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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Is THIS What Our World Has Come To?

My sister, Dr. Kirsten the biologist, has recently published an article in a conservation journal focusing on the impact of the 1935 damming of the Colorado River on a now endangered marine fish, the Totoaba. 

The change in their habitat has slowed their growth, delaying maturation and thus spawning. The impact was documented by comparing prehistoric otoliths (ear bones) found in aboriginal shell middens, with modern, post-dam otoliths. 

It’s a teensy bit technical, but the bottom line is because of our ever increasing urban need for water, the earth’s natural balance is thrown off and over time the resulting change in habitat can no longer support many species. 

Two of my kids had field trips this week so it took me three days to read the seven-page article, but immediately I drew a parenting corollary.  

The impact of urban sprawl, big box store malls sprouting like toxic mushrooms in open pastures, huge home theater sized SUVs, soulless stucco McMansions and drive-through Starbucks, has eliminated our youth habitat.

Because of the dwindling number of places where our kids can safely hang out unsupervised and be kids, there is a delay in human maturation. (Not that I'm encouraging river spawning.)

In current youth habitats there's too much traffic, too many electronic diversions, too much stress to achieve, accomplish and be a resume kid.  The juveniles stay juveniles much longer (boomerang kids?).   I'll need to do some earbone core samples to support my theory, but I think I'm on to something.

By Mary Allison Tierney

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Mostly -- It's All Good

It was my daughter's birthday. This meant that EVERY DAY for a solid week, was another celebration for my daughter.

On the appointed first day, I awoke to her staring at me, her tiny nose an inch from my larger one, and her saying, "Mommy, I feel energetic!"

She was true to her words.

Mimi danced on the bed, around the mattress, across scattered pillows, and High School Musical-ed over the comforter. 

She received lots of swag for her birthday. 

Perhaps the sweetest gift came from our neighbors, Tina and Bryan. They don't have children, yet never fail to bring something for Mimi and her brother on every holiday. They do so quietly, usually leaving Valentine's Day candy, or Christmas cookies in colorful bags on the doorknob. 

Yet, for this special day, they came in their biking garb, and handed Mimi a beautiful stuffed animal. It was a giraffe and Tina, an artist, hand drew a card with the same animal on it and in cursive wrote its history.

Mimi promptly named it Giraffeeeee. She hugged Tina and gave her a kiss. Then she enveloped Bryan. 

"You're the best neighbors in the whole wide world!" she said. "Thank you -- thank you -- thank you!!!" The second sentence came after I reminded her, "What do you say?"

The two left to go on their  bicycle ride and we went inside to get dressed so we could spend Mimi's special day together.

I stared at my neighbors' house before climbing into the car. 'They are so dear,' I thought. Just genuinely nice, considerate people. 

We absolutely lucked out in the neighbors' department. With friends, too. And with family.

More than ten years ago I drove across the country by myself with my two cats, determined to meet the right man, fall in love, have a family, buy a house, make money, write, do a variety of things.

All of that has come to pass. 

Some not so good things have happened, as well. 

Life is like that.

On balance, I'm way ahead. 

Though I do complain. (I can't help it. I'm Jewish. I'm from New York. It is in my blood. It is also one of my hobbies.)

Still, I am grateful for what I do have.

I'm hopeful that the rest of my life will hold more positives than negatives, however I can accept whatever might happen.

Perhaps because I have come such a long way already.

By Dawn Yun

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


My Independent Son Overcomes All

Thump, thump, kerthump.  Thump, thump, kerthump.

There is a strange sound emanating from the hallway.  More like a series of thuds punctuated by an odd, louder noise.  It is a narrow hallway, not a lot of room for a five-year old to create too much havoc.  I close my eyes and try to visualize the responsible sequence of events when the rhythm is interrupted by a much louder sound.  Kersplat!  I feel the house shake – a child has fallen against the wall.  I listen intently but no one is crying.  After a brief pause the sounds continue.

Thump, thump, kerthump.  Thump, thump, kerthump. Thump, thump, kersplat -- he has hit the wall again.

I want to give him space, but my curiosity is getting the better of me.  What are these noises?  His twin brother is outside with his Dad, so it can’t be some crazy new game of slam-each–other-against-the-wall.  The house shakes again.  I hear his tiny voice call out with the slightest hint of a tremor, as if to reassure both of us, “I’m OK, Mom.”

The sounds continue.

Thump, thump, kerthump.  Thump, thump, kerthump.

I tiptoe to the hallway and stealthily peer around the corner.  As soon as I see him I feel the hot sting of my tears and quickly put my hand over my mouth.  I know what he is doing.

He is hopping on his left foot, his better leg. He is very unsteady, teetering as if he is riding an invisible unicycle, with his arms spread like wings.  I see that they are serving double-duty, not only helping him balance but if he leans too much to one side or the other he can also right himself by pushing against the wall.  I marvel at his ingenuity – our hallway is the perfect place for a five-year old to practice hopscotch. 

One foot, one foot, both feet.  Thump, thump, kerthump. 

But then he falls -- his left leg and both his arms have failed him.  Kersplat.  In an instant he is up and the cycle starts again. 

He has been at it for a while and he will keep plugging away until he is satisfied.  That is his style.  Victor does not know that two words, cerebral palsy, hang around his neck like offset ballast.  His arms and legs are stiff and his balance is precarious at best.  He falls a lot, has to sit to get dressed, and is much slower than the other kids on the playground.  You can see on his face that every movement is a carefully constructed orchestration.

Born at twenty-six weeks, almost four months early, he and his twin have already endured more than a lifetime of hardship.  But it was Victor who came home from the intensive care unit with a twisted right side.  He has struggled to do everything that we take for granted.

However, what really separates him from everyone else is his sheer determination.  He doesn’t understand can’t, only try harder.  And so he will practice, and practice, and practice, long after I can feign interest in continuing.  His therapists shake their heads and smile in disbelief, but the credit lies with Victor.  In the beginning I helped out a lot more, but now I am only allowed to show him once and then he will take it from there thank-you-very-much.  If we are running late I can try and speed up the process, but it will be to no avail. 

“I want to do it,” he says with surprising force for such a small body and snatches his sneakers from my hand.  And God forbid I manage to distract him long enough to sneak on his socks or shoes – time will have to stand still while he takes them off and puts them on again – by himself.  And so we are often late.  There are some things that you just have to accept.

I wonder if Victor knows he is different, although given his absolute persistence what physically separates him from his peers is now getting harder and harder for the untrained eye to see.  Is his tenacity a reflection of his stubborn personality (no idea where that came from) or born from his own observation of his limitations?  Regardless, when Victor decides that he will do something, he simply does not give up until he has mastered the task, or at least a close semblance.  And today he wants to play hopscotch.  He saw some older girls playing at the schoolyard and he loves older girls so he will be in the hallway for as long as it takes.  Last year he spent weeks launching himself from our front steps so he could learn to land on both feet like the other kids.  He is now the undisputed frog-king.

