son accountable for himself, and holding herself accountable for her own well-being.

Suze says, "It's not about saying yes. It's not about giving always. It's about taking care of yourself first....You, like every woman out there, you really think the definition of a good mother is to make sure that the kids have everything...even if that means it renders you powerless. They're not bad kids. You weren't a bad mother. You just didn't think you mattered."

That's a powerful statement. Let's remember that we matter, and build the structure of our lives around that fact. I had already been thinking a lot about the fact that self-care is not indulgence, it looks a lot more like discipline. If taking a candle-lit bubble bath once in a while would solve our problems, they would have been solved a long time ago. I'll be writing more about this in my next blog post so stay tuned.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mojo Mom Podcast with Linda Criddle and Internet Safety

The Mojo Mom Podcast is back with new shows for 2010! We had a longer hiatus than I expected because of the intensity of editing Courageous Parenting. We're almost done with that now and ready to ramp back up on my blog, podcast, and a renovation of More on that to come, but for now, let's take a look at this week's new podcast.

Mojo Mom Podcast's Courageous Parenting series: Mojo Mom and Internet Safety Expert Linda Criddle

Listen to the podcast now:

I am starting our the podcast season by continuing my series of interviews with contributors to the new Courageous Parenting anthology that I am editing. I will interweave interviews with anthology contributors some weeks, mixed in with other authors, newsmakers, and kindred spirits on other shows.

This week on the podcast, I talk with internet safety expert Linda Criddle, founder of the site I talk about a number of situations that feel difficult or helpless for me as a parent. Linda shares practical safety strategies and fosters a sense of empowerment in the way that parents think about the internet.

Special pre-publication offer: Get more of Linda Criddle's advice by signing up on to receive a free electronic download of "Courageous Parenting" when it is released this spring.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kidpower founder on How to Respond to Verbal Put-Downs

Kidpower founder Irene van der Zande shared ideas of how kids can respond safely to verbal put-downs, standing up for themselves while de-escalating the situation. Another great segment on The View from the Bay.

Irene is a chapter contributor for my forthcoming anthology, Courageous Parenting. You can sign up on to receive a free electronic download of the new book when it comes out.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Beyond "pushbutton philanthropy:" Helping Haiti in the long run

Stand With Haiti

Haiti is in all of our thoughts right now. The most moving coverage that I have heard was through today's episode of The Story with Dick Gordon, sharing first-person accounts of "The Rescue Effort."

What makes me really sad is knowing that the most powerful prevention of so many deaths would have been better building codes, to put up buildings that would not pancake in 15 seconds. On The Story, one man talked about how fragile the cinder blocks were, that you could kick them and they would crumble. And there was not nearly enough rebar reinforcement in the buildings. The San Francisco Bay Area Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 was about the same magnitude and resulted in only 63 deaths, 42 of which happened due to one incident in which a double-decker freeway in Oakland collapsed.

I have had my doubts about our government lately, but this tragedy reminds me to be grateful for our secure infrastructure, and mindful that we need to work to keep it that way.

I am torn by the myriad of fund-raising efforts that are cropping up. If First Lady Michelle Obama says to text to donate money to the Red Cross, then I guess I can get on board with that. But I feel like this is such a huge relief job that our government itself should come up with a relief plan and contribution on behalf of the American people, and make sure that the money goes where it needs to go, and logistics are handled by people who know what they are doing, such as the United Nations. Maybe we should all still chip in some money in the meantime, the New York Times has an article about how to give safely and efficiently, but I worry about our reflex for push-button philanthropy. Will we still be interested and engaged six months from now? And how much does that matter, if our immediate giving does help? I guess my question is, how much more effective could our giving be if we put more thought into it?

I encourage everybody to do something substantial to learn about Haiti, in addition to participating in immediate relief giving. I plan to read the well-regarded book about Dr. Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Dr. Farmer co-founded Partners in Health (PIH) in Haiti, which is apparently one of the only health care operations that is functioning now--it certainly sounds like a valuable organization to support.

Here is Dr. Farmer's January 17th piece about how to really help Haiti in the wake of this disaster.

This tragedy has provoked a response in me that may sound counter-intuitive. I had the opportunity to hear the director of our local Interfaith Council for Social Services speak at our church on Sunday. I had been wanting to learn more about their work here in Orange County North Carolina, and after his talk I said I'd like to come by his office and meet with him again in the near future. His organization is taking a comprehensive approach to work to mitigate poverty and homelessness here in my home town. I can be honest and acknowledge that Haiti is probably not going to become my number one cause in the long run, but I hope that I can help there in some small way by donating to Partners in Health and One Great Hour of Sharing (to support my church's effort), and also take my own advice to delve deeper into all the philanthropy I need to engage in, starting at home.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Close encounters with Carol Brady, Mom-in-Chief, Mojo Mom and a Literary Mama

After I left Berkeley last week and headed down to Santa Cruz for the rest of my trip to California, I had very poor internet access, so I am sorry I was not able to blog sooner about what happened backstage at The View from the Bay.

