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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Brows Make the Mama

That one’s that skinny, and that one’s that skinny,” my four-year-old daughter says, pulling my face close and grabbing my eyebrows into an uneven pinch in each hand.

My right brow looks like it always looks after I wax. Subtle. Full. A clean crescent. My left brow I must now lovingly refer to as “the skinny brow.”

Not so subtle. Not so full.

Yes, my daughter sat in the bathroom and watched me accidentally remove the lower half of my left eyebrow this morning. Much of it. Oh, and she listened to some expletives, too.

Somehow, when I gave the wax strip that glorious, edifying pull from the outside of my eyebrow inward, I had a line of eyebrow hairs the equivalent of a pigeon feather stuck in the strip.

Oh, vanity.

And since the wax strip hadn’t gone all the way to the inner tip of my eyebrow, I had about a half-inch square of brow bulk next to the sleek little line I’d just made.

Given my competence level at this point, the thought of re-waxing it brought visions of no brow at all to mind. However, that inner bulk was so ghastly next to said skinny brow -- I knew something needed to be done.

With the help of our hair-cutting scissors, I went to work. It improved, but let’s just say I eventually ended up with a nick of skin visible in the thick of the brow (bringing to mind the lines the boys at my high school etched onto their scalps in the late ‘80s) and a look of perpetual perplexity.

Oh, vanity.

Eventually, I patched up the nick with some brown eye shadow.

Then, I changed my hair part.

No, I will not be cutting myself some bangs anytime soon.

I’m going to guess my daughter’s not going to ask me to do hers either.

By Anjie Reynolds

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, September 29, 2008


Love in High Definition

Dear TV,

I love you.

I can watch you anytime, anywhere.  I can watch you when I’m cooking, folding laundry, eating, and even, when I’m reading. Sometimes, especially when my husband is away on a business trip, I keep you on all night. You keep the boogie man away, drowning out the creaks and groans of our old house, comforting me like my own fuzzy teddy bear with your warm, flickering light.

My love for all things “You” was really articulated by, who else, my husband – when he said that he would like to learn Spanish so he could have two extra channels (Telemundo and Univison) to watch. That is beside the five hundred we already have. I shook my head in disgust but deep inside, I got it.

And when he gave me the absolute reason why men tend to change channels obsessively: Men, he said, live in the unimaginable hope that maybe, just maybe, click!—and there will be a naked woman on the next channel.

And I understood, because with you, dear TV, I always have hope… and choice…if I don’t like what’s going on channel ten there might be something better on channel two hundred and seventy six.

Oh, how I despaired when after the birth of my child, I was bombarded with all those statistics of how you can make a child’s brain mush, if he or she watches too much of you! (I don’t mean to hurt your feelings but, believe me, dear TV, there have been harsher things said.) So for the last eight years, while working to instill in her a love of reading, green vegetables and not picking her nose in public, I’ve had to entice her away from you, even while I itched to indulge in you.

Moderation may not be the most alluring of concepts, but in life too much of anything —food, exercise, sex—is not good.

(Did I say sex? They will say I must be watching too much TV.)

But, do not fear unduly for the future viewers of this nation, cherished friend. Just today at the children’s section of the bookstore, in front of a rack of biographies, I pointed to a picture of Walt Disney and asked, “Who is that?”  And my daughter said, “The man who invented the Disney Channel?”

While it was not my proudest moment, it was not terrible either. That she thought of a TV channel before Disneyland, a place she billed as the “funnest place ever” was not really the worst thing in the world. You are more accessible than a fantasyland four hundred miles away.

TV, I want to reassure you that no matter what, my love for you will endure. They may attempt to cheapen you with questionable programming (I speak particularly to the show “Hole in the Wall” on Fox) but like our economy, the tide will turn eventually (for the better I hope).

There will always be the naysayers (didn’t Socrates worry about the impact of writing on man’s ability to think?) yet you and I will soldier on, keeping each other company long after the rest of the world has gone to bed.


By Tania Malik

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, September 28, 2008


The Bluest Eyes, the Biggest Star

Paul Newman died today.

I feel as if a part of my childhood is gone, too.

Paul Newman was the celebrity in Fairfield County where I grew up.

I can remember so many times my mother asking me to babysit my sisters and her friends' kids, as the women piled into two cars in search of him or his house.

They would always come home disappointed to find neither, but sated themselves with a stop at Thirty-One Flavors, otherwise known as Baskin-Robbins.

I was in a store one day trying on a pair of jeans when the girl who was helping me disappeared. There was a commotion. I straddled over to the middle of it to to find a man with close-cropped hair, jean shirt, jeans, and dark glasses scanning the store. Women AND girls were standing all around him. Finally, Debbie West: beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, English accented Debbie from my school summoned the nerve to ask, "Mister Newman, may I please have your autograph?"


EVERYONE knew you were NEVER supposed to ask Paul Newman for his autograph. It was part of an unspoken agreement. He would live quietly in Westport as everyone's favorite movie star -- but you were not to approach the goods.  

"Don't give 'em," he said in reply to Debbie, who looked like she was going to cry. Fast forward a couple of years. She would go on to win Most Beautiful in High School. Some friends and I wondered -- what if she didn't have that accent?

I ran home and told my mother.

She was a voracious reader, somehow finding the time and a way to read a book a day. But upon hearing the news of my meeting with Newman, she upturned her novel and took off her glasses.

"How many years have my friends and I been searching for him? Have we ever found him? You go to buy pants, a pair of pants!,  and you find Paul Newman. I ask you -- where's the justice?"

She had to call her friends -- the whole while eating from a leftover pint of Thirty-One Flavors from her last ill-fated Paul Newman foray.

Another time a guy I met in a bar told me he lived in Newman's neighborhood. He gave me a ride to his house. What struck me was how unassuming it was. Simple, like the man.

The other thing I remember that was different about Paul Newman is that growing up you were considered Jewish ONLY if your mother was that religion. But in his case: an exception was made. Though his mother was Catholic and his father Jewish, ALL Jews considered him Jewish, as did he. I doubt he would have received this pass if he wasn't a famous movie star. I read a quote from him once and he said he preferred being Jewish because it was harder. There weren't all that many Jews where we lived, so that was probably true. Though, I'm sure in Hollywood, his religion helped him.

He was a philanthropist, having started the Newman's Own Salad Dressing empire from his own personal recipe. It's now given away more than $200 million in profits. His partner was the author, A.E. Hotchner, who looked to me to have a nicer house than Newman. 

I interviewed Hotchner for an article on their salad dressing, which had just come out. What I loved, besides giving away most of the money to charity, was their business acumen. Him and Newman said they had absolutely no idea what they were doing.

They went to a large advertising and branding company. The guy wanted more than a million dollars to come up with a name, a logo and a branding strategy.

Hotchner told me that as they were walking away from the meeting, Newman leaned into him and whispered, "That's bullshit." He said he was at a friend's house whose wife liked to paint. "She's pretty good," he said, "why don't we have her create the logo?" As for the product name, the recipe was Newman's and since he knew his moniker would get people's attention, they decided on Newman's Own. Rather than hire a copywriter, they thought Newman could tell a funny story about the dressing and Hotchner, the writer, could fix it up.

They found a place in New York to create the dressing on a large scale. But there was a caveat. Newman wanted to maintain his fresh ingredients. This was when chemicals were in. Even those at the company didn't know if the shelf life would be stable, given the ingredients the duo were insistent on using. They tried. It was. Many companies have copied their technique since.

It's sad that Paul Newman has passed.  Who do we have like that here in Marin County? Sean Penn? Good actor but not exactly the same. 

His passing marks the end of a certain movie star era, though he was much more than that.

He could act, he was hot, he left a legacy that will continue to help millions through his company. 

Well, now that Paul is in heaven, I have no doubt my mother is standing, staring and salivating, with a spoonful of Thirty-One Flavors butter pecan in her mouth. She might even ask him for an autograph.

