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, June 30, 2008


What a Mama REALLY Needs. . .

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 To Do List. There is always tomorrow, but there is only one right now.

I am so ready!

By Cathy Burke


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Sunday, June 29, 2008


A Mama Contemplates Her Karma

As I knocked over the salt shaker for the second time today it occurred to me that maybe I haven’t manipulated my luck possibilities. Maybe the reason I had a colicky baby is because I chose not to forward that e-mail five years ago to all of the people that I know. Or the reason that I had a second colicky baby was because I couldn’t remember which shoulder I was supposed to throw the spilt salt over.

Maybe the reason my second son only slept for a string of thirty minutes at a time twice a day until he was two-years old when he stopped napping altogether was because I chased his older brother under that ladder when daddy was painting the house.

Now that I think about it I saw a broken mirror in front of my house once. Is this seven years by way of association?

All in all I feel pretty lucky with my beautifully energetic and thriving children. But…like anything…there are days that I wonder. I tried to do everything that I could to shape them. I read all of the books about raising kids, I changed my diet while nursing, I held them when they cried, I read to them at night (even in utero), I skipped coffee while pregnant, I laid in bed for two weeks under doctor’s orders, I wore an oxygen mask during birth, I fed them from my body every two hours for the first six months of both of their lives. And yet, some of the behavior is unexplainable.

It must be luck.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy


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Saturday, June 28, 2008


It REALLY is the Small Things, Isn't IT?

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.

And 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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Friday, June 27, 2008


Oh, Mamas Why You Mean So Much to Me

On the verge again it seems of allowing myself the freedom to use a new outlet for my creative writing.

The mood here at the Writing Mamas Salon is different than I have experienced in my past writing classes at College of Marin and the one introductory course at Book Passage by Leslie Keenan where I began my search for a glimmer of hope that my poetry could find a life outside of my own home and the "Bolinas Hearsay Newspaper."

Hearing the warm welcomes of mothers making heartfelt connections with each other and displaying a positive outlook toward having a special place to showcase their creative writing is an enormous tug at my heartstrings.

I, too, want to believe that I can find pleasure in becoming a regular member of this group.

Just having taken a quick peek at The Writing Mama Salon website, where it is possible to enter blogs and essays, is already creating a desire of mine to be able to contribute a blog or essay of substance to the site, as other members in this warm, inviting group find quality time for themselves to do.

On a side note, I am feeling another connection on a maternal level as an adoptive parent of our loving son with Guatemalan heritage. These maternal instincts come to mind, as I am privy to a conversation going on next to me between two women.

One of them is making it known her deep appreciation of Guatemalan culture through the loving part of her life that is being an adoptive mom to two wonderful Guatemalan children.

In just a matter of minutes, I Iearn more of possible writing workshops to join that take place in Guatemala through the friendly woman who sat down next to me.
It seems almost too good to be true that they chose to sit by me, so that I may find encouragement on many levels to really give The Writing Mamas Salon a whole-hearted try as so many pieces of me are yearning for an acceptance and freedom to emerge from the mostly solitary poetic writings I have been compiling and occasionally sharing with loving family members.
I have been pondering this for many months now: to be exact since January, when I joined The Writing Mamas Salon for the year.

Actually, I was fearful. Could I fit in to such an active group of moms? Yes, of course.

I, too, am a Mom and love to express myself through poetry, so why wouldn’t this group enhance my capabilities as a writer?

Well, of course, through my efforts to come to monthly meetings and take part in the many other writing options the salon offers is the only way for me to truly understand the answers to my long-pondered questions.

And, hopefully, more mama connections can evolve. My other aspiration is that luck will have a way with surprising the writer in me with a new voice just waiting to be heard and read by more than my own ears and eyes.

By Cynthia Rovero


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Thursday, June 26, 2008


Dog Doo & Other Pet Peeves

I find them almost every time I take my two dogs for a walk -- those little blue or brown-knotted bags of poop.

They sit by the side of the twisty roads in my Mill Valley neighborhood like offerings to the God of Dog Doo.

They dangle from the branches of trees beside otherwise pristine hiking trails. They lurk in the shrubs along the bike path even though trashcans aren’t hard to find. I know Marin isn’t the only place where dog owners are lazy about cleaning up after their companions. But it strikes me as particularly ironic in a land where concern for the environment is akin to religion.

I wonder if some of the people who think nothing of discarding their doggie bags are the same ones who whip out reusable totes at Whole Foods, or consider it a crime to toss an old newspaper into anything other than a recycling bin.

Perhaps some pet owners are comfortable with this practice because -- unlike me-- they’re hip to a secret Poop Patrol that collects and disposes of the bags in the middle of the night. Perhaps the fact that they take the time to wrap their dogs’ business in tidy packages allows them to continue on their way with clear consciences.

I guess I should be grateful that their thoughtfulness at least helps others avoid stepping into a stinky landmine. But they’re still littering. They still seem to expect someone else to pick up after them. I know it’s not pleasant to lug around a bag of crap when you’re out with your dog on a beautiful spring day.

My golden retriever can drop two or more “calling cards” during a twenty-minute stroll, which is why a garland of plastic grocery bags always flutters from his collar. Have I ever been tempted to leave a full one by the side of the road or in some bushes? You bet.

But I suck it up and try to breath through my mouth -- a technique that years of diaper changing helped me perfect -- until I find a public wastebasket or arrive home. I don’t expect anyone else to pay for my dogs’ food or vet care. Why would I expect someone else to clean up their poop?

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


It's Camp Time!!!

Marathon mommy time again.

My daughter started camp this week, while my son is a counselor-in-training there. 

"A CIT," he proudly announced while completing his Rubik's Cube in 1 minute, 29 seconds.

"Now watch your sister, Jay," I asked him.

"I'll try," he said.

"No, don't try. Do. Please watch your sister."

He solved his Rubik's Cube in 1 minute, 20 seconds.

At the end of the first day when I went to pick them up I asked if he had kept an eye on Mimi.

"I couldn't," my 15-year old said. "I had bathroom duty."

He turned the Rubik's Cube more quickly. One minute, 12 seconds.

The next day I asked again that he watch his sister.

"You know I'm busy being a CIT." 

I had hoped that he would be more CSI and maybe investigate where his sister might be during the day. Those were my original plans. With children, hopes and reality are often two different things.

Just then Goth Girl, another CIT at the camp who most obviously has the hots for him, reached out her arm and he handed her his Rubik's Cube. She stood about an inch away. I've never seen Jay interact with another girl. And really, I still haven't, because she was doing all the flirting. 

Later I asked if he liked her. He mumbled and got all embarrassed. "I don't know."