If you remember, Jamie Woolf and I were there to talk about our upcoming anthology Courageous Parenting, but behind the scenes we were also trying to meet pop-culture icon Florence Henderson, Carol Brady herself, who was also on the show that day.

Jamie got up close and personal with her! Don't they both look great?

Florence was being whisked by while I was in the chair getting my makeup put on, and I just couldn't jump up to go meet her. But I could see her and Jamie in the mirror. Jamie was nice and bold and gave Florence a copy of her book Mom-in-Chief, which Ms. Henderson accepted with enthusiasm. She really seemed nice and embraced her lifelong role as Gen X's Mom.

But even though I missed out on that, not only am I proud of Jamie for getting right out there, but we also had the treat of running into Caroline Grant backstage. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the wonderful Literary Mama website, and she was on the show to talk about a reading list of recommended books for kids ages 3-12. There was some drama about a mistake in the schedule and whether she'd get on, which she wrote about with good humor in her blog. But we had a nice chat backstage and I have to say Caroline took it all in stride, and she did get on and was very poised in her segment.

So there we are, three writers in our own right. I felt like I was in an alternate universe, since I used to live in the Bay Area, and here Jamie and Caroline were talking about writing groups and other cool events, and I thought that if I still lived there I would love to spend more time hanging out with them, and Joan Blades, co-founder of, who was gracious enough to host me while I was in town.

All in all it was a really fun day, and I hope you'll check out the video of our Courageous Parenting segment.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Courageous Parenting on The View from the Bay

I just have time to post the video of Jamie Woolf and myself talking about Courageous Parenting and "Four Easy Steps to Stop Over-Parenting" on The View from the Bay.

It was great to come to San Francisco and get to be on the show with Jamie, and talk to hosts Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang.

More details to come....

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mojo Mom, Mom-in-Chief, and Mrs. Brady on The View from the Bay today

I was already really excited to appear with my friend Jamie Woolf on the TV show The View from the Bay today at 3 pm in San Francisco. We'll be talking about our forthcoming book Courageous Parenting and sharing practical ways that real-life moms and dads can break overparenting habits. I believe that as parents think about taking a new path it's important to talk about the vision of where to go, as well as steps that lay out how to get there. We cover both in depth in the new book, coming out in March.

I hope a whole bunch of View from the Bay viewers will stop by and sign up for our Courageous Parenting free e-book offer.

And as if that wasn't already enough fun, having Mojo Mom and Mom-in-Chief together on this show, I just found out that Florence Henderson will be on as well -- Carol Brady herself! If that's not a divinely aligned motherhood event, I don't know what is. As many fellow Gen Xers will appreciate, I was addicted to the Brady Bunch for my whole childhood and used to be able to pretty much quote the whole thing.

My goal is to get a photo with her. We're on different segments but I hope to bump into her in the Green Room. Check back tomorrow to find out whether I succeeded!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dr. Phil show today -- Parenting Styles, from overparenting to Free-Range Kids

Just a quick blog post this morning to let you know that today Dr. Phil has a show about parenting styles hat I am very interested in because it speaks to my new anthology Courageous Parenting.

And, Mojo Mom blog reader Lori, whom I got to know through Free-Range Kids, is on the show! Lori made the news when her ten year old son was picked up by police while walking to soccer practice on his own. I hope she'll write in and tell us more about her experience with Dr. Phil.

Here's the show blurb. Unfortunately I won't be able to watch it live because I'll be headed to the airport for a trip to California...more on that shortly!

Tuesday - January 5, 2010 Dr. Phil Show

New Parenting Styles

Are you a parent who is over- or under-involved in your child's life? Dr. Phil talks with a self-proclaimed overprotective mother, a Free-Range mother and two experts to help you find a happy balance while raising your kids. First up, you won't believe what happened to Lori when she let her 10-year-old son walk to soccer practice by himself. Next, meet two moms with opposite parenting approaches: Kristen lets her kids walk to friends' houses on their own and make their own mistakes, while Beckie says she can't imagine letting her kids walk around the neighborhood or even to the school playground unattended. Find out what Dr. Phil has to say about these parenting styles. Then, Linda Murray, editor-in-chief of and Dr. Michele Borba, a parenting educator and author, weigh in with the pros and cons of different parenting styles. And, Dr. Phil checks in with Teresa, who became known as America's Most Over-Protective Mom. Find out if she and her daughter, Ashlee, who's now 18, are getting along better.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mojo Mom's thoughts on the 2000's--learning that we're all in this together.