Thump. Thump. Kerthump.  Thump, thump, kerthump.

I feel it in my chest as if it my heart beat depends on each tentative hop.      

To sit on your hands while your child falls, and then falls again, is torture, but I cannot look away.  I am his mother and it is my job to bear witness.  Simultaneously, I am transfixed, awe struck, and filled with pride by both his effort and his success.

I hear his voice again and I am whisked back from my short reverie and the hallway slides into focus.  He doesn’t stop to speak; there is no time for that.  Thump. “Mom, look.”  Thump. “I can.” Kerthump. “Hopscotch!”

I smile and fight back the tears. “Great job,” I manage to squeak before hurrying back to the kitchen where I dissolve on the spot.  His spirit and will power never cease to amaze me and I understand that I am a better person for knowing him.

The next day we are down at the school yard and for an hour that could have lasted all day he hopped up and down the playground on his left foot, both of us with smiles of sheer joy and my heart bursting at the seams.

Thump, thump, kerthump.  Thump, thump, kerthump.

A week later the noises start again.  I sneak over to the hallway.  He is now working on his right leg.

Victor may have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy does not have Victor.

By Jennifer Gunter



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Monday, July 28, 2008


Oh, Whatever. . .

We just deposited our daughter at college, so I have been moaning about the empty nest. Imagine my surprise to discover underfoot a baby bird not yet launched -- my younger daughter.

Such is the lot of the second child. Even in utero Jenny suffered benign neglect as I consumed the occasional glass of wine.

‘Whatever,’ I’d think.

After an exhausting labor, I could have cared less when the nurses whisked her away to the nursery. Whenever my firstborn pitched a fit, I oozed empathy. With Jenny, I just stepped around her sob-wracked, prostrate body.

“Whatever,” I’d say.

At my older daughter’s college orientation, parents told me how close they had grown to their younger children still at home.

I took note.

So this weekend Jenny and I spent the whole day together. I cheered her on at her track meet, then we gabbed over lunch. We chased down ducks with a pedal boat, then prowled vintage clothing haunts.

I know it won’t be long before she’s rolling her eyes and saying “Whatever” herself. But until then -- I’m going to savor every moment.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Sunday, July 27, 2008


Fresh Flowers Bring Inspiration

What is it about fresh flowers in a vase on a dining table that makes everything in the kitchen seem so much more beautiful?

Is it the color? The arrangement? Nature?

On my weekly shopping to To-Do list fresh flowers are always listed.

I must qualify this. On sale fresh flowers. 

A vase of beauty can be filled weekly for less than four dollars.

Even with crayons, drawings, bills, my computer, and other stray matter surrounding it, all is made more balanced by the wonder that sits in the middle of the table.

My cat, Paris, is delighted as she nibbles on the flowers and leaves. I used to try and shoo her away but it made her sad. Now I let her paw and gnaw with abandon.

Family meals are made brighter knowing the centerpiece is so alive, even if the flowers are so not.

The vase the flowers sit is is a hand-blown, posh wedding gift from an old friend. That makes them even sweeter. It looks like an Impressionist painting, so many colors are within that nearly any flower matches it.

When I am stuck on a word, phrase or thought when writing, I am struck by the beauty of the flowers.

Sometimes, they are all I need for inspiration.

By Dawn Yun

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Saturday, July 26, 2008


To Scout or Not to Scout?

Boy Scouts has become a big part of my family’s time.  My husband hated Boy Scouts as a kid.  His pinewood derby car ended up being a block of wood with wheels.  The other kids, the ones who didn’t have divorced parents, had carved out sleek racing cars with painted stripes.  Peter begged his older brother for help, but did so only half an hour before the big event.

I remember the conversation about Cub Scouts when our boys were little.  We said we’d never support an organization that could exclude the gay population, or any other group of people.

Then our son became intrigued.  He was interested in nothing, but Cub scouts had him raising a single eyebrow: “Well, maybe that sounds good, Mom…”  

He  probably liked the soldier-like feeling of the uniformed pack of boys all in one place.  Then, of course, our second son wanted part of the action.

I have a dear and wonderful group of women, some who are gay, some who are old enough to be my mother, and a couple of them are mothers like me.  We meet once a month on Sunday mornings, and we drink tea while pouring out our souls around the kitchen table.  Hearing my angst about Cubs Scouting, they suggested that I check out something called “Indian Guides.”  I went online, only to discover that they were probably a good organization, but they really didn’t exist in my area.  I gave up on that idea, and for the sake of convenience, was back to scouting again.

Our pinewood derby cars are sort of respectable.  They are somewhere between a block of wood and a lacquered racing car.  Even though I might grumble about the sawdust flying and tools left out everywhere, I am happy to have all my boys working on this project on a Saturday afternoon.

But bringing me back to reality, my husband, my quite, gentle, engineer husband, broke down and had to buy for himself the dreaded “official scout shirt.”  He had been assisting so much with the kids (a really, really good thing, right?) that the other leaders asked for his help.

How did this happen?

But our kids love the hikes and camping.  They don’t go much for team sports, but this is the kind of individual stuff they like. 

We remain conflicted, my husband and I.   We want to support the interests of our kids, but not an organization that excludes.  (I do like the fact that there is one lone girl in the pack – no rules against that, I guess?)

So what do we do?  By the time we figure it out, our children will either lose interest -- or move out of the house. 

By Maria Dudley

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Friday, July 25, 2008


Everybody hates Kombucha

How 'bout that for a TV show name!

I have had this Kombucha culture growing for a little while now. I've been so successful that I can open a Kombucha bottling plant out of my own kitchen.

Unfortunately, no one but me would drink it at home.

Kombucha, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a combination of bacteria and yeast that ferments when added to tea, and is believed to cure certain ills. Coming from China by the way of Russia, it is catching on in America.

Or is it?

I had to do something with jars of the drink I had brewed so I took it to a potluck dinner. I should have described it as something else but Kombucha.

A Life-Prolonging Elixir! A Potency Boosting Potion! Better yet, a Weight-Loss Supplement!

I could have said that Kombucha increases longevity, improves vision, cures asthma, bronchitis, diarrhea, diabetes, cataracts, cancer, insomnia, rheumatism, and get this -- reverses the symptoms of AIDS.

It has all been claimed before.

Just as the Food and Drug Administration, I didn't want to stand behind unproven claims. So I said it was Kombucha and ended up drinking this Immortal Health Elixir of the Qin Dynasty myself.

By Dilyara Breyer

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


The Philosophy of Bad Timing

My four-year old takes the Asking Endless Questions stage seriously.

Like a game show designed to torture multi-tasking mommies, he requires that I deliver a brief, yet definite answer to each question in less than five seconds. If I fail, I will be pelted with increasingly difficult questions faster than I can pant, “Please wait! I need time to think!”

Unfortunately, these aren’t the kind of questions that I can formulate short answers to in a matter of seconds. These are not questions like, “Why can’t I ride my bike now?” Or, “Is tomorrow a school day?” And, “Can I have a snack?”

