The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, April 30, 2007



My dear friend August Maggy died last month.

He had been my mentor at the San Francisco Chronicle business section. When I met him, I was fresh out of college and trying to figure out my life. I was skinny, hot, wearing really short skirts, and high heels.

My life ran on caffeine and wine. Food was either takeout or in a jar. Cooking was a word never heard of in my apartment.

In 1987, I entered The Chronicle and began a love affair with journalism. I always had a love of words, but now I could see them in print, everyday. At first I was a secretary, but August saw promise in me. Soon, I was promoted to copy editor. My love affair with words lasted 13 years, when the novelty finally wore off. I left the paper in 2000 and soon became a mom and a wife.

I now cook every day. Caffeine and wine still loom large in my life, but those short skirts and high heels are long gone. And when I look in the mirror, hot is not the first word I think of. It’s tired that usually leaps to mind.

But August was still my friend. When we talked infrequently, it was all about the news biz. About how this person was being treated, how that story was played, how this section was screwing up. It was never about children or mothering or partners, it was always about the biz. When I got off the phone, it was as if I had been in touch with a sleeping part of me: the part that had loved my job, had loved my high heels and loved those short skirts.

And now there’s no one who remembers that me.

None of my current circle of friends is from those times. The work friends have faded as the family friends have grown. When I heard news of August’s death at the far too early age of 61, my first feeling was deep sadness. But my second was the selfish pang of youth finally and inevitably slipping away.

Good-bye August Maggy. I’ll miss you and I’ll miss the Georgie I was. Even as I embrace the Georgie I’ve become.

By Georgie Craig

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Sunday, April 29, 2007



This morning my 5-year-old son, Aidan, was rolling around in bed next to me singing Hey Jude, when he unexpectedly tooted.

“Hey Mom, that toot made a rhythm. . . toot, toot, toot.”

And I had to admit, it did. It was actually a musical toot.

Aidan has always found the musical in even the most mundane. He has discovered guitars in the form of forks, sticks and corn dogs. While Michelangelo brought forth great works of art from within the sublime Carrara marble of Italy, Aidan brings forth music from ordinary household objects.

There was a time, when he was about 2-years-old, that I was a bit worried about his musical obsession. One day at preschool, over graham crackers and milk, he turned to his teacher and paused before he spoke -- as if he were about to impart great wisdom.

“Tracy,” he said, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock-n-roll.”

He is no longer as singularly obsessed with music, but he still hears whispers from a musical muse. He now performs in the backyard on a concrete “stage” and plays golf clubs, or sets up elaborate drum sets of pots and pans, lids and pillows. He really does have rhythm -- even if it sometimes comes in the form of a toot.

By Lisa Nave

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Saturday, April 28, 2007


Anna Nicole

An American Tragedy, a tabloid dream: sex and death, then mystery about the child that came out of all that sex.

It’s a bloodsucking festival.

In the center of the story, though, what we found out was that this very drug/attention-addicted woman died from an infection. She died alone, from an easily treatable situation, combined with a level of downers that would keep a football team way out of it for a day or two.

What strikes me about this saga is the terrible moment in life that had preceded it. She watched her older child die during the safe cocoon days after delivering her first daughter.

Her baby’s father was fighting Anna Nicole over the one child she had left. Any sane and stable mother would have teetered near the edge in this melodrama.

What is heartbreaking is that there was no great feeling of surprise when I learned about the cause of her death.

Like those suspicious one car “accidental” deaths, I believe there is a quiet desire to follow someone you don’t want to live without that sometimes plays out, whether we are aware of engineering it or not.

In a passive, asleep way, one mother followed her son out of the world.

The gears of exploitation will continue to roll over Anna Nicole’s grave for awhile. I would like to offer a prayer to her, to remember her as just another person, with limited tools, trying to be happy in this world.

Another person who succumbed to her own heartbreak. We’ve all got enough brokenness in us to wish her some peace beyond this world.

By Avvy Mar

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Friday, April 27, 2007



It’s 7 a.m. Saturday morning and the alarm is going off.

“Mama!” Hug mama! Huggaaa mamaaa! Come get me mama, come get meeeeee!”

Alas, there is no snooze button. I roll over and nudge my husband, who is pretending to still be asleep. I nudge (i.e., push) him a second time. And so begins our weekly weekend battle for the bed… as in, “who gets to stay in it for another blessed half hour or maybe even 45 minutes?”

I fire the first shot. “I got up last Saturday.”

“I put her to bed AND gave her a bath last night” he mumbles, pulling the pillow over his head.

“I got up with her at 3 a.m. to go potty AND I’m letting you golf tomorrow.”

There’s a pause.

“OK, I’m getting up, just give me two minutes.”

Golf. It’s a very powerful motivator where my husband is concerned. Meanwhile, the alarm continues, only louder and more insistent.