By Dawn Yun

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Greedy Play

The preschool that my sons attended succeeded, I think, because teachers there kept their message simple. The children could pretty much do what they wanted as long as they were safe, kind and clean.

Those three words became an easy way to explain, without lecturing, when a child's behavior had become unacceptable – either it was dangerous, messy or hurtful. My sons are older now, one in grade school, the other in high school, but I still need simple words to explain a lot of what they face in the world. The current economic crisis, for example, that fuels doom-and-gloom speculation by talking heads on TV and screaming headlines in the newspaper has not escaped their notice.

When they ask me what is happening, I hear the fear in their voices. I'm afraid, too. But how to explain the complicated, convoluted series of events that has brought our country perilously close to collapse when so many adults themselves don't understand?

I think back to the preschool and consider simple phrases that explain how we got here and finally settle on one word: greed.

Greed seems to be at the heart of every level of the debacle that has brought us to this point.

Greed pushed housing prices to record levels forcing families to pay too large a percentage of their income for a slice of the American dream.

Greed blinded buyers who purchased homes larger and more expensive than they could afford.

Greed motivated mortgage brokers and banks to make – encourage even -- so many risky loans.

Greed fueled a market system that allowed the sale of assets backed by mortgages inflated beyond the declining value of those homes.

Greed even seems to explain the posturing going on right now in Washington, D.C. where two presidential candidates – neither elected yet – have allowed their campaigns to further complicate efforts to resolve the crisis.

Greed is a word my sons understand.

They've been guilty of a little greed in their short lives and so have I. So when we criticize the system, I tell them, we have to accept some of that criticism ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes, though, just like the kids did at the preschool years ago. Maybe next time we'll chose to play in a way that is safe, kind and clean. 

By Laura-Lynne Powell


StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, September 26, 2008


A Woman Becomes a Mother -- AGAIN

I straightened the throw pillow on the couch and fluffed it, a task I had performed countless times that night.  I looked at the clock. 9:45 pm.  Less than twelve hours before surgery.  I shivered.  I went to the kitchen to make myself some tea.


I tried not to think that in less than twelve hours I would be lying on an operating table while doctors sliced my gut open.  I tried not to remember the overly bright lights, or the way they spread your arms out and strapped them as if for an execution.  I shook my head and added too much sugar to my tea.


Tomorrow, I was having a baby, my second child, my second surgery.  The images of my first emergency C-Section kept playing through my mind and all the fear and anxiety I felt on that operating table came flooding back.  I couldn’t sleep.  I abandoned my cup of too sweet tea and went through my hospital checklist again.  Not that I needed to.  I could recite the list in labor.  But I needed to keep busy.


I had so wanted a vaginal birth this time.  When I got pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I dreamed up the perfect natural birth.  No pain meds for me. Oh, no!  I was going to feel the first contractions right around my due date, maybe a few days before.  I would wake my husband, since it would be in the middle of the night.  He would jump up, wide awake and together we would time the contractions.  At the last minute, we would grab our bags and head for the hospital.  Once there, things would progress naturally and in a few hours, the doctor would place our new baby on my belly for us to cry over while I delivered the placenta.  Tears of joy would fill my eyes as I experience this incredible rite of Motherhood.


But my dream was not to be.  At least, not this time.  My body, for some reason, did not kick in to action as I thought it would.  Ten days after my due date and still my body showed no signs of labor.  Every extra day felt like an extra week.  I was tired, angry and upset.  Finally, my doctor decided to induce.  I was relieved.  I felt sure that once I got some help, my labor would progress on its own.  Instead, I labored for twenty-one hours, had an epidural, had more psilocin, and then lay there as my baby’s heart rate plummeted.  I was rushed into the operating room where, blinded by bright overhead lights, I became a mother.  I saw my daughter briefly before she was whisked away.  For months I felt like a failure.  I had failed in the very act that defined us as mothers.  Eventually I learnt to enjoy my baby.  But next time, I promised myself, I would push my baby out!

 Yet here I was, two and a half years later, sitting at my kitchen table, unable to sleep, on the eve of yet another invasive birth experience.  Anguished tears streamed down my face and I brushed them angrily away.  My doctor says that my narrow pelvis is not wide enough for my second little girl to come through.  Desperately, I sought a second opinion only to have that same prognosis repeated to me.  Again, my hopes of a vaginal birth were dashed, callously taken from me, my body refusing to perform the task it was meant to.  I felt my husband’s hand on my shoulder and I tried to allow his strength to calm me.


I went to bed, waking up every hour to pee or to simply stare at the ceiling.  Finally, at 4:30 a.m., I got up and stepped into the shower, letting the powerful jets of water pound out every thought, every feeling.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:55 a.m., two hours and five minutes before my surgery.  Even now, I still can’t think of it as a birth.  Once we got settled in a room, all the preparation for the operation was actually a pleasant diversion.  At 7:30 a.m., ridden with trepidation, I took the long walk to the operating room, clutching desperately at my husband’s arm.  I entered the room and smiled tightly.  The lights were as bright as I remembered.  I looked at the operating table and thought how much it looked like the execution table in “Dead Man Walking.” My heart rate accelerated.  Taking gulping breaths, I sat and arched my back dutifully for my spinal.  As the paralysis crept up my body, I panicked.


“I can’t breath!” I gasped fearfully.  “I can’t breathe!”

 “Yes you can,” the anesthesiologist said confidently.  “It’s OK.  Relax, it’s OK.”


And for some unknown reason, I believed him.  I concentrated on my breathing and relaxed a little.  My husband came in and I smiled reassuringly, although it felt more like a grimace.  The operation began and I tried not to picture what was happening behind the blue curtain.  Then, just when I thought I was going to throw up, my doctor called,


“OK guys, are you ready?”

 And, almost in slow motion, the anesthesiologist dropped the curtain and we watched in awe as our daughter was taken from my body.  It was incredible, amazingly incredible.  In that moment, I attained perspective.  As I gazed at the red, slimy body of my second daughter, dripping with my amniotic fluid, I experienced, for the first time, the exalted feeling of having created!


By Inga Wahle

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Oh, So Damn Bitchy

When I was in tenth grade, hanging out with a friend, she made a statement to a fellow classmate that I cannot remember and then she made one that I have incorporated into life.

“It’s nothing toward you, I just feel like being bitchy today.”

This was a novel thought to me.

I was always the native Californian trying to bring sunshine to everyone’s life. I had never visited New York at that age, so I clearly embraced this new “empowerment” to be bitchy when I felt like it.

Now, you can see the danger here. Too many days of bitchy and people stop being your friend and start figuring out ways to make crank calls and throw things at your house. Ok, so that was then. This is now.

I live with three boys; my husband and two sons. They don’t have the same hormonal fluctuations, so even though they can pinpoint certain calendar days based on my mood, they still don’t get it. There are days where I don’t have the hormonal tolerance to deal with anything.

My husband says, “Why not just take yourself out to dinner?” all smiley and self-righteous. I see through his avoidance of my cycle and say, “Because after I finish crying over this Coca-Cola commercial, I was planning to change into sweats and decide what order to polish off that pint of ice cream and whole bag of chips. Why don’t you leave and take the kids with you? And don’t forget to take the cat, too.”

I know that these statements are irrational, yet, at times it feels good to be bitchy.

Perhaps it is a hormonal artifact left over from cavewomen days. An ancient repopulation device to be sure that the men could find as many women as needed but the women would barely hold on to one long enough to make these fluctuations worthwhile -- and have kids.

So, every so often when my kids are being irrational, I let it slide.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, September 24, 2008



My son’s been drawing racecars lately. Really good ones. Of course, they’re of the animated Pixar car, Lightning McQueen variety, but he’s six and they’re 3-D, and except that I’ve never seen the number “95” drawn accurately on the door – it’s usually “65” or “92” – they’re pretty impressive.

He’s got the spatial stuff down, as well as the colors and character personality.

