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.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Bring Your Children to Vote Day

The past eight years have been a nightmare seemingly without end.

In a few days, hopefully, our towns, cities, states, country, and other nations – the world will be a safer place.

However, the mistakes made by two mad, overly inept men of power will not be undone overnight. Nor in several nights or even in a few years.

But the road to healing may soon be paved.

Imagine! Stupidity can be replaced with intelligence and -- here's a word we haven't heard for some time, competence!!!!

Lives and limbs will not be lost. People will be made whole.

America will no longer be laughed at but might, just maybe, even gain a measure of respect. It’s too soon to say if our status will ever be restored.

History has been rewritten. And not in a good way.

Before there can be change there must be action.

You need to vote.

You need to vote for Obama.

You need to bring your children with you when you vote so they can see what so many of us hope will be an historic, life-changing event.

When they get older they will be reading in their history books about what is now taking place. They will be witnesses to history. To a time when their mothers and fathers said they could no longer countenance the inequities that were going on in their own country and that were being imposed on other nations.

It will be a time they will always remember.

Bring your children with you to vote.

It is not often that families get a chance to make history together.

By Dawn Yun

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I don’t get why some people are ecstatic about Sarah Palin because they see themselves in her.

I see myself in my children, and it’s not a pretty picture.

For example, my daughter picks at her scalp as she reads on the couch, a vile habit she picked up from me.

The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. I shudder to see my world-weary self in my sardonic teenagers. Is it too late to graft on a branch from someone nicer and less cynical?

What parents have not cringed to see themselves through their children’s play? “Not now, can’t you see I’m busy?” your shrewish preschooler lashes out at assorted baby dolls.

“Bad, bad boy,” admonishes another. Nagging mommies, impatient daddies, parents just too pooped to play litter the landscape of family life as depicted through imaginary play.

Seeing ourselves in our children can be painful. But at least that eye-opening glimpse in the mirror gives us an opportunity to take corrective action. Catching ourselves at our worst moments, we try harder. With just a little parental awareness and effort, our children transform from young Frankensteins into reflections of our better selves. We see it in how they treat others with kindness and respect, from the stuffed animals of the nursery to their fellow global citizens.

What do I see about myself when I look in the mirror of presidential politics? Just under Sarah Palin’s attractive veneer lurks a meanness rivaled only by middle-school clique queens. In appealing to the base, Palin reflects what is basest in all of us.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, reflects the better angels of our nature.

It can go either way. This is every parent’s choice for what aspects of self we cultivate in our children.

It is the choice we now face for our country.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Multiple-Personality Mom

Ten years ago I learned that one key to successful parenting was consistency. When my boys were three and five I found myself completely overwhelmed.  I took a Positive Discipline workshop with other consoling miserable parents, most of whom had teenagers and these parents were really not loving life. 

They told wonderful Afterschool Special-worthy horror stories, but then they would cry. At least my two whirling dervishes were in bed by eight, and I still outweighed them by fifty pounds if things got ugly.

Ten years ago all my fears were homegrown: holding onto the banister, keeping cleaning supplies out of reach, wearing sunscreen, standing up in the tub, jumping off the top bunk, wearing a helmet, asking before you pet a strange dog. 

The controlled substances were sugar and videos.

But now I have teenagers and I feel anything but consistent.  

I am three different mothers.  

I have three kids and each needs their own mom. I am a different mother in my thirteen-year old’s bedroom than I am when I cross the hall into my eight-year olds, and a third when I go downstairs to discuss Driver’s Ed with the fifteen-year old.

With adolescence comes the top-shelf fears: driving with idiots, indulging, enlisting, bailing on college, federal prosecution for illegal file-sharing or tattooing their band’s name on their forearm.

I haven’t even started dealing with the girlfriends yet. 

But if we are consistent, we three moms, it is that we morph like the beach. We receive the gifts and the wreckage from the ebb and flow of each child’s triumphs, insecurities, accomplishments, and frustrations. 

The tsunamis of adolescence can trash us.

We often look like a disheveled wreck even if we’re smiling. 

My mothering will never be mistaken for a balmy beach in paradise, and like that beach, I look better in the soft indirect light of a sunset.

By Mary Allison Tierney

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Balancing Mommyhood

My almost three-year old didn’t want to go to school this Monday morning.  He had too much fun over the weekend with Mom, Dad and Grandma, and he just wanted to stay home and do all those fun things again.

“I want pancakes!” he said to my face in the dark while I slept, or tried to.

“We can do that,” I told him, pulling myself out of bed.

While he ate the pancakes I reminded him he had to get dressed for school.

“I want to stay home,” he declared.

“Not today, Munchkin,” and I explained why he had to go to school.

“I want to go see Grandma,” he said. 

“Grandma went home.”

He thought for a moment.  “I want to get coffee with Mommy.”