“Mama! Mama, Mamaaaa!!! I WANT TO GET OUT!!!!”

Note that she does not call for daddy. And daddy is still lying there, still with the pillow over his head, still trying to get another couple minutes of shut-eye through all the noise, which virtually guarantees that neither one of us is going to get any more sleep. This really drives me crazy, so that I fling the covers off the bed, and stomp down the hall to my daughter’s room, hoping that my martyrdom routine will at least score me some points for next week.

Emi is naked when I arrive, having peeled off her pajamas and Pull-Up while her parents were jockeying for sleep-in time.

“Hi Momma!” she pops up, all energy, all ready-to-get-the-day-started. “I need to get dressed!” She’s definitely a morning person. By now, my husband has shown up, clearly concerned that by claiming sleep privileges, he will be sacrificing his golf privileges. “I got her… to go back to bed.”

I give her a kiss, head back down the hall, shut the bedroom door, and dive under the covers. Five minutes later, I feel a cold wet nose nudging (i.e., pushing) my cheek. Our dog is also a morning dog. I get up, go to the kitchen, feed the dog, and as I pass the open door to my daughter’s room, I spot my husband curled up in a pile of animal throw pillows, his arm wrapped around Emi’s giant IKEA elephant, totally asleep. He looks like he’s 5-years old. I walk into the room and snuggle up next to him on the pillows and soon enough Emi dives on top of us. “Group HUG!!!!” she screams.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and we are all awake and group hugging. For the moment, I’ve decided that it’s nice to be a morning person, too.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


TV-Turnoff Week

My 7-year old son obsesses over television. When can he watch it? For how long? Can he have the cereal that looks like chocolate donuts? Please Mom, the commercial says the cereal is part of a nutritional breakfast.

I’m enjoying National TV-Turnoff Week. My family participated last year and is doing so again now. Numerous studies conclude that children are watching more and more TV and the impacts are negative. Children who watch lots of television are more obese, study less and are more likely to engage in violence than children who watch a little television. The cutoff between a lot and a little seems to be about 10 hours a week.

During last year’s TV-Turnoff Week, my family was more physically active. We went for more walks than usual and talked to neighbors. We planted flowers in the border of our front yard. We played card games and board games. Bottom line, we spent more time together talking and really enjoying each others’ company.

My son spent a couple of hours one morning creating a chart of his favorite shows. He wrote the start times of shows across the top of a page, and the days of the week down the left side. Then he slotted the shows he wanted to watch. What a great activity for a 6-year old. He needed to understand time, days of the week and how to organize data.

We all agreed, even my son, that no television for a week was a delightful change of pace. But it’s hard to continue. There’s pressure to keep up with the tube, from my son’s friends, from coworkers, and from the promotional ads on TV. I start to feel like I’m missing something. This week is a great reminder of how pleasant life without television can be.

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A Child of Fate

Fate? I should have named him that. Ah, but it was too close to fatal, and that was how it all began.

I was 39 when I discovered a lump in my groin. I mentioned it but no one would listen. The doctors said, “Don’t worry, it’s just a subcutaneous cyst or a varicose vein.” I thought otherwise. I never was one to run to doctors, unless I was pregnant and wanted prenatal care for “the others.”

Now I was 39 years old and had a lovely family of four daughters. I, myself, was from a family of three daughters. I was happy that our family was complete.

The year was 1970. After a year of feeling this lump, I found a physician that volunteered to do a biopsy under local anesthesia in the emergency room, just to put my mind at ease. As I was alert during the procedure I conversed with him and found he was concerned and had a worried continence. “Have you ever had pain with this?” he asked.
“No,” was my reply, “it has gotten larger and then smaller but it has been there for a year or so, and I became concerned.”

The biopsy showed that I had cancer. Now the question was where had it started? Had it metastasized. Surgery was, of course, ordered.

At that time surgery, “cut-out-the-cancer” was the only treatment. There was no chemotherapy and no radiation. When tried, it was all experimental for what we know today.

Going into surgery, I signed many papers. Most covered liability depending on what they found and how many side effects I would have. I readily signed that they could “cut my tubes.” My family was complete and I did not need the risk that cancers may grow more easily with the reproduction of cells during pregnancy.

Surgery was performed. More than would be cut today was cut, and all lymph glands were biopsied and extracted revealing no additional cancer. Surgery continued for six hours and so much blood had been lost that a blood transfusion was necessary.

Then all returned to normal, almost. I remember a time of great awareness as to the meaning of life, and how I would try to teach each child to be independent and secure in their ability to care for themselves and others. I remember writing: “Thoughts of death bring sweet return, when from them more of life we learn.”