But, yesterday he was in some sort of slump. I watched him rip page after page from his notebook and throw them to the floor with just a single line or curve on each tossed page.

“I can’t do it!” he screamed – and this from a kid who doesn’t usually lose his cool. He’s the kid on the playground with his hands in the air, saying, “Excuse me, guys? Excuse me? Could you please stop yelling at each other? Let’s just try to figure this out, okay?”

But in this moment of frustration, he’s irrational. He’s lost his cool because he’s lost his ability to do something he knows he’s capable of doing. I try to explain that it’s temporary; that he’ll figure it out again, that maybe he just needs a break, or a snack.

Truth be told, though, I’m a little nervous for him. Deep down, I’m right there with him.

I think of all the half-written essays in my journal, and the essays I attempt that look nothing on the page like they do in my head, and the rejection letters I’ve received for the ones I’ve completed.

I get scared that, like me, he might wonder if he’ll ever “arrive.”

To have the desire and the ambition, but to feel like you no longer have the knack, or, worse yet, that you never did, is, well, heartbreaking.

But I keep these thoughts to myself, give my boy a hug, and stick to my solution that he take a break, have a snack and try again later.

Imagine, then, the triumph I feel the next morning when he has powered out two fully-sketched, fully-colored Lightning McQueens before I even have the chance to mention breakfast.

By Anjie Reynolds

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


What Does It ALL Mean?

I was fairly good at sports in elementary school.

But I relinquished that career once I got to junior high and found out how fun it was to skip school, get high and take the train into New York City from our suburban Connecticut town.

If we timed things just right we could leave for school, detour to the train station in Westport, along with most of the fathers dressed in their “Mad Men” Madison Avenue suits, as we giggled at the adventures that awaited us.

I can’t remember ever going to gym in junior high. I got Fs, but I always got As in English and most of my other classes, except for math. Given the times, my mother said it was because I was “a girl.”


In high school there was archery and fencing, two sports that I made the time to attend because they were, well, cool. Otherwise, when I did go to gym, I would sit and gossip about local celebrities with my P.E. teacher. Though she was the instructor, it seemed like she wanted to participate in class even less than me.

There is a store in Norwalk, where I grew up, that is pretty famous. Stew Leonard’s is a grocery store that has animated animals, just like at Disneyland, lots of free food samples and is actually fun to shop in. It’s where Paul Newman introduced his salad dressing to the world. It also has one of the highest financial yields per square foot compared to any other grocery store in America.

I got a job there when I was about 17. By this point, with college quickly approaching, I wanted to increase my GPA, so I made a pact with my gym teacher that I would make up during free periods all the classes that I had missed. She agreed.

My job at Stew Leonard’s was to work in the soft serve ice cream department. It claimed then, as now, to sell the second most soft serve ice cream cones in the country – next to Disneyworld.

Besides serving ice cream to customers, during slow periods I would take napkins, open them flat, place several on top of each other, turn on the ice cream spigot, let the ice cream criss-cross on top of itself until it was piled high, fold the napkin, and then lob the “ice cream bomb” over the machines at my co-workers.

It was war and we would battle – when management wasn’t around -- daily.

One day, my gym teacher came to the ice cream window and said she wanted an ice cream cone.

“Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll give you a free ice cream cone if you give me an A in gym.”

To this day, I can’t believe I said that to my teacher.

She smiled as if telegraphing – y-e-a-hl!!!! – and said, “Sure, but only if you give one to my husband, too.” She pointed to a man who stood behind her. She was a beautiful blonde. Her husband was a big, bear of a man with dark hair who I heard played trombone in a symphony, or at least was often looking for a job to do so.

“Deall!” I said. I turned around and made two enormous cones, careful to ensure that they were swirled perfectly and their tops had immaculate loop-tee-loops.

She handed one cone to her husband and quickly took the other for herself, licking happily away.

“Don’t forget our agreement,” I reminded her. “An A in gym.”

She shook her head up and down, licking the sides of her cone before they dripped under the soon to be summer sun.

My report card came – she was as good as her word – A!

During the summer I ran into her in Westport. I told her I would be attending a small, private college in Boston.

Since high school was over, and my grade already given, I couldn’t resist adding: “I can’t believe you gave me an A for two ice cream cones.”

She stared back at me. “I can’t believe you gave me the ice cream cones. You were getting an A anyway because you made up all the classes you missed.”

She walked away with a “so there,” shrug of her shoulder.

Yeah, she won that one. I sensed she got her way with a lot of things in life. She was the only gym teacher I ever met who refused to swim in the school pool because she didn’t want to get her hair wet. I actually kind of liked that aspect of her.

That first snowy, winter college break from Boston I was reading our hometown newspaper, “The Norwalk Hour.” Above the fold was a headline: Local Gym Teacher Hits Tree and Dies in a Car Accident.

That’s sad, I thought, as I casually unfolded the paper to find most of the bottom half with her smiling photo on it.

I stared at her picture for a long time, unable to move my eyes away. How could she be dead when her photo was so alive? She had been here just a few months earlier. I read the article repeatedly, out loud, to myself, with my lips moving to the irrefutable words. Her mother said they buried her on the farm in Iowa where she had grown up. I read her age. She was really only a few years older than me.

She was only the second person I ever knew who had died. In junior high, I was at a friend’s house. Back then I was introverted. I revealed myself only to my closest friends, preferring instead to observe others. Scott had a girlfriend, but he always intrigued me and I admired him from afar. That day he did something unusually adult for a fourteen-year old. With deliberation in his stride, he walked up to me, placed his hand under my chin, lifted it slightly, looked into my eyes, and carefully studied my face. He even turned it from side to side, never saying a word. I let him. Then he walked away.

Two days later he died in a car crash, a passenger in a car driven by an under-age teenager. To this day, I wonder what intrigued him about my face. Why he studied it. What did it mean?

Since then I’ve experienced the passing of friends and family with some frequency. I said to my husband just yesterday that I still can’t believe that David, his brother, who died suddenly in late May, was gone.

“I know,” he said, stopping as he washed the dishes. “I know.”

I thought of Scott. I thought of my gym teacher. I wondered why their time had each come so early. I think about that every time someone young moves on.

As I do homework with my children, fold laundry or some other mundane daily task, I wonder about life.

I learned about existentialism in an eighth-grade class. We read “The Stranger,” by Albert Camus and “Waiting for Godot,” by Samuel Beckett. More than any other written works, that book and that play have influenced my life profoundly.

I am still trying to figure it all out – with the knowledge that it is unlikely that I ever will.

By Dawn Yun

Labels: , , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, September 22, 2008


When Daddy Comes Home

My husband’s return from work every evening at seven-thirty p.m. infuses our home with new energy.

Olivia needs to eat a second dinner on Daddy’s lap, while Mateo suddenly develops a hankering for cheese sticks. Then, everyone needs a Popsicle, followed by a tickle session, and, often as not, some kind of group dance performance that involves music, the louder the better.

This frustrates me because I’ve spent the previous three hours wrangling my children through the dinner, bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing routine. My goal is to settle them down, not rev them up.

“Your arriving sooner or later would be easier for us,” I tell my husband. “Either sit down for dinner or wait ‘till they’re asleep.”

But no.

Seventy-thirty is what works for him, and besides, it’s the only real time they have together during the week.

Last night the garage door went up as I read "Good Night Moon." My son was drowsy enough that I knew he would fall asleep, but Olivia opened her eyes wide and gasped, “Daddy’s home!” before sliding off the bed and disappearing down the hallway.

A few minutes later, as I transferred a sleeping Mateo to his crib, I smelled the unmistakable odor of microwave popcorn. Following the scent, I opened the door to the den, where my husband and Olivia were sprawled on the sofa in front of the TV, a big bowl of popcorn between them.

“We’re watching the game,” Olivia said, with the practiced ease of a diehard football fan.

“Don’t stay up too late.” I kissed them both before closing the door.

I was the third of five children and have few memories of time spent with my own father.

