The Writing Mamas Daily BlogEach 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.
Friday, August 31, 2007
In the last year at least 10 friends I know are getting divorced. Some have kids. Some don’t.
But nearly all involve their husbands cheating.
When you get married you take a vow. I will only sleep with you.
Granted, this is limiting.
But it’s a vow. It’s a promise. It’s sacred.
Then you learn this person, who you are so in love with, has lied. Has broken his sacred vow. How is trust restored? How is anything ever the same?
And why did he have to fuck around and fuck things up?
While I’m not personally dealing with these problems, I’ve sat with my friends as they’ve cried, rocked like children and as smart as they are, could not find answers to questions they should never have to ask.
For decades there has been a phenomenon in marriage called “The Seven-Year Itch.”
For some, it’s been more like a two-year scratch.
I spoke to a friend’s husband yesterday. I adore him, but I am so angry at him for what he has done – and secretly for so long – to my dear friend. I heard him extol her virtues. Her brightness, warmth, honesty. “Nobody can hold a candle to her,” he said. “No one.”
So how come you're sleeping around? Why are you saying she wants the divorce when I asked you point blank, "Do you want to stay together or do you want to part?" Within a second you answered, “I want to separate.”
Do guys not think that women don’t look at other men and go – “Hot, hot, hot! Ewey, ba-beee!!!”
Do they not think we don’t flirt? It’s fun. But then an internal warning light comes on and we hear a deep voice within say: Stand back. Move away. Disengage. Danger. Repeat DANGER.”
Certainly all men are not like the ones I mentioned. But I’m angry that my friends are hurting so and their husbands have an inability to contain their Peters and Pauls.
When you get married, you grow up. It’s a simple equation. Anyone can do the math. Guys are especially good at Geometry. Cheating on my wife? When did they forget to add?
So many of these guys aren’t just Peter Pans – they are panned.
Yesterday, my friend’s husband said, “I know in the end, no matter what, we'll always remain friends. Not now. But eventually.”
Smooth. As if he’s already moved on. But when you cheat, you actually have already moved on.
I believe in forgiveness and in trying to save a marriage. (Honey, I’m writing this figuratively. Don't get any ideas.) But when you learn the number of times a spouse has cheated, surely there must be an amount from which one cannot put the pieces of a marriage back together.
Old habits are hard to stop. New ones can be difficult to begin.
By Dawn Yun
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Thursday, August 30, 2007
Or hopping off the ubiquitous yellow school bus in cable-knit stockings and solid jean jumpers with the smell of wood burning in fireplaces wafting through the cold, still air. Perhaps a dapper plaid hat is added to the mix? A comfy scarf wrapped around the neck? Brown leather shoes!
Yes, fall has arrived!
Problem is, fall hasn’t arrived here in sunny northern California by the time children are marching back to the classrooms. The autumn months here are known for their long “Indian summer” days of sunny skies with record temperatures.
Has that stopped me from giving in to the retail buyers 'vision’ of fall? Have my children sweated through recess on their first day back to school in heavy “fall” clothing? Before I answer that I’ll share with you how cute they looked – during the first photo taken at the front door, before they stripped down halfway through recess in a desperate attempt to cool off. I, too, remember that first day of school partly for the memory of happily flinging off my heavy, hot, fall outfit the moment I arrived home and donning a faded t-shirt and cool khaki shorts.
It’s almost a twisted right of passage.
This year will be different. My kids will enjoy their first weeks of school in appropriate warm weather clothing, though not faded t-shirts and khaki shorts.
Come Halloween when the weather tends to take a turn towards fall, chilly nights and we often receive our first rainy days, I’ll allow myself to buzz happily over the fall clothing in the store windows.
By then, however, the retail shops will be bursting with Christmas-themed pajamas and Santa red sweaters, garments which adorned in November may be a greater fashion faux pas than donning a faded t-shirt and khaki shorts.
But don’t tell my kids.
By Maija Threlkeld
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007
“What’s going to happen to Catie when she grows up?” I’d been wrestling with when to tell him more about Catie. Now, this question from out of the blue. “Will she get a job? Or will someone still have to take care of her?”
“Her mom and dad will always take care of her,” I responded. Should I use this moment? How honest should I be? Nick had seen Battens Disease destroying 15-year old Catie – blinding her, shutting down her brain, turning her muscles to mush. But he didn’t know that kids with Battens don’t survive their teens.
“Honey,” I started. “Kids with Battens don’t live long lives. They don’t usually make it past their teenage years.”
Nick got it. A guttural wail poured from him. A sound unlike any I’d ever heard from my boy. He sobbed, his whole body rocking forward and back.
I pulled over, climbed in the back seat and pulled Nick to me. His body calmed a bit. He slid his hand up my sleeve and rubbed my arm. Leaned his head on my shoulder.
“What’s happening with Catie is one of the worst things you’ll ever have to deal with. Honey, I am so sorry.”
Our day wore on. I told my husband. I e-mailed Nick’s teacher, asking her to let me know if she saw any unusual behavior. Told Nick’s Aunt Cathy that Nick knew her daughter’s disease was terminal.
Nick said no more about Catie until a week later, when I was reading to him at bed time.
“I keep thinking about Catie. At school, at baseball, all the time.”
“I think about it a lot, too,” I said. “It hurts so bad.”
Nick nodded, his mouth trembling.
“You can talk to me or Daddy anytime about it. And Aunt Cathy said you can ask her any questions you have.”
His teary eyes closed. Oh god, I hurt. I miss Catie already. And I ache for Nick. I hate that he’ll lose his cousin, that he’ll attend her funeral. But it is going to happen. This year or next year or the following year.
Damn that disease. Damn, damn, damn.
By Marianne Lonsdale
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
A Different Life
“Well, did you do the whip cream trick [squirt whip cream on a sleeping person’s hand, tickle her nose with a feather, PLOP!]?”
“Are you tired?" [She went to sleep at 3am.]
“What are your friend’s parents like?”
I am curious, because all I know of the father is a loud roar that came from a bedroom with the door shut, “Shut that dog up!”
“I don’t know.”
Okay, I get it. Just let the silence in the car be. Better yet, play the sixth track of the CD my daughter burned for use in the car. It’s “Don’t Matter” by Akon, for the 40th time. My daughter and I sing it together. “Yes, we gonna fight, fight for our right to lovin’” I think I might know why I love this song so much – its cadence and sweet sentiment remind me of Howard Huet, a crooner whose music my husband and I fell in love listening to 12 years ago.
We get to Home Depot. I mean to buy a Dremel engraver, because I am tired of losing plastic containers and dishes at schools and potluck parties. My daughter wants to stay in the car; I see no good reason why she shouldn’t. My two-year old son (two and a half, he tells anyone who will listen) wants to ride his bike. I do have a good reason not to let him – he’s apt to run into the ankles of an unsuspecting pedestrian in the warehouse. But, I find it difficult to resist the pleasure he derives gliding around, lifting his feet six inches off the ground, and swaying left and right. I also know that for every startled and irritated pedestrian, there are ten citizens whose mood is improved by this little joyful boy on a pretty wood bike with red handlebars and seat.
We find the engraver. I find some cleaner for the laminate floor in my kitchen, which has become hazy with so many layers of half removed dirt and food. As we move toward the cash registers, I spot my soon-to-be ex-husband walking toward us. He veers to his left, seemingly oblivious to me. I comment to myself, “You see, if we were still together, one of us wouldn’t be here right now. One of us would be home playing with the kids while the other was doing a Home Depot run. Now you’re stuck putting another household together.”