“You have to go to school, Julien. No coffee stop today.”

“Nounourse want coffee,” he said, holding up his stuffed polar bear (“nounourse” is French for teddy bear).

“Nounourse is too young for coffee, as are you.  You have to go to school today.”

“I want to stay home with Mommy,” he repeated.

“I know.  Maybe on Thursday or Friday, but not today.”

Sometimes, he doesn’t want to go to school, and sometimes I don’t want him to go.  He’s cute, he’s fun, together we play and laugh and cuddle, he gives plenty of hugs and kisses, and I love him ferociously.  Plus, now that he’s almost three, there’s a whole world of fun activities to do.  Why wouldn’t I want to spend my days frolicking with my young son?

The alternative is to face the dull glare of my computer screen alone in my home office, hustling in my independent consulting practice to earn some bucks, trying to create and finish projects I dream up in my head, struggling to make some mark in the world for my self, my family, and most especially, my son.

Sometimes the pressure is too much.  I’d really much rather go play with my son.


But.  For me to feel whole, I need to work.  That’s part of who I am and I know it.  I need to strive toward goals, work toward accomplishment.  By doing so, I feel engaged and fulfilled, and as a result, I’ve found, I’m a much better mommy.  When I’m with my son, I’m really with him, engaged and relishing every moment. 

If I want more time with him, or sense he needs more time with me, then we play hooky from work and school.  Balancing between work and family is not easy; there’s often tension, and I find myself fine-tuning that balance all the time.  But that’s just part of motherhood, and I wouldn’t give up motherhood for all the accolades in the world.

By Cindy Bailey


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Monday, October 27, 2008


When You've Always Got a Friend

Yesterday was my best friend Amy’s birthday. I didn’t know if she was in Washington or visiting her mother in Connecticut, so I left messages at both places.

I planned to call her today, but she beat me to it.

She always does.

I first noticed her kindness when we were barely in double digits. I told her how much I liked the James Taylor album, “You’ve Got a Friend.”

For my birthday a few weeks later she bought me the disc.

“How did you know I wanted that?” I asked amazed.

“I remember you mentioned it,” she said with a smile.

I stared at her in wonder. Such kindness. Such thoughtfulness. And she could hold a secret! Amy said she knew she was going to buy me that gift as soon as I said I liked it. Yet, she never told me she was going to purchase it. If that were me -- I would have blurted it out.

Over the years there have been many incidents like that. Someone asking Amy to hold a secret and she always does. I asked her how she was able to do it. She seemed surprised at the question because the answer was so obvious.

“Because someone asked me to promise not to tell,” she said.

OK, felt instantly stupid, but I knew I wanted to follow her principled example. It is from Amy that I learned the importance of discretion.

I met her just after she moved to Connecticut from Brooklyn, N.Y. Her first words to me were, “I hear you’re nice. Want to come to my party?

“Sure,” I said, trying to act cool. Inside I thought, “Woo-hoo!”

Because Amy was new, she was instantly popular at school. However, within a few months she went from being everyone’s best friend to a piranha. To this day, neither of us knows why, other than kids can be randomly cruel.

“You were the only one who was still my friend,” Amy recalled.

“Really,” I said, not quite remembering the incident. Of course, the scars were much deeper for her, even all these years later.

“Yeah, when I was crying about everybody being so mean you said they were losers. To forget about them because they weren’t worth it. You said not to worry because you’d always be my friend. “

What makes our relationship so important is the time and nurturing that we have put into it.  Even as kids we spoke about how when we got older we would remain best friends.

The funniest moments of my life have been spent laughing with her. The kind of laughter that is rare, deep and unstoppable. It may not even be anything that is said. It can just be a look. A knowingness. A bond. But it also is only shared with someone who knows you incredibly well.

When my daughter, Mimi, was born, Amy flew out to spend a week with me. After I was diagnosed with cancer, she dropped everything, and came with me for my first clinical medical trial visit. It was eight hours long and at the end, we were both exhausted. Afterwards, while I slept on the couch, she played with my daughter and tried to keep her from disturbing me.

Amy called me every week for nearly a year and a half asking me about the trial and gently encouraging me to drop it. Stubbornly, I did not. She didn’t push. Instead, she listened to my complaints and whining without judgment. It was the greatest gift she could have given me.

When Amy recently went though a tough patch, I called, not as often as she called me, not nearly so, but I would listen intently when she wanted to talk, not push when I could tell she didn’t, and then gently prod her as I know when Amy needs encouragement to speak.

It’s like that album Amy bought me so many years ago that has proven prescient: “You’ve Got a Friend.” 

We've talked about it often and we agree -- we're blessed.

By Dawn Yun

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


Riding the Mommy Wave

Last Wednesday, I had the day off from work, but my own grade school children had class.  

My day was wide open from eight-thirty to three.

