Parenting Columns/Blogs

In 2005, I created one of the first parenting blogs at a major metro newspaper – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. During nine years, I wrote more than 3,000 posts, had more than 1.5 million page views a year and managed a vocal online parenting community. My parenting column ran in the Sunday print edition as well as online. The AJC deleted the server that held almost 10 years of my work, but here are a few rescued columns.IMG_3902

MOMania: It’s all fun till someone loses a grilled cheese
Wrestling with the issue of sibling roughhousing

DATE: January 7, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

My 5-year-old daughter prepared herself for attack.

She was pretending to be Catwoman, and my 3-year-old son was dressed as Batman. The battle had started in her room and progressed to mine when my son ran screeching away from her clutches. (He’s more Adam West than Christian Bale.)

He crawled under the covers awaiting her advance. With “claws” bared, she crept up on my bed as she gave a running narrative of her sinister plan. She grabbed him around the shoulders from behind. My son, in a surprising move, threw his head backward and smacked his skull into his big sister’s mouth.

That was a clear violation of our roughhousing rules. Grabbing, tackling and tickling are legal in our house, but there’s definitely no punching, pinching, scratching, biting or head butts allowed. We figure the kids are going to wrestle whether we like it or not, so the best we can do is establish some ground rules.

I think a little wrestling is only natural among siblings. It lets them burn off energy, release frustration and, sometimes, express affection. We know our kids aren’t the only ones duking it out at home. While on the phone with my girlfriends, I often hear “Get off of your sister” or “Don’t twist your brother’s arm.”

With a scant 5 pounds and only a few inches separating them, my two are pretty evenly matched. The winner varies, as do their battle scenarios.

Sometimes, it’s in costume with storylines. Other times, it involves chases all around the house with bouts staged in each room using whatever props are available, including sofa pillows, stuffed animals and, until my husband outlawed it recently, the dog’s leash.

Their roughhousing often forces teamwork. They work together best when they are devising a plan to overcome the size advantage of their father or uncle. One will go for the legs, while the other grabs the enemy’s arms. Once, my son distracted my husband while my daughter threw a blanket over his head.

Their favorite outside game is King of the Mountain. My husband will perch himself on the small hill, and the kids will attempt to take him down by whatever means necessary. Whoever succeeds is the new king. The rebels use swimming noodles, basketballs and water pistols to get the king off his mountain.

Usually their battles don’t turn too violent and generally aren’t in public. But over the holidays, we had a surprise throwdown at the Steak ‘n Shake.

My son told us he wanted a grilled cheese sandwich AND a hamburger. I told him to start on the grilled cheese, and we’d go from there. He finished in five minutes. My daughter didn’t seem to have much of an appetite, and I made the mistake of saying to my little guy, “If you’re still hungry, maybe you can eat the rest of your sister’s sandwich.”

A second later, I realized I should have asked my daughter if she was done first. He grabbed the triangle of sandwich, she pulled it away, and he pounced on her.

He pushed her over and was lying on top of her in the booth, one of his hands clutching the sandwich, the other pushing on her chest. She had both hands wrapped around the grilled cheese, screaming for him to let go of it.

My brother-in-law grabbed my daughter, trying to break them up. I squished my pregnant belly out of the booth and picked my son up over the back of his booth.

Meanwhile, my husband — always useful in a crisis — was in the men’s room hoping that the screams he was hearing were from someone else’s family.

We were all embarrassed, but we couldn’t really blame the little guy. He had permission to take the sandwich. We couldn’t blame my daughter, who was just protecting her dinner.

So in need of someone to blame, my husband chose to blame me for telling the boy to take the sandwich and for letting them sit in the same booth.

We’ll duke that out later.

Do your kids like to wrestle? Do you let them? Are there any ground rules for their battles? Talk about it at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and two children in Gwinnett County.


My husband has an electronic mistress
DATE: April 23, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

It’s 10 p.m., and the kids are finally asleep. We’re lying in bed, watching TV, and my husband gives me an inquisitive, sheepish look. I know what he wants — I’ve seen that look since we were in college.

He wants to go play video games with his friends.

There have always been electronic mistresses between us. Some relationships have been short and intense, like the Mortal Kombat craze. Others, like his affair with John Madden football, have lasted longer than our 12-year marriage.

In college, I would visit him at his apartment where he, his two roommates and often a guy from downstairs would crowd around the TV playing Super Nintendo and talking trash to each other. Sometimes I would chat with the other girlfriends. Other times I would just head upstairs and study while I waited for him to finish playing. I consoled myself that after we were married, I wouldn’t have to worry about the Mario Brothers anymore.

And I was right — at least for a while. Once the college roommates were separated and scattered, I was rarely passed over for a video game. But the advent of online gaming has brought these guys back together.

From McDonough to Marietta, from my brother in Loganville to Michael’s brother in North Carolina — these thirtysomethings are all wasting time and killing brain cells playing Xbox online late into the night.

Xbox Live has tiny headsets so players can communicate. Most gamers use them to strategize, talk trash or announce they need a break. But middle-age gamers like my husband’s pals use them to explain that they have to pause because their babies are crying or because their toddlers need help on the potty.

When the whole crew is working together planning complicated assaults in Halo 2, they sound like Navy SEALS, only they often get slaughtered by a bunch of guys not yet old enough to shave. My husband responds with clever taunts like, “Well, if I had no life, I guess I’d be able to practice 14 hours a day like you obviously do.”

They have made some cross-generational friends. They often play with a Canadian high school student, sometimes helping him with his trig homework so he doesn’t have to log off to study.

I understand why my husband and his friends still like to play. They grew up at video arcades in the ’80s and majored in Sega and Nintendo at college. So it only makes sense that, even as they became responsible adults, they still enjoy the excitement of NBA 2K6 or the challenge of Ghost Recon.

Playing a couple of times a week helps my husband decompress. He comes home from long hours at the office and a brutal commute, helps me bathe the kids and put them to bed, and then wants to relax.

But just like in college, his game playing leaves me waiting. Call me a bad wife, but I’m not going to sit there and marvel at the perfect play-call that he made on third-and-long to defeat some 12-year-old from Wisconsin.

He’ll wander into bed around 1 a.m., and I’ll be completely out cold — so there’s no talking earlier in the evening and no hanky-panky later that night.

Although I am annoyed by these late nights of game play, it could definitely be worse. He could be playing online poker with real money. He could spend every weekend playing golf. He could be getting drunk or smoking pot, or he could have a real mistress instead of an electronic one.

Does your husband abandon you at night to play with his friends online? Does his game playing interfere with your love life or quality time together? Log onto and share your stories.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett.


5-year-old loves the night light
DATE: July 16, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

Almost every night from 9 to 11:30, my daughter’s room transforms. Some nights it’s like Studio 54 — a star-studded dance club where all her stuffed animals come to see and be seen. There are costume changes and dancing. Intimate conversations take place between the bikini-clad koala bear and the magical purple unicorn. Beverages are served in classy Fisher-Price plastic teacups from the bathroom sink.

Other nights, she puts on Broadway-caliber performances, playing all the parts. There’s acting, singing and dancing. Her latest production is “The Princess and the Pea,” and it can be seen almost nightly.

Other nights her room becomes the local library. She sponsors a story time and reads books by night light to the stuffed-animal patrons. She also discusses many of the essentials of phonics with them.

Until now, her late nights haven’t really mattered that much. Her preschool didn’t start until 9:30 a.m. and even we could make that (well, at least close to that).

But in four weeks, kindergarten begins, and I don’t think the Gwinnett County Public Schools system will be as understanding about tardiness as her preschool. So, we have one month to straighten out the whacked-out body clock that has plagued her since birth.

She’s always been a terrible sleeper. She hated her crib and climbed out of her toddler bed constantly. She gave up naps at 16 months and still fought us when it was time to go to sleep.

After two years of wrestling with her to keep her in her bed or rubbing her back and singing to her to help her relax, we were thrilled when she finally figured out if she just stayed somewhat quiet in her bed, we didn’t really care what she did until she fell asleep. Hence, her late-night raves and performances began.

We do the calming nighttime routines all the books recommend — bath, books, bed. Even without a nap, even with lots of physical activity, even with putting her to bed between 8 and 9 p.m., she still has a very difficult time slowing down her engines and falling asleep.

I think her issue has more to do with genetics and metabolism than nighttime rituals. Her father and I are both high-energy night people. Although I need to sleep in after staying up late, my husband can stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. and be ready to roll by 7:30 a.m. with very few ill effects. My daughter likes to stay up late and sleep in. She’d be a great nightclub owner or sports writer.

