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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


In Love

What exactly is the right answer when one of your children asks: “Who do you love most?” Is there ever a right answer? Secretly I would love to tell each of my children that of course they are by far my favorite one. That may be the only chance I have that one of them will take care of me in my old age. But the truth is I love Daddy best.

There are so many ways in which my love for my children is better than my love for my husband. I do not mean the sex. The physical relationship I have with my little boys borders on obscene. I am dreading the day I can’t kiss them on the lips and bite their bare bottoms. I can go a days without sex but I cannot go close to an hour without smothering my boys with hugs and kisses.

First of all, I picked my husband. Of course we had to ultimately pick each other but he was the one I wanted. My kids: not so much. With kids you take what you get and hope for the best. While I love my children immensely, I do not always like them. I think of them more as an acquired taste, like anchovies. My husband is my best friend. Even when he does something I am not crazy about we can talk about it. I do not have to silently chant: “this is age appropriate” until the thoughts of homicide have passed.

I would never refer to either of my children as perfect. My stepdaughter comes close. But I truly think my husband is perfect. I hesitate to use the word perfect without clarifying that he is the perfect husband for me. I mean, of course he is not PERFECT. But would I want him to be? His imperfections allow me to be, well, imperfect myself. While I am the first to admit I am not the perfect mother I really do believe that my husband is the perfect father. He has so many diverse skills that come in so handy that I often panic at the thought of doing this parenting thing without him. I love my boys so much but not a day goes by that I am not convinced I am screwing them up. I often feel that my husband is just better suited for this parenting thing than I am.

I want to help my sons become decent men. I want so much for them to be the Renaissance man I consider their father to be. There are things that make me wonder if I am as qualified as my husband to achieve this. I throw like a girl. I don’t really like to sweat or get dirty. I have a hard time peeing while standing up. I have a very low threshold for anything unpleasant (that includes vomit, whining, de-skunking the dog, and anything involving rodents). On the other hand, my husband is more in touch with his feminine side than I am. He can cook like a chef, picks and arranges flowers, shops the farmer’s market like a pro. Plus he can sew buttons on and operate a sewing machine. He is sexy in his sensitivity.

If my sons turn out half as great as I think their father is, their future wives will be lucky girls. Or boys. Who cares as long as they are happy? And hopefully appreciated.

By Cathy Burke


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Becoming Two

I still basked in the early years of motherhood— that warm summer morning after my daughter turned two, when we stopped at a gas station and she released herself from her car seat to sit up front while I pumped gas.

I bought her an apple juice at the convenience store and she took a gulp and smiled at me. Rush hour was over and we were only customers there; no need for me to fill my tank and drive off. The day belonged to us, and as the pump ran, I walked over to the passenger side of the car to talk to my daughter through the opened window.

I found myself in one of those moments when I could not help but admire creation. The sunlight, gold and visible in the air and my daughter, her light brown hair, translucent, wispy and her gray eyes that I suspected would someday turn brown but always remain vibrant, like a golden ember. And her long slender fingers and hands so small she needed to use both to hold the juice bottle steady enough to raise it to her lips. Venny wore lavender shorts, and green jellies on her feet.

“Do you know,” I asked, “how much I love you?”

“All the world.”

Her voice was like music, a bird’s song and I felt that bliss that come with being part of creation and creator all at once—Motherhood engorged with meaning.

After I filled the tank I got back in the car and sat there enjoying. I took my daughter’s hand and massaged her tiny palm with my thumb.

“You have to get back in your car seat.” I gave her hand a little squeeze, “Venny, I just love you.”

“You love me too much.”

There, she said it. She was two and had succeeded in discovering that she and I were separate people. And since I seemed to be having some trouble understanding that, she took the opportunity to tell me.

“Oh,” I said. “Okay. I’ll try not to say it so often.”

My girl finished off the last drop of juice and climbed back into her car seat. She seemed to think further discussion wasn’t necessary.

By Patricia Ljutic


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007



For 27 years, I’ve spent Memorial Day weekend remembering the dead. I’ve felt somewhat guilty in this, though, because I’m not necessarily remembering soldiers who’ve died in the line of duty, instead I’m remembering my aunts: women who’ve died in the line of, well, something else.

Twenty-seven years ago my mother’s youngest sister, Arlene, ended her life in a closed garage with her engine running after a night of drinking at a Memorial Day party. Coming off a disastrous marriage and enormous loneliness, the crumpled up notes in the trashcan revealed she set out this very weekend to attempt to fulfill on an ominous promise she’d made my mother when they were teens: that she wouldn’t live a day past 30. She was 32.

Ten years before that – although not this very weekend – my mom and Arlene’s oldest sister, Karen, took her own life, as well, with a gun at the base of a steel beam bridge. She left behind a disastrous marriage and a 5-year-old child. I didn’t learn about the manner of Karen’s death until Arlene’s, and, at that point, my 9-year-old brain merged these tragedies in season.

So, come Memorial Day weekend, I can’t help but think of the pain that must’ve led these women to their chosen deaths. I also think of the pain that remained, liquid and bursting in the hearts of their families.

Over the years, through different phases of my life, I’ve spent this weekend considering loss from various perspectives: from that of my mother, my mother’s remaining siblings, my grandparents, and my cousin.

And, perhaps, often, I’m thinking of myself, as a blood relative and a product of that family -- hoping that the love and joy and strength that sustain me now will always do what I count on them to do, which is, well, to sustain me.

By Anjie Reynolds


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Monday, May 28, 2007



Two years ago I had the privilege of participating in my nephew’s birth. When I arrived I waited behind the curtain until my sister’s contraction peaked and then went in to say hello.

“You’re a liar and I hate you,” she said weakly.

While it was probably best that she didn’t witness my first two deliveries, watching me sneeze out my third probably wasn’t the best preparation for this day. By then, I had wised up, got the epidural and it was a significantly more graceful process. I napped. I read. I glanced over at the monitor when I felt my e-fucking-normous stomach tighten.

“Whoo – that was a doozy!” Back then my sister rubbed my feet and fought with my husband for the cozier recliner.

I tried to explain the difference now, but she wasn’t buying it. I gently suggested that she get the drugs. There’s no shame in getting relief; no extra credit for suffering needlessly.

Of course, it was useless.

In this Seattle birth center, we had a doula; a Tai Chi master/labyrinth facilitator; impending grandma; two expecting parent biologists; and me.

There would be no drugs today.

I’d never been present for the birth of a baby, outside of my own three. I’ve been the big, sweaty, groaning mess who couldn’t remember how to breathe. Playing a supporting role was a relief. Holding my sister’s hand, lifting her knee, offering words of support and encouragement came easily.

I knew my brother-in-law wanted to be down at the business end where I was, to watch his son’s head crown, but my sister had him in a headlock as her contractions heated up. She wasn’t letting me relinquish my post either, with her knee and hand.

When Oliver Salish emerged, and feeling returned to my hand, his new grandma and I shared the most biologically bizarre sensation: the unmistakable tingle and ache of letdown. We were both very physically and emotionally immersed in his birth, so this must have been nature’s way of making sure the wee one eats.

Nice to know you can be useful.

By Mary Allison Tierney


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Sunday, May 27, 2007


Holding Tight

“When Mommy’s old and shrively will you carry me, too?” I ask my 4-year old son hoisting him onto my side while walking into Whole Foods Market.

“Oh don’t ask me that anymore!” he snaps back annoyed, before instructing firmly, “When you are OLD and shrively, I will, but not while I’m a kid.” I chuckle to myself at the response. I remember the first time his solid frame led me to ask that question. His face took a contemplative look before he eagerly offered “Yes!” with a jubilant smile. I think he, too, envisioned the “big and strong man” he hopes to become.