"Because she sure likes you."

"I know," he said with the tiniest of smiles.

He also revealed that three girls had asked him out at school last year, two of them a year older. He didn't date one because he said he was waiting for the right girl.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"I'm not really sure," he said, a confused look crossing his face.

The next morning Goth Girl, the only name we have for her, was waiting for him. Her confidence was striking. I wasn't at all like that at her age. She reminded me of someone. Not her looks, her attitude. I realized it was my six-year old, Mimi.

She, too, knows what she has going on inside and out. As a mother, it makes me feel better knowing that when she goes into the world she will know how to navigate it. 

Mimi will break hearts. I think Jay will get his heart broken. 

He solved his Rubik's Cube in one minute, 10 seconds. Then it broke. Jay could no longer hide behind a game. I watched as he and Goth Girl walked over a hill toward the camp kids.

I don't know if she's the right girl, but besides counselor-in-training experience, he's also getting an internship in girlfriend in the making.

Meanwhile, Mimi has run off to play with some boys. Older ones. Is she a future Goth Girl? 

Now, if he could only keep an eye on his sister.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A Mother Lets Her Boys Rock Out

Our boys hosted a garage concert on the last day of school. Three bands were slated to play and kids had been invited representing several Bay Area high schools.  I don’t recall ever fully signing on for this, and was silently panicking at the thought of seven hundred moshing metal heads.

I demanded a guest list and again went over the house rules of no booze -- no drugs -- no disrespectful behavior. Only one mom phoned to make sure parents would be home and I confessed that this was uncharted water for us, too. 

As the bands warmed up, our driveway resembled the scene in Bambi when the forest is on fire and all the bunnies and skunks are evacuating in a wild panic.  All wildlife in a two-mile radius had scampered or flown away.  The sheriff that arrived moments later helpfully suggested closing the garage door. He gave me his card in case I ran into any trouble. I gave him my name and number for my pissed neighbors to call so he didn’t have to drive back. 

The first two bands were light punk, if such a thing could exist.  They were loud for sure but I could still watch “Colbert Report” without a problem.  Then the hosting headliner band came on with corpse paint and a plastic skull goblet with homemade corn syrup blood for the full effect. 

As their mother I can honestly say it was horrible.  

Like a fissure had opened at the end of our driveway and drums as loud as a Hell’s Angels memorial ride and vocals like gargled nails.  My garden wilted.  Paint peeled from the walls. The mosh pit was at full tilt when the garage door opened just a few inches and a kid literally rolled out and the door shut behind him.  I was refilling a bowl with chips and asked him if he was OK. He was holding a broom. He said, “I’m fine.”

I went back inside and waited for the phone to ring. 

The first call was from a man who asked if they could please take it inside.  I told him it was in the garage. He asked if they could close the door.  I told him that sadly the door was closed. When I told him the sheriff had already come by he then claimed to be from the Sheriff’s dispatch office.  I thought it was curious that he had a British accent but told him I’d have the band turn down the amps.  He lightened up and admitted to having been in a band and I told him it was their first real gig with girls. 

Those poor girls.

The next neighbor was civil and politely asked if we could please never do it again.  She asked if it were perhaps Satanic Jazz. No, not Satanic, but in that Black Metal tradition of Norse mythology, the earth based pre-Christian… never mind. I’ll be pulling the plug soon.  She told me I was a good mother for letting them flex their creative wings and hopefully for all our sakes it was a phase they’d quickly outgrow.  

I gave the band a five-minute warning.

In the end only twenty or so kids showed and the bands were disappointed at that, but clearly they’d earned their stripes by the sheriff coming and pissing off the neighbors.  We earned major kudos from the other parent roadies who had opted to go out to dinner during the concert and were now loading amps and guitars into their sensible hybrids. 

While my older son was dutifully washing the corn syrup blood off the garage floor I heard a rustle in the tree and a mourning dove coo.  One of our cats squeezed back under the fence and reclaimed her perch in the garage. 

By Mary Allison Tierney


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Monday, June 23, 2008


What the Hell is Going On?

Is it just me or is everybody going through something right now?

I was at a "princess" birthday party today for my daughter's friend when I saw her aunt and was stunned by her appearance. She looked gaunt and weighed down, as well as down. She was having health and job issues.

Then I saw a friend who I know is having marital problems. I asked how she was doing and listened as she told me she is likely to get divorced, but is worried how this may affect her children.

I found out yesterday that my neighbor had just completed radiation treatment for prostrate cancer. He seemed OK whenever I talked to him but when I saw him walking his dogs I noticed his gait was slow. Now I know why.

My sister called me complaining about her boyfriend. They have been together for two years and still no commitment. He told her there was no one else in the world he would rather be with but he didn't want to live together and if they did ever marry, she would have to sign a prenup.  Are these red flags, she wondered?


Another friend called to complain about how difficult a time she is having raising her children, and the judgements of others about what they perceive as her lack of discipline. What they don't see is how often she is strict and tries to set boundaries. 

My sister-in-law is grieving the loss of her husband. Meanwhile, people are telling her she should be over it already. What has it been, a month? When she tried to go back to work she had to leave because co-workers kept coming into her office and asking what happened, instead of saying I'm so sorry to hear what happened.

I could go on and on about friends and family but there is something in the air -- not just heat and humidity -- that seems to be signaling a change.  

So often it seems we have to go through a tunnel of darkness to get to the other side. I wish that the pain and suffering were not so but they do present lessons; life is not always in our control. 

We are lucky because having children is a place of center. They force us to move through our illnesses, our losses, our insecurities -- they force us to move. Forward.

It is the simple things. The laundry that has to be washed and folded. The meals that need to be made. The time spent with our kids because they need us. And we need them.

EVERYBODY is going through something. All things take time. But -- everything does get better. 

Just as we cultivate our gardens, we must nurture ourselves. Even if it is five minutes of breathing in a view of a beautiful mountain or noticing the intense color of a flower, we must take time for ourselves.

Of course, as parents, time is the one thing we lack. That's why taking even a few moments for ourselves is incredibly important.

By Dawn Yun


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Saturday, June 21, 2008


The Princess Pink Dress

It transforms her.

In it she is an enchantress, yet fearless. There’s the confidence to twirl at will and serenade with exuberance. Life is richer, fuller, more enthralling. Or so it seems to my two-year old whenever she slips on her favorite pink cotton dress with its short puffed sleeves and full skirt.

Coco Chanel had her knit jacket. Jackie O her sleeveless Oleg Cassini. Grace has her spring 2004 (a wild guess given it’s a hand-me-down from her older sister) cotton candy pink dress decorated with streams of multi-colored ruffles down its skirt and an embroidered butterfly on its bodice.