Sure, I could have graded a pile of papers, organized my son’s drawers, or stained the deck; but when I awoke to that fogless, windless, October morning, I knew what I had to do. 

Go to the beach.

At breakfast, I mentioned my plans to my husband. 

“I would never do that,” he said, as if going to the beach on a workday was the moral equivalent of having an affair.

I made sure the workmen who were installing our furnace all week were not looking when I loaded my boogie board, towel and snacks into the car.  I didn’t want them to think I was a good for nothing woman of leisure.  Plus, I didn’t want them to know I would be gone all day.

I thought again about staying home. 

I could answer any questions they might have, or create some PowerPoints for my class.  Of course, the workers could always call me or better yet, my husband.  

I walked along Stinson Beach, watching the morning light sparkle on the receding and approaching waves.

Pleasantly worn out, I spread my towel and lay down.  I didn’t miss my children’s arguments about who brought which beach toys, or whining about not being able to eat a sandy sandwich.

After a while, I decided it was time to boogie board.  The ocean was freezing.  Not wanting to dip my chest in the water, I missed catching the first big wave.  When the next one came -- I was ready. 

I swam furiously, and caught the break. 

I rode twenty feet to shore and back, nearly colliding with a seventy-year old couple. 

Then I did it again.

As I ran to the sea, I was glad that my non-maternal, non-professional, non-wifely self had persevered.

By Beth Touchette


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Saturday, October 25, 2008


A Family Morning

This is how I start my day.

I wake up and consider a concept for a novel. I have no plan to write it, but I am thinking about it. I listen as my husband struggles to get the kids out of bed. 

Notice me not rushing to help him.

I finally get up, forced by hunger. I am in the kitchen and my daughter, who is almost nine, confronts me. “Mom, do you know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of 1. Magic diamonds cereal 2. Apples for snack 3. Cheese toast for afternoons.”  She counts off each one with a finger slapped into her palm.

I look at her, hair unbrushed, jeans too baggy, and little freckles on her nose. I say, with a hint of mockery, “I am not surprised you are tired of those foods. They are all you eat.”

Undaunted, she counts down her list again slapping those fingers into her palm for each item, and stands there, chin up, hands on hips as if it were my fault she won’t eat anything. We agree she might be willing to try a new snack bar.

“The one with chocolate chips,” she says. Then she puts her school snack—an apple—in her sweatshirt pocket and leaps into an Arabesque in the kitchen.  “Laaa!” she sings off key and heads off to start her day.

Then my fuzzy headed son comes in. He crashes into me, knocking me back a step, buries his face into my stomach, and clutches my sweater sleeves.

“Mmm” he says. “Hi Mama.”  It is pretty hard to get mad at anyone who says hi like that. 

“Hi bunny,” I say, “Are you dressed?” He is clearly not dressed, still wearing his pajamas, holding his blanket (a bright orange square of fleece) and two or three sleeping buddies.

“I want YOU to get me dressed,” he says, poking me in the belly.  I point out that I have not eaten. He says he doesn’t care. I say that I need to eat first before I do anything, or else I might be tempted to -- “Eat my children!”

I tickle him and nuzzle his head. He has more hair than God, and it usually sticks straight out. He squeals and runs off.

After I eat, I stand at the door and watch my children scamper away. My long-legged daughter lopes next to her father, same lanky body type.  My son skips to catch up with them, I notice his arms are sticking out of his sleeves, and his pants are too short. Well, that’s what happens when you marry a tall skinny guy, I guess.

I have good kids, I think appreciatively.

Then I start the rest of my day.

By Lianna McSwain

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Friday, October 24, 2008


Birthday Blues

“Mama, I don’t want to have anymore birthdays,” my daughter announced the other day in a quavering voice. “I just want to stay four.”

You’ve got to be kidding me, was my first reaction. She’s already worried about getting older? What’s next—a trip to the dermatologist for a little Botox?

And then I felt a twinge of sadness. If you only knew, I thought, how much I wish you could stay four forever, too, or at least a bit longer. It seems impossible that she’ll be five next month and off to kindergarten in the fall.

Hugging her, I tried to explain that no one gets to stay four-years old. Getting older is how you get to be a Big Kid, I told her.

“Besides, honey, don’t you want to have a birthday party?” I said “You can invite all your friends and…”

“I don’t want a party!” she snapped. “And I don’t want to be a Big Kid!”

This wasn’t the first time she’d been upset about getting older. The subject started coming up about a year ago. Not often -- and usually only when she’s over-tired -- but often enough to concern me.

Where is this coming from, I wonder? Did I worry about birthdays when I was her age? I don’t think so. I only remember anticipating a day that was all about me and the party, presents and cake that went with it.