Even when we get her up as early as 6 a.m., it doesn’t slow her down. She’ll still be in her bed wide awake at 10 p.m.

On our recent trip to Hawaii, we were certain the kids would sleep part of the 10-hour flight. We had to wake them up at 4:45 a.m. to leave. As soon as the first leg of the flight to Salt Lake City took off, my son curled up next to his daddy and fell asleep for the entire flight. Meanwhile, my daughter played with her dolls, read books, did dot-to-dot drawings and played with her airline snack.

Surely she would have to sleep on the second leg of the flight? Wrong.

I brought one of her baby blankets along and snuggled her up in it. We had an extra seat next to us, so she stretched out with her head in my lap. I stroked her hair and tickled her back and waited for the inevitable. But she never even closed her eyes.

When we got to our hotel, she wanted to swim and explore. We finally got to bed at 8 p.m. Hawaii time. My 5-year-old was up 22 hours straight and never even yawned or complained about being tired. The jet-lag hasn’t helped our cause at home.

Two weeks ago she was staying up until 3 a.m. Atlanta time (9 p.m. Hawaii time) putting on her little extravaganzas. She’s finally back to her normal time of 11 p.m.

So my game plan for the next four weeks is to wake her up at an ungodly early hour and make her take long family walks after dinner to wear her out and help her drop off to sleep sooner. My hope is that we can get on some type of decent schedule before the big yellow bus rolls into our neighborhood Aug. 14.

Do your kids have trouble sleeping? How do you help them drift off? What is your bedtime policy about playing in bed? How do you prepare your kids to get up on time for school and the bus? How soon will you start your preparations for the school year? Does the whole family change their schedule so they eat earlier and go to sleep earlier? Join the discussion at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in


MOMania: ER visits, unfortunately, are part of child-rearing
DATE: November 4, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

It’s never a good sign when you recognize the doctors and nurses at the pediatric ER.

Regrettably, we have gotten to know the nurses and physicians at the Emory Eastside Medical Center Pediatric Urgent Care unit during the last three years by visiting them once a year.

It must be a boy thing. I’ve never taken my daughter (knock on wood), always my son. One of my friends who has three boys jokes that they visit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta so frequently they keep her boys’ files on the counter.

The first time we went to Emory Eastside Pediatric unit, my then 2-year-old son had stuck a pomegranate seed up his nose. When I called the CHOA nurse line, they said he needed to be taken in because he could snort the seed into his lung and aspirate on it. I told my son they would probably use an instrument to remove the seed. He thought about that and said, “I choose a drum.”

It took about three hours to be seen. There were lots of children with lung issues being taken ahead of us, which I understood. The irony was when we got back there, the nurses were more concerned with my son’s cold than the seed. They told me his oxygen level was too low and they did a breathing treatment to help open up his lungs. Eventually, they did use an instrument to extract the seed from his nose — although to my son’s disappointment, it was not a drum.

The second trip was by far the worst for both of us and totally my fault. It was last winter and both children had colds. I always keep our medicine locked up, but I had taken down a prescription antihistamine to give them both before bed. I didn’t want to put the same medicine plunger in both their mouths so I stupidly left the bottle on the counter while I got another plunger from downstairs. The child-safety lock was sealed on the bottle, but I learned that doesn’t matter. My husband came upstairs a few minutes later and found my then 3-year-old son chugging half a bottle of antihistamine. He told my husband “I’m making myself feel better!”

We immediately called the Georgia Poison Control. They told me I had an hour to get him to the ER and get that medicine out of his stomach. Poison Control called ahead to the hospital and they took us immediately. Nurse Susan was one of the many nurses who took care of him. He had to be strapped papoose-style to a board to keep his arms immobile. Then the nurses worked a plastic tube up his nose and down his throat. They squeezed a thick black charcoal mixture through the tube into his stomach to absorb the medicine.

There was lots of screaming and crying from both us. The nurses and doctors did a great job, but it was a horrifying experience.

After getting the charcoal into him, we had to wait at the hospital about five hours to make sure there wouldn’t be a reaction from the antihistamine. It was the middle of the night, but my little guy was in great spirits. He’s chatty like me and spent the rest of the night charming the nurses.

Our third visit was two Saturdays ago, right before the Georgia-Florida game. I point this out because if you ever need to take child to the ER, this is the time to do it. It was completely empty. I suspect children across Georgia and Florida were sitting at home with broken arms and knocked-out teeth waiting for the game to end so their parents would take them to the ER.

My son had a simple cold, but they always seem to settle in his lungs. He’s never been diagnosed with asthma, but he was laboring to breathe. After consulting with our doctor, he told me to take him to the ER.

Nurse Susan took care of us once more. We recognized several of the other nurses, and I’m pretty sure we had the same doctor.

They did his breathing treatment. It didn’t help as much as they hoped, so they did a chest X-ray. He liked getting the X-ray. The technician showed him where his lungs, ribs, heart and stomach were located on the film. We left about three hours later with him breathing much better and a prescription for a steroid that has kept him bouncing off the walls all week.

We’re blessed to have a fantastic pediatric ER just a few minutes away. My cousin, who lives in rural Maryland, has to drive three to four hours to get to a decent hospital for her kids.

Have your kids had to go to the ER? Is it a boy thing? Which facility did you use and what did you think? Log onto to discuss.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.


My car has everything in it, up to and including a potty
DATE: November 6, 2005
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

The fellas on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” believe that your car is an extension of your personality. Well, I have a toilet in the back of my mine, so what does that say about me?

I guess my 2001 black Aztek with a training potty in back shouts to the world: “I’m a mom.”

Like many moms in sprawling Atlanta, I use my car as a bathroom, a changing table, a dining room, a library, a nap room, a playroom and a sports locker. Is it any wonder I have so much crap in there (sometimes literally)?

I took inventory recently. Here’s what I found:

In car: kitchen timer; empty popcorn bag; plastic Halloween pumpkin; two small backpacks (containing books, diapers and pretzels); two Ziploc bags of diaper wipes; roll of wrapping paper; scissors; tape; black Sharpie; four apple cores; three granola bar wrappers; two children’s Bibles; broken children’s rosary; bottle of hand sanitizer, bicycle seat; three water bottles; six bottles of children’s Tylenol and Motrin; pair of frog rain boots; frog umbrella; two plastic cups from Crazy Nickels; small bag of cosmetics; random books, blocks, toy cars and children’s CDs; sunscreen; Hot Wheels stickers; maps to two outlet malls; and six uneaten granola bars.

In trunk: training toilet, changing pad, two umbrella strollers, swim noodle, orange life jacket, floating Frisbee, two water guns and pair of unused pink water wings.

With these items, I’m pretty sure I could survive a snowstorm, a bridge collapse into a river, a massive migraine (very likely with a 4- and a 2-year-old) or at the very least a child with diarrhea on I-285.

What my husband doesn’t understand is that these items are often necessary in our (mine and the kids’) daily lives. My car is a huge comfort to me. I feel safe traveling all over Atlanta knowing that I am prepared for any possible emergency.

In my most MacGyver-like moment to date, I ripped the safety belt off my foam changing pad to tie down my back hatch when I got a deal on a bulky bookcase.

I’ve tried many approaches to try to keep my car clean. My latest involves a laundry basket. My theory is that things get left in my car because I can’t get them out in one trip. Under the laundry-basket plan, I throw everything in the basket, and it can be brought into the house in one fell swoop. (Only catch here is you have to clean out the basket or it starts to look like the car.)

I don’t think I’m alone in this, and here’s your chance to be rewarded for your slovenliness (or should I say preparedness).

I want to see photos of your car. Don’t ham it up. Don’t clean it up. Just walk outside right now and take photos of the inside of your car.

To prevent wannabe slob moms from faking it, we also want a testimonial paragraph from your spouse, friend or neighbor verifying the photo represents the usual state of your vehicle.

Go to to send us your pictures. We will post the best (messiest and/or most interesting) photos online and the five cars in the worst shape will receive free car washes from Carnett’s Car Washes.

— Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, the married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett County.


Theresa Walsh Giarrusso is pretty much prepared for any emergency while on the road.

Saturdays in Athens not too kid friendly
DATE: October 30, 2005
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

Yeah, it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog — if you’re not the one home alone with the kids.

My husband’s season tickets to our alma mater’s football games mean he gets fantastic Saturdays in Sanford Stadium with his best friend reliving his college days.

I know Michael works hard and deserves down time. However, if I said he had to take care of the kids for eight hours while I went shopping every Saturday, you better believe we’d have some problems.