I stop and think some more. Should I say hi? Do I want to say hi? Not really, well maybe, he is still such a handsome guy. Okay then, the answer is yes. But wait, would it throw my son off to see his father? Would I have to do a lot of explaining why he must leave his dad right after saying hi? I decide that I can handle greeting him. I seek him out. I spot him with a woman. I veer away. Maybe not, I think. I don’t want to subject myself to that headache just yet.
But, maybe I can spy.
I peek around the corner, coward that I am. He’s standing by the two by fours. He’s facing toward me talking to the woman. No sign of jocularity at all, not affection, not ease, just stone serious. Her hair is dirty blonde. She can’t possibly be as pretty as I am, sagging 43 year old, with swatches of gray at my temples, notwithstanding.
My son, our son, waits for me as I pay for the engraver and laminate floor cleaner. We join my daughter who’s seated in the driver’s seat, feet on the dashboard, doors locked, reading "Dear Dumb Diary." The kids argue. The little one finally positions himself in his car seat. He clicks the top buckle, I click the bottom one. We drive home and listen “Don’t Matter” twice more.
By Vicki Inglis
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Monday, August 27, 2007
He seemed so sure of himself, and, of course, I want to believe he will be fine. But I also have my doubts. Depending on the time of day, I think it is the smartest thing I have ever done or simply one more way I am sabotaging his education.
I am afraid I risk launching a tragic school career fraught with failures and lost opportunities along with serious errors in judgment. It will all be traced back to starting school before he was ready. I imagine him as a troubled teenager because he was robbed of his last year of childhood. He still won't share and will remain prone to screaming and demanding the impossible.
It will all be my fault.
I guess it is time to start adding change to the therapy jar.
The truth is I am more than a little worried about him. Socially, he is up for anything. He wants to try it all and has no fear of failing or anything else. He will just try again. But I feel like kindergarten has gotten so academic. Kids are expected to know so much before they even start school. Eric still has trouble with scissors. The only letters he knows are the ones in his name. If you ask about any other one he will guess: "S?"
At the end of the first day, a neighbor asked Eric how it went. His response was; “not well.” It actually went quite well for me! It was the best day I can remember. But for Eric it went on too long. He did great at school and I brought his sister, Alexandra, with me to pick up the boys. They were thrilled and off we went to Petco.
Alas, those extra errands were too much. Both my kids are stubborn but upon hearing that he could not purchase the enormous bag of dog treats he had handpicked for our dog, Eric lost it. He screamed so loud we were asked to leave Petco.
Hello! How bad do you have to behave to be ejected from a pet store?
Then I had to carry him to the car. Every few feet he demanded to walk by himself. When I fell for it, he lay down in the parking lot. This went on for a while till my stepdaughter had to force him into the car to the visible sympathy of everyone around us.
All I can do is hope for the best. His teacher certainly has her work cut out for her.
By Cathy Burke
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Sunday, August 26, 2007
A New Computer
She has a cowboy party to go to complete with horsey rides.
Can I share with you how unthrilled I am about this?
I can only think about how behind I am on my work.
In the moriing I run and buy a new computer, the industrial design alone makes it worthwhile and drop it off at the computer recovery store.
I remind the owner that my life rests in his hands.
Then I play the guitar, badly, but with passion, and work out because I have to do SOMETHING so I don't worry about losing my life to my harddrive.
In the meamtime, it's stable time.
We drive to the party and the mother has done a wonderful job in creating a very imaginative party for her son who is turning five. There are horses, a petting zoo, a jumpie.
She is making us Marin mothers look rather bad when we only do one thing like I did for my daughter's birthday, which was to go to a gymnasium.
But I can't worry about that. Soon enough the party is over. My friend takes my daughter to another party so I can have a pity party about my hardrive.
I zoom to the computer store. He was able to recover all my all information by putting it on a disk!
I ask him how I transfer all that stuff on the disk onto my new computer. He said he didn't have time to tell me how to do that. He actually said that. Can you imagine? Didn't he just realize that I spent the afternoon with horses and manure. Could he not smell this? Maybe he could. And maybe that's why he wanted me to leave. After much prodding, I did get him to write down some directions.
He suggested that we could later schedule a tutorial where he might be able to teach me a few computer things. I told him I doubted it, paid, thanked him and left.
I went home to my husband practically in tears. He managed to install enough applications on the computer so I could recover a few e-mails and at least get a couple of blogs out, though I would have to write them on the fly, as I couldn't get into my files to recover some of the Writing Mamas' blogs.
That means I will be spending MANY hours Sunday trying to recover files. I will drink lots of coffee, away from from my computer, and I will take walks and remember to breathe. Because already the computer is acting kind of funky just writing this blog.
But I will be in the safety of my home. There will be no kids around. And my husband has seen me freak out many times, so this will be nothing new.
I'm so grateful for his patience and his computer abilities.
As for me, all I want is for everything on my computer to be back in its proper, comfortable place and for me to be able to write.
Come Monday, my wishes just may come true. That -- or I'll freak out.
By Dawn Yun
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Saturday, August 25, 2007
Coffee & Computters
I had a bad feeling about that coffee cup. The handle is too large. There is too much space between the cup and the inside of the handle. Lately, I've been spilling things.
Too early for paranoia.
Finally, after months of being unhable to write, it is 6 a.m. and I am READY!
And then -- I'm not.
I was right about that paranoid feeling.
My hand reaches for the coffee cup and it falls over -- ALL over my computer. I can hear the sizzle. Just like steak on a grill.
The computer dies. An untimely death. I stare in disbelief. I actually hated this computer. The industrial design alone left me cold. But I could only sit and freeze at the reality before me. I had no computer?
I started hair drying the coffee (I later found out you are not supposed to do do this. For water yes, coffee, no.)
And I couldn't freak out. There were lunches to be made. Children to get off to school.
Later, three computer repair places later, I learned that it was time for a new computer. This actually made me happy. But the recovery of my life would have to wait. Could my hard drive be saved? By now it was late Friday and one place was open. I would have to wait until Saturday to find out if my life's work could be salvaged
By Dawn Yun
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Friday, August 24, 2007
Still a Mom at Sixty
Actually, I’ve come to make sure she doesn't bring everything she owns back and use my house as a storage unit. As I survey the scene I see hours of work ahead of me. My daughter, Annie, is moving home after four years at college. I'm not sure how long she'll stay, but I'm thrilled to have her for as long as I can get her.
It's hard to believe that one week ago almost to the day I was standing in this very same living room amidst a crowd of her friends and their families celebrating their college graduation.
"Mom, I want you to meet Henry's parents," Annie said as she took my hand and steered me towards her special lab buddy and his parents.
"This is my mom!" she announced.
Just as I was beginning a conversation with them, Annie whisked me away to meet another friend and his mom.
If someone had told me when Annie was in middle school that she'd be introducing me proudly to her friends at college, I wouldn't have believed it. This very same girl who used to dodge me on the school playground if I happened to come to school was now seeking me out!
I'll never forget the first time I came to the middle school for a parent conference, and saw Annie eating lunch with her friends. I waved and smiled, "Hey, Annie!" I called out excitedly. She turned away and pretended like she didn't see me. I was crushed.
I look around the living room again, and I can't believe we have one day to clean and pack up this place. My twenty-two year old daughter, who just hosted this fabulous cocktail party and graduated with honors in bio-chemistry, is standing next to me wondering where to begin.