One day, two years later, I felt sick, as if I had the stomach flu. It continued for six days and I joked with my husband that it was just like being pregnant, as this flu was like the morning sickness I had experienced when pregnant with my daughters. He told me I should go to the doctor and check things out. I went and indeed I was PREGNANT? Impossible. My tubes had been cut. I had signed for it.

We then went back to surgical records. A mistake had been made. The tubes had not been cut. The necessity for the blood transfusion had taken precedent over any more surgery and everyone just ‘FORGOT.’

Now there was a problem. What to do? Doctors recommended an abortion because of my age and chances of the cancer recurring. My husband agreed. The advice was that it was all a medical mistake and I should take care of it by having an abortion. But was it a mistake, or was it fate?

I have no prejudice to abortion. I just did not know what to do. I had not done anything to prevent this pregnancy because I was sure I could not get pregnant. Now that I was pregnant -- who determined it? The doctors who failed to cut my tubes? Was it fate? Was it my life against someone else’s life? This was the era when sex of child and deformities in utero were not diagnosable and I had none of this input to help in making my decision.

I decided that when I did not know what was right to do -- I should do nothing. And so I did nothing -- but wait.

On July 6th, 1972, our healthy baby boy, Nathaniel Thomas Scott, was born. The “fates” had won the day.

There was no mistake.

By Ruth W. Scott

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007



We live on a hill and to get to it you have to go up a beautiful street lined with Mediterranean style houses. While the houses are expansive, the street is not. It’s narrow with cars on either side.

Tragedy! Mimi, my 5-year old daughter, had fallen asleep. Not at 8 p.m. on a Sunday. That meant she would never go to bed at 9 p.m.

I turned to the right to shake her awake. As I did, the steering wheel must have turned to the left. BOOM!!!

I had side swept a car. It was an older, beat-up looking vehicle. Thankfully, I had avoided the new Saab behind it.

Mimi kept on sleeping – and I let her. I rang the doorbell of the house. Nobody answered. I left a note of apology, along with my telephone number and e-mail.

About five days later I got a call from a giggly man. He’s either going to be very nice, I thought, or very not.

He thanked me for my honesty. I explained the irony of my daughter sleeping through the accident, yet still was able to go to bed at 9 – but I couldn’t sleep all night.

He said his car was 12 years old and not in the best shape, but he would go to a body shop for an estimate. A body shop? The car already looked like it needed plastic surgery and I had swept the side with the major damage being a bent mirror and a tire rim.

He called a few days later. “Yep, you wouldn’t believe the estimate.”

Yep. He was right. I didn’t. $2,053. I figured $350 tops, which we’d pay just to get rid of him. “It's an old car so your insurance company would probably just write it off. I’d settle with you, though.”

Of that -- I’m positive, I thought. “How much?” I asked evenly.

“I’d take half, a $1,000 bucks.”

I played it totally female and said I would have to talk this over with my husband. He, of course, understood. Then I got on the Internet and found a mirror for his car for -- $15. A rim for $29.99. And I Kelly Blue Booked it at $1,500 max.

I talked it over with my husband, John, and I said I couldn’t deal with the man because he was pretending to be so nice when he was obviously not. I asked John to talk to him mano a mano. I’m afraid if I talked to him it would be mano a New Yorko, and I would just scream.

The guy’s final offer, $700. We had our insurance settle with him.

Meanwhile, there is what looks like a bite out of my wheel bumper and some dents in my car. John asked if I wanted to fix them. I thought about it. After all, this is Marin, and you ARE what you drive. But then I thought more deeply. I decided against getting them fixed.

The damage could have been far worse. I could have hurt someone. Every time I look at my car I see that. I really don’t care if others see the scrapes. I just hope they see them the way I do now: when driving, especially with children, an accident can easily happen. And paying acute attention, despite numerous child-centric distractions, is the only way to drive.

By Dawn Yun

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Sunday, April 22, 2007



On a walk last summer, I discovered a note left with some flowers at a park bench. The bench memorialized a neighbor who had died. The note, and I assumed the flowers, were left by the dead neighbor’s widowed spouse. Again, this was something I assumed because the note was a love letter expressing the author’s profound grief, but it was unsigned.

The tribute to the woman moved me deeply and on subsequent walks I noticed that as the seasons changed so did the flowers. There were mums left in the fall, poinsettias at Christmas, shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day. But there was never another note, never another clue to the identity of the person
who mourned so.

Until today.

On my walk this morning as I passed the familiar bench shaded in a grove of redwoods. I noticed a new plant, a white Easter lily left for the holiday weeks before. The lily contained two large blooms, one upright and fresh, the other broken and hanging by a thread of its stem. Underneath the pot I saw a purple envelope, the first note since the summer before.

I rushed to the bench.