I used to be included in these glorious game days. We would tailgate and cheer on the Dogs together. But after our first child arrived four years ago, my season ticket got transferred to my husband’s college roommate. The only game I ever attend now is homecoming.

Two seasons ago, I decided to take the 2-year-old and 5-month-old to visit a girlfriend in Athens during a game so I wouldn’t feel so left out. We drove over with my husband and his friend and dropped them off by North Campus. I was later told that wouldn’t happen again — the kids had ruined their buzz.

Last season, I had completely had it by the fourth consecutive home game. The house needed repairs. I had a terrible cold, and I just needed a break from the kids. I begrudgingly took Michael to a garage to pick up his car so he could head east to get trashed on Jack and Coke and bark like a dog.

As I drove home, cussing my husband, Mark Richt and the whole Bulldog Nation, I got pulled over for speeding.

As much as I want to be included in the game-day experience, I’m not quite ready to commit to the eight-hour odyssey that my husband turns each game into. He arrives early, drinks, eats and then stays late to sober up. Even if I was ready to devote that much time to a game, I’m not willing to spend $9 an hour for a baby-sitter.

Even though I don’t want to root against the Dogs, the better they play, the worse I get screwed. Game days turn into game weekends. When they’re winning, Michael wants to follow the team around the Southeast. And of course there is always the exciting annual drunken call from Jacksonville after the Florida game.

On the rare occasion that the whole family goes, there still are problems. The university insists all children, even infants, pay the full adult ticket price. However, it does very little to make the experience family friendly.

Drunks spew profanity and tobacco juice. Newer ticket holders like us are stuck in the hot sun. There is no place to take kids to cool off except the concourse at the top of stadium, which is full of smokers and drunk sorority girls.

There’s no official stroller parking, which makes it tough to get my 31-pound 2-year-old to the game. There also is no decent place to nurse. One year, a paramedic took pity on me and let me sit in the back of his ambulance to breast-feed and change Rose.

I don’t really want to go to every game, as much as I just want to tailgate in Athens. If the university wants to make even the littlest Bulldogs welcome, it would open up the Ramsey Student Center to season-ticket-holding families. The kids could play in the air-conditioned gym during the game, and the moms could chitchat.

Do you think it’s fair or foul for a hardworking husband to spend the weekend on sports? How can game day be family friendly? Share your experience and thoughts at

Theresa Giarrusso is a native of Gwinnett County and lives in Lilburn.

Handling kids the old-fashioned way: Get ’em hopped up
DATE: March 5, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

I have often wondered how my grandmother handled six boys when I can barely get through the grocery store with my two kids. I finally found out her secret — she DRUGGED them!

I discovered this information when my daughter was prescribed paragoric for a nasty stomach virus. Her pediatrician, who was literally my pediatrician and is at least in his 70s now, said it would calm her and help stop the diarrhea.

What my old-school doctor didn’t mention, and what I found out from the pharmacist, is the medicine is rarely given anymore because it’s an opiate! It used to be sold over the counter, but people started abusing it so they made it prescription only.

When I mentioned the drug to my mother, she immediately recognized the name and said, “Oh yes, Grandmother Walsh used to give it to the boys all the time.” I was shocked, but things started to add up. A sleep-inducing drug that my now-deceased grandmother could get at any corner drugstore — no wonder she wasn’t ripping her hair out.

One by one, I asked my uncles if they remembered the medicine. Each one recalled fondly (I guess so!) grandmother dosing them liberally. If they complained about an earache, a stomachache, a headache, my grandmother would give them a spoonful of this magic remedy.

Moms today don’t even like giving Tylenol unless the child has a raging fever. We would never do that.

Or would we?

I mentioned this story to a woman at my church last summer. She has four kids and also had an old-school pediatrician. She told me that her pediatrician advised her to keep a bottle of paragoric in her medicine cabinet so she could give it to the children whenever she needed a good night’s sleep.

What! I was shocked again, but I guess I shouldn’t judge until I have four kids.

I’ve always wanted a lot of children. I only have one brother, and I have always thought we were pretty boring. I am fascinated by my father’s large family and the flurry of activity six boys must have created in their Savannah home.

The effects of my father’s having many siblings can still be seen today. He is very possessive of his underwear because the boys had to share a community underwear drawer. He’s also a little grabby at dinnertime, still trying to make sure he gets his fair share. And even though my father has already lost three of his brothers, he still has two to love and support him. They are witnesses to his childhood and often reminisce about growing up together.

I watch parents with large families closely. I’m always trying to figure out how they manage, and whether we could do it, too.

As I watch them, I wonder if the economic law of diminishing returns applies to children. We learned in college that one or two Krispy Kremes do you just right but three or four will make you feel sick.

Is there a point where, just like doughnuts, you can have too many kids?

Is there a point where the children don’t get the attention they deserve, and the parents don’t get the time off they need?

How do you know where that point is? Share your thoughts at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett County.


I just need to talk to somebody. Anybody!
DATE: May 7, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

The Terminix man knows. So does the dry-cleaning lady, the mailman, the Pak Mail guy, the preschool director and my baby sitter’s mother.

They all know not to engage me in conversation because I won’t shut up!

I respond to even the most cursory question with a rambling account of what my neighbors did to their yard, what I served for dinner last night and what the baby did on the potty.

I have always loved to talk. I used to get in trouble in school for it, and as an adult will gab equally to the homeless guy on the street as to the cashier at my grocery store.

I’ve never been shy and have a knack for finding a connection — no matter how tenuous — with anyone I happen upon. (So you say your uncle went to Notre Dame. That’s such a coincidence. My uncle didn’t go to college). These were valuable skills to have as a reporter, but as a stay-at-home mom the incessant need to chat just makes me pathetic.

Before children, I had hundreds of people to talk with at the newspaper. I went from floor to floor gabbing.

The first week I was home alone with my new baby girl was a tremendous shock. No seatmates to talk with and only two girlfriends who were at home with their kids — each at least 45 minutes away.

Without my workplace friends, I needed a new social outlet. Some people have favorite bars or restaurants. I had the Nordstrom nursing lounge. I would wait like a spider for a new mom to stroll into my web. Once the baby had latched on, I knew she was helpless, with no way to escape my conversation. I would ask how old her baby was. This generally led to a discussion of giving birth, nursing, changing diapers, being home and what we did in our pre-baby lives.

I’m just as bad on the playground. After five years, I’m like a professional mom pick-up artist — “How old’s your baby? What preschool do they attend? Where did you get your daughter’s dress?” I’ll chat with moms, dads, grandmas — anyone who appears to be with a child (and sometimes even dog owners). Most moms are willing to chat back, so I don’t think I’m the only lonely one.

I’ve found some are even less shy than me. Sitting around the sandbox watching our kids dig, moms will reveal the most intimate details about their lives — how long they avoided sex after the baby was born, what their kid’s poop looks like and details about their attempts to get pregnant that would make even Paris Hilton blush.

New research suggests that because of the transient nature of our society, many Americans are confiding in mere acquaintances that they only see in public places, such as the gym, the train or the ball field. The term for this is “anchored relationships.” Researchers Calvin Morrill, David Snow and Cindy White explained in the New York Times Magazine that because Americans often live away from friends and family, these types of relationships help fulfill their needs. The families you see at the ballet studio and the soccer fields become “floating communities.” And you talk with them like folks did in the old days on the back porch.

This research makes me feel less like a lonely loser. However, in this new society where the lady at the playground is my new short-term best friend, I am having a hard time convincing my kids not to talk to strangers!

Am I the only one accosting ladies at the mall and post office for conversation? Do you think stay-at-home moms are lonelier than moms that go into an office? Please, come talk to me at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett.

Honey, we’re finally @#%!* pregnant!
DATE: September 10, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

In my daughter’s baby book there is a rare and precious artifact — a mini-cassette recording of me telling my husband that we were finally pregnant.

We had been trying to conceive for a frustrating 11 months and were scheduled for a painful procedure that week to figure out what was going on.

When the second little line on the home pregnancy test kits finally appeared, my journalist husband was working very, very long days at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia. I didn’t want to interrupt him during working hours, and I wanted to tell him in special way — not just a phone call.

In the ’60s, my mother had sent a telegram to my father’s Navy ship informing him that my brother had been born. I decided this was a romantic way to tell my husband he was going to be a Daddy. I sent a telegram to his hotel and left multiple messages with the front desk to please make sure he got it.

My husband phoned at 3 a.m. when he finally got to his room. The answering machine picked up downstairs (the reason I have a tape). Here is the gist of the conversation:

Michael: Why the @#%!* is the front desk telling me I have to go downstairs? I’m tired and I just want to go to @#%!* bed.