Once, I was in first grade and it was parents’ night at school. My father wore a green tweed coat flecked with black spots, and afterwards, we ate an orange and vanilla Creamsicle.

All these years later, if I close my eyes, I can feel the nubby tweed of the coat, taste the vanilla sweetness of the Creamsicle.

By Jessica O’Dwyer

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Sibling Rivalry Runs in the Family

Sibling rivalry runs in my family.  

After I was born a baby nurse came to help out for a couple of weeks.  When she walked down the hall to leave, my two-year-old brother chased her while yelling, “Lady, lady! You forgot your baby!”

Six years later, my baby sister, Liz, was born.  My friends loved her as much as I hated her, and every time one of my friends admired her -- I suggested they take her home.

So it should come as no surprise when my two sons want to kill each other.

I go overboard trying to cut off the bickering before blood is shed but it often can’t be stopped.  

I can prepare for any situation -- but shit happens. 

I will plan the perfect outing, play-date, excursion, whatever, with every intention of keeping them enriched, challenged, and or entertained, but above all: separated.  This may involve two different plans with a parent for each boy or a group play-date involving playmates for each. 

I have tried groups where they are supposed to all play together, but based on past painful experiences: this rarely works.  Someone always ends up picked on, left out, tortured, and ultimately crying. 

Even if I do manage to find a family activity where we can all be happy -- it is hard to get out the door.  I can guarantee that as soon as I am ready to go, I will find both of them engaged in solitary play on opposite sides of the house.  So I try to make the best of the moment.  I sneak off to my computer to record the moment; a literal snapshot of this slice of my life.

Then, as I settle down to recall expressions and remarks and record how wonderful my children are, their little antennas go up.

“Mommy!  He’s looking at me!”

“No I’m not!”

“He’s lying!”

Inspiration extinguished, I take my deep breaths and count to ten.  I wait to see if I need to investigate further.

Now, why did I have two kids again?

By Cathy Burke

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Monster with Boobs

Lately my five-year old has been drawing profusely after school.

Always with a red crayon.

As he draws he shares aloud the ‘story’ that he is creating. No surprise, there’s at least two “blasts” and lots of “pew-pew” shooting sounds mixed with rockets, fireballs and something called blasters.

By the time the narration ends, his drawing is covered with a swirl of red hiding the layers of events underneath. These action-filled abstracts add excitement to our bulletin boards.

Today as I sifted through the basket holding the drawings – with three children it’s spilling over by day’s end, I was startled by a red outline of a creature with distinct boobs, areola included. I knew my son’s artwork had evolved to the current potato stick people stage but so far there hadn’t been any detailed anatomy. The one time I had thought a potato person had been ‘enhanced’ -- I was quickly informed “that’s his gun on his belt.”


But these were clearly boobs. Long, droopy boobs in need of a serious breast augmentation. The only boobs he seems to focus on are his Mom's so this wild-eyed monster creature with hanging boobs is meant to be me. And here I thought mine were, well, still relatively perky.

Motherhood has its share of indignities but this just sucks.

What a vision, too.

I commanded the entire vertical sheet. My feet stood on the paper’s edge and my swirly hair graced the other. My body was one enormous vertical square from which the boobs slung over like straps off a saddle. My arms (drawn as thin lines but what does that matter now?) were raised from my sides, topped with circles depicting my hands and jutting out stick fingers. I appear to be wearing pants and heavy boots or shoes.

All femininity shot to hell.

To my son I am Hulk Mom.

At least at my side is an adorable cat, or what appears to be one. The cat’s smiling whereas I have a serious straight mouth.

I look angry.

My mind darts to all of the recent battles of wills and scoldings and challenges. Obviously, it’s been too much for my poor little boy: this monster mother overpowering the page must mean he is overwhelmed by me.

I feel William’s warm cheek as he peeks over my shoulder and then catches my eye, happy to find me admiring his artwork so intently.

“See Mommy? It’s Mario!”

“Mario? Mario, the character from Nintendo?”

“Yeah!” he beams back.

“But what are… what is this?” I carefully inquire, pointing gingerly toward the areola of one boob.

“Those are his BUTTONS!” William cheerfully hollers before scampering off to draw some more.

So much for art therapy.

My femininity – and perky boobs are reclaimed.

For now.

By Maija Threlkeld

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, September 19, 2008


A Mother Wants to Sleep But She's TOO Tired!

My eighteen-month old is in her crib, arms stretched out around her head, her little face a picture of calm, blissfully off in dreamland.

Sound asleep.

And I'm envious.

I'd love to go to sleep right now! Can you imagine how great it must be to get to go to sleep when you're tired?

To actually HAVE to go to sleep?

To have someone else try very hard to get you to sleep? Awesome, I know!

Here I am, bone-tired, dragging, just struggling to clean up the carnage from the last hours of indoor play. . . well, make that here I sit typing, thereby avoiding all of the clean-up I should be doing.

But I'm just too tired.

Admitting how tired I am seals my fate. I'm now destined to drag through the remains of the day, yearning for sleep.

Amazingly, my kids will end their day battling to stay up until my final pleas of "GO TO SLEEP NOW!" finally will them into slumber.

And, even then, I won't get to go to sleep (okay, I'm whining, but I'm tired!). Once the house is quiet I'll finally have to get to my day of "to-do's," while my three little ones are all nestled snug in their beds, on fluffy pillows under warm blankets.

And I yawn. And I am envious. And tired.

By Maija Threlkeld

Labels: , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Wallpaper Flowers Childhood Memories

My boys are breathless as we burst into my mother’s house after a day of travel.  Every five minutes the question was the same. “Were you a little girl at grandma’s house?” Their faces almost split with delight when they hear the same answer over and over.  They are incredulous at the thought. 

They race up the stairs and I am hot on their heels.  We survey my old bedroom as if it is an architectural find of monumental significance.  Little voices squeal with excitement like archeologists discovering new species. “Was this your bed, Momma?” “Did you play here?” “Where are your toys?” 

As we tour I see nothing familiar remains except my matching white little-girl chest of drawers and bedside table. I slowly run my fingers over the wood and am startled by the familiar roughness of the chipped paint.  It is only then I notice the walls are white; the wallpaper with the yellow stripes and flowers is gone.

My mother wanted new wallpaper with tiny purple flowers and I did not.  I was eleven and her choice looked like the kind of paper that belonged in the parlor of a Victorian mansion, the type of place where children were seen and most definitely not heard. 

I poured over the sample book bursting with mesmerizing patterns and colors and settled on the perfect one, a yellow stripe alternating with yellow flowers.  As a child, my father called me his little yellow canary -- I chattered non-stop and only wore yellow.  Those days were long gone, but that phrase stayed with me as an echo from a time when I imagined a new baby brought smiles and happiness to everyone.

Thinking back I am amazed I had the aplomb to stand up to Her.  I was the only one.  Everyone was afraid: my father, brother, even our minister had to tread lightly.  There was screaming and yelling and I can still remember the flash of hatred across her face as she snarled, “You’ll have to live with it, no matter how ugly it is, you’re sleeping in there not me.”  I was shaking inside, but I was observant and had learned from my father’s and brother’s mistakes – the smell of fear fed the enemy, so I met her stare and held my ground.

So up went the yellow stripes and flowers.  She only agreed to it to prove me wrong.  I am sure it would have brought her some kind of macabre pleasure to point out my error every day, especially to my friends.  But it was beautiful. The small room at the back of the house sprang to life, like there were real flowers on the walls.  And in the morning the light reflected off the yellow as if the sun had slipped in at night and whispered in my ear, “I am sorry for your troubles my dear, but here is small ray of light just for you and it will shine for you always.” 

Even she had to agree it was perfect, but somehow over the years it became her idea to go with the yellow.  But it didn’t matter because my victory was up on the wall.  She was right about one thing: living with the decision.  All these years later as I sit in the room with its’ neat, white, proper coat of paint I can still see those yellow stripes and flowers that set me free.

