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.

Saturday, June 30, 2007



I used to think ambivalence referred to my childish, rapidly shifting positive and negative feelings toward a parent or my most recent boyfriend.

In one day, my closest and most delicate relationships could revolve in a merry-go-round of opposing moods: remorse, hurt, hope, and guilt came up and down, waving hello.

Now it's midlife as a parent and I am coming into a new understanding of ambivalence. I can adore my children and live on the joy of seeing their delight. And I can resent the crap out of them simultaneously when they will their exhausted, flailing bodies to fight off sleep and I haven't had one moment of solitary quiet all day.

I just want to run away!!!

But if I do hand them off and go out for a bit, I miss those little girls so much.

Mamas sit in a big warm tub of amusement, fierce attachment, irritation, fatigue, affection, and questioning, swirling around for us to move through. I guess the challenge is moving toward comfortable cohabitation with all the kinds of bubbles in the bath.

By Avvy Mar


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Friday, June 29, 2007


Mother's Milk

When my son Nicolas was born at twenty-seven weeks, he weighed two pounds, had jaundice, and was too weak to cry. For ten weeks he lay in a high-tech womb that we euphemistically called an incubator. I was permitted to hold him for one hour per day, then longer as he grew stronger.

Our skin-to-skin contact was essential for our emotional survival, and it caused my breasts to swell and leak. A mother's milk usually comes in right after giving birth, no matter how prematurely. The trick for we moms of preemies is to keep the milk flowing.

If I hoped to breast-feed Nicolas one day, I would have to pump -- a lot. I lugged home an industrial-sized breast pump, and the hospital provided me with an ample supply of yellow-capped, seventy-milliliter bottles. I spend night after night, exhausted, weepy, and worrying to the unforgettable mechanical moaning rhythm of that machine. No replacement for an infant's coo, to be sure, but I was consoled by my actions: I was saving milk for my son.

Soon, I filled two deep shelves in the intensive care unit's commercial freezer. My milk had special properties. Breast milk, with its unique disease-fighting assets, is far superior to formula. Milk produced by mothers of preemies is even more potent since the body knows it gave birth too soon. Oh, what the body knows!

At four weeks old, Nicolas consumed his first breast milk, about three drops of what the nurses called "liquid gold," administered through a tube. Two weeks later, with Nicolas showing the benefits of milk intake, I stood before the open freezer experiencing a rare moment of bliss. I had more than enough milk for Nicolas until he could breast-feed. Then anxiety struck: What should I do with all that frozen milk? I could never throw it away. "There are plenty of babies who could use it," a nurse offered. "You should donate." I became a regular depositor to the Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose.

Premature or sick babies whose mothers are not able to produce healthy milk need donated milk. Chemotherapy, for example, affects breast milk. Adoption and foster care also create a need for donated breast milk.

There are only six milk banks in the United States. Banks screen donors, then collect, process, and dispense the milk. The liquid gold costs about $3 per ounce. Most health insurance carriers cover it, but banks tell me they never turn away a prescription. Banks go to extra lengths to facilitate donation, even providing storage containers and paying shipping costs.

Healthy, breast-feeding mothers, including moms of preemies, should donate. Recently, I was at the park with Nicolas, and I looked at the pregnant moms populating the playground. Soon they will be spending delirious weeks feeding and pumping. They could pump one extra bottle every time. They could spin liquid gold.

By Alexandria Giadino


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Thursday, June 28, 2007


One Lump or Two?

My grandmother made me cups of tea in dainty flowered tea cups. Always with a matching saucer, these cups were no match for the macho coffee mugs that lined the desk in my college dorm.

Tea time lasted all day at Nan’s house. Too early in the morning, the kettle’s obnoxious whistle would hail round one. Nan measured the loose leaves carefully, (two and one-quarter spoons), then poured the hissing water into the silver tea pot, proudly black inside from years of service. A hand-crocheted ‘tea cozy’ (like a tea-pot beanie) kept the pot warm while the tea brewed – but only after the pot was turned three times clockwise then two times anti-clockwise. The tea was then passed through a strainer placed over the rim of the teensy cups, poured with a ceremonious rising of the spout. We both had our tea ‘white,’ which meant with a dash of milk.

“One lump or two?” my Grandmother asked each time, grabbing the sugar cubes from the refrigerator. This was my moment of reckoning. One lump made it taste good enough to want two. But in that small cup, for me, two was sweet enough to send me early to afternoon slumber under a ceiling fan. Most often, I chose one.

Before the last tea leaf settled, the kettle was back on. As if it was the first time it had occurred to her that day, Nan would ask “What about a cuppa love?” And then it started over -- brewing and hoo-hah-ing until sun-down (when a final cuppa was in order before bed).

Decades later, I was sitting on an ice pack in the post-natal wing of Santa Monica Hospital. It was exactly one day after the 40 hours of labor necessary to expel my gorgeous daughter. A perfectly sane friend came to visit. Burst capillaries bordered my eyes, swollen from pushing. I remember looking around the simple room for a distraction from all this glamour, wishing I could at least offer a cup of tea.

“So, are you going to have another?”

“Another?” She couldn’t mean another… baby, could she?

My first instinct, of course, was baneful. Instead, I calmly remembered Nan’s tea time.
I thought about my husband who had not planned children in his life. I thought about our nomadic ways, living away from family, the vein of depression in my family tree, and the volatility of our chosen careers. We were going to make a great family, the three of us, and our beagle. Unless life handed me an enormous mug, two lumps might overwhelm the essence of the brew.

I looked at where my big lump had been just a day ago.

“One lump”, I told her, “is plenty sweet enough for me.”

By Robyn Murphy


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Family Dinner

We were eating dinner at a casual restaurant when a family of four settled in at the table next to us. I noticed the mother whip out what I thought was a laptop. Then I realized it was actually a portable DVD player. She quickly set it up for her young daughter sitting next to her. Across the table, her husband did the same thing with an identical DVD player for daughter number two.

Seconds later, each girl plopped on headphones, pressed “play” and stared glaze-eyed at her screen. While the sisters ignored each other and their parents, mom and dad sipped wine and discussed their remodel.

I turned to my own five-year-old. She gleefully ignored my request—as she had for most of the evening—to please use her fork to eat her spaghetti. Tilting her sauce-smeared face back as far as it would go, she dangled a fist full of worm-like strands high above her wide-open mouth before cramming them all in. A puddle of water from the ice cubes she’d dropped while scooping them out of her glass faster than I could put them back in surrounded her plate. A cupful of spilled crayons, along with several now soggy pieces of artwork, littered the table.

For a moment, I felt a twinge of envy for the peaceful scene next to us. But how sad is it, I then thought, if this is what dining out as a family is coming to—parents finding the perfect way to tune out their kids and avoid interacting with them at all costs.

I admit it—I’m often guilty of allowing my daughter to zone out in front of the TV for the afternoon line-up of kids’ shows on KQED so I can catch up on chores or simply avoid going insane. And like many families these days, ours doesn’t eat dinner together on a nightly basis.