I don't know what I was thinking; somehow I thought since she could organize precise chemistry experiments in her lab that she could organize a few boxes in her bedroom.
"Annie, you've had all week to pack," I groan as I walk into her bedroom and see her clothes strewn around, some in bags, some in boxes and some on the floor.
"Mom, I'm almost packed," she snaps back at me.
I look at Annie in her shorts, tank top and flip flops. She looks maybe sixteen; but it's really not what she's wearing that I notice, but rather her expression- young, confused and overwhelmed. Then I get it. She hasn't begun packing because she doesn't know how to pack up these precious college years in a few boxes.
Maybe this is why I came -- not to help her pack up, but to help her move on.
By Marilee Stark
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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Yes, we’re having a “moment,” otherwise known as the dreaded public tantrum. To make matters worse, apparently a college kid dressed as a princess Disney character now believes she is his ‘dream come true.’
William leans sullenly against the back wall of the drinking fountain and kicks one leg out in response to Cinderella’s inquiry.
Disneyland employees, aka “cast members” do a remarkable job staying in character until they retreat behind “cast only doors” where I suspect they smoke a drag or chug down stale coffee before heading back out into the public brigade again (or so I assume).
Unfortunately, children tend not to stay in the character of good little helpers if they are tired, hungry, revved up from sugar overload or too stimulated from a certain Buzz Lightyear ride.
And part of me is thinking “A hug? Are you kidding me?” If only it were that easy. I’m not hunched under a water fountain for nothing, honey.
“Oh thank you Cinderella for the offer!” I respond, trying to exude the same bubbly demeanor to affirm to children everywhere that I, too, believe she’s a princess. I add, “But I think he just needs a little break.” No, duh.
Cinderella beams at us and I smile back. I can’t very well beam in my hunched position. She beams some more. I now nod back vigorously, a bobbing head of “he’s super-duper okay” assurance. She hesitates, but perhaps now recognizing she is a mere mortal compared to a Mom, she floats on down the side corridor.
After a long minute more of cool down time, my prince reaches up and I swoop him up into my arms. We continue merrily on our way to happily ever after, at least the Disneyland version.
By Maija Threlkeld
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I’ve never thought of myself as brave. Dogs, even little ones terrify me. Riding horses is a torment I hope to never repeat again. I only cross streets where there is a cross walk and always wait for the walk signal; you never know when some crazy car will whiz out of nowhere.
With my vivid imagination I can conjure up the worst possible scenarios: the stranger who touched the hands of my two-week old baby in the grocery store may have a rare flu, incurable and potentially deadly. But something has made me question my cowardly character flaw: motherhood.
One of the bravest things I ever did was decide to be a mother. With kids every day, every outing feels like another act of bravery. For example, recently I left the relative safety of my home and took my new-born baby of only one month and my three-year old to the Disney Store.
We were on a mission to find a Cinderella Princess dress to wear at her 3rd birthday party. Now the only Disney Store I knew of was all the way down in Union Square in San Francisco. Although it would be a hassle to drive over the bridge and brave the downtown traffic, it would be worth it. We would walk into the magical Disney Store, Samantha would be mesmerized by the toys and beautiful Princess gowns, and I would get a vicarious thrill watching her pick out just what she had been dying to have for the last few months.
About half way there, the baby starts crying and it is clear to me that she needs to be fed. I decide that I’ll nurse her in the parking lot once we get there instead of pull over, which is what I should have done. Alice is screaming now, hitting that high pitch only newborns can muster, while I’m dodging cars and pedestrians in a frantic panic to park in the Union Square lot.
Normally, I am a very cautious, unaggressive driver. I’m the one who will follow a slow dump truck for miles. But beware! Mothers are dangerous drivers when they have crying children in the back. Luckily, I find a dark, corner parking spot. With my antsy toddler in back and my new born at my breast, I start thinking about how vulnerable I am to any criminal.
Aren’t you supposed to exit a car as soon as you park in order to avoid such predators? Samantha is now cheering “We’re here. We’re here! Hurry Mama!” We pack up what we need, get everyone situated, and head for the store. At this point, I’ve started to doubt my great idea for a morning outing. Why didn’t I just go to Toys R Us down the street?
Finally, we walk past the threshold and into the spectacular land of Disney. Samantha’s head is turning from side to side searching for that coveted dress. “We’ll find it,” I assure her, frantically looking for that dress myself. Knowing that I must be missing something, I ask a young salesperson where the Princess dresses are. With a bubbly voice and big smile she says, “Oh, we don’t have any right now.” Incredulously I respond,” You don’t have any right now? You mean we came all the way down here from Marin with two kids just to get a Cinderella dress and you don’t have any right now?”
“Only at Halloween,” she pipes back. It was unbelievable that I had made this ridiculous trip for nothing, blindly believing that Disney, where all dreams come true, wouldn’t let me down. What’s more, I was bolstering myself for Samantha’s tantrum, as I was ready to throw one myself. I was already planning how I was going to carry a crying three- year old out of the store while pushing my newborn in the stroller when Samantha responds, “It’s okay Mama. We’ll find one at another store.” I guess sometimes dreams do come true. My daughter was acting more level headed and mature than I.
Was it a wasted morning? Perhaps. But I keep venturing out with my new baby and my toddler, often not knowing what the outcome will be or how everyone will behave. Motherhood truly is an act of bravery. Let the adventure continue.
By Rebecca Elegant
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I feel so much.
I'm at the OK Go show with my husband, Mick, celebrating my thirty-sixth birthday with three hundred 20-year-olds and a few 40-year-old hipsters, one of whom is a large sweaty guy in front of me who nearly head butts me each time he whips his head back to the music. I’m dying to smack his bald spot with a flick of my wrist.
This band is really cool. They play a lot of songs I don’t know, because, um, I’m not that cool, but I find myself exchanging smiles often with Mick as I let myself get buzzed just being there, taking in the night as fully as I can.
The band eventually plays the song they’re best known for, “A Million Ways to be Cruel.” They filmed the video in the lead singer’s back yard and did a riveting, choreographed funky break-dance swing routine – four guys in fitted cowboy shirts, brooches, skinny ties and old hats. The video circulated on the Internet, along with another one where they danced their choreographed routine on treadmills.
Tonight, though, instead of giving us their video dance to “A Million Ways,” they’ve changed things up and done something cool once again: they’ve left their drummer on the stage while the other three band members disappear off the sides only to show up at the back of the concert hall to play the song acoustically.
The crowd goes nuts; it’s clear this band know how to work us.
But then they really get me. They play a cover of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down (Bruce!)” – that ‘70s song I used to roller skate round and round to while I tried to get my feathered hair to fly – and before we know it, the lead singer is down in the crowd with his microphone and a handheld little pin of a camera that’s projecting onto the huge screen onstage.
And, then, before I know it, he’s found me in the crowd.
It’s as if he floats to me while I watch him through a giddy fog. When he reaches me, he leans his body heavily into mine, his deliciously sweaty back soaking through my shirt. I can feel the ridges of his spine against my chest, and as he presses his sweaty face against mine, the wet tendrils of his hair leave electric streaks against my skin. With the 20-year-olds bouncing and weaving a wave around us, he sings “Don’t Bring Me Down” for the sexiest 30 seconds of my night, projecting our image large and live on stage.
