The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

I was thinking yesterday about the Olympics, and how I couldn’t possibly be more oblivious.  Then I realized I am participating in my own Olympics.  Yes, that’s right people, I deserve a medal!  In honor of the Summer Olympics in…?  Ah well, here we go:

The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

PLAYGROUND CHASE - Helicopter Parenting Event


Clothing – Olympian must cloth toddler as quickly as possible

Judging:  Score based on best time.  Missing limbs off of toddler result in disqualification.

Retrieval of Dangerous Objects – Olympian must retrieve objects from a number of toddlers before they become injured, such as sharp items, plastic bags, and items that are small enough to swallow, hot, and or could remove the eye of another toddler.

Judging:  Score based on bodily integrity of toddlers in one’s group at conclusion of event.

Medicine Administration:  Olympian must administer oral antibiotic to screaming toddler with ear infection.  Sedating toddler is prohibited.

Judging:  Toddler who stops screaming the soonest is assumed to have received the most medicine, thus rendering the corresponding olympian the winner.

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Making Safe Space – Transgender Youth Support Groups

Folks in drag at Pride - Not everyone feel this comfortable being gender variant, especially gender variant youth.

Recently, three colleagues and I ran the first sessions of two new supports group we are running for transgender teens/young adults and their parents.  We had been advertising for weeks, but had no idea what to expect.  I think we were all a bit nervous.  I’ve learned the anxiety of wondering if anyone’s really going to show up to things doesn’t go away in adulthood.  As young people and parents began to pour in, it was clear before we even got started that this was going to be something special.

The intense feelings in the room were palpable.  For almost all these parents, and many of the young people, this was their first time being around others who identified as transgender.  In those first few minutes, I was quickly reminded of the power of creating space.  We hadn’t done any therapy yet, hadn’t provided any information or even introduced ourselves.  There was fear, sure.  For the youth, will others like me, will they accept me, will they understand me?  For the parents, what will others think of me and my child, will they see me as a good parent, will they believe I’ve handled this “right?”  But there was also real, tangible, relief – the kind that can change one’s perspective in an instant.  I’m not alone.  You could almost reach out and touch it.

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From Diapers to Dyke March (Happy 6 Months Undercover In the Suburbs!)

My First Dyke March - NYC 2012

Last Saturday I did something I shouldn’t have.  I took my kids to the summer celebration of our mothers of multiples club.  Sometimes I feel like one of those rats in a cage that keeps electrocuting itself over and over, never learning where to go and where not to go.  In my defense, I wanted to do something fun with my kids that morning, but I somehow managed to block out yet again how out of place those moms make me feel.  Yes, folks, for those of you who’ve been around long enough, these are same moms from this post about being a closeted egalitarian parent.

As soon as we got to the “celebration,” I started to feel twitchty.  I saw some people I knew.  They weren’t very friendly.  I took my kids out of their stroller, but they were acting strange.  Typically if I let them loose on a playground, they run in two different directions nonstop until I beg for mercy.  But they just stood there.  I parked them both on one of the landings of the jungle gym.  Again, they just stood there, looking around sheepishly and clinging to me instead of being right up in the big kids’ faces as usual.  Could it be they were uncomfortable too?  We sat there for a good long while, with no one coming up or acknowledging us except to ask if I wanted my 18 month-olds to have an Italian Ice off of a truck.  They paused long enough to act like I was a horrible, depriving mother when I said no, then moved on.

While I sat there, looking around, I was reminded of everything about these people that made me feel icky inside.  It was just like being in high school again.  I was surrounded by rich, white, heterosexual and gender normative (at least in performance) folks who have no concept of their privilege.  Look, I’m white myself.  I’m cis-gender, and most people probably see me as heterosexual too.  But there are just so many of them, and they’re all the same!  They seem to have no idea that there’s a great big world out there beyond their little corner of suburbia.

How come none of them were divorced?  How come none had same-sex partners?  Where were the single parents?  Where were the moms of color?  Where were the parents who don’t feed their kids McDonalds?  Where were the moms and dads who head to BDSM clubs or go out swinging when the kids are in bed?  What about the parents who are too busy doing cool stuff, or too poor to keep their lawns perfectly manicured and their houses freshly painted?  What about the moms with tattoos?  And where were the other egalitarian parents?  I’ll tell you where those parents were.   Anywhere but there.  Duh!  They wouldn’t feel very comfortable there either!  They just weren’t running around getting electrocuted again and again like me and those rats in the undergrad psych lab.