He and I are running errands together having left his two sisters home with Dad. It’s a rare excursion out for just the two of us. When he requested that I carry him I was tempted to lecture about how he’s a big boy and can walk. Maneuvering a clunky metal shopping cart one-handed is just never appealing. I look at him from the corner of my eye, “Are you tired?”

“No,” he rubs his cheek against mine, “I just want you to carry me.” He leans his head in the crook of my neck before opting to keep his cheek pressed against mine as we continue on our way.

Together we meander our way down the aisles discussing what vegetables he hates, what apples to buy his sisters and what’s still on the list, all the while our heads leaning together, cheek-to-cheek. While we wait our turn in the meat department, I remind myself to take a moment to take in this moment. I feel William’s warm breath as he asks about the various meats, a butter-soft cheek pressed close and little arms resting on my shoulders. Tomorrow he may opt to never be carried, but for now I have my little boy.

On the ride home he calls over the Jack Johnson music,” Mommy, I’m going to die the same time as you.” I repeat what I heard for clarification and he simply offers, “Yes.” I look back in the rear-view mirror and catch a glimpse of his content, smiling face looking out the window.

Tonight while turning out the light I assure that I’ll come back and snuggle once he’s asleep. “Do other boys have their Mommies come back and snuggle?” The question catches me off guard. Already feeling the pressure of peers? Just yesterday it seemed that he asked me to stay and snuggle. Wait, it was yesterday, so,“Yes,” I readily and assuredly reply.

“And ugh, I don’t need these things here anymore. Just give them to Grace!” he offers while flinging two stuffed animals off of his bed. I find myself actually feeling a pang of sadness for these once loved stuffed creatures; coveted Henry the Bear and Telly the Cat whose roles have suddenly shifted from loved ones to just things, but I take my cue and assure William that his little sister, Grace, will take good care of Henry and Telly.

For all that I love to watch my children stretch and grow I hold tight to these moments of a soft cheek pressed close and little hands reaching out. Life in this stage is a rhythm of holding tight to memories and continually letting go so my children can stretch and grow. And somewhere in this rhythm I will continue to find my groove by taking my cue from them.

By Maija Threlkeld


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Saturday, May 26, 2007


Memorial Day Thoughts

One Saturday a month, my husband, Tim, two children, and I pile into the minivan for an hour-long drive from our home in Marin to Travis Air Force Base with the express purpose of shopping in the Commissary. My husband retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves; shopping at the Commissary is the major perk.

Tim’s father was in the Army, a ticket out for a Depression-era Texas farm boy with a sixth-grade education. Tim grew up on military bases in Okinawa and Germany, Oklahoma, and Texas. When it came time for college, an ROTC scholarship was his best option. The Army paid for medical school.

Food at the Commissary is cheaper than it is at our local Safeway, and we don’t have to pay tax. They check your I.D. at the door -- which is inconvenient when wrangling two small kids -- but they check I.D. everywhere on a military base. Once you’re inside, the Commissary is the same as any other grocery store, circa 1975, which looks to be the year of its last renovation. But don’t buy fruit or the vegetables: they’re awful. I’m not sure why this is, but Tim tells me when he lived in Okinawa, the Army shipped gallons of milk to the troops, frozen, by boat. Maybe the Commissary uses the same technique with vegetables, even in this modern age of refrigeration.

In the years since September 11th, nearly every able-bodied soldier has shipped out. The aisles at the Commissary are filled with people left behind -- Vietnam veterans, Midwestern women with families, Korean War widows. But, occasionally, we’ll encounter a young Marine in desert camouflage and steel-toed boots, his hair in a crew cut. If he’s checking I.D., he’ll salute my husband. The Marine is just a kid, really, the age my husband was when he enlisted. A boy. My husband salutes back.

As I witness their exchange, I visualize my husband as a young doctor, stationed in Saudi Arabia. He is a healer, a man dedicated to preserving life. He hates war with every fiber of his being. I think of my son and my daughter, and remember the sons and daughters of mothers all over the world.

By Jessica O’Dwyer


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Friday, May 25, 2007



Half-empty mugs cultivating different species of mold are strewn through every room of the house. There’s a trail of discarded outer and intimate wear from the entry hall to the bathroom. My shower turns icy before I’ve even lathered up.

She’s back!

Before my daughter left for college, I was a wreck for at least a year. I brooded about the countless ways in which I’d failed to prepare her for adulthood. I regretted never forcing her to attend sleep-away camp. I worried that she didn’t know how to write a research paper. I obsessed over the fact that her platinum highlights from a box came out orange right before her college interviews, and that her conversational ability with adults -- at least the adults who raised her -- seemed confined to monotones and eye-rolling.

“What kind of a home must this girl come from?” I imagined admissions officers scribbling in the margins as they tossed her application atop the reject pile.

The college of her dreams must have successfully gambled on a few orange-streaked grunters before, because she got in.

That’s when the separation anxiety began in earnest.

I dreamed of a last idyllic summer together, storing up mother-daughter bonding like summer squirrels stockpiling to stave off impending starvation. But it was her friends, not me, she couldn’t get enough of. She was out until dawn most nights, then a sleep-deprived bitch in the rare time she spent at home.

I marveled at nature’s way of making separation bearable by making a teenager unbearable.

Still, I was heartsick at the thought of her looming departure. I imagined myself sinking into the same aimless and deep depression that snared my mother when my brothers and I left home.

When my daughter actually went away, and my anxiety and grief intensified, I walked around in a surreal daze of hollow aching.

For about two weeks.

Then I started to enjoy lower utility bills and horizontal surfaces liberated from clutter. Out from under the tyranny of my daughter’s vegetarianism, we once again indulged in chicken and steak. I no longer spent long sleepless nights envisioning her dead in a ditch when the hall light still glowed after midnight, even though I knew she could be just as dead in a ditch on campus.

Out of sight really is out of mind.

And absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Homesickness has spawned a sweet and surprising wish to be in touch from the girl who couldn’t wait to get away.

Not so long ago, I vowed to keep the porch light burning always, a beacon to guide her safely home whether she was near or far. Now that she’s back, I sputter with irritation every time she leaves the lights on. She rolls her eyes in response.

Surveying the Petri dishes masquerading as coffee cups, the trail of socks marking the path back home, I sigh.

Reunion anxiety has begun in earnest.

By Lorrie Goldin


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Thursday, May 24, 2007



I hear Janis Joplin singing Summertime on the radio….
Summertime, time, time,
Child, the living’s easy.

As I hum the lyrics I look over my daybook filled with lists and items waiting to be crossed off. Tuesday: sign boys up for swimming lessons; sign boys up for summer camp; adjust expenses to accommodate for income over the summer; send in registration slip for kindergarten next fall; send in medical evaluation to school; weed garden; clean BBQ; start watering lawn daily; order new swim suits and flip flops and eye goggles for boys; arrange dates to visit my sister in L.A. this summer; make an appointment to get the car serviced for the long road trip; remember end of year school parties and events.

Child, the living’s easy.

I wait for summer every year. I dream about going to the beach and walking around the house with bare feet and eating ripe peaches and drinking cold beer with lime. The thought of summertime seduces me into thinking about lolling about with a lover in the lingering humidity of early evening with the windows opened to the smell of jasmine.

I think about going away to a quiet summerhouse where I read novels during the day and wonder at the vastness and beauty of the stars at night. I can feel my muscles relaxing, my pace becoming slower. My body holds memories of summer in its cells; it anticipates it.

Summertime may not be what it once was before I had children. It may not be quite as easy as it seemed for Janis, or as it seems in my summertime dreams. But it continues to seduce me, and I continue to wait for it every year.

By Lisa Nave


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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Shooting for the Stars

Something the school psychologist said at a conference sometime ago wakes me up suddenly in the middle of the night.

Something to the effect that parents of only children may feel that this is their one shot to do it right.