I probe and dig, trying to figure out what’s going on inside her little head. Though I don’t really have a clear-cut answer, I suspect she senses that behavior that’s perfectly acceptable now won’t be when she’s five. Already, for example, she’s getting the message that it’s not okay to flash her panties -- or other body parts -- when she does a somersault in the park. And it’s starting to sink in that Cowie, her favorite stuffed animal and best friend, won’t be able to go with her to kindergarten every day like she does to preschool.

Let’s just say she’s not happy about either development.

I have a feeling she’ll eventually be thrilled to be five. I just wish I could erase her anxiety about growing up. Like birthdays, though, change is a part of life I know she’ll have to come to terms with in her own way.

By Dorothy O’Donnell

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


Lost in Translation

My husband speaks Swedish with our boys, but when his parents visit, there are actual adult conversations going on.  If what’s being said is one sentence like, “Let’s change your diaper” or “Let’s build a train set,” I feel pretty good about my Swedish comprehension because I know what’s being said.  

When the discussion deviates to emotions, verbs, or anything above a two-year-old’s vocabulary, I become a bit lost. 

I don’t like to tell people I attended adult-ed night classes for five years to learn Swedish.  They might expect something from me.  Like being able to understand the language.

On a recent visit, my mother-in-law and eldest son Lucas were having a fun time playing hide and seek in our house.  The noise of their laughter played in the background while I savored a rare moment of daytime book reading (The Italian Affair, if you must know.)  When Lucas jumped out and found my mother-in-law, she gasped and exclaimed, “Du hittade mej!” (my translation: “You hit me!”). 

She seemed shocked.

I was stunned as well. That was not something my son normally did.  Now, I hadn’t seen it happen of course, but I heard what my mother-in-law had said.  She didn’t seem to be reacting much, so I marched in there and told Lucas in a stern voice that it is not OK to hit Farmor.

Everyone stopped and looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.

It was then that I conveniently remembered that “hittade” means found, not hit.  She had been feigning surprise saying, “You found me!”

I apologized to Lucas who looked more confused than anything else.  I think he was amused that Mommy had made a minor fool of herself.

No major harm done, I humbly accepted my lesson: when translating on my own, it’s probably best to fact-check before reprimanding.  Actually, that might be a good lesson regardless of the language being spoken.

Now when the kids get older and it come to Swedish curse words, well, I’ll be blissfully clueless.

By Kristy Lund

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Exactly Like Everybody Else

Ann and Joan got married recently. The brides were radiant in their silk tunics, silvery hair, and sensible shoes. After waiting seventeen years to walk down the aisle, they’d earned their comfort.

Now Proposition 8 threatens to amend the California constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to wed. If it passes, anyone who falls in love with someone of the same gender can forget about honoring that love with a wedding march and the ultimate commitment.

“Anyone” could mean you, your neighbor, your child, your mailman, your favorite niece, your coworker’s son, your grandchild, and your kid’s terrific teacher. Proponents argue that if people like Ann and Joan are allowed to say “I do,” marriage between men and women is somehow in danger.

What’s really in danger is the march for fairness and equality.

If Proposition 8 passes, it will not only shatter the wedding plans of loving same-sex partners: it will deny their mothers the joy of tears and coordinated pastels. Proposition 8 will enshrine discrimination in the California constitution. Are my rosy-cheeked friends really such a threat to warrant taking away their rights?

Like any couple getting married, Ann and Joan vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other until parted by death. They could pledge this with more certainty than the average newlyweds, having already lived so many years together for better and for worse.

Ann vowed to try not to throw things away. Joan promised she would try to throw things away.

That’s what comes from being forced to wait nearly two decades for marriage. You know one another’s foibles so well that what used to drive you crazy now deepens your love. You know it’s precisely your differences that bring balance. You know it’s the trying that counts.

The brides spoke in honor of their dead parents. When Ann first revealed she was gay, her mother responded, “It’s about time you figured it out.”  Ann quipped that her father would have loved to give her away to Joan, if she were the type to let her be given away to anyone.

Joan’s family was less embracing. Her mother died when Joan was twenty-four, fearful that her daughter would suffer terribly from living what she saw as a deviant lifestyle in a hostile culture. Joan knew her mother would be delighted that her fears had not come true, and that her life was rich with love and happiness. She wished her mother had lived to share her joy.

Guests were invited to place a rose in a silver vase and express what this wedding meant to them. By the end, the vase was crammed with roses of every hue.

I grew up dreaming of bridal bouquets and my bridesmaids’ matching sashes. I didn’t know what blooms would be in season when I married, or whether my color scheme would be driven by the daffodils of spring or the chrysanthemums of fall. But as a straight woman, I knew I could count on having a season.

Now there is a season for everyone.

We can’t let Proposition 8 take that away again

Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that gay people shouldn’t be granted special rights. But what is so special about wanting to be treated like everybody else? It’s not just gays who benefit—we all do. My joy in realizing a childhood dream is enhanced because my gay friends and family members are no longer excluded from having such dreams.