When he finally leaves me to return to the stage, I look up at Mick and we laugh, and I hold my hand over my mouth, even though I want to touch my cheek but I don’t dare because I want it to take forever to dry, and I feel the happy lotus flower in my chest ready to burst all over again.
By Anjie Reynolds
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Monday, August 20, 2007
The Impossible Truth
Summer is over?
It was gone in a blink.
We did a lot, tons of travel, fun with friends, visited relatives, but still.. . . it’s over.
I wish the clock could stop. That we can turn it back – like during daylight savings time – and just start the beginning of summer all over again. It would be like being on a movie set
But summer was not a dress rehearsal. It was putting off the inevitable. My stepson starts high school, in just four, short years he will begin college. And my daughter starts first grade. That means school is getting serious for both.
I must stay on Jay’s homework everyday and befriend his teachers. For Mimi ,I need to have a beginning talk with her teachers and let them know her talents and learn suggestions on how she might begin to read.
The school year is always filled with tension. Tension to do homework. To study. To get good grades. I do daily battle with Pokemon. If I could just find the guy who invented that concept I would let him know that there is NOT a place for him in heaven.
And stress. I must not stress over my kids’ grades. At least I will try. The stakes are higher this year. It also means I have to play the social scene and really work on making new play dates for Mimi.
This is high school all over again. I couldn’t wait to alight for college. But I will do anything for my kids. Even if it means taking a pretend avid interest in Brownies, class decorations and chapter books (like Mimi, I prefer books with lots of pictures).
I want Mimi’s last two days of school freedom to be memorable so yesterday, no sooner did she jump out of her Dad’s car from camping and leaped into mine. I surprised her with a grown-up manicure while Mommy got a pedicure. She choose sparkly nail polish and white flowers to adorn her dainty fingers. She is a princess.
I hope school goes well for both kids. There is so much pressure on children today. It’s not like the good old-school days when you could be a child left behind – and still pass.
Just two days of summer left before school begins. Until then they will do something that is becoming rather unique – the kids will be kids and they will play.
Until school begins we’re going to have one big, non-stop end of summer party. None of us wants to see it end.
By Dawn Yun
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Sunday, August 19, 2007
If I can manage to be in the moment even (especially) knowing it probably will not last long, I can relax into it. I don’t like to get stuck on any one thing, whether I am enjoying it or not. This is probably a good approach to life as well: Don’t get attached.
I try not to make any promises in case they don’t come to fruition. Cars break down, people get sick. Sometimes an element of mystery to the day’s activity is necessary just to make it into the car with the only promise being “an adventure” so there can be no refute, “I don’t want to do that.”
I am constantly amazed by what my children regard as “fun.” Turn over any rock and the possibilities are endless. A search for dinosaur bones is never a waste of time.
So I say: “we’ll see” instead of yes or no. I try to consider more what I want to do because if I am happy it is easier to tolerate my children whether they are happy or not.
And sometimes, if I take long enough to prepare us for our “planned” activity, I find they are engrossed in something on their own involving not much more than being outside. So I pull out a book and read while they look at bugs until they are ready for a change of scenery.
And off we go!
By Cathy Burke
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Saturday, August 18, 2007
I know that most mothers do this when they first bring their baby home, afraid that they will somehow stop this most reflexive of acts, but I suspect after a month or so of sleep deprivation this need succumbs to practicality and free moments are not spent sleeping.
I have never lost the drive to watch my boys breathe, and I suspect it is because it has been a hard-won battle. Born at twenty-six weeks, almost four months early, and weighing just over 1 ½ lbs, their very tiny lungs had not developed all the apparatus needed to get oxygen from the air and their nervous system could not coordinate the effort. For many days they had air pumped in and out of their lungs, and so I watched their chests rise and fall, more staccato than babies who didn’t require the help of a machine.
Time and medicine allowed them to graduate from machines, but left their lungs severely scarred; it is ironic that the very oxygen and equipment they needed to survive has contributed to the damage, but I do not dwell. It is what it is.
For a year after we came home from the hospital my boys needed oxygen to breathe and so our living room resembled some kind of surreal scuba shack with the Pack-n-Play and strollers filled with oxygen canisters in lieu of toys.
Their nervous systems could not be relied upon to be the metronome, and so they needed monitors when I wasn’t watching, so I could be alerted if breathing stopped and intervene. The monitor appropriately made an annoying noise and often falsely raised the alarm, so it became easier to watch than to sleep, and what I found was the more I watched, the better they breathed. So I watched more.
A year passed, lungs healed and nervous systems developed and so oxygen and monitors were dispensed, however at my age adaptation is more difficult. And so after a year of watching, I now find that I have trouble sleeping, but that is okay because I can watch them breathe.
By Jennifer Gunter
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Friday, August 17, 2007
I thought, “How am I going to care for my toddler?” Just the thought of putting my son in his car seat or even lifting his legs to change his diaper made me cringe.
Luckily, my husband is Superdad, and he swooped in to the rescue. Superdad is not a mythical comic book figure, but a real superhero that lives in our home. He heard there was trouble in the family, so he raced home from work early to help. No matter that his work was in crisis and he was under tremendous pressure. His family comes first.
Once home, Superdad scooped up our son and commanded that I do absolutely nothing. When I picked up a brush to clean our son’s bottles, he snatched it away. “I mean nothing!” he said, pointing at the couch, where he commanded I sit.
Then, in one swift move, Superdad washed the dishes, cleaned the baby bottles, took out the garbage, fed our son, changed his diaper, cooked an amazing chicken-vegetable curry, played with our son, gave him his bath, put on his PJ’s, read him a story, and put him to bed.
After the dust settled at his feet, Superdad entered the living room where I was sitting like a guilty lump on the couch. With a twist of his wrist, he handed me Tylenol, and then lectured me about the importance of taking it easy. He then slipped onto the computer to solve a problem I complained about, and after that, he finally had his dinner. It was 10 p.m.
This is typical Superdad.
But even when his family is not in crisis, Superdad is there. He cooks fantastic meals, grocery shops, makes repairs around the house. He often gives our son his bath and puts him to bed. If our son wakes in the middle of the night, Superdad is usually the one who puts him back to sleep. (I offer, but he says he likes to do it.)
Superdad also comes home from work early if I need him, plays with our son for hours, and brings me flowers unexpectedly.
He loves his family and protects them from all evil on the planet. Can any mother think of a better superhero to have in this modern world?
By Cindy Bailey
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Thursday, August 16, 2007
“It’s at least three-feet long but by the markings I know it’s not a rattle snake.” Ugh, markings. A black-jagged pattern over sleek, shiny pulsing scales as the reptile moves towards its prey; my mind goes blank. Why, why is he sharing these details?! For ophidiophobes such as me, it doesn’t matter whether the slithery reptile with the forked tongue and beady eyes is three-feet long, eight feet or only a couple inches. What concerns me is that it is a slithery reptile with a forked tongue and yup, beady eyes.
“Where is it now?” I croak back.
“Well, last I saw (What?! He wasn’t standing guard?!) it must have slithered into a hold behind a rose bush.”
I get into criminal investigator mode and review all data. I need to solve this pronto since our knight in shining armor with no snake fear is back at work in the morning and it will only be a thin sheet of sliding-door glass protecting the kids and me from that beady-eyed slithering monster.
“Show me where you saw it.” My courage surprises me.
On the way to the sliding door I pass our two oldest children. “There’s a snake in our yard,” I inform them as calmly and evenly as I can in the chance they need to know what led to their mother’s demise.