Instead, I’m asked, “Why is this world here? Why?” and “What happens when people die? How do they die? How?  

These are the questions that make my head hurt.

He fires out test shots throughout the day to check if I’m paying attention.

At breakfast: “Who draws the cereal boxes? Who?”

While we’re trying to leave the house: “How do they color clothes, Mom?  How?”

As I clean up after our sick dog: “Why do dogs do poop all over the place? Why?”

try to focus, stay calm and show no external signs of panic or uncertainty.

But, he can sniff out less than fully present Mom faster than our dog can sniff out a treat. Catching me unaware, he pockets the test questions and pulls out the automatic questioning weapon. Then the bullets fly:

“How do our eyes see? How? Where do birds live? Where? Why are there so many strangers in this worldWhy? How do we make trees? How? Why are you a girl? Why, Mom? Why?”

Like the dictation tests I failed in college Spanish, each question whizzes by as I try, hopelessly, to catch just one.

“Why, Mom? Why?”

Please don’t smugly suggest, “Well, what do you think?” I’ve tried that. His response: Major eye rolling accompanied by a whiny, “Mom! I’m asking you!” Then he loudly repeats the question as if I might have a hearing problem.

Ditto for my favorite teacher response, “Hmmm… that’s an interesting question. How could we research the answer?”

He scolds, “Mom! Don’t say ‘interesting’! Don’t say that.” And then, agitated, he repeats the question.

I love his curious mind. Really, I do. It is adorable, challenging, funny…. just not when I’m cleaning up dog shit and vomit while the baby screams, the phone rings, we need to leave the house in the next five minutes, and I haven’t even brushed my teeth. 

So, recently, when my four-year-old and I had an hour alone together, I was ready to philosophize. Brain uncluttered. A good night’s sleep.  No interruptions. Out in our garden. What better time and place to have a meaningful conversation?

Hit me with your best questions, kid. I’m ready.

Apparently, the questioner was out to lunch. 

My son was content to swing his Spiderman action figure from bush to bush, occasionally calling, “Look, Mom!” to show off a new Spidey move. In that entire hour, he only asked one question. “Can I have a snack?” 

Why? Why?

By Maya Creedman

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Kevin Costner is My Guru

My good friend Kevin Costner came for breakfast Sunday morning.

OK, not in real life, but via “Parade” in “The SF Chronicle.”

I was having one of those days where I think the world is mad at me, and I wonder if I should even continue with writing since if everyone is mad at me, they won’t want to read me.

Do I really want to put myself out there?

What if people don't like me (yes, to be read like a whiney fourth grader) or what if I fail? Blah, blah, blah.

Annoying, really, but these thoughts had taken residence in my brain.

While I tried to Zen these thoughts away, something in large print caught my eye on the kitchen table. It was a quote from Kevin Costner, "Don't let fear hold you back."

OK, sign noted, so I read the article. Truth be told, I'm not a big follower of movie stars. I’d take a run-in with Allende or Lamott any day.

But Costner was my guru for the day as he said, “We’re afraid of a lot of things in life. It’s part of the human condition. What do we fear? Love? Failure? Telling the truth about ourselves? I think we don’t show people all we truly are because we’re afraid that if they actually know everything about us, they won’t love us. I’m as guilty of that as anyone.”

His words comforted me.

We’re all in this together (not to be sung like “High School Musical.”) 

Ugh, but now that song’s in my head. At least it’s not “Kumbaya.”

By Kristy Lund

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Hanging Onto Hair

I got my hair chopped. Chopped as in scissors liberally snipping at my increasingly exposed scalp. A salon chair surrounded by little piles of my locks. And the white skin on the back of my neck revealed for the first time in years.

I went in for a “trim” and left with seriously short hair.

To be fair, there was an ‘interim’ haircut between my longer hair and this pixie do. That haircut was a great “tousled” look, layered and funky. Friends commented on my “cute do” and offered how flattering it was. The cut was a change and a welcomed one.

Today I happily plopped myself back down in the salon chair with my outgrown hairstyle, fully expecting a return to that fun look.

I could tell things were going differently than expected when I saw the stylist’s pointed shears angled farther and farther up the hairline, but I decided to see where this venture would go given my full faith in my hair stylist.

I followed her discerning eye as she pulled sections of my hair with a fine comb before snipping closely this way and that. Fun, flippy wisps of wet locks appeared.

She commented on the way the “line” of the hair was flowing and for once in my life I caught on to the lingo.

I did notice that the sides seemed a lot higher and that my long bangs were now short. It was definitely a different look, but what do I know?

You see, I’m not a hair person. I guess if I had gorgeous thick hair resembling a shampoo ad that requires a saw to cut through I would worship my locks. But while I have a lot of hair, it’s baby fine. It’s no lion’s mane, even when it falls past my shoulders.

In my youth I pined for the dazzling photos of happy girls with thick, curly hair. I fully expected that the right hair cut or perm would accomplish the same for me. A bad bowl haircut and Mom’s sponge curlers with extra Dippity-Do couldn’t manage such a feat. Neither could the many perms I endured back then – that created serious trauma to hair and psyche.

Poodle perms are never good for adolescence.

Various styles captured the years (yes, even an attempt at feathered hair with lots of hair spray). Somewhere post-college I realized, through all the different hairstyles, the short, and the long, that my hair grew.

So why not just try new styles and see what works?

Even so, it’s hard to embrace short hair when long hair is worshipped everywhere. I can’t recall the last time I saw short hair on a fashion magazine cover. Within the glossy pages models flaunt their lustrous, flowing and healthy locks, which graze the cleavage of sexy sundresses and playfully cover exposed shoulder blades.

Celebrities, desperate to emulate the look, glue-gun yardstick lengths of fake hair to their heads.

I have girlfriends who swear that they will never cut their hair. One announced that she will be an old women with long locks twisted atop her head in a Kaiser roll bun.

But why?

There is a baffling security of keep hair “long” even if it doesn’t “work for you” (i.e. looks dumpy, frumpy and just brings down your face). Shouldn’t face-drooping hair be in the same category as Mom sweats worn all day? Ditto for hair left wet and pulled tightly back into a big plastic butterfly clip?

There is something about hair just hanging limply like a dishrag that reminds me of an old rock star still trying to hold on to his long hair. Honey, sometimes we need to change with the times and accept what is – and isn’t.

My husband looked stunned when I arrived home with my new look, and then offered,  “But it looks really good.”

My eight-year old, who’s our truth serum confessed, “I don’t like you with short hair but I notice your beautiful face so I like it.”

That was the best.

Hair grows. Styles change, as does our appearance as we age.

Perhaps we need to celebrate what we have, rather than what we wish we did. And for me right now that means short hair. Maybe next will be a longer short style.

As I acclimate to this newest change, I must confess that I’m trying to determine whether adding a headband will make my hair look longer. And as I do, I imagine a lion’s mane cascading down my back.