Contrary to Proposition 8 supporters’ dire warnings, I cannot possibly imagine how same-sex weddings threaten traditional couples. A marriage that draws its strength from discrimination is not a sound marriage at all. As I listened to the readings about love, friendship, and commitment that Ann and Joan chose for their wedding, my feelings for my husband of twenty-two years only deepened.

Surely Ann and Joan don’t need the state to affirm their love and commitment. At sixty-something, they can buy all the bath towels and appliances and flowers they want. They can even buy a lawyer’s time to secure most of the rights that straight couples take for granted. But without the state’s sanction, something is missing.

Now we all have a chance to enjoy what money can’t buy: inclusion and equality.

At the end of the ceremony, Joan and Ann grinned through their tears while we all cheered and wept.

“This is something we never dreamed would happen,” Joan said. “We never imagined that we could get dish towels and kitchen gadgets, like everybody else.”

At last they can.

And at last we can give them.

By Lorrie Goldin


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


It's OK for a Mom to Take Time for Herself

Tonight I left my seventeen-month-old son, Soren, at home with his father so I could attend an evening writing class. It is the first time in his young life that I have not been there to put him to bed. I guess I should have realized that taking a night off for myself would not come naturally now that I am a mother. As the time drew near for me to leave, I frantically rushed around the house, stopping first in the kitchen to prepare Soren’s dinner and scribbling detailed feeding instructions on Post-It notes.

Then up to the bathroom to set out the big blue bathtub and Soren’s favorite tub toys. Finally, into the nursery to lay out his pajamas and warm socks and to make sure that his lovey, a well-worn striped cat, was waiting in his crib.

It is not that I doubt my husband’s competence to feed and bathe our son and tuck him snugly into bed. However, as the one who has performed these rituals every night since he was born, I cannot stop myself from micromanaging the evening. It is my way of being there, even when I am away.

My husband once revealed that he considers me to be the pilot and himself the co-pilot of the “baby plane.” However, he assured me that he could land the plane safely if necessary. I see that this is true as I go into the living room to say an early goodnight to my son, who is playing happily with his father on the floor.

He is oblivious to the sadness in my voice as I explain to him that Daddy will be performing the bedtime routine solo tonight. In fact, my child can barely be bothered to look up from his blocks. My heart is heavy as a I walk to the car and realize that this is only the first of many such good-byes in our relationship.

I hope that they will always be harder on me.

By Rebecca Jackson


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Monday, October 20, 2008


Terror Deep Into the Night

The sound of Nick’s quick steps on the hardwood floor awoke me before I heard his voice at my bedside. 

“Mom,” my eleven-year old said.  “I had a really bad nightmare.  I’m so scared.”

I pulled my covers back and pushed my body upright.  I’m always a bit surprised at how easily I spring into mom mode in the middle of the night.

“I’ll lay down with you, sweetie,” I assured him.

I draped my arm around his shoulders and we walked down the hall to my son’s bedroom.  My husband slept soundly, completely unaware we were awake.

Nick lay down on his stomach, scooting against the wall to give me a slice of his twin bed. 

“Do you remember the dream?” I asked. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Yes,” he answered.  “It was so scary.”  His hot cheek lay on mine, his mouth near my ear.  “I dreamt that Sarah Palin was ruler of the nation.”

I stifled a laugh. 

This was my nightmare, too.

“She made all the boys go to doctors for hearing tests.  But instead of a test, they would hear a loud noise and die.  I see all these boys dying.  Falling dead off of chairs, onto the floor.”

“Honey, that’s horrible,” I said.  My heart ached and cringed.

Nick fell back to sleep within minutes. I stayed with him for a couple of hours, drifting in and out of sleep, keeping watch.  I didn’t want him to wake up alone in the dark.

Nick’s prone to nightmares.  He’d had night terrors during his younger years where he would sleep walk and fight off imaginary monsters.  He is not allowed to watch horror movies or violent crime dramas.  Nor can he choose books with scary themes.  

But I had not shut out real life.

Nick joins in discussions with his Dad and me about the presidential election and the war in Iraq.  He understands what a draft is.  He’s been to antiwar rallies with his Dad.  As far as I know, he’s never seen the video footage from September 11th, but he has asked lots of questions this year about what happened that day. 

Maybe real life is just too scary for an eleven-year old boy right now.  Maybe his Mommy needs to keep a better watch out during the daylight hours for what scares him before his dreams are invaded by real terrors.

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


We Wuv When They're So Cute and Huggly

My son is only hugs years old and yet he has mastered the complex emotional satisfaction of a hug.

Jacob has a language delay that basically means his words lack articulation, so when he says anything clearly -- I am thrilled.

One week ago he began to say, “Give hug” as he walked towards me, arms open, and squeezed with emphasis upon contact. I equated this to modeling and that he was just hugging because he sees others do it, including me to him about twenty times a day.