Her 'It' ensemble.

Never mind that Grace’s selection happens to be the perfect outfit for an afternoon tea party on a sunny spring day with the girls. Or attending church on Easter Sunday. Instead, it’s worn down to the creek to catch tadpoles or while squatting in the sandbox making wet sand cakes. Or on a chilly weekday morning without her practical fleece pullover since that would ruin the desired Princess affect.

I’ve tried to attempt a life without The Dress.

If I manage to get my two-year old dressed, and might I add quickly, there’s a slight chance that the swiftness of the act will distract her from immediately noticing that I selected the outfit. There’s the rare, but reasonable, chance that we will venture out into the world together with visible evidence that Grace owns more than that pink cotton dress. But to a good majority of the world Grace and her uniform are one.

She looks like the impractical socialite of the toddler set crashing the casual BBQ.

Then there’s the fact that it’s wrinkled. Make that more wrinkled than not. “I thought that was the look,” one Mom politely offered. Bless her. She must iron. I don’t – especially not a dress worn almost daily.

Generally, Grace searches me out when I’m most vulnerable and half-aware. During our manic morning rush she’ll greet me with, “this one Mommy!” happily holding up her adored party dress while I’m distractedly brushing my teeth. How to reason with a strong-willed toddler?

You can’t.

Being a mere amateur, I have actually tried explaining, “No sweetie, you wore that yesterday,” which was met by her blank stare and a repeat, “this one” -- delivered with toddler edginess.

Just the other day, Grace fished it out of the laundry and I tried to meet her meticulous side with, “but it’s dirty. Look, dirty, dirty!” pointing to chocolate marks.

When that didn’t work, I actually appealed to her reason: “That’s dog pooh-pooh. You don’t want to wear dog pooh. Let Mommy wash it first.”

I’m still troubled that she wasn’t fazed in the slightest.

When I finally do give in with a sigh and Grace happily reaches her little arms up to put on The Dress, her body utterly swoons. She extends her arms from her sides daintily; fingers arched back, and then curves her neck to the side and twirls, twirls, twirls. Visions of Disney princesses surely dancing in her toddler head.

She feels like a princess, which at present means she feels like Grace. I guess Grace is supposed to be party-ready, even if it’s a hike or gearing up for the park.

Right now I love the idea of variety in her attire but I’ll miss the day that “this one, this pink dress” is no longer requested. I imagine that I’ll tuck it away in a drawer and take a peak each morning to greet the memories it conjures.

This pink dress is Grace at two years old. I’m glad to watch a memory unfold.

By Maija Threlkeld



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Friday, June 20, 2008


The Unbearable Pain of Losing a Child

It is very difficult for other people to understand your grief when you lose a baby from a multiple pregnancy. 

Family, friends, and even physicians somehow think that the pain of the loss is somehow softened by the fact that there is still one or more babies that remain: like some kind of consolation prize. 

The thing is, you bond with your babies, not some generic pregnancy.  I could tell there were three distinct personalities almost as soon I could feel them move and correctly identified my troublemaker at only twenty-two weeks!

Around the time I was pregnant, I heard of a local women with quintuplets. She made it farther along than I did in her pregnancy, but sadly also lost one of her children. When my boys were about a year old we saw them at a street fair. The site of her four beautiful children paralyzed me.  I was so jealous and angry that she had managed to get four -- I felt I had fought harder and scraped by only to go home with two.

“She is so lucky to have four babies,” I said, more to myself than anyone else, but my voice did not reflect any of the happiness that should normally accompany such a statement. 

My husband replied, “Don’t you think she misses her other baby as much as we miss ours?” 

It was only then that it became clear. 

Up until that moment I could understand how someone with twins would feel losing a baby, but I could not grasp how someone who managed to get four babies out of a pregnancy could be anything but elated.

Drowning in my own sorrow, I could not lift myself beyond my own frame of reference.  That is when I really understood this kind of sorrow has nothing to do with numbers. 

Going from five to four feels as bad as going from three to two or from two to one.  All of us who have lost a baby feel the same pain and cannot be made whole again, not even by the love of our other children. 

By Jennifer Gunter


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Thursday, June 19, 2008


Ode to Hillary

My son pooped on you.

No, not at the polling place or the preacher’s stand. As a six-month-old he pooped on a cotton outfit with your portrait in front, etched in blue. I washed his clothes, but left that pumpkin-colored stain untreated. Call it superstition, but I wanted to leave a spot of imperfection, like the Japanese do with raku pottery. I voted for you in the primaries. 

I believed in you, Hillary.

I know you’re the same Hillary who had the audacity of hope to propose a universal health care plan when your hubby first became president. I was a drug dealer then, the legal kind, and I saw how my bosses were legally making all this money off sick and old people. I knew that you could stand up to the hard knocks you get in politics; that you could duke it out with McCain. Not the straight-talking POW, but the John McCain of 2008, the ultimate flip-flopper on Bush’s tax cuts and torture. He’s lost his innocence. Yet, I’d like to think that you’ve kept yours.

People hear you talk in that gravelly Chicago voice and think you’ve been around the block too many times to promise change in this country. Something told me that you still care, that just as you made young Chelsea fax over her homework when you were on the road, you were going to make sure Congress does its arithmetic and, for God’s sake, learn from history once you returned to the Oval Office.

I still want you to keep those campaign promises, Hillary, when you stand up in the Senate chambers. My kid’s health insurance costs will double by the time he turns two. And preschool already costs more than a Stanford education did when Chelsea was in college. I want you to free our public schools from No Child Left Behind, which allows no teacher or underserved child to ever get ahead.

Speaking of behind, I’m afraid that my son pooped on you again. A big sprawling poop the size of Los Angeles. I took out the stain this time. He’ll outgrow the outfit by November, but I don’t think you’re going away. If you don’t wind up being Obama’s running mate, how about a Cabinet post? Or even a seat on the Supreme Court? 

That would be justice, American style.

By Li Miao Lovett


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008


At Long Last

In junior high school there were two gym teachers. One was older, big and bleached blonde. The other was a younger, shorter version of her.

When I arrived at school one day I learned both had been fired.

The reason? 

They were gay. 

It seemed incredibly wrong: an illogical injustice.

That is why it was so uplifting yesterday to find the news filled with stories of legal same-sex marriage in California.

The first couple married in San Francisco had been together for fifty years. Fifty! One of the women was 87 and in a wheelchair, yet she stood to face her long-time partner and take her vows.

The daughter of one of the newlyweds sat in the front row crying.