Change might take time but it’s still good.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Monday, July 21, 2008


Mohawks & Curly Hair

Unlike most babies who look like old men with their sweet, bald heads, my son was born with a shock of blonde hair.

In his hospital pictures, Gabriel’s hair stands up in a Mohawk, looking like a teenager seeking attention. Only instead of wearing the accompanying scowl and studded bracelets, Gabe is shrieking, pink-faced, kicking his feet from where they’re bundled into his tiny yellow onesie.

I can’t deny that I was smitten by that hair from the very beginning. As he grew, his Mohawk morphed into white-blonde curls that began to fall around his face.  By the time he was two, they’d expanded into a mop.  But there was something about the way the cork-screw curls flopped around his head as he waddle-walked that brought smiles to people’s faces. 

Only our nanny disapproved. “He looks like girl,” she scolded in her broken English as she combed her own daughter’s jet-black hair into orderly ponytails and nailed them down with bright-colored ribbons. “He looks like messy,” she said under her breath. 

I didn’t care. I refused to let anyone else cut Gabe’s hair, making sure to snip off only the bare minimum. 

We got used to total strangers’ regular commentary. “Where’d you get those curls?” the older ladies would ask Gabe. At three years old, the question perplexed him; by four, he just smiled before he shrugged and ran off. 

“Oh those curls,” women were always saying with longing. “If you only knew how much we pay to copy these,” they’d say while petting Gabriel’s head like it was an irresistible puppy.

Then at five years old, other boys started getting buzz cuts.  To me, they looked like stock issued GI-Joe dolls with matching molded plastic heads. 

“I hate these curls,” I caught Gabriel saying one day as he stared miserably into a mirror after kindergarten.  

“Why?” I choked. 

“Girls like curls,” he grimaced, trying unsuccessfully to flatten out his hair.

My husband and Gabriel began making noises about a father-son trip to the barbershop.

“Think of all the money we’ve saved over the years,” I tried to bargain with my husband.  “Twelve dollars a month in seven years. That’s almost a thousand dollars!” I enthused. 

When Gabe was eight, they launched a surprise attack, setting off for the barber without telling me. When they returned, I thought Gabe looked awful.  Like a pinhead, barely recognizable as himself. 

“It’s what he wanted,” my husband shrugged as I fumed at him behind a closed door. “It’s his hair.” 

I couldn’t wait for those curls to grow back. 

Now Gabe is nine and I know my husband’s right. I have to let go, mostly because if I keep making such a big deal I’ll only push Gabe to exert his independence even further. 

For now, he’s decided he wants his hair ‘medium short,’ and those beautiful curls are not meant to be.

Just wait, I think. Time is in my favor with his hair. As he once said – “Girls like curls.”

By Mary Beth McClure

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Sunday, July 20, 2008


Blah, Blah, Blah

It might be the mind-numbing aspects that often have me despising my 24/7 job. The pleasant and unpleasant things you have to do over and over every day.

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

It is more the lack of choice.

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

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

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

I’ll have to compensate. Though my usual mind-numbing task of bathing the kids takes place at night, I will instead do it before my morning coffee.

Something to look forward to. The coffee, that is.

Yet, it is also the sounds of laughter when the water comes out of the faucet and the look of glee in their faces when something as simple as bubbles form.

It is about noticing the small moments and trying not to lose it too much over the more trying ones.

This allows me to get through the daily blahs.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy

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Saturday, July 19, 2008


OK, So I'm Not So Good at Finding Things

My talent for losing things is coupled with an inability to locate those misplaced items.

I mainly lose keys, wallets, glasses, and important letters that must be mailed today! Since I’m the kind of person whose heart starts thumping at the threat of potential tardiness, missing car keys and wallets tend to result in an anxious, but unproductive, searching frenzy that makes my entire family miserable.

For the past five years, I’ve held onto the belief that this is all due to hormonal changes from pregnancy and too much multi-tasking. It isn’t anything that intensive yoga and a few more years won’t correct naturally.  

In the meantime, “locating missing items” is at the top of my husband’s list of responsibilities. Once (OK, maybe twice), I searched the entire house for my car keys, throwing sofa cushions across the room, emptying wastebaskets, buckets of bath toys, and even frisking my own children.  

That night, my husband went straight to my purse.

“Obviously, I’ve looked in there,” I snapped. “I’m not a complete idiot!”

Calmly, he reached into the side pocket and removed my keys.

“Oh,” I said.

After that, when I called my husband at work, he’d answer by saying, “What did you lose?” or simply, “Inside pocket of your jacket in the closet.”

Even though his almost paranormal ability to find things is essential to my sanity, it is still completely irritating. After all, it feels a tiny bit condescending when I’m digging through the closets surrounded by jackets, shoes and assorted athletic gear looking for swimming goggles and my husband pulls them out of a swim bag.

Couldn’t he at least pretend to be surprised?

Last night, I gathered together the necessities before leaving for The Writing Mamas Salon. “Honey, where are my licorice mints?” I asked my husband.

“Bedroom. Top of the bookshelf,” he responded from the kitchen.

Right. Of course.

In the car, I rummaged through my purse looking for my glasses.

“Bye, Mom!” my four-year-old son, Kai, called from the deck.

I rolled down the window. “Can you ask Daddy if he knows where my glasses are?” I asked.

“Up high, in the place for glasses,” Kai told me as if I’d just asked him the location of my car.

I glanced at the sunglass holder above the rear-view mirror and then back at my son.

Tentatively, I opened the holder and my glasses fell into my hand. No way.

“Thanks,” I whispered looking up at Kai with new respect.

He shrugged. “I’m just a good finder.”

Maybe it is time to stop making excuses and admit that I am just… not.

By Maya Creedman

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Friday, July 18, 2008


Fearless Toddler, Frightened Mama

We are at a beach in China Camp.  It is nine in the morning, pleasantly warm, but overcast.  My seventeen-month old daughter wobble-walks solo in the rocky sand.  My nearly six-year old son is next to me on the beach as we make our way to the lapping waves. 

My oldest child fires off a string of questions.  “Mama, can I go into the water?  Can I swim?  Do I need to wear shoes? Mama, are there sharks here?” 

He holds my hand until he sees things at his feet that interest him.  Suddenly, he stoops to gather special stones and sea glass from the beach, and carefully places these treasures into his bucket. 

My son excitedly shouts, “Look at the fish jumping out of the water!”  He hops up and down and points.  Then he skip-runs to catch up to me. 

He looks where I am looking.

I watch his sister marching ahead of us, getting rocky sand in my shoes as I pick up my pace.  He urgently warns me that she is almost at the water’s edge and hurries with me in a quest to restrain her from going in unattended. 

My daughter has a pail in one dimpled hand, a shovel in the other.  Her diapered bottom makes her walk with her knees out, as if she is saddle sore.  She confidently toddles toward the calm water.  The little one is almost there.  There is no regard for safety, or for my warning, “Wait for Mama!”  She has no concern for her unbuckled, pink shoe or for the floppy hat that just blew off her head. 