All our hopes, dreams and aspirations pinpointed with laser precision on this one individual.

Yikes! He’s right. There’s no ‘do over’ with only one child.

Concert pianist. Celebrity Chef. Federal Reserve Chairman, sorry Chairperson. Nobel Prize Winner. Ruler of the Free World.

This is our one shot.

I’ve got to get on this immediately. What was I thinking wasting these precious seven years, letting her indulge in her own pursuits? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

It was now 3 a.m. Should I get on the Internet and start investigating right away what activities I could sign her up for? Then I could be ready with my list by morning and begin making calls ASAP.

My mind is swirling with plans – Mandarin classes, private tutoring in math and science, chess, piano, tennis. I would definitely need an Excel chart.

I am irritated by my sleeping husband. Gloriously unaware that we may be nurturing the next Gloria Steinem under our roof. God, do I have to do everything?

Fate may have dealt her a sibling-less hand, but there are advantages to being an only child. Never a need to compete for your parents’ attention. No need to say, “You love her/him more than me” (saying it about the family dog just doesn’t carry the same weight). Never have to share a room or beloved toys or be dragged to siblings’ baseball games and school plays.

Then unbidden a picture slips into my super-charged mind. How she looks longingly at the playing neighbors’ kids with their built-in companionship. Building sandcastles by herself at every beach vacation while close by brothers and sisters play Marco Polo.

She will never have that one other person or persons in the world who really understand the entity that are her parents.

An only child can be a lonely station the psychologist had said, handing us a poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran:

“…your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams…”

Okay. Calm down. Take stock. Need to re-focus. It’s only 6 a.m.; not the end of the world.
Kahlil’s right. She’s going to have her unique burdens to bear and victories to celebrate. She may not be the next Tiger Woods or Jane Austen. And that is fine. Case closed.

Note to self: doesn’t mean one can’t harbor a secret desire to bring to the world the next Marie Curie.

By Tania Malik


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Back yard

I love where I live but it is a far different kind of house and setting than the one in which I grew up. My Northern California house doesn’t have a front yard. It has a redwood fence and 12 steps that lead to a small deck and the front door.

For an East Coast born and bred girl this is weird. Odder is the back yard. It’s about a quarter of an acre of sheer drop. One has to walk down it sideways -- as if trekking with a sherpa -- not to fall.

Growing up we had a decent sized front yard and a back yard with a deck that led to a pool, plenty of area to run, and a stone wall.

But at my current house, for seven years the children’s backyard has been our rear deck. They rode their tricycles, bicycles, scooters, and skates on it. I’d stare at the breathtaking view of Mt. Tam, but look below at the unused slope and wish it were flat so that the kids could play in nature rather than on a wood platform anchored by stilts.

My husband is given to occasional bouts of spontaneity. His latest? He wanted to put a small vineyard in the backyard. Deep holes were drilled, soil samples taken and grapes were to be decided upon.

I thought this would be a good hobby for him, and an excellent time to press my case for a play area for the kids. John caved.

Before he changed his mind, I quickly hired someone to flatten the back, create a giant rectangle, outline it in wood, and fill it with dirt and wood chips. We call this the Activities Area.

Toys R Us was having a sale on enclosed 8’ trampolines so we bought one. If I had practiced my kegals, as my gynecologist suggested after having my daughter, I might even be able to use it. But after one “accident,” I’ve learned there are other, less spillful ways to exercise. But the kids have no problems with it.

Beside it we set up a croquet area, only we re-figured it to resemble home-made mini-golf festooned with differing themes at each station. Jay absolutely insists on following the rules and Mimi absolutely insists on cheating. So we don’t play croquet as much as I had hoped. But the space is interchangeable and within moments we can set up a volleyball or badminton net. We even have inflatable cactus that you can limbo under. Mimi and I also got matching pink baseball mitts and play toss with a pink ball. Girl power!

To save money, our landscaper created “steps” in the dirt and a couple of paths for the kids to run on. To make them fun, I embedded their baby and childhood toys along the dirt trails. A Baby Einstein giraffe; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Little Pet Shop animals, Transformers. . . it’s like watching their childhood toy chests open up year after year.

Under three separate trees we created seating areas. A flat sitting spot for adults with comfy, worn chairs. Since I’m not a gardener, but wanted a spray of color, I sprinkled rows of scented and dried flowers and created an aromatherapy “garden” that never needs tending.

Across is a flat tree shaded sitting area for the children. A large cow complete with red udder that I had an artist create for me years ago is where toys are placed at the end of each day. And behind it is a large, shady tree on a small hill. This is the kids’ favorite spot because they can throw things from it. Trucks, Barbie dolls, croquet mallets.

We even have a dry creek bed at the bottom of the property that I only recently discovered when a friend inspected our land. Really? I never dared to venture that far. But now a tent is there and that’s the children’s “secret” hiding place. They don’t know it, but I can see them from where I sit and write. Don’t tell.

I also bought a Tiki Bar. It is the first thing you see when you walk down the back stairs to the Activities Area. When friends come; it is stocked with wine, Mojitos, Marguerites. And for the kids, fizzy water and juice.

Finally, we have a backyard. And not just any one but a yard that is fun, handmade and sprinkled with memories. Here the kids and their friends can expend energy and be creative while playing in nature

We rarely use the upstairs deck anymore.

By Dawn Yun


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Monday, May 21, 2007


The Distances Between Us

My mother was not too chatty on the phone when I called her for Mother’s Day.

“Thank you for remembering. I’m going to church now, but I wouldn’t have picked up the phone if I didn’t know it was you.”

I’m her grown daughter and only child, and now that she’s moved far enough away that she can’t bring us a trunkful of food every time my folks visit, her answering the phone is a nod of specialness that I cling to.

Especially since I’m going to be a first-time mom. She’s gone to town with the shopping. Five cream-colored outfits, plus another five in blue that say “baby prince” await the little hamster that’s germinating in my belly. She’s gotten me a travel satchel, a diaper bag, and maternity clothes from their last trip to Taiwan. But Mom seems as far away as the island nation we’re from, and even as I feel the poignancy of that separation, I realize that motherhood is close at hand for me.

As close as the space between my palms.

Last night, over supper with my mother-in-law, we talked about arrangements for my mom to stay with us for the first few months after our child’s born. Sally is cautionary; her silvery eyelids flash ever so slightly as she says, “Bob and I treasured our private time when we had our babies.” It was the ‘60s, and she was a Supermom before the Enjoli woman could flaunt her skills with frying pans and pleasing her man, and by implication, raising their kids.

I feel somewhat unsure about my natural talents at handling a crying newborn and a malfunctioning breast pump, along with my eager husband who’ll be every bit as much of a novice as myself. So I look forward to my mother bridging that 700-mile gap between Las Vegas and San Francisco. I may cringe when she starts bossing us around as she did with her six younger siblings.

“Boil this. Chop that. Tuck her in. Not too tight. Watch your tongue. Mama knows best.” Or, at least, better than I do.

In my twenties, I loosened the ties that bound me to parental and Confucian ideals. Making my own way when she said, “If you’re not going to be a doctor, then you can be a lawyer or engineer.” Defending my choices when she accused me of losing my mind, studying to be a shrink. Fighting for outward independence, but knowing that I was never completely free within. The maternity clothes won’t be the first thing of my mother’s that I’ll wear. For a long time it’s been a cloak of guilt, rational and not so rational fears in a world that won’t always give you what you want.

I wonder what kind of mother I’ll be, because there are dangers in the world, and every mother will lift the proverbial car with her bristling biceps to save her child. I’ve already seen that fierce instinct unleashed, in the prenatal clinic of all places, where a shimmering black and white image of my unborn child arouses my desire to protect him or her at all costs. And, yet, already the child pushes away a little, squirming, turning away from the prying wand of the ultrasound.