Which is why I look forward to our weekly excursions to restaurants. As usual, there were bad manners, messes and interruptions to contend with last night. In between, though, there were tales from my daughter about the shark tooth she’d found on her field trip to the beach that day, the chance for her to bond with her dad as they colored together, and plenty of laughter. I’d call it a healthy family dinner.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Not the Same

My husband and 3-year-old son are asleep on the Cal King in my childhood bedroom.

The walls are still the pale blue I chose as a sixteen-year-old. The tidal blue plush carpeting is also the same, holding years of footprints. Now, stacks of children’s books replace high school textbooks.

Our move back to my parents’ house was supposed to be temporary. That was three years ago. We moved in to get help from my parents with our so son so we could sleep.

Two weeks later, my father died.

In my mind it will always be because he fell down the stairs. But it was the heart attack that caused the fall. I don’t want to leave. I need to hold the memories, to walk up and down the spiral staircase, leave the chandelier lights on, kiss the framed portrait of my father that rests on the piano goodnight.

It is 9:30 p.m. and this is my time to think. The house is dark. I turn on the chandelier and glance over the balcony at the black and white portrait of my dad. I walk into my parents’ bedroom. My mom is away for three nights and the emptiness of our vast house scares me. I turn on the light in her bedroom. Their bedroom.

I see the rocking horse my father built for me on top of the Persian carpet. This will be my last time living in this house. I sit on the Persian carpet and stare at a framed photograph of clouds my mother has left on the ground. It looks like Tahoe at sunset; the clouds are soft, protective. Without my dad, the clouds that catch me, cushion me, are gone. My dad, the man who looked like God, is gone. As a father and psychiatrist, he could hold light and dark.

Without him, the world is less secure.

On my way out of the room I pass my parents’ bathroom with the movie star lights, a photograph of my little sister staring at a stuffed owl, my father’s electric toothbrush still charging as if to say we are the same, still secure with Dad here.

By Ariana Amini


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Monday, June 25, 2007


Shoe Search

Why with four pairs of shoes, can we never locate a matching left and right for my son to wear? Even when I buy two pairs of the same sneaker, only one out of four can be found. They hide under dressers, sofas, blankets or deep in the pants leg of the jeans George wore yesterday. Some hide out for weeks in the back seat of my husband’s Cruiser, while others get lost on the lawn and serve as caverns for snails and spiders to explore.

Except for the soccer cleats. Cleats don’t hide. They remain at the ready, hoping to be worn to a game. I can’t decided which I dread more, not being able to find my son’s shoes or having him wear those cleats that click, click, click on my tiled floors. And how delighted George seems to jam his feet into those narrow two-year old cleats.

“Take them off.”


“They’re too small. You’ll get blisters.”

“No, I won’t. I’m wearing socks.”

I look down at the thick, white tube socks strangled around his ankles. “They don’t fit you.”

“Duh. This is all I have.” Click, click, click.

“You could find your shoes if when you take them off you put them in the same place, like Mommy does.” There I go talking about myself in the third person.

Click. Click. Click.

I fantasize about being the successful shoe police. I imagine myself supervising George the minute he arrives home, leading him to his room where he slips off his shoes and places them in his closet. Sometimes, though, he takes them off in his Dad’s car. Then we walk out and get them. But the minute I turn around he’ll put them on and run outside to play. I need a locked box, screwed down to the floor and I’ll wear the key around my neck. Except he gets home before I do.

Click. Click.

I search again, everywhere… until I find a matching pair of sneakers.

After he gets on the bus I think of tossing out the cleats. But then it clicks. At least they’re dependable. I keep them -- just in case.

By Patricia Ljutic


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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Lost Seasons

When my brother ventured to California for the first time to visit me, he just could not get used to the continually perfect weather. Each morning he marveled over it. I, on the other hand, quickly adjusted when we moved west five years ago and was only too happy to donate my heavy, itchy turtleneck sweaters in favor of winter clothes that would not survive October in upstate New York.

However, now that I am a mother, I find myself nostalgic on my son’s behalf for the blustery autumns, winters and even springs of my childhood. Many of my fondest memories involve jumping with my brother into giant piles of spectacularly colored leaves, freshly raked by my father. I tried to explain the joy and beauty of these autumns to my Oregon-born husband, but he laughingly reassured me that there are “colored leaves” on the West Coast, too. It was not until I took him to meet my grandmother in Vermont in mid-October one year that he truly understood the difference.

In the Northeast, autumn’s leaves soon give way to the powdery snowflakes of early winter. It is amazing that entire years go by now without this sight. My first non-white Christmas was undeniably dreary, with the gray Oregon rain pounding down on the matted green grass of my mother-in-law’s lawn. I thought back on the many winters of sledding and building snowmen and snow forts with my father and brother. Of course, the best part was making and eating snow candy with my mother. I cannot help but be sad that my son will not experience these things as a regular part of his childhood. Here, one season flows into the next with such subtlety that you could easily forget what month it is. A trip to Lake Tahoe to “visit” the snow is just not the same as when it falls unbidden into your own backyard.

Sometimes I feel that I owe it to my son to live where he can experience the true seasons of my childhood. That is, until I must grudgingly acknowledge the accompanying black ice, freezing rain and dirty snow that hang around until April.

And, of course, those heavy, itchy turtleneck sweaters.

By Rebecca Jackson


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Saturday, June 23, 2007



Have you seen that e-mail that’s going around about the way to remove things caught up in your kiddos’ noses? I think it was originally sent to me via my twins group – which was then followed by a bunch of group replys of – “hey, we had that happen, too!” and “ohmygod, that is the coolest home remedy ever!”

It’s as simple as closing your little rascal’s mouth completely, airtight, and then blowing gently into the one nostril that DOES NOT have the alien object imbedded in it. A little blow and – poot! – the offending item flies out of the clogged nostril and a panicked trip to Marin General’s overcrowded ER is avoided.

When I saw this e-mail come through, I was in the later group: the, “wow, what a totally cool thing to know as a mom” group. The avoidance of speeding down Sir Frances Drake to Marin General with a large pea up the schnooz is right up there with flying across country with three kids under four. Both as high in the fear/terror/I can’t-believe-I’m-in-this-situation level of the parental horror-story scale as you can get! Both worth avoiding like the proverbial plague (or today’s Bird Flu), so I burned this email tidbit into my memory with hopes I’d never have to use it.

And then, “Delete,” I clicked the e-mail button and forgot all about it.

Today, during lunch, one of my 2.5 year-old twin girls – the one who likes to lick sunscreen from the tube like yogurt and swipe chapstick from my bedside table and smear it over and over and over her lips – was fiddling with her pasta. Elbow macaroni, to be precise, with a delicate yet slick sheen of olive oil that made it slither around in her dexterous digits.

Yes, it was the perfect, alluring treasure to subtly squish up her nose. And though she’d been busted “pretending” to do it with a loud, and clearly completely ineffective reprimand, “Not in your nose, Sweetie, it’ll give you an owie,” she subtly, deftly stuffs it into her left nostril without this eagle-eyed mommy catching a glimpse.

Two hours later, she’s having a rough put-down for nap. Whining, complaining, stripping off her clothes, goofing, throwing, and finally just plain yelling. What the heck?

I go in and calm her. As I snuggle her back into her jammies and pink cotton sack, I notice a gleaming, whitish booger peeking out of her nose. Again, what the heck???

