Edition Number 16
Hi Everyone,

Some say a vacation doesn’t count if it’s with kids—that it’s just going somewhere else with kids — but with added distractions, interruptions and snacks. While going away with Karuna creates indelible memories for him, and us, I vote for occasional vacations totally sans kids or at least with a really good kids club. We recently returned from a satisfying, 10-day holiday in Jamaica (with an excellent kids club!) and the return to a frenetic island from a relaxing one has been jarring to say the least. It’s been hard to motivate and move when my internal rhythm is feeling very, very slow and my mind still thinks someone else will make me breakfast.

Vacations can be controversial, viewed as non-negotiable musts by some and luxuries by others. For me, waking up to a different view helps me see myself and life circumstances differently. Creating time to relax, recharge and, my favorite part, read, inspires me to rethink the way I live. Shouldn’t everyone deserve to have time and space for this? At least a couple times a year? It’s that old adage that comes to mind: Do you live to work? Or work to live? And ultimately, is work always the bottom line?  

Sometimes it’s the season to work, work, work, and sometimes it’s the season to chill the f out. To play. To do nothing but rest and reset. So whether you’re already on vacation or unable to get away this season, I hope you too can hang out, zone out, or tune in a bit more this season.  

In Edition 16, I’ve shared some summer-themed content including a round-up of podcasts for those long family road trips and a guide to the U.K’s family-friendly festivals, there are a dozen! I’ve included a great op-ed on the double standard in advertising when it comes to men's and women's sexual health and a piece that discusses the neuroscience behind the pervasive problem with Instagram and young girls’ self-esteem. There are also My First Period Kits for her (amazing!), sustainable Converse for you (also amazing!), and a round-up of inexpensive beach toys for all.  

Lastly, I’m thrilled to finally launch the website’s TBD Mama section with an excerpt from the personal essay “Unexpected Blessings,” courtesy of the writer and my personal friend, Brigette Roth. Brigette writes of a poignant epiphany I know many women experience after becoming moms: The harsh realization that they're not only taking care of the needs of a baby but also someone else's, in this case, their own mother.

Do you have an honest story on motherhood to share in TBD Mama ? Know someone who does? Please connect with me on slightly-nefarious-but-very-convenient Instagram or via the old-school coconut phone. I’d love to hear from you.

With love,
One of the most savory or dreaded parts of summer is The Long Family Road Trip. Depending on a child’s stage of life, and temperament, being in a car together can be an opportunity for heartfelt connection and good times or is a gateway to everybody needing Xanax. If you’re hitting the road again, try listening to one of these G-rated podcasts together to keep it interesting.  

Suggestions in this Wired piece range from the traditional Story Time , 20 minute retellings of classic folk stories and fairytales to the non-traditional Rebel Girls, a podcast which, like its namesake book series, celebrates notable ladies from history. Also featured in the mix are educational but fun shows like Brains On , a science podcast that appeals to grownups and kids and Earth Rangers , a podcast perfect for budding nature-lovers and explorers.  Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl achieves something rare: A current, albeit corny, two-hour music show for kids you won’t totally hate. At the very least, it’s good to have alternatives to “Baby Shark.” 
Do you have mixed feelings about Instagram too? I like sharing things about my day that I love or find interesting, and I like seeing updates from my friends and personalties-slash-brands I "like." But I could only imagine how my 13-year-old self would feel in a world where everything is either worthy of a post or not where every outfit, mood or experience is deemed likable or shareable and, if it's not, then what would that mean?

While my adult self can process the fundamental differences between an online and IRL experience and take Instagram for what it is (i.e. a one-dimensional expression of our far more complex selves) I’m not so sure my adolescent self could. I’d like to see data that suggests otherwise but for now there is another study, parsed through in this article in Forbes, that clearly demonstrates why Instagram is bad for teen girls and their developing brains. 

Some highlights: Instagram, more than any other social media platform, engenders more comparison between “me” and “you.” More comparison, in turn, leads to anxiety and depression. Additionally, increased exposure to “idealized” images is linked to unhappiness and feelings of inadequacy. The most upsetting takeaway is the direct correlation between the number of “likes” a photo receives (many of which are manufactured and purchased) and its ability to alter the way a photo is perceived irregardless of the quality of the content. In other words, the brain literally can not help but like a post more when it's "well-liked" than a post that isn't very "liked" at all even if the person hitting like probably doesn't like the actual content it is "liking."

Talk about a twisted popularity contest we all unwittingly partake in. I wonder how long we will engage with each other like this? I wonder if the next generation will? I'd like to think there is a healthy and positive way for teen girls for everyone to use social media but the current science reveals, well, that it's pretty complicated.
So this is a list of very upcoming family festivals in the UK (which I find to be far more fam-friendly than the U.S.) but can you name one family-focused festival in the States? Just one? 

More than Coachella for kids, festivals like Dorset’s upcoming Camp Bestival offer a hybrid camping-with-entertainment experience including the world’s largest bouncy castle, dedicated “breastival” spots for new moms, an epic feast and plenty of art and entertainment for grownups and kids. Accommodations range from humble tents to more deluxe glamping options all set against the backdrop of a romantic 17th Century castle. Then there’s Latitude in Suffolk headined by the likes of Stereophonics and Lana Del Rey but alongside a dedicated enchanted forest (a real one) for kids to explore, that is if they don’t want to try a breakdancing workshop, connect with family yoga or hone their CIRCUS SKILLS instead. Seriously! 