The girl marches on. 

She reaches the water’s edge, and continues her march into the Bay, squealing with glee.  Her brother manages to distract her by asking if she wants a cookie, while doing a silly dance.  She stops momentarily, looks back at him, and shouts, “Coo-key!”  

My youngest is three steps in.  The water level reaches her diapered bottom and thrillingly makes her teeter.

She is elated. 

I feel panic.  I run the last few steps, splash into the water, grab her wrist, and steady her.

I am relieved… and wet. 

My son is cautious.  My daughter takes risks.  Part of it is experience (or lack thereof).  He is four and a half years older than she, but part of it is just in one’s nature.  From where does her propensity for risk-taking come?  I would never voluntarily parachute from an airplane, or dive with sharks, or travel abroad without reservations.  Neither would my husband, (or my son for that matter). 

She will.  I am certain.

By Jennifer Taekman

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Thursday, July 17, 2008


Teddy Bear Dick

I’m at my computer sending off a morning e-mail to a friend before I leave for work. My son, George, walks over to me and stands near the chair.

“Yes?” I say, still looking at the screen.

“Thomas called me a teddy bear dick,’’ my ten-year old son announces.

I stop typing.

Did I hear him correctly? I try not to laugh. Who would put those two images together?

I turn to look at my blond, green-eyed, athletic son, dressed in his school required khaki slacks and navy polo shirt. I find myself thinking: you don’t look like a soft, round, stuffed animal.

I compose myself.

Name calling is a serious matter. I sit up straight in my chair. “Who’s Thomas? Is he in daycare or school?”


“Did you tell the teacher?”

“Yes. She told him to stop, but he kept doing it.”

“I can have Daddy call her today and if Thomas doesn’t stop you need to tell the teacher again.”

“Okay.” George looks down.

I can see I haven’t quite comforted him.

“I’m sorry Thomas called you names," I say, as he lifts his head and looks into my eyes. “But it’s a really silly thing to say in the first place.”

“Why?” he asks.

“Because teddy bears don’t have penises.”

The words escape my mouth before I can evaluate if they are the right ones.

But George always makes me feel comfortable, as if I can just be me and say anything -- even things maybe mothers aren’t suppose to say so easily, like penis.

I hope he knows he is safe to be who he is with me, too.

He smiles and I picture a furry, round bellied brown bear in my mind.

I join him as he laughs.

By Patricia Ljutic


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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Sex, Freedom and the Older Mama

Recently, I went to see the film version of Sex and The City with a friend who, like myself, is a mom in her sixties.  She said the movie is about sex.  I said it's about freedom.

A few years ago I sounded just like my friend, until I watched the HBO series with my daughters. 

"Mom, you're not going to like it," my twenty-year old tells me.

"Why not?"

"There's a lot of sex," my twenty-one year old chimes in.

"So what?" These girls weren't even alive in the sixties when my generation was promoting "free love and sex."

One Sunday night my girls call me to watch Sex and The City with them.

As I head for the living room I see a naked couple on the TV having erotic sex in a pool.

"Oh, my God!"

"We told you."

I became immersed in the stories of these four women in their thirties living in New York City:  Carrie, a writer and sex columnist; Samantha, a PR executive; Charlotte, an art dealer; and Miranda, a corporate lawyer.  Initially, I thought these women represented the antithesis of what my generation of feminists fought for.  They seemed only concerned with designer clothes and the men they dated.  We were hippies and political activists. We ran barefoot in the parks.  We didn't stroll on Fifth Avenue in six-inch heels.

Designers were out, freedom was in.

I told my girls that if it weren’t for the 1960's Women's Movement there wouldn't be a TV series like Sex and The City.

"Later for the history lesson, Mom.  Times have changed."

"Precisely my point!" I said.

I wanted to tell them that these women can chose to have lovers because my generation promoted "sexual liberation" and the birth control pill.           

We challenged stereotypes limiting women's roles in jobs and education and the idea that females must marry and have children to be "real" women.

We valued women's friendships. Girlfriends for life, rather than girlfriends until married.

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda can stroll down the streets of Manhattan, arm in arm, laughing confidently because they are living the lives they chose: Miranda, decided to raise a child with her ex because she had a career and the means to be a single parent.  Charlotte chose to give up her career and become a wife and mother. Samantha decided to have a young lover stand beside her as she faced breast cancer. And Carrie chose to write about all their escapades because women are free to have them now.

What I discovered after watching this series was that these women's lives actually did represent what my generation of activists believed in: women are free to choose their own destinies. While some may not like the choices they make, the point is that they can make them. 

Some things haven't changed.

Forty years after the 1960's Women's Movement we are still debating whether women's rights is about sex or freedom.  My daughters' generation better keep marching for choice, even in six-inch heels.

By Marilee Stark


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Bonjour Books

Planning for my family’s June vacation to France started months before the trip. 

One of my first considerations was what books I would bring.  Paperbacks for sure.  No lugging of hard backs.  Adam Gopnick’s book of essays, Paris to the Moon, was the first book in my France stack. 

An eye-catching cover in blues and yellows with the name French Dirt caught my eye at Book Passage and that was the second.  I’d avoided Peter Mayle’s classic, A Year in Provence.  I wanted something a bit less known.  But when I found it used for six dollars, I added it as the third and last book for my time in Paris and Provence.

The books called to me from their shelf in my bedroom closet.  I’d run my hand over their firm edges and waiver in my resolve to wait until the plane took off. 

I held my desires in check.

I cracked open Paris to the Moon as soon as I could see clouds from my window seat.  The description on the back cover said the author had moved from New York to Paris with his wife and baby, and the essays were about their family life. 

Well, not really. 

The essays, brilliantly written, were more about French politics and cultural observances.  Little mention of the writer’s family was made.  Not what I was looking for.

I read about half the book before I switched to A Year in Provence.  The writing and nonfiction stories just did not grab me, even as I toured the area in which the book was set. 

I started French Dirt and alternated among the three for the rest of the trip.  I usually read one book at a time, from first page to last.  I did finish French Dirt, by Richard Goodman, about his year of living in Provence and tending his garden.  A pleasant read and my favorite of the three, but not quite enough depth for me.

I’m home now and ambivalent about finishing the other two.

I think the main issue with the books is that I didn’t find myself in them.  I now have my own story to write of an American family’s travels in France.  A grand story of love and adventure that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. 

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Monday, July 14, 2008


Humping Symphony

We are sitting outside in San Francisco’s Stern Grove, waiting for the symphony concert to begin. I am proudly seated between my son Alex, nine, and my boyfriend. This outing was inspired by me trying to make sure that my child grows up to be a well-rounded and cultured individual.