Right now I am consumed by the whirlwind that always accompanies the final stages of editing of a new book. I can't wait to share the new anthology Courageous Parenting with you, but the one temporary downside is that during this final push I don't have a lot of time for blogging. But I did want to share a few end-of-decade thoughts about what I learned in the 2000s.

Amy as a proud, tired, happy new Mom with her cute little schmoo in fall 1999.

It's interesting to see my personal journey as a mother develop together with my professional development. When I became a new Mom in late 1999 I looked at the world through a thoroughly individualistic perspective. I really thought that I needed to show how I could "do it all" myself. Even as I learned to embrace the participation of family and friends, I still thought that motherhood was mostly about me and my personal life choices as one woman. I felt that I chose to leave my teaching career, and without even realizing it, I was constructing a life story that put me firmly in the driver's seat. This was actually a pretty functional way of thinking that worked for me in the short term, but as I lived through all of the challenges of motherhood, and thought about what other women faced, I realized that I was missing the big picture.

When the original "Opt-Out Revolution" narrative first came along, saying that educated mothers were choosing to leave the workforce, it made sense to me, if I looked at my life as a rugged individualist. My teaching career just "didn't work" any more so I chose to leave. My personal situation was complicated by a cross-country move, that made it seem even more natural that I didn't return to my job, and I was fortunate that my family could afford to live on my husband's salary.

But even as I started to write Mojo Mom all on my own way back in 2003, not really knowing any other writers, and without the benefit of blogging, which had not exploded yet, I started to see that motherhood wasn't just all about me as one person.

I started to think about what it meant that work "didn't work" for me as a mother of a young child. How much of this was my individual choice, versus larger social structures that ranged from my family, to employers' attitudes and policies, to public policy, most notably the fact that American women don't even have paid maternity leave?

My husband's job was all-encompassing at the time, which did not leave a lot of room for me to work any kind of traditional schedule. And the idea of truly-flexible, valuable part time jobs didn't seem plausible. I craved a new professional, creative outlet, and I had a renewed interest in writing, so I reinvented myself as an author.

I was fortunate to be able to do so, but even though this worked for me, the dangers and fallacies of the Opt-Out storyline started to come to into focus for me. First of all, most women and mothers need to work for basic financial reasons. So the idea that motherhood = not employed is a worrisome one, because the workforce truly needs to figure out how to retain us and stop punishing us for being parents--specifically, mothers, because fathers are more respected in the workforce and are often assumed to have a wife who can do the majority of the caregiving. As Opting Out? author and sociologist Pamela Stone has pointed out, too often, parenthood means that fathers step on the accelerator of their careers and mothers step on the brakes. For women of Gen X and Y this can create a major fork in the road that has lifelong consequences.

Also, taking an off-ramp from paid work can leave women in career limbo and financial jeopardy. I hope that in the 2010s we'll find better solutions for building more on-ramps. Life is long, and women in particular should expect to have several careers interwoven with seasons of caregiving.

So as these challenges accumulated it became incredibly clear to me that no one is truly a "rugged individualist," and we are all in this together. As I was completing the first edition of Mojo Mom I started to think, "What we need is a social movement. Damn, am I going to have to try to start one?" Fortunately for all of us, burst onto the scene. I could instantly see that founders Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner were well positioned to launch an activist revolution, and I've done my best to support their work because it is spot-on, working to end job discrimination against mothers, to get health care coverage for all children, and other key advocacy goals.

Joan and Kristin also started their work together by writing a book, The Motherhood Manifesto, which I highly recommend.

So from being one aspiring writer, working in near-secret on my own, to getting the updated 2009 edition of Mojo Mom published, working with other writers, and participating in MomsRising's grassroots movement with a million members, I have come a long way in the 2000s.

And as my appreciation of cooperation of mothers has grown, my next book is, voila, an anthology, with chapters written by fourteen talented experts! I had spent years getting to know other writers, reading their books, appreciating their work, and doing Mojo Mom Podcast interviews--now the circle of experts who I have come to think of as a special group in my mind are really collaborating on the new book, Courageous Parenting, which will be a comprehensive guide exploring how to end overparenting, and carve out a new, healthier path to independence for our kids and ourselves.

The power of collaboration is truly amazing. I have spent several years cultivating these connections, but once I had the idea for the anthology and recruited my contributors, we decided to launch the book in a fast and timely matter. The anthology will be current as of January 2010 and will launch in early spring. To me this is the best combination that takes advantage of the immediacy of blogging while preserving the substance of book writing.

As my blog readers you've been an important part of my entire journey as well. Books take a long time to writer, and my life as a writer improved greatly after blogging enabled me to connect with my readers. So to say thanks to you, I will be offering a free digital download of the new anthology "Courageous Parenting" to anyone who signs up on before the book is published.

I hope you will sign up now, so that I can send you a free complete electronic copy of the new book when it's released this spring.

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