“Let me see!” they demand and in a whirl push past me to follow their dad into our once tranquil backyard. How I miss our backyard… I heard our four-year old offer, “I’m a little scared” before competing with his sister to see who can climb down the steps fastest.
I join them on the lower patio, my eyes darting about like an over-caffeinated secret service agent. Brett points to a tiny hole behind some thorny branches and part of a retaining wall. “It went in there.” I wonder whether we can encase the entire slope in quick-dry cement, a thought interrupted by the idea of keeping a mongoose as a pet, ala Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Jungle Book, that beloved children’s storybook.
I return to reality in time to hear Brett assure, “Remember, it’s more afraid of you than you are of it.” Well, BOO then. For now I just need to know do I start in the classified ads under Pets to find a mongoose or hit craigslist?
By Maija Threlkeld
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007
“Are you a grandma?” he asked innocently.
I was picking up my daughter from a preschool outing at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon. Apparently the bright mid-day summer sun that made the sapphire water of Richardson Bay shimmer so prettily was not as kind to my mature face.
“No, I’m Phoebe’s mommy,” I replied blushing.
Having given birth to my now five-year-old child a few months shy of my 43rd birthday, I knew such remarks were to be expected.
Still, it stung.
My husband, who is the same age as me, has been mistaken for our daughter’s grandpa since the day she was born. “Is she your first grandchild?” a nurse gushed at him as he cradled Phoebe in his arms in the NICU shortly after her birth.
Maybe because he’s a man and doesn’t have as much pressure from society to look youthful, he’s always taken these comments in stride. I, on the other hand, have always been secretly relieved that I’d escaped such a devastating blow to my vanity. I even deluded myself that, with the help of daily sunscreen, hair dye and attempting -- at least when I’m not clad in sweats or workout gear -- to follow the fashion rules of TV’s “What Not to Wear,” I didn’t look so different from some of the hip, young, thirty-something moms I knew.
My delusion was shattered by the uncensored honesty of that four-year-old boy. As I drove home from the pasture, his words continued to taunt me. I kept glancing up from the road to scrutinize my face in the rearview mirror. The more I looked, the more convinced I became that wrinkles and age spots that hadn’t been there yesterday had appeared overnight, catapulting me into full-blown crone hood.
More disturbing than the signs of age on my face was the recognition of an ugly truth about myself. Turns out I’m as guilty as friends and other women I’ve criticized for being overly concerned about aging.
Like them, I realized, I’ve bought into the message that, as women in our youth-obsessed society, looking older -- or just looking one’s age -- is not okay and makes us less worthy as human beings.
The fact is -- I am old enough to be a grandmother. What’s so awful about that?
By Dorothy O’Donnell
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
“Does she have friends? Do teachers like her? Do other parents want their kids to hang out with her?” my friend inquires.
Well, yes. Still, I fret. Who raised this child? Why doesn’t she jump to clear the table at her grandparents’? Why must she be browbeaten into mumbling hello to dinner guests? Why does she seem more inclined to watch The Travel Channel than to save the world?
“Because she’s a teenager?” ventures my friend.
Other people have teenagers. I have a living indictment of my parenting skills.
But wait a minute.
Recently, when our vacation was jeopardized by Expedia’s incompetence, my daughter asked, “Can I do anything to help?”
Twice in the same week, she unloaded the dishwasher without being asked.
She brought me an extra set of keys when I locked mine in the car, even though rescuing me might have made her late to work.
And when I asked if she wanted me to drive her back to college instead of sticking her on a plane, she said, “Do whatever’s easier for you.” (Of course, that answer means I am driving her. Such a smart girl!)
True, the world is yet to be saved, but there’s hope. Perhaps I have not failed as a mother. Perhaps she’s just a teenager who is growing up. Perhaps aliens have come in the night and snatched my daughter, replacing her with some zombie look-alike.
Whatever the reason, I thrive on these glimmers.
By Lorrie Goldin
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Monday, August 13, 2007
That's My Body
At the grocery store once when she was three, she crept under my skirt at the checkout line and yelled, “Hey Mommy! Why aren’t you wearing any panties?” as she reached up to run those delicate little fingers of hers across my buns.
I clenched, winced, put on a brave smile for the guy behind me with bearded stubble and a 12-pack, and gently guided her down – and out – of there, asking her to simply stand beside me please. I was not about to explain the subtle nuances of underwear at Safeway to a three-year-old; I was not about to tell her and our neighbor in line that indeed I did have underwear on, it’s just that I was wearing what we call a thong.
I saved that conversation for the van ride home.
Lately, her attention has turned to my breasts – and her attention has advanced to petting. Heavy petting if I don’t stop her.
She cops a feel when we read books, when I get out of the shower, when I’m wearing a pretty blouse. She starts with the outer curves, working big circles around them, and moves her way inward to attempt to cross paths with the nipples hiding under the fabric. She pokes them, strokes them, and even kisses them.
I feel like a teenager in the back seat after Sadie Hawkins – I try to sweetly fend her off, but Hey! she seems to say. You invited me! And, after all, I love you!
As unnerving as these experiences can be, I know it’s healthy that she’s expressing herself this way. And I am extremely grateful that she admires what she sees (and feels). It’s taken me years to get to that point – to love the fullness, the billows, the curviness of it all.
In fact, it was only this summer, when I saw my mother and my aunt together, both in their sixties now, that I looked at their bodies appreciatively: dimpled knees, thickening waist lines, firm arms, large breasts. I thought, that’s me. That’s my body in 30 years. And look how lovely they are. Look how they move with agility and strength. Look how they smile and laugh with confidence. Look who I’m going to be.
Perhaps Aubrey’s having that revelation now. Perhaps when she lifts my skirt, gropes my chest, and, most recently, asks when she’ll be getting her own set of breasts or if I’ll save my pink panties for her for when she grows up, she’s (literally) embracing who she is and who she’s going to be someday.
Who knows? If I weren’t 36, maybe this summer I would’ve grabbed handfuls of my mother and my aunt simply to embrace my destiny, too.
By Anjie Reynolds
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Sunday, August 12, 2007
Returning to the workplace was scary but exciting, too, and I eagerly dusted off my favorite Jones of New York outfits and polished my classic black pumps that had been pushed to the back of my closet.
My children left good luck Mommy signs for me the morning I left the house to reclaim my place in the professional world.
What I discovered upon my return to an office near the California capitol in Sacramento where I was to write copy for a politics and public policy newsletter was that a lot had changed.
The computers were flatter and faster, e-mail replaced conversation even with people in the same room and most of the background information I needed to write a story waited for me on the Web.
What I also discovered was that my wardrobe was hopelessly out of date.
I don’t mean a little off. I mean the clothes I thought were classic and classy made me look ridiculous. My silk paisley skirt was way too long and the heels on my pumps too low. The shoulder pads in my blazer needed to be removed and my tucked-in blouse needed to be pulled out. As I studied the women around me I realized even my at-home wardrobe was unacceptable.
My best jeans that fit so comfortably constituted the greatest fashion sin of all, a straight-legged, high-waisted abomination so infamous it had a name: Mom Jeans.
It took weeks of watching the women who worked around me (many of them unmarried and many others without children) to figure out what changes I needed to make. That is, if, wearing fashionable clothes was my goal. I was constantly telling my children to disregard what others say, and do what they think is right. Shouldn’t I do the same? If I had been perfectly happy in my wardrobe a month earlier, why make what were sure to be expensive changes now?