Taking my pinky fingernail and thumb, I am able to slowly, efficiently extract a ½ inch noodle out of her nose. Noodle??????!!! The look of surprise on her face probably matched the horror of surprise I felt. NOODLE!!!????????

So I didn’t need the “coolest way ever to extract an object from a nose” that the e-mail had promised. Dang. But, I also didn’t need a trip to the overloaded Marin General’s ER.

By Annie Yearout


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Friday, June 22, 2007



I started doing triathlons a year before my daughter was born. Now five, she’s been cheering me on at events since she was in diapers. Hearing her yell “Mama! Mama!” while perched on her dad’s shoulders has often helped me ignore my throbbing feet and weary legs long enough to make it to the finish line.

In the last couple of years, though, she’s figured out that triathlons are races. And races have winners. The simple pleasures of spotting mama in a crowd of competitors or grabbing my hand to dash across the finish line with me no longer satisfy her.

“Did you win your race, Mama? Did you win?” has become her standard greeting when I scoop her in my arms for a sweaty hug after an event.

My response is always a disappointing “no.” Typically, I finish somewhere in the middle of my age group. I attempt to console her with what I hope is a wise explanation:

“Honey, it doesn’t matter if you win as long as you try your best and have fun doing it.”

She usually squints suspiciously at me and says, “You mean you lost?”

Not really, I think to myself. But how do I convince her that, for an almost 48-year-old woman with bad knees, painful bunions and an arthritic right hip, just completing a triathlon is a victory? Or that, after years of feeling self-conscious about my body, the fact that I’m comfortable enough to don a bathing suit and expose my less than perfect physique—chubby knees and all—to hundreds of strangers means more to me than any medal or trophy?

I have hope that my little girl may one day appreciate athletic events for reasons other than winning. We recently attended a Memorial Day celebration featuring a variety of old-fashioned races. My daughter was eager to try them all.

She fell flat on her face in the sack race. She tripped with each step she took in the three-legged race. And she flopped in the grass like a freshly caught fish when her arms gave out in the wheelbarrow race. But she was beaming as she stumbled or crawled across the finish line—dead last— in each event. And she couldn’t wait to do them all again.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Thursday, June 21, 2007


Motherhood After Abortion

At a recent gathering of friends, six of the seven of us mothers, a discussion began about pregnancy outside of marriage. While we agreed there would be little shame these days, we knew earlier generations of women had suffered terrible consequences from such unplanned pregnancies.

“Do any of you remember before abortion was legal?" asked the first grade teacher, a woman in her 50s. "Well, I remember. I knew girls who had coat-hanger abortions. It was awful."

We shook our heads in sympathy and disgust. Just imagining what happens during a "coat-hanger abortion" made my skin crawl.

"Thank God it’s legal now," said my court reporter friend, a leggy athlete in her 40s.

"How many of us have had abortions?" the first grade teacher asked suddenly throwing her hand in the air daring the rest of us to be honest.

The fourth grade teacher put up her hand. Then the daycare provider. Then the devout Catholic journalist, and the stay-at-home mom. Finally, I put up my own hand. Only one of us, a mother of three, sat with her hand still on her lap, her face frozen in awe as she surveyed the six raised arms around her.

"Wow," said the court reporter as she considered the terrified pregnant teenagers we had each been.

"Wow," I said thinking of all the babies who hadn't been born.

"We didn't have a choice," the court reporter said as if reading my mind

"We had choices," I said. "We could have placed our babies for adoption."

My friends knew I'd say that. I had adopted my two sons, both of whom were born to pregnant teens. Infertility followed my own abortion and adoption was the only way I could become a mother when the time came I was ready to become one.

I often thought about the choice I had made as a teenager. I have no regrets. I am the mother I am to the boys I adore because of all the decisions I've made in my life, including abortion. Still, my sons are my own because other pregnant girls didn't make the same choice I did.

I can't shake the nagging ambivalence I feel about that.

I had my excuses, though. Adoption was shrouded in secrecy and shame when I became pregnant in 1978. Abortion offered what seemed the only solution to a problem so big it seemed capable of devouring me.

It was abortion or end up like Janis, a student at our Connecticut high school who carried her baby to term and placed it for adoption under the stare of our snickering classmates. Even now, some 30 years later, if someone doesn't remember her name they call her "the girl who gave away her baby."

Abortion rescued me from that.

Many of us who gratefully sought abortion after it was newly legalized in the '70s are mothers now. And the issue has become more complicated than it seemed when we were young. For some of us, abortion is regarded as our liberator; for others it’s our burden.

My friend with the three children stirred and I noticed her eyes glistened with tears.

"I never told anyone," she whispered lifting her hand slightly.

"You, too?" I asked.

She nodded, a tear slipping down her cheek.

Each of us had dealt with the experience of abortion in our own way. Some of us struggled with the memory, others barely thought about it. But every one of us in the room had been shaped by it.

Abortion is part of who we are.

By Laura-Lynne Powell


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Too Young, Too Unfair

While in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, visiting my husband’s family, I called my friend Hanne, who had just moved there from San Francisco.

I was hoping I could visit, but I knew the timing wasn’t right: she was expecting her second baby any day.

When we spoke she reminded me of this, and said that also her first, Lucas, who is 20 months old and extremely active, had fallen down and wasn’t walking properly, so they were taking him in for an MRI.

No chance for a visit, but I called her back later to check in. “Is Lucas all right?” I asked, thinking the fall couldn’t have been that bad. “No he’s not,” she said. “It’s extremely rare, but he has a large tumor in his spine and that’s why he’s not walking right.” I was in shock.

She explained the tumor had to be removed immediately and there was the risk Lucas might be paralyzed afterward, unable to walk again. I glanced at my own son, who is 18 months old and was standing on a coffee table ringing a mini cow bell with his whole body. I thought again, Lucas is not even 2 years old! I warned Hanne, though, against jumping to the worst case scenario. There are so many possibilities in between.

On May 21, Lucas underwent surgery, and the outcome was the best they could hope for. Doctors were able to remove 95% of the tumor, the rest being too difficult to get without causing permanent damage. Nevertheless, there was some damage and Lucas will have to learn to walk again. They’re now awaiting biopsy results, which will tell them if Lucas will receive chemotherapy or radiation to remove what remains.

The day after her son’s surgery, on May 22, Hanne delivered her baby girl. When I called again she joked, “At last I can buy pink things!” and for her son, she sounded strong and optimistic. “I have to be,” she explained. “If I’m not strong, how can I expect him to be?”

I was impressed with the grace with which she was handling her situation.

“Kiss your boys on the head tonight and thank God they’re healthy,” she said.

That I did.

By Cindy Bailey


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Fresh Air

Growing up in Rochester, New York, an oval island of grass the size of a football field sat right outside our front door.

The patch of land held a few old trees at each end and marked the merging point of two suburban streets. During the school year the concrete edge of the Island was my bus stop. In the summer, the Island was the social center of the scruffy pack of kids living in the surrounding five blocks: soccer, Frisbee, or Capture the Flag were constantly in play.