By Jennifer Gunter 

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


When You Have Kids, You've Gotta Have Friends

I woke up last Thursday planning on taking my five-year-old daughter to school and then running a host of errands. As many spiritual teachers have said, “The universe laughs when you make plans."

My plan was shattered as my stomach lurched and I ran to the bathroom beginning a day-long devotion to the porcelain god.

The stomach flu had hit me with a vengeance. No warning, just a seven-thirty a.m. reminder that I am not in control of my own life. I staggered back to bed and croaked at Keith, my husband, “You have to take Miranda to school.”

He looked at me, thought for a second and smiled. “Of course, sweetie, you’re sick. But what does Miranda eat for lunch?”

I tried to answer but a stronger force, my stomach, made me run back to the bathroom. A few moments later, his head poked past the door and he asked the same question. At that point, I just gasped, “Anything she wants. Just give her whatever she wants.”

Pictures of chocolate cake, brownies, fruit rollups, and licorice sticks danced through my head as I imagined Miranda’s requests. But that was all wiped clean a moment later, and I was back in the moment with me.

After passing out for a few hours, I woke to the sound of my phone. My husband was on the line. “Can you pick up Miranda from school?” My sheet was soaked with sweat, my head spinning as I tried to sit up.

“I’ll see if I can get my girlfriend to do it. Otherwise, I’ll call you back.” I collapsed on my bed and barely managed to dial her number.

Luckily for me, I have friends who have children in the same grade. This one wonderful woman picked up Miranda and cared for her as I lay twitching in my bed. By evening, the worst was over and Keith had gathered up Miranda and brought her home.

As I lay in bed slowly recovering, I thought, “How do people without community do it? How do single mothers do it? I am so blessed. I am so blessed.”

By Georgie Craig

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, September 15, 2008


Three Things A Mother Learned From Dining Out With Her Child

I broke another of my steadfast “rules of parenting” this week. I took my two-year old out to eat at an “adult” restaurant – i.e., an establishment where sparkling water is served, all entrées (even the vegetarian option) are priced above twenty dollars, and there are items on the menu that include the addition of crème fraîche.

I generally try to avoid places like this if my daughter is coming along – as I am anxious to steer clear of the dirty looks of diners who have probably hired a babysitter in order to enjoy a relaxing and childless meal.

But it was well past dinner time, we had already found a parking space on Fourth Street in Berkeley, and we were getting a bit desperate after finding that the taco joint we had been planning on going to was closed.

I hesitated in the doorway of the only other culinary option available nearby. Eyeing the candles and long-stemmed wine goblets on the tables, I had visions of glass shattering on the floor and napkins in flames as Emi squirmed in my arms.

“Wanna go get breakfast!” (She says this when we are at any restaurant, at any time, because most of our meals out consist of breakfast at Bubba’s Diner.) “I hungry!” And since my husband on an empty stomach can get just as cranky as my child, I was outnumbered and we were going in.

The fact that they had highchairs did make me feel a little better. And although my daughter was reasonably well behaved during most of the meal (I’ve decided that stickers are one of the best inventions ever), I simply could not relax for fear of when the meltdown was going to occur.

I moved all the cutlery and wine glasses out of her reach. I talked to her about using her “inside” voice. I took her outside to run around on the sidewalk in between courses. I quickly scooped any food item that was accidentally dropped on the floor. In short, I was acting like more of a spazz than she was.

What have I learned from this experience?

1) Sometimes I really, really need to chill out.
2) Even so, with a child in tow, it is much easier to relax in an environment that includes a Mariachi band and plastic cups.
3) My daughter loves mashed potatoes with crème fraîche.

By Shannon Matus-Takaoka

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Hell is the Place Where I Grew Up

I have just returned from the seventh layer of hell. Winnipeg, Canada. It would not be so bad except the devil herself lives there, my mother.

When people ask if she is still alive I respond with a smile, “Yes, evil never dies.” I am too harsh you suggest. Well, as I struggled in the door with two exhausted five-year-olds and a suitcase of epic proportions, I was greeted with the always welcome dissecting look and the ever familiar one-two of, “You look less heavy,” and “Is that hair on your top lip?”

There is no real physical contact, God forbid. I mean we are British: the air kiss will suffice thank-you-very-much. My mother is a perfect combination of Ursula the sea witch and Miss Havisham.

While she has never murdered (although her glance has be known to wither many an unwitting victim) she is the female embodiment of Dorian Gray. She was once beautiful on the outside, but her bitterness and vitriol have finally seeped to the surface and are now permanently etched, like acid on stone across her face.

We visit my brother who has married the horse-head nebula. Not only does she have an uncharacteristically large, horse-like head, but she is also an internationally known expert on everything: a veritable black hole of knowledge. The Winnipeg School of Cosmetology must be one hell-of-a place for higher learning.

For example, on my trip I learned that Miguel is Mexican for Michael. She tells this to my husband whose last name is Garza and who had rapidly, and I might say uncharacteristically, developed a keen interest in hands-on-parenting.

Moments later I see him in the backyard two-fisting Moosehead beer. I silently work on my testimony for the jury; surely I can get one mother to agree that strangling him with the diaper bag was justifiable.

Then there are the mosquitoes so large they are fondly known as the provincial bird. So while my mother asks if I should really eat that cake and I learn conversational Spanish, I am loosing the war against the Kamikaze fighters of the hemo-armada. Apparently no one sprays anymore: West Nile virus and western equine encephalitis being preferable to DEET.

When I was little we used to ride our bikes behind the trucks that fogged this winged plague, daring each other to see who could breathe in the vapors the longest. It was far less toxic than anything I could breathe at home.

We finally escape Satis House and make it to the airport. I rush my children and husband through immigration and warn them not to look back. No good can come of it. We can all learn from Lot’s wife.

But the fates are not done with us.

Landing in Denver in the Tonka-toy excuse for a jet we are rebuked minutes from landing. The plane stalls and drops, as does my heart. “In case you were wondering,” the captain nervously jokes, “That’s wind-shear.” So we circle and come around again. Not more than fifty feet above the tarmac the aircraft stalls again and precipitously lurches nose down causing inappropriately large carry-ons surreptitious sowed beneath legs to fly around the cabin.

I forget that I am now back among Americans, so the clearly the rules apply to NO ONE on this plane. The pilot manages to pull up again and we circle for one more kick at the can. Even the seasoned business travelers and the burly fishermen back from their man-spa-week-long-fish-in-a-barrel-pike-fest in the waters of Northern Manitoba look queasy.

I close my eyes.

Seriously, after all this I am going to die coming home? Stop the boat, river man; I am going to walk the rest of the way.

By Jennifer Gunter

Labels: , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Musical Memories, Musical Moments

My four-year-old, Cameron is singing my childhood in the backseat: “If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady…”

If today is like most, her next request will be a song that hit Casey Kaysem’s charts when I was nine years old: “Oooh, what a lucky man… he waa-aas,” a song she likes because it has kings and witches. (I didn’t get the last part, either, but it’s the line: “A gold covered mattress on WHICH he was laid..”)

My older kids chime in with their Johnny Cash favorites (“Folsom Prison Blues,” and “A Boy Named Sue”); afterwards, my twelve-year old declares that Johnny Cash isn’t really country: “He’s his own genre.”

“High School Musical” does not exist in our house, but it’s not my proclamation; it’s theirs.

My childhood was a journey across five states in seven years, but I could always count on old friends to keep me company: Ray Charles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Moody Blues, Simon & Garfunkel and, yes, Johnny Cash. By the time I was twelve, I’d fall asleep each night with my AM transistor radio wedged between the pillows, fine-tuning the scratchy dial to decipher “Slow Ride” amidst the whistles and whines of distant signals.

I should clarify that I’m not one of those moms stuck on classic rock stations; I’m more of an alternative station, one o' five point three, kinda gal, always looking for the next fresh voice for our human condition. I don’t mind hearing nostalgia, but music can plant me smack in the middle of moments I’d rather not re-live: eighth grade awkward (anything from “Saturday Night Fever”), to the first kiss one year later (“Three Times a Lady,” as trite as it is true), or the angst of teenage pain (“The Wall”).