Then it hit me. I write. I use words as language. But other things help us communicate, too – our tone of voice, facial expressions. Clothes are language too, I realized. I saw that in the quick judgments I made upon meeting contacts at my new job. I decided within a minute if they were modern or old fashioned, careful or sloppy, friendly or standoffish based on how they appeared to me. I wasn’t always right, but that didn’t change the fact that I made quick judgments all the same. Clothes, as much as our words, body language and voices, are parts of how we communicate.
Who was I then? What did I want my clothes to say about me?
I haven’t figured that out. Somedays, I go to work in tailored pants and jackets, others I wear loose skirts and long tops. Somedays, I look more like a reporter. Others I look more like a mom. But the process of exploring who I am has been an informative one.
And, if I’m to be honest, a lot of fun, too.
By Laura-Lynne Powell
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Saturday, August 11, 2007
She said while setting the table the other night, “Martin is mean.”
“Ah, ha” I responded, trying not to pounce all over that statement. I just wanted to savor it because I knew something delicious would follow. You see, she wasn’t acting hurt.
After a minute or two, I ask, “How is he mean?”
“He asked me, ‘how are the wife and kids?’”
“Ah ha,” I responded, “did you say something back?”
She said, “I asked him later, ‘how is your hubby?” Not the shrinking violet that I was when I was her age. I only pretended to like boys in that way because the popular girls were into the boys.
I just need to take a deep breath and listen. I watched the last half of The Ice Princess with her last night. The boy and girl kiss on the lips in the end. After she put away the DVD, she skedaddled downstairs, her energy is different; something has awakened.
My energy has changed, too. I amused myself at my daughter’s expense the other day. I asked the mother of a schoolmate of my daughter if she would take her home one day this week. She agreed.
Then I ran to my daughter and said, “Ha, ha, you are going to get a ride with Ivan and his mom on Thursday. “
“With Ivan?” she asked.
“Yup. Ha, ha.”
“Oh God,” she said, melting down into the car seat.
Sometimes, I feel an inkling of panic. My mind coughs up the thought, if she weren’t with that whirling dervish friend of hers at camp, this wouldn’t be happening. However, it was going to happen. My daughter is an intelligent, attractive, stylish (more than I ever was) young lady. The boys were just looking for a way to talk to her.
My tasks are to first keep my mouth closed and then coax my mind into acceptance. If she is going to begin flirting, Treasure Island Sailing Camp is a good spot. She’s under the supervision of the camp counselors.
“So, was Martin mean to you today?”I ask.
“No, but Ivan was.”
“Really?” I am trying not to crack up.
“Yes,” she said, “he left us on the beach.”
“But he came back for you?”
“Yes.” Then she added, “Then we left him on the beach.”
“Did you go back for him?”
By Vicki Inglis
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Friday, August 10, 2007
Fellowship of the Frogs
“Make a date with your unconscious at the same time everyday. Show up and it will be there.” That's what Mary Oliver said at her poetry reading last night. I looked at the clock. Nine-thirty. Exactly the time I intended to show up every single morning. Like the great writers, there first thing, ready to catch the precious gems before the day could devour my genius. I bet most women wrote in their pajamas. I had trouble trying to imagine Ernest Hemingway or Thomas Mann in their PJs.
Just then, I heard the front door and Emma bounded into the bedroom. “Hi Grandma. It's time to watch the rest of the movie.” I must have looked confused. “You know, Fellowship of the Rings. From last night?”
“Oh, the movie.”
“Grandma, you promised.”
“We said ten o'clock. That's not for a while.
“Why don't you come back.”
“It's too far. I'll wait.”
“You only live downstairs. I’ll call you.”
“The gravel hurts my feet. I'd rather wait here.” She crawled into my bed. “When are we going to watch the movie, Grandma?”
“At ten o'clock. I have to write my morning pages first.”
“Ten?” Emma looked at the clock.
“Okay, what time is it now?” I never missed an opportunity for an educational experience.
“Grandma, I know how to tell time.” She folded her hands and kept her eye on the clock. I relaxed a little and began to write; first the date, April 26th, my birthday…… Good God, I'm almost seventy-five. It seemed only a few years ago I was in my fifties, out every morning at seven to jog, divorced and dating a man in his forties. Now, twenty years later, I'm still single, facing the lawful infirmities of old age and wondering what happened. Would I even want to share my life with someone now?
The sagging, the wrinkles and all? I smiled as I remembered the morning Emma and her cousin, Rose, came down to the garden and found me in a reckless moment wearing shorts and a tank top.
“Grandma, you have crinkles on your legs.”
“Yes, aren’t they neat?” I’d answered. “My grandmother had crinkles on her arms and legs. They were really soft and I loved to touch them.”
Emma and Rose rubbed my knees. “Yes,” they’d hummed in unison.
“I don’t have crinkles” Emma had said.
“I don’t either,” echoed Rose, taking a quick check to be sure.
“Oh, no” I’d answered. “You can’t have crinkles until you’re old. You have to live for a very long time. But don’t worry, you’ll get to have crinkles someday.”
* * * * *
“What are you writing, Grandma?”
“I don't know yet.”
“You could write about a little girl who eats ants.”
“I eat ants.”
What would Mary Oliver say about that? And what would she do with a granddaughter who lived downstairs and came up every morning to snuggle. I looked down at Emma. “Ants? You mean the little crawly kind? I imagined a giant ant, jaws opening, ready to snap up my computer, morning pages and all. I need to fight for this time to write. “Why don't you take the dog outside and throw a few balls to him?”
“I smash them and then I eat them.”
“No, Grandma, the ants.”
“Oh, of course, the ants. You eat them? Why?”
“They taste good.”
“Aren't they bitter?” I shouldn’t be encouraging her to talk. Maybe I should try to write about ants.
“Some are and some aren't. The ones at school aren't bitter.”
“Do you think this has anything to do with the time when you were four and I found you
picking ants off the camellia bush?” She wasn't just picking them off. It actually had been a more heartless act, a primitive killing rampage, as one after another ant was smashed out on the sidewalk. “Do you think your eating ants had something to do with my telling you that if I caught you killing anything, I'd make you eat it?”
“No, I just like to eat them.”
“Well, when you eat them they die. Maybe you could wish them a good reincarnation.”
She liked that concept, and thought for a moment. “Maybe they could come back as frogs. I don't kill frogs.”
Emma looked at the clock. “When are we going to watch Fellowship of the Rings?
“Pretty soon. What do you think if I wrote something called Fellowship of the Frogs?
“Whatever, Grandma. Is it time?”
It could be a children's book. Maybe a story about reincarnation. A little girl who loves to sit by her pond and finds that her father, grandmother and ancestors have all come back as frogs. Or maybe I could write about crinkles and old age and why not include the time when she was a toddler and asked, “Do you have hair on your ginina?”
"Yes,” I’d answered. “I have a little left.”
"Will you show it to me?"
When I take a shower.”
She heard the water running and came to the door. "Can I see now?" as she'd slid the shower door open and peaked in.
"Oh," she had said, looking curiously. "I don't know if that’s good."
* * * * *
Emma blew impatient breath all over my arm, “It's almost time to watch the movie, Grandma.”
“Just give me some space,” I snapped. ”Can't you find something to do?”
“I am doing something. I'm waiting.” She looked back at the clock.
In desperation, I wrote a sticky, “Write about crinkles and gininas.”
Emma pulled the dog onto her lap and his head pressed the delete key. “Is it time?” she asked.
