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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007



In kindergarten my mom sewed me a crazy outfit, a combination of dots and florals, pastels and primaries, sheets and drapes. She patched me together as a billowy one-piece suit of sleeves and long skirt.

I was a clown—a clapping, jumping, spinning, laughing clown. But the best part was my mask. We bought it at the B&I all the way across town and no other kids had anything like it. My peach plastic face with red cheeks and bulbous nose beneath a waxy strand of curl in the middle of my forehead created a mask that people noticed.

On Halloween day I walked through the hallway to class with my peers (Batmans, Holly Hobbies, witches) and encountered the school principal. She honed in on me.

“My, aren’t you a funny little clown?” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe how cute you are…”

It was so nice to be explicitly noticed.

“Hi Miss Margrath,” I stuck my lips right up to the mouth hole, knowing that it might be the only way she’d hear me. I didn’t want my voice getting trapped inside the mask. “Hi Miss Margrath. Happy Halloween!” I pressed my smile against the plastic, hoping she’d spot it through the mouth hole.

“Well, hello little clown. We’re so happy to have you visiting today!” she crooned.

“Visiting? Today? What do you mean ‘visiting?’ I’m always here. I’m always here every day, Miss Margrath! I go to school here!” I squealed beneath my mask.

“Oh, no, I’d know you. I haven’t seen you before…”

I panicked. “No! No! Miss Margrath, it’s me, it’s me!” I tossed my lunch box to the ground, hoisted my mask above my face, elastic band still stuck under my ears. “It’s me, Miss Margrath—it’s me, Anjie Seewer! See, it’s me! You know me! See? You know me!” Mask less, wild, I looked up into her eyes, pleading.

“Well, Anjie. I should have known…” She bent over, touched my cheek and my forehead. “That is a marvelous costume. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“You didn’t recognize me.”

“Right, right. Good thing you told me, I might never have figured it out.”

Never figured it out?

I spent the rest of the day lifting my mask for everyone. “Ha, ha, isn’t this funny? See? It’s me!” and “Wow, you probably couldn’t tell, but—surprise!” and, “Hey, look, it’s just me in here. It’s me, Anjie Seewer!”

By Anjie Seewer Reynolds


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Baked Out

"I’m known for my cooking in general and my baked goods in particular. My children are the ones with the non-Safeway cupcakes for classroom birthday treats. I am always the first to contribute to the school’s annual cake walk. And please, none of this boxed stuff—it’s all from scratch.

Few things delight me more than settling into the kitchen on a Saturday morning with several new recipes to try out and NPR in the background. I skin chicken for stew, chop preserved lemons and parsley for couscous salad, and grind hazelnuts for a chocolate torte. It shows my love for my family while offering uninterrupted listening to "Car Talk" and "Prairie Home Companion."

Still, it’s time-consuming. We’ve come a long way from spearing mastodons and grinding acorns, but trekking from Trader Joe’s to the Farmer’s Market and back to the grocery store for the forgotten ingredient is the modern-day version of hunting and gathering.

I say I do this for my family, but do they really care? Really, it’s for me. They’d rather have milk and cereal seven nights a week than a martyred mother demanding tribute for how much she’s slaved over a family dinner.

My Supermom complex has me staying up till midnight after a full day’s work to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch for a school potluck.

But sometimes I just can’t make myself start creaming butter and sugar when I want to go to bed. I remember the first time I bought a package of Pepperidge Farm Milanos instead for snack time. Although it was a nearly fatal blow to my self-image, it was liberating.

Supermom has retired. Now it’s Pepperidge Farm to the rescue.

By Lorrie Goldin


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Monday, October 29, 2007


School Daze

Mimi and I slipped into Tae Kwon Do practice to watch her brother, Jay.

His kicks were high and on target. His smile large. His demeanor confident.

I can’t remember the last time I saw him so happy.

Finally, he had found his passion. The result: a discipline I can’t remember him ever having.

While sitting at the bar area of the studio a man turned to me and asked if Jay was my son.

I said he was. The man said Jay was a very hard worker. He noted that Jay had been a bit overweight when he first came but he was losing weight and it was starting to turn to muscle.

“He arrives two hours early to practice and then spends an hour in class,” he said. “He is very disciplined and very good and he will only get better.”

“What a nice thing for you to say,” I gushed. “Thank you so much. It’s been a difficult time. We’ve had three years of basically failing grades. And he’s so bright, so it’s been hard. Since he started Tae Kwon Do, he comes home, does his homework and is far more focused then he’s been in years. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done, and I’m so happy he’s finally found something he loves."

We waited for Jay to change into his street clothing. On the ride home he immediately launched into an explanation of how an atom is split.

“You know how that’s done, right?” he asked.

I looked at him as if he was crazy. “Jay, of course I do. (Note to readers: I have NO idea.)

“And you know the difference between a proton and a triton, right?

I gave him a sidelong, you’ve got to be kidding, look. “Jay, I’ve been to school,” I said. I didn’t add that I skipped a lot of classes, mostly in math and science.

“And you’ve heard of the string theory, right?”

“Who doesn’t know the string theory?” I asked. I didn’t know the string theory.

All the way home I felt like particles of unknown information were floating in the air as Jay continued to explain how atoms were split.

Me? I wanted to split from the car and go into the house.

Jay, a ninth grader, still had an hour and a half of homework to do that included Mandarin and geometry, both of which he is acing.

Mimi, a first grader, had about 20 minutes worth.


The children spend so much time on it. Back when we were kids, we didn’t do homework. My mother never sat down with me to review it. I survived school by writing papers the night before they were due and getting A’s.

More than once a teacher would say if you just add a couple of lines to this paper you’ll get an A plus. Right. Like I was going to add a couple of lines. An A was an A. Instead, I was going to sneak off and meet up with my friends, Amy and Pam, at the reservoir and smoke pot that they stole from their older sisters.

Times are different. Back then you could avoid homework, get mediocre grades in some classes, A’s in others, be a child left behind and still get into a decent college and go on to have a successful career.

No longer.

High school is the new college. Middle school is the new high school. Elementary school is the new middle school. And preschool is the new elementary school.

Parents may not not have to take the myriad tests that their children do, but with homework, activities, sports, and play dates, there is one important quiz that they must pass: to know when to let their children be kids.

Perhaps a bill should be enacted that stipulates just that.

By Dawn Yun


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Sunday, October 28, 2007


Snack Bar

The neighbors across the street were receiving appliances from Sears. I asked for the box the stove came in. Then I dragged it into the garage. With a box cutter I cut a door, a round window and the upper three lines of a rectangle.

Later, I invited my daughter and son to decorate it. She painted one side pale blue, and wrote “Natalia’s crib” over the front door (too much hip-hop, I’m afraid.) My two-year old son scribbled.

A few days later my daughter initiated the effort to drag this box up into the living room. Not much action around the crib for a few days. Then one Saturday morning while I puttered around, I heard them talking. I peeked in. I watched as my son knocked on the rectangular pane. It came flying down.

“Yes, sir, what would you like?” asked my daughter.

My son placed two pennies on the counter and asked for candy.

“Here you go, sir, and come back soon to the snack bar.” The she folds the counter in, and my son knocks again. POW! The pane comes flying down. A little rough for my frayed nerves, but the kids are working it out.