She never understood why she was allowed to marry the man she loved, but her mother could not wed the woman she cherished.

It is beyond comprehension why people get so freaked out by homosexuality.

To love and be loved is as basic as the sun or the sky.

What has long been so wrong has finally been made right.

Forty-eight more states to go.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The Ties that Bind

This week I flew, alone, from San Francisco to New York City.  On both legs of the trip, I had two-hour layovers in Denver.  My parents live in Boulder, which is over an hour from the airport.  I didn’t have enough time to visit, but I did call them.

Dad gave me suggestions for good airport food, not an oxymoron anymore, and I described what I hoped to see in New York.  We talked about movies.  I told him how much more I liked Iron Man than I expected.

“Robert Downey Jr. sure brought some depth to that role,” Dad added.  The flight attendants gave the first boarding call. I told Dad I had to go.

Five days later, I was back in the Denver airport. I called Dad again.  If he had other things to do, he didn’t show it.  I told him all about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing the Egyptian tombs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and going out for dinner at eleven p.m. 

Dad told me about his short time as a bachelor in New York City.  Not being much of a cook, he would take a sample of his boiling spaghetti and throw it on the ceiling.  If the piece stuck, the pasta was done. 

“Good thing you met Mom,” I said.

We talked about my brother and sister, and the weather in Denver.  We agreed that it might rain later in the day.  Then, it was time to board the plane.

I always think about death at take-off, at least for a little while.  I grab my husband’s and children’s hands, if they are around.  As my plane leveled out in the stratosphere, I thought that calling my dad was kind of a surrogate hand hold.

I remembered what my friend, Sophia, said three months after her mother died. “I got through the funeral OK, and it wasn’t like my everyday life changed since we lived four hundred miles away from each other.  But what still gets me is the phone.  I pick it up to tell Mom my good news or about my horrible day, and I realize that I can’t reach her any more.”

I have my own house, husband and kids, and state, but I’m still attached to my parents. 

After my first day of kindergarten, my mother dutifully listened to my rambling synopsis of the day. 

 Forty years later, my parents are still listening.  I dread the day when they can’t. 

 By Beth Touchette


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Sunday, June 15, 2008


Full-On, Full-Time Mama

Is it them or me?  I investigate the roots of my foul mood on Father’s Day as Sweetie fishes in Mazatlan, Mexico, with his father.

Friday: the fourth grade graduates with big fan fare. We go out for lunch, the toy store, home, and to the park for a four-family picnic. We meet the world champion slack-liner. 10 has a friend sleep over. 

Having fun.

Saturday: we eat breakfast at Muffin Mania then install the Wii I bought for Sweetie, still fishing in Mexico. 10’s friend goes home. We drive to San Francisco to celebrate another friend’s 8th grade graduation.

Life is great.

Sunday:  we do nothing but hang around the house.  Sort of a girl’s Paradise Island becomes paradise lost.  When 10 isn’t whining and crying about her cold or her Nintendo, it is 7.  When 7 isn’t whining and crying about her bee sting or about 3, 3 is manipulating a fistfight among 10 or 7 or both. 

An outing to In-and-Out is slashed in favor of watching “Spy Kids 3.”  So, soup and sandwiches substitute. 

Still happy.  (But I really wanted that burger.)

I bring up the babysitter I’ve scheduled so I can go to The Writing Mamas Salon tonight.  As if she were suddenly made an orphan, 7 breaks into teeth-torturing yelps and projectile tears.  3 wants a cookie and 10 launches into a story about a story about a dog, the details of which she assumes I’m grasping as I continue to sauté sausages for dinner.  At 5:00 I call the babysitter “just to be sure,” and she informs me she’s “napping.”  

“Didn’t you get my e-mail with the confirmation, directions and time?” I ask. My heartbeat quickens. 

“Yes, but people usually call to confirm.” With a clearly reluctant tone, she says she can still make it but she’ll be late because blah, blah, blah.

I say to myself, “shit.”  I go to 7’s room, where she’s been banished so all of us can hear.

7 adamantly and tearfully claims she hates new babysitters because “they always start out nice but end up really mean.”  Double shit.  I feel the tingle of a cold sore coming on. I don’t have a book idea to pitch to the literary agent who will be speaking to the salon tonight. 10 is nursing a cold.  7 hates babysitters. 3 is the only one behaving with any cooperative attitude, and that NEVER happens.

So, I do what no man would ever do: I cancel the babysitter. 

I take the road turned inwards, and I pour a glass of wine and watch Tiger Woods make the clutch putt for an 18-hole play off. 

There will be something to look forward to tomorrow.

By Lauren Cargill


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Another "Dreaded" Father's Day Gift

My husband must be the most difficult person to shop for. 

He hates knick-knacks or anything without a utilitarian purpose.  The only “things” he likes are either technology-related, or camera equipment.  I can buy neither for him because he is one, an engineer, and two, a master researcher who reads hundreds of reviews and somehow is able to buy things for less than it costs to make them. 

Like our Tivos. Yes, plural. We have three.  Two currently sit next to our TV, and one is in the attic, just in case.

“Why do we have a Tivo in the attic?” I asked. 

He explained how one deal came along, which basically gave us a Tivo and one-year service for free.  Then there was an even better bargain! We somehow got paid fifty dollars, after mail-in rebates, to buy another Tivo.  These two were in addition to the Tivo we’ve had for years. As you can imagine these deals were just way too good for him to pass up.

Bargains are his obsession. 

He somehow locates super-deals on new and used items so that when he’s done using them, he’s able to sell them on Craig’s List for the same, if not more, than he paid.  Although I like to support buying less “stuff” for green reasons, it’s hard to complain about a husband’s hobby when little money is being spent, and he’s helping out with the kids and house.

Still, this makes it impossible to shop for or around him.  As he sees me ordering kids clothes online, on sale I might add, he yells out, “Don’t order until we search for coupons!”

When I gave him a digital picture frame for his birthday, he looked worried, and asked, “You didn’t pay full price, did you?”

I’ve given up trying to buy him things. This is probably better for everyone. There are only so many golf ball paperweights a man can own. 

So this Father’s Day he’s getting the gift of time: lunch out and the afternoon off. 

Plus, a “bonus” present: intimate time with me for you know what. My husband will have a double smile knowing that this special gift comes at a great discount. It won’t cost us a cent.

By Kristy Lund


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Saturday, June 14, 2008


May the Porcelain God Shine Happily On My Second Child

Before my first son was even interested in potty training, I worried about it -- should we be starting, why doesn’t he show any readiness at age three, etc.  

When he finally was ready, my husband and I made a big deal every time he peed, congratulating him. 