Theresa: There’s something special for you at the desk. Just go get it.

Michael: I’m @#%!*tired. I don’t want to go @#%!* downstairs. Just tell me what the @#% it is.

(There’s a few more minutes on the tape of my asking him to go downstairs to see what it is and him cussing at me that he was very tired. This is how the conversation ended:)

Theresa: I’m trying to tell you I’m finally @#%!* pregnant, and you’re ruining it.

Michael: Oh.

Theresa: (click)

Although my husband didn’t curse at me when I told him I was pregnant with our second child, he also didn’t believe me.

We were convinced it would take a whole year to get pregnant again. We weren’t really trying, but we weren’t being particularly cautious. We in fact had joked that month, “Yeah, like I’m going to get pregnant.”

We were heading to the first UGA football game of the season and were meeting my cousin for margaritas. I knew I was a few days late, so I took a pregnancy test just to be safe. (I’m neurotic, so there are always pregnancy tests in the house.) I ran upstairs to show him a second line had appeared, signaling I was pregnant. He absolutely refused to believe it until an actual doctor declared our son Walsh was on the way.

The most exciting part of our third pregnancy (that’s right, I’m now pregnant again) wasn’t telling my husband, but telling our 5-year-old daughter. She has been asking for a baby for more than a year.

We brought home the ultrasound from the 10-week appointment to show her. We said, “What do you think that is in Mommy’s tummy?” She said, “Me.”

We said, “No, what else could it be?”

She said, “Walsh.”

We said, “No, what else?”

She said, “Is it poop? Is it pee?”

We said, “No, it’s a new baby in Mommy’s tummy.”

She flapped her arms up and down and ran around the room. “Mommy’s got a baby in her tummy. Mommy’s having a baby.”

Not only did my daughter give the best reaction to the news of our pregnancy, she is the absolute best at sharing the news.

Then she called my brother and said: “We have some very exciting news. Mommy went to the doctor and they found a baby in her tummy. Daddy was the most surprised. They showed me a picture and it wasn’t me or Walsh or poop or pee, it was the new baby.”

So far, so good. I’m starting my 15th week today and am due in March. With three little ones under the age of 6, there will be much more mania for this Mom.

How did you tell your family you were pregnant? Were they excited, incredulous? Did anyone else get cussed out beforehand? Tell your story at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett.


MOMania: How do you handle ethical dilemmas in front of kids?
DATE: June 3, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

Pop quiz, hotshot. You’ve just left Target with your purchases. You’ve locked your three kids in their car seats when you notice two boxes of breast pads that were overlooked by you and the cashier. They were not paid for. Your 6-year-old daughter also notices. What do you do? What do you do?

Do you unhook all three kids and slog back into the store to pay for the items? Do you leave the items in the shopping cart in the parking lot? Do you take the items home and return them on another shopping trip? Do you just take them home without paying?

Parents are faced with ethical dilemmas like this every day. One would hope that a parent’s answer would be the same whether her children witnessed the incident or not. I thought it would be fun to do a parenting pop quiz on how you would handle some ethical situations. Listed below are some real-life dilemmas that my friends or I have recently faced. I’ll tell you how we handled the situations at the end.

  1. In the grocery store: A. Your child picks up and opens Tic Tacs. He doesn’t eat any but the seal has been broken. Do you buy them or discreetly return them to the shelf? B. Your child eats one Gummy Worm from the Brach’s by-the-pound candy display. Do you leave money for the one worm or don’t worry about compensating the store for it? C. Your children always want to eat bananas as soon as you put them in the cart. Do you tell the cashier some are missing or just pay for the bananas that remain?
  2. At Sam’s Club, your child develops diarrhea and leaves runny poop all over the seat of the cart. Obviously, you have to evacuate as soon as possible, but do you take the time to alert a clerk so the cart can be disinfected? Do you try to clean the cart yourself?
  3. Your child accidentally urinates by the side of the pool. The pavement is already wet and the pee blends in. Do you try to clean the spot on the pavement yourself? Do you alert the lifeguard?
  4. The handyman starts making racist comments in front of your children. What do you say?

Although I admitted last week to occasionally cheating at board games and to attending an illegal sprinkler party, I am pretty doggone honest everywhere else in my life — whether my kids are witnesses or not. Here’s how my friends or I dealt with the dilemmas above:

  1. Tic Tacs: The seal was broken so I told my little guy we had to buy them. They turned out to be a nasty flavor. It was a good punishment that he had to eat them. Gummy Worms — The candy center is pay by the pound. I lectured my child like crazy, but I didn’t try to compensate for the one Gummy Worm. I couldn’t find a place to leave any coins. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe you’re supposed to pay at the register? If it happens again, I would tell the cashier. Bananas — I weigh the bananas ahead of time so even if they eat some I can tell the cashier exactly the weight to charge us.
  2. Diarrhea in the cart: This happened to a friend. She said she left the store as soon as possible. Out in the parking lot, she wiped everything down with a diaper wipe and then with anti-bacterial wipes.
  3. Peeing near the pool: I have never had a child pee in the pool, but I have had a child pee about five feet away from one. I took the child to the shower to clean them off and then splashed a bunch of water away from the pool onto the spot of pee.
  4. Racist comments: I said where my children could hear me, “That’s not funny” and walked out of the room.

And what about the breast pads? That was a lot more complicated. The baby needed to nurse, so I didn’t have time to unload all the children. I obviously didn’t want to leave the kids alone in the car.

There was no question I was going to return the breast pads, but I just had to figure out the fastest way to do it. First, I looked around for an employee of Target. No one was around. Then I drove up to the front of the store and looked for a clerk there. When I didn’t find an employee, I turned off the engine, locked the kids in the van and ran up to the door and lobbed the breast pads into the store. I could still see the car and the breast pads were in the store. Problem solved — although not gracefully.

What would you have done? Log onto to tell us how you would handle these ethical dilemmas and share with us some that you have faced.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.


Should I just curb my son with the dog and be done?
DATE: June 4, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

The question of the summer: Will letting my newly turned 3-year-old son pee in our backyard hasten his potty training or merely encourage him to urinate in inappropriate places?

We know plenty of little boys who were trained by age 3 through the pee-anywhere-that’s-green method. However, I hear reports from friends about 5-year-old fellows pulling it out and whizzing on golf courses, beaches and playgrounds. Plus, I’m not sure I want my son wandering around the backyard like our dog searching for a spot to pee on.

We’ve got three months to finish the job, since most preschools won’t accept a child that age who isn’t fully potty trained.

By some standards, we are already behind. Many grandmothers say train them — girl or boy — during the summer of their second year. You let them run around naked out back. They’ll pee on their legs a few times, decide they don’t like it and start using the toilet.

While boys usually train later than girls, our little guy is almost there. But he still occasionally has accidents and doesn’t really volunteer to go to the potty.

Actually, he’s never known life when potty training wasn’t an issue. My son would be in the sling latched on nursing while I begged my daughter, who had just turned 2 and was sitting on the toilet, to please make the pee-pee come out.

I’m surprised his first words weren’t a mimic of Mommy saying “Let’s go potty. Don’t wet your panties. Hold it, hold it.”

Our son showed interest in potty training at 16 months, and we were thrilled. I didn’t push him. I just let him explore and go on the toilet when he chose to. Age 2 came and went, and we weren’t any closer to being finished. Did I miss the window of opportunity, or was he just not ready yet?

I stooped to the universally derided method of passing out candy every time my son gets on the potty. In fact, the poor little guy nearly gave himself a hernia because I had created a point system with gummy worms. If he sat on the toilet, he got half a worm. If he peed, he got one worm and if he pooped, he got two worms. He would sit there groaning and moaning, straining to get that gummy worm. That policy had to be amended before permanent damage was done.

Training boys is different than training girls. I never had to say to my daughter, “Don’t touch your penis on the toilet,” or “You cannot poop standing up.”

With our daughter, we carried a plastic potty-training toilet in the back of our car so we could pull over in an emergency if she needed to pee. My girlfriend enlightened me the other day that an emergency potty is unnecessary for boys. She claims any sealable water bottle will do the trick. A boy can stay locked in his car seat and pee into the bottle while you barrel down the highway. Seal it up and throw it away when you reach your destination.

Unless I’m competing in the Indy 500, I don’t think I’ll be doing this.

Where do you fall on the peeing outside, peeing in the bottle methods? Do you agree that training boys is different from girls? Share your thoughts at

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett.

GWINNETT OPINIONS: Let actions teach your kids about race
DATE: March 19, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

We recently took our 4- and 2-year-olds to see President Andrew Jackson’s house in Nashville. As we descended the spiral staircase and stepped behind the main house, I realized the grounds had slave quarters that guests could tour. I completely panicked.