Yesterday, he approached me, head down, arms at his sides and clearly said, “Need hug.”

Who knows how long this adorable being has been in touch with his emotions? He was actually aware of his needs; he knew the difference between giving and needing a hug. Predicting his need has been my job so far, as well as following through with the appropriate fix.

I appreciate the clarification of his emotional independence that comes with the ability to express his needs with words. I definitely underestimated him. I am amazed at how self-aware he is at three. A hug is a clear, physical form of communication, but distinguishing between giving and needing is emotionally complex.

He goes that much further sharing his hugs with his four-year old brother Jack and Daddy.

That makes me a proud mama.

I don’t mind him gaining independence: I just hope the hugs last forever.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy
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Saturday, October 18, 2008


THIS is Something Special

Our “outdoors discovery center” at a preschool where I teach is really just a glorified playground.

Today we are all about sandbox and water play, and I am in for a special treat of pretend-tasting sand cupcakes, sand ice creams and and chocolates with mud gravy. I finally declare myself “very full” and hop to the bench to take a break from all the delicacies.

After about a minute, little Mia runs up to me holding something in her clenched fist: “Ms. Sveta, look! I brought it for you!”

I fully expect your typical sweet preschooler’s offering – a rock, a dead bug or may be a flower petal or, if I am particularly lucky, a live spider. 

Mia’s eyes are sparking with anticipation of my reaction. She looks around to make sure no one else is listening, and says, “It’s a secret!” Mia lets me peek into her fist, and I can see that it is empty. I get my ear close to her and she excitedly whispers, “It’s nothing!” I think I get it. Still a bit puzzled, I look at her expecting her to laugh at this great joke she played on me. But Mia looks completely serious, with that “you are my co-conspirator now” look on her face.

“You want it?” – she asks. I quickly nod, and she signs for me to open up my palm. She carefully opens up her fist just a bit, and slowly transfers precious nothing into my palm, helping me to close up my fingers in a firm fist.

“You can keep it!”

I promise her I will take good care of it.

A few days later, she inquires: “Do you still have our nothing?”

I whisper back, “Yes, of course!” We both smile knowingly, and I feel so proud to be a keeper of this special gift.

By Svetlana Nikitina


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Friday, October 17, 2008


In One Ear and then to Outer Space

I feel like I’ve had the following conversation with my husband a zillion times.

The situation: We are meeting at 1 p.m. on Thursday at our son’s school for a parent teacher conference.  I need to BART from my job in San Francisco to the school in Oakland.  My husband works out of our home in Oakland.          

The conversation begins on Tuesday: 

Me:  I’ll have to meet you at school on Thursday, the day of the conference.  I’ll probably just make it in time.  It’s going to be a tough day for me to take time off work.

My husband: OK.

The conversation continues on Thursday: 

Me: Tomorrow is the parent teacher conference.  I’ll meet you at school.  I won’t have time to come home first.

Husband: OK, I’ll meet you there.

I think the conversation wraps up Friday morning.  My husband is still in bed when I leave for work. I kiss his cheek.

Me: I’ll see you at school at 1.

Husband: OK.

Around 10:30, I check voice mail messages. My husband’s voice:  Uh, so I guess you’ll come home first and then we’ll go to school together? Is that what we’re doing?


By Marianne Lonsdale

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


The Eye of the Storm

“So that’s why the airfare was cheap,” mused my twenty-year-old daughter, Emma, when I told her the weather report.

Emma was about to go to a tropical island in the Caribbean during hurricane season. She was traveling internationally for the first time, with a boy we had met only once. After three weeks together, she would continue solo to an organic farm in Costa Rica. This from a girl so shy she could barely bring herself to ask for directions on Muni.

I had reconciled myself to the adventure with the unknown boy. I had even managed to convince myself that a girl who abandoned raking the garden after encountering a dead centipede could find happiness, or at least herself, while working the land.

Great things could happen by putting herself outside of her comfort zone and cell phone reach . . .  couldn’t they?

But as I awoke to NPR’s report on the number of Category 5 hurricanes ready to slam the Caribbean, the effects of global warming were no longer abstract.

Nor was my equanimity intact.

“We can’t let her go,” I fretted to my husband. “I bet John Walker Lindh’s parents wished they’d put their foot down when he insisted on studying in Yemen.”

Then I thought of the minister who addressed us before we entrusted our other daughter to a church group building houses in a part of Mexico riddled with drug murders.

“The world is a risky place,” the minister said. “I worry about this each time my own children travel to faraway countries. What if they get caught up in violence? What if there is an attack? But then I realize that the far greater risk comes from never leaving home.”

Emma boarded a plane the day after Hurricane Gustav hit the island. She was there during Ike’s devastation a couple weeks later. Fortunately, I barely had time to panic—with the miracle of generators and Internet cafes on the well-prepared island, she e-mailed us within hours. Other than suffering a stubbed toe and boredom during the brief blackout, she’s having the time of her life.