With my second son following two years behind his big brother, I’m amazed at how much simpler things have been.  His birth, for example, was so much easier than the first; things were already stretched out, and I knew how long to wait at home before going to the hospital.  I also knew to ask for an epidural instead of trying to make it through excruciating back labor as I did the first time.

When it came to potty training number two, I figured we’d wait till summer, one of these summers, to do it.  It’s so much easier when the kids can run around naked. 

This summer has ended up being the time to potty train him.  Our house has been transformed into a temporary nudist colony, and we play mostly in the backyard.  When he pees in the potty, we make a big deal and praise him, but it’s not like the first child when time stopped and I would call all our relatives to update them on his urination progress.

This evening, my youngest wanted to wear underwear like his big brother.  So we put it on him and reminded him he still needed to use the potty. When the time came, he yelled, “Pee pee coming!” and ran into the bathroom.  My husband and I smiled at each other. It was cute, but we continued with our tasks in the kitchen. I thought how with our first child we’d be following him around, and with the second, well, he would just know what to do. 

At least I thought he did.

He came out of the bathroom smiling, “I went pee pee!” 

And he had. 

He’d sat on the potty and peed. With his underwear still on. Then it dawned on me -- we forgot to tell him to take his underwear off  before he pees. 


So we praised him while changing him out of his wet undies and told him the steps boys need to take to have a successful piss. 

While we still make mistakes with number two, we’re a lot more relaxed about them.  If we're less tense, hopefully, he will be, too.

I'm also hopeful, like the mother of every son is, that his aim will become accurate and the outside of the toilet, as well as the floor, will be white and not yellow. 

By Kristy Lund


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Friday, June 13, 2008


Passing the Baton

My family tree vibrates from top to bottom with talented musicians. My father is not one of them.  He sings off-key and his piano skills consist of thumping out chords from "The Fake Book" while humming enthusiastically.

Sorry, Dad, but you know it’s true

Where he lacks talent, my father compensates with his love of music. While talent is determined by the genetic dice roll, appreciation can be cultivated. Although my father’s interest in music is broad, the opening notes of a Broadway show transform his expression into mesmerized joy.  

Attending The Mountain Play was a tradition in our family as solid as the Marin County Fair. I was six years old when I watched, “Annie Get Your Gun.” As the orchestra played the first notes from behind the stage, everything fell away. I no longer noticed the sticky Popsicle residue on my fingers or the guy with the baseball hat blocking my view. I only heard the notes fluttering up to the tops of the trees and exploding like fireworks. As the show continued, colors swirled inside me. I wanted to throw down my egg salad sandwich and dance.

Even after the performers took their bows and the orchestra had packed up, the music pumped through my body like blood.  My father and I skipped down the Bootjack trail to the car singing, “There’s no business like show business!”  My mother pretended not to know us. After all, we were out of tune and practically yelling, and the trail was full of sunburned, tired playgoers who were happy to leave it to the professionals, thank you very much.  

But, if we didn’t sing, we might have burst.

This year, my husband and I continued the tradition and took our own children to see "The Wizard of Oz.”  When the music started, I snuck a glance at my four-year-old, Kai’s face. His eager expression was replaced with a look of pure concentration and awe. “I can’t wait for the next song,” he whispered after the first number. Time will tell if musical talent has shaken down to him, but there’s no doubt that Grandpa’s appreciation of music has deep roots.

On the way back to the car, the music still pumping through us, I grabbed Kai’s hand. We skipped down the hill, singing, “It’s off the see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Loud. Possibly off-key.

My husband pretended not to know us.  

But, if we didn’t sing, we might have burst.

By Maya Creedman


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Thursday, June 12, 2008


Father's Day

When my son turned one, his father and I separated after five years of marriage. We were divorced several months after that, and my ex-husband left this country for good. We have not heard from him since. For that reason, Father’s Day has been a particularly awkward holiday for me to deal with.

I tried to ignore it as best I could, purposefully making our day busy enough with happy outings and special bonding time just between my son and me. Deep inside, I always knew that sooner or later I’d have to deal with it and have some explanations to do.

My first shake down came when my then six-year old son came home from Sunday school on Father’s Day holding a man’s tie made out of paper and pipe cleaners. His regular teachers were aware of our family situation, and were careful about providing alternative activities – “making something special for your mom.” This time, he had a sub who, according to Alex, “just made him do it.” As soon as he got in the car, my normally even-tempered child threw the paper tie as far as he could, and quietly said, “Why did I even have to make this stupid tie if I don’t even have a dad around!”

I picked it up, put it on and declared that I loved it, and asked if I could please have it. First, Alex said with exasperation, “Mom, you look really goofy!” I continued to fix the tie around my neck and make my best silly faces.

Then Alex smiled.

Soon we were both laughing, because the tie got tangled up in my necklace, and it did look really goofy that way. Finally, Alex sighed and said, “Fine, you can have it, since you like it so much. Plus, you do all the work for both yourself and a dad, anyways.”

I agreed, feeling pleased at my hard work being acknowledged, and sad for the reality of our little family. Then we drove off to the ice cream shop and stuffed ourselves with ice cream instead of a normal lunch.

I was really mad at that Sunday school sub that day. My paper tie was stained with ice-scream and I eventually tossed it. 

This was three years ago. I now wish I would have kept that tie as a reminder of how sad things can turn into happy ones.  

Life goes on.

By Svetlana Nikitina


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Black Friday

I just had a vision: my three children home on a school day with n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do except complain and bother one another. . .

Oh that’s right, Friday's the first day of summer "vacation" in our home.

Don the black armbands fellow parents -- school’s almost out.

Can you hear a din on the horizon? A certain low-high hum slowly increasing in velocity? Does it go something like this? “MmmmmmOOOmmmm, where Aaare yuuuuuOOoooo Wwwwhhhooo can I PLAY wuuuuiiiith todaaaay?”

The pattern varies a bit and may include a “Nooooo, thaaAAAt’s boooOOOOringggg. MmmmmmOOOmmmmeeeeee ”

Piercing I know. But it’s coming!

Vacation time.

Vacation time.

Vacation time.

Yeah, still isn’t registering for me either. Where’s MY vacation? Make that, where’s MY vaaaAAAcccation! (Two can play that whine game.)

Back in March, I began stockpiling enforcements. Park camp. Check. Another week of park camp. Check. Y camp. Horse camp. Wildlife camp. Art camp. And what about the two-year old? Preschool camp. Check, check, check…

Checks with many digits flew out the door.