All is quiet as musicians are taking their seats. Suddenly, two fuzzy bumblebees land on the snow-white tablecloth right in front of our wine, cheese and crackers. Ever so fond of bugs, Alex and I both smile at them adoringly. One of the bumblebees climbs the other’s back, and starts humping.

I kid you not.

This was not some discreet bug-on-bug action. We’re talking humping away like two horny rabbits.

My son looks at me and asks, “Mom, do you know what they're doing?”

I quickly decide that now is not the right time and place for a proverbial birds and bees conversation, and instead opt for a pathetic, “Hmmm, I don’t know… playing? Giving each other piggy back rides?”

Alex looks at me with pity and says, “Mom, they're mating!”

He then proceeds to fill me in on the details of insects’ intercourse that he apparently read in his library book. I listen and politely nod, feeling like an idiot and a prude.

The symphony starts playing, and now the bumblebees are humping in rhythm to some upbeat Hungarian melody. I elbow my boyfriend and point at them. We both start giggling. Alex puts his finger to his mouth to shush us, and looks at the musicians.

My boyfriend picks up a small twig and starts poking at the bumblebees in an attempt to make them go away to some private spot. One of them gets on the stick and starts humping the stick, in synchronization with the musical rhythms.

We can’t stop giggling, and I finally let out a loud snort. Alex shoots me one of my very own, “I am gonna kill you if you don’t shut up right now!” looks, and hisses, “Mom, what’s so funny? They’re just mating.”

Unable to stop giggling, my boyfriend and I stumble from the table and run to the bathrooms, where we can finally laugh out loud until we have tears in our eyes.

The symphony keeps on playing that upbeat, humping Hungarian song.

By Svetlana Nikitina


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Sunday, July 13, 2008


Disneyland as an Endurance Test

On our return to our hotel we pass a mother who’s lecturing loudly to her two young boys about how each of their toys are identical. What is implied by her speech is that they should each be grateful and perhaps -- not test Mama anymore.

What I see are two little children trying to stand attentive while their small frames shake with exhaustion, little lips quivering and dark, tired eyes welled with tears. Their eyes don’t meet their mother’s glare but seek out the strangers walking past.

How I feel for them.

What’s apparently not clear to their mother, who’s focused on her rant, is that it’s past ten p.m., non-Disney time, and they are all exhausted.

At Disneyland time is a concept ordered by parades, twice daily, meal stops and how long it will take to stand in line for a ride.

Time is also a relation. If that rides means a forty-five-minute wait, then let’s wait in this thirty-minute line first. Three rides may mean one hour of ‘real’ time passing, the majority of it standing.

Consider also that if you’re a family on a tight budget you probably also want to get your money’s worth given the pricey entrance fee so the day is spent trying to stretch the experience further.

Everywhere I see little children wilting on their parents' shoulders or begging to do so as their parents look baffled at their offspring’s “bad behavior.” Parents hiss, “knock it off.” Children wail. Others are dragged by raised arms back into the long line they attempted to escape. Whimpers and more wails almost drown out the loud “Be our best!” music blasting from a nearby parade.

These dark memories from our recent trip over a hot holiday weekend compel me to offer the following gentle suggestions on how to actually enjoy Disneyland:

1. Bring a backpack.

Stock small, sport-top water bottles, one for each child. Also bring along a squirt bottle to help beat the heat while waiting in line. (The water bottle fans offered at the park are a whopping seventeen dollars). Bring along healthy snacks since the park is loaded with short-energy sugar-drop snacks. Cracker packets, cheese sticks, trail mix are all great energy boosters.

2. Don’t forget the sun block!

 The Southern California sun is intense. Remember to slather on another layer mid-day. Don’t park the stroller in the sun.

3.  Keep on real time.

Twelve to one p.m. is lunchtime: the kids are hungry and tired. Three to four p.m. may be a good break time: the kids are hungry and tired. Stop for dinner five to six p.m.: the kids are hungry and tired. If you’re planning to stay at the park through the nine-twenty nightly fireworks show, take a longer midday break: the kids are hungry and tired. There’s an obvious theme here. The kids convey it all over the park.

4. Rent a stroller or two.

The park demands a tremendous amount of walking which can tax little legs. We see our three kids visibly relax while taking turns reclining in the two strollers we rent each day. Our pace through the park avoids the “come on, come on” drag commonly seen with young kids.

5. Be mindful of your child’s limitations.

You may be in Fantasyland but a three-year old is still going to raise a fuss if tempted by sweets or a plethora of toys during naptime. Fears about the dark or sudden jolts are still quite real at Disneyland. From a child’s perspective that cute character may resemble a hulking furry huge-eyed monster so don’t force an intimate hug.

6. Take a moment to enjoy and capture memories.

Rather than racing through the crowd to reach a Disney character or get to another ride, notice your children and try to see Disneyland through their eyes. The look on our two-year old’s face when she saw Cinderella’s Castle (“my pink palace!”) for the first time was priceless. That’s the magic that Walt Disney wants us all to share as a family. 

And these are the memories our children should be allowed to bring back home from the Happiest Place on Earth.

By Maija Threlkeld




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Saturday, July 12, 2008


Sex and the City


Dinner out!

A movie!

With my girlfriends. 

How very adult! 

After Japanese food, four friends and I went to see "Sex and the City." 

It was fun to see where Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte were in their lives. How much those lives had changed, but how little their friendships had differed.

Candace Bushnell, who wrote the book, "Sex and the City," upon which the TV series and movie are based, once said (with apologies) that you can live without a man, but without girlfriends, you're dead.

She's right. 

The secrets. The innermost thoughts. The shared experiences. The trust. The laughs. The nights out. The coffee. The wine. The years.

With family and age, life may not be as carefree as it once was, but it is more nuanced, richer and blessed. 

I stretched out being 18 until I was nearly 40. That string could NOT have been any tighter. It was frayed and I was beginning to hear pings. 

I had done my adventurous travels. I had lived in lots of cities. I had a number of careers. I dated different men. I did so many crazy things. 

Throughout -- I always had girlfriends. 

The movie confirmed just how important they are and will always be. 

There is a moment in the film where the friends celebrate funny, crazy, ageless Samantha's fiftieth birthday. The camera pans across the restaurant and briefly in view are four younger, single women out to find their own sex in the city. 

The camera returns to the movie's fab four. Their conversation reflects that new lives do not mean that old ones end, simply that situations might change while the wine and conversation still flow -- as long as you make time for them.

In the theatre, watching the film, my friends and I were all vicariously young and single again. Once the lights came up -- and several of us had to go to the bathroom because at this age it's not so easy to hold it in -- we returned to our cars and drove home to our families.

But not before we vowed to go out at night more frequently. 

Our lives may no longer be sex in the city, it may not even be the city, but we will go out. As Cyndi Lauper said, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

That's exactly what my friends and I plan to do.

By Dawn Yun


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Friday, July 11, 2008


Bribes are the Junk Food of Honesty

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. “


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, July 09, 2008


Real Life Snapped Between All the Kodak Moments

Standing in the kitchen at the brink of dawn, I'm not quite awake, so I don't want the junior paparazzi capturing the moment. But I've grown accustomed to the photographs, so much so that I often don't notice them being taken any longer.