Summer days ended with our returning home from day camp or summer school or the Jewish Community Center pool to have dinner then run out the screen door. We played games on the Island until we were forced inside. Our nightly curfew was announced by parents’ calling out our names into the darkness.

Only when we couldn’t see each other on the Island, even with the houses’ porch lights lit, was it time to drag our rapturously exhausted selves home for the night. The same bunch of kids played with igloos and snowballs during winter vacation.

I knew most of the kids we’d run around with, but not all. We told our parents some of what we did and where we’d been, but not everything. My parents didn’t ask many questions. Vacation times meant children left the house in the morning to play in the fresh air. We came home only to refuel and sleep. None of the parents checked on us. Why would they need to?

Later, when we drank our first beers and had our first kisses on the Island, we counted on our parents’ benign neglect to give us privacy.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a friend. Her 8-year old was running out to the car in front of her suburban house to get a book she needed. Four men tried to corner her and get her into their car. She was able to escape into the safety of her home.

I miss the innocence of running full-speed in a safe and endless outdoors. Even if it wasn’t as safe as I remember. But my belief that no danger existed in the fresh air was the real gift of my childhood.

I wish it so much for my children.

Maybe we vigilant moms can keep the feeling of running wild and dusty under the stars as a birthright for our kids. Perhaps we can keep them safe and keep them untamed, free unto themselves in the fresh air.

By Avvy Mar


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Monday, June 18, 2007



I spent Father’s Day with the youngest of my three post teen-age sons. It was a warm, lazy, quiet afternoon spent trying to decipher which musical note was exactly right, for a song I have been trying to compose most of my adult life.

It was a beautiful day, spent in an artistic endeavor with one of my up-and-coming young men. Babies birthed as boys, which I have spent two decades perfecting into men.

My son played his piano and the notes wailed melodically in the heavy afternoon air, gently stirring thoughts about fatherhood and men. I thought about long ago males who spent their time, languishing in the arts; honing their senses, placating their feelings, suffering through anguish, only to one day produce a labor of pure love.

I thought about the similarities between the devoted single mothers, the masters and their masterpieces.

Had I really turned my boys into men? Men like those of long ago, replete with human hearts and angelic, sometimes sinful souls? Did I truly know what to do and say, in all the right places, where a father should have been? Will any of my son’s own children be able to spend Father’s Day with them? Will my sons be anything like the father that I had longed for them to have?

I spent Father’s Day motherly fathering the music of my parental soul.

By Julie Ann Richter


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Sunday, June 17, 2007


Climbing Stairs

It was a breezy Sunday morn as my husband and I took our son, Jason, to his favorite spot, the town square. He slashed the wall fountain, slashed goo on the bricks, slashed paper napkins billowing around, slashed dogs off leashes, slashed other tottering tots. . . to perform his favorite activity: climbing stairs -- 45 to be exact.

For nearly two years our son has crawled up and down those gum-stained, red-clay colored stairs like a darting lizard on a steep rock.

After Jason learned to walk he was determined to climb those stairs, upright, like Mommy and Daddy (no more crawling for him, well, almost). Every weekend he'd stand at the bottom, position himself next to the wall and under the railing (that he was too short to grab), reach out his hand for me or Dad to hold, look up, put one shoe in front of the other, and climb and crawl.

This breezy Sunday, Jason stood in the middle of those stairs with no wall for support and no railing, put a foot on the first step and the other on the second one, while I watched from behind and my husband observed from ten steps above.

I yelled to my husband, “Look! He's doing it! He's walking up the stairs by himself!” My husband smiled back as we watched Jason hike up a dozen stairs for the first time.

When parents hear their child's first words and see their child's initial steps, it is a precious moment. (Our son did not take his first steps clear across a room until he was 19 months old, or say his first words until he was 21 months because he was born with Down syndrome.)

Now when my son attempts to walk up and down the steps at home, the mom in me holds out her hand for support, but he bats it away as if to say (and some day he will!) 'No, Mom, I can do it myself!'

I grin and glow because I know that he can!

By Lisa Nolan


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Saturday, June 16, 2007


Confessions of 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 had me stumped.

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 to adult dating? And how to 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, endure the pain of the first play date and you will 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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Friday, June 15, 2007


Wipe or Not Wipe?

I hear her voice ringing clearly, stridently, as I bread chicken for dinner.

“Mommeeee, I need you. Now.”

There’s resignation in my voice, capitulation even, as I shout back, “What’s wrong? I’m making dinner, sweetie.” For I know full well what’s coming, but as I roll the chicken in bread crumbs, I silently pray that this time I’m wrong.

“Mommeee, please, I need you to wipe my butt.” There it is, the b word, winging its way down the hall to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me daughter. I just don’t want to wipe her butt anymore. She’s 6 and I feel it’s damn well time she wiped her own ass. I’ve done my time. I’ve earned it. But she doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s too hard, Mommee. It’s too hard and then I get poop on my hands.” She’s sitting on the toilet waiting for me. She turns her hands palm sides up to show me how the poop spreads everywhere. Then she smiles at me, leaps off the toilet into a perfect downward dog. It’s just the right position for me to provide maximum service.

I sigh and say to my young yogi, “You need to try. How will you ever learn unless you try?” No reply. I give up and submit, thinking we should get stock in diaper companies for she’s sure to be wearing them to college.

As I wash my hands, my daughter sidles up next to me and starts to wash her hands. She looks up at me and says, “You know Momma, I don’t go poo poo at school. I’m too scared.” I look down at her and say, “That’s okay. You save it up until you get home and I’ll help you.” She smiles and I go back into the kitchen.

But in the kitchen as I wash my hands one more time, I wonder, am I doing the right thing? Maybe I should be more forceful. Maybe I should let her sit there until she wipes. Maybe she will be the only one in her college class to wear a diaper.

I know she’s not the only one who gets her butt wiped. I’ve heard reports from other moms that their kids, too, want personalized service. So maybe there’ll be others wearing those diapers to calculus class. Maybe they’ll start a club?

Or maybe it’s just another way for my daughter to cling to babyhood for just a bit longer. Just a little more until the years start pulling us apart. And that’s why I do it, as much as I hate to admit it. I’m starting to miss the baby as the young lady she’s becoming starts to flower.

By Georgie Craig


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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Visiting Rats

No one tells you about those pilot runs when a child nearing adulthood lives with you.

The little nudges and tests that allow children between 18 and 21 to get ready to be in the world and allows parents to let go—the time between their independence and your parental freedom.

One of my daughter’s test runs began when she and her boyfriend, Ari, started dating. While they attended community college together they split their time between our home and his. At first, my husband, son and I found it difficult to accommodate Ari being around. A year later, Venny and Ari have matured and remain supportive and loving toward each other, and we’ve grown used to them.

Late one evening, Venny entered our bedroom carrying an unnamed, four-month old rodent with a classic pink tail and long pink toes on each of four feet—a rat—with a white fur coat and individualized black markings, by which Venny could distinguish it from the other three.

Venny reported—wearing the legendary grin that cats sport after catching and eating one of the things she was holding—that she gave Ari a special edition DVD gift box set for their first anniversary and he bought her rats.

“I got the far better deal,” she said.