Across the front of the envelope someone had scrawled in black ink: “RIA.” I looked at the plaque at the foot of the bench and saw it honored Maria McAuliffe Johnson who died in 2004. I opened the envelope and pulled from it a card that read, “For my wife at Easter with love.”

Inside someone had written: “My Darling: I miss you more than I can say. You are always in my heart.” It was signed, “Love Dan” though it may have read, “Love Don.” I couldn’t be sure.

A lump clogged my throat. Three years since Maria’s death had not diminished Dan’s – or Don’s – love for her. Death may have claimed her body, but not the memory of who she had been to him -- the love of his life.

Of course, as it did that first time I came across the husband’s tribute to his dead wife, that knowledge made me think of the loved ones in my own life: My husband, Dave, my school-aged sons, Christopher and Timothy.

I never met Maria McAuliffe Johnson but I felt as if our lives had crossed paths. I had thought of her at nearly every holiday that had passed since first noticing her husband’s tributes last summer. I expect I’ll be thinking of her in the future as well when my walks take me past her bench and whatever tributes her grieving husband leaves for her there.

And each time I think of her, I’ll remember that time is short but love is long.

By Laura-Lynne Powell

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Friday, April 20, 2007



I’m driving the kids to school, maneuvering my way through strategic lane changes on Geary in San Francisco past Japantown. As I turn right on Gough and begin the long downhill descent, I have a clear shot at downtown, all the way to Market Street, where I notice a flashing red light and backed up cars in the middle lane.

Good to know, I think. I don’t want to be one of those poor slobs helplessly blinking left into a sea of unresponsive morning commuters.

I’m so proud of myself for the heads-up that I almost ram into the back of the silver Prius in front of me. Gotta keep their bumpers in full view, I remind myself, one of many rules drilled into me by my high school driving instructor, Coach Bernhardt.

That’s a lot like parenthood, I think. It’s easy to get lost in the future of our children. Whether we’re applying to kindergarten or planning a birthday party, we’re sometimes forced into a strategic planning approach to doing the best for our kids.

You need some of that long-term look to make sure you end up in a smooth lane ahead, that you’re on track to get to where you want to be. But we can’t forget what’s happening right up front, outside the windshield; these are the ‘now’ moments of Monopoly games, kissed knees and the strength to say “no” even when it hurts.

As Coach always said, “Keep your eyes open for what’s ahead, but don’t stop watching the bumper in front of you.”

By Kimberley Kwok

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Thursday, April 19, 2007



33 Shot Dead in Campus Massacre

The headline stopped me for a minute when I scanned the online news yesterday afternoon. Then I returned back to my work. I didn’t think about it much the rest of the day ― I was busy writing, I had a couple of client calls, then I transitioned quickly into the usual evening routine with my daughter: dinner, bath, tooth brushing, and bedtime stories. It wasn’t until she was asleep that I thought to turn on the television. I watched the news for about 10 minutes or so, then switched to Jon Stewart. Like me, he opted to repress, focusing instead on jokes about the White House e-mail scandal and Alberto Gonzalez.

Why wasn’t I more upset by what has now been confirmed as the worst shooting spree in U.S. history? I remember when the Columbine murders happened – how disturbing that incident was to me, so disturbing that I felt physically ill. I watched the news for days afterward, unable to believe it had actually happened. But it did happen. And so much more has happened since then. September 11. Genocide in Africa. Daily reports from Iraq of eight dead by a road-side bomb, 20 dead in a market, 100 dead in a mosque.

All enough to numb your brain and your heart.

Motherhood has changed me ― sometimes in ways that I hadn’t expected. Instead of becoming even more sensitive to the tragedies of the world, I feel like I’ve become a little bit harder. I hold these events at an emotional distance ― not because I don’t care, but because it’s how I get by. Otherwise, I just couldn’t step up to making chicken fingers and reading Harry the Dirty Dog on a day when 33 mothers got the worst news possible. Somewhere, something bad is going to happen tomorrow, too. But I like to think that there will also be babies born and lives that are saved and long-awaited reunions. I have to believe that there is some kind of balance.

I say a prayer for those 33 families. Then I look at my daughter and say a prayer that she will always be safe and happy, and that all the other daughters and sons, brothers and sisters and moms and dads will be, too.

Logically, I know that this is a tall order. But it’s my small way of trying to balance out the headlines.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Fertility Woes

Another mother in my mom’s group just announced her pregnancy. She’s the third one out of the 10 of us so far. Ours is a group of first-time moms whose babies, now toddlers, are all the same age (16 months), and now three of us are on the road to our second.

I know what will happen next: one by one each of the moms’ bellies will balloon and then pop, and then there will be me, standing there in my non-maternity jeans while the others talk about food cravings and fatigue and sleep deprivation. I will be coming to our weekly playgroups armed with my one beautiful child to find the topics have shifted from napping and pre-schools to the exponentially increased workload of caring for two. Well-meaning, the moms will reassure me that having only one is a blessing, and then they’ll go back to cooing at their newborns.