The storm blew away the timid girl we drove to the airport not so long ago. She’s never coming back. Instead, we eagerly await the confident and intrepid world traveler who will soon wash up on our shores.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sick AND Tired Mommy

There are no sick days for mothers.

I didn’t consider this very carefully when I ventured into motherhood. I didn’t know that my precious little Petri dishes would soon be licking shopping carts, mouthing sippy cups belonging to runny-nosed toddlers and bringing home hungry viruses looking for a vulnerable individual: like a sleep-deprived, stressed out mom. 

Despite immune boosting herbs and positive thinking, I awoke Saturday morning with all the dreaded sign of flu: headache, sore throat, chills and the feeling that a herd of Buffalo had used my body as a dance floor all night.

The baby was crying and the clock read five-thirty in the morning.  “Your turn,” I said, nudging my sleeping husband.

“Nooo,” he whined, turned over and started snoring.

I tried to lift my head. Like a sack of bricks, it came crashing back down on the pillow.

“Please,” I begged, poking him a little harder, “I’m sick.”

As the baby’s cries begin to sound like a smoke alarm, he rolls out of bed, grumbling. He leaves the bedroom door wide open for my listening pleasure.

The crying stops and is replaced by the squeaking of the crib as baby is lifted out. Then plastic and metal clang together as my husband deposits baby on floor with the contents of the toy bin. A short pause and then I hear heavy creaking as my husband flops onto my four-year-old’s bed.

Not surprising, the four-year-old is now awake, rattling off thirty already formed questions to Daddy who is probably already snoring away.  Soon the baby is screeching again and both kids are in my room asking for breakfast.

Maybe I could drive myself to a hotel and have a real sick day. I’d check in, draw the blackout shades, and crawl under the clean sheets and sleep. The bathroom, TV and chicken noodle soup from room service would be a bonus. Most importantly, there would be no screaming babies, conversation-demanding preschoolers, clueless husbands or barking dogs.

But, before that can happen, my husband needs to wakes up.

By Maya Creedman

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Unhappy Hour Grocery Shopping with kids

Bewitching hour at the grocery store.

I dare to venture into Safeway between four-thirty and eight at night, or whenever my kids start to melt down in the evening.

Over the din of crying babies and the glare of fluorescent lighting a chemical imbalance occurs in children. I’ve seen kids go from complacent and mute to wild-eyed Mr. Hydes determined to torment their parents. Tired, testy parents are forced to brush past other tired and testy shoppers in single-lane aisles.

Oh, the horror.

In my pre-kid life I remember moving my shopping cart around a father who was kneeling before a young child splayed across the dirty laminate floor. ‘Oh puleeze. Just pick him up and leave,’ crossed my mind. Now I imagine the no-food-at-home/no-choice-but-to-endure scenario that may have forecasted that dad’s ill-timed venture.

The art of distraction only works to a point, too.

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

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

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

by Maija Threlkeld

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Monday, October 13, 2008


Top Ten Signs You Need To Attend Book-Buyers Anonymous (BBA)

10. Every time you see an author talk, you promise yourself you will not buy their book. Even if the book is about worm cultivation in Zimbabwe, you walk away with a signed book.

9. When life finds you down, you turn to book buying. (Note: this is different than book reading, which you have little time for.) But who can resist buying Money, and the Law of Attraction on a day when the stock market dips over 700 points?

8. You borrow books on CD from the library, but then buy the same books in print so you can highlight your favorite quotes. Example: Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.

7. You promise yourself to use the library more, but can’t wait for others to get their fix before getting yours.

6. You spread out your book purchases between different stores so that there is not an obvious large charge on the credit card to alert your spouse.

5. Sometimes you pay cash to reduce the paper trail even further.

4. You confess your addiction to the people working at bookstores as you know their answer will be an enabling message of, “There could be worse addictions,” or “I have the same one, that’s why I work here!”

3. You refuse to do the math of how long it would take to actually read all the unread books you own. (In recovery terminology, this is called Denial with a capital “D.”)

2. When your mom comes to visit, she firmly tells you that you can’t buy any more books until you have more bookcases.

1. You buy more bookcases.

* Disclaimer: this blog was written hypothetically. This in no way resembles me, my family, or anyone I’ve ever known. The local chapter of BBA meets Sunday evenings in the multi-purpose room of the All Saints Lutheran Church. Bring cookies.

By Kristy Lund

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


Gynecology 101

After much reflection I have finally deduced that my mother may have affected my decision to become a gynecologist.  

I suppose if I were so inclined I would have previously spent a lot of money on psychoanalysis, but I can’t bear the thought.  It is not that I am a Scientologist; I just think a lot of problems can be solved in the shoe department at Nordstrom’s.  