The pictures I take of our family are the life moments I want to remember, the "cute" ones: the first day of school, a baby with food all over his face, my two boys eating popsicles on the front step.

My husband takes amazing photographs of nature, including a pair of frog lovers preparing to bring new tadpoles into the waterways of College of Marin. He also photographs our boys, zoomed in with serious expressions or action shots of them riding their bikes.

I prefer the smiling ones.

For Christmas, my son received a digital camera with video function. I wondered if it was too advanced. But by his fourth birthday, he knew all the settings and could independently take pictures and videos, even viewing and deleting the ones he no longer wanted.

I'm intrigued by what captures my son's interest. Not exceptional events, but the ordinary moments of daily life. His favorite video subject is his trains. Sometimes the camera even takes a ride, videoing the whole trip.

My son also likes to run through the house with the video on, saying, "Here's my room, here's my brudder and heeeeere's Mama!" Pan to me, in my pajamas with major bed head. To my defense, it's only seven in the morning, but this is something I would not have chosen to capture on memory stick myself. Or the time he was videoing his trains, and you can hear me (quite clearly) talking on the phone about how I'd been having a hard time, but am thankfully feeling better now.

But this is life.

The hard times, the better times, the bed head. Why not preserve them along with the rest of the happy moments? My son even captured me scolding him and his brother in the infamous "train tracks in the potty" incident. The camera lay innocently on the floor, on video mode unbeknownst to me.

I will continue with my Kodak moments, and my husband and son will continue with theirs. Somewhere between the three, we're probably capturing a fairly accurate slice of our daily life.

Yesterday, my youngest son, who is only two years old, begged me to use the digital camera. I reluctantly handed it over, saying, "Be careful…"

While I wasn't looking, he somehow changed it to video mode and we now have a video of his dimpled feet performing with the kitchen cupboard as the backdrop. Then, a moment later, the camera dropped, thud, onto the floor. The video ends with me saying, "No more camera," and taking it away. The camera survived, but I realized it may be time for him to have his own camera.

With a fourth photographer in the family, we have one more perspective.

By Kristy Lund

Originally published in the Marin IJ, June 17, 2008:


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Children Go Through Changes, Just Like Parents Do

Sometimes my son hits his friends.

Mostly just his very best friends. Like today when he walloped sweet little Michael squarely in the middle of his forehead with a plastic watering can. The sound, a distinct crack, horrified us all. As the victim’s mom swooped her sobbing toddler up into her arms -- I panicked. I was like the unwitting accomplice to an assault I had no idea was going to go down.

But I’d missed the signs and now it was all my fault. He’s only three. “I a hitter,” he said to me recently. Sentences are new for him and verbs don’t always make it in.

How did I come to raise a hitter? I wanted to cry. Even though Michael’s mom and I are solid friends and respect each other as parents, only tense goodbyes were exchanged as my son and I escaped the poolside crime scene as quickly as possible.

We could not get showered and dressed fast enough, what with the weight of guilt for two dragging me down. Driving away, I wished that if it had to happen, I could be the hitter and my son’s innocence might be preserved.

By the time we got home, my racing mind felt a little frayed at the edges. I called someone who knows how to really listen and let the tears roll.

We count a couple of biters and a pincher among our close circle and we love them all. I’ve always done my best to be a parents’ ally in these situations, even if their angelic offspring left bite marks.

Together we’d brainstorm strategies, align ourselves on the appropriate responses and support each others’ struggles to raise gentle, compassionate children.

“One day the violence will end,” a friend replied when I confessed our sins of the day.

It’s agony to see your child get hurt. Now I’ve seen the view from the other side -- and I know how much that hurts, too.

By Katherine Csizmadia


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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Though Summer, A Mother Writes a Valentine to Her Children

I have found in the raising of five children that sometimes it is better not to talk.
Write a letter. We choose our words better when writing than speaking in the moment.

This letter was sent to all five of my children. At the time some were at the university, some in high school and one in grade school.

I remember nursing you,
Completely aware;
How soon passing.
How soon passing.
It will never be like this again.

I remember swinging you,
How soon passing.
How soon passing.
It will never be the same.

I remember your first step,
How soon passing.
How soon passing.
I am blessed to see this.

I remember carpooling,
Listening to your chatter;
How soon passing.
How soon passing.
Thanks for these moments.

And when you're grown and on your own,
I'm glad that at the time I knew;
How soon passing.
How soon passing.
It will never be the same.

But I took time to record each moment,
Every stage, memories rich to call upon.
Knowing that I took advantage of those moments;
How soon passing.
How soon passing.

That created a new you, a new me.
Love Mom

P.S. Other kids are lucky! Their moms sent Hallmark cards!!!

By Ruth Scott


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Monday, July 07, 2008


Daddy Stays IN the Picture

“I’m drawing you, but Daddy’s not going to be in the picture.”

An innocent enough statement made by my four-year-old daughter, but it’s one, I suddenly realize, that cuts to the quick, articulating my deepest sense of childhood loss.

She’s lucky. Her statement is indeed harmless. Her daddy’s here. And he’s good.

He’s here to read stories to her and her brother on the couch, even as he starts to mumble and slur his words while falling asleep after a day at dental school.

He’s here to fix the trail-a-bike and attach it to his own bicycle for all our sunny weekend rides. He’s here to make her whole wheat pancakes for breakfast. And he’s here to get her up to use the bathroom at midnight so she can wake up dry and warm in her morning bed.

Oh, I ache.

I ache for those years of knowing my dad was across town, but that I couldn’t see him every day. I ache for years of flinching when other kids would say “Mom and Dad” in the same sentence. And now I ache for these years ahead of me describing a grandpa my children will never know because he died 10 years before their births.

How conflicting to lament my own loss and yet rejoice in my children’s gain.

My children are getting what I wanted -- the luxury of saying “Daddy” with certainty and familiarity. The comfort of watching their father kiss their mother in the hallway. And the security to draw their family with or without their daddy because they know that he's always in the picture.

By Anjie Reynolds


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Sunday, July 06, 2008


Don't Let Them Grow Up So Fast!

My daughter turns two tomorrow and I am alternately amazed at how fast and yet how slow our time together thus far has seemed.

Fast because ever since she was born, my life seems to flash by at the speed of light – wake up, get kid, dress kid, walk dog, feed kid, feed dog, work, shop, get kid, feed kid, bathe kid, read story, read another story, read the last story, put on nightlight, give hug, give kiss, get glass of water, make sure all stuffed animals are present, hug, kiss, say goodnight, repeat.

Slow because reading The Very Busy Spider three times in a row really makes it seem like a very looong story.

because I am always running after someone who I’ve only managed to get one shoe on.

Slow because getting the second shoe on takes forever because she insists that “I do myself!”