It won’t matter what they say, though. As deeply in love as I am with my child, and as much as I appreciate his blessed existence, in my head “family” includes more than one child, and anything less is just not complete.

I assumed that because I was able to bear my first child, that there would be no problem bearing a second, even though I was told I had only a 2% chance of getting pregnant the first time around. I subscribed to my own natural healing efforts, and four months later I was pregnant -- naturally, the old-fashioned way.

Now, once again, I’m panicking over the negative statistics about aging and fertility, I’m feeling jabs of envy each time I hear of another friend getting pregnant, and I’m getting impatient, stressed. All over again, I have to remind myself that I am not a statistic, that I can make a difference in my own fertility, that I need to be patient and mostly, that I have to surrender to whatever life brings me. Just like when I conceived my son, I have to be in that place where I can see that my family -- my life -- is complete, just like it is.

And once I can see that again, anything is possible.

By Cindy Bailey

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007



My daughter had a bruising day yesterday. From the moment she woke up, her emotions were overheated, misread, and dragged her behind them like a freight train.

Nothing sounded good to wear, to eat, to play. No one seemed to hear her anguished plea for the world to be the way she desperately needed it to be.

I was cast as the brutal, unyielding bully mother at every juncture. I felt abusive, insisting she wear boots instead of sandals that she had to eat protein if she wanted dessert that she could not make her sister go away.

Being 4 is a vicious time. Children floating comfortably in fantasy fall perilously into reality. Death exists and is permanent, stories are suddenly understood as unreal, other people control many of the child’s choices and consequences for their actions exist and persist across time. Time itself opens to them, an expanse with a permanent record rather than a slide across a projector, there and gone at their will.

And I have to play her bad guy, emissary of limits, bedtimes, manners, and overall prohibition.

So, to this mess of tears and a tiara sobbing on the floor, watching her friend get to eat vanilla ice cream she cannot have until she eats some dinner, I can only offer to hold her and start again. It doesn’t work; she kicks me, and cries the most serious of rejections:

“I want my Daddy! I just want my Daddy” she wails, alone in her pile of misery.

When my husband arrives on the scene, she clings to him with both hands, looking back at me as though I am a marauding hyena. Her shoulders hunched, eyes wide, sniffling and begging Daddy to be alone with her in her room, she leaves.

I understand this terrain, the ill-fitting blustery rage that descends when we can’t have things be as they are. When it is too painful to maintain a connection with someone telling you that you may not have what you know you need to feel better.

To be powerless, and awkward. To endlessly love and need people so much who prevent your desires from finding satisfaction. To start to understand that you are indeed not the center of the universe.

Beginning to understand that everyone else is as big a planet, not chunks of stone orbiting you. What grief. I hear my daughter crying to my husband, “Mama didn’t understand. She was confused about what I needed. I needed her to only put everything the way I like it.”

Then just tears.

I can hear in her language her attempt to forgive me for not telepathically receiving and fulfilling her wish. She is starting to understand that we are separate, no matter how much I love her or how hard I try.

I go to bed and feel tearful at how painful this is, growing up, even in full confidence of being loved, having to become a person: only sometimes successful, affected by others, gripped by competing wants.

It’s not too far away, when someone I love is diagnosed with cancer, when a lawsuit takes a loved one down into hell, when babies aren’t born healthy. Four is my own bitten down grief at apparent injustice, feeling helpless to bigger forces.

By Avvy Mar

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Monday, April 16, 2007



My son, who is 5, FIVE, cinco, not 4, and “not a baby, Mommy!” just found out that my half-brother, who is 17, SEVENTEEN, definitely not sweet 16, and “almost in college, Mom!” is coming to visit this week.

Let the worship begin!

In my son’s eyes, my younger brother is a walking god. A mystical man whose feet barely touch the floor. Who’s much cooler than Dora’s cousin Diego and even Barry Bonds (whose alleged transgressions we haven’t broken to him yet.) And, of course, he’s much, much better at everything than anyone else (except maybe Daddy, but we can’t really go there).

“Let’s call JJ!!!” my son explodes after breakfast this morning, knowing that my brother should be arriving with my folks late this afternoon.

“Please, Mommy! Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! Can’t we just call him, Mommy??? Please!”

“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!” Clearly there’s a 38-pound mosquito in the room I can’t get rid of.

So we call my brother who is down in Menlo getting ready to take a tour of Stanford. This is the conversation that I hear from my end:

“Hello! Hello! Hello! Heeeeello!!! Who’s there? Who is this? Hello! JJ. I want JJ. Hello!”


“Hi JJ. So whaddarya doin’?”