I pushed her away and then felt guilty. “Just keep your eye on the clock, Sweetheart.”
“Okay, here's a test.” She went on as if nothing had happened. “Who is Legolas; a dwarf, a human or an elf?”
“He'll be a dead elf, if he doesn't get out of my space until ten o'clock. Get your computer. Write a book.”
Zoe wedged her sleek black self in between my laptop and body, and kneaded her nails into my nipple which was, unfortunately, in easy reach.
Emma moved over a bit. “Only if I can play a computer game.” She looked up at me. She knew that look. “That's okay, Grandma. I'll just wait.”
I looked at her sweet, innocent face, soft brown eyes that showed not one hint of the jungle and I smiled. “You know what? Let's just watch the movie now and I'll try to write later.”
By Toni Triest
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Thursday, August 09, 2007
My own brown-skinned, seven-year-old giggled hesitantly along, clearly confused about why this statement made her uncomfortable.
By the time I exhaled (did she really say what I think she said?) they had moved on to other subjects. I knew it was an innocent remark, but it continued to bother me.
Maybe I was being too sensitive.
When my daughter was born in Ohio, we chose to make her a U.S citizen rather than take on our nationality. We chose this for all the reasons any immigrant chooses America. It’s a country of unparalleled rights, opportunities and comfort, unlike any other place in the world.
Her friend’s guileless remarks made me realize that we have also invariably committed her to a nation where she would spend a lifetime walking a “should I be offended?” line.
Where she would always have to process what she hears and choose whether to take offence or not.
She will have to decide when to “lighten up” and when to speak up.
It is here in the U.S. more than any other country I have lived in and understandably so given its history, that racial complexity is constantly discussed and deconstructed in such depth and dimension. And this in turn has made me more aware of racial nuances in ways I never thought of before.
And though there are times I agree that there is too much emphasis on being politically correct, there is also a flip side where this melting pot of races and cultures can burn someone in the most unintended ways.
By the time she grows up, glass ceilings may have been shattered, diverse presidential elections may be the norm and this all may have dissipated to be replaced by other pertinent issues.
Our own lives are testament to how we cannot predict what the future holds.
So I hope and believe that this nation we have put our faith in for its many admirable qualities, will validate on all counts that we have made the right choice.
By Tania Malik
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
While she was here, without my asking her to, she bathed Phoebe, tucked her in bed and read her stories. She helped her get dressed and brushed her hair. And she played endless games of Candy Land with her, exhibiting patience I can rarely summon for my daughter’s penchant for making up new rules as she goes along.
I wasn’t always sure my mom was up to the task of being a grandma. When Phoebe was born five years ago, we lived a mile apart from each other in San Diego, the city where I grew up. As a new grandmother, she would make Phoebe the center of her universe, I’d assumed. And naturally she’d be at my beck and call for regular babysitting gigs.
My mother, though eager to be a grandma, had other ideas. Like selling her condo and moving to Durango barely a month after Phoebe’s birth.
I handled the news like any mature woman would. I sulked. I pouted. I vowed never to take Phoebe to Durango to visit her.
Deliberately abandoning us hadn’t been my mother’s intent, of course. But it felt that way at the time, perhaps partly due to my unrelenting sleep deprivation and out of whack hormones.
The truth is, my mom had already been spending summers and falls in the home she’d purchased in her beloved Durango a couple of years earlier. She’d even talked about moving there permanently one day. When her neighbors razed the cottage next door to build a McMansion that loomed intrusively over her condo, she decided that day had come.
With time and more sleep, my perspective became less warped and my resentment toward my mom gradually faded. I realized she was entitled to live where and how she wants. Like most mothers, she’s spent years putting the needs of her children ahead of her own. She raised four kids, including a bi-polar son for whom she continues to be the primary source of emotional and financial support with an attitude that I find amazing. Her independence, active lifestyle and continuing quest to learn well into her ‘70s are traits I admire and try to emulate — hopefully Phoebe will, too.
Yes, it would be nice if my mom lived closer to us. But I’ve discovered that the miles between us can’t severe the bond she has with her granddaughter.
Or with her daughter.
By Dorothy O’Donnell
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Monday, August 06, 2007
My ten-year old, Nick, and his buddy, Josh, sat in the back, zoned out with iPods and video games. We’d instructed them that no electronics would be allowed during our five days in the park. They were getting in their last fix.
The boys were bored the first two days. They thought the General Sherman tree, the biggest tree in the world, would be bigger. The tunnel log was deemed a rip off. And to add insult to injury, the TV in our room didn’t work.
We hiked the 380 steps up Moro Rock on day two. Josh stopped at the half way mark, tired out as well as freaked out at being so high. Thereafter, he’d shoot me an evil eye when I’d outline our next hike.
On day three, a shift in interest started. My son asked if I’d buy him a book to read. He also earned the designation of Junior Ranger by completing a booklet of educational activities. Josh could care less about the Junior Ranger program. But he thrilled at catching trout in Stony Creek and at swimming in an alpine lake. Touring Crystal Caves was creepy enough to count as fun for both boys.
We lucked out at Cascade Meadow on our fourth day. Two rangers stood at the edge of the parking lot, observing two mama bears, one with two cubs and the other with three. We were glued to the scene for the next two hours. The action went from watching playful cubs scamper up trees to violence when one mama bear swatted the cub of the other mama out of a tree at thirty feet. The two mothers faced off with growls. We held our collective breaths, wondering if a fight was coming. Nick and Josh said this drama was way better than the Discovery Channel.
Josh asked to go back to Moro Rock on our last morning. This time he made the entire climb – a hot, sweaty and proud boy. We returned to the car and started our long drive home. Ear plugs came out and the boys switched on their electronics. But they had gained a little more between their ears than when we left Oakland.
By Marianne Lonsdale
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Sunday, August 05, 2007
Nature's Family Traditions
I think it is worthwhile to try and we have done it now for almost forty years.
Each year we spend a week in the Sierra living 1920s style. There is plumbing and electricity,
but no telephones (except one for emergencies), no central heat, water comes from a pure
unpolluted spring, and there are miles of hills, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, and mountain
entertainment that one must be willing to discover and create for herself.
Computers and electronics are left behind.
Three generations of one family have built and operated this complex of cabins and lodge for
the past eighty seven years. They have served the natural surroundings as well as those who
come to experience mountain adventures with a true pioneering spirit.
The lessons learned each year are not from a book. They are lessons of nature that are
gleaned from experiencing the annual return. Such as how things differ after a rainy, snowy winter compared to a dry drought year. The change in vegetation or the depth and course of the creek and its pools.
We have taken our children for years and we now return with them and our grandchildren.
This year the newest generation numbered eight discovering the world that their great
grandparents, whom they had never met, lived in.
Each generation explores for themselves The same jumping cliffs, meadows of wildflowers, where the creek’s pools are, and what waterfalls carve good swimming holes. Nature provides more rides and thrills than Disneyland and they constantly change as trees fall, or the creek alters it course. The unpredictable variances teach alertness and acute observation, skills that keep one safe so the joy of adventure can continue. The first jump off the cliff into the ice cold lake is preceded by checking out the landing field. Has anything changed since last year? Are there any new rocks below?
No! Let’s go! This is fun, but it is the real world, and we are the ones who row across the lake (no motors), climb the cliff, make the decisions and take our risks. We are our own life guards and we plan accordingly.