My 4-year-old daughter plays with anybody, any color, anytime. She goes to a mixed preschool, and we live in a racially diverse neighborhood. She herself is mixed — part Asian and part white. We loved that our children were color-blind — to them everyone was just a playmate.

We’ve talked with our children about different cultures (pointing out different languages, holidays and foods) but never really about race. We didn’t want to plant any ideas that people are ever treated differently.

I know at some point she will have to learn the harsh realities of how terribly African-Americans have been treated in this country (and other races for that matter), but I just didn’t want to saddle her at 4 with the fact that people owned other people.

Earlier that month on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I started to explain to my daughter why she was home from school that day. As I was talking to her, images started flashing in my mind of police dogs attacking blacks and water hoses being used to repel peaceful protestors.

I paused for a second, regrouped, and decided to simply say that Dr. King was a strong man who worked hard so people would be treated fairly.

Did I chicken out? Did I miss a teachable moment, or did I just give her the information that a 4-year-old could handle? Would a parent of another race have handled it differently?

After these incidents, I spoke with four national experts about how and when to teach your kids about race. According to some experts, we were doing OK (our whole family regularly hangs out with people of different races and ethnicities — good), but according to others, we had already screwed it up royally (We never verbally acknowledge that people are different colors and my children have no vocabulary to describe different races — bad).

What the experts said

Kecia Thomas, associate professor of psychology and African-American studies at the University of Georgia, and a mother of a 5- and an 8-year-old, says color-blindness is not the answer.

“[If we] go out of our way not to mention race, what message does that send? It’s taboo — something to be ignored,” Thomas said. “What we really want to do is model an appreciation of differences.”

Jane Kostelc, a specialist in child development and parenting for the Parent as Teachers National Center, says learning about race and culture is a story that should unfold for children. Babies start to notice differences at six months (sometimes younger) with no value judgment. They start to sort and classify things as toddlers. When they make observations about skin color, they look for you to confirm what they see.

Some of the experts said you should simply say, “Yes, that boy is white.” They believe when you’re dealing with preschoolers, and sometimes even elementary school kids, you should specifically answer what was asked without broadening the discussion.

Kostelc said kids are very much in the moment, and you don’t want to offer more information than they’re ready to handle.

Other experts felt that you should make it a teachable moment and use it to explain more about race.

How does your race affect your teaching?

I understand the teachable moment, but I still think that 4 is too young to dump the wrong of slavery on her. But would my perspective be different if I were black instead of white?

During Coretta Scott King’s funeral, I listened to an African-American father describe how his 2-year-old has been told since he was born that his people had suffered and how far they have come.

For Mary Zurn, vice president of early childhood education for Primrose Schools, a national franchiser of preschools, the approach to discussing discrimination and suffering differs based on individual experience and history: “If your family has received a really bad hurt at some point, that does get handed down.”

She said Holocaust victim’s families will teach that history differently than others, as will Cambodian families who experienced the Khmer Rouge regime.

Some experts suggested that your own racial comfort level also affects how you teach the topic. Kids totally pick up if you’re being fake or uncomfortable.

My husband grew up in racially mixed military communities all over Europe and in the South. As a young man, he felt more comfortable with black kids than other groups. I grew up in Gwinnett County when it was lily white. Parkview High School had about 1,600 students when I graduated — fewer than five of whom were black. There were some Indian and Asian students but not anywhere near the numbers they are today.

I do think I’m less comfortable talking about race because of the community I grew up in. I think my husband, Michael, is more comfortable because of his upbringing.

Stop talking and show your kids

Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College at Columbia University and a leading author on race and racism, says it’s more about actions than talk. Some well-intentioned parents preach accepting everyone, but their nonverbal cues send a different message, he said.

Sue said he recently observed some white mothers with their 4- or 5-year-old daughters on a McDonald’s playground. One of the little girls began to play with a younger black boy. Her mother got up and encouraged her to rejoin her friends. As soon as the mother sat down, the little girl went back over to the little boy. At that point, all three mothers in unison stood up and said time to go.

Sue says he assumes based on his past research that, “If I talked to the mother, she would talk about equality — teaching children not to have prejudice,” but her nonverbal cues told her child that certain groups are to be avoided.

Parents should realize that combating bias and prejudice has to be part of your everyday life. The children watch you as a role model. When a child sees you interact in an equal relationship with someone of another race, that is much more powerful than talking about equality.

The kids and I regularly hang out with Hispanic and Asian families. The kids play with African-Americans at school and at the YMCA, but right now, the only black person who comes to our home is our housekeeper. Sue said this was bad, and I agree.

I would be happy if a friendship with an African-American family developed naturally, but I think it’s disrespectful to pursue one just so I can say I have black friends.

Zurn says if you’re having a hard time opening a discussion about race (like me), try sprinkling books that discuss differences into your regular reading with your children. Zurn likes ones with subtle messages, not moralistic ones. (See Zurn’s list of favorite books online at

Show your kids anti-racism

Sue says it’s not just about talking to kids about race, it’s about showing them. He recommends these actions:

  • Be an anti-racist parent. Raise your children to understand concepts of race, inclusion and discrimination. Make anti-racism part of an everyday vocabulary. For example, if someone is telling a racist joke, the parent should cut them off and tell them it’s not appropriate. Smiling and being polite at an off-color joke sends the wrong message to little eyes and ears.
  • Be a role model — oppose biased views and practices. Invite families of other color into your home.
  • Be an ally to those who are discriminated against.
  • Be a student — most of us believe we are well-intentioned, but we need to understand our own bias and prejudices. If you find yourself locking the car door when you see Latino youngsters approaching, then there is something internally you need to work out.
  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett.  Photo Staff A collage of photos of people

Confessions of a true germophobe
My name is Theresa, and I have fibbed in church so I don’t have to shake any hands

DATE: December 4, 2005
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

Each Sunday in church, I dread the Sign of Peace. By the time we get to this part of Mass, I’ve spent 45 minutes watching my fellow worshippers sneeze, cough and clean their kids’ noses. Instead of shaking my pew mates’ hands, couldn’t I just wave?

Sometimes, I feign my own illness so they won’t want to shake my hand. “No, no,” I say, “You don’t want to touch me. I’ve been sick.” And then I offer a fake cough as proof.

But I feel bad about fibbing in church, so unless I’ve witnessed some truly egregious behavior by my neighbor, I reluctantly put out my hand for what I call the Sign of Germs.

Later, while we’re kneeling down praying before Communion, I stealthily grab my large bag and reach inside for my trusty bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer.

The only catch to my secret cleaning plan is “hanitizer” has a strong smell to it, and my 4-year-old invariably yells at the top of her lungs: “Mom, I want my hands cleaned, too!”

I don’t even want to get into the Communion Cup. I would hope that God would protect someone from illness who drank from the communal sacramental wine, but I’m just not sure he gets involved on that level.

Meanwhile, I can’t take any chances. Illness runs through our family like the wildfires in Wyoming. Last year, we were sick every two weeks and generally weren’t over the first illness by the time the new wave hit. It usually runs from my daughter, to my son, to me and sometimes on to my husband. (That drives me up the wall — he rarely catches what we’ve all had.) My kids exercise, they eat well, they take vitamins, they get plenty of sleep. They wash their hands. But still they get sick.

Besides constant hanitizing, my kids are picking up my other germophobic ways.

I always open doors with my shirt hem. I can’t stand touching public door handles — totally creeps me out. Lately, I’ve noticed my 2-year-old, who is generally several feet shorter than any door handle, stretching the bottom of his shirt as hard as he can so it will reach the doorknob.

I knew my daughter had picked up my habit of flushing a public toilet with my shoe. After helping my potty-training 2-year-old use the public restroom, I heard the toilet flush behind me. (I was going to do it. I just had to get them out of the stall first.) I said to my son, “Oh you flushed the toilet. Good job.” My son bragged to me, “Yeah, and I did it with my foot.”

I feel a little bit bad that my kids are picking up my germophobic ways, however, if it helps keep us healthier this year, then maybe that’s not so wrong.

When my kids do get sick, I invariably find myself wondering, “How long is Play-Doh infected for after they play with it?” “At what point in the illness is it safe to let them share a bath again?” “When can they go back to preschool?”

  • Please log on to and leave us your germ and sickness questions. An infectious disease specialist at Emory University School of Medicine has agreed to answer some.

We’ll run the responses in the next few weeks.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso, a married mom of two preschoolers, graduated from Parkview High School and lives with her family in Gwinnett County.