I know I shouldn’t fear an expanse of “down time” for my high-energy offspring. What better way to increase focus and expand imagination than to start building with Legos or even create homes for the backyard lizards.

Or let creativity flow at the drawing table. All good. It’s just when my eight-year old excitedly announced, “Did you know we have a hundred days of vacation?!” 

I thought I was going to throw-up.

In our home, the ‘bored’ level hits far too quickly, even when held back by fierce warnings to “give Mommy a moment.”

So Thursday it is.

At one twenty-five p.m., the school doors open, the children flood out, hand their awaiting grim-faced parents all of their gear, race ahead to the car and announce: “So what are we doing tomorrow?”

Mama’s hoping it involves yoga.

By Maija Threlkeld



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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Trouble with Blogs

Steve Jobs announced the super-cool new iPhone -- and now this. What is technology coming to?

Forget the first two "blogs" and read the third one, Cindy Bailey's very true life and funny blog about her son who just loves a good pee -- wherever it may be.

Skip the one below that. It looks like Blogger went all Hulk on us -- and the movie isn't even out!

Thanks for your understanding.

The Writing Mamas


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The Art of Peeing

We potty trained our son early, when he was twenty-two months old, and he took to it very well.  Within a week he was peeing in his little Bjorn potty, and three weeks later, doing his other business in there too. It took a little longer for him to feel comfortable peeing in bathrooms outside our house.  What we did is take along a portable version of the Bjorn potty, which we would throw in a bulky backpack.  Not only was it something familiar in an unfamiliar environment, which eased our son’s stage fright, but we had something we could whip out any time, any place, when there was no bathroom in sight.

But then, Dad got tired of carrying that backpack around and instead started holding our son suspended over regular toilets. When one of those weren’t handy, he started teaching our son to pee standing up next to the closest bush or tree.

I was thrilled because in fairly secluded areas outdoors, I could just walk our two-and-a half-year old son to a tree, pull his pants down, hold up his penis for him, and voila, the business was done, simple as that.

My son liked this too.  He was enthralled.  So much so that he’s started trying to do it on his own, whenever he feels the urge.  This morning in Golden Gate Park, for example, we were walking back to our car when he stopped in the middle of the road, pulled his pants down, and just stared at his penis waiting for action, his arms at his side.  I had just enough time to whisk him to the side of the road and lift his penis. 

He whined, “No, Mama, no, Mama,” wanting to do it himself.

I certainly don’t mind, and in fact encourage, this bold new step in his learning and independence.  But how do you teach a toddler that unlike the portable potty, his penis is not something he can whip out any place, any time?  How do I teach him to do it properly?

Of course, there’s nothing to do but nudge him in the right direction and patiently wait for him to learn.  In the meantime, I hope the public doesn’t mind, if, for example, they find a cute, little boy peeing on their lawn.

By Cindy Bailey


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Monday, June 09, 2008


Domestic Politics

A word of advice for grief-stricken Clinton fans: listen to your mother.If Mom shared consulting duties with George Lakoff about winning strategies for the Democratic Party, she’d surely counsel, “Don’t go to bed angry,” followed by, “Sleep on it. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Let’s hope the Democrats have the sense to kiss and make up, or at least get a good night’s sleep—preferably in the same bed, but, if necessary, on the couch in the living room under the same roof.

Please! No roaring out of the driveway at seventy miles an hour after a spat, seeking the comfort of someone else in a moment of temporary insanity. You’ll regret it. That other guy may look tempting, with his affable mien and seductive embrace, but no matter what he tells you, he is not your friend. Once he’s got you where he wants you, do you really think he’ll leave his base for you? Forget it. The guy’s a home wrecker. The fight that’s driving you into his deceitful arms is really not worth busting up your marriage. Or your country.

As the race ends in the endearingly dysfunctional family we call the Democratic Party, passions are running high. If only he or she would knock it off and come around to your point of view, life would be so much better! I think this about my husband several times a week. I assume he thinks the same about me. And is there ever a time when teenagers don’t think this?

The fact that Obama’s and Clinton’s actual points of view are nearly identical seems oddly immaterial to Hillary loyalists. Are so many really willing to forsake basic shared goals like ending the war, salvaging the economy and allowing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to retire before his one hundred and twenty-fifth birthday? Will disappointed Hillary fans actually vote for McCain out of spite, even though his views differ radically from their own? Sure, opposites attract and politics make strange bedfellows, but this is ridiculous! I may as well leave my husband because I don’t like how he folds the laundry for another man who believes women should be chained to the washer and dryer.

So, heartbroken Hillary supporters, please get a grip. Stop acting like teenagers in full thrall to their hormones. Or grade schoolers who cry “No fair!” and overturn the board game, sending all the pieces flying, when they lose. Throwing tantrums is fun, but it’s no way to choose a president.

As with any good partnership, it’s time to calm down, compromise, forgive, and move on. Let’s remember what’s important: We’re in this thing together for the long haul.

So if you’re thinking of storming out of the house after a big, nasty fight, don’t. Sleep on it, you’ll feel better tomorrow. Then kiss and make up.

For the sake of your children.

For the sake of your country.

By Lorrie Goldin


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Sunday, June 08, 2008


Making It All Really Simple

When it comes to writing, Gertrude Stein said it best, "Writing is writing is writing."

Actually, she said a lot of things, but that line isn't one of them.

However, it is based on one of her more famous ones, "A rose is a rose is a rose." 

You get the idea. 

Whatever you write, whenever you write, your writing improves, you can write more succinctly and think more clearly, and you will feel better about yourself.

When you feel better about yourself then you have more patience for others, like. . . your family.

Sometimes, writing about a walk in the woods can be as vivid as actually doing it when you allow your mind to go there.

By Sheryle Sheks


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Saturday, June 07, 2008


Bright Lights at the End of a Very Long Tunnel

What a year!

School year, that is. 

It's almost OVER!!!

Something I thought would never end.

The relentless "teacher's days" that meant I had the kids all day and frantically looked around for play dates and things for them to do. I wouldn't have minded one or two of these important skill-enhancing teacher days, but two week's worth?

Then there was that only in Marin "Ski Week" vacation annoyance.

 I. Don't. Ski.

There were too many field trips. I volunteered for every one. Rather than learning and being relaxed, I was beyond stressed as I had to care for at least one other child beside my own.

Then, there was the other side of the dark days of school: the illuminating ones. Seeing my child learn how to read, and to add and subtract. She excelled at art and music. She danced on stages and learned the intoxication of applause. She discovered the life lesson that if she studied and practiced, she would succeed, whatever the subject; whatever the pursuit. If she slacked, she would not.