For a year our six-year old twin granddaughters were determined that this was the year
they’d climb to the top of the signature mountain in the area. The first day there they
put their feet to the trail and off they went. Not a complaint, just determination. Yes they
“made it to the top” and gloried in their triumph all the way back to their cabin. All week
long, new areas were pioneered, lakes traversed in rubber boats pulled from back packs and
cooperatively blown up. A recent new creation is Forest Frisbee Golf, and Pine Cone Bacci
Of course, one option is to just stay at the cabin and visit the lodge. Ping pong, a player
piano, puzzles and board games contributed by four generations of guests, and at night a
fire in the fireplace enhanced by popcorn or marshmallows roasted on a stick. Never get to
stay up this late at home but there is so much creativity going on and make-your-own-fun
times to get to know cousins from afar, that no one is ready for sleep.
Having twenty-four hours a day, day after day, creating new games, often with rocks, leaves, whatever nature provides allows you to know people in a completely different way. No real supervision just hang out and find some new creation to make, such as “mud pie” and “rock soup”garnished with “staghorn lichen." Learn to differentiate a golden mantle ground squirrel
from a chipmunk. Hike to the deserted mine that is almost impossible to get to now, and
yet when it operated was accessed and built with mule teams, no roads, no power tools
to dig shafts or excavate ore. One gains admiration for the early pioneers and appreciation
for the modern world and the inventions that have made tasks easier.
So we will return again next year, three generations of Scotts to relax and challenge ourselves, and teach the youngest generation that you can plot your own goals, create your own fun and share, for a week of truth and self-made adventures, teaching that oneflourishes by strength and support of family. Ah, the power of traditions!
By Ruth Scott
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Saturday, August 04, 2007
Go Green: Potty Train Now
My toddler is nineteen-months old and doesn’t speak yet. He doesn’t point to a toilet or his diaper when he has to go. He has his own potty, but mostly he uses it to store toys. He does, however, strongly dislike having his diaper changed, and according to leaders of the potty training class, that’s one of the signs.
When I told friends about my intent to potty train, I was surprised by the wall of opposition I got. They said: “He’s way too young.” “He’ll tell you when he’s ready.” “He has to be able to talk first, so he can communicate his needs.” “When they’re ready, they practically train themselves.”
Even my daycare provider shook her head and said flatly, “He’s too young.”
In the class, I learned some interesting statistics that supported my intent. “Eighty-five percent of all twenty three-month olds in the U.S. were out of diapers in 1957 and 1971. Today, the average U.S. age of getting out of diapers is thirty nine months.”
The difference is huge.
The teacher, Julie Fallom, a long-time daycare provider and preschool teacher, also said that it was harder to train three-year olds and that those toddlers who learned before twenty seven months had less day-time accidents.
This is not surprising to me. In developing countries, kids are out of diapers long before three, if they’re in them at all. My mother reminded me that in her generation, kids were out of diapers by two. What happened between then and now?
Disposable diapers, which are convenient.
The downside is that they’re loading up our landfills. According to Fallom, “In two years of wearing disposable diapers, one child will produce nearly four tons of solid waste in the landfill, and an additional half ton is produced between ages two and three.”
This is what’s driving Fallom’s mission, which is to get as many of the 4,000 toddlers in San Francisco as possible out of diapers by twenty eight months. She hopes to start a revolution.
I’m on board.
After all, if you can train a dog to poop in a certain place, then why can’t you train your toddler to pee in a potty?
In other words, why not now?
By Cindy Bailey
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Friday, August 03, 2007
Instantly, the barriers go up. This could never happen to me. I don’t need to read any further to know that some drug-addled teenaged parent is to blame for this tragedy. Make that crime.
Safe in my indignation, I read on. The facts do not square with my assumptions. The criminal is a 46-year-old family man who drops off his daughters at soccer practice and infant son at day care before going to work. He has a good job, a wife, a house in the suburbs. They have carved out a measure of balance -- he leaves for work late enough to spend the morning with his children, and she picks them up long before the sun sets.
A full and busy life, just like mine.
A photo shows the father playing with his plump son in the ocean, his smile radiant, his grip firm. The baby wears a white floppy hat to shield him from the sun. A hint of a smile creases his face as he takes in the gentle, cold swirl of the waves, the safety of his father’s arms. What joy he must have brought to his older parents, the longed-for son who arrived perhaps unexpectedly so many years after his big sisters.
Now life has been turned upside down, the oceans emptied, the sun come hideously to earth.
What must it be like to get a call from your wife, thinking you’ll need to stop and get milk on the way home, but instead learning the world has collapsed and it’s your fault?
What must it be like to open the door to the man you kissed goodbye or maybe sniped at over breakfast after he has murdered your baby?
I cannot go there. Or rather, I can go there so easily that I must pretend it could never happen to me. My separateness inoculates me against the possibility that all joy can be erased in a moment.
But I am no different. I remember when we forgot we had a baby and drove home from the movies without retrieving her from the sitter’s. And her silent choking on a wad of paper while riding on my back. What if she had landed on her head that time I tripped while carrying her? Or been in the passenger seat that crumpled like tinfoil when that woman ran a red light?
Life offers so little protection from what ifs? and momentary lapses in judgment. No wonder I create the fantasy of the Other, someone I can condemn. This guilty and different person cannot use the pass key of identification to breach the perimeter of my false sense of security.
Judgment keeps me separate and safe from catastrophe.
By Lorrie Goldin
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Thursday, August 02, 2007
When I was a kid, I learned to knit,too. My first project was a scarf. It had multicolored yarn at the borders and the rest was solid blue. That scarf was extra long, and it was wide and uneven. I made it for my mother; she may have worn it a few times out of kindness. One year I found it in the attic and took it with me to college, where anything “out” was “in.”
My second project was a pea-green sweater. This one involved knitting and purling (whatever that is). I completed the front, and then lost interest. After that, any time I’d say to my mom, “I’m bored. What can I do?” She’d always answer: “Why don’t you work on your sweater?” I never wanted to do that!
My daughter has a friend whose mother is a great knitter. I watched her work on beautiful sweaters of luxurious yarn for herself and her daughter. I wondered about returning to the craft myself, undaunted by my past. When Emma started knitting, I decided to try again and went to the fabric store.
“Do you have any knitting kits?” I asked. Yes, they did. They had a kit for a blue scarf. The salesperson took it out of the box and showed me how to cast on. Her approach was very complicated, but there were instructions. Then she showed me how to knit. This was more familiar. I could do this! I bought the kit.
The border for this scarf was made of boa-type yarn. I spent hours untangling it so I could just get started. Fortunately, Emma knew had to cast on, and in a much simpler way.
At night, watching the Tour de France, I knit away. Unfortunately, the yarn got tangled again, so there I was, up until midnight, cross-eyed, trying to wind it into a ball.
Okay… I finally finished with the boa-yarn, and could use the regular stuff. I knit many rows and they looked pretty good. The only problem was that the scarf kept getting wider. Somehow I was adding stitches to each row. Oh well. Now it was time to let Emma work on the scarf.
So Emma knit away, but there were some holes in the scarf where she’d made mistakes. It’s just for learning, I told myself. And yet I couldn’t let it be. I ripped out the rows and started over again. I know the experience is more important than the result, and yet the perfectionist in me just couldn’t let go.
Will I ever finish the scarf? Will I let Emma learn and simply enjoy the process? Will I have another loooong blue scarf that gets wider and wider? I don’t know. I’ll have to take it one row at a time.
By Nina Katz
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