The dads were at this event too, which was creepy – not because I don’t think dads should be at kids’ events – quite the opposite.  It was blatantly obvious that playing with their kids was an unusual and not totally comfortable experience for these dads.  They were trying really hard… too hard.  Have you ever played on a playground with your kids before, I wondered?  It was like they were giving off this I’m not a real dad but I play one on tv vibe.

A few hours later, after I dropped my kids off safely at Grammy and Grampy’s, I emerged from Penn Station in New York City.  As I stepped out into the midtown chaos, I felt my whole body sink with relief.  I could breathe again.  I realized I’d been feeling all clenched up since that morning.  I looked around.  It was as if every kind of person in the world was on that street.  I looked down the block and saw the two gay boys I was meeting waving to me.  I whipped out my pride flag.  Good riddance rich, white, cis-gender, heteronormative, child-obsessed, icee-pushing mommies.  I needed a stiff drink and a good old fashioned Dyke March.

Dyke Marchers

Later that day I marched in the NYC Dyke March with my husband Seth.  Only the most accepting, loving, comfortable-in-his-own-skin husband would accompany his recently-out-as-queer wife to something called a “Dyke March.”  It wasn’t Seth’s first choice of Saturday activity, but he approached it with an open heart and mind, and didn’t complain a bit.  For those of you who’ve never been to a dyke march, I’m no expert, but it appears to be a female-centered and more political, or at least advocacy-oriented event, than the pride parades, that’s meant to bring visibility to the female queer community.

I’d like to say I felt totally free at that march – like I could finally be myself, the way I couldn’t at that horrible kiddie party.  But the truth is, my suburban mother identity felt as squashed there as my queer/rebel/feminist one had that morning.  Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of representation of moms, or of queer women partnered with men, at events such as this.  Was a suburban, pansexual, feminist, socially deviant mom as out of place here as I’d been that morning?  Probably.

So I still don’t have a place where I can look around and see myself reflected back in the faces of others.  I still don’t have a place where there’s room for the full breath and depth of my identity, where nothing is assumed (not that I’m a more involved parent than my husband or that I would rather talk about my kids than my career.  And not that I’m a lesbian and the man next to me is my gay male buddy). What I do have is a partner and a few friends who can witness all those parts of me, and still look at me and see a coherent whole.  More importantly, I can do that for myself.  I can walk into a room of mommies and not feel quite as closeted as I did when I wrote about feeling closeted at playdates.  I now know who I am as a mom, and I know not being like other moms doesn’t make me a bad one.

I’m not a bad mother because my career gives major meaning to my life in addition to my family, because I cause trouble on the internet while my kids are stuck in their high chairs eating, because I go out with friends, because after a certain amount of time on mommy duty I need a break, a long break, in order to maintain my sanity, because I read books, or even because I have a filthy potty mouth and a dirty mind.  I know now that I need all those things.

You’d better believe after a weekend of dyke marching and pride parading, I was thrilled to go back to my little snugglets, recharged and ready for their twinsane toddler antics.  I guess balance is the best we can ask for.  Time for changing diapers and time for dyke marches, so that even if we don’t feel completely visible in any one place, we can feel close to ourselves and not lose that.

I need time with my kids – I need to be attached and connected to them.  I also need my relationship, my career, and something for me that makes me feel whole, that reminds me who I am even when so much of my life and work feels like it’s about caring for others.  That something is right here.  When I look back at my blog posts, I do see myself reflected back.  I have created this space where I put all the parts of me together and try to make sense of it all, like here, (and yes, I see the irony in the fact that none of ya’ll know my real name).  I can’t completely blow my cover – otherwise I wouldn’t be “undercover” anymore!



Your Faithful Spy, Lyla

 Copyright 2012,, All Rights Reserved.


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Let’s Start a Movement…


Thanks to Ian Carr!

How many of us remember when we see images of women’s bodies on billboards and in magazines that those bodies were most likely created by a computer?  Airbrushing has been replaced by computer-altering bodies – a little extra padding can be eliminated with the click of a mouse.  We see these images and internalize them without even realizing it. And if we don’t even realize it, imagine what these images do to children and teen girls.