Your shoes will always be there for you.  So I had this revelation while meditating on the latest Kate Spades.

At first I was aghast at the thought. How could that be?  Kate, I wondered, are you leading me astray?

But then, as if in slow motion, the truth burst from my subconscious.  My family is vedy British.  But not the England of Tony Blair, or Posh and Becks, or Borat, but rather The Empire in Her glory days, only somewhat askew.  Think equal parts Queen Victoria and Monty Python.  It’s a no-sex-please -we’re-British screamfest with everyone yelling about who had it worse in the war.  

But trust me, a Monty Python skit isn’t so funny when you live it every day.

The word vagina was never mentioned in my house: it was like garlic to a vampire.  

I grew up firmly entrenched in the notion that my parents had sex exactly twice (I have an older brother).  And then the very epicenter of my existence was rocked in my early forties when my mother confided that she had a miscarriage after my older brother was born.  It was like trying to assimilate a whole new dimension.  

As comfortable as I am talking about sexuality at work, when conversation veers to The Empire, I worry that I will have a seizure.  It is like trying to load a PC program on a Mac, my neural circuits are simply not equipped to handle it.  I am not sure what prompted her to drop that emotional bombshell, but all I could think about for days was, “Wow, I was almost never born."  

After all there is only so much one can do for Queen and Country.

So aghast at the mere mention of the word vagina -- none of my mothers friends know what I do for a living. I am a generic doctor to the church and cardigan set.  I remember distinctly telling my mother about my work when she replied, “Why can’t you do something for women’s health?"

Over cucumber sandwiches (you know the little ones with the crusts cut off) I asked, “Pray mother, what is tending to women’s health?”  

“Why reading mammograms of course,” she replied. 

That’s when I finally realized it was all about the vagina.  Having a daughter who was up to her elbows in them every day, well, really. . . 

How do you explain that one over bridge?

By Jennifer Gunter

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


The Tooth Fairy Is Missing Too Many Brain Cells

For weeks my daughter had been pulling, sucking, twisting and spending most of her waking moments trying to get her lower tooth to fall out.

Despite her father’s and my admonishments that her tooth would come in crooked -- Mimi was on a tooth mission.

Daily we checked its looseness, looking for signs of progress that it was tilting forward or back.

“Any day now,” I would say every day.

Not fast enough for highly determined Mimi. She even adopted my mantra that fruit is “nature’s candy,” and would eat bushels of apples, hoping her tooth would embed in a slice.

Instead, she ended up pooping quite a bit. Apples are excellent sources of fiber.

Some days it seemed like her tooth was falling so far forward it was like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Other days it stood straight as a soldier.

Mimi took on excellent habits such as flossing and brushing with regularity.

Still, the tooth remained planted in her gums.

Last week was hard – one of those student conference weeks that meant every day ended at noon, a Marin phenomenon rivaled only by Ski Week. Though in parts of New England the boys are actually allowed to leave school early to go hunting. That has to be an activity held close to Sarah Palin’s heart. (Wait a minute! How did that one get into an essay about my adorable daughter?)

Meanwhile, back in Mimi’s mouth, her tooth was being stubborn. Since part of her college education is already being absorbed by the cash payments to her dentists for all the cavities in her mouth – I’ve allowed her lollipops to push that tooth along.

I CONFESS!!!! I give my daughter candy and NOT just on Halloween. May I share something with you? Suddenly, just the admittance of this – makes me feel better. Perhaps this could translate to one less therapy session?

Back on the tooth ranch, Mimi was growing impatient. After all, she had put in quite a lot of time, easily as much as she does into her homework, into that mouth.

She was having a play date at home and while I was absorbed in front of my computer, she approached me with a large smile. She held her closed fist in front of me and then slowly opened it, revealing the gold within – her tooth.

“It fell out, Mommy. Just like that. No pushing or nothing. I can’t WAIT for the Tooth Fairy to come tonight.”

Tooth Fairy! My extreme happiness for her was suddenly clouded by the thought: do I even have five dollars in my purse – the going rate for teeth these days. What am I saying? This is Marin. Who knows? I can see children being disappointed by crisp $20 bills.

We placed her tooth in a baggy. This took a bit of negotiation, as Mimi is such a free soul she prefers to leave her tooth exposed naked under her pillow. I, blind even with glasses, NEED that baggy. She agreed and I tucked her in with kisses and all the excitement the morning would bring.

But it didn’t.

“Mommy!” Mimi came running into my room in tears. “The Tooth Fairy forgot to take my tooth.” She held up the baggy and incisor.

Oh, shit. She even had evidence. This, I knew, she would never forget.  I had to remedy this tragedy.

I explained to her that you know how Santa Claus is so busy having to drop off all of those gifts, well, the Tooth Fairy has so many teeth to pick up and money to drop off that even she, sometimes forgets.

“It’s not fair,