Perhaps August’s, The Big Feastival , is most enduring and endearing. In its 8th year and held on an actual rock star’s actual farm (Blur’s bassist, Alex James) where else could you hear performances by Elbow followed by Peppa Pig, all whilst savoring gourmet bites served in the beautiful Cotswalds? I’m just saying: These kinds of events aren’t happening here, even in Brooklyn or Portlandia.  

With the pound-to-dollar exchange being better than ever why not book a cheap, last-minute flight on Norwegian and go on an adventure? I may not be a camp or crowd person but the fact that these bona fide family festivals exist, and are well-attended, says something significant about English culture vs. American. It’s one that frequently integrates kids, thoughtfully, and doesn’t treat them, or those who have them, like second-class citizens at the fair.
Under his eye —one that wants you to see ads and images and products promoting his sexual health and pleasure, not yours. I did not know but am not surprised that the aging and ailing NYC MTA’s advertising practices are as outdated as the subways themselves. While ads for erectile dysfunction are boldly plastered across platforms, alas, ads for the female equivalent are banned. And not just over at the F train.  

Facebook and its’ sister companies notoriously ban ads promoting products and services that empower women’s sexual wellness, ranging from products designed to prevent painful sex in women with endometriosis to lubricants that help menopausal women and cancer patients. This is not anecdotal: this is fact.  

Similarly, 21st century payment processors such as Stripe are pandering to very Victorian-era ideas about sexuality when defending their choice not to provide payment services for items and services deemed “profane,” items ranging from female condoms to companies that dare to educate women, and men, about sexual health and pleasure at all. This is a ban to process the actual payments , something one would think is a straightforward and private transaction.

This illuminating op-ed, via the New York Times , doesn’t advocate for a porn free-for-all in public spaces but instead calls out yet another abhorrent double standard for women. Blessed be the fruit indeed when a woman’s “papaya” ad has permission to stand next to a man's.
This week I’ll attend a workshop on creating a “zero waste space” and am simultaneously inspired and daunted. Despite a good heart and lofty intentions I am a waste making machine!

So as I fret over imminent climate change and think about how to reduce my family’s growing carbon footprint, I’m very excited by Converses’ launch of renewable sneakers. While one could argue that going barefoot is the most sustainable choice that person clearly isn’t setting foot anywhere in Manhattan.

These upcoming green releases are both chic and inspiring beginning with the “Renew Canvas,” a reimagined classic All-Star high-top made of 100% plastic bottles! Soles and tongues sport a “Life’s too Short to Waste” slogan and are available either in yellow, white or green. Their Renew Denim line are 100% made of second-hand denim sourced from landfills; no two pairs will look the same. The “Renew Cotton” line is the only one in the collection currently not 100% made of renewables but it is mostly made of Converses’ own leftover canvas material. I never thought it made sense to update my black, classic Chuck 70’s but now there’s a good cause—literally!
Go beyond the typical bucket and shovel this summer. Try making sand cupcakes or a sand Eiffel Tower with an array of new molds, diggers, even a dinosaur sand glove. Yes, there are now dinosaur-shaped gloves made for handling sand. 

This Fatherly round-up offers fun and inexpensive suggestions (everything is under $30) for kids of all ages including a clever catch-and-release aquarium for budding marine biologists and an orange, yet green, sustainable beach wagon. There are waterproof hydro footballs (are footballs typically not waterproof?) water-skipping balls, and a toddler-friendly ball toss set in a cute crab design. Kids will love the “Slingball Classic,” which, as it name suggests, shoots off balls in a sling up to 125 feet. I’m just not sure the neighbors will love it too.
My first period went something like this: Hiding in a massive marble bathroom stall at the Biltmore during a very crushable boy’s barmitzvah. Wearing a very white Gunne Sax dress. HorrifIed as I saw a streak of brown something in my underpants. Did I poop in my pants and not realize it? Was I dying? I had seriously thought period blood came out of breasts!! All because the illustration on the single page describing periods in “What’s Happening to Me” showed a confused girl staring blankly at her chest, holding out her bra. And, no ladies, while LA can be called a lot of things I wasn’t exactly raised under an Amish rock …. And yet, I was raised in a culture that just didn’t really talk about these kinds of things. A culture where I thought girls got periods from their boobs. Yep.

So how fabulous is it that enterprising, mostly female-led companies have created informative, and cute, period products like these?! Each first period kit is designed to teach and support young girls navigating their big first P and includes an array of helpful products and educational tips. While marketed as “firsts” they could easily be used and gifted to pre-teens and teens at any stage. Complete list here, courtesy of Mother magazine.
*The following is an excerpt. Click below to read the entire essay.

One of the earliest memories I have of my mother is of her reaching underneath the tablecloth during dinner, grasping the flesh on my upper thigh with her long, richly painted fingernails, and digging in until I bled. I suppose it was a shock to me the first time it happened, but I learned to expect it, so that all she had to do was look at me after a while and I instinctively reached to cover my legs with my hands. Her family and friends always marveled at how well-behaved I was and, to this day, my mother loves to brag about what a flawless child I was — always quiet, always clean and always pleasant — she could bring me anywhere!

Although I felt resentful of her coercive methods, I did not know any other way. And I spent enormous amounts of energy trying to please her. I worked hard in school, won awards when possible, brought home perfect report cards. I took up the violin in the third grade, at my mother’s insistence, even though I really wanted to try the flute. I went to the prom with the boy my mother told me she most wished to see in the pictures afterwards, and accepted a scholarship to the state university, although I preferred to enroll elsewhere, because my father said it would be better for my mother if they didn’t have to pay for my education. I didn’t even think of it as a sacrifice. It was just the way of my world that her desires trumped mine.