Sadness overwhelms as life’s next stage arrives
DATE: July 1, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

I never gave away any of my maternity clothes in between my pregnancies. I always knew I wasn’t done yet. They sat in plastic containers in the attic waiting for the next addition to our family.

But now with our last baby born and a move to another house upon us, I have no excuse not to part with these oversized garments — except that I haven’t quite been ready to give them up.

Parting with maternity clothes is acknowledging that your childbearing time is done. It’s the passing of an era: No more excitement of taking a pregnancy test hoping to see two lines show up; no more joy of hearing a rapid little heartbeat at the doctor’s office or seeing that little butter bean inside of you; and no more planning how to surprise your husband or your family with news that another miracle is coming into your lives.

All of that is over, and it makes me sad.

It also makes me feel old. Somehow if you’re still having babies, you seem young. But if you’re past childbearing, then you’ve moved on to menopausal.

I turned 35 in April so in theory I could have more babies, but I don’t think I could handle four kids, and this last pregnancy had its scary moments.

Even in college when we talked about getting married and having babies, it was always three. Even though I feel like our family is the right size now, it’s still a little heartbreaking to know I’ll never feel another baby kick inside of me.

As I was packing up my stuff at the hospital preparing to bring our last baby home, I cried because I knew I would never be back at Piedmont Hospital again for a happy reason. There are no more good things that can happen in my life at a hospital. I don’t plan on having a face lift or boob job, and even if you’re pleased with those results, they couldn’t rival the joy of giving birth. All that’s left now are heart attacks and cancer.

I got brave a few weeks ago and called the Quinn House, a homeless ministry in Gwinnett. I started crying on the phone when I asked the woman if they could use my maternity clothes. She assured me she had lots of mothers who could benefit from my donation.

About a week later the kids and I drove out there with the minivan full of maternity clothes, boy baby clothes and toys. During the trip to Lawrenceville, I kept preaching to my children the virtues of giving to the less fortunate. (I think I was trying to bolster my own confidence.) I started crying as my van was unloaded, and was still crying as we drove away. The kids wanted to know why. I told them while it was good to give our clothes and toys to other mommies who could use them, it was hard to let go of things that reminded me of when they were inside of me and when they were babies. I told them I was sad that time in my life was over.

I keep trying to convince myself there are benefits to knowing you’re not going to get pregnant again. For one, we can start making plans. We can say now, “OK in three years, all of the children will be old enough to travel to Europe.” We can actually start getting rid of toys and clothes as our baby passes the age she can use them. I can lose my baby weight and not feel like it’s an exercise in futility because I’ll just be putting it back on in a couple of years.

I keep telling myself that even if the childbearing is done, there is still lots of child rearing to go. I’m trying to focus on the joys that lie ahead as we help our children grow.

How did you know when your childbearing time was over? How did you feel? What are the benefits to know that time in your life is over? What were you sad about? Did it make you feel old? Log on to and share.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.

As my last child weans herself, I’m feeling blue
DATE: July 20, 2008
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

The milk ducts under my arms ache and my breasts are swollen and burning. They think it’s time to nurse, but my 16-month-old baby has other ideas.

Over the past six months, she has gradually cut herself back from nursing 12 times a day to once or twice. Some days she wants to nurse more, other days she’s so busy she doesn’t even think about it.

Our little girl is self-weaning, which is natural, but it leaves me with another pain in my chest. My heart is heavy and sad that my special time with my last baby is coming to an end.

Nursing has been one of my favorite experiences of motherhood so far. I’ve spent 4 1/2 of the past seven years (not consecutively) nursing babies. That’s a lot of time spent on one task — I could have gone through medical school in that time.

Nursing didn’t come easy with my first baby, but we made it through, and from there it’s been wonderful. I always looked forward to that quiet time with each child. You get to stop everything that you’re doing (without feeling guilty) and stroke her, kiss her and love her while you nourish her.

I weaned both of my older children at around 18 months. Twelve months seemed too early. (They were still babies.) Two years old seemed a little long. To me, 18 months seemed just about right.

I was two months’ pregnant with my son when I finally weaned by oldest daughter. (I was happy to nurse, but I refused to tandem nurse a toddler and a newborn.) My son nursed for the last time during the “Polar Express” movie at the Mall of Georgia. He didn’t ask for it later that night at bedtime, and never did again. We were done. It was sad.

I’m expecting this baby to finish in the next two months. If she wants to nurse longer, I’ll let her, but I don’t think she will.

For the most part, we’re working under the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” theory of weaning. If she asks for it, then I’ll nurse her. I have, however, tried a few distractions to keep her from asking.

A sippy cup of milk or some crunchy cereal helps her not think about my boobs. Also not wearing shirts or bras that she can easily get into helps deter her. She’s quite funny trying to dig for my breast through a non-nursing bra.

But naptime and bedtime can be the toughest. Every night of her life, nursing has been part of her routine. Like Pavlov’s dog, she’s trained to expect it before going to sleep.

So I’m trying to recondition her to focus on something else while we rock each night. I found out by accident that she is mesmerized by the first two songs of “Hairspray.” She immediately relaxes as Tracy Turnblad sings “Good Morning Baltimore.” And by the time the dancers are singing “The Nicest Kids in Town,” I can feel her body heavy against my chest and know she is ready to be laid in her crib for the night. For a baby who rarely looks at the television, it’s odd this trick works. But we won’t question it!

I like the “Hairspray” method of weaning because I’m still getting quiet time with her — rocking her, stroking her, feeling her little head get warm as she drifts off to sleep.

These are the moments you’ll miss.

I keep telling my husband as soon as she’s done nursing, I’m going away all alone for a weekend. (I haven’t been alone in seven years.) Pretty soon, my body will be mine again — a bittersweet prospect indeed.

Was weaning your baby easy or hard? Do you think it’s tougher to break babies off bottles or the breast? Did you miss nursing when you were finally done? Log onto to share your experiences.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.

10 things to love about a 10-month-old
DATE: January 20, 2008
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

Last May for Mother’s Day, I wrote about all my favorite things about our then 2-month-old baby. Eight months later, lots of things have changed, including her mobility, and I think it’s time to once again take a verbal snapshot of our precious little girl.

Even if your children have long since left the nest, I think most mothers will remember fondly those sweet baby days. Here are the top 10 things I am currently loving about our 10-month-old daughter:

She claps for us. Every morning when we come in to get her, she’s standing in her crib laughing and clapping just for us. She gets so excited that you’re coming for her and wants nothing more than to be in your arms (and to have her diaper changed). It is the sweetest way to wake up and the best “Good morning” in the whole world.

The blankie and the thumb. We never had a child who sucked his/her thumb or was attached to a blanket, but this baby is. When she’s ready go to sleep, she holds her silky pink blanket in the palm of her hand and pops that hand’s thumb into her mouth. Then she lays her head down on your chest and that means it’s time for bed.

The bathtub. I wrote a few months back about how much the baby wants to be in the middle of her brother’s and sister’s fun, and that is never more true than at bath time. At about 7 months, she would crawl into the bathroom and pull up on the side of the tub to watch her brother or sister bathe. She would bounce up and down and screech because she wanted in that tub. I thought she was too small, but my husband Michael tried it and she loved it. She’s thrilled to be splashing with the big kids.

She hugs you. When my brother-in-law was here for Christmas, he was so pleased when he would pick up the baby and she would wrap her arms around his shoulders and squeeze. We can’t get enough of her sweet baby hugs.

The teetering walk. The baby started crawling at 4 1/2 months and started pulling up on things at 7 months. By 9 months, she was walking. She’s starting to get faster and steadier, but it is adorable to watch her do the Frankenstein across the room.

She’s into everything. While it can be frustrating when I’m trying to get stuff done, I am amazed every day by how much she can get into. She is so curious and wants to explore all day long. Walking has given her a new vantage point on her world, and all of a sudden cabinets and drawers that were never noticed before are being investigated. She’s also discovered the dog’s bowls — bad news for me.

Her talking. She loves to babble and does it all day long — just like her Momma. “Dadada” this and “Babab” that. But the first word she really associated with the object was “book.” She says “buh” and points to any book she can get her hands on — including the church hymnal. I think “book” was her first word because she reads with the whole family at night when we’re putting the other two to bed.

She helps me get things out of her mouth. She’s always sticking things in her mouth that she finds on the carpet — tiny pieces of paper, twigs and leaves. I used to have to dig in her mouth to get them out, but now I say, “What’s in your mouth?” She smiles and then sticks her tongue out proudly for me to see and grab whatever she’s found. It’s a much easier system than before, and I’m impressed she knows what I’m after.