I can respect that. Even though the physical distance from my own parents evokes regret, touches of nostalgia – I must accept that this child growing inside is becoming his or her own person, growing her own eyes and hands and feet and intellect, claiming the sphere of my womb as her own.

By Li Miao Lovett

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


It Takes a Village?

When I first moved to our idyllic suburban neighborhood six-months pregnant, I imagined the cul-de-sac of my own youth. There were so many young families I was hoping for a commune of sorts.

I imagined trades and breaks and everybody pitching in to help each other. I really was counting on all of us raising our families together. Now, seven years later, I realize it is not meant to be. While I do feel a special bond with all mothers, especially moms with two children close in age, I realize there is a difference between proximity and convenience. Yes, I know all my neighbors, but that does not mean I like them. I have such a hard time asking, let alone accepting or feeling, like I deserve help.

When we were all pregnant at the same time and all new to the neighborhood, we formed quick friendships that I imagined growing over time as our families grew. But two siblings later, I still feel as if I am imposing if I ask a favor. The children do play together and there is one other family that we do regular trades with but it is nothing like I expected. More often than not I am stuck home with my own children. Why does it feel like such a chore?

As far as helping each other out, we have a ways to go. There are mornings when it bugs me to see the three of us who go to the same school pull out of our driveways simultaneously. But then the other day one asked if I could hang out at her house while her little one napped so she could pick up her first grader.

Since my little one was at a play date and my first grader was already bored with my company, I happily agreed. We walked up the street together hand-in-hand imagining how much fun the change of scenery would be. We could not wait to see a new assortment of toys.

After 15 minutes, my 7-year old declared he was bored again and wanted to go home. It was comforting to know he could walk safely home stopping and checking at each of the five driveways.

He waved to me as he turned into our own driveway and I settled in to enjoy myself. I was thrilled to discover a new assortment of magazines.

Maybe I was the one who needed a change of scenery.

By Cathy Burke

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Saturday, May 19, 2007


Houdini Toddler

There’s a cold dark place you go when you can’t find your child. I went there once. This isn’t the run of the mill can’t pick out your kid’s head bobbing in the pool, can’t sift through all the hooded toddlers at the park, just focused on a sale rack for a second and now you’re on your hands and knees at Nordstrom. This is an all hands on deck, EVERYBODY is looking and minutes are ticking by and your toddler is GONE. This is when someone gently leads you to a room so you can scream while they hold you.

I stepped into the Toddler Room to pick up my 2-year old son and in the scramble for lunch boxes and hanging up of jackets I couldn’t see where he might be. The afternoon kids were settling in for lunch and the hip-height chaos was all around me. A few seconds passed before I could move into the room and peek around the corner to the area where I usually found him painting. Not there. His teacher saw my questioning look and helped me look. She opened the door to the outside play area, asking several parents and teachers if they had seen him.

In seconds the entire school was in lock down mode with all able bodies calling his name and looking in the garden, upper school, kitchen, parking lot, office. This is when it became cold and dark, and I was led by the elbow into an office. I remember screaming for someone to call 911.

Parents and teachers had begun looking in the creek that runs behind the school and were fanning out into the neighborhood, when a local resident came out of her house and asked if we were looking for the little boy she had in her arms. He had slipped out the gate in the back of the school and disappeared up a flight of stairs leading to the Homestead Valley Community Center. Like Popeye’s Sweetpea, skirting disaster at every turn, he had gone past the pool, through a parking lot with a blind driveway, along Montford, a typical Mill Valley neighborhood street with no sidewalk or shoulder, across Montford and up this neighbor’s steep driveway. The fact that he wasn’t run down by an SUV was a miracle in itself.

Ten years have passed since that day, and the two preschool teachers have since retired and moved away. I send them both a Christmas card each year and get one in return. I know they went to their own cold dark place that day.

By Mary Allison Tierney

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Friday, May 18, 2007




I hate homework. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Nick, my fourth grader, spends about 90 minutes a night struggling with homework. I think 90 minutes a night at 10-years old is ridiculous. For some of his classmates, the time is 45 minutes to an hour, but Nick is too fried after school to work very efficiently.

Nick’s teacher is fabulous (other than his extreme sports approach to homework) who plans fascinating class activities and terrific field trips. But Nick’s memory (and mine) of fourth grade will be how homework came to dominate our lives.

Nick has nightly homework, a weekly project and a monthly independent reading report (the dreaded IRP). My son is one of the easiest-going people I know, but planning for three distinct activities stresses Nick. We’ve had several bouts of tears this year. And he’s told me that every time he leaves the house, he feels like he’s forgetting something. Again, at 10 years old, I find this ridiculous.

I’ve talked to the teacher. Even if he is unwilling to change his requirements, I want him to know the impact of homework. The latest advice I received from the teacher was to teach Nick some stress management techniques. My son is a 10-year old child. Why should he need stress management techniques to deal with school? Ridiculous.

I don’t get a lot of support for my dislike of homework. Most moms I talk to think the homework is a good thing, that our kids will be better prepared for the rigors (tortures) of middle school. My husband tells me to stop the complaining, that it’s just the way it is. All kids have more homework these days.

There are plenty of studies showing homework does nothing at this age. But an hour or more of homework a night has become so usual that many adults accept it without question. I’ve decided to speak out against gratuitous heavy volumes at every opportunity. I want my happy learner back. I want to take walks after dinner. I want to play board games. I want to play catch. The time has come to take back the night.

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


A Serial Play Dater

By 2002 it had been 14 years since I was ‘fresh off the boat’ from Australia. Halloween was my favorite holiday, I ate pancakes with bacon, hosted a dog party, TiVo’d the Super Bowl, even registered for gifts. I was employed, acclimatized and smugly assimilated.

Any of life’s puzzling issues were conveniently attributed to a small town upbringing and my not-so-small town California life. Then came the journey to new-parent land. No passport required.

This land came with confounding limitations, and a whole new vocabulary. With time, I learnt to embrace ‘tummy-time,’ ‘Ferberizing,’ even ‘transitional objects,’ and ‘time-out.’ It was the social mores, in particular the enigmatic ‘play date,’ that stumped me.

What is a play date? Who is it for? Does one or both expect a new friendship to develop? Who decides if you have a second date? Does someone get hurt? How is it different than adult dating? And how you get started? Sadly, not all of us live in an archetypal village from which perfect children emerge.

It was 2003 and we were newcomers to Los Angeles. With Baby Bjorn and false courage in place I ventured out to carouse, sippy-cup style, the most happening toddler hot spots.
The results were pitiful. In fact, the whole experience took me back to my equally-as-pitiful single days, with both parties creatively avoiding the possible entanglement that a second date portends. Finally, I had to admit to myself - I had become a serial play-dater. Where were my scruples?

I discussed this at length with a fellow Aussie who had stalked unsuspecting mums in the parks of Sydney and London. She confirmed that mothers are using and discarding mothers all over the world (the fathers – well I just don’t know, perhaps they are better at parallel play). “It’s perfectly normal,” she told me, and “you need that first date to really check it out.” Looking back, I may well have become a first play-date expert.

What did I learn? In the end it’s all about chemistry. Those first play dates are just like adult dating. As a single, you endure the pain and you learn to recognize your mate. As a parent, you endure the pain of the first play date and you learn about yourself, your child and the foreign culture of your new world.

It is 2007 and turns out I have a social almost 4-year old girl who loves my friends, single or otherwise, and has the perfect taste in kids (my taste) making play dates a cinch. I am employed, acclimatized, assimilated and socialized – wondering which land is next, and what visa to apply for.

By Robyn Murphy

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The Jar

I don’t remember what I ate, possibly undercooked chives or garlic, but it was a rough night. I felt obliged to apologize for my flatulence. But I needn’t; my daughter took the matter into her own hands. She pulled out a mason jar and declared, “every time you fart, Mommy, you have to put a quarter in the jar.”