Midwesterners by birth, my parents never bought into the whole “dialogue” thing with us kids. I never discussed homework, let alone my romantic interests or social challenges of being the “new kid.” Again. But my parents supplied the music, and music is the closest connection to the girl I was then.

I didn’t realize what a gift that was until I glance into the rear-view mirror and watch the expression on Cameron’s face as she belts out Johnny’s duet with June:

“Save my love through loneliness,
Save my love for sorrow,
I'm givin’ you my only-ness, come give your tomorrow.”

By Kimberley Kwok

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Reflections on Mothers and Daughters of Different Colors

My daughter dragged me into her classroom. She wanted to show me a drawing she had made of herself.

While we often joke that her name is Mimi, for a reason, her drawing was simple and devoid of conceit.

My daughter is multi-racial. She is Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, Austrian, Russian, Jewish and Methodist.

Every mother thinks her child is beautiful. I’m no exception. But I believe it because I’ve had enough people tell me that she is exotic, attractive, tall, and thin, with perfect skin.

It is the color of her flesh that drew me to her drawing. Her skin was drawn brown.

The wall was filled with self-drawings of all the children in her class. Most of the kids had colored their skin pink or yellow.

I never look at either of my children or my husband as dark-skinned Asians. Though I always notice when others do. I just see them as my husband and kids.

But I was curious.

I told Mimi I loved her drawing, but wondered why she colored her skin so dark. She thought about it. Perhaps she became self-conscious. She said it was because it was the only crayon she could find.


I found another drawing she made of herself. Her skin was about the same tone.

“What color would you have drawn my skin?” I asked her.

She thought, even going as far as dramatically placing her finger on her chin and wrinkling her brow.

Skin deep in thought.

“Yellow or pink, probably,” she said.

“Ah-ha! It was deliberate,” I said. No I didn’t say that. Why would I? It didn’t matter. It was simply intriguing because while we have discussed that Mommy has the biggest nose in our family, including the cats’, we’ve never discussed the tones of our skin.

Yesterday we went into a hip store that Mimi discovered in downtown San Rafael. I bought a cool dress and teardrop black Bakelite earrings for twenty bucks!!! Mimi wanted a necklace but it was twenty-four dollars! Major bling. I told her to go to the woman behind the desk and bargain.

“This is in your blood – on both sides,” I yelled out.

She didn’t know what I meant. But she seemed to recognize that this was an important rite of passage. She got the owner down to twelve dollars. I knew from somewhere above my mother, the world’s greatest bargainer, was beaming with pride at her seven-year old granddaughter. We agreed that if Mimi did her homework for a week and cleaned her room daily – it was hers.

The owner and I chatted and laughed, and then I was taken aback when she asked, “Is she your daughter?”

It was not the first time.

If we were the same color and Mimi didn’t look Asian and I didn’t look Caucasian, I doubt people would inquire as often. I would think it would be apparent from the way we speak and interact as only mothers and daughters can.

That the world may see us a bit differently was not a revelation.

That my daughter apparently does was the bigger surprise.

By Dawn Yun

Labels: , , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, September 12, 2008


A Civil Discussion

A friend of mine got married last week in City Hall. He wanted a church wedding, and asked my minister to officiate. Unfortunately, the Presbyterian Church would only allow him to bless this couple, not marry them, because they’re gay. Although his civil ceremony was less pomp and circumstance than vows exchanged in stain-glassed sanctuaries, it was just as official in the eyes of the law.

That got me thinking about the church and state separation we supposedly still honor in this country. The law recognizes marriages by ships’ captains, judges and mayors, but somehow, the whole religious debate has crept into the equation. Growing up in the South, there were churches that banned dancing and drinking and required women to wear dresses at all times. They defined their version of morality and built a congregation of like-minded party-poopers. This group had no more say in a constitutional re-write than the groups trying to ban gay marriage.

Marriage is a religious choice, but it’s a civil right.

Let churches decide who can be married under their roofs. Let them tell women they can’t be leaders in the church and prohibit safe sex. Let them discriminate on the basis of their version of God’s word, no matter how small-minded, sexist, or racist they are.

The courts, on the other hand, are required to enforce the Constitutional code many of our churches would prefer to ignore: that All Men Are Created Equal. I believe this sacred tenet to be true not only in the eyes of our government, but also in the eyes of God. There’s only one thing I can do to show my church its anti-love treatise cannot stand.

It’s time for a divorce.

By Kimberley Kwok

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, September 11, 2008


See the Man on the Wire, Think of a Time Long Ago

When the French tightrope-walking Philippe Petit broke through security in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, it was to create an act of rebellion, and of beauty.

Although extremely self-focused (and what artist- and I put myself in this category- isn't really?) he had a band of friends and acquaintances who helped him pull off the unimaginable task of stringing a heavy tightrope wire across two towers and securing it so he could walk across or "dance" as a police officer later described it in awe.

I thought I would come away from the documentary about this event, "Man on Wire," inspired to create, but Petit's change after his success soured me a bit. What struck me, however, besides his drive to want to tightrope walk a quarter of a mile off the ground with no safety net, was the story of the World Trade Center's birth.

Petit knew he wanted to walk across the towers before they were even built.

It almost feels like a sacrilege to admit this, but before 9/11 I had no fondness for the towers. Yes, I knew they were tall, but aside from that I hadn't give them much thought. But to hear the story from Petit and his friends and to see the early footage of the buildings, I felt that I was part of the historic erecting of the towers. One scene, hauntingly familiar to the ground zero footage, was of the very beginning of the building. I suddenly missed the towers as if they were old friends.

Trying to digest the movie afterwards, part of me wondered, as if critiquing my own personal essay, "What was the point of the story?"

This was the same question everyone asked Petit after his tightrope walk -- "Why did you do it? What was the point?"

He thought this was an amusingly American point of view.

There was no point. He just felt he had to do it.

That I could identify with.

By Kristy Lund

Labels: , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The Marin County Homemaker

Beginning in the nineteen hundreds, a seamless symbiosis of free love and free enterprise transformed Marin County, California. Once a bastion of free thinking, naked hot tubbing and spousal exchange, now noticeably homogeneous, virtually segregated (except for sexually) and passionately single minded (mostly for the left. . . so that’s something) community. In accordance with social Darwinism, specific species seek to inhabit ideal subzones according to their capacity to tolerate bullshit, bad service and Republicans. In Marin, the female of the species most clearly illustrates this anthropological shift.

Breastus Sagamaximus
Open-toed Birkenstocks only. Lots of dangly earrings, usually of the local artisan variety. Vocal in opposition to vaccines, Ferberization and bathing. Children characterized by tie-dyed shirts and mullets. Advocates family bed until college. Habitat: stuccoed fifties rancher with rusted children’s paraphernalia littering common area. Automobile: Van.

Marinphilus Arrogansus
Strong build from years of yoga (when yoga wasn’t cool) and skiing in Tahoe. Identifiable traits: marginally educated, disinterested in travel -- “why would I leave here?" -- no discernable ambition, low-tax base, great legs. Manages to work the phrase “fourth generation Marin” into every conversation. Habitat: Newly shingled Craftsman. Automobile: old Mercedes wagon with new Thule rack.

Twelvesteppus Naggus
Loaded teen punk/twenties reprobate turned middle-aged uber-volunteer/triathlete. Educated in East Coast boarding/reform schools; drug bust to rehab to Pilates. Former fondness for Jack Daniels and cocaine channeled into thirteen-mile runs and open water swims. Pretends to still enjoy AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” Habitat: renovated Victorian mansion. Automobile: Volvo wagon with car seats and Dead stickers.