Always an animal lover, Venny held her present out for us to see. It bobbed its head up and down and stuck its nose into the air exploring the scents in the room.

Rats are one reason I find myself wishing my beautiful daughter had her own home. Still a college student, she’ll be taking courses this summer and can’t afford her own apartment. For now, Venny and Ari and the rats—Iris, Relm, Sumi, and Nico—live with us part time.

It turns out, the rats each have their own personality: some are braver or calmer or more playful than the others. One has a sense of humor.

“Look how cute they are, Mom.”

Watching Ari and Venny carry the rats on their shoulders and parade them around my living room, I had a crazy-woman’s thought that these whisked creatures might be pseudo-grandchildren.

Now I’m more ready than I was a year ago for the transition to her independence and my freedom. No more test runs involving anything sporting a pink tail required.

By Patricia Ljutic


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007



Dear Mom,

I wish you were here. Your youngest granddaughter is about to walk across the stage for her college diploma. You'd be so proud! She's graduating Cum Laude in biochemistry, no less! I just want to jump up and down here in the amphitheater and yell at the top of my voice, "You did it, girl, you made it. We made it!"

I know, Mom, you worried that I wouldn't have enough money to send one of your granddaughters to college, much less two. You worried about me, not them. You knew they'd be okay. I kept telling you not to worry. I know better now. . . you can't tell a mom not to worry!

Oh, I wish you were here to take in this proud moment with me. I'm sitting next to your oldest granddaughter who graduated college last year. She's already working in a real job, making real money.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. . . how could I deprive you of attending my college graduation (we rebelled against most institutions in the sixties, especially our colleges and, of course, our college graduations). Now I understand why you were so upset; you just wanted to show up and be a proud parent like I am today. I didn't understand a mother's pride then. I was too busy being a rebellious daughter.

Mom, I wish I could make it up to you by sharing this moment with you at your granddaughter's graduation.

Oh, look! There she goes across the stage. The short one in those high heels under that black gown.

"Honey, that girl is smart and pretty. She'll go far someday!" Did I hear you tell me this before, maybe at her middle school graduation? That was the last graduation we attended together.

Hey, Mom, she's still smart and pretty and look how far she's come!

By Marilee Stark


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Loss Counselor

Loss Counselor

Yesterday, our former babysitter called to tell me that her boyfriend had died in a car accident in London. She was looking for guidance and trying to make sense out of his untimely death. Even with my credentials as a mother who lost a child, I felt my blood pressure rising and my self-critic kicked in.

How should I know what to say? What if I offended her Catholic faith? I reminded myself that the worst thing you can say to someone who is grieving is to say nothing, so I took a deep breath and searched for the right words.

“Let the thoughts come to you, and try to notice little messages. They come in all forms --- a song on the radio, a stranger’s words that remind you of Robert, or a warm feeling surrounding you. But don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong here. No one can tell you how to feel and I don’t want to do that either.”

I told her that even though I knew Aaron was with me after his death, I was still devastated. No amount of divine promise could change that aching reality. “Don’t be too hard on yourself if the answers don’t come through right away, but try to stay open to signs.”

As I hung up the phone, I felt the lingering pit of Carmen’s grief and wondered if my words had been helpful.

Later that day, I stopped by our local Starbuck’s for a “cookie,” -- code for ‘mommy needs caffeine.’ As I pulled Cameron’s stroller around our tiny table, I noticed an acquaintance from several years ago, when we were both pregnant with our third children -- Aaron and her son were born three weeks apart. We rarely saw each other these days, but I could always count on Elizabeth to say Aaron’s name out loud, which I so appreciated. As soon as I waved, she left the ordering line, squeezed between the cramped tables, and breathlessly got to the point.

“My sister suffered her own tragedy last month, and I’ve been thinking of you,” she said. I prepared to offer my e-mail or phone number, but Elizabeth wasn’t finished. “I just wanted to tell you that I remembered what you told me about Aaron’s death -- how it affected your ability to think and how physical a loss it was. You shared so much and I just wanted you to know that it made a real difference in how much I could be there for my sister.”

I thought back to my conversation with Carmen and smiled.

I think someone else was listening, too.

By Kimberley Kwok


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Monday, June 11, 2007



My friend is remodeling her backyard and wants to add a lot of “funky,” kid-friendly places.

This morning I pause on top of the ladder after cutting a dead branch, thinking this is the perfect spot to catch a hummingbird in flight with my digital camera.

Here, up high, I can see in the trees. I hear neighbors walking by and stopping to greet each other. I spot a lizard speeding across the yard. I feel like an eagle. Swooping at him with my camera. Zooming in and adjusting the focus. Shot! Shoot! Fast little beast!
I am having so much fun, I do not want to climb down. Then it dawns on me: Perch!

Perch is one of childhood’s treasured hidden places.

For me, it was the shaky wooden ladder leading to the attic of my grandparents’ house. The ladder was off limits, of course. But as it was obstructed by the row of cherry trees, I could perch there quietly watching the world go by. Neighbors would come for the water from our well. They all had their own water supplies, but our well was magic. It took the central place in the yard. The lever was a 33-feet long log. It was the deepest and the water in it was full of minerals so people from all over our Russian town would come for it. If my grandma was around they would chat and share their news.

I observed neighbors in their yards. The ones with pigs had sturdier metal ladders to their attics, yet, they were cold and hardly ever used. Even though at times I was afraid I would fall down altogether with the whole rackety structure, I appreciated the wood’s warmth and its strategic positioning. For when I was bored, I could pick the cherries right off the trees.

I witnessed my grandparents’ daughter come home for a surprise visit, causing a happy commotion. “Auntie! I saw you first,” I wanted to shout. Then, realizing that I was in a forbidden place, I stopped in time. Once I caught my gentle grandma swearing. I do not remember what caused it, but I remember the feeling of discovery. A new word!
This was a fluid time of childhood when the days were years long.

I give myself time to perch for while this week as I observe, reflect, listen and try to connect to the world that goes by. It was a spring-break week and I feel I have not accomplished much, but maybe what I did was to perch, observe, listen, feel the rhythm of the world going by, and my place in it.

Did you have a place in the childhood where you could look down on adults? Where life went by and, though you were invisible, you were part of it? Do you wish you could retreat to such a place now?

By Dilyara Breyer


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Sunday, June 10, 2007



My daughter is really making me sound like an asshole lately. She’s 2 1/2-years old and her two favorite things to do are talk and imitate me, which is turning into a deadly combination. If you listen to her for five minutes, you’d think that all I ever do is 1) reprimand her for completely minor infractions, and 2) hover over her like a helicopter, anticipating near constant danger.

I eavesdropped on her playing with her baby recently and she was holding her and pointing to the glass picture frame on my bedroom dresser: “No, no no… Just look, okaaay? Don’t touch okaaaay?”

To her Elmo doll: “No jumping on the bed! Have to be careful!”

To her stuffed doggie: “No barking!”

And, as she carried on an entire, two-way conversation with herself in her alter-ego “mommy voice” (which is kind of sing-songy and fake-nice), I heard her say: “No Emi, you’ll scratch it, and then it won’t work. And we won’t be able to buy a new one "cause its espensive.” This, as she went ahead anyway and tried to shove two Baby Einstein DVDs into the player at the same time. . .