The pastel footed sleepers. It’s a sad day when kids are potty-trained and don’t wear those one-piece footed sleepers anymore. I love the baby in her pastel footed sleepers, especially the ones with polka dots. She’s so cozy (she can’t pull them off like she does socks) and her bottom and tummy are so round and cute. Plus, the feet have rubber grips that are helpful for my new little walker.

Her friendly disposition. She is just the happiest, sweetest, friendliest little baby. She has the best disposition and rarely fusses. We are so blessed to have such a loving, serene little person in our lives. My sister-in-law said at Christmas that if she could be guaranteed to have a baby as sweet as ours she’d go for her third. That’s quite a testament.

What do you remember about your babies? What were your favorite stages? How did they greet you in the morning? What were their favorite ways to be held and loved? Log onto to share your memories.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.


MOMania: Baby’s first word likely to be ‘Google’
DATE: September 23, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

A few weeks ago, the baby was playing in the basement with my husband and the kids. I came downstairs and took the baby away for her nap. My 4-year-old son came over to my husband and said, “Where’s the baby?” My husband declared, “She must be missing.” My son replied. “Well, then we’d better Google Map her.”

We, of course, cracked up at his comment, but on later reflection it crystallized for me how much my son and daughter are truly children of the 21st century. Their perceptions of the world, their understanding of life and often the way they learn are all influenced by the Internet and technology.

For many families, there has been a fundamental shift in home life similar to what happened when electricity and telephones became commonplace in residences. Technology has transformed how modern families communicate, how children relate to the world and how families stay connected.

My son knows about Google Map because we use it to help the kids feel connected to their father when he travels for business. We usually Google Map his hotel in whatever city he’s visiting, often Manhattan. We look at what streets he might walk to get to work. We look at what monuments or tourist attractions he might see on his way.

Their favorite part is when we switch from the regular map to the satellite hybrid image. The hybrid is an aerial photo of the city with the streets and important buildings labeled. We can actually see the basketball courts on top of the Associated Press’ headquarters in New York City. They love thinking about their daddy playing ball on a roof with his colleagues.

Our daily communication also has been affected by technology. Whether it’s cellphone, IM or e-mail, we check in throughout the day. My husband knows how Rose did at school, whether Walsh got in trouble and if the baby ate her smashed-up bananas long before he walks in the door.

My husband uses IMs all day long with his colleagues and has added me to his buddy list. I like the IM because he can respond immediately even if he’s on a conference call or on his cellphone. It seems a slightly odd way to communicate with your spouse, but I guess wives thought it was weird when husbands started calling them on the phone, too.

He e-mails me, as do a lot of couples. But lately, he’s started CCing me on things — mainly his flight and hotel reservations. You would think we could just have a conversation to coordinate plans, but when we tried to review his schedule at night, he would only roughly remember the dates of his trips and that just aggravated me. The CCing struck me as impersonal and businesslike at first, but now I have dates, times, airlines and the locations for all his trips in an easy-to-search format.

My husband has been pushing me to share an online calendar with him as well, but I haven’t evolved that far yet. He could conveniently check it on his Treo. I could not-so-conveniently drag around a laptop. It’s not practical for our family — at least not yet.

Even when we’re doing something old-fashioned, the computer comes into play. A few weeks ago, my husband was reading one of his favorite childhood books to our son. He was finishing up “Scuffy the Tugboat” when our son asked, “What cartoon is this guy from?”

His understanding of the world is that there are crossovers — book characters appear on TV and on computer games.

My husband tried to explain it’s just a story. It’s not based on a cartoon. Our son thought about that answer and then said, “Well, does it have a dotcom?”

How has technology affected how your family operates? Has it changed the way you communicate and learn? Has it affected your children’s perspective of the world?

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.


MOMania: Would you buy a house with sex offender nearby?
DATE: April 22, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

After almost 10 months of searching, we thought we finally had found the perfect house. It had a basement and a playroom, a nice backyard and the owners had done a great job decorating and caring for the home. The only problems were our cat allergies and some outdated carpeting in the basement.

After figuring out how we could de-cat the house and deciding to worry about the carpet later, we made an offer. The owners stuck to their guns on price and rejected our first two offers. We were taking the weekend off from negotiating, but we felt certain we would reach a deal on Monday.

I had been meaning to check Gwinnett County’s sex offender database but hadn’t done so yet. It’s a well-established, very nice neighborhood. In my mind, checking the list was merely a formality.

I finally looked that weekend. Not only did I find a sex offender in the neighborhood, I found one a few houses down from our dream house.

The man’s offense was listed as indecent exposure.

My husband’s knee-jerk reaction was, “Boy, that should bring the price down.”

A registered sex offender on the block is one heck of a negotiating tool, but is it really worth the risk?

My husband didn’t think we should stop pursuing the house. I felt like we should, but I was willing to investigate to get details on the crime.

If the registry had said child molestation, rape or sexual assault, it wouldn’t have even been a question. But what exactly does indecent exposure mean?

“Maybe it was just a guy who got arrested for peeing outside,” suggested my dad.

My girlfriends thought we would be stupid to move into a house with a known sex offender on the block, no matter what the charge. One asked, “What would you tell the children, ‘Don’t talk to our neighbor. He’s done bad things.'” Would we explain to the kids what a sex crime is?

The next day, I called the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office and spoke with the officer in charge of the sex offender registry. She had more information about the case and knew the man personally. She checks in with all the sex offenders from the county quarterly and they have to re-register each year on their birthdays. She suggested I call the agency in the town where the crime was committed.

I called that county’s sex offender department. This officer told me my would-be neighbor was sentenced to several years in prison for the crime (she couldn’t tell from the files if he served the full amount of his sentence). She said she couldn’t release all the information to me, but she suggested I contact two other counties about possible earlier incidents involving the same man.

By that point, my mind was made up. One conviction and two other possible incidents mean I don’t buy that house. My husband agreed.

Did we make the right decision, or did we overreact?

Any neighbor, any time could be a sex offender, just not one that’s been caught. Three of the officers I spoke with made the point that at least this way you knew who to watch out for. I’m not sure that makes me feel any better.

As upsetting as it is looking at the photos of all the sex offenders and reading about their crimes, the registry is a helpful tool. I have already mapped the other offenders in the area we are considering moving to, so we won’t get caught by surprise again.

Would you buy a house with a sex offender on the block? Would it depend on the crime? Would it matter if the crime was aimed at adults or children? How far away would you have to live to feel safe? Head to to discuss.

Doing research

Some sites that will help you find a registered sexual offender. If you’re not Web savvy, you can call the sheriff’s office for information about offenders. I talked with four different counties’ sexual offender departments, and they all were extremely helpful.

  • http://www.georgia-sex-of This was the easiest to use. It maps where the offenders live and by clicking on the little balloon you can see their photo, name and crime. However, five from the Gwinnett County list appeared to be missing from the area I was searching, so it may not be updated as often. You also can sign up for e-mail alerts to notify you if an offender moves to your area.
  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation site offers descriptions of the crimes that require offenders to register. It helps explain what the official terms mean. Its frequently-asked-questions section also was useful.
  • Search.jsp: This link lets you search the GBI. You can search by city if you don’t have a specific name.
  • http://www.gwinnettcounty Gwinnett County sheriff’s database of sexual offenders in the county.
  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and three children in Gwinnett County.

MOMania: Some natives draw line at deep Southern drawl
Accents turn some into cultural hypocrites

DATE: January 21, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

My whole life, I have preached the virtues of the South.

I love my biscuits, barbecue and sweet tea. I love our weather and that I can always count on dogwoods blooming for my April birthday. I loved growing up with the genteel accents of the sweet old Decatur ladies who worked with my mother. I loved playing in the creek in the summer and falling asleep to the swoosh of the attic fan at night.

As a fourth-generation Georgian, I have always been proud that my family came from Savannah and Atlanta, and that I grew up in this great city.

We were thrilled when my husband’s job brought us from the North back down South during our child-bearing years. We wanted our children to be raised here in the same ways that we were.

But over the last few months, I have begun to struggle with a dichotomy. I am starting to realize that I am a hypocrite when it comes to certain Southern attributes.

My first realization that I might be a hypocrite came when my 3-year-old son started introducing himself to strangers.

He’ll walk up to anybody in restaurants, playground, doctor’s offices and say, “What’s your name?” He waits for them to answer and then says, “My name is Walsh. But my nickname is Bubba.”

I immediately turn crimson and feel like I am standing there in overalls with shoots of straw protruding from my teeth.

I almost always explain, “My husband grew up in Augusta, and everybody down there calls their kids ‘Bubba.’ We usually just call him that at home.”