Throwbackus Insufferabili
Not to be confused with Earth Mother (although the physical manifestations are similar), the Marin radical openly criticizes (among other things) the lack of diversity in the public school system; fortunately, her sizeable trust will secure a spot for her child in the more eclectic mix afforded by the twenty-thousand a year private kindergarten. Habitat: Deconstructivist Post-Modern home designed by Frank Gehry (family friend). Automobile: Prius.

Smugus Bourgeoisia
Hit the mother lode as second wife to local royalty. White blond hair and chemically erased expression. Given to elaborate displays of pretention, including but not limited to Parisian shopping sprees, interior design businesses and private jets. Known by everyone in the community -- save her own children. Habitat: Spanish Mediterranean estate complete with Tuscan tiled pool house for errant nooners. Automobile: Hummer.

Bitterius Oldhaggius
Easily recognized by the twenty-two-inch hips, shellacked beige hair and enormous “everyday” diamonds. Face pulled as tight as the belts cinching her childlike waist. Once average height, now rendered minute by years of cigarettes, cocktails and life. Children are older than first husband’s current wife (see “The Nouveau”). Doyenne of local charitable organizations, known for frugality and flower arranging. Habitat: Chintz packed chateau complete with shell encrusted frames and mold encrusted bathrooms. Car: Black town car with driver.

Deerus Headlightia
Often a late to the party transplant from either the Midwest or East Coast. Still perplexed and unsettled by the informality and entitlement of locals, she subsists on a steady diet of caffeine and antidepressants. Favors Levi’s, Merrells and Lexapro. At social gatherings, occasionally feels the urge to shout “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” but refrains for reasons even she can’t quite discern. A loner forced into the open by her children’s frenetic social lives, she feels the need to conform yet cannot find a comfortable mold. Every now and then, as a silent fuck you to the community, she doesn’t recycle. Habitat: Ridiculously overpriced Grey Cape with black shutters. Car: Passat wagon.

By Leissa Jackmauh

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


A Vote for My Mother

I really miss my mother during election time.

My mother was a passionate member of the League of Women Voters. She worked tirelessly for Fair Housing laws in our lily-white suburb. She took me to hear Daniel Ellsberg.  We marched against the Vietnam War. Tom Lehrer played piano in our living room at a wine-and-cheese fundraiser for McGovern. She helped me survive devastation when McGovern lost, and broke open the champagne the night Nixon resigned.

Smoking one cigarette after another, my mother was glued to the television set through every minute of the Watergate hearings. As butts piled up beside her, she would hurl invective and sometimes even the ashtray at the screen.

I’d cringe to hear “You f**king bastard!” from my normally affable and upstanding mother. Her extensive library of Watergate books took up an entire bookshelf, and she read every single one.

My mother died in 1995, still able to worship Bill Clinton and Dan Rather and Bob Woodward before their legacies were tarnished. Sometimes I look up at the night sky and tell her she’s lucky to have escaped other disasters, too: 9/11, the war in Iraq, Karl Rove, George W. Bush not once but twice and possibly even thrice.

But I wish she were here at such an astonishing moment in history.

She’d be thrilled about Hillary’s eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling! She’d break open with joy to see a black man, who carries Bobby Kennedy’s torch, accept the Democratic nomination before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of eighty-four thousand people. She’d take up smoking again just to hurl ashtrays at the TV during the Republican National Convention.

I’d love to get all fired up with her. I’d love to tell her how my daughters are embarrassed by a mother who doesn’t smoke, or swear too much, but who talks politics 24/7. I’d love to tell her that despite the cringe factor, my daughters, too, have caught the political bug, and that the eldest cast her very first presidential vote for Barack Obama. I’d love to tell her I’m working my heart out thanks to her passion.

So I’ll cast my vote not only for the future of our country, but also for my Mom.

And if the other side wins, I’ll comfort my daughters, look up at the night sky, and tell my mother she’s lucky to have escaped.

By Lorrie Goldin


Labels: , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, September 08, 2008


Private Parts, Private Thoughts

“This feels REALLY GOOD on my vagina!” my daughter squeals loudly.

She did NOT just say that I think, pausing in mid-air with a spoonful of dripping frozen yogurt. I’m at a mall with my six-year-old and her friend. We're enjoying a cold treat on a sweltering afternoon.

The girls are riding some large, steel water pipes covered with green plastic while eating their yogurt. They’re pretending the contraptions are horses named Buttercup and Lighting Rainbow.

“I don’t feel anything,” says her friend, frowning.

“Here, you have to sit like this,” my daughter tells her, wiggling her bottom to demonstrate the correct technique. “It feels SO GOOD on my vagina!”

Oh. My. God. I whip my head around to see if anyone in the vicinity has heard. Luckily, few people are out in the heat.

“I still don’t feel anything," her friend complains.

Red-faced, I spring from my chair in a patch of shade a few yards away and rush over to my little girl.

Please don’t say that again or we’re leaving,” I hiss.

“Oh, I forgot,” she says, her smile fading as she ducks her head. “Vagina’s a bad word.”

“Well, no. It’s not,” I stammer. “It’s just not something we talk about in public.” But as I head back to my seat, I’m the one feeling ashamed. Given my reaction, why wouldn’t she think she’d just said something horrible?

I don't want her to grow up believing a part of her body is bad.

I don’t want her to be embarrassed by perfectly normal feelings.

I still remember how it feels to live with those kinds of thoughts.

By Dorothy O’Donnell

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Milk Carton Daughter

My daughter smiles at me in black and white from the photo frame.

Her blonde hair falls in soft waves, framing her lovely, oval face.

Her eyes sparkle, her skin is clear. At fourteen, she looks all grown up but fresh.

Radiant, healthy, happy. Completely natural.

I’d like to plaster this picture on a milk carton under the caption “Have You Seen This Child?”

She’s gone missing.

Six years later she’s been abducted, replaced by a stand-in whose patchy, bleached bangs obscure dull eyes, bad skin and the puffiness of the freshman fifteen.

This proxy child is slovenly and sullen, at least around us. Sightings of our missing daughter by friends in the outside world give us some glimmer of hope that she’s still alive and well.

Maybe this is what completely natural looks like at twenty. I try to trust that the vibrant girl in the picture is fine, but I can’t help worrying about what has become of her.

I hope she is safe. I hope she comes back to us.

By Lorrie Goldin

Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Snotty Mommies to Band of Brothers Mothers

What a difference a week can make.

At school.

Whereas the first few days were a high-school version of Snotty Mommies, this week was a Band of Brothers Mothers.

I met some of the most down-to-earth, sweetest, kindest, and loveliest mommies since perhaps I moved as a refugee from San Francisco to Marin.

One young mom managed to have an intriguing conversation about the baseball team she plays on, I mean with details, continuous flow, you know – a real adult conversation – while still chasing her fifteen-month old. She was totally hip and cool.

Another mother was from Norway and we shared how both our kids and their siblings have about an eight-year difference in their ages. That's not what struck me. What blew me away was her outfit. This woman was wearing a white T-shirt. In Marin. A white T-shirt!!!!! With stains! This was amazing!!!! How normal and unpretentious. How so very refreshing.

Today I had a delightful conversation with a mother whose son was in Mimi’s “genius” class last year and is in her class now. She confessed that he was labeled  "one of the slowest."

“You, too!” I exclaimed.

“You’re daughter? Really?”

I told this mommy, who I never really talked to before but who I always sensed had a pleasant countenance, how happy I am for Mimi because she seems to be enjoying school so much more.

I looked at the snotty mommies littering the schoolyard. A number are women who know me, but pretend they don’t. For fun, sometimes I just stare at them. It’s safe. I’m wearing dark glasses and a sun hat. I probably resemble JT Leroy.

As with most things in life, if you stay with what is positive, in turn that is what you attract. I enjoy talking to these new women. We’re just a bunch of moms whose kids are in the second grade.

Next week, I’m going to go all out. I’m going to AFPD -- ask for play dates for Mimi. My daughter can have them with boys as easily as she can with girls so that widens her possibilities. The trampoline and dam in our backyard probably won't hurt, either.