But what bothered me more than the potential damage to the DVD player was the depiction of “mommy” in that little scenario. Do I really sound like that? Because if I do, I must be really annoying. And although I do want to be a responsible mom, and make sure that my kid says “please” and “thank you” and knows not to run into the street, I also want to be the fun mom ― the mom who tells silly stories, who makes her kid crack up and doesn’t say NO all the time.

I know I say NO more than I ought to, more than I like to, but it just flies uncontrollably out of my mouth ― when she stands up in the grocery cart at Costco, when she puts both feet in the dog’s water bowl (with her new shoes on), when she grabs hold of the moisturizer that’s my one beauty product splurge and uses up about 2 “espensive” ounces in one go. If only the word NO! got her attention anyway ― it’s usually merely a signal for her to begin pretending that she hasn’t heard a single word I’ve just said. But she must hear me, because I get treated to replay all the time. . .

It’s not easy to break oneself of the NO habit, but I have been trying. The last time I caught Emi jumping on the bed, I hesitated a minute, thinking hard about how I should phrase some constructive criticism about the potential pitfalls involved. And just as I was about to open my mouth, she bounced back from the bed at a particularly precarious angle, sailed towards the sliding glass door, hit the wooden Venetian blinds, slid downwards with a rat-a-tat, and landed with a thump on the hardwood floor.

First off ― she was fine. I think the blinds kind of broke the fall. And I discovered a phrase that seems, in retrospect, a lot more effective and powerful than NO.

“I told you so…” (Though I don’t know if this makes me sound any less annoying.)

By Shannon Matus--Takaoka


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Too Young, Too Unfair

While in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, visiting my husband’s family, I called my friend Hanne, who had just moved there from San Francisco.

I was hoping I could visit, but I knew the timing wasn’t right: she was expecting her second baby any day.

When we spoke she reminded me of this, and said that also her first, Lucas, who is 20 months old and extremely active, had fallen down and wasn’t walking properly, so they were taking him in for an MRI.

No chance for a visit, but I called her back later to check in. “Is Lucas all right?” I asked, thinking the fall couldn’t have been that bad. “No he’s not,” she said. “It’s extremely rare, but he has a large tumor in his spine and that’s why he’s not walking right.”

I was in shock. I thought, 'he’s not even 2 years old!'

She explained the tumor had to be removed immediately and there was the risk Lucas might be paralyzed afterward, unable to walk ever again. I glanced at my own son, who is 18 months old and was standing on a coffee table ringing a mini cow bell with his whole body. I warned Hanne against jumping to the worst case scenario. There are so many possibilities in between.

On May 21, Lucas underwent surgery, and the outcome was the best they could hope for. Doctors were able to remove 95% of the tumor, the rest being too difficult to get without causing permanent damage. Nevertheless, there was some damage and Lucas will have to learn to walk again. They’re now awaiting biopsy results, which tells them if Lucas will be receiving chemotherapy or radiation to remove what remains.

The day after her son’s surgery, on May 22, Hanne delivered her baby girl. When I called again she joked, “At last I can buy pink things!” and for her son, she sounded strong and optimistic. “I have to be,” she explained. “If I’m not strong, how can I expect him to be?”

I was impressed with the grace with which she was handling her situation.

“Kiss your boys on the head tonight and thank God they’re healthy.”

That I did.

By Cindy Bailey


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Saturday, June 09, 2007


Being Me

After eyeing the sea of swimmers milling about before the swim meet begins, I turn my focus to my 7-year old at my side. Her head’s down and shoulders angled to the side as if to buttress against an invisible wind.

“What’s going on sweets? Are you okay?” I ask.

“Mom, don’t you remember that I’m shy?” she smiles back.

She got me. No, I hadn’t frankly though she’s had a more introverted temperament since toddlerhood. It’s just far easier for me, the extrovert, to assume by defensive posture that someone’s wounded her feelings or she’s worried about the upcoming swim. But she’s just being who she is.

Somewhere in the world of “please” and “thank you’s” and “wipe your chin” it’s easy to lose sight of the gray line between what’s expected and who your child is. I can’t make her enter a social event with her head held up high and an approachable smile across her face if I tried. And I have tried in my naive mother-in-perpetual-training state. Our compromise of sorts is her awareness of how entering smiling helps when you’re feeling unsure and my encouragement to “just be yourself.”

From a few lanes over I watch her line up for her swim heat. I’m anxious and feeding off the nervous energy around me. Lauren’s a picture of calm: focused and serene. ‘Doesn’t she realize that she’s about to swim?’ I think to myself, my thought suddenly interrupted by the buzzer and splash as little bodies hit the water.

On the other end, I see her pull herself out of the water and look back to find me. Pink goggles look to me and a huge smile meets mine and I give her a thumbs up.

In a second, she’s darted through the crowds to my side, leaning against my hip draped in a wet towel. “You did great Boo Boo,” I exclaim, not knowing her time or how she placed.

“I know” she says simply. “Thanks. Can I now go get a donut, please?” Happily skipping off she’s on her way.

By Maija Threlkeld


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Friday, June 08, 2007


Dipsea Race

I don’t run the Dipsea. I do the Dipsea. I am not a fast runner, but I cross the finish line. I run parts, hike parts and wish I could lie down in parts. I hope for lots of fog. Like childbirth, the Dipsea trail is beautiful and tough and worth the effort. The labor starts with six hundred and seventy-six stairs and then its uphill to Panoramic. Not so easy to break into a trot at the top of those stairs. The word Clydesdale comes to mind. Some minutes later I pass the one-mile tree and slog up the street to Panoramic thinking there’s only a little over six miles to go. It's like being in labor for hours and learning you’ve only dilated 1 centimeter.

After crossing Panoramic, it’s downhill on jelly legs, navigating stairs to the street that winds down to the suicide plunge into Muir Woods and across the creek. This is considered a rest.

Dynamite is a gorgeous grueling uphill climb out of Muir Woods, lush and fairytale like with ferns, redwoods, moss, and birdsong. This I hike with measured breathing. When people running this section jostle me, I wonder what species they might be.

Then it's up and over the lip of Muir Woods and onto a fire road and trail that intertwine on Hogsback. An oak tree dripping with moss growing out of a split boulder marks the halfway point and the transition to the rainforest. It’s beautiful, but never fails to annoy me.

We go over roots and rocks in the redwood rainforest until the fire road again leads to the base of Cardiac, the last major uphill climb. I push the very last bit when I can see the sky. The trail emerges on a grassy face of Mount Tam with views of the Pacific.

Descending through dry grass and wildflowers, over a fence, down a rut in high weeds and steep mismatched steps, across a bridge and up gravelly Insult. I rarely make it to the top of Insult in time to take the shortcut on the road. I run the moors. Both lead to a very brief bit of tree cover before reaching Highway 1 and the quarter mile on blacktop to the finish line on very wobbly legs.

The finish. The beach. Done.

By Mary Allison Tierney

Note: Mary Allison will run, or rather do, the Dipsea Race this Sunday.