I got my son the help he needed so he could excel at school, not merely get by, as the school told me it was only required to do. Dealing with school bureaucracy can be as bad as dealing with your healthcare company. But I was relentless with his school. My husband was relentless with our son. In the end, we hope his grades will reflect his high-scoring potential.

Soon, it will be one week off and then summer camp. 

At first I was in a panic wondering how I would fill that week. No longer.  Now I see it more as a vacation. We will spend time with friends, go away for a long weekend, explore what we haven't had time to do all year.

What this week between the ending of school and beginning of summer will do is bring us closer together, sans the mad, morning rush, yelling about undone homework and screaming about screaming.

Clothing will still be left on the floor and it will need to be picked up. Hmm. . . let's see. Who will be the person doing that work? The kids? No. My husband? No. The cats? No. I guess that leaves me. It always does. The everyday will not change. I suspect it will be noticed more. 

Despite what I am certain will be an insane week -- I am happily anticipating it. Spending time with the kids knowing that it will be followed by almost three months of camp -- will make our time together even sweeter.

I'm looking forward to it because they really are great kids. We really do have a lot of fun together.  I'll be sure to bring the camera to capture those Hallmark Card moments and memories.

By Dawn Yun


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Friday, June 06, 2008


My "Perfect" Child

My nine-year old son is completely indifferent about his school backpack being dusty, dirty and full of strange particles, dried leaves, old assignments, and leftover snacks.

I clean it out with him, trying to establish a working system that would mitigate the mess. I talk, beg, explain, and sometimes get really mad and scream. I nag, hug, and then occasionally cry when Alex is asleep.

Why is he such an absent-minded slob?

Will his future wife hate me for raising him this way?

What am I bestowing upon the world?

My mom carefully said over the phone last week, “Maybe it is because he is a boy.” Perhaps, but it just seemed that all his other classmates had their clean backpacks lined up neatly by the classroom door in the morning, instead of being tossed by the nearby tree, as was Alex’s habit.

Then there is this Perfect Mom of the Most Beautiful Girl in his class and possibly in the entire City. She volunteers for everything; she has long flowing blonde hair, incredible skin and -- naturally -- a very neat and tidy looking Perfect Child.

When she calls to remind me to look for an overdue library book, her voice is calm and friendly, and her manners are impeccable. I try to be mature and not compare us, not give in to the wave of guilt or the raging jealousy.

Heavens know I try. . .

Yesterday, I asked Perfect Mom if she got my check for the teacher’s gift that I gave to her Perfect Daughter a few days prior. She said, “Oh, yes, it was right between her old homework and a rotten apple.”

Not believing my ears, I actually had to ask, “She had a rotten apple in her backpack?”

Perfect Mom nodded emphatically, “All the time! And old burritos from PTA lunches, too!”

I was beaming on my way back to the car, and I actually giggled when I got inside. It felt almost evil to be so pleased about a rotten apple in some other child’s backpack.

I will still continue to nag and instruct my son, but now I know what I suspected long ago in my heart – he is a perfect little boy.

By Svetlana Nikitina


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Thursday, June 05, 2008


Childhood Terrors

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take

My parents taught me that prayer when I was five or six. I still remember the first night we recited it. I stared at my bedroom ceiling for hours, suddenly aware that despite my good health, I could be struck dead in the middle of the night. The best hope my God could offer me was that he would take my soul rather than the Devil.

After I was picking up my kids from school today, my seven- year old daughter complained about her substitute teacher:

“She made us sing, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean over and over again. I hate that song,” said Elena.

I was amazed. Despite my tendency to like the nostalgic, I hate that song too, mostly because of my poor musical hearing. For years, I thought it was:

My body lies over the ocean,
My body lies over the sea,
My body lies over the ocean,
Oh bring back my body to me.
Bring back, bring back, bring back, bring back my body to me, to me…

I thought the narrator was a ghost, who had drowned, and longed to be reunited with his lost, now decomposing corpse. I couldn’t understand how my elementary school music teacher could sing it with such gaiety, while I was chilled to the core. I began to despise her, and the song.

I remembered sitting in my pink-striped bedroom, just a month or two after my nighttime prayer became something I said, rather than something I thought. I imagined the spook-like voyager, looking for his lost body. If he didn’t notice his own remains bobbing in the waves, might he take my body? I would pull the covers over my head, shut my eyes tightly, because everyone knows ghosts only go after those who are awake, and recite the children’s nighttime prayer as a protective talisman. I would fall asleep for real a couple of hours later.

I told Elena.

“I think that song is about an immigrant yearning for his immigrant girlfriend who has journeyed overseas, which a lot of people did in those days. I thought Bonnie was “body,” however. Did you ever think that, Elena?”

I hoped that I wasn’t the only person in the world misled by the song.

Elena looked at me, rather confused, and said no.

“Oh, well, I still think it would be better if it was, “My Katie lies over the ocean, My Katie lies over the sea… Bonnie is such a weird name,” I said.

My ten-year old son, Walker, quiet until now, added: “Didn’t Scottish people say bonnie when they meant any pretty girl?”

I grimaced.

“Bonnie is still confusing,” I said. Elena began to sing, “My Beth lies over the ocean, my Beth lies over the sea…”

I told her Beth didn’t have enough syllables, and luckily, we arrived at home.

By Beth Touchette-Laughlin


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Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Gone Daddy, Gone

How I wanted to be a hippie.

All my friends had teenage siblings with hair parted in the middle that reached halfway down their backs, and rebellious attitudes that extended even deeper.

A tween, the closest I came to being hip was covering my walls with DayGlo posters that said, love, peace and happiness.

This was 1968. The country was changing. We were losing the Vietnam War. There was one hope. Bobby Kennedy. He was running for president, and Bobby was going to save us.

Rescue me.

The political Bobby was not the man I saw. It was his patriarchal side that attracted me. A father of eleven. Eleven! His family played touch football. I didn’t even know what it meant. It sounded like a father giving his child a warm hug after a well-thrown spiral.

Nineteen sixty eight was a seminal year for me for another reason: it was when my father abandoned my family. His leaving marked us. Our upper-middle class status immediately changed: we became less thans.

Bobby Kennedy would never do that. He became the surrogate father I no longer had.

With great care, I cut out pictures of Bobby from my mother’s “Life,” and “Look” magazines as he played touch football on that fabled lawn in Hyannis Port and hung them between my Monkees posters and plastic signs that said, groovy.

I had pictures of Bobby on the campaign trail, too. His white shirtsleeves rolled up to just below his elbows, his skinny black tie flying in the wind, as he shook hand after hand, shoving a thatch of hair out of his eyes.