I should be more sensitive, but I am not. I responded, “Okay, as long as every time you ask to go shopping, you put a quarter in the jar.” I tittered at my own joke. My daughter did not. She was quiet, might I say stunned. So how often does she ask to go shopping, you may ask. Folks, it is every friggin’ day.

‘So, can we go to Target to get a knapsack?

“But you already have one.”

“I know, but I have 20 bucks to spend.”

“You could save that up for something else.”

“I don’t want anything else.”

“In a few days you will think of something you want.

“But I want a knapsack; the one I have is too heavy.

“It’s fine, really, it works fine, during the summer, it won’t be so heavy.”

“So, can we go today?”

“NO, WE’RE NOT GOING SHOPPING TODAY. IT’S NOT A HIGH PRIORITY, and I am not going to give it a lot of thought.”

I wish I could say this exchange was an exception that proves the rule, but it is not. This is how raw we are with one another. How then to tone it down and get on a more genteel track?

The jar. I put it away after our fart/shopping exchange. Then I pulled it out again. As I drove around somewhere, I recalled that a few years ago when I was married, I suggested that we put a quarter in a jar every time one of us was sarcastic. Shoulda’ insisted on it. Might still be married.

The jar. It might have some value now. It could be quiet thing. Perhaps any time any of us says something we should not have said, we could put a quarter in the jar. Talking about the infraction would be optional. Give the money to a charity of my daughter’s choice when it’s full.


By Vicki Inglis

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Story Time

It’s 7 p.m. — story time at our house — and as I wait for my daughter, Emi, to finish zipping up her fleece jammies, I quickly open Where the Wild Things Are. She runs over, grabs it, and tosses it aside.


“How about Olivia?” I ask, as I always enjoy the antics of the little pig inspired by Jackson Pollock to splatter paint her bedroom.


Guess How Much I Love You?”


I sigh as she pulls My Big Girl Potty off the shelf. I bought this when we began potty training and, from a literary perspective, it’s really not all that interesting. No imaginary adventures to far away lands, no sweet conversations about the infinite reach of love between Big and Little Nutbrown Hare. I guess I should be glad she’s interested in the whole potty idea, but do we have to read this book every night? Why doesn’t she love Max and The Wild Things as much as I do? It bugs me. Just like it bugs me when I pass a copy of a novel I’ve especially liked on to a friend and months later, I spot it stacked on a bookshelf, forgotten under a layer of dust.

I have always been a lover of reading and books. Some of my earliest memories are of snuggling up with my dad before bedtime with Mog the Forgetful Cat and Bread and Jam for Frances. Now I often trade hours of precious sleep to get in just one more chapter of the novel I’m reading or to tear through the latest issue of The New Yorker.

In my daughter’s case, I would like to say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but, frankly, it concerns me that she does not appreciate the obvious superiority of Where the Wild Things Are to My Big Girl Potty. Worse yet is when she doesn’t seem that interested in reading at all. We were in the middle of Madeline the other night and she just got up and walked away when the heater kicked on. Apparently, hot air coming out of a vent in the floor is more captivating than a tale of an emergency appendectomy set in freaking PARIS. I’ve begun to worry that someday in the future I will find my beloved copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice stashed under her bed, untouched…

Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. She is only 2, after all. Even more important, this irritation with my daughter’s reading preferences brings up an uncomfortable question: Am I putting too much pressure on her already to like the things I like? To be like me? It’s one of those things we parents try to tell ourselves we won’t do — no one wants to turn into the cliché of the jock father forcing his son to try out for the football team ― and here I am, catching myself in the act before my poor kid is even out of diapers.

But it’s difficult not to have hopes and aspirations where our children are concerned. I know I will have opinions on clothes, boyfriends and choices of colleges and sometimes it will be hard to decide whether or not to share them. And if I do share, I must brace myself for the possibility of rejection. Someday she just might prefer math to reading (and I’ll be hopelessly inept at helping her with her homework), choose to live on the East coast instead of the West, or ―gasp!— vote Republican. And I will need to remember to keep my eye on the ‘big picture” goal of raising someone who thinks for herself.

But it is nice to hope that we will share some commonalities.

Yesterday, I got dinner started while Emi “sorted” the mail and when I peeked in to the living room to check on her, she had a magazine spread out on her lap. She looked at me and proudly announced, “I read The New Yorker!” It was upside down, but still… Maybe I’ll try and sneak in the latest David Sedaris essay tonight before the heater comes on.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka

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Monday, May 14, 2007


Multiple Choice

The letter informing us where my daughter, Phoebe, will go to kindergarten this fall arrived a couple of weeks ago. “Welcome to ABC School…” it began. It was my first choice out of the three schools I’d checked off on the registration form. I should have been happy. Instead, the whisper of doubt that had been in the back of my mind since making my choice last March was now as impossible to ignore as a car alarm gone ballistic in the middle of the night.

I wasn’t worried about student to teacher ratios, test scores or curriculum. One of the things that thrilled us most about Mill Valley when we moved here last summer was the reputation of its schools. When it came time to enroll Phoebe, I made the logical choice and selected the school closest to us.

But maybe I’m not so logical after all. When I learned that most of Phoebe’s friends from preschool would be attending my second choice school, I wanted to call the district office and beg for her to go there, too.

I know that she’ll make new friends wherever she goes to kindergarten. And I know that learning to cope with new people and situations is part of growing up. I’m just not sure if she’s ready—or I’m ready— to start from scratch again quite so soon.

Our move was harder on her than I’d expected. I moved frequently as a child myself, attending four elementary schools by the time I was 11. So I know how painful it can be to leave familiar worlds behind. But Phoebe was only 4 and, unlike me, she’s naturally outgoing. Moving wouldn’t be that big of a deal for her, I told myself.

I was wrong.

We were lucky to find a warm and welcoming preschool here. But often during the drive to drop her off—especially during those first months— I’d catch a glimpse of her in the rearview mirror looking uncharacteristically sad. “I don’t want to go to school, Mama,” she’d say. “I wish I were back at my old school.”

Pining for her old school eventually gave way to daily tales of escapades with her new friends. Recently, she even had her first sleepover with her “best friend” Isabelle (who will be going to school number two).

Last week I received another letter from the school district. Turns out there had been a mix-up—Phoebe was actually supposed to be enrolled at school number two. I couldn’t have agreed more.

By Dorothy O’Donnell

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Sunday, May 13, 2007



I know exactly the moment my older son, Paul, was conceived and it was fraught with panic and apprehension, not joy and anticipation. My husband and I had been married for roughly six months after being “together” for three years. There was no doubt that he was going to be the father of my child.


I had just gone off the pill and we had just begun talking about getting pregnant. Even though we were in negotiations, I was not prepared to actually be pregnant yet, let alone be anybody’s mommy.

I was not ready. I just did not know how not ready I really was.

“Wait! It’s not a good time” I insisted.

“Come on, what are the odds?” My husband countered.


Looking back, seven and a half years later, I wonder if I had known what lay ahead of me would I have done things differently? Would I do it at all?

I hear mothers say all the time how they can’t imagine their lives without their children. I can only pity those poor women and their lack of creativity. I not only imagine my life without them; I fantasize about it to the point of obsession. Sometimes that is all that gets me through my day.

I am in a sailboat with the wind in my hair and George Clooney by my side. I am in a café in Paris with a handsome stranger. I am on a beach sipping a Mai Thai next to a smooth chested beach boy.

Sometimes my husband is there (well, a slightly better version) but my children do not exist. My body is beautiful. My stomach is flat and hard, unlike the Shar-Pei puppy it now resembles. My mind is sharp and I remember things easily, not frantically and too late. I can complete thoughts and tasks without interruption.