Later, I hear my daughter shrieking unimaginably loud (the neighbors and passerby could have heard her easily), “GET OUT OF THAT SNACK BAR,” as she careens into the living room. Then some giggling. A minute passes. Some shuffling.


I peek into the living room.

“Ah. . . are you sure that’s okay what you're doing?” I ask my daughter lamely.

“He likes it,” she says.

I look over and sure enough he’s peering out the round window from inside the box.
“GET OUT OF THAT SNACK BAR,” my daughter shrieks again. Giggles and scuffling inside.

Now my daughter uses the snack bar as a tool to comfort her brother. “Want to play snack bar?”


“Okay, after you put your underwear and pants and shirt on, we’ll play snack bar.”

It doesn’t come naturally to me to stay out of their affairs, but it’s worth the effort.

By Vicki Inglis


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Saturday, October 27, 2007



It might be the mind-numbing aspects that often have me despising my 24/7 job.

The pleasant and unpleasant things you have to do over and over every day. It is not like in the corporate world where those brain freeze tasks were not life threatening, and there was always some poor underling who would adopt them when you got promoted and earned the right not to do them anymore.

It is more the lack of choice.

Sometimes I feel like waking up and deciding, “I am not going to touch excrement in any form today.” Which sounds great in principle but when I wander out to the living room, my 2-year old has already made my decision for me by removing his pull-up.

Now it is all over his legs; on the toilet where he remembered to dump it after we showed him where poo goes; on his hand from his attempted wipe; and on me where I grabbed his hand in an effort to reduce the ooze.

I can’t hold onto my promise. In fact, if I can’t wash my hand in the next 15 seconds -- I will have an out-of-body experience.

I’ll have to compensate.

Though my usual mind-numbing task of bathing the kids takes place at night, I will instead do it before my morning coffee. Something to look forward to. The coffee, that is.

Yet, it is also the sounds of laughter when the water comes out of the faucet and the look of glee in their faces when something as simple as bubbles form. It is about noticing the small moments and trying not to lose it too much over the more trying ones. This allows me to get through the daily blahs.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy


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Friday, October 26, 2007


Apartment, Third Floor

Somethin's rotten in Marin.

I've scrubbed my bathroom, where I first noticed the smell -- think dead rat, dead cat, dead neighbor.

Then I smelled it in the kitchen, so I scrubbed under my sink (ick), re-garburated the garburator, loaded up all the dishes in my sink and ran the dishwasher.

I picked up everything on the living room floor. I lit candles and flung open windows and doors. I dusted the bookcase -- well, really, I just sprayed Pledge on a shelf. There's obviously nothing dead up there. Why go to the trouble? Any excuse to spray.

But that smell’s not going away.

On my way up from my fifth trip to the laundry room (now it can’t be my laundry that stinks) I encountered someone: New guy coming out of the apartment under mine.

"Hey! Are you one of my neighbors?" I say.

"Uh, no," he says, holding a plastic bag behind his back. "No, I'm just living here for a little while."

"Well, hey, I'm your neighbor upstairs," I say, and walk on up.

It still stinks here, though, three hours later, and now I'm suspicious.

Maybe he’s here to dispose of the dead body.

If it still smells rotten tomorrow, watch out -- I'm all over you, neighbor. Like Windex on a mirror, like Comet in my toilet, like Pledge on a bookshelf.

By Anjie Reynolds


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Thursday, October 25, 2007


Up Selling

It’s hard for me to believe that I once made my living as a bargain expert. That one can actually do so is amazing.

I have lost my savings chops since having children. Now all I do is overspend.

I am trying to listen to my inner voice, my wisdom, my intuition.

It’s hard to pay attention to a shopping task when your children disappear and all you can think about are kidnappings and pedophiles.

I think sales people and others are in-tuned to a mother’s imbalance – and pounce.

Harried mom? Perfect customer! Up sell!!!!

I bought a camera for my husband tonight, today being his birthday, and found a good one on sale. The display camera was the only one left. But, it was an old model and they did have the newest one in stock – at $40 more. Then, to buy a 1 gigabyte card for it would cost another $40.

Under normal conditions, sans children, I might have argued that I was being penalized because they happened to be out of stock and couldn’t they give me a discount on another camera?

I was raised by my mother to do this so it is second nature. But with Mimi darting out of my view, and worry my prevalent emotion, being cool and logical, necessary for a discount, was not going to happen.

I went to the cash register and it was $50 more than I was told it would be. I could only handle so much.

My instinct told me to walk over to where the camera cards were displayed and look for something in the 512 MB range. I knew I could find it. But Mimi was playing with pens, telephones, trying to slide my credit card again and again through the machine.

The sales clerks said, “No worries. We’ll get the right one.”

Well it was $30 less, but when my husband opened it – it was for 2 Gigabytes. Too big.

But this is back story to my larger one: I must listen to my instincts. It is true that it is hard to stay focused when it involves children, but I have to learn to do so. I am not just wasting money, but valuable intuitive opportunities. And each one that I heed, builds on the one after it. If I want to progress, I must listen to my intuition.

Intuition is instinct based on experience. At this point, at this age, it should be automatic. If I stay present then hopefully, soon, it will be.

By Dawn Yun


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Revved Up

It’s Eddie Vedder’s voice and the kick of that drum and each pull on that bass guitar’s strings.

With slitted eyes, I move my head in slow scoops, my shoulders in slow motion shrugs. One hand traces the arc of the steering wheel, the other palms the sticky grittiness of the gear shift knob. I hit fifty accelerating onto the freeway before I see I’m still in second gear, the RPM dial way too far into the orange.

Quick shift into fourth and who cares who passes me in my Vanagon. I’ve got two empty car seats in back and the stereo loud and the night to myself.

Soon that bass line’s throbbing a single note repetition and I’m lying on my twin bed with my first post-high school love. He played the guitar and we sang Iggy Pop’s “Candy,” and I think about “Candy, Candy, Candy, I can’t let you go.” I think about the opening line for the female vocal, B-52’s lead singer Kate Pierson, and how I used to try to sing just like her, “Yeah, well, it hurt real, real bad when you left me. Hell, I’m glad you got out, but… I miss you.”

How I sang-spoke that with as much toughness as I could muster, thinking about anybody who’d ever let me down, and how maybe I even felt a premonition that this guy might someday leave me and dump me for my very best friend, and another premonition that I might even hear this song in my head in fifteen years and feel what being dumped felt like all over again.

And Eddie Vedder can lay it all out for me on my stereo, and wail and hum and sing in his nasal baritone voice. And I’ll finally pull into a parking lot five minutes later, cutting the engine and blaring “Alive” some more, and I’ll lean back in my seat with the late afternoon sun slicing through the window like a celestial affirmation, and I’ll spread my legs like some tomboy, one knee against the door, the other propped up on the dash, and I’ll sit and write and think about how damned good I feel because if Eddie Vedder makes me feel anything at all, it’s that I’ve lived and I’ve loved and I’ve lost, and, yeah, I’m still alive.

By Anjie Reynolds


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Car Line

It wouldn’t be so bad if Olivia wasn’t enrolled in a kindergarten with a Car Line policy. That is, you drive up, unlock the minivan door, and a parent volunteer unbuckles the child’s car seat and off she runs.

And it wouldn’t be so terrible if it were the same parent volunteer each day.

But the volunteer position rotates among the parents of students in the three primary grades, twice a day, morning and afternoon.

Which means all those parents—how ever many that is—get to see inside my incredibly, mortifyingly messy car.

The door slides open and I can hear the gasps. Olivia’s rainbow of crayons, melted into the carpet, Mateo’s spilled milk, streaked gray and sour. The pads of wrinkled drawing paper, mounds of crushed Goldfish, scads of molding orange cheese sticks.

And I’m sure they’re thinking: From the outside, her car looks so normal.

But inside!

Two pairs of children’s galoshes; a baby jogger, an Army camp chair, a blanket from Mexico. Tennis balls, sand toys, sweatshirts, baby wipes. Pens, pencils, paper clips, rubber bands. CDs, DVDs, regular books, books on tape. Stencils, tote bags, two pumpkins for Halloween.

“Who cares what people think?” my husband says. “Besides, they’re busy unloading kids. They’re not even looking.”

But his car is vacuumed. You can see the floor of his car.

Tomorrow, I’ll try a new strategy. As I wave good-bye to Olivia, I’ll mention what a minimalist I am. How the only objects in my living room are a sofa, a few paintings and a fireplace.

“My house is nothing like my car,” I’ll say. And then, as the door is closing, I’ll uncross my fingers and add, “Just don’t open the closets.”

By Jessica O’Dwyer


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Monday, October 22, 2007



There comes a time in every woman’s life when you realize that you’re considered older by the general populace.

Perhaps it’s being referred to as “ma’am” more often than the youthful “miss.” Or having your children wonder what those “stripes” are on your forehead. You may realize that your dentist isn’t discussing clean gums and plaque build-up so much as preserving your teeth and anticipated root canals. Yet, I still kind of hope that I’ll be carded at BevMo, as unrealistic as that might seem to other shoppers with good vision. And I kind of believe it, too, crazy as that might seem.

I don’t feel old. I assume it is earned experience in dressing that prevents me from prancing out like a mini-clad socialite and not matronly modesty. I can still run a hair faster than my oldest child and hoist two wiggly kids about in a ruckus game of monster. No knee-hi stockings or Geritol tablets for me! I eat an organic diet and avoid preservatives. Age is an attitude, right?


I find myself at the cosmetic counter of the local department store in need of a new lipstick (since my pinky can no longer pull out the residue of my favorite color). After a few minutes of waiting, the sales attendants finish their chat about hair color and depart to actually help customers like me, thereby interrupting my thought about the lack of manners nowadays and how when I was their age I would have never…

While the sales attendant hunts through drawers of cosmetics, I comment about the witty packaging for scented lotions, muted eye shadows and face masks. When time permits, I’ll return to try out fun new colors and see about that honey scrub.

Transaction completed, she hands me my plastic bag of lipstick and then offers, “I added a couple samples of firming solution for you to try.

“Wha?” Is she kidding me? Firming? I need firming? What have I done to her? I merely came to pick up a simple lipstick and I’m leaving with a “you’re saggy!” send-off?

I hear myself respond “are you serious?” which she apparently takes as a nod to her generosity.

So there is it.

I’ve been called out by a Macy’s sales attendant. I am not the firm-skinned, strong YOUNG mother I think I am. To her, to whom I could have given birth at 16, I truly wish many forehead “stripes” and knee-hi stockings.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


Abortion & Ex

What do you do when you run into the man you had an abortion with, and you’re with your new baby?

His hair looked greyer, and he had gained some weight. It was clearly him, though, and he was coming towards me. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. There was a look of recognition on his face, and a look of resignation on mine.

I was about to run into a man I’d had an abortion with thirteen years ago. And I had my eighteen-month-old baby with me.

I realize that for some people this situation might not feel quite so awkward. Many people have relationships -- most of those relationships don’t work out. Sometimes an unwanted pregnancy happens, some of those pregnancies end in abortion. Couples break up, they hurt, they feel bitter or lonely and then they heal. They meet someone new, they move on. With some luck they marry or move in with a more compatible mate.

Life continues.

The story of this relationship is different. I did find my mate in the ever after, but I’m not so sure my ex-boyfriend ever will. Diego (not his real name) is a paranoid schizophrenic, a man who lives on a limited income provided by Social Security. When off his medications, he is given to paranoid delusions, believes that people are sending him secret signals, when in fact they are merely picking up a pencil that they dropped on the ground or cleaning their eyeglasses with a bit of tissue.

While a smart and kind person, Diego often suffers from poor judgment and insight. Friendships are difficult for him to maintain. So are romantic relationships. Although it’s difficult to connect with people, he has a strong desire to make those connections, to get married, have kids: lead a “normal” life. He is not alone in experiencing these problems. Many schizophrenics complain of similar difficulties, and some are driven by their loneliness to commit suicide.

Diego did not want me to have an abortion when we learned of my pregnancy. He clearly hoped that we would raise a child together in subsidized government housing, supported by Social Security and welfare payments. He argued for us to begin a family, tried hard to reassure me that it would all turn out okay, that we could get by. There was no genetic history of schizophrenia in his family, he said, reading my mind, because I was afraid to say, “I don’t want to have my children live like you do.”

Then I did a thing that many people would consider cruel and unethical: I moved unilaterally. I had two close girlfriends pick me up and take me to the clinic, where I endured a cheap, and therefore painful, abortion without general anesthesia or sedatives. Afterwards, we drove to the Mission where they bought me burritos while I sat on the curb, cradling my head in my hands over the gutter, ready to vomit if it came, but hoping the nausea would pass and I wouldn’t have to. I never did puke that day, nor did I touch my burrito. They ate theirs, gave me hugs, and dropped me off at my apartment shared with two male roommates, where I changed my Maxi Pad, took my antibiotic, and curled up on my bed.

I don’t remember exactly when I told him, but at some point I did, and he responded with the sadness and disappointment one would expect of a man who had clearly stated that he wanted to be a father and had been denied the opportunity. There was no slamming of doors, no raised voices. This was not the first time this had happened to him and I don’t think he was terribly surprised. He was obviously sad, though. An opportunity lost not just to be a father, but to be “normal.” To do what the world has been doing since the dawn of time: bringing forth and nurturing a future generation.

On the street I pled my case for early release. “It’s good to see you! Where are you living now? So sorry, but I’m in a big rush. I really, really have to go.” He would have liked to linger longer, but let me go on, forever powerless to control the people around him, forever doomed to believe that they are controlling him.

By Ellen Catalina

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Friday, October 19, 2007


Les Miserables

“It’s just not fair!”

Alligator-sized tears welling in her eyes as Daughter looks up at Mom.

Ever since birth, seven long years ago, she’s been subjugated to the will of Grownups -- and she has had enough! Enough! Frustration against authority of any kind has finally come to a head.

“It’s just not fair!” she sobs. “Why should adults make all the rules? Why should we listen to them?” Sob, sob, “Who made the rule… that kids… have to listen to adults anyway?”

Mom’s eyes roll heavenward, appealing for patience. With no help forthcoming from that quarter, mind flits to dinner choices for the night.

“It's unfair!” repeats Daughter. “I’m going to…” deep breath, “going to. . . write to the bushman!”

“Do you mean President Bush?” asks Mom, “as in the President of the country?”

“Yes,” says Daughter glad that something at last was getting through Mom’s glazed look. “I’m going to write to him to make a rule… he will say that kids don’t have to listen to anything adults have to say… anymore!” Foot stomp.

“No, no, no,” says Mom, “that is not how it works. Adults give him the job of ‘President’ you see -- we elect him -- so he has to do what we tell him, not the other way around. That’s called Democracy.”

Daughter looks absolutely appalled as Mom crushes last shred of hope ruthlessly.

“What’s going on?” Dad asks. Words tumble out. Daughter explains unjust and unreasonable state of affairs.

“Well, to make a real change you need a Revolution,” says Dad. “A revolution can begin with one person but needs many to make it a success.” Dropping these pearls of wisdom, Dad exits.

“I’m going to Anna’s,” says Daughter, excited, smiling, tears gone, faith valiantly restored at the last minute. She’s off to rally the troops!

“No you’re not,” says Mom. “It’s dinner time right now. It’s not polite.”

Daughter’s mouth opens, tears reappear, ear-splitting wail, probably awaking current occupants of the White House. “See… this is what I mean!”

By Tania Malik


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You escaped today, walked out on the laundry moldering in the washing machine and the egg-encrusted dishes in the loaded dishwasher.

Instead, you’re driving out of your suburb that, yes, is such a great place to raise a kid, but sometimes you just miss a little grit, a little novelty, some thread of your old life where you were free to walk out on a street and be surprised.

So you’re driving away, not to the school where you’re supposed to be volunteering, but heading over the bridge and strolling down Clement Street. You stop in the Goodwill, buy a sweater and a basket, get your dim-sum, sit on the bench to eat it, hanging with the Asian teenagers talking loud on their cell phones, yelling swear words, trying them on.

Now they’re singing songs they know all the words to and you try to remember when’s the last time you learned the words of a song -- and you’re not counting la-la-la-la-Elmo’s World lyrics that circle in your head whether you like it or not.

“I ate hell-ish today,” the one girl is saying. “That’s why I got fat.”

“You kissed her on the lips? How could you? Are you going out with her?”

“For three days I did. I know she’s fat, but I’m not shallow.”

Smelling waffles and trash and somebody’s cigarette, you remember that feeling of anything is possible.

There’s the bright green cabbage and broccoli, yellow and red apples at the stand and the Indian girl’s long black hair swinging wide for the boys, speaking in their sing-song lilt.

All the kids are talking and texting and the pigeons are scratching and you’re in the City! Now you can go home, make another lunch, host another play date so your son’s eight-year-old freckled face won’t crumple, forlorn and dejected, saying, “I’m b-o-r-e-d.”

You’ll make sure he has a buddy and do all those Good Mom things you know how to do and you can even refrain from saying, “Yeah, tell me about it,” because today you flew the coop.

By Mary Beth McClure-Marra


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Thursday, October 18, 2007



My mother came for a weekend visit and toted along a giant box of slides from my childhood. We stayed up late last night here and flashed across the early history of our family. We’re a group long since splintered by divorce and four children’s mostly disastrous efforts to separate for 25 years from their downtrodden and bitter parents.

I expected to be sad to see pictures of my older brother, who drifted so far away on drugs and a marginal existence. Seeing him holding me when I was a baby, feeding me -- stabbed at me where I’ve given up on him.

On 1970 Kodachrome, I was madly in worship of him. He was my golden-haired hero when I was two years old. In most pictures, I’m leaning toward him, pleading for him to look at me while he was mugging for the camera. I can’t not love someone I loved that purely. I can only deny it when they become someone not to let near my children.

But a welcome heartbreak came with the pictures of my mother holding me as a beefy baby. She looked so hopeful and innocent, and so in love with me. I spent so much money in therapy recovering from my depressed mother. But to look at her at 30, black haired and laughing at the beach, opened my eyes. She was 10 years younger than I am now, with four small children. She was happy. That melted another unspoken layer of ice in my heart.

We forget the angels in the nursery, and only remember the demons, I was told recently. The power of seeing my young mother in a beehive and movie star sunglasses (I could go on for days about the gorgeous 1960s Pucci fabric alone!) somehow returned her to me, as a mother I could relate to: overwhelmed and stylishly hip.

Maybe it’s all like backdating. We call something only a bit valuable so that we can retroactively make it a treasure. We need to be humbled by life just enough to let us look over a shoulder at the people we judged so savagely, the folks we came from. Now we can see the angels they always were, waiting to be cherished with a wiser eye.

By Avvy Mar


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007



I spot an open box of Walgreen’s tampons in the entry way of my ex’s home as I wait to pick up my son. My ex walks back and forth past the tampons and the overnight bag on his way to pick up this and that for the baby to have when he’s at my house.

My daughter isn’t menstruating – check. Must be a new girlfriend – check.

Now the onslaught of thoughts. First the selfish ones: Oh god, is he going to be the happily married one in ten years, and me ten years older, fatter, more wrinkled, and less desirable? This can’t be; he can’t possibly be that tight with someone this soon. After all, a one-night stand would not have left a box of tampons AND an overnight bag.

What does she look like? Is she thinner than me? Fewer wrinkles? Has she experienced his intimidation yet? Are they past that lusty sexual phase and into the it’s-just you-again phase? What sort of woman would sign up for his situation?

Then the less selfish concerns: How is this affecting my daughter and son? How weird must it be for my daughter to see this woman with her father? Does it hurt her? Confuse her? Do I tell her that I know? How is affecting my son?

My son was absolutely impossible last night and this morning. Wouldn’t pee on the toilet, so he peed in the bed. Wants a banana, doesn’t want a banana. Wants the bicycle book, doesn’t want the bicycle book. Is there a connection between the presence of the other woman and his agitated state? I don’t know. How freaky is his and my daughter’s life going to be?

One might say that it’s just contemporary life; they will get used to it. I think that’s a cop out. I have observed a sort of pained resignation in the faces of many children of divorce when they speak about their parents in any depth. Pain and resignation. I am sorry that this has happened. I am sorry for my children. Yes, they will survive, but something was taken from them that I am not sure can ever be replaced.

And that hurts.

By Vicki Inglis


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Power Eating

I curse the fact that I can always eat. The average person when depressed or stressed loses weight, not me -- I gain it.

I do not blame my weight on a “slow metabolism,” rather I embrace the horror. I just love to eat. At the end of a bad day there is nothing like a treat, salty or sweet; I am fickle and can be tempted to go either way. Unfortunately this carnal desire has contributed to my life-long obsession with those 20 pounds that stand between me and a size 10.

I surmise that there is some evolutionary advantage to this wanton ability to eat. I tell my self it is some genetic vestige from the days when we hunted bison, and not a sign of gluttony. Sure there are fast food and grocery stores mere minutes away and my fridge is well stocked, but theoretically famine could happen and if it does -- I am prepared.

When my babies were born four months premature, one of the biggest challenges I was told was their ability to eat. While suckling is a reflex for babies born after a full nine months, premature babies lack the coordination and strength to eat and so are fed by a tube down their noses for months.

The stress of being so sick this early in life seems to slow the eating process down even longer and so many babies go home with these feeding tubes. So problematic is this inability to learn to eat that most babies in the neonatal intensive care unit do not get to even try a bottle until they are close to four pounds.

When I heard this, I laughed. “Nonsense,” I told the doctors. “I have raised eating to an art form and I am quite sure it is genetic.”

My husband also shares this ability, competitive or sport eating it is called in our dining room, so my boys would be doubly blessed I surmised. “My boys will eat,” I said. As I am a doctor, these physicians humored my long-winded anthropological theories, but I knew they secretly thought I was delusional from lack of sleep.

As I pestered everyone incessantly they gave in a week before they normally allow a baby to even try a bottle. Every nurse and doctor warned me not to be disappointed. “A few sips will be great progress,” they all agreed.

My heart was beating like a drum. Oliver was first and I held my breathe when he wasn’t quite sure what to do at first and then a look that I know so well, called chocolate euphoria, came over his face when the first drop of formula hit is tongue. “What were you waiting for?” he implored with his tiny features and promptly downed the bottle. His brother, Victor, as predicted, did exactly the same thing.

The others’ reactions were stunned disbelief. But I had known all along that my boys would out perform in this area.

Tonight Oliver raced into the kitchen screaming “yummy chicken!” when he heard the roast come out of the oven and after eating both drumsticks voiced his displeasure that chickens don’t have three legs.

The competition is getting stiff already.

By Jennifer Gunter


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Monday, October 15, 2007


Comfortable in Your Own Skin

“You consider yourself white, don’t you?” a college dorm mate of mine asked me my sophomore year.

“No," was my reply. "Do you consider yourself Indian?"

That was almost twenty years ago, and I know now what she meant was, “You consider yourself one of us, don’t you?”

And the answer is: I consider myself American.

As a child of Indian immigrants, I’ve spent thirty-seven of my thirty-nine years here, watched my parents become U.S. citizens, and have tried to integrate into mainstream American society.

I consider myself American, even though people tell me at dinner parties how much they love “my” country. I consider myself American, even though my father wears a turban and I would ask him to pick me up a block away from school so the other kids wouldn’t see him. I consider myself American, though strangers still ask me if I speak English.

I thought I would be considered more American if I married what most people thought of as a “real” American -- a white male of northern European descent. For a while, I think I was. But he is adopted and has a slight Asian quality to his eyes. So we both feel without country at times.

And now we have children.

My daughter came out pink, with Asian eyes. When they brought me to her, I did not believe at first that she was mine. In Spain, my son is Spanish. In Greece, my son is Greek. In Egypt, they think he is Egyptian.

What culture will they identify with?

Will they be confused, or empowered?

I hope that they will be culturally sensitive, yet feel more accepted than I was. What I hope for most is that my children will be comfortable in their own skin.

By Meeta Arcuri


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Sunday, October 14, 2007



How surprising.

Today I find myself incredibly happy just cooking in the kitchen.

After I dropped the kids off at school, I went to the store with my list of random items -- raspberries, chocolate and pie crust; fontina cheese and polenta.

I have this idea that I’ll be creative and make something new for the kids, something besides chicken strips and pasta.

I’ve worked full time for years, even though I would have preferred to be home with my kids. My boys are now 8 and 4, and I have finally managed to work part time.

I am amazed at how happy I am just being home today, taking care of the household, cooking, listening to music, and singing along mindlessly. Something my own mother took for granted.

I’m allowing myself to just go with it, to enjoy the simplicity of this most common of moments – cooking for my children. I’m not judging myself. I’m not telling myself I should be doing something more important or more rigorous.

I’m perfectly happy - just cooking.

By Lisa Nave


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Saturday, October 13, 2007



Making the bed is a metaphor for my life.

If I make it -- the day will go well. If I don’t -- bad things can happen.

I make my bed.

Since I can’t reach my stepson’s top bunk bed, I leave it undone. But I figure that since it’s up so high, I get a karmic pass.

I stop in front of my daughter’s bed. Her Hello Kitty! sheets and blanket are askew. The bed must be made. I arrange her stuffed animals at the end, tuck the sheets tight into hospital corners and take care to evenly spread the blanket.

As I sit on top of the bed, near the headboard, this is where the sheets and cover really need to be evened out. But I am overcome with the thought that rather than make them, I want to go under them.

I don’t have time for this. I have too many things to do. This is too much of an indulgence.

I lie on the bed and tuck the covers all around me up to my neck, and then I draw them over my head.

This is nice. I have time alone. Nobody knows I’m here.

I don’t have to deal with my stepson not doing his homework. I don’t have to explain to my daughter why I won’t buy her something/anything new. I don’t have to tell my husband why it was necessary for me to buy Nutri Min C skincare products rather than Costco ones. I don’t have to throw the ball to my cat. I don’t have to worry about my cancer. I don’t have to answer the phone. I don’t need to return e-mails. I don’t have to feel guilty about not writing.

I -- can -- just – be.


Or maybe not.

“Why are you under the bed like that?” my daughter, Mimi, asks. “Are you hiding!”


“Can I climb in with you?” she asks but doesn’t wait for an answer. Together we snuggle, in the dark, under the covers.

“I like to hide,” she says.

I do, too, but when you’re a mother -- it's not often that you get the chance.

By Dawn Yun


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Friday, October 12, 2007


The Upside

Today is just like any other day in the life of a stay-at-home mom, except today I decided to focus on the positive. I am not a follower of “The Secret” that is basically a well-polished update on an age-old philosophy, but I have used my own brand of “wagon-train” gumption, power of positive thinking to rescue me from some dark days.

Today, I was searching for a way out of the monotony of my own mind, so I pictured what it would be like to manifest the methods that I used to feel good about as a stay-at-home mom in the business environment that my husband lives Monday through Friday.

I pictured him stuck in the cubicle maze of gray walls and computer glare, trapped in meetings at work all day. I imagined him stuck inside the invisible wall created by the need for business-appropriate relationships and I wondered what it would look like if he could use the same tools as I did in my job.

For instance, he has hypothetically received “feedback” regarding an employee matter. He would just take it positively and move on because that is the kind of person he is, but if I were in his place I would brood over my error and I would be tempted to do as my three-year old does when he needs to be forgiven:

“Thanks for the feedback boss, now gimme my smooch.”

Now that I have picked myself up from laughing on the floor, I am flung back into the real world of frustrating moments of motherhood: not being able to stop myself from yelling at times, as well as the overwhelming amount of giving of myself. Sometimes I will temporarily take a recess from my own pity party and throw out the question to my boys:

“I need love. Who wants to give me some love?”

And you know what? Both boys will push each other out of the way to give me hugs and smooches. Aaah, that feels satisfying. Unfortunately, I have to meter this question or like most young kids, they will get tired of giving.

In fact, one day I will find only my youngest will run into my arms. Then one day, they will slowly saunter with a, “Do I have to?” And then one day, the most satisfying immediate gratification in my job of motherhood will stop. Yes, I know that there will be other ways that I will find gratification, but they will not be quite so immediate.

Until that day, I will use this tool to carry me through the monotonous, messy and outright exhausting tasks of motherhood, and try to focus on the upside.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy


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Thursday, October 11, 2007



Today is the 26th day of Ramadan, a lunar month when every Muslim is suppose to fast from sunrise to sunset. Wars are stopped, quarrels are set aside and peace is celebrated.

Neighbors visit each other after dark to break the fast together. They start with sweet things like dried figs or dates and proceed to the feast that lasts into the night. I can imagine it vividly even though I’ve never been to an Arabic country and missed most of the magic of neighborly feasting while growing up in a place intolerant to any religion – the Soviet Union.

My aunt, whose mother prayed five times daily till the last day of her life, told of the times when they hid while praying so as not to be discovered by patrols who checked every window in their village. Their family hid under the dinning table to read the special Ramadan Taraweeh prayers and break their fast.

She calls to tell me that tonight might be the special night, Laylat al-Qadr. No one knows for sure which one of the last ten nights of Ramadan it is, so tonight might be the one when everything we pray for is granted.

I walk out into the dark of our American suburbs. The wind that is a constant here in the evenings has ceased and the sky is starry. The air is calm and the divine presence is tangible.

I try to keep fast as a way to connect with my ancestors. Many of them kept it any time of the year, any time of the political season.

It is difficult to start fasting by myself. I ask: “Will I be able to keep my concentration and drive? With kids? Will I be able to work and then take care of four children, two of them not mine? Will I be able to attend class in the evening?”

I wonder how it would be different to keep fast in a country where everyone keeps it. Would I get more slack at work? Would I have to drive or would I live a walking distance from the places that I routinely have to drive to here – the market, schools, work? My thoughts race to the women of my family and around the world. Do they find it hard not to taste food served to their children? Is it hot? Salty enough? Too spicy? I surely do.

I decide to proceed. If nothing else, I want to feel the limits that I can take myself to, as opposed to the daily ones my kids take me to.

Keeping peace is an only option for me during fast time as I simply cannot raise my voice after not having a drop or a morsel in my mouth the whole day. I feel close not only to my ancestors who had to keep it together not only in fall when the days are short and cool, but also during long, hot summer days of farming work. I feel close to forebears of ancestors, people who didn’t have food readily available and often had to tough it up. I understand deep inside how good we have it and how unimportant lots of other needs are.

By sunset -- I feel elated. I did it! I take time to break the fast slowly, sipping rooibos tea and eating dates, and reflect how the human spirit is an amazing phenomenon that can find strength through hardship, yet can fall apart during times of great prosperity.

By Dilyara Breyer


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Happy Hour

Remember those glorious days when after work you would hit the bars, go for happy hour, have drinks, laugh, and let off steam?

Happy hour is very different today. I don’t participate in it: my children do.

It doesn’t take place in a bar. It happens during grocery shopping.

“Hey,” let’s get this,” says Jay, grabbing a box of sour fizzy Go-GURTs.

May I ask you? Does a product like that really need to exist?

“Can I open the box?”

Yes, yes, I say, just trying to keep the cart moving, hoping to remember what to buy in each aisle and working off my food To-Get list.

“I want something,” my six-year old declares.

One child can’t have one thing without the other getting something. I grew up with three siblings and fully understand this brotherly/sisterly thinking.

“What do you want?” I ask. “Grapes?” I offer meekly.

“No, Cool Ranch Doritos.” She grabs a five-pound bag.

“NO!” I scream, temporarily forgetting that I’m in public. I look around. I’m certain other mothers heard me. Oh, well. More gently I say, “We can get the ninety-nine cent bag. It’s the perfect size for you.”

Seeing the size disparity, Mimi needs to win some points. “I want to eat it now.”

Yes, yes, I say, just trying to stay food focused.

“Hey, how about those orange juice boxes?” asks Jay. At least he didn’t ask for the Kool-Aid. He told me there’s a new invisible version and I was afraid he was going to want that.

He tore open the package, gulped it down and then squashed the box. Why do boys squash juice boxes? Ever notice that?

Anyway, this prompted Mimi to request a box of juice. Fine. It’s all fine.

Almost at the vegetable and fruit aisle. Nearly done. Organic grapes. My, they do look tiny. But I don’t want to take a chance on the pesticide coating regular grapes. Two pounds of organic grapes came to about $10.

I might as well have shopped at Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods.

This went on and on, one food item opened after another – but all the while the kids were being sated and I avoided freaking out AND I was successfully checking off food items from my list giving me a true sense of motherly accomplishment. Sad, but needed. At this point, I will take whatever props I can get.

At the check-out line, as usual, the clerk wanted to know if the opened bags needed to be replaced.

“Nope, just happy hour for the kids,” I said.

“I love happy hour!” he said. “All that free food.”

I eyed my $100 plus bill. I would no longer call it free, but if providing my children with snacks while shopping kept them content, then this was happy hour for me.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Tension Mounts

It has gotten to the point where I cannot hear a child scream without feeling somehow responsible.

Either it is my child or the scream was the result of something my child did. I don’t even bother to guess which child may be the guilty party because I consider both to be at fault since he should have stopped his brother.

I am always anticipating the worst. It is not that I am worried that bad things may happen; I know bad things will happen. I simply fret over which bad thing will happen when.

I like to be prepared for the impending disasters but oh, where do I start? I become overwhelmed by the number of dramas. I try to weigh the importance of each so I can decide which one deserves the most energy.

In fact, all of the stressing saps my energy to the point where if any of these things I panicked over actually happened -- I would be unable to deal with it.

I can’t even appreciate when it is quiet. First, I worry that they are up to something. Plus, I know that they will return any second, guaranteeing that I will never get a chance to truly relax.

I don’t have the time I want and I don’t want the time I have.

The free time I manage to encounter is never conducive to the task at hand. I find when I have extra time I have to restrain myself from trying to cram in just one more thing. Because it will never fit the amount of time I have. Fifteen minutes until an appointment? Not quite enough time to get a coffee.

Did someone say coffee? If I can sneak away from my children long enough maybe a large mocha will allow me to de-stress and give me the strength to handle whatever happens next.

By Cathy Burke


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Monday, October 08, 2007



Last week, I received an e-mail from the Mill Valley School District informing parents of two abduction attempts on two consecutive days near an elementary school in Larkspur. The would-be kidnapper tried to lure one or more young girls into his car and drag another into some bushes.

A chill spread through my body as I thought about how these incidents could have turned into a parent’s worst nightmare. Then came an even scarier thought: if this guy was desperate and brazen enough to try snatching girls in front of the same school two days in a row, what was to stop him from showing up at another nearby school—perhaps my daughter’s -- to hunt for prey?

I’ve touched on the topic of strangers with my outgoing five-year-old before. But I’ve always tried to work it into a conversation naturally and not delve into it too deeply. I don’t want to darken her sunny view of the world too soon, to turn her into someone who sees it through suspicious and frightened eyes.

With these abductions happening so close to home, though, and the suspect still on the loose, it was time for a more serious talk. As she sat on my lap, I went over the points recommended on the Mill Valley Police Department’s child safety Web page,

Then, without planning to, I found myself telling her about my own encounter with a stranger when I was around her age. The memory of that day is still vivid more than 40 years later.

It was a sunny afternoon, and as many young children did then, I was making the short walk home from school by myself. I was wearing my favorite outfit -- a neon-green, pink and yellow mini-dress, fishnet tights, and white go-go boots.

As I approached a long, white car parked near the school, a man with tanned skin and neatly-combed, slick dark hair leaned across the front seat and motioned for me to come over. I froze. Something about the large mirrored sunglasses that hid his eyes, his too-broad smile and the way he crooked his finger at me told me to stay away.

I raced back to my classroom. It was empty, but next door the students and teacher were lined up outside their class preparing to go home. Sobbing, I told the teacher about the stranger while her students stared. She called my mother to come and get me. Starting the next day, I walked to and from school with the boy across the street.

My parents tried to convince me -- or maybe them -- that the man in the car was probably a daddy waiting to pick up his child. But I know I did the right thing by fleeing. And I pray my daughter would do the same.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Sunday, October 07, 2007



I am a mother who writes.

I steal precious slices of time away from the demands of my life to practice my craft. Last week, I had planned for a rare two-hour writing session by plopping my six-year-old in front of the otherwise forbidden TV.

Just as my fingers had touched the keyboard, my eleven-year-old son tore breathlessly into the room. It was his turn to bring a snack to his sixth grade class. He had told me two weeks earlier, but I had forgotten.

I considered ignoring the matter altogether, but then I remembered the promise. I made it the last time it was our family’s turn to bring a snack. I had used it as an opportunity to create a “healthy” dish.

I made cookies out of whole wheat flour and rice bran. The result was a platter of brown blobs that tasted like baseballs. My son returned home that evening humiliated. He begged me to make “normal” cookies next time it was our turn.

And I promised I would.

Now it was time to make good on that promise. And it was also time to write. So I did both, moving from the computer to the kitchen counter.

Later, as the cookies cooled and my attention had moved fully to the essay I was writing, my six-year-old plopped into the chair next to my desk. He sighed, signaling he had something on his mind.

“What?” I yelled, angry at yet another interruption.

“Mom?” he said, with a quiver in his chin. “What does ‘dead’ mean?”

My fingers froze above the keyboard. I turned toward my son and saw in his face a child’s curiosity – and a little worry. I smiled to myself, clicked off the computer and surrendered.

Sometimes you have to stop writing about life and just live it.

by Laura-Lynne Powell


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Saturday, October 06, 2007



My four-year old refuses to put on his pants.

If not for the the flu he is having or the slime building in his sinuses turning his eyes into puffy, narrow slits -- dressing him would not become a major goal of my life.

I need to keep him warm even if it means putting certain pants on without his consent.He wiggles out of my arms and the pants. I’m beyond frustrated. I’m now waking up several times nightly to check on his temperature, give him medicine, rub vapors on his chest, and generally checking that he is still alive and breathing.

Exhausted, I’m reduced to the tactics I’ve sworn never to do: bribes and threats.“You can have a cookie only if you put these on,” I say. I do not expect any outcome. Recently he has had three Oreos for dessert, lunch and dinner.

“Okay,” he says.

Uh, did I really hear that? Not wasting a minute, I pull his pants up. I’m thinking, how else can I bank on this little cookie bribe? What if I risk rejection? I could lose the new found power of the cookie bribe forever if I push too hard.

I take my chance.“You have to put your warm sleepers on, too. ““Okay!” I give him another cookie and he is happily hopping away without asking for more.

Probably he doesn’t want to be asked for a favor again. Perhaps I should reconsider my treating my kids as I would like to be treated philosophy. After all, they are children, not adults.

Maybe I should diversify my parenting techniques and include some bribes along with the innocent lies. Like the time my mom insisted on telling my six-year old that the natural history museum was closed for renovation instead of “we are late and the museum is closed.”

That lie went so smoothly that it left me wondering how many tantrums could have been avoided by being less truthful here and there. I think I may be on to something.

Here's to Oreos and innocent lies!

By Dilyara Breyer


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Friday, October 05, 2007



I am a full-time preschool teacher, and a single mom.

One of my favorite things about my job is that warm and fuzzy feeling I get because I am doing something good for others; contributing to my community I live in by teaching its smallest members the basics of life.

What can be more rewarding?

Yet, my altruistic bubble was burst the other day by my sevm-year old son’s comment, “Mom, I wish you had some other kind of job, so that you are not all done playing when you get home.”

He pretty much nailed it. My work typically consists of eight hours per day of the following, in no particular order: playing, finger painting, singing, cutting and gluing, reading, hugging and laughing.

Of course, there is also curriculum planning, graduate student-teachers supervising (we are a lab school for graduate-level students), talking to irate parents and cleaning up all the artsy messes.

When I get home after 5 p.m., I’ve had enough of kids. On most nights, this upbeat, energetic and fun teacher turns into a surly-burly mom. And this is the mom my son is stuck with. I am just not a very fun mom.

Most of my friends who work outside of the house spend their days in front of a computer monitor, communicating with other adults in proper complete sentences and with outstanding vocabulary.

I get to teach language arts to 4-year olds using puppets and songs. My corporate world friends’ ideas of a great, relaxing weekend often include combining several other families of kids for a game of basketball, or having a noisy kid-filled pizza party in their backyard.

I usually want to find the most secluded spot at the beach and read or write, while Alex is playing in the sand by me.

Their ideas of weekend relaxation are often my ultimate weekend nightmare. It just feels like work. I try to justify myself thinking how would all these moms/execs feel if I made them sit in front of a laptop in a contained environment droning through endless spreadsheets on their weekend?

And, yet, sometimes I am worried sick. I love being a teacher, but will my son resent me for not having enough “kid-time” left in me by the time I get to be with him?

I know I am a good teacher.

Am I a good mom, too?

By Svetlana Nikitina


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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Move in Day

The student traffic guards are wearing costumes.
Velvet crowns with plastic jewels, brightly colored jackets stitched with added ruffles,
tarnished medals pinned to breast pockets and stiff pink tutus peek out underneath plastic raincoats. A joker’s hat gets caught on an umbrella sprocket.

They direct the cars.
Seated in each,
an expectant college freshman.
Freshman who are eager to get out, get away, begin their journey.
The parents look out behind the glass, hazy-eyed, somber and unsure.
Move-in day has arrived.
It is here with all its wretched glory.
And it’s raining.

Cars are parked, and parents begin scurrying like ants at a picnic.
Arms are loaded with treasures.
Hands are pulling dollies stacked with boxes of sweatshirts & underwear, bottled water and laundry soap.
Freshmen wrap up precious TVs and DVDs, iPo, and iPhones in jackets and towels, and then join the fray.
Bags get wet and break open like blooms.

Everyone has extra long twin sheets

I’m doing well so far.
Jolly enough.
I help unpack. Greet the roommate. Hand out extra cash.

I linger in the desk chair and move it up against the wall.
Sitting quietly, I watch the activity, wishing to be hidden from view.
I don’t want to leave.

Mothers who have gone before me have described a change they see.
“Something is different,” they say. “You notice it when they’re home for holidays, home for summer break.”

I’d look at them blankly, not understanding the particulars of their vagueness.
They seemed to not fully understand it themselves.

But that day,
when my son moved in,
it was raining.
And I stood with him under the eaves waiting for his dad to pull the car around.
Waiting with my hazy eyes.
He put his arm around me and hugged me tight.
When he softly murmured, in a tone that was confident and sure, “I love you Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
I knew the change had just begun.

By Rachelle Averbach


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The Anti-Volunteer

I like to volunteer. I do it in different ways and have been doing so since I was a young adult.

I enjoy giving back and helping others. But I have no energy now to assist in my daughter’s classroom.

This is the equivalent of Greek tragedy -- at least to the mother who is charge of ALL volunteers at my daughter’s school.

After scraping the side of my car yesterday -- don’t ask. Oh, alright. I’ll tell.

It had to do with a teenager whose car was taking up too much room at the gas station, which meant my car had to move in extremely close to the pump. There was a barrier. S-c-r-e-e-c-h! The teenager looked up but her thumbs never stopped working her Blackberry and I never noticed her pumping any gas.

A kind woman told me to STOP! She said to turn my steering wheel. She motioned toward the pump. The car scrapped deeper into the pillar. THIS was surreal.

I noticed the teenager was now talking on her cell phone. Was she going to pull out an iPod Nano next? Then maybe her Apple computer? Had she ever heard the word, café? Or maybe, move on?

The woman’s little boy kept jutting out. I thanked her but said not to worry, just take care of her son. She drove away. When she did, three men jumped out of their truck and said to put the car in reverse, turn the steering wheel in the other direction and – wala! – the car was free. But my silver car was now blemished in streaks of white paint.

The woman drove back and explained that when she gave me advice I was already in the pillar.

“This is totally my fault,” I said. ”Don't worry. In the overall scheme of things – this, is nothing. But thank you for offering me help.”

Meanwhile, I raced to my friend’s house, late, to pick up my daughter so she could take her daughter to tennis lessons. I rang the door knocker three times. Sat down. Stared into her driveway and realized: she was not there.

I checked my phone. There was a cheery message from her saying that since I was running late she would just bring Mimi to the tennis club.

I breathed deeply. I had meditated that morning, I would be okay.

As I opened my car door, I heard it groan in a way it never had before. I was walking up the steps to the tennis courts when I saw mothers I knew from Mimi’s school. One mom stopped me and said forcefully, “I need to talk to you.

“You signed a sheet saying that you would volunteer at school, you havn't yet and you have to. We’re short volunteers in your daughter’s classroom.”

For real? In front of all these other mothers, in this non-school setting, after my car is scraped and I’m so fatigued I’m ready to fall asleep – this?

Her tone of REQUIREMENT pissed me off.

I heard my therapist saying into my ears, “You must learn to say no.”

I felt as if I was hearing the voice of God.

With a smile I said, “No.”

Ah, but this is a woman who is used to getting and I would guess bullying her way into most things.

“That’s fine (translation: this is NOT fine),” she said. “But you did sign a sheet and I’m tasked (yes, yes, she ACTUALLY said that word) with finding volunteers. And you agreed.”

“Look,” I said. “I spent a lot of time in that classroom last year. Little of it was pleasant. I’ve gone on every field trip. I gave hundreds of dollars worth of free supplies for the potpourri Christmas gifts last year. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars we gave in pledges. I have way too much going on and I am way too tired and – the answer is NO!”

She harrumphed (it’s not often in life you get to see a person actually harrumph, but when you do, it is glorious), turn on her heels, throw her head back and walk away.

For those who are like me and agree to almost everything someone asks of them, I share this: saying no when someone expects you to say yes feels very good.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Broken Mommy

As mentioned in a previous blog, my back went out recently. Wham! Just like that, and afterward, I could barely move.

One of the questions I asked myself is, “How could I have let myself get so out of shape that now I couldn’t even take care of my own child?”

Well, there’s a reason, and it’s stupid, in hindsight.

I had never been truly out of shape my entire life, even when plagued with debilitating sports injuries, of which I’ve had many. If I couldn’t run or bike, I’d swim. If I couldn’t use my legs, I’d get in a pool and flap my arms.

Then about three years ago I was trying to get pregnant and couldn’t, “advanced maternal age” being the likely reason. As is my nature, I refused to buy into statistics and put myself on my own natural, self-healing, fertility program.

Every day, I ate organic, meditated, practiced yoga, quit caffeine, and took other strict measures. I also stopped exercising and lifting weights. Books said I shouldn’t get my heart rate over 110 beats per minute, in case I might be one of those whose hormones are adversely affected by it. That’s too slow to call exercise for me, so I stopped completely.

Four months later, my body soft in a way it had never been before, I conceived my son.
After his birth, I started rollerblading again, but I kept it really slow, never breaking a sweat. I figured, if I wanted to attempt to beat the odds again with a second child, why bother getting myself back in shape?

So I let it slide.

Well, that was a mistake! As every mother knows motherhood is a demanding physical sport. With all the bending, twisting, lifting, and carrying involved, you need to be in shape for it!

It suddenly made no sense to me to stop exercising as a way to help one get pregnant. Exercise carries oxygen through your blood to your muscles, it heals the body and the mind. It greatly alleviates one of the worst enemies of unexplained infertility: stress. Plus, carrying a baby for nine months is an athletic event that one should be prepared for.

I need to trust my body and the way my hormones work more than that. So when this back heals, I’m getting in shape.

The sport of motherhood demands it!

By Cindy Bailey


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Monday, October 01, 2007



My husband and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary this Tuesday.

“What do you want to do?” he’s been asking for the last few weeks.

Dinner at a nice restaurant, followed by a movie in which the star isn’t an animated rat or a gentle-green ogre, seemed like a plan. Then this morning, while sneaking a half-hour to read the Style section of the Sunday Chronicle, I came up with a better idea.

“I know what I want to do for our anniversary,” I announced to my husband, pointing to the article I’d been reading. It was about Hal Runkel, author of a new book, “ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool.” He happens to be speaking in the cvity on our special day.

Glancing up from the Sports page, my husband looked less than thrilled by this news.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Runkel will be in town on our anniversary. I almost bought his book last week. The title stopped me in my tracks as I was cruising past the parenting section at Book Passage. I began flipping through the pages, but ended up putting it back on the shelf because I was in a hurry and I’m too cheap to buy hardbacks.

Throughout the week, though, bits and pieces of what I’d read kept floating back to me. Like the heading, “Growing up is hard to do--especially when you’re an adult.”

I felt as if Runkel was talking directly to me. For a while now, I’ve been struggling with the realization that, in addition to our daughter, there are two reactive, frequently immature “children” in their late forties in our family. I hate them for acting the way they do. And I hate seeing the mounting evidence that they are teaching a precious little girl to emulate their behavior.

I know every parent loses it at times. But too often, lately, I feel like I fall far short of the patient and loving mom I want to be. I hiss. I snap. I shout. Not all the time, but more than I should. My husband, the product of a large, Irish Catholic family where yelling was the preferred method of maintaining order, isn’t any better. He erupts in anger when he's stressed or our strong-willed five-year-old tests his limits.

Some days that seems to be every second.

Going to hear a parenting expert talk may not be a romantic way to mark our anniversary. Nor do I think that Runkel has the magical solution to fix our family. But maybe listening to what he has to say will be a first step toward helping my husband and I learn how to manage our emotions so we can be the parents our daughter deserves.

I can’t think of a more loving gift to give her -- or each other.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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