Imagine seeing this every time you looked in the mirror?   One way to combat unattainable body standards is to put more images of real women’s bodies out there and be examples of loving our bodies like this video produced by Glamour Magazine.  But what can we do about all those pesky images everywhere that are messing with our heads and everyone else’s??  We can start a movement to force ourselves and others to think – “computer generated” – when we see them.

Thanks to awesome fan Ian, now has its very own form of peaceful resistance to such images – THESE AWESOME STICKERS!

Scan the bar code to see the “there is nothing wrong with your body” reminder above.  SO COOL!  Ian is way more technologically savvy than myself!

You can print out your own stickers using labels:

LABELS in word format (Avery 8160, but this can be changed)

LABELS in PDF format


OR, you can order a bumper sticker version here:

I want to see these stickers everywhere I go.  I want people to open magazines or look up at billboards and be forced to think about what they’re looking at.  Unrealistic portrayals of men’s bodies are fair game as well, of course.  Just please, people, use your special spy skills and don’t get arrested doing this.





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Independence Day (True Mommy Confessions 4)

Footprints on the heart can never be washed away...

It’s July 4th, and I’m sitting alone in an old Victorian office building, waiting to see the 1/4 of my Wednesday night patients still willing to come in on Independence Day.  The building is deserted, except for the owner, typically a suited-up lawyer wielding a portable phone, who is spending the holiday scraping the front porch in the sweltering heat.  I walk up to him as I leave, asking if I should lock up, and immediately feel badly.  He seems embarrassed as I stand there in my work clothes watching him drowning in sweat.

I had scheduled two patients that day about four hours apart.  In between I sat in my office working on this blog, doing paperwork, and knocking things off my to-do list I haven’t been able to get to for months.  “Why are you working?” so many people had asked me.  Sure, there are patients for whom it’s tough to miss a week of therapy.  But I am still entitled to days off.  If I don’t maintain my own sanity, I can’t be expected to help others.  The truth is, I worked today because I preferred it to the alternative.

I’ve learned there is no such thing as a vacation for me since having twins a year and a half ago.  I spent our last actual trip fantasizing about coming back to my office and relaxing while kicking my feat up and helping people work through their emotional problems.  This week, my nanny and I mis-communicated.  She assumed she would be off on the 4th, I assumed she would have asked if she wanted off.  When we realized the mistake, I told her not to come in, but she insisted.  Seth left early this morning on a three-day back-packing trip with some friends.

The thought of being alone with my babies for three full days in a row made my organs tremble.  I know myself, and I know I don’t have that in me.  I used to think that made me a horrible, incapable mother.  Now I think it’s just something I need to know and accept about myself.  I reach a threshold before which I’m a totally fine, responsive, loving mother, and after which, I feel like I’m completely shut-down.  The truth is, I’m not.  I do what I need to do for my kids.  But I do it saddled with the feeling that I’m drowning – like someone’s slowly pouring my soul out my ears, and every moment that passes I have to consciously resist the urge to claw my way out of the house.  Needless to say, three full (we’re talking 12 hour) days was way over that threshold.  Thank-you nanny for your mercy!!

After the nanny left tonight, another babysitter came over to relieve her, as Seth normally would.  Two babysitters so I can see two patients.  I think I probably lost money today, but what I gave up in earnings, I more than made up for with maintenance of sanity.

After work, I drive home slowly, stopping at the grocery store, where I spend quite a long time browsing the organic chocolate shelf, and then pile a large quantity of organic chocolate bars into my cart.  These will keep me company tonight, I think to myself.  As I drive, I hear fireworks going off.  The roads are empty, and my neighborhood is eerily quiet.  I pay the babysitter and put my chocolate in the freezer (yes, I know, I’m a freak).  As the fireworks continue, I start thinking about “independence day,” and the years of independence I took for granted.  I always felt tied down to something.  My parents.  Grad school.  But now that I’m a mom, I realize, I wasn’t tied down at all.

After my mom died when I was in my mid-twenties, I packed up a hiking backpack and walked from my apartment to a commuter train.  I got some funny looks and questions due to the backpack.  “Where you headed?”  “Africa,” I replied, like I had said I was going to Staten Island.  I returned after travelling around southern Africa with a friend for a month.  Now, taking that same train into Manhattan feels somewhat exotic.  The term “vacation” has a cruel irony to me.  It means hours on end of hard, manual, emotionally draining childcare labor while also trying to do maintain the illusion of doing the “vacation-like” things I would have done in the past.  No thanks!