I contemplate these parallel lives as I muddle through my days. Multi-tasking is just another form of ADD. I spin hopelessly through my house from one mess to another.

I love my kids even though I often wish for something else for myself. Peace and quiet, a clean bathroom, eight hours of sleep, I could go on and on. It is not that I wish they were not here, but that I often wish I were not here.

So I cling to my fantasies and try to go somewhere else in my mind. Especially since I don’t really want to go anywhere with my family.

By Cathy Burke

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Saturday, May 12, 2007


American Gothic

It’s that 4:30 p.m. try to avoid the meltdown moment with two girls of very different temperaments.

The younger one, Emily, has all the power, as she has discovered her shrill wail when the world is not bending to please her. Right now her 4-year old sister and I are doing our damnedest to make her happy. We decide to try music. She loves to dance if you can match her finicky mood with just the right song.

We hope to feel her rhythm.

“I know,” I say, “classical.” Mellow. I pray this will produce lyrical swaying, soothing moments for our dear toddler.

I put on Bach. She shakes her head. Mozart? Another no. Moonlight Sonata? She shakes her head harder.

We move on to contemporary. Her sister likes Ella Fitzgerald, but allows me to try Clapton. Emily starts to cry.

“But honey, it’s Layla, one of the all-time greatest songs!!!” Uh, oh. The crying gets worse. I grab for Putamayo, any country will do. Cuba, Pacific Islands, Tea Lands, all make her stamp her foot. I’m ready to give up. I’m tired and grumpy and I can only think of frozen food again to make for dinner. I decide this is not going to work. I may as well play the ‘80s music I used to dance to and get my own groove going.

“Here honey,” I tell her. “Mommy used to wear a lot of black makeup and dance to this kind of music in college!”

I put on The Cure, Head on the Door and start to dance. She looks uncertain. I still love this music and my older daughter and I start hopping. Forty year-old women can still dance a bad mood out even without the strobe lights! My little daughter starts to laugh, then rocks out and dances around the room.

We’re saved!

Do you think they sell Doc Martens at the Stride Rite outlet?

By Avvy Mar

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Friday, May 11, 2007



“Did you make the appointment yet?” asks my 16-year-old daughter.

She’s not talking about a trip to Planned Parenthood, so I have deliberately ignored her request for awhile. But since this is the third time in a month she’s inquired, I guess it’s not a passing fancy. She really, really wants her mole removed.

Some people regard their moles as beauty spots. My daughter does not. Particularly the big, raised one that sprawls out from under her spaghetti straps.

“I’m so self-conscious,” she moans.

“Did you even listen to David Roche at your assembly?” I want to scream. David Roche, who grew up with horrific facial disfigurement, is a revered speaker who motivates kids to rise beyond their preoccupation with appearances. Apparently, his inspirational message failed to inspire my daughter.

So has our own example. We drive dented utilitarian cars and never shine our shoes. We give money to Oxfam, the Democratic Party, and other hopeless causes. How could we have raised a child with such appallingly shallow values?

“It’s so expensive,” I say. “Think what else that money could buy.”

You waste all that money highlighting your hair, and you have to keep doing it! This would just be a one-time thing!” she argues.

As usual, I am speechless. No doubt she’ll some day have an illustrious career as a cutthroat labor negotiator and be able to afford all the cosmetic surgery she wants, along with a personal secretary to book her doctor’s appointments. In the meantime, what’s my defense? Why didn’t I go to law school so I could whip out a killer rejoinder? Instead I became a therapist. I am deeply mired in the skill of listening without responding, hopelessly empathic to all points of view.

For that matter, why didn’t I have children sooner? Then I wouldn’t have to subject my faltering mental acuity and graying hair to her nimble adolescent scrutiny. It’s so unfair!

“It’s so unfair!” she echoes. “It’s not my fault I have moles.”

“It’s not my fault either,” I think. “Blame your father.”

Lamely, I defend spending a small fortune at the hairdresser’s when I could instead be saving whole villages of children from the ravages of malaria.

“I earn this money. And besides, there’s lots of things I don’t do for the sake of vanity.”

But I’m losing the battle. Not because words escape me, but because I know what it’s like to be 16 and self-conscious. I know what it’s like to be 52 and self-conscious.

And I know that once in awhile, indulging in a remedy for a problem that is not really a problem is not that big a problem.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Thursday, May 10, 2007


College Envy

I am going to New York City to look at NYU with my stepdaughter. Of course I am thrilled that she got into such a prestigious school (I enjoy taking credit for all of her worthy accomplishments).

I am also thrilled that I am able to go with her and check out the city where I lived a million years ago. Okay, it has actually been 20 years since I spent the summer in a dorm at NYU while working in advertising between my junior and senior years of college. It may as well be a million years ago.

Most of all, I am thrilled about traveling across the country by myself to meet her in New York. This will be my first solo flight in nine years. It is an entire day of travel and I am looking forward to every minute.

I understand her wanting to go “away” to college. I would have given anything to have the chance to go across country to college. She also got into Berkeley, which is everybody else’s first choice. That would be her dad, her mom, her stepfather, and me. We make up a team. I joke that any two of us could not manage the job it takes all four of us to raise her.

But what we all love about Berkeley is the very thing that is holding her back: it is a 20-minute drive from both her respective households in Marin.

Is it our fault that the best school in the country is so close? We have offered to never visit, only allow her to come home for major holidays and even move ourselves. She remains undecided.
And so I plan my trip. The line between Alexandra and me keeps blurring in my mind. I can’t help but put myself in her position, wishing it were my own plans I was making.

I am sure I will miss her but I am thrilled for her. I am also jealous that
my college experiences are way in the past and hers are all still ahead of her.

By Cathy Burke

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Better Late Than Never

It was Friday before Mother’s Day, and I had 30 minutes to find a card, write a note, buy postage, and drop it in the mail. How did this always happen? Being a mother and forgetting your own on our “special day” was like forgetting your twin’s birthday.

I was in the drugstore, scouting the cards by cover, gravitating to the humor section, as usual, when I noticed a black & white message in the sentimental section and picked it up. “Mom, you’ve always been there for me,” it said. I grabbed another: “You always knew just what to say.”

These Hallmark versions described a mother I didn’t have and hadn’t missed until my daughter was born -- a mother who greeted me after school with homemade treats and a hug and questions about my day; a mother who doted on her grandchildren. When my daughter was born, the stark contrast between what I felt as a mother and what I saw in my own mother’s eyes awakened a loss I’d never acknowledged.

But the loss I felt wasn’t for me; it was for her.

I’d shrugged off Mom’s forgetfulness over our birthdays and stopped taking it personally that she and Dad didn’t visit more often. She thought we lived too much for the kids; that our schedules were too intensely wrapped around soccer and Little League and dance troupe. Mom and I talked regularly – monthly -- avoiding politics in favor of food: new discoveries in salmon or Dad’s barbeque conquests.

Standing in the aisle, I felt the heat rise to my eyes, shocked at the ferocity of emotions that didn’t have the decency to wait until I was alone. I was almost out the store’s back door when I noticed I was still holding a card. The familiar face behind the checkout counter reached over to scan it, and I handed her a five, stifling my sniffle.

Inside the car, I pulled my purchase out of the brown paper bag: “For my best friend.” I couldn’t send this; she’d know it wasn’t true. I’d buy another card tomorrow, after soccer. It wouldn’t arrive by Sunday, but I figured sincerity was better late than never.

By Kimberley Kwok

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Organic Stickers

Going “Green” has become some sort of trendy tagline instead of a thought and action process that weaves throughout society, government and our homes.

It is a noble cause to think we can save the Earth from ourselves after so many gazillion years of ebb and flow, but it does make me wonder about the regulation of goods and policies in the now; the “Green” police.