Silence. Smile.

“Ok…Good…Golf, tennis, my rockets. Are you going to sleep on the top bunk?”

Smile. Smile.

“Yup. See ya!” (Yes, at age 5 my son can already speak Man-Tongue. One word sentences. Grunts. Yups.)

He hangs up and his face is as excited as my husband’s with a Yankees-Red Sox lead in the bottom of the 9th. Rejoice!

So JJ finally shows up. And I send him off to pick-up my son at Pre-K, just a few blocks away, to surprise him for 3 o’clock pick-up.

Heart attack, apparently. My son flipped out and tore through Pre-K, lunch room, tiny tables, backyard, tomato seedlings, nursery, Susie’s cubby, and directly into my brother’s arms.

“I love you,” he declared.

And every heart within a three-mile radius melted.


By Annie B. Yearout

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Friday, April 13, 2007


My First Kid

He arrived with great joy 15 years ago this March. He has absorbed all of my tears, shared my playful joy and loved me unconditionally.

I have, in turn, woke up at night to quiet his screams, cleaned up after his messes, gave him medicine when he was sick, made sure somebody responsible looked after him when I was away, and loved him unconditionally.

Thankfully, he approved of my husband when I got married and my husband willingly accepted the fact that he was part of the package that came with me. My husband gladly adopted him and embraced loving him, holding him and waking up to feed him. He has even put thought into his gifts at Christmas and embraced the fact that he gives me so much joy.

My first “kid” Siren is my Siamese Blue Point cat. Unlike my children, ever since day one Siren has pooped in his “toilet” and ate every last drop of whatever food is put in front of him. However, like my children, he wakes up several times at night, screams as loud as he can for no apparent reason, and wants my attention at his every convenience.

Siren prepared me for experiencing the level of annoyance, joy and unconditional love that children bring to my life.

Unexpectedly, the magnitude of these feelings grew exponentially with the birth of my own boys.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy

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It's Not TV

It had been a l-o-n-g time. Nearly one and one half years. Too long for anyone to wait,

Then, this Sunday – it was on.

I arrived home too late – and missed it.

It had to be ON DEMAND.

No Sopranos.

I’ve had a lot of tough times over the last year, but this, THIS, was wrong.

Recently, a friend lent me every episode of Absolutely Fabulous, which has always been one of my favorite shows.

Unfortunately, I found I can’t watch it anymore. It’s still brilliant. It’s that serious things have happened in my life and now I find the show too frivolous.

But The Sopranos is real. I grew up on the East Coast. While I don’t know any mobsters, I have seen enough Martin Scorsese films to feel as though I know these guys.

And there’s something else about the characters – they’re real. You have couples in love, ones that argue, dysfunctional families – reality. And I mean real reality not like recreated reality TV.

Yesterday, my husband had a quick trip to Washington, D.C. and New York. My daughter, Mimi, who has taken to referring to herself in the third person, declared,
“Dada (an artist in the making?) gone. Mimi get to sleep with Mama. Mimi likes to sleep with Mama.”

All I could picture was – a 9 p.m., bedtime after reading Bootsy Barker Bites, for the 14th consecutive night. I tried for a new book – and lost. I explained that after Mimi (staying with the third person theme) went to bed, Mama would have to leave the room so she could put on her medicine.

“But then you’ll come back and sleep with Mimi, right?”


She fell asleep sometime after 10. I put on my medicine and waited a half hour, while reading a New Yorker article about the designer Karl Lagerfeld. I got the sense we would never run in the same circles.

But now it was time for me to come full circle. I ran downstairs, pushed the On Demand button and – a repeat episode of the new Sopranos show appeared!!!!

For one hour I was no longer in my house. I was transported to 'Jersey with Tony, Carmela, Bobby, and Janice.

When the episode was over, I felt complete, too

Then, standing there on the steps was a small, pajamed figure. She was holding her Hello Kitty! pillow. "Mama supposed to be in bed with Mimi.”

My Sopranos fix in, Mama went to bed with Mimi and Hello Kitty!

By Dawn Yun

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Thursday, April 12, 2007


Big Bad Wolf

The big bad wolf’s name is Schizophrenia. I know this because he tried to gobble up my older brother when he was just 14 young years old. Not in one gulp, but in an erratic pattern of gnawing and howling, followed by moments of satiation we could describe as calm (or at least calmer).

That wolf wreaked havoc on our family. When he was around he was just plain scary. And annoying. Being a kid I wanted to blame my brother for becoming a wolf, though he hadn’t and I knew that, too. Sometimes it was hard to tell by his actions whether it was the wolf’s fault or my brother’s or a combination of the two. How could he not take on wolf characteristics with that darn creature trying to invade him?