I was filled with love for him, but shrouded in anger. Angry that my father could run away so easily and take only one picture of his family with him while leaving an entire photo album scattered behind.

Bobby would never leave his children.

Then he did.

Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru of his day, was exercising on TV. Only Jack wasn’t on the air. I could not believe what was. I screamed for my mother.

She ran up the stairs as the blur of what she saw became painfully focused. We stared at the TV as our cries pierced the silence.

“There goes our hopes and dreams,” Mom finally said. “They shot another good man. John Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now Bobby Kennedy.”

He passed the next day.

That morning, I carefully began removing his pictures from my walls. Bobby shaking hands. Playing touch foodball. Hugging his children.

It was like losing a father twice.

By Dawn Yun


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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Am I Really Such a Bad Girl?

“Bad Girl! Your mind is in the gutter!”

I’m standing in my Tiburon backyard in summer shorts without a shirt. I’ve used a black eyebrow pencil to draw hairs all over my chest. It is circus day and I am pretending to be the hairy man.

Ms. Buckley, our short, matronly, gray haired Irish babysitter, grabs my arm and shoves me out of the yard into the bathroom. She hands me a washcloth saying, “Wash yourself and put on a proper shirt!”

What is wrong? We are starting the circus, Cousin Phoebe is wearing the red satin devil costume I made her put on. Brother Brian is putting toilet paper streamers on his bike and getting ready for the parade around the cul-de-sac.

I’m standing in our tiny bathroom with a washcloth in my hand trying to rub off the hair lines, looking at myself in the mirror.

What’s wrong? Did I do something so terrible? Bucky hates me and I don’t know why.

I finish cleaning off and head outside into our backyard. Phoebe’s still wearing the devil costume and Brian zooms around the street with his streamers flying behind him. I stand there, somehow changed by thoughts of unknown evil. My mind is in the gutter. I’m a bad girl. Does it show? Does everyone know I’m full of filth and evil?

I sit down on the end of the curb and watch my brother circle around. Phoebe walks up.

“No circus,” I sullenly declare.

“Why not?” she asks.

“No hairy man,” I say.

“Can you be something else?”

NO! I want to be the lion tamer! I want to be the guy with the whip who makes the tigers jump on stuff and sit. I want to be him, that’s all.

“No! It’s over!” I get up and walk over to my swing set. Things don’t make sense. I was just pretending and now I’m bad and filthy. When did I change? Have I always been bad?

I sit on the swing with my head in my hands. I can see Ms. Buckley in our kitchen, making lunch. She’s a grandma, but she’s not my grandma. I have a grandma who loves me. My grandma calls me “precious Pru” and “sweet child.” Does Grandma know I’m a filthy bad girl? Is she telling me the truth when she tells me she loves me?

I’m just me, without a circus.

I look over at my four-year old brother riding around, happy to have the streamers flying off his bike blowing in the wind. I watch him being himself without filth. He just wants to ride around. I’m the bad one.

I walk over to him. “Get off. The circus is over.”

“No.” He ignores me and keeps riding around and around. “I’m in the circus now!”

He’s making his own circus without me. It was MY idea. That’s not fair!

Phoebe climbs out of the devil costume and places it on the picnic bench nearby. The costume is too small for me. I pick up the red devil mask and squish its nose. I put it back on the table.

Phoebe watches me from the yard. “See that?” I show her the mask. “So?”

She doesn’t like the costume I made her wear. No circus. No devil costume. No bike parade. Maybe I’ll run away.

Instead, I look up into the hills at the broken barbed wire fence and turn to go back into the house to meet my shame.

By Pru Starr


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Monday, June 02, 2008


Mom Hair

I finally understand why new mothers cut their hair a few months after giving birth. My hair, too, is falling out. It's just one of many physical changes a woman's body goes through in returning her to herself, but one that everyone can see.

I think of it as a kind of mourning, like autumn trees letting go of their leaves now that the flowering is done.

My baby daughter Scarlett's hair is growing just as mine is going.

Mine is beginning to look like the hairline of my father in the shape of a capital M. I wear it like he wore it when he lost it – short, down and slightly forward – hiding the growing patches of white as scalp claims more real estate like the desert.

It's disconcerting to see hundreds of strands litter my open books, my pillowcase, the empty bathtub. They cling to the towel, the backs of my shirts and my hands. I even find them in the folds of my baby's skin, and in her mouth. I'll turn around, feeling somebody touch my arm, only to find it was a falling hair.

Not that I would have traded my life-changing experience in the ultimate female Olympics for something as decorative as hair.

Pregnancy and childbirth are miracles of the body, and when I look into Scarlett's chubby, happy face, all my anxiety goes away. But when I look in the mirror. . .

The loss of my hair reminds me that I'm now a mother. The hormones of pregnancy are tapering, the stretch marks are turning silver, my body begins to winter, letting go of everything it stored. The dark line of longitude that divided my belly's globe, expressing the animal of myself, is gradually being erased.

As for my hair, the women tell me it'll grow back someday. When that day comes, I'll wake up dormant, my body again thin and pretty, but empty.

By Mary Wang


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Sunday, June 01, 2008


No Cutting

Say what you will about the long Democratic primary season, a clear winner has emerged. I refer, of course, not to Obama or Clinton, but to those who patiently wait their turn in line without front-cutting, like Indiana and Oregon. For once the crowds have not gone home before the trio of obscure stragglers—Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota—at last crosses the finish line still going strong.

Brassy California, elbowing and bullying its way to the front of the line, is now irrelevant. If we had been patient, the crowning glory could have been ours come Tuesday. We may have avoided the robo-calls, glossy hit pieces cramming our mailboxes, huge rallies snarling traffic.

We’ve missed out on making history. Serves us right.

Meanwhile, Florida and Michigan sit in Saturday detention. They couldn’t just be first in line but had to break into the gym for front-row seats at the basketball playoffs. Will the principals suspend them, make them pick up the trash around campus, or, worried by the litigious nature of bullies’ parents, let them go with a plea not to do it again?

Maybe writing on the whiteboard a thousand times, “I am sorry to miss the playoffs because I broke into the gym” would suffice.

The meek might inherit the earth after all.

Of course, inheriting the earth at this particular moment could be more punishment than reward. But for now, let’s savor the bully’s comeuppance. Ever wondered why you’re such a sap as people cut in front of you at the checkout line? Ever slowed down rather than gunned the accelerator to let another car merge? Ever soothed crying children who must wait another round to clamber onto the Tilt-a-Whirl because they were trampled in the crush? Then step out of the wings and into the limelight. This curtain call’s for you.

You deserve a standing ovation.

By Lorrie Goldin


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