Allow me to provide an example.  I spend a week organizing and packing so the family can go to Florida, after which I will spend a week washing and unpacking and re-organizing.  While in Florida, I complete all the usual baby tasks I would as a part-time, stay-at-home-mom, but in addition, I spend the mornings packing up and organizing for the beach.  Food for us.  Food for the babies.  Bottles for the babies.  Baby suits, diapers, change of clothes, towels, tents, sunscreen, hats, beach umbrella, chairs, toys, books, baby chairs, jogging stroller, kill me please.  Between the babies’ naps, we head to the beach where they eat sand and get too much sun for 20 minutes.  We then pack up the hundred tons of stuff and head back home, where we proceed to bathe the babies, wash all the stuff, and put it away so I can pack it up again the next day.

Vacation is an evil to be avoided at all costs.  Give me my nanny, my part-time job, and my mother-fucking computer!  This blog is my version of lounging on the beach sporting a carved-out coconut full of pina colada with a little umbrella poking out.  As far as anyone else knows, I’m on the computer writing testing reports for work.  I like to keep it that way.

So when’s my independence day?  When do I get to rejoin humanity and take a vacation or even a day off where I don’t choose one kind of work over another?  Perhaps in 16.5 years when I drive a U-Haul up to a college campus and leave my children to fend for themselves until Thanksgiving?  Well that doesn’t sound like a vacation at all.  And therein lies the catch-22 of parenthood.  We want the vacation, and yet we don’t want the vacation.  I could take a trip. I could leave Friday when Seth gets home.  He’s gone for three days.  I could do the same. But I won’t.  Because as much as I don’t want to be with my kids for three days straight, I don’t want to be away from them for three days straight either.

When I’m with them, I want my life back, and when I’m away from them, I realize, once again, that they are my life.  Freedom takes on a new meaning when you are a mother.  It’s something you remember longingly, fantasize about, and crave, but in the end, you’d never choose it, because the truth is, for mothers, there is no such thing as freedom anymore –  only life without your babies – and that’s a kind of independence none of us would choose.

Copyright 2012,, All Rights Reserved.

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What Do All Those Letters Stand for Anyway? The Case for LGBTQIAPK.

New York City Pride 2012

People often ask me “what do all those letters stand for, anyway?”  I’m not quite sure why they ask me, since most don’t know I belong in that alphabet soup somewhere.  But they ask, and I’m glad, because I think they should know.  However, there is definitely a part of me that’s annoyed by the question, and thinks, ‘come on people, keep up, it’s not rocket science.’  Of course, there are those who don’t know “what all those letters stand for” because they don’t want to, due to ignorance or hatred.  But there are also well-meaning allies who are having a hard time keeping up.

Hell, there are a whole bunch of folks who fit within that list of letters, or a longer one we haven’t come up with yet, who don’t even know it.  It is confusing.  It should be.  That list of letters keeps growing and growing because the variations in human sexuality and gender identity are infinite.  We probably need the whole alphabet to cover them.  I have this fantasy that one day when there are more of us who fit under the “queer” umbrella than don’t, it will finally be clear that we are all “sexual minorities.”

This is not at all to diminish the experience of people who have to live, openly or not, as sexual minorities in our culture right now.  But perhaps the reason they are in the “minority” is because of how many others are still closeted in various ways.  How many people must be out there who have never spent much time considering their sexual orientations or gender identities due to compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory gender-normativity, and/or compulsory sexual vanilla-ism in our culture?  And how many simply don’t fit labels our culture has yet produced?

I mean, honestly, how many of us have “normal,” monogamous sex, one man, one woman, in missionary position, nothing “dirty,” no bondage-discipline-dominance-submission-sado-masochism-kinky stuff, no outside partners, no shared partners, only clean, run-of-the-mill fantasies, barely any foreplay necessary, easy “normal” orgasms, vaginal for the women, no clitoral stimulation needed, male gets hard easily, cums at just the right moment, no props, no toys, no porn, male in the dominant-but-not-too-aggressive role, woman in the submissive or seductive-but-still-respectable role, only “normal” masturbation in between, like our televisions tell us to?