In 5th grade I made the mistake of confiding in a best friend about the big bad wolf. I felt incredible relief and trust. The next day on the playground while waiting in line for four square another girl called out, “Your brother is RETARDED.” Real loud. I was tempted to correct her and tell her to blame the blasted wolf but what did she know?

After all, how do you describe a big bad wolf trying to gobble up your brother in quiet suburbia? Who would understand? And who could understand? I closed off and told no one about the wolf invading our home. I was also afraid that my peer group would see me as part of some wolf pack rather than as a member of an actual real-life smiling, loving, healthy family.

Just like in the Three Little Pigs story that wolf has tried to “blow our house in.” But somehow, he’s never managed to crumble my parents’ marriage or dismantle our family tree. Thanks to modern medicine and the blessing that it is, medications have taken most of his huffing and puffing away. He’s just a weak wolf now, though he’s still there.

My brother has had that wolf at him for over 30 long years now. I wish it would just finally, finally go away.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007



I spent two nights in the ER and three days on the Pediatric Ward with my 5-year-old daughter last week. Doctors were determining whether the uncontrollable fever, vomiting, and pain in her right side were solely the work of a kidney infection not responding quickly enough to antibiotics, or if they were the added burden of a bursting appendix, as well.

Two urine samples, two blood tests, four I.V. insertions, four ultrasounds, and a CT scan later, the doctors determined that the pain in her right side was indeed the work of the kidney infection, particularly raging in her right kidney (hence the heightened attention to her appendix).

The doctors and nurses were so thorough (see above), treating the many scary symptoms and listening to every piece of information coming from my 5-year-old’s mouth that, despite the pain and fear I both witnessed and felt, I was certain they would do whatever it took to correctly diagnose her.

Because of this, I felt calm and strong.

However, when I spoke to my mother up in Washington state, also calm and strong, I almost lost it – but not for any obvious reasons.

We were having an even-keel, matter-of-fact conversation, when, off the cuff, she told me she’d never had to go through anything like this with me. The only thing that came close was a middle of the night trip to the ER for a terrible earache when I was Aubrey’s age. There, she’d learned her insurance company wouldn’t cover the visit because it wasn’t technically an emergency.

That’s the point of the phone call where I could feel pressure in my throat, that burning in my nose and eyes.

How dare they? I found myself thinking. What kind of horrible healthcare system would make a single mother with next-to-nothing in child support, working full-time as a bookkeeper for a lumberyard, have to choose between the care of an ailing child and taking a big financial hit?

Pardon me, but what a shitbob choice.

Fortunately for us, we’re poor enough while my husband attends dental school and I work part-time. that we qualify for kick-ass state insurance – and I am so eternally, eternally grateful. But, listening to my mom, I couldn’t help but think of all the in-betweeners, the families on other kinds of insurance that won’t cover x, y, or z, or the families with no insurance at all.

Coincidentally, the night before Aubrey’s first trip to the ER, I listened to Joan Blades of and, and co-author of The Motherhood Manifesto, speak about these very issues.

Little did I know I’d be playing so directly into her concerns.

I remember her saying that it was time for families to recognize that what might seem like isolated incidents were not isolated incidents (i.e. my mom having to make the choice between medical care in the middle of the night or financial safety). They were the widespread problems among many. She said it was also time to see an acceptance of these incidents, as being “just the way it is,” as problematic as well. and The Motherhood Manifesto are grassroots attempts at uniting women and families with a common goal to create positive change in these areas.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone political. Give me good literature that makes me ponder the human condition and I feel wise enough. Truth be told, though, I’ve always kind of wondered if sometime my desire to understand the human condition, my own real world experience of it, and the possibility of impacting it would arrive at a three-way crossroad – where I’d have to get out of the car and feel the dirt under my feet.

Perhaps now is the time.

When I looked at my little girl, pale after days of fever and pain and uncertainty, I knew it was never a question of whether she’d get care; it was simply a question as to what extent the care would work.

Shouldn’t it be that way for everyone?

I made it through one emergency last week; it looks like it’s time I gear up to face another one.

By Anjie Reynolds

Tell the President and Congress it's not acceptable to have 9 million kids without healthcare coverage and millions more with inadequate coverage. And it's not okay to have 46 million total uninsured Americans. In our country, healthcare issues shouldn't be a leading cause of bankruptcy, and our childhood mortality rates shouldn't rank in at a pathetic 37th of all nations, according to the World Health Organization. This is simply not acceptable.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007



24-ounce mega-cans of Heineken beer
Snack-sized Starkist tuna lunch kits

This could be the shopping list of a frat boy who cares about Omega-3 fatty acids but not about mercury. Instead, the list is my husband’s, and he’s not even a drinker. He intends to pour the beer down the drain, give the cat a treat, and fashion a portable stove from the cans.