Fast because I can go an entire day now without even noticing that I haven’t yet taken a shower (I work from home, so that’s not as bad as it sounds.)

Slow because you spend a LOT of time in the bathroom when you are helping your toddler use the potty. . .

“Are you done now?”


“All done now?”


“How about now?”

Slow, too, because a walk around the block turns into an hour-long adventure where trees are hugged, flowers are picked, rocks are collected, and mommy finally stops to enjoy the beautiful fall day and see the world through her daughter’s eyes – a world where ants are amazing and extra big fallen leaves are a huge find.

And, too, too fast because I want to hang on to every slobbery kiss and sticky hug before she doesn’t want to give them anymore, because I know I’ll never remember all the funny things she says, because someday, much sooner than I ever could have realized, I will long for the days when I had to read The Very Busy Spider three times in a row.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka


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Saturday, July 05, 2008


Gotta Get Those Mama Muscles in Shape!

I was in the best shape of my life after having two kids. I walked almost every day. When they were trapped in their respective backpack and baby jogger -- I owned the trail. My loyal dog led the way and I kept up. I could go for miles, the two of them happily bouncing along with me.

Soon they wanted to walk on their own and the pace slowed considerably. Gone were the workouts. Now we were exploring. Examining every bug, rock, etc. We took our time and covered less ground but who cared?

We had all the time in the world.

Now my kids are older and so am I. Our days are filled with school and activities and laundry and errands. There are days when the only part of me that gets exercise is my patience.

I may not do my sit-ups everyday but I certainly practice my cleansing breaths while my 4- year old manipulates the seat belt by himself.

Every morning flies by. If I don’t go first thing, before I know it there is no time for a walk. It seems like everything takes longer. Every errand is filled with questions and explanations.

Now when I get the chance to walk the dog by myself, I find myself wishing one of my kids were with me so I can point out something along the way. My dog is enthusiastic but more interested in chasing birds than observing them.

Soon my kids will both be in school full-time and I will be back at work. I will join a gym and get “real” workouts. It will be nice to have my time back to myself -- to really get back into shape.

For now, we still have all the time in the world to get where we are going.

by Cathy Burke


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Friday, July 04, 2008


Allowing Your Child's Personality to Emerge

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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Thursday, July 03, 2008


You Gotta Keep Moving, Moving, Moving. . .

Turns out that writing for The Writing Mamas head honcho Dawn is not so foreboding after all.

Here I was thinking my penned thoughts on her group would be dismissed as pure drivel, but instead she gave me heads up super positive feedback. This only encourages me to write more, which is what I am in her group to do.

So why not begin with real life Mama drama?

This week is full of surprises as my twenty-five year old daughter is making a big decision to move into San Francisco with a longtime sisterly girlfriend.

I am excited for her again as she has given me many opportunities to rise to her occasions of life changes, accomplishments and edgy, fun antics with her friends.

It will give us a longer distance to bridge as being the nature lover that I am -- finding reasons to go into San Francisco just do not happen a lot.

Even though she claims I do not visit her very often where she lives now in Sausalito, she forgets to include the drop-ins at our home in Mill Valley, which we enjoy together on pretty much a weekly basis.

Thankfully we will still have our shared office days together as we divide the same two-room insurance business space. Aside from our water cooler chitchat, this move of hers could bring me to a new phase in my mindset where visits to her San Francisco haunts become inviting times for me, too.

My twenty-year old son is giving me reason to be thankfully surprised as his new apartment situation in Mill Valley is turning out to be a huge positive change to his lifestyle as a young bachelor.

It is amazing to me how he works so hard full time as a city groundskeeper and still manages to have a positive attitude about keeping our family dates intact. I find many opportunities in our regular meetings to want to mimic his relaxed emotional cues with easy going feelings of my own.

Still, he is aware of how his sister’s move to San Francisco is a huge change to our once tight-knit Marin living, so he, too, will have some adjusting to do when it comes to finding time to hang out with her.

All in all knowing how many times I wanted to live in San Francisco where the eclectic mix of energy, diversity, and cultural entertainment meets a person so much quicker than mellower Marin: my daughter’s opportunities to enrich her life will overflow.

I can only be a happy cheerleading Mama and encourage this growth period transition with smiles and hugs as I find that to be the most comforting stance.

By Cynthia Rovero


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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


A Mother Learns How to Swim

I learned a lot about education by not teaching my four-year-old daughter how to swim last summer.

From September to June, I work as a science teacher.  When I took Elena to the pool for the first time last summer, I decided I would teach her to swim since I was a credentialed professional, unlike the teens that staffed the swim school. 

"Come on, kick, kick, kick."

After we were ten feet from the cement pool stairs, Elena began to sob. "Mama, take me back to the steps."

"I'm holding you," I said. Elena stopped swimming and curled her legs around me. She would not budge until we were back at the steps. "Hey Elena, when you were two you let me take you out further than this," I said, more to myself than to her.

I continued the swim lesson near the cement steps to the annoyance of everyone trying to get in and out of the pool.  I had Elena sit on the side. "Come on, you've done a sit jump before. Just slip in. I'll catch you."

"No, I'm scared."

Elena wouldn't budge. The ‘cling to mama routine’ continued day after day.  Desperate, I decided to try bribery.

"Elena, if you jump in three times for me I'll get you a Beanie Baby."

"That's not fair," said Elena’s six-year old brother, Walker, "You don’t give me toys for swimming."

"OK, OK. If Elena jumps in three times I'll get you a Beanie Baby, too, if you encourage her."

As Elena was getting into her swimming suit she said, "I'm going to do it, Mama, so I can get a pink doggie."

I jumped into the icy water and waited for Elena's leap. She didn’t move. I picked her up, but as usual she refused to release her legs or arms from my neck.

"C’mon Elena, you can swim! Be a mermaid," Walker said in saccharine voice.

"Show her how you can do it," I said. "Do you want a Beanie Baby? You've got to support her."

Walker jumped in three times.

Elena approached the side of the pool, but again her feet wouldn't move.

Realizing I was defeated, I signed up for lessons. 

Elena's swim instructor, Sarah, was a curly haired fifteen-year old with a nose ring. She told the three other five-year olds to sit at the pool's edge until class began. While Elena and her class waited, Sarah flirted with the lifeguard. She began the class by asking the kids to hop into the pool and hold onto the side. Everybody, including Elena, jumped in without a whimper. They began to kick furiously. One by one, while the others waited, Sarah took a child out to practice. When Elena's turn came she sat her body on Sarah's arm, blew bubbles and kicked, without a complaint. 

I did notice Elena’s face looked a bit pinched.

Five lessons later, Elena was doing cannon balls and dog paddling across the width of the pool.

I don't think I was a bad swim teacher.

I think my mistake was in not understanding that the relationship between teacher and student is as important as the “curriculum.” Mothers offer security, while instructors encourage risk taking. 

Unfortunately, I could not fill both rolls at the same time. 

By Beth Touchette


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