Growing up in Gwinnett, I heard Bubba used around the neighborhood. Parents would yell out the door, “Bubba, it’s time to come home for dinner.”

But I don’t think I heard it as much as my husband did, and I certainly don’t hear it today in suburban Atlanta.

During a vacation to Gulf Shores, Ala., however, my son hurt his neck turning around every time someone called their “Bubba.” He still refers to the hotel there as the place where “all my Bubba friends live.”

I didn’t go on that trip, and it is probably a good thing. I think I would have been uncomfortable with all those Bubbas. Apparently, I’m proud to be Southern as long as nobody thinks I’m a redneck.

My hypocrisy became clearer when I found myself correcting my children for their accents.

Last spring, I asked parents on the MOMania blog how they felt about their kids picking up a Southern drawl. Many of the responders identified themselves as transplants and said they absolutely did not want their children to develop a Southern accent because it would make them sound ignorant. I was appalled, as were many native Southerners. All of us have known countless drawlers who are intelligent and cultured.

Flash forward a few months, and my kids have started watching a show called “Class of 3000.” It’s created by music star and Atlanta native Andre “3000” Benjamin.

When the show was originally reviewed by the AJC, it was applauded for the characters actually having believable Southern accents.

I liked it, too, until my children started imitating them. I would whip my head around surprised by their drawn out vowels and would automatically correct their pronunciation.

Apparently, I’m OK with a lilting accent like the ladies on “Designing Women,” but I don’t want my kids sounding like Joy on “My Name is Earl.”

I don’t think I’m a snob. I love college football, fried chicken and country music. I like driving my dad’s pickup, and I sing along to Lynyrd Skynyrd. But somehow, hearing my daughter say, “Bubbbbbaaa, we’re fixin’ to goooo,” fills me with shame.

I’m pretty sure my Savannah ancestors, not to mention my cousins and friends, would have a problem with that.

Are there parts of the South or your hometown that you don’t want your children embracing? Do you feel there is a difference between being Southern and being a redneck. For a discussion, go to

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and two children in


Expectant mothers may expect discomfort on job
DATE: January 14, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

Pregnancy might not change how well a woman performs her job, but speaking from experience, lugging around 30 extra pounds, feeling immense pressure on your bladder and becoming oddly gaseous definitely affects the way you work.

Like many pregnant women, I find that an afternoon nap is essential to getting through the rest of the day.

With my first pregnancy I was working 10-hour days at the newspaper. By 2 p.m. I would be completely exhausted and would employ a little clandestine behavior to get a much-needed, 30-minute siesta.

The features department in which I worked was located next to the sports department. Luckily for me, most of the sports guys work nights. After lunch, I would stroll over to the sports department like I had a question for someone in the skeleton daytime crew, and when no one was looking I would duck down and curl up on the floor under one of the empty workstations for a catnap. (Now before you judge my work ethic, let me just say there are tons of smokers and Web surfers out there wasting way more time than me!)

Mine may have been one of the stranger tactics, but Katherine Lee, contributing editor for Working Mother magazine, says that many pregnant women do have to make adjustments. She says pregnancy is physically taxing, and often you can’t work at the pace you’re used to. But it’s not just the pace that pregnant women may have to work around. Sometimes it’s a dress code, office equipment or even a polished floor that can cause them problems.

My good friend Keith Still continued to work a very high-stress job during her first pregnancy but she did have to make some adjustments. The Alpharetta mother of three was press secretary for Sen. Bill Frist in Washington during the late 1990s. Washington tends to be a formal town.

“I had to wear heels because I was press secretary. The floors in the Capitol building across the rotunda are highly polished. I’m walking with the senator, and he’s walking really fast. Everybody almost runs up there, and I’m trying to keep up,” she recalled.

After almost falling several times, she decided it would be more embarrassing to be splayed out on the Capitol floor than to wear some ugly yet comfortable shoes. She ended up in a pair of stacked Birkenstock-like clogs.

“Technically, I was elevated. It was not a professional look at all. I was so swollen, and it was the only way I could keep up with the senator.”

While statistics are few and far between, it does appear that more and more pregnant women are staying on the job.

Lee, the contributing editor for Working Mother, says a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families found more than half of employed women quit their jobs when they became pregnant during the years from 1968 to 1978. By the early 1990s, the women who quit dropped to 27 percent.

Another statistic Lee cites from the same group supports the idea that more women are working pregnant: the number of women who say they were discriminated against in the workplace because of their pregnancy increased by 39 percent from 1992 to 2002.

While I certainly oppose discriminating against pregnant women in the workplace, I was probably a bit of a strain on my colleagues during my pregnancy.

My workstation was such that I sat back to back with a very quiet, intellectual and proper man. Just four feet separated us. As my pregnancy advanced, some digestive issues I was having increased.

In other words, I was belching more and more. At first I would get up and walk through the newsroom and down the hall to the bathroom to burp. But finally I just gave up. (If I was going to work those naps in, I couldn’t waste time heading to the bathroom all day long.)

I would try to mask my burps by putting my face into my shirt and then apologize profusely to him. “I am so sorry. But I swear if I got up every time I needed to burp I would never get any work done.”

While I think he was completely grossed out (as he should have been), he always was sympathetic.

Lee says many top companies are trying to make life easier for their pregnant employees, offering closer parking spaces and on-site massages, among other things.

I would have been happy with a cot and some free Rolaids.

Did you have to change your work habits while you were pregnant? What were the greatest challenges for you? Do you think your pregnancy affected your co-workers? Did your pregnant body ever cause you embarrassment?

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives with her husband and two children in Gwinnett County.

Spend time with kids to create beautiful Christmas memories
DATE: December 24, 2006
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Gwinnett News

I have been counting down the days — not the days until Christmas but the days until my kids get out for Christmas break.

I know the highlight of the season for my children, like many, is opening presents Christmas morning, but for me it’s having them home for almost two weeks with no schedules to keep and lots of fun to be had.

I didn’t realize how much real school would change our lives.

Much to my husband’s chagrin, we’ve never been a particularly scheduled family. Dinner and bedtimes floated depending on the day’s activities.

The kids and I rarely used an alarm clock before this year because even the biggest sleepyhead can make it to preschool by 9:30 a.m. (I was actually late some.) But now that my daughter is in kindergarten, it’s 7:30 to bed and 7:30 to rise. Dinner time is set, as is bath and lights out. There is precious little time to lie about, cuddle and play.

So my plan for the holiday break involves no formal plans at all.

I want them to stay in their pajamas all morning and drink hot cocoa with gobs of whipped cream floating atop. I want to cook Saturday-morning-worthy breakfasts on the weekdays — chocolate chip pancakes or sweet rolls smothered in icing.

I want to curl up on the couch with them and read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” ” ‘Twas the Night before Christmas” and other favorite holiday tales over and over again without bedtime bearing down on us.

I want them to imagine their own Christmas stories. My daughter’s tooth is loose and she is already working on a tale about the Tooth Fairy coming on the same night as Santa Claus. (Consider this copyrighted.)

I want to make buttery popcorn and watch all those Christmas specials we’ve recorded during the past few weeks.

I want us to figure out how to cut delicate snowflakes from paper, something I have never been able to do, and decorate them with lots of messy glitter. I want to build reams of colorful construction paper chains to drape over doorways and across our mantel.

And I want the kids to bake!

My kids love to help me in the kitchen. They love to measure the ingredients, stir the batter, run the standing mixer and of course taste-test whatever we’re creating.

My 5-year-old daughter will tell you we use only pasteurized eggs when we’re baking so we can always eat our dough. (She actually uses the word “pasteurized.”)

My godmother sent us an early Christmas present of special cookie cutters that we’re dying to try out. You can make reindeer, Christmas trees and even a sleigh that stand up on their own. She also sent rocket ship and race car cutters that my son is excited to see in action.

I want to make big batches of frosting to tint and squeeze out of pastry bags all over our cookie creations. And we also have special seasonal sprinkles when we need a little extra color.

When my little guy is ready for a rest, my daughter and I will tackle some tougher holiday recipes — like chocolate truffles. We’ve never made them before, and I think my daughter will enjoy rolling the chocolate in her hands and dipping them in ganache and nuts.

I want my kids to have happy memories of Christmas beyond just one morning of ripping open wrapping paper. I feel so lucky to have this time with them, and I want to make the most of it.

What are your special plans for Christmas break? What are your family’s holiday traditions? What do your children enjoy doing in their downtime from school? Log onto to share with us.

  • TheresaWalsh Giarrusso lives in Gwinnett County with her husband and two children.