And how many of us fit neatly and comfortably into one of two biological sexes, as well as the gender identity and gender role identity that our culture would dictate?

Folks in drag at 2012 Pride.

One of the main reasons the acronym that formed around sexual orientations (LGB) has become murky is that the categories those letters cover keeps expanding.  When the gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgender movements merged, a gender identity category was added to a list of sexual orientations.  I believe this was a pivotal point at which our society began to wrestle with how gender variance can interplay and overlap with sexual orientation.  This also opened the door for new identities such as “genderqueer” to emerge.  The term “queer” also became the label of choice for those who sought a more inclusive category, in some cases to avoid having to choose either a sexual orientation or gender identity label.  Queer has also been utilized by many who gravitate toward labels that haven’t gained status in the official acronym yet, like genderqueer and pansexual.  Finally, queer can be a political stance for allies or others who don’t necessarily ascribe to specific “queer” identities, but take on a “queer” stance or perspective.

Transgender calls into question the assumed match between biological sex and gender identity.  Intersex, also typically one of the commonly accepted “sexual minorities,” represents the almost 2% of the population who don’t fit neatly into existing biological categories of male and female according to Arlene Lev, author of Transgender Emergence.  If genderqueer and androgynous became part of the sexual minority acronym, it would represent yet another identity category, this time for those whose gender identities do not fit neatly into male/female gender categories.  Transgender, genderqueer, androgynous, and intersex are all identities which call into question the gender binary.

For me, pansexual is a label that defies labels.  It pulls the rug out from under the gender binary as well as earlier concepts of sexual orientation, by separating sexual/affectional orientation from binary notions of gender.  It is essentially a refusal to define sexual orientation based on gender.  For some, it even calls into question the boundaries between sex/love relationships and non-romantic relationships.  To me it is an identity category which expands, rather than narrows who people can be and how.  As someone seeking to choose partners and set up my relationships and lifestyle based on criteria other than gender, I wasn’t sure how I fit into the queer spectrum until I discovered pansexuality.  I think I always identified with being queer, but I never felt entitled to identify as queer until I heard this term.  I am only identified as queer now because our culture was creative enough to produce such a concept.  How many other queer folks are out there for whom we don’t yet have labels?

Despite the relative mainstreaming of gay identity, there was only one Bisexual group in NYC's gigantic Pride Parade, and no one representing Pansexuals, Asexuals, etc.

Asexual, an identity which is often included within the sexual minority acronym, represents yet another identity type, this time regarding one’s level of interest in sex or identification as a sexual being.

“Questioning” doesn’t necessarily imply what one is questioning, further muddying the waters, but potentially drawing in more folks who are either unsure how they fit under the queer umbrella, or again, may ascribe to identities not yet defined.

Other potential categories relate to those sexual minorities who do not structure relationships around monogamy.  Polyamorists are candidates for inclusion in our acronym, in addition those who are “sexual minorities” by virtue of the less common sexual practices and/or sexual roles they take on, particularly those within the kink community.  K would cover those who practice bondage and discipline, dominance-submission and/or sado-masochism, as well as those with an incredibly diverse set of fetishes and preferences.  According to survey data around 15% of adults engage in some form of consensual sexual activity along the “kink” spectrum.  This is a higher percentage than identify as gay or lesbian.

This is my official petition to add the letters P and K to the more widely accepted LGBTQIA acronym, and to emphasize other “A” and “G” identities.  This would make room not only for myself, but for all those who already identify as genderqueer, androgynous, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous, and those who are part of the kink community.   Perhaps seeing those additional letters will help some of the folks out there who haven’t been exposed to these identities understand themselves a bit better and feel they too have a place in the queer community.

LGGBTQQIAAPPK?  The categories of human sex and gender expression and identities they could represent is likely infinite.  If that acronym looks a bit absurd, it speaks to the absurdity of thinking there are a few isolated “sexual minorities” while the rest of the human race is “normal” and fairly similar.  The truth is the level of diversity in our sexual lives as human beings means we are all sexual minorities.  As accepted and culturally understood identity categories continue to arise, this will become more and more apparent.  Perhaps the “queer” community, is, in fact, becoming more accurately described as the community of people who acknowledge the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and seek to be open to exploring that diversity within themselves and the culture at large.

Copyright 2012,, All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero