The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

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

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

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, December 31, 2007



In our house talks about animals that escape from a zoo occur regularly. Usually the escapee is tranquilized and returned into the enclosures of one of the zoos that our seven- year old son created in a computer game. I try to explain how each escape negatively influences the zoo attendance, the zoo’s reputation and thus the bottom line, and in the end, the viability of the zoo.

His answer is usually switching to unlimited money mode.

I am sure Manuel Mollinedo, the director of the San Francisco Zoo wishes he could switch to that mode after a tiger jumped out of an enclosure and attacked three visitors, killing one of them on Christmas Day last week.

Police officers who found the three hundred and fifty-pound tiger sitting on top of a victim shot the animal to death. That same tiger was spared after mauling a zoo keeper during a feeding last year. The zoo could face heavy fines from regulators. It could be stripped of its exhibitor license. Its accreditation could be at risk. It could be hit with a huge lawsuit by the victims or their families. It could even face criminal charges, depending on what the investigation finds.

This would not be the first Christmas that brought gory news home. Even though the tiger attack was overshadowed by Benazir Bhutto's assassination in Pakistan, the news hit home as it was surreal to read the story hours after we spent a day at the zoo on Christmas break.

The zoo is normally open three hundred and sixty-five days a year. This year, it built a skating rink and brought reindeers for the annual holiday Reindeer Romp. Like many other families cooped up with kids for two weeks of school break, we chose to spent a day in the zoo.

We do not visit the zoo often, ironically spending more time at the zoos of other cities or abroad than our home one. It was the San Francisco Zoo, though, where I, who grew up despising zoos as stinky places where they keep animals in restrictive exhibits, learned to appreciate the effort the zoo puts into the conservation programs to breed animals like bold eagles, snow leopards, fishing cats, ocelots, as well as other species including Siberian tigers. As bizarre as it sounds, there are more of these magnificent animals in captivity (six hundred) than in the wild (four hundred) as human population encroaches onto their traditional habitats.

The fact that it is much cheaper and more convenient to have an outing to the zoo, as opposed to embarking on an African safari as our son suggested, did play a big part of our decision making as well.

Just two days before the incident, the zoo was about to close and our family was moving toward the exit after visiting the family favorite -- the snow leopard in the hidden far corner of the zoo. Dusk is the time when animals start to get active and is the best time to see them "doing stuff.” We could hear the tigers, “Au-u-u! Au-u-u!” well before we approached their alley. Gathering a small group of spectators, the three hundred and fifty pounds Panthera Tigris Altaica, a.k.a. Siberian female tiger, Tatiana, was pacing in her exhibit.

"What a big, magnificent animal," I marveled. The boys were mimicking her vocals. The self appointed opera diva paced back and forth on the meadow and then determinedly moved down the stairs into the mote. We lost sight of her down below. Trying to figure out what she was up to there, I leaned over the waist high fence of the enclosure. Seeing the tiger so close, I realized that there was no fence between me and her. It was just the height of the mote that lay between us. I watched in awe as the spectacular animal covered the almost vertical wall on her side of the mote in two jumps. The thought of her scaling our side of the mote visited me as it did apparently other visitors as well. I dismissed that thought as a “what-if;” apocalyptic fantasy that we humans often indulge in. I felt safe -- San Francisco Zoo has had tigers in captivity for decades.

Chasing the bad thoughts away, I then chased after the rest of the family that had moved on to watch the lions.

In my son's zoo an escaped animal causes panic and decreases zoo attendance. Paradoxically, the incident in the San Francisco Zoo caused a spike in interest in tigers in the neighboring Oakland Zoo. I guess we all want to understand what compelled the tiger to attack the three boys.

Even though animals do escape from zoos time to time the vast majority of visits do not involve a trip to the emergency room; and we used to regard a family outing to the zoo as a safe endeavor.

The incident did bring memories of a similar escape that happened in my hometown: Kazan, Russia. Another temperamental female tiger named, Ussuri, a new arrival to the zoo, jumped the sixteen-foot fence of the enclosure and roamed around the town for seven hours prompting an emergency situation in the city.

Ussuri was hungry and had not eaten for three days. Surprisingly, however, unlike Tatiana, she didn't attack any humans. Did the victims of the recent incident provoke the Siberian beauty to escape and attack them?

In the pretend zoo of my son's world one can see the escape occurrence easily as opposed to the real world when the first reports of both the Kazan and San Francisco escapes were received with a bit of skepticism. San Francisco Zoo does not have a camera installed in the predators’ row. The zoo is a non-profit foundation that cannot make ends meet with admission income alone. A lot of financial support comes from donors like our family. As much as it hurts to imagine one of sons' dying in a zoo outing, I resent seeing our donations covering lawsuits instead of improving the zoo.

A day before Christmas, hours before tragedy, our family decided to support our zoo paying a full membership. From feeling secure that nothing like the incident in Russia can happen in the town I now call home, my feelings toward the zoo are changing.

Just like with our country: I am proud to be part of it, I am confused and angered about how we got into such a mess.

My son still wants to be a zoo manager when he grows up. I hope what will happen to the zoo in the nearest future will not discourage his dreams.

By Dilyara Breyer


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Sunday, December 30, 2007



The way other people hate food poisoning or a bad case of the flu, I hate being cold.

I can’t function cold, at all, and by cold I mean any temperature that dips below 50 degrees. My teeth chatter, my lips turn blue and my toes go numb. All I want to do is wrap myself in a wool blanket, huddle in front of a roaring fire and eat large amounts of high-fat carbohydrates.

My husband sleeps in shorts and a T-shirt under a cotton bedspread we brought home from Guatemala; beside him, I sleep in flannel pajamas and a fleece sweatshirt under a layer of comforters so thick he calls it the “iron lung.”

Cold is the reason I moved to California, so that I wouldn’t have to be. Like Scarlett O’Hara raising her fist to defy hunger at the end of the first reel of "Gone With the Wind," I vowed, growing up in a one hundred-year-old house in New Jersey that lacked insulation, that as soon as I had a choice, I would never be cold again.

In that house, the water in the toilet bowls froze at least once every winter. We shivered in the kitchen with the oven door open and all four burners on the stovetop aflame. At night, we draped our school uniforms over the steam heaters so that in the morning we could jump straight into them from the warmth of our beds; once I sat so close to the coils of an old-fashioned space heater I singed a mohair sweater.

The year that Jimmy Carter urged all Americans to turn down their thermostats to sixty-five degrees, we were incredulous. Sixty-five degrees was balmy. What was he talking about? I lived blissfully in San Diego until I met and fell in love with my husband. I rented and he owned, in the frozen tundra of Marin. What choice did I have but to move?

He thinks I’m kidding when I tell him: The day I see a snowflake, I’m heading south.

By Jessica O’Dwyer


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Friday, December 28, 2007



Some afternoons when I drive my car into the garage after taking my daughter to swimming, ballet or acting class, the last thing I want to do is cook.

Usually, boiling water seems like climbing Mount Everest. But since we’re not in the income bracket to afford a cook, or a Sherpa, or even delivery -- I fall back on takeout.

Takeout is to me what a housecleaner is to other, neater, more obsessive women: a luxury that keeps me from going insane. It has become a want that is now a need. It truly is a service that prevents me from appearing on "Snapped," the lovely TV show that “focuses on average women, who snap and kill or arrange for their husbands to be killed.”

But getting takeout isn’t as easy a decision as it seems. First, there’s the expense. Truly, it would make more sense to just boil water and throw some noodles in it. But, hey, often boiling water is just too much work. And a hit man or woman can be so expensive. But in family life there is no easy answer.

For you see, I have to decide what takeout to get, call and order, and then go get it. Sometimes this involves descending into negotiations between my daughter, my husband and me that would make an ambassador squirm.

For there isn’t one, all wonderful, all-knowing takeout place. Oh, no, in our family there are different types of takeout. There is takeout my daughter will eat, also known as fast food. This includes burritos.

Then there is adult takeout. That is takeout from my favorite Indian restaurant. It is takeout my daughter will eat, if I starve her a bit. It is takeout my husband and I love. Best of all, it is takeout that will last two days if I order extra. The only downside is the cost.

But as I remind my husband between bites of garlic naan, it’s cheaper than a divorce, or the alternative. And, as my daughter squirms, I remind her that if she just eats one more bite of chicken, I’ll get her the Pokemon cards she desires. See, I know how to keep my family happy.

By Georgie Craig


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Thursday, December 27, 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 can 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 your kids as you 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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Wednesday, December 26, 2007



The holidays are here so it must be time to buy a new appliance.

I say that because every holiday season seems to send me scurrying to Best Buy or Sears to replace some expensive but can’t-live-without-it item, like the dishwasher that just fell apart all over my kitchen floor.

Last year, it was the central heat and air conditioning unit that whirred and buzzed for a few days before shutting down altogether right before Christmas.

Temperatures in Sacramento where I live were dipping into the thirties and fourties at night and my kids complained they could see their breath. A contractor spent two days on the roof fiddling with the unit before he could determine how to fix it, which he managed to do the day before my mother arrived from Connecticut, and I hosted thirteen people for dinner.

The worst example is from our first Thanksgiving in Sacramento. That’s when we were hosting my husband’s family for dinner and our one and only toilet backed up so badly a hole was blown in the pipe that led to the city’s sewer line in the street.

The pressure had built up so much that when the pipe burst it sent the, uh, debris that had been flushed down our toilet high into the air creating a geyser of, uh, stuff in my front yard.

My husband and I watched in horror from our living room window. Finally, he turned to me and said, “We could laugh about this or we could cry about this.”

We laughed until tears poured down our faces. Determined to break this expensive albeit memorable tradition, I tried over the last several weeks to ignore the dishwasher’s decline.

First, the front cover broke off, revealing a wall of tubes and wires. Then the control panel worked itself loose and dangled precariously above the floor remaining connected only by a slim handful of wires. A friend who visited recently gawked, “What is wrong with your kitchen?”

When my husband insisted I face the undeniable fact that this holiday season would not be the one to end the cycle of poorly-timed appliance breakdown, I resisted. The dishwasher still worked, I reminded him, and suggested he duct tape both panels back onto the front of the dishwasher.

The dishwasher has since stopped working. I’ve been scrubbing dishes by hand for a week and somehow have avoided admitting to my husband that I was wrong.

Nonetheless he wisely disappeared for a few hours over the weekend and returned with an early Christmas present.

The new dishwasher will be delivered tomorrow.

By Laura-Lynne Powell


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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


One Small Miracle

Our cardiologist was looking at my daughter’s heart yesterday. The small black laptop screen burst into rainbow colors, lighting the route where blood flows through and out of her left ventricle, delivering oxygen-rich blood down the pathways of her sweet little body and most of the vital organs.

My daughter, dreamily working on a lollipop, was unfazed by the gooey sonogram wand rotating around her tiny chest.

“Huh,” muttered our dear doctor, herself a mother of three and all-around hero.

She repeated her swirling motion from a few different directions. She then had Emily endure an EKG, an electrical activity check using 16 sticky patches clipped onto arms, legs and body. She measured again with the echocardiogram wand, fanning across the faded scar bisecting her upper torso.

“It’s really kind of surprising” Dr. Lisa noted mildly.

The measurement of Emily’s enduring congenital difficulty, a too small and torn heart valve, the number that calls out – time for another surgery – is the amount of thickening of a the left wall of her heart, a guaranteed consequence of her heart’s strenuous effort at forcing the blood through a flawed gateway. Since my daughter is now two years old, having grown at the highest rate children do, we’ve been vigilantly waiting for the number that will send us back to the hospital for the next surgery.

“No change, none at all."

The tiniest gift, a sliver, a zero millimeter perfect Christmas miracle, my little one hasn’t taken one step toward surgery. More time for her to stay in our gorgeous now, where Emily has forgotten hospital smells, poking doctors and pain. No matter how brief, we are living with a goofy, curly-haired miracle.

From our family to yours, in celebration of whatever bounty of health and harmony you all are having right now, Happy Holidays.

By Avvy Mar


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Monday, December 24, 2007



I want something. Something good. And important. For children.

It costs $200 million dollars. Impossible, right? The Buddha said, "Love each person as if they were your own child.” What if each mom reading this believed that the amount of juicy, unwavering love they feel for their child could in fact translate into a focused laser of goodwill that facilitated a miracle?

What would you want to see happen? I want to see a children's hospital come into being. There are three amazing pediatric hospitals in the Bay Area that have saved countless children's lives -- kids just like yours.

Many kids have been transported here or their families brought them here from all over the world for help with conditions and diseases untold. One of these hospitals is a training center for some of the most promising young surgeons and pediatric specialists in the world.

That hospital is housed in an ancient, exhausted building in San Francisco. Parts of it look like a third-world structure. There will be no improvements made. The rates of infection and cross-contamination are highly affected by crowding and sluggish ventilation.

A new hospital has been decided on, so no funding will improve what is already there. Here's the hitch: no hospital will be built until at least $200 million dollars in private funding is accumulated.

One young administrator told me, "I will be retired before they break ground on that hospital.”

Here it is, my holiday wish, my Hanukah candle lighting up a small part of the night, my hope that good conquers avarice and love for children creates miracles. San Francisco built a baseball stadium downtown against a few odds.

Little big deal. got people to boot the administration's congressional minions. Bigger deal. Maybe I can help. I don't know anyone very wealthy. But I am good at phone trees and writing and have lost a good deal of social inhibition.

I am going to find out where the money could come from and what I can do to help. I am going to believe that what the Buddha asks of the world is possible, to varying degress, for all of us.

As the holidays approach, I'd like to hear what other moms wish for, against the odds or not. Just imagining the combined love for our dear children makes me think we're unstoppable.

Bless you this holiday.

By Avvy Mar


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Sunday, December 23, 2007


Christmas Cleaning

Most people wait until spring to clean out the cupboards, but not me.

With Christmas looming, I feel the need to purge. Ever since we put up our Christmas tree, I have felt claustrophobic. Every time a package arrives on my doorstep, I feel edgy. Stashing gifts in the garage makes me tense.

I know that come Christmas Eve all the carefully wrapped presents will fit neatly under the tree, but their contents will expand upon opening, filling our living room, and eventually demanding to be absorbed into our home.

However, there is no room at the inn.

So instead of addressing Christmas cards and baking cookies, I prune the closets of clothes my children have outgrown, box up tinker toys and stuffed animals from Christmas past, edit my bookcases of titles I can spare, and recycle a year’s worth of "The New Yorker."

While my neighbors unload shopping bags from their trunks, I fill mine with things we no longer need: things we may never have needed.

As I cart our belongings to Goodwill, my mood brightens. I now have space to fill with Christmas.

By Tina Bournazos


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Saturday, December 22, 2007



"Your turn to tell the story, Mom.”

"No, it's your turn,” I replied, and so he began. No connected thoughts. Lots of giggles and silliness in his four-year old delight until he settled into his pillow.

It is easy to tell a story when the listener believes in you and hangs on every word. The plot thickens or wanes as his breathing softens or excels as your story is interrupted with listener input. I remember one story that began with giggles and joy and ended with tears of release and hopefulness.

I could tell you that story now, but more than the story what I remember from that nighttime reverie of Mom and child is a special lasting reward and joy. That night my son looked up at me and asked, "Mom, what is the biggest number of all?"

I answered, "Nathaniel, there is none because numbers go on and on to infinity." I know he understood for his immediate response was, "Then I love you until it never comes to an end and infinity and more.”

That was thirty years ago but never forgotten for though he is now a young father with a child of his own, when we correspond we always sign with our secret code: I.L.Y.U.I.N.C.T.A.E.A.I.A.M.

By Ruth Scott


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Friday, December 21, 2007



Bewitching hour at the grocery store.

I dare to venture into Safeway between 4:30 and 8 at night, or whenever my kids start to melt down in the evening.

Over the din of crying babies and the glare of fluorescent lighting a chemical imbalance occurs in children. I’ve seen kids go from complacent and mute to wild-eyed Mr. Hydes determined to torment their parents.

Tired, testy parents are forced to brush past other tired and testy shoppers in single-lane aisles. Oh, the horror.

In my pre-kid life I remember moving my shopping cart around a father who was kneeling before a young child splayed across the dirty laminate floor. ‘Oh puleeze. Just pick him up and leave,’ crossed my mind.

Now I imagine the no-food-at-home/no-choice-but-to-endure scenario that may have forecasted that dad’s ill-timed venture. The art of distraction only works to a point, too.

“Here, help Mommy count out six apples,” I’ve commanded my kids. We’ve counted bananas, examined oranges, plucked lettuce, learned about kiwi. But fatigue inevitably overpowers engagement, and in a flash the kids are battling.

When it’s gotten ugly, I’ve left carts full of groceries in the store and dragged the kids back to the empty car with lectures about shopping etiquette. But I feel like I'm being penalized. While the kids listen behind hooded eyes, I’m lamenting the missing milk or other staples back at home.

Come morning, though, sometimes milk-less Raisin Bran leaves a better taste than the memory of the dairy aisle from the night before.

by Maija Threlkeld


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Thursday, December 20, 2007


A Good Suitcase

One item down near the end of my daughter’s Christmas list catches my eye. In her careful, loopy handwriting, she had printed, “a good suitcase.”

A good suitcase? Did she mean good as in Samsonite or good as in Louis Vuitton? I suppose she meant something better than the purple Hello Kitty roller bag she persistently asked for and received for her fourth birthday -- the now worn bag that she still methodically packs days in advance of any family car trip.

I’ve always thought of luggage as the appropriate gift for a high school graduate heading off to college, not a third grader who goes to an occasional slumber party. Therefore, I am inclined to dismiss the request as unnecessary if not outlandish. However, I decide to find out more.

My daughter explains that she wants something larger, well made, with lots of pockets. “I’m not going anywhere right now Mom, but I want to be prepared,” she says.

Despite her reasons, I am reluctant to indulge her.

I secretly admire her desire to be ready when adventure calls, but I am hesitant to outfit her for a journey. When she was three, she astonished me by confidently announcing, with hands on hips, that when she graduated from high school she will move to New York City. I couldn’t figure out where she had heard about high school let alone New York City, but I knew that there was prescience in her words.

She will eventually leave home, a day we will both have to prepare for.

But there will be no good suitcase under the tree this year. I’m not ready to make that purchase. The purple Hello Kitty roller bag will have to suffice for now.

By Tina Bournazos


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007



No separate wrapping paper and tags. Not having to disguise one’s penmanship or remember whether Santa’s cursive slants left or right every year. Not having to remember that the girls can’t yet read cursive.

I guess there are a few benefits to Christmas with nonbelievers. But mostly it makes me sad that we no longer need to dispose of scummed-over cocoa and apples for the reindeer after the kids have finally gone to bed on Christmas Eve. (My brother trained his kids to leave beer for Santa.)

It wasn’t so bad when our eldest daughter grew suspicious about Santa’s largesse. In fact, she seemed more impressed that her notoriously cheap parents were the ones springing for all that loot than by the idea of a fat guy squeezing down millions of chimneys in the space of a few hours.

Plus, she was a good sport about keeping the charade going for the sake of her little sister—and parents. I remember spending Christmas a long time ago with the same brother who so cleverly customized Santa’s repast. His kids tumbled into the living room where I was trying to sleep, unable to contain their excitement a minute past four a.m. They spied the riot of plastic tunnels and the squeaky rotating wheel under the tree.

“A hamster!! Oh, thank you, Santa, thank you!!” they gushed into the darkness. Nobody had to prompt them into politeness. Theirs was a spontaneous outpouring of reverence.

Now politeness is about all we can expect. The girls are teenagers with exacting and expensive taste. They write out detailed wish lists while making it clear that my judgment is not to be trusted, that I shouldn’t venture off-list.

Then they are disappointed to get everything they want except the element of surprise. But their manners are impeccable as they dutifully thank us.

I miss Santa.

By Lorrie Goldin


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Monday, December 17, 2007


Is Sleep the New Sex?

I do still love sex.

Even after almost twelve years with my husband it is great. But I have to admit that while we used to rush to be together when the kids were not around, now I would prefer a nap.
When they were babies I tried the "sleep when they sleep" idea but was always too busy doing other things and napped when they were being taken care of by someone else.

But now when I have the choice of sex or sleep guess what wins? Last week my husband and I managed several interludes without the kids around but what stands out in my mind as the most satisfying was the nap I managed to take Thursday afternoon.

Now that naps are rare I find them better than the best sex ever. And that includes the wild times I had before I got married and the imaginary sex I have with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

By Cathy Burke


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Sunday, December 16, 2007


The Spaghetti Dinner

My family fills four long tables in the gym of Saint Veronica’s. My six brothers, my sister, our spouses and children, my mother and father - we’re all here. Catie, my 15-year-old niece, had a gran mal seizure this morning and is barely conscious. She occupies a wheelchair, her head drooping forward, at the top of our row of tables. Catie and her 6-year-old sister, Annie, are disabled by Battens, a degenerative disease which is terminal by the late teens.

Two women in our home town somehow heard about the horrible disease and organized a spaghetti dinner as a fundraiser for Battens Disease research. Servers bring steaming bowls of spaghetti, two for each table, one with red sauce and one with pesto. Garlic bread, loaded with butter and paprika are already on the table, along with antipasto platters of celery, carrots and olives. The gym is packed. The dinner has sold out.

But the people keep coming. My brother Joe is like The Godfather, with men lining up to see him. All these men that I remember as boys keep streaming in. Boys that are men that love my easy-going brother, who played baseball with him, went to high school with him. Cops who were on the South San Francisco police department with him. They line up in front of Joe, each spending a few minutes saying how sorry they are. Doing that manly teasing thing. Lots of conversations start with, “Remember that time?”

I can’t take it. I offer to take the kids outside to the schoolyard to run off some energy. The dinner has raised $11,000. A drop in the bucket. I think of my son’s wealthy private school that raises $100,000 each year at their annual auction to provide more to children who already have so much. What can I do? I’m not doing enough. Near strangers are throwing dinners and I do nothing.

Corky, my sister-in-law, speaks after dinner. She explains the disease and talks about what life is like for Catie and Annie. She wraps up by talking about her other children.

“I’ve spoken a lot about my daughters, Catie and Annie. I need to also talk about my other four children – Tony, Kelly, Kerry, and Amy. These four children are my heroes. These four are in the trenches every day, taking care of their sisters, giving a life of service. I need to thank these heroes.”

Korky is my hero.

This dinner is another sorry ass memory for our collection of Batten memories. Will we end up treasuring these memories or hating them?

My Marianne Lonsdale


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Saturday, December 15, 2007



I pride myself on my ability to anticipate my children’s every need. I am painfully aware that each instant is fraught with possibilities. Every step is a potential disaster.

Each trip to the playground can lead to the emergency room -- or on an extended play date. Therefore, I carry supplies for any and every emergency.

I could survive for a week out of my car regardless of the circumstances. I have a change of clothes for each child (and myself) including layers and accessories.

I have snacks (healthy, of course), drinks, multi packs of Band-Aids, and baby wipes (more useful now than when I had a baby).

Of course, this sounds super organized and it always starts out that way but, unfortunately, your car is only as clean as your last car trip.

Between washes, things do tend to get out of hand. I have been known to go through all of my changes of clothes, leaving several sets of dirty outfits and some odd combinations that mostly consist of too-small pants, non-matching socks and single sneakers.

As far as healthy snacks -- I am sure I will never starve. If I lift out my booster seats I could live for a month on the Cheerios crumbs alone. I am so conscious of being super ready that I live my life in a constant state of flight or flight.

Yet, I have a hard time anticipating my own needs. Every day I manage to complete a To-Do list a mile long and, yet, when I am faced with an hour free from demands -- I freeze.

I have so many projects to tackle at any given time that I don't know how to spend my gift of time. I crave peace and quiet constantly, but have difficulty appreciating the moments that crop up unexpectedly.

But I'm learning.

I'll often purposely pick a long line in the supermarket just so I can catch up on my trashy magazines. I get to school pick-up a little early and sit quietly in my car.

I'm realizing now that getting bliss time to myself is just as important as crossing something else off my list. There is always tomorrow, but there is only one right now.

I am so ready!

By Cathy Burke


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Friday, December 14, 2007



I walk through the school yard, heading back to my car, ready to roll into work.

Small groups of moms stand around the play area, chatting and drinking coffee from commuter mugs. My insecurities kick in and I wonder what group wants me.

Where do I fit?

There are the moms of older kids, who know everything about the school and how my kid will behave since they’ve been through it already. Sometimes they like to talk to me, to give me advice. I play dumb and grateful.

There are the soccer moms, probably rearranging car pools for the fourth time this week. My son doesn’t play soccer so that group is not for me.

I also don’t fit in with the moms with money – I didn’t even know that “development” was another word for fundraising before my son started school.

Sometimes I feel like I’m back in high school. It doesn’t help that I’m not good at broaching groups. I don’t know how to break in. If I nudge my way into the group and listen, am I invading personal space?

If I laugh too loudly at some not so funny remark, or add my own comments, am I interrupting?

I somehow missed the life lesson about how to properly infiltrate a group. I find it easiest most days to be the working mom, too busy to stop.

I smile and keep walking, trying to project purpose, somewhere to go.

I nod hellos, sometimes tap lightly on a mom’s arm or pat a back. Maybe by middle school, I’ll find my place in the school yard.

By Marianne Lonsdale


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Thursday, December 13, 2007


Passing the Cheer

So I’m sitting here in Starbucks trying to come up with a holiday-themed blog and I just noticed that an inspirational message on my coffee cup is advising me to pay the toll for the car behind me the next time I find myself in a position to “Pass the Cheer.”

In theory, I suppose this is sort of a nice idea, but I wonder what it says about me that I immediately find myself wondering ― let’s say I do in fact carry out this mission the next time I cross the Golden Gate Bridge ― that I might wind up wasting my holiday cheer on an asshole.

What if the person behind me just cut off three people on her way to the toll booth? Or suppose I see a Hummer in my rear-view mirror ― surely I shouldn’t allow my five bucks to support the wanton squandering of fossil fuels.

My cynicism seems like a sure sign that I am not yet in the holiday spirit. Or maybe I’m just adverse to manufactured “cheer.” The Starbucks cups, the piles of Pottery Barn and Dean & Deluca catalogs in my mailbox, the television ads depicting Christmas scenes where there’s always a delicate snow falling, a roaring fire and an entire family decked out in wooly sweaters can get kind of annoying.

But this doesn’t mean that I’m a Grinch. I do love it when my daughter sings “Deck the Halls” at the top of her lungs as we walk home from preschool. We take the longer way, down 4th Street in San Rafael, so we can stop at the big tree in the plaza and check out all the lights.

We talk about our upcoming trip to see Grandma and “Pap Pap” in Pittsburgh and the possibility that it might snow. When we get home, we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas ― her latest obsession ― while I boil water for pasta.

And every time Linus steps up on stage to explain the true meaning of Christmas, I’m a little girl again, curled up on our old striped sofa next to my brother, me in my flannel night gown and he in his red sleeper pajamas, my dad popping popcorn for us in the kitchen. Christmas was pretty great back then, and experiencing it through my three-year-old’s eyes, it’s pretty great all over again.

Still, I can’t help smiling at Lucy’s classic line ― “Everybody knows Christmas is a big commercial racket Charlie Brown. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.”

Or perhaps a Seattle syndicate. A little cynicism is healthy.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Material Girl

Most people think Madonna is the Material Girl.


My daughter is.

What she loves more than anything are stuffed animals. She has about 150 of them, including three that she recently received for Hanukah and several await her for Christmas.

She has so many that they cover more than half her bed, are piled atop her dresser and fight for space in her rocking chair.

Mimi, 6, is addicted to having things bought for her, but clearly, she needs to be 12-stepped from stuffed animals.

I wonder if there is an SAA (Stuffed Animals Anonymous) meeting for her. Or a GRMWBTMFTC (Guilt-Ridden Mothers Who Buy Too Much for Their Children) meeting for me. In some ways, I think her constant purchase requests enable me to stop feeling guilty over whatever I might be feeling guilty about at that moment.

At a recent Hanukah party, her friend, Michael, asked his mother if she would buy him a book. Mimi already had her chosen stuffed animal, a horse, in her hands. It looked remarkably like the other 25 ponies that she already has. I was ready to say yes, when Helen said no. I immediately said no, too, but my first instinct was to say yes.

Until my father left, my brother, sisters and I were pretty spoiled, too. We got whatever we wanted. I remember my mother picking me up from a play date when my friend’s mother said to wait, that she would get the toy I left behind. My mother begged the woman to keep it. “They have too many things already,” she said. “Please. I have no more room in the house.”

When I was older, I asked my mother why they bought us so much. “Because when you’re father and I were kids we didn’t have a lot and we wanted our children to have what we didn’t.”

After my father left, so did the shopping sprees. That’s why I buy so much for my stepson, Jay, 14, and Mimi. To give them what I stopped getting, but still wanted.

Jay’s outgrown his desire for things. Thankfully, his interest now lies with books. Thank you, Harry Potter!

Mimi is a different story. Sometimes after I buy her something she’ll say, “Oh, Mommy, I know you love me so much.”

Ah, wrong lesson. I have to explain that my hope is that she loves me for being her mommy and not because of what I’ve purchased.

From all that material abundance I’ve noticed something: an abundance of love for her stuffed animals. Nightly, she sleeps with a different one so each feels special.

True, many have the same name so they may develop identity issues, but still! There is love.

Then there is Pote. Pote was her first stuffed animal. My best friend, Amy, her godmother, bought the black and white panda bear for her when she was born. When Mimi was a baby she would suck on his paws so now the cloth below the “hair” on his body is all that remains.

“Pote is super special,” Mimi told me. Then she whispered in my ear. “He’s really my favorite, but don’t tell the other animals ‘cause they might feel really bad.”

I drew my finger across my mouth. “My lips are sealed,” I said. “You’re a good mommy, Mimi.”

She may be a Material Girl, but she is also a loving one.

Now her Pokemon obsession, that is another blog.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Play Date

He almost knocks me over as he hurtles out of the car, headed to the green field to meet his friends.

“Wait, wait” I call out, relieved no cars are exiting the parking lot into our path. When will he learn? At the metal fence he waits impatiently as I attempt to quickly lift the gate handle.

With the dry creak of the turning hinge, I instinctively pivot aside as he swooshes past, racing ahead to join a familiar group already at play. I watch from afar, making sure they are all getting along while patrolling for both additional playmates and sizing up newcomers on the crowded field.

The fresh evening air is invigorating. My shoulders relax as I take in a deep breath, what feels like the first after a rushed day. A day of minding me and dutifully playing quietly is rewarded in watching his joyful play.

Parental guilt be damned.

I am reminded of the importance of socialization in their development. He and his buddies scamper about, toggling between racing around and tussling with periods to stop and sniff each other’s nether regions.

They are dogs after all.

At least five times a week we make this pilgrimage to the park together before dusk. The dogs run off together in the enclosed field while their owners mill around chatting about, you guessed it, them. Tips on how to curb chewing or compliments over a glossy coat are interrupted with calls to “Stop that! Stop that right now!” or “Leave it! Don’t pick that up! Leave it!”

I enjoy hearing others remark about how well-behaved and handsome Duke is. Apparently he’s growing out of his slobber-inducing, overly gregarious play after all.

He avoids the more aggressive dogs, but if confronted either backs off or takes bossy yapping in stride. The easy-going one. Not unlike my two-year old daughter… who has half the playdates of the dog!

And with that jarring observation, all mother guilt is once again reclaimed.

By Maija Threlkeld


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School: It’s 7:55 a.m. I’ve made breakfast, changed the toddler’s diaper and clothes, consumed one cup of coffee, made and packed lunches, and am waiting for the outcome of one of two classic getting-to-school-scenarios: 1) everything moves according to plan; 2) nothing moves according to plan.

I stand by the front door, open it, glance at my watch. “It’s time to leave!” I announce hopefully, trying not to betray the mounting tension, doubt and anxiety the last five minutes at home often produces on school days.

The third grader arrives. She has spent the last fifteen minutes wrapping her forearm in toilet paper, held together like a cast with scotch tape, because she “hurt it falling out of bed.” The voice inside my head, disbelieving, scornfully asks, “What IS it with you?”

I would never have gotten away with this kind of plea for attention. And then the first-grader: she appears, this time, with hair and teeth unbrushed, socks and shoes not even found, her breakfast half-eaten, some still on her face. “Mommy, I brought this especially for you,” she says in a tender, meaningful voice, as if to say, I Love You With All My Heart and there is NOTHING else that matters, especially school.

“How S-w-e-e-t,” I manage to get out while I glance at my watch and evil-eye the plastic sparkle ring that she’s offering me perched atop a bed pillow. Time ticks, toddler begins to run amok. The internal voice again, louder, “I asked you to brush your hair and get your shoes four times already and you never listen and now it’s time to leave and we’ll probably be LATE.”

Thanks, I say. It’s time for school. Time to GET IN THE CAR, I say. Do you UNDERSTAND?Then the toddler comes in the house and throws a handful of dirt from the potted plant on the Persian runner, like an offering of the worst kind, straight at my feet. I begin to assume the look of a crazed and rabid dog. Recently, I put an old, paint-peeling Adirondack chair on our front porch. It is my official time-out spot. I go there almost every morning to remember how to breathe. Breathe, write, breathe, write….

By Lauren Cargill


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Sunday, December 09, 2007



With four high-octane children and a husband often away on business, my mother never had the energy to go on field trips with me when I was in school.

So for my daughter’s first kindergarten trip – I wanted to be there to share this new experience. I said I would drive to Muir Woods and could chaperone another child. Once there, my daughter, Mimi, darted ahead to her friend, Annali, and her mother, Sherry, while my charge, Aimee, lagged behind, as did Sherry’s chaperoned child, Lizzie.

“Go ahead,” I yelled to Sherry. “We’ll catch right up with you.”

We never did.

“Hurry up, girls,” I kept saying to Aimee and Lizzie. They never heard me. Out of some 40 children and 20 adults -- Aimee, Lizzie and I were last. At one point, a father, Peter, observing my situation, asked the one question that had played like a Mobius Loop through my head. “Wish you were with your daughter?”

“It’s kind of why I came,” I said. Lizzie thrust her arms in the air toward me so they formed a giant V.“ Pick me up,” she said. “I’m really tired.”

This child, who I did not know, and whose mother was not there, and whose life I was responsible for -- wanted me to pick her up?

I needed a pick-me up, too. Say a double-shot espresso latte? “How much longer?” I asked a parent.“ We’re almost there,” she said.

“Hear that, girls?” I said to my charges. “Let’s go!” We raced, well, s-l-o-w-l-y walked, a few hundred more feet. And there, by the banister, was Sherry, her daughter and mine.

“Mommy, Mommy, where were you?” Mimi asked. “I was with Aimee and Lizzie,” I said, while hugging her. My daughter looked up. “Why weren’t you with me?”

It was the same query I would ask my mother when she wouldn’t come on my field trips and I would see other mothers with their children.

I put my arm around Mimi’s shoulders as we walked to the parking lot. Even if it was only a few minutes, and though it wasn’t exactly what I had planned, at least I did get to spend part of my daughter’s first field trip with her.

At least I tried.

By Dawn Yun


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Saturday, December 08, 2007


There But for the Grace of God

She still has all her teeth except for one. The gap occupies the upper corner of her mouth. It’s a dark space that can be easily missed if you weren’t looking closely for missing teeth, the way I am.

Her skin is good. There are no sores, no blemishes. She has the skin of a thirty year old, I have the skin of a fourty-three year old, but we are both thirty-nine.

How can she have such creamy skin and how can she look so young after everything she’s be through? I feel jealous and bewildered by her skin, then ashamed. Do I need to begrudge her this? This is the very least she is entitled to, good skin and youthful looks.

A few theories tick off in my mind; she has good skin because of her Greek heritage. Mediterranean’s are known for aging better than say, Celts.

Maybe it’s because I drink too much and she rarely does. She especially doesn’t like to drink when she is doing methamphetamine, which is often.

Perhaps it’s because I wake up every morning way before I am ready, answering the surprisingly well-articulated demands of my toddler who likes to rise at six a.m. or even earlier. Every morning, when I meet those demands, I feel that I am losing years of my life. Isn’t that what they say in Chinese medicine? That every child takes five years off your life?

She has another theory.

“It’s because I was dead, three times. I’ve stopped aging and that is why. Because I died three times last year, and was in a coma for twenty-eight days”

Now seems like a good time to ask her about what happened, so I do. After some tangential meandering she gets around to telling me. And then we end up talking for more than three hours straight, though it feels as if only twenty minutes have passed.

She was eight months pregnant, and wished she could stop using meth, but she couldn’t. Her neighbor urged her to go for pre-natal care, but she didn’t. She was ashamed of being fat and ashamed of her inability to keep a prenatal appointment.

“I didn’t realize it was a child,” she said.

After doing some speed one night, she felt pains. The possible father of her child urged her not to call an ambulance. They will test your urine, he said. You will go to jail. CPS will take your baby. They will take our baby.

Another friend who was there disagreed. An ambulance was called and she was taken to UCSF, where they had to hold her down because she was scared and thrashing around, calling the nurses around her “a bunch of dykes” and demanding that they get off her.

“The last thing I remembered was a needle going in my vein. After that I was in a coma for twenty-eight days.”

When she woke up she was told her baby had died, and she had nearly died, too. She had three heart attacks while unconscious. Her uterus had been removed. She would never bear children again.

She showed me the scar on her abdomen where they had cut her open. I have seen many caesarian scars before, but none remotely like this. There is a deep and vertical, jagged crevice running from the top of her belly down to the bottom. It doesn’t look like a surgeon made an incision, but rather a greedy or angry person who haphazardly pulled out chunks of flesh by the fistful. The only scars I’ve seen similar to this one are the scars of heroin users who had contracted a horrible disease called “flesh-eating bacteria.”

Many bits about her ordeal don’t make sense and I find myself becoming frustrated and stuck on the small details.

“What do you mean; they wouldn’t let you see the baby in the morgue? They still had the baby in the morgue twenty-eight days later?” Eventually I have to let go of my desire to get the details. Talking to Stacy is like this. Her narratives convey a truth through fantastical stories.

That she lost the child I am certain. I am also certain that she is not lying when she says she’s been homeless for many months. She was released form the hospital soon after waking from her coma, her muscles atrophied and weak. She had nowhere to go.

Then a request for a favor. She believes they stole the baby from her and handed him over to her former neighbor, the same one who urged her to get care. She begs me to take down the address and knock on the woman’s door to check if the baby is there.

“I'm going to want to think about that,” I tell her. I am surprised to discover a small part of me is willing to believe that maybe they did hide the baby from her. Stacy always had the ability to be persuasive. She may not have made it this far if she didn’t have that quality.

I am also surprised that throughout our conversation this child of hers has remained an abstraction to me, which is only natural since he is an abstraction to her.

“I didn’t realize it was a child.”

I gather my things to leave. “Do you have a picture of your kid?” she asks.

I do. I open my wallet and show it to her. He is two months shy of being two years old. Her child would have been 18 months old.

“Doesn’t he look exactly like Don and me?” I ask.

It is not accidental that I point this out. There’s a good chance that her story will change and I will be cast as the villain, the one who conspired to take her child, the one raising her child. I’ve been the object of her paranoid delusions before. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve found it impossible to remain friends with her and hadn’t seen her for two years before spotting her with her pit bull on the express line at the Safeway on Potrero and 16th streets.

You are probably reading this and wondering how I know this person. You may even be wondering why I would associate with such a person.

The truth is she and I am not as different as you may think. We’ve known each other for twenty-two years. We went to the same college together in New Jersey. We both come from middle-class suburban homes.

Fate has been exceptionally good to me, and I continuously reap enormous blessings.

Fate and, well, luck, have not been very good to her at all. Since leaving college she’s experienced some incredible “hard knocks.”

We hug and I leave. I don’t know when I will see her again, or if I will see her again.

By Ellen Catalina

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Friday, December 07, 2007


Fear of Gifts Aplenty

Christmas is coming. My son is two, so I’m not worried.


What about when he’s four or five? We are not big on showering gifts, and I worry that he’ll feel deprived or cheated if he doesn’t get as many as his friends. Is it possible in our culture of abundance to raise a child to be above that?

These thoughts first came a couple of years ago when my son was three weeks old. A friend invited us to her family’s house for Christmas. There were aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, a grandmother—a fully loaded house.

In the spacious living room stood a tree eight-feet high, and all around it presents were stacked to the ceiling. I had never seen so many gifts under, or next to, one tree. You could hardly see the tree.

When it was time to open gifts, the six or eight kids positioned themselves around the living room and sat.

At first, one child retrieved a gift for another, and once that gift was opened, another was retrieved. By the fourth gift, all the kids were opening all the presents all at once, tearing through one as fast as they could to get to the next.

There was barely enough time to recognize a gift, say “cool,” and shout out the crucial information to the note taker (who would later send thank-you cards) before ripping into the next gift.

Sometimes, a child paused for a few seconds to play with a gift before moving on to the next. It was madness, with the living room a stew of wrapping paper, kids and half-buried toys.

Watching from above on the staircase, it all seemed too much. I wondered if the kids were truly appreciating what they were getting, or even, what they already had.

The kids were having a ball, though. And I know them. They’re wholesome kids with great values. So why not let them celebrate in this way? Why not give a lot and get a lot?

Nevertheless, my husband and I knew instinctively that we don’t want this for our child. We hope our son develops the kind of values that make him appreciate the people and experiences in his life far more than a huge stack of material gifts around a tree.

But perhaps I’m being too idealistic. To expect that of him. Or of us.

By Cindy Bailey


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Thursday, December 06, 2007


The Unfairness of It All

How can this be possible?

How can I be reading the local paper and stumble across an obituary of someone I know?

I am stunned.

A vibrant, hip mom of two young children is suddenly gone. I had fun conversations with her about parenting and kids and politics and fashion while I shopped in her Mill Valley boutique.

I hadn’t been in her store for a while and I wasn’t a close friend. I didn’t know she was sick. We said hello to each other when we crossed paths on the street or in the market or at a coffee shop. The write-up said it was cancer.

This infuriates me.

I know too many Marin moms who have been victims of this disease. They all led healthy lifestyles. I try to be aware and thoughtful when I choose our family’s foods and food containers and lotions and potions. I take care of my body and try to scrub out all carcinogens from our home and environment. And, yet, still this bright, important mom, wife and sister are gone and it makes me feel like it’s all completely pointless.

I also feel that my time vacuuming the living room and unloading the dishwasher this morning was an absurd waste of precious time.

I should have been hiking or painting or writing an overdue letter to a friend. If I knew I would be gone in a few years, I sure as hell wouldn’t care about the dog hair on the couch or folding the towels. I’d be at the beach or on one of Mount Tam’s many trails.

More likely I’d be on the couch eating an entire vat of garlic mashed potatoes right out of the pan and watching a Viggo Mortensen movie.

My holiday cards might be late this year, and my house will surly be a wreck, because I’m going to get the leash and put on my trail shoes.

By Mary Allison Tierney


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Nutracker in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I bought tickets to a local performance of the "Nutcracker." I thought this would be the beginning of a holiday tradition: a special “mommy and me” event, perhaps even a monumental moment in my almost four-year-son’s cultural development.

A few days before the show, I reminded Kai, “On Saturday, we’re going to see the Nutcracker.”

“Mmm, hmmm,” he mumbled balancing his Jedi Star fighter on the edge of the table.

“Just you and me,” I added hopefully, “Daddy and Colby are staying home.”

“Vrrr Vrrr Booommm!” he screeched as the spaceship crashed to the floor.

Still, I was determined that he would love it. As we drove to the performance, I asked him if he would like to listen to the Nutcracker soundtrack in the car.

“No,” he said, “Can we listen to “Star Wars?””

As I parked, I got a glimpse of Kai in the rearview mirror, happily humming along to the Star Wars soundtrack while studying his Star Wars book. Please understand that my son has never actually watched Star Wars. His “Star Wars book” is really a toy catalog that came with the Star Wars figurine he earned recently.

“Here we are!” I announced, “Are you excited?”

“No,” he said, “Can we bring my Star Wars book?”

I realized that he might need a little external motivation to get through this performance. So, armed with a gingerbread cookie and the toy catalog, we found our seats and waited for the show to begin.

When the overture piped through the theatre’s stereo system, I started feeling a little disappointed. I had hoped for a live orchestra.

“Why isn’t anything happening?” Kai asked loudly.

“Shhh…” I said for the first of many times.

“Wow, look at that!” I whispered as the curtain went up to reveal a beautiful Christmas tree.

“Can I have a snack?” Kai asked, unimpressed.

Once the dancing started, Kai slid on and off my lap and wiggled, bumped and jiggled on his seat, only occasionally glancing at the stage. He laughed at the toy soldier’s jerky dance and I felt a surge of hope.

“Can I have my Star Wars catalog?” he asked.

“Shhh. . .”

Snowflake ballerinas of all different sizes sparkled and fluttered across the stage.