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Thursday, June 07, 2007


Teacher Appreciation

Friday morning two weeks ago I was partaking in my usual ritual of handing over hard earned money to Starbucks for a latte that I really should have made at home, when I noticed a sign on the table full of pretty spring items that read,"Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-13."

"Hey David," I yelled to my husband who is also a teacher at a middle school, a job which ensures him sainthood, "Did you know that this week is teacher appreciation week?"

We had a good laugh about all the ways that we went un-appreciated. Not only did I not receive a gift card to Starbucks (an easy one for my students who see me with my coffee cup every morning) or even a gift card for gas which would have at least acknowledged the fact that most teachers have to live in another county just to afford a home and spend a good deal of their day commuting to their work, but instead I received complaints during a nasty parent meeting, which included the counselor and the assistant principal where I had to listen to a mom try to blame me for her child's procrastination. I received an e-mail from a dad who wanted an extension on homework for his son who has done nothing but slack all semester, and another one from a mom who asked if I could change a grade from the fall semester so her daughter could go on a trip to Israel instead of going to summer school this summer to make up her D. All in a day’s work I suppose.

David and I continued to laugh until we realized that it wasn't funny. Not only did parents and students not acknowledge this week, but also our own administrators and PTSA groups did nothing in recognition. (Although in all fairness, our PTSA is hosting an end of year teacher luncheon next week). It made me wonder if this was some sort of holiday created only by Starbucks or was it something that the general public should know about?

I almost put a sign up on the whiteboard that said, "Did you know it is Teacher Appreciation Week? It is not too late to thank your teachers." But that felt like fishing, like asking people if you look nice in your new outfit or dropping hints that it’s your birthday so you'll receive acknowledgement or gifts. So instead I kept it to myself and was grateful that at least on my way in to school later that morning a student saw that I had my hands full and held the door open for me.
I also took consolation in knowing that the coming Sunday was Mother's Day, and I don’t need a holiday to let me know that I’m appreciated at home -- where it really matters.

By Jennifer Cole


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


In the Tunnel

I went back to work fulltime when my son Nick was 16-weeks old. God, I was clueless about how difficult it would be. Forget about the B word, balance – give me a break. The best I can do is to have periods of relative calm, where I’m not screaming at either location.

I was relieved that first year to discover we could work and parent. Day by day we figured out – who would be home first to relieve the babysitter, who could get Nick to the pediatrician for his shots, who could start dinner. I even had a few overnight business trips – Nick came along on two trips and stayed home with his dad for a few others. We were tired and we weren’t talking much about anything except the logistics of daily life, but we were doing it.

By the end of year two, it struck me that we would never again have a stable schedule. Childcare arrangements changed, preschool loomed and I switched jobs. Our routine didn’t just change week to week, but often day to day. This was a major learning curve for me – to not expect routine – to anticipate that schedules would differ and that I would always be behind getting things done at both home and work.

Nick is 10 now. I get smug for months at a time thinking my husband and I have it all down by now. It’s all about priority setting, I think. But every now and then I can’t do it. I’ll be rolling out a new program at work, like I am now, and all hell breaks loose inside me. Things look okay from the outside – Nick’s getting to school on time, dinner’s on the table most nights – but inside I’m crazed.

I start waking up at 4 in the morning, thinking if I could just squeeze in a couple of additional hours each day, I’ll get a handle on work. I pull out my bag of tricks – start saying no to helping out at school, limiting social activities, letting my already loose house cleaning standards slip even more.

Nothing helps.

I’ve been too busy to take my vitamins – how silly is that? It’s like I go into this wild tunnel for a few months and I flail around, searching for the other end. I find it and make it back to hectic instead of crazed. And then I swear I’ll make sure I don’t enter that tunnel again.

Whew, I hope I make it out soon.

By Marianne Lonsdale


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The Eighth Deadly Sin

The Seven Deadly Sins, according to Wikipedia, as defined by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century and later, cited more famously by Dante are:


Where is Hyperactivity? Not the clinical definition, but the definition found in, “the state or condition of being excessively or pathologically active.” This seems much more dangerous than sloth.

Is laziness or apathy really more deadly than hyperactivity? It seems that my kids’ excessively active behavior is the one that gets them closest to harm. I am confident that if Pope Gregory had met my kids hyperactivity would have made the list – most likely in place of sloth.

I cannot for the life of me figure out where my boys get all of their energy. My personality lends much more toward sloth. . . it must come from their father. Several times a day, my boys chase each other full-speed through the house-down the hall, left around the center kitchen counter with a near miss, left again through the dining room, and one more left through the living room back to the start.

They do a minimum of three laps. The only time they don’t do it is if someone is very ill.

They have been doing this since the youngest could crawl. Yet, now they narrowly miss the pot rack, sometimes hit the wall and the oldest finally grew tall enough to goose-egg his head on the counter corner. Instead of stopping them, we decided to duct tape and bubble wrap the corner of the center counter to prevent further head injury. We couldn’t opt to stop them from running, it is an inherent need.

This behavior enables them to quickly release some of the energy that has been bottled up without having to get dressed, collect snacks and extra clothes, put on shoes, and pack everything and everybody into the car.

They can run when it is raining, they can run when it is dark, they can run for three quick minutes before we leave on a car trip. I see it as a necessary outlet for them to release energy and a needed outlet for me to allow them to release energy. Not to mention, with the counter corner taped up, they are safe and I get to hear that glorious sound of my kids laughing for a minimum of three straight minutes.

In two years or so, along with all of the other expenses that children bring, it is going to cost us a lot, especially if we stay in Marin, because we are going to have to buy a bigger house with a larger indoor track.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy


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Monday, June 04, 2007


Bad Behavior

My good friend, Maria, was on the verge of tears when she called me yesterday.

“Jackson got sent home from preschool for going up to another kid and hitting him for no reason,” she told me.

It wasn’t the first such episode involving her 5-year-old son. To make matters worse, when she phoned the other child’s mother to apologize, the response was an angry attack on her parenting skills.

Maybe Jackson wasn’t the only one behaving badly.

Maria called me because she knew I’d be able to relate. Since they were born a day apart -- in the same hospital, in the same room -- Jackson and my daughter, Phoebe, have exhibited similar personalities. Both are bright, imaginative and outgoing. Both also have a history of impulse-control problems that no amount of time-outs, loving discussions or revoked TV privileges seem to curb.

Like Maria, I’ve received calls from preschool teachers about my daughter’s conduct. And I’ve been asked to take her home early on more than one occasion. Not long ago, I was in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s with a cart full of groceries when my cell phone rang. It was Phoebe’s teacher. She was disrupting nap time. Could I please come and pick her up her right away?

“We hardly ever have to send anyone home,” her teacher said apologetically when I arrived, “but she just wouldn’t settle down and was disturbing the other kids.”

Like Maria, I’ve sometimes felt the sting of being judged by others for my inability to control my daughter’s behavior. My first reaction is to feel like a failure as a mom. Then I pick up the phone and call Maria. I always feel better by the time we hang up.

Yesterday it was my turn to remind Maria that Jackson’s problems aren’t a reflection of her mothering skills. She’s a great mom. And she’s no wimp when it comes to disciplining her children. Jackson’s younger brother has no behavior issues, which seems to indicate that Jackson’s problems are at least partly related to the way he’s wired.