My greatest wish is for Mimi to grow, be happy and blossom. If I need to give her a little nudge in her friendships, then I will. She has many old friends. She needs to develop new ones who live where she does. Who go to the school she attends.

If I happen to meet people who may wind up as friends of mine, too, that would be bonus.

Life is funny. One week I’m thinking about taking my mother-in-law up on her offer to pay for half of Mimi’s private school. The next, I can’t think of a better public school for her.

It’s all different. That’s what makes life fun. It’s also what can get me down. But I find the older I get and the greater my emotions are tried, the more I just go with it. Not only do I not know what the next day will bring, often I do not know what will happen in the next hour, minute or second.

It makes life an adventure.

Of course, Mimi hasn’t started having homework assignments yet. When she does – that’s when the real adventure – or misadventure -- will begin. My husband and I have convinced her that the “coolest” people are the smartest because they can do anything.

I’m not sure she buys it. But even if she purchases a part of that belief and does fairly well at school, we’ll be happy. School isn’t just about grades; it’s about interacting with classmates, playing on the monkey bars, jumping rope.

It’s about being a kid. I hope she never loses that.

By Dawn Yun

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, September 05, 2008


Political Mama Rants!

It was a little like the end of The Sopranos.

You knew it was coming; still, it is so hard to prepare oneself for finalities.

I don’t know what I will watch now that the Republican Convention has ended.

Yes, I admit it is horrible, but when my daughter said, “Mommy, let’s practice my addition and subtraction cards,” I asked her to wait.

“John McCain's speaking,” I explained.

“Is that ever going to end?” she asked her eyes bulging.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “Tomorrow, unfortunately.”

She stormed out of the room to watch TV, I presume.

I wouldn’t know. I was too enthralled watching McCain. On a speaking level I must say he scored much higher than I would have guessed. I’d easily give his performance a seven.

But when expectations are low and people do better than anticipated, they always gain more points than they should.

McCain, given his war suffering and putting fellow soldiers before departing from his own gates of hell,  is a man of character. It says so much about him.

So, too, does the cheating on his first wife with Cindy, his currently handler, I mean, wifey.

Listening to his speech, his personal story was unbelievably compelling.

His politics were ridiculously absurd. So, too, was the audience. Have you ever seen so many white people? Looking at Cindy McCain alone is like staring at two Caucasian women simultaneously.

Multi-racial was NOT a word that one would use to describe that audience.  So, if he can’t even find any delegates with nary an ounce of color to fill his hall -- town hall, that is -- how is he going to unite this country? Hey, isn’t Arizona that state where all those “Minutemen” watch for (and like to shoot) border crossers? And aren’t they putting up a giant fence there? Sounds very Berlin Wallish to me.

So how is he suppose to see all of us as one when he still buys into Bush’s insane upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper, upper class tax biases?

The notion that those who have so much when given special tax breaks will then allow their money to trickle down to the middle and lower classes is absurd.

So is four, five, oh, hell, seven houses.

Just a question. If Sarah Palin weren’t so pretty and telegenic, would she have been chosen?

As a mother – that is one who watches the Republican Convention while her daughter is watching who knows what – I had to ask myself, shouldn’t Sarah’s baby be in his crib instead of hauling him out night after night in front of klieg lights and some 80,000 screaming people? He must have been frightened.

Her teenage daughter is pregnant. Must she be paraded, too? What is this: a Jamie Lynne Spears re-do? Can’t her daughter have a little privacy? Though, I must admit the close-up of the faux “fiancé” holding hands with his “bride-to-be” was priceless. He must have thought: ‘All I have to do is say is I’ll marry her and I get a free trip, a fancy hotel and all the room service I want?”

Nobody can twist a negative into a positive like those always thinking Republicans. Ah, but those earnest CSI detectives will find the sticky fingerprints of Karl Rove.

I wish McCain had beat Bush eight years ago. Had he, we would never have gotten into Iraq. A person who has seen the horrors of war, who has been a prisoner of it, would not go needlessly into the night and start one. Had he been elected, I think he would have concentrated on Afghanistan. On that, Barack Obama and he are probably not far a part.

Had Gore gone against McCain and not Bush and had not the egomaniacal spoiler Ralph Nader entered the race, this country would not be where it is because we would have had a President Gore, decent health care, cleaner air, alternative energy: the Got-Done list would go on and on. 

Seeing all the veterans in the Republican audience from World War 11, and the Vietnam War, and listening to McCain repeatedly say, “fight, fight fight, and America is great!” I couldn’t help but think of the Elvis Costello song, “A Man Out of Time.”

John McCain seems like a decent guy, but one who is not only out of time, but also for whom too much time has passed and for whom there is no presidential future. The last thing we need is more fighting. McCain is not the man nor is Palin the woman to restore this country to what it was once.

To misquote Costello, I hope America has not become -- “A Country Out of Time.”

By Dawn Yun


Labels: , , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Mommy Gets Some Time to Herself -- Yeah!!!

I’m leaving in two days. The thought of riding in my own passenger zone without hauling five hours’ worth of activities, snacks and diapers is enough to make me giddy. Just me, my book, and my iPod.

In any order I choose.

These next forty-eight hours will be focused on preparation for the trip; not packing, mind you, but advance meal preparation, directions to ballparks, soccer and piano schedules, phone numbers for parents, coaches, and our contractor. I know the odds of finding these homemade meals eaten when I return, with In-N-Out just over the bridge and Gaspare’s thin crust six blocks away.

They’ll miss me, but it will be an adventure.

Life on the wild side.

I feed that element, stocking up on all of their favorite snacks that will now be associated with Daddy-company rather than Mommy-away time. I will be the one laughing about the “walk a mile” comparison, but I’ll also be the one sneaking out of meetings to make sure everyone’s doing okay. Hourly. They’ll all rush to the phone the first time, breathlessly filling me in on their days. By the next call, they’ll decline the offer, not realizing I can hear them say, “No, that’s OK” when Kevin asks if they’d like to talk to Mom.

As soon as I leave, dinner and sleepover invitations will emerge from some secret signal fathers transmit when they’re left to fend for themselves. And while a part of me wants the family to experience a reality-based weekend, not one propped up by pre-made meals, printed lists, and back-to-back play dates, I realize the support team is rallying behind me, too.

I have an idea of what to expect when I return. The house will be in tatters. The kids will need baths. The mail will be stacked in a giant pile; voicemails will be blinking, unheard, and Cameron will be wearing the same outfit I left her in. They will be oh, so happy to see me, but they will be fine.

And if the actual results don’t support my “see what happens when I leave” scenario? That’s OK, too. It’s about time I visited my friend in Rochester.

By Kimberley Kwok \

Labels: , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Latte-Lovin' Mama

As a sensitive person, I didn’t do caffeine. 

The few times I drank coffee my rate of speech doubled, and I couldn’t sleep until a few days later.  

(Maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the point here.)

But now that Starbucks is in my local Safeway, I find myself indulging in a tall, one-pump chai latte. 

They normally have three pumps.

The other day, sitting at the computer after drinking one, I shared in astonishment with my husband, “I really get inspired when I drink caffeine!” 

He gave me his best “no, duh” look.

My husband often suffers the brunt of my health-conscious rants.  No high fructose corn syrup, no food coloring, no soybean oil, and the list goes on.  I’ve been on the anti-caffeine bandwagon since I met him.  As a Swede, he began drinking coffee shortly after being weaned from his pacifier.  Upon my ever-so-subtle suggestions, he eventually went off caffeine, surviving the withdrawal headaches for a weekend before they cleared. 

But children-induced sleep deprivation changed that. 

He’s back on.

And, apparently, so am I.

I’m finding it best not to be too “anti” anything these days.  Any judgment or rigidity on my part seems to find me eventually eating my words. 

Or in this case, drinking a latte.

By Kristy Lund

Labels: , , ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble This Post Add to Technorati Favorites

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?