“Star Wars,” Kai sighed, obviously wishing he was elsewhere. Sadly, I admitted to myself that he might have been happier with a trip to the park.

At intermission, I fulfilled my promise to “read” the Star Wars catalog to Kai. For the next ten minutes, we discussed light sabers, Jedi star fighters and transformers. There was no mention of nutcrackers or the Sugar Plum fairy.

“I want the Darth Vader Death Star for my birthday,” he said.

“That’s a really big present,” I whispered as the lights dimmed.

Then a miracle happened. Kai watched quietly in my lap as the Spanish, Chinese and Arabian dancers performed for Clara and the Prince. “Finally,” I thought, “he’s enjoying this.”

Kai smiled up at me in the dark. He reached his arms up around my neck and gave me a big kiss. This was what I imagined.

“Mom,” he said trying really hard to whisper, “I think you can find a big enough box for the Death Star.”

By Maya Creedman


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Tuesday, December 04, 2007



Every night for the past week, my seven-year-olds been shooting his plastic and foam bow-and-arrow set in the backyard.

He’ll shoot, and then watch in awe as it soars across the lawn or collides with a tree trunk. After that, he runs as fast as he can to pick the arrow up from wherever it’s landed to do it all over again another fifty times.

Watching him, I reflect on how there’s something primal about aiming, firing and witnessing contact. We have no weapons in our home, but I’ve felt that satisfaction in my bones myself, whether it’s involved an arrow and a target, a rock and a pond, a baseball and a mitt, or even a peach pit and a trash can.

“Now don’t point that at anybody,” my visiting mother-in-law instructs. “And make sure you never leave it loaded.”

Fair enough, I think. I’ve said the same thing to him myself. But somehow that falls apart when I think of the squirt guns of summer or the new potato gun I just bought him. That stream of cold water or the little pop of potato pellet from a few feet away can be downright exciting.

My mother-in-law continues, “Kids have killed each other with weapons before because they shoot a weapon that’s been set and they’ve pulled the trigger and surprised themselves that it’s killed their friend.”

Okaaaay, I think, a little over-the-top. He’s playing with a plastic and foam bow-and-arrow. For crying out loud, he still calls it a bone-and-arrow.

But maybe that’s the point.

Maybe every game of shooting should be brought back to the bigger picture: that there are weapons that are designed to hurt or destroy. Naiveté can be deadly if ever in the presence of the authentic.

I think back to another seven-year-old I knew in grade school. Her name was Dawn. Her single mother left her and her kindergarten-age sister, Tonya, alone while she went on a date after they went to bed. The girls woke up around midnight, frightened by a noise. To protect them, Dawn retrieved the hidden gun. While cocking it, she accidentally killed her sister with a single shot to the stomach.

Now, as an adult, I can see there are plenty of problems with that scenario. But, when I was eight, what struck me most was that Dawn came back to school after that, a shadow of herself: a quiet and pale ghost who sat at the edge of the swing sets sifting pebbles through her hands. She tried to fit in again, but somehow she never did.

She had killed someone.

So, yes, I think to myself with a silent nod to Grammy, you can teach my boy about weapon safety, even if it’s with something that’s not lethal, just loud. And I can know I’m walking a fine line, letting him play with toy weapons at all. But I can accept that responsibly and teach him what he needs to know.

And I can pray to God he never puts his hands on anything that could inflict damage, but if he does, at least he knows the rules.

By Anjie Reynolds


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Monday, December 03, 2007



What on earth did I do with my time before my daughter was born? Did I suffer from narcolepsy or some sort of chronic fatigue disorder or something?

Because I’m wondering how it is possible that I lived in my house two years prior to her birth and still did not manage to paint the dining room, organize my office, or finish putting my wedding photos into an album.

Because I had hours, I had days, I had whole weekends where changing diapers, cleaning up the high chair, washing boo-boos, picking up toys, and constantly spotting a very small and very reckless climber (she likes to stack things up and see how high she can get) were not mandatory activities.

Even if I take into account all those Saturday mornings when my husband and I slept in 'till the decadent hour of nine (or even ten!) a.m., or the Sundays wiled away sipping coffee on the back patio reading The New York Times, that still left a lot of space to get things accomplished.

What was I thinking?

I’ll bet I could have written a novel, found an agent and got it published. We could be living off the royalties from the movie rights right now! (At least this is what I fantasize that I could have done with all that freedom I had pre-child.)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get credit for the time you didn’t use? Because let me tell you, I’d sure like to cash in some of those credits now. . .

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka


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Sunday, December 02, 2007



I pity the poor kids -- and mine is one -- who do not relish group activities.

We’ve come to think that happy participation in groups is normal and required behavior. By the time most kids are toddlers, their everyday happiness depends on how they navigate in groups – daycare, Gymboree, music classes.

I remember leaving my howling three-year old son in a gymnastics class. I hovered in the hallway, dialing my husband on my cell phone for advice. Should I leave him? We decided he needed to learn to be on his own. If we didn’t start now, wouldn’t it just be tougher on him later?

My son is now a confident, gregarious and well-liked nine-year old. Teachers have called him a peacemaker in the classroom and on the playground. But he freezes if I try to leave him with a group of more than four kids.

One-on-one situations are no problem. Three to four kids is festive and exciting. Any more and he stays glued to me. We’ve walked out of birthday parties when he flat out refused to join in with a group of smiling classmates during gymnastic tumbles and turns.

And after a three-day weekend or spring break, returning to his classroom brings tears to his eyes. Teachers have physically restrained him so that I could dash for the car.

I thought he would outgrow this anxiety, but now I accept that this is part of who he is. We accept this in adults. It’s okay to say, “I just don’t like big parties” or “I do better in small groups,” but our current social structures don’t allow this trait in kids.

In fact, it’s no longer considered a trait – it’s considered a limitation.

By Marianne Lonsdale


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Saturday, December 01, 2007



My ten-year old daughter wants a dog when her little sister turns four.

At first I was thankful for the two-year reprieve. Now I’m annoyed by her hypothetical dog. With its hypothetical name. And with the hypothetical questions she feels warrant discussion.

Or worse -- answers.

Should it be an Irish coat or an American coat? Can we move Cameron’s toy kitchen and have it sleep there? Should we paper train or outside train? Go to a breeder or adopt?

If it was okay for Cameron to be three-years old instead of four, could we get the dog in a year?

Mackenzie repeated the last question from the back seat as we raced across town from dance practice to Rossi Field, my son Tyler’s major league aspirations hanging in the balance and Cameron’s missed nap whines turning to full screams.

A dog in a year? Was she nuts?

By Kimberley Kwok


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