I’m sorry that my friend had such a hard day. But I’m glad I could be there for her the way she’s always been there for me.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Sunday, June 03, 2007


A Mother's Act

(My daughter, Emma, was adopted from China. I often wondered about her story: what was it like for her birth mother to take her to a public spot and leave her. I imagined the following situation. It may apply to the many Chinese birth mothers who made a similar decision. My heart goes out to all of them.)

It had been a fitful few hours since she went to bed; she had hardly slept. Rising quietly and dressing warmly, she moved only by memory and decision, knowing that she must act now.

Jua Lin heard the baby whimper and moved quickly to her side. She pulled out her breast and thrust it into the baby’s mouth. “Here, drink,” she whispered. “You may not eat again for quite some time.”

Then it was time to dress little Xui Xui. She had lain out the clothes earlier that night. They included almost everything the baby owned. She kept only one shirt, which she would later hide. At least the baby would be fed and warm, a small consolation.

When she found the courage, Jua Lin picked up the baby and sneaked out into the night. Xui Xui breathed in the cold air and whimpered again. Jua Lin pulled her tight against her warm sweater, but could not look at her.

It took four hours to reach the site she had selected. First, she walked the six miles to town. Next, she took a bus to the city outskirts. Then, she took a crowded bus to the city center. She walked the final two miles to make sure she would not be recognized.

It was quiet by the children’s hospital. With dawn, she knew the day would pick up a feverish pace. Groups of parents and their children would mill around the hospital’s entrance. A steady stream of people would enter and exit through the four glass doors. Taxis would pull in and out of the driveway. Cars would be double-parked and waiting by the curb. But now, all was still. She would not be noticed.

Jua Lin stood silently, hidden by the hospital’s overgrown bushes. Inside her head raged a battle between mother love and the arguments of her husband, Chen, and his parents. She knew she was outnumbered. One child, one family. Sons trumped daughters.

The force of their arguments and duty finally brought her to action. She found a protected spot that was near enough to the entrance to ensure discovery once Xiu Xiu awakened and began to cry. In her last act of motherhood, Jua Lin tenderly kissed her daughter’s head, covered by an oversized, black wool cap.

Then she quickly turned and walked away.

By Nina Katz


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Saturday, June 02, 2007


Going With It

Recently and suddenly, my 2 ½-year old son has become contrary. Very contrary. Here’s a typical dialogue:

“Would you like a banana?”


“Okay, you don’t have to have a banana.” [I turn away.]

“I want a banana!”

“Okay.” [I turn to him and begin to peel the banana.]

“I don’t want a banana!”

Some say that he’s looking for attention. That may be true, but as soon as I try to give him attention, he rejects it. If I extend my arms out to offer a hug, he will turn away and run into the next room.

A friend told me that his son’s temper tantrums were so intense that all he and his wife could do was make sure the kid did not bang his head against the coffee table or the tile floor. The boy was big and heavyset.

So, when my son becomes contrary or throws himself on the ground, I let him be. This morning, however, he had caca in his diapers. I could not leave him alone. I did the usual good parent thing.

“Luis, amour,” I said, “I have to change your diaper because if I don’t, you’ll get a rash. Now, where would you like me to change you? On the floor or on the couch?”

[No response.]

“Okay, then, I’ll change you on the floor.”


“Luis, hijo mío. I must do this. I am going to count to five, when I get to five, you need to be on the floor. Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco.”

I approach him and quickly place my hands on his rib cage, bend my knees deeply and swiftly lift him up. I press him against my chest, so when he arches his back he won’t go crashing to the floor. His 35 pounds feel like 100 now. I place him in the bathtub, take off his diaper, advise him that I need to wipe his bottom.


“Okay, I’ll wash you with water. “ I hold his arm firmly as he tries to collapse and pull away. I rinse his bottom only half thoroughly.

“NO! “

Then I dry him off and let him sit on the bathroom rug. There is nothing I can do. I busy myself in the room next to him (the kitchen) and leave the door ajar.


Then silence. He’s listening.

“NOOO!” he repeats.

More silence. I slide a bowl of strawberries through the doorway.


I forget the rest, but, somehow, he made it up into his booster seat at the kitchen table, without his diaper, mind you. He ate. This moment, for me, is the sweetest, because it’s when I don’t say anything at all. We just enjoy food together. No lectures about hygiene, no affirmation that he’s feeling better, no ribbing him about his bad moment. I simply allow myself to ride the wave of relief.

By Vicki Inglis


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Friday, June 01, 2007



You never know as a parent when your children’s life lessons will arise. I suppose I should have known this, and perhaps should have brushed up on the big questions that would undoubtedly come up such as the birds and the bees, George Bush, drugs, and homosexuality.

My sister just sent me a free month of Netflix, and I’ve been ordering movies continually so as to see the highest number of movies before the free month comes to an end. I’ve browsed the movies thoroughly, and have rented with the intention of broadening my children’s horizons, and providing them with life themes and challenges to discuss, along with important issues to consider.

I got my money’s worth.

I also wanted to show my children the classics. So we rented The Sound of Music, which my 8-year-old son, Jake, was entranced by. He woke up the next morning singing from his bed, “How do you solve a problem like Maria….” I was thrilled. My 8-year-old boy could appreciate a classic musical, despite the fact that he breathes football and baseball. So we followed with Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon - we got on a G-rated Disney kick. Then we delved into the more serious themes of Where the Red Fern Grows and The Pursuit of Happyness, both of which became fodder for heartfelt family discussions about death, the afterlife, God, homelessness, divorce, and such.

I thought it might be time to return to something a bit lighter, we only had a few days left of the free movie trial, after all. So I chose a children’s mystery from 1977 staring Jodie Foster titled Candleshoe. You may remember it as I did. Jodie Foster tends to make an impression on children with her sarcastic confidence and her ability to make adults look stupid while making kids look wise. She certainly made an impression on Jake.

“She sounds like a boy,” Jake said with confusion. “Her voice sounds low just like a boys. She walks like a boy, too, and she moves like a boy,” he continued. “She doesn’t seem like a girl,” Jake observed in his growing suspicion.

“Well, she’s a lesbian now,” I blurted. Shit. Did I just take Candleshoe into Sex in the City territory?

“Do you know what a lesbian is Jake?”

“Yeah, I know what a lesbian is,” he replied with a wince, looking like he expected cooties to advance and attack him momentarily from the shadows.

Jake doesn’t like talking about sex in any form. He turns his head in disgust when people kiss on TV. This certainly qualified as a masters level sex education class for Jake. I had to think quickly.

“Jake, as long as people love each other, it’s okay that they show affection to anyone they choose to. People are born gay or lesbian, it’s not something they decide to be one day. The important thing is that they are good people, and that they act loving towards others. We need to be understanding of them and their choices.”

He nodded and seemed to understand. Lesbians were just kind people who happened to show their love to other women and act a little bit like boys. And that was okay with Jake.

Who knew some 1977 movie starring Jodie Foster could bring about such questions. Maybe I won’t cancel Netflix at the end of the free month. Maybe I should see what Jake observes when he watches Michael Jackson in The Wiz.

By Lisa Nave


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