Take organic produce for instance. I have eaten organic produce ever since I could afford it, which was well after college graduation because before then my best job had been removing staples from old paperwork at the local municipality.

Back then, I made barely enough money and thought I was invincible so I didn’t really care what I consumed, to a point. I drew the line at liver and anything still alive; candy processed beyond recognition was still fine as were any kind of artificially-flavored salted snacks. I didn’t have kids yet, so it wasn’t about saving the Earth for anyone, I just thought the food tasted better.

You see, I am of the generation whose mom cooked dinner but most of the veggie sides required a can opener to serve. Basically, I didn’t realize that fruit and veggies could actually have a flavor other than butter or salt, or both.

Then I discovered the organic section of the grocery store that was at the time very small, very expensive and very hard to find. However, living in California provided many farmer’s markets and loads of fresh produce so I persevered. I learned that apples didn’t naturally grow the size of my head and bananas more realistically compared with, well, that’s another story.

Anyway, after having kids I stayed organic for other reasons such as the slim possibility that the pesticides may hinder their neuronal growth or something. I already have a tough enough time figuring out the little guys. And, organics are becoming more accessible to us time-starved moms. The organic section of the grocery stores are getting bigger and even places like Wal-Mart are getting in on the action.

Selfishly, this concerns me. I worry about quality control. If organic farming was so good at mass production, why were pesticides created in the first place? Not that I don’t think everyone should have access to organic produce, I am just concerned that the bureaucracy of certification which is already ambiguous, may not be able to keep up.

For instance, why can we visit Mexico and get sick drinking the water but are now able to purchase “organic” produce that is mostly made up of water from there? This concerns me on many levels. Is it organic because technically the stuff that makes us sick is bacteria organically found in nature? Are they using tons and tons of bottled water to irrigate? Are they heating the stuff up to a high temperature to kill everything? This ambiguity worries me, is most probably unfounded, but it makes me skip tomatoes for the week.

This past Earth Day I was washing my natural-sized eight dollar pear that I had waited days to become ripe and peeled of the sticker. First I was annoyed that the sticker took about a dollar of surface area off the pear, and then I wondered: Is the glue that attaches the pesticide-free certified label to the fruit, organic, too?

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy

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Monday, May 07, 2007



As each day passes my daughter’s speech grows more pronounced.

She speaks well, but certain sounds are mispronounced.

Th comes out as an f. “Mom,” Mimi will ask. “can we go over Efan’s house?” (Efan is Ethan, her friend.)

Her tenses can also get jumbled. “Jay won’t do what me wants.”

Or, my personal favorite: “We go with they.”

When Mimi began kindergarten we were told not to correct our children’s verbal mistakes. Their egos can be so fragile.

Mimi does NOT like to be corrected on anything, anyway. When I try, she will say, “No, Mom, what I’m saying is the truth. (Actually, she says truf.)

Recently, I’ve gently begun to correct her speech, only we do it as an extension of an “award” she received in school. Every child in her kindergarten eventually receives one.

It read: For working so hard to sound out words in Writer’s Workshop. Great job, Mimi!

I put a frame around it and display it on our kitchen table.

When we sit there to do her homework, which she NEVER wants to do, I will point to the prize.

“You received this award for your pronouncing,” I’ll say. “We need to sound out our words, okay?”

Awight, Mom, as soon as me finishes this.”

“Mia!” I’ll say. Mia is her real name and when I say Mia, she knows I’m serious. Actually, I don’t think she knows. I just like to think she does. Saying Mia does not get her attention. The raising of my voice does.

“Okay, vic-tor-ee,” I’ll say

Vic-tor-wee,” she’ll say back.

I press my lips together so tightly I can feel my teeth. I find her mispronunciations beyond adorable.

One day she will have perfect phonetics. Until then, we will work togever, I mean, together, on getting her words just right.

By Dawn Yun

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Sunday, May 06, 2007



I saw her.

I saw the outcast girl in the playground at my daughter’s kindergarten class. She was the one with her head down, dragging her feet as she lined up to walk into class.

I saw her again at recess when I volunteered. She was the one sitting all alone under a tree while other girls played. She didn’t even try to be included.

I saw her yet again on a field trip. She was the one who as she tried to join groups, found herself facing backs.

It’s not my daughter, thank the powers that be. It’s another little girl. And it was me. I was that little girl from first grade until high school graduation. With few friends, I spent many hours on the playground’s edges, staring at the other girls who so easily fit in.

I survived and after many years of therapy and work on myself, I now thrive. But this little girl brings it all back. And I wonder as I watch her dragging her feet into the classroom: What should I do?

I’m not sure. I’m really not. I’m not at the school every day. I don’t know if this happens all the time or it’s just isolated incidents. These incidents take on more meaning in my mind because of my past, because I can feel my inner child wince when I see them.

When I approach the girl, she doesn’t meet my eyes. When I try to ask her what’s wrong, her head hangs even lower and her body seems to shrink. Then the bell rings and she’s gone into the classroom world.

But at least I tried, I can say to myself. And no one tried with me, not one adult ever asked me what was wrong or how I was doing. At least I can continue to try, maybe sit next to her one morning, maybe, maybe, maybe. . .

Or maybe I should just let it go. Maybe this is just my story and I’m projecting it on her. I guess the only way to find out is to just watch, listen, ask my daughter to play with her, and maybe if she needs it, offer friendship.

By Georgie Craig

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Saturday, May 05, 2007



Today I decided to clean and weed the area under the drinking fountain in our front yard where all the children over the years had deposited special rocks. I, too, returned from travels with a rock as my souvenir.

I’ve discovered over the years that rocks with wish lines in them, rocks of quartz color variation, or rocks that are flat and good for “skipping” are dominant in this sentimental family collection. Many countries are represented here. Amongst the rocks there are a few shells from Fiji and other ocean-dominated countries.

Rocks from various latitudes, longitudes and elevations, tropical, temperate and Arctic zones. A memory of a night hike in the Dolomites or a rain forest of Australia.

Each rock triggers a memory never to be forgotten by one unimportant individual in one unimportant lifetime, giving significance and magnitude to both the individual and the rock.

No beauty is destroyed, indeed too insignificant to be missed. We just transplant a small rock allowing it to be noticed, special, appreciated. What other souvenir could be so inexpensive? Individual? Easy to transport? So far no airport detector has found or confiscated a rock.

Why does one rock catch our eye? Why does one moment demand remembering? Where we stood? What we thought? As we travel, meet and interact with others, we leave bits of ourselves behind and we take bits of the people and places we’ve visited with us.

Come drink from our outdoor drinking fountain and view our international colony of rocks.

Our country is a bit like our rocks. People from everywhere in the world, different races, compositions, colors come together to create a diverse population, creating something new and beautiful by blending together.

These rocks represent to me this transference and diversity and it is beautiful to look at. May we always enjoy the differences that create such beauty as we blend together and create a future together.

By Ruth Scott

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Friday, May 04, 2007


Killer's Mother

I’m reluctant to admit this, but my sorrow over the horror at the shootings at Virginia Tech keeps forcing these thoughts to the front of my mind. My sadness for the victims is overwhelming and my heart breaks when I think of the families they left behind. I can’t imagine a worse fate than being the mother of a murdered child.

Except, perhaps being the mother of that child’s killer.

I’m not sure it’s okay to admit this, but my sympathy lies with the killer’s mother, too.

It’s hard to imagine what she must be going through. Her child is dead. Though many would say he deserves to be, his parents are nonetheless facing the grief of his unexpected and violent end. And worse – the knowledge that he killed before he died. That he murdered explosively. That he destroyed so many lives and ruined the futures of whole families forever scarred by his one day of deliberate horror. That he put himself in the record books.