My husband is obsessed with lightweight backpacking. He spends hours online chatting with likeminded fanatics about the newest miracle fabric that repels water, retains heat, and is lighter than air. They swap recipes for freeze-dried concoctions requiring less space than a teabag. Each gram shaved from the overall weight of the pack is cause for celebration; it means he can go faster and farther on his solo trips into the wilderness.

He spends all day experimenting, drilling holes into the beer can, creating a miniature windscreen. Our teenaged daughter catches him trying to boil water in his makeshift tuna-can stove. Rolling her eyes, she declares, “This mid-life crisis has gone too far!”

I know I should be grateful. Other men troll online for extramarital flings or buy expensive sports cars to stave off the onslaught of age. My husband is both frugal and true.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder about his preoccupation with traveling light. How much does he long to unburden himself of home and family, of a life heavy with obligation? We drag on him, the kids and I. The mortgage, hot flashes, college tuition, endless household chores -- they all add to his load. How far could he have gone if he weren’t so weighted down?

No wonder he wants to set off unencumbered at a swift pace. Perhaps, if he doesn’t need to pause for others to catch up, he can even outrun the passage of time.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Sunday, April 08, 2007



My 11-year-old son was recently invited to go bowling with the five other boys that make up his close circle of friends. The parent who proposed the bowling outing intended to drop the boys off and pick them up a few hours later.

I hesitated.

The bowling alley includes a full-service bar and an arcade, features that attract a seedy crowd. The local paper lists it as the vicinity of frequent nighttime police calls. However, on weekend afternoons it’s a mecca for school aged birthday parties. It’s anyone’s guess who might be hanging out there in the middle of a weekday during mid-winter break.

My son was almost 9 the first time my husband and I let him walk the three blocks to our suburban neighborhood store to buy some milk. Proud of our confidence in him, he bolted out of the door, exhilarated to be on his own. Seconds later, a concerned neighbor phoned to report that she has seen our son running down the street alone.

I was heartened to know that my neighbor was looking out for us, yet dismayed that the sight of a lone fourth grader was so conspicuous. How will our children ever gain a sense of independence if they are forever encumbered by the watchful gaze of adults?

Today my son stays at home alone regularly -- sometimes even with a friend over -- while I shuttle his younger sister to after school activities. He walks to and from the school bus each day while many of his peers are still driven to the bus stop. He rides his bike to soccer practice. He roams the local creek with his friends. And this year he and his friends even went trick or treating unsupervised. (I did tuck my cell phone into his costume, just in case).

Fretting over whether to let him go bowling, feeling the pull and push of wanting to protect him without stifling him, it occurred to me to ask my son what he wanted to do. He confided that he wasn’t comfortable going to the bowling alley on his own. He declined the invitation, and, turns out, so did most of his friends.

That afternoon I sent my son off, on his own, to the nearby ice cream parlor to buy the treat of his choice. He politely waved to our neighbor as he passed by.

By Tina Bournazos

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Saturday, April 07, 2007



My 4-year-old announced for at least the tenth time as we drove to the airport that she WOULD be taking her prized purple roller suitcase on the plane with her. The idea had moved to the top of her list of cool things to do ever since our last flight. It was then that she realized some passengers actually brought their luggage on the plane with them -- and she’d been missing out.

“We’ll see, honey,” I muttered under my breath. Not on your life sister, I thought.

I’m proud of her independent streak. But from past experience I know that in her hands -- in a busy airport -- the little purple suitcase can be a lethal weapon. I’ve seen terror on the faces of other travelers as they’ve narrowly escaped having their toes pulverized or knees bashed by this deadly duo as it steamrolls its way from curb to check-in counter.

“Okay, honey -- give the lady your case,” I instructed her when it was our turn to check in.

“NO! I’m taking it on the plane!”

“No, you’re not,” I said as the woman behind the counter eyed me and my tiny foe skeptically.

Minutes passed as we wrestled with the suitcase. My daughter’s protests grew louder. The line behind us grew longer. It was time to pull out the big guns.

“Honey, if you give the lady your suitcase, we’ll get jelly beans,” I cajoled, digging deep into my bribery arsenal.

Surely the promise of a favorite treat -- before breakfast -- would do the trick.

She just glared.

Peering over my shoulder, I saw a sea of hostile faces staring back at me. The woman behind the counter looked equally irritated. It was time for this showdown to end. And I knew I wouldn’t be the victor.

Trust me -- I don’t always cave in to my daughter’s demands. As a mom, though, I’ve found that living by the mantra “choose your battles” is sometimes necessary to preserve my sanity.

“You are NOT getting jelly beans,” I hissed as we walked away.

“But I want something UNHEALTHY!”

She didn’t get the jelly beans. But she did have an ear-to-ear grin as she lugged that suitcase onto the plane.

By Dorothy O’Donnell

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