As a mother, I can’t help but reel at the pain that shooter brought to so many other mothers. And yet, I’m saddened as well by the knowledge that the one he may have hurt most was his own. A mother who must have known how sick her son was, how unhappy. She must have struggled to find ways to help him and agonized over her failure to do so.

My own family has been touched by mental illness. I know first hand how hard it is to reach someone who is ill and how nearly impossible it is to get them off the streets even when you know their sickness has twisted them into something foreign and horrible.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if my siblings and I weren’t able finally to force our mother into a hospital where she received treatment that now controls her symptoms. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the young man who became the Virginia Tech shooter had been similarly forced into treatment.

I’m sure his mother wonders that as well. She’ll probably wonder it all of her life. The question – what else could I have done? – will haunt her because she doesn’t stop being a mother just because her child committed a horrible crime.

And for that, the shooter’s mother has my pity.

By Laura-Lynne Powell

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Thursday, May 03, 2007


The Mouths of Babes

Should we write down those little things our children say? I would say put them in a time capsule for eternity, but most likely it is only the genetically linked who would consider them darling or funny. That said, there have to be some gems that would make any parent go "ah."

But I wasn’t so sure.

So, last night I decided to troll through years of e-mails from and to my college roommate, Andree. Fortunately, we live parallel lives -- two involuntarily globetrotting Aussies with ankle-biters in tow.

Unfortunately, I quickly learnt, we have therefore archived an indulgent (to quote Andree) "gabfest of puffingly vacuous proportions.” Yes, from the mother load (excuse the pun) I found a scant few that make the scrapbook short-list. They may not be classic, but read on for the kid-bits that made me remember when:

Savannah, at 2, playing with my eyebrows: "I love your rainbows mum.” So sad when they finally get the words right. . .

Savannah, stirring the cake mixture vigorously. . . out of the bowl: "I'm getting the grumpy bits out" (translated - lumpy bits). This is going to be my new mantra at the gym.

Savannah, in the next room: "I'm busy mum."

"Okay then."

"I'm really busy mum.”

"That's good.”

"Now I'm really, really busy.” Thump. Next time I peak in to see her mid-spin, tutu on, getting really, really “bizzy.”

Eddie, also 2, absolutely adorable, sweet and gentle little man, constantly asked to ride the "poopolator" -- this is a particular escalator, the Egyptian Art Deco-style escalator at Harrods.

Once aboard and ascending, he would greet the downward-bound with a hearty, "Goodbye suckers!” - never anywhere else, just these particular escalators.

Ed trying to convince his mum to let him keep his brother’s soccer ball: "I will hold it in my armpit for safekeeping."

At the museum, with hand over mum’s mouth: "Please stop singing. You will frighten all the people."

At Hyde Park, 110 degrees: "Here is some breeze. It's to calm down your pants.”

And my all-time favorite: Ed, needing to defend himself and pigeons from his older brother, needs his (imaginary) weapons -- a stick and a spear -- before he leaves the house. He reminds his nanny, "Never go out without a dick and a beer.” Well that is how it sounded. And that is how we have said it ever since.

Should we write down those little things our children say? I say yes, write them, use them and revisit them, put them in a box or a locket, and hold it in your armpit for safekeeping.

By Robyn Murphy

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007



Last Thursday, I helped with my daughter Elena’s field trip to the Marin Recycling Center.

Walking Elena and her two classmates to my messy car, I sang "To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump" to the tune of the Lone Ranger. I was expecting a boring trip, and hoped the song would generate enthusiasm.

“What’s that smell?” whined Elena when we reached the recycling center. The other girls joined in unison.

We entered the spacious education room. There was a giant television with a gleaming blue monitor, a wooden piano decorated with stained glass, a turkey made of scrap metal, and a robot comprised of different sized cans. I asked our tour guide, Devi Peri, about the parquet dance floor. She said community dance groups used the facility at night. "The room can also be rented for special events," she added.

After a short video -- Marin County had the country’s first curbside recycling program -- we put on hard hats and fluorescent vests. The initial stop on our tour was the plastic recycling area.

Devi pointed out the objects that should not have been there, including a planter, containers and plastic bags. “The only kind of plastic that our center recycles is bottles. All the other stuff that people put in just creates more work for us.” I cringed; I sometimes put yogurt tubs in the recycling because I feel guilty throwing them out. We walked toward 10-foot tall blocks. One was composed completely of crushed plastic milk jugs, another was made of aluminum cans and a third was created from plastic laundry detergent bottles.

Our next stop: the transfer station, a gigantic covered enclosure where garbage trucks dumped their loads to be consolidated and trucked to the landfill in Novato. “Two hundred and fifty tons of trash is collected every day in Marin,” Devi said. Elena’s pregnant teacher, Mrs. Rodgers, left the building to gag.

We walked toward a giant sign stating, “God Bless America.” A smaller one, immediately below this statement of patriotism, indicated where the “Hazardous Waste Drop-Off” was located. The parents snickered at the ironic juxtaposition.

The kids liked the garden of treasures salvaged from the landfill. There was a lawn jockey, a faux Egyptian tablet filled with hieroglyphics and lots of stone busts of unfamiliar people. We were also surprised to see a male peacock displaying his tail.

“Okay kids, (now's) the last part of the tour, Tin Can Farm.” There was an enclosure of real pigs. Chickens and roosters also wandered around.

“Who wants to see the white peacocks?” asked Devi. How many surprises is this trip to the dump going to have? I wondered. I held up the kids so that they could look over the fence and see the pure white peacocks. Their tails looked like lace doilies.

I made my charges scrape the pig manure and recycling ooze off their shoes along the sidewalk before getting into my not all that messy compared to the dump car.

Driving home, I realized I had taken more photos of the dump than of my son’s birthday party. It was the best field trip of the year. The dump wasn’t the end of the line, as I previously thought. It was a place of new beginnings. Noisy roosters found a home, ugly stone sculptures found admirers, community members found dance partners, and lots of glass and aluminum found near eternal life.

To go to the dump, to the dump, the dump -- and more -- call 415.499.3232.

By Beth Touchette

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Freedom Fighter

My family and friends find it extremely amusing to remind me of a time when I used to question the necessity of having children. “They just weigh one down,” I would pontificate. How could one be impulsive or do anything spontaneous such as fly off to Europe with friends on a whim?

I can’t ever imagine giving up this freedom, I would famously say.

But I did, willingly, periodically lamenting what I gave up with the caveat, “but I got so much more in return!”

Then a few years ago I joined my best friend for a girl’s weekend in New York. It would be the first time I was away since my daughter was born. I flew to N.Y. on sheer euphoria, Ah! To be free and footloose once again!

But from the moment I landed, I missed my daughter so much I could hardly move a muscle. It was as close to a panic attack as you could get. I would have flown back immediately if it wouldn’t have seemed crazy.

How had I become this person who couldn’t even breathe when her child was out of range?
When my mother asked about my trip all I said was, “I’m never doing that again.”
And I didn’t - nixing any idea that even suggested a trip without kids.

That was over three years ago. From the sidelines I envied moms who went for business trips or girlfriend weekends and though they missed their children, seemed to do it without being paralyzed by some indefinable fear.

Now another friend has invited me to Las Vegas.

“Go,” says my husband, “it’ll be good for you. She was fine the last time and she’ll be fine this time, too.”

So, in the interest of showing that I have positively matured since my N.Y. trip, I agree. My friend and I have spent the last few days booking our hotels and flights and looking at our choice of shows on the Internet.

Should we go for some Cirque du Soleil extravaganza or magic show or concert? Or something Vegas-like and adult?

Wait a minute…what’s this?

Thunder From Down Under!”

“A tasteful and titillating time for everyone…” states the review.

Both tasteful and titillating? Well in that case. . . maybe I could be persuaded to enjoy a few days of freedom after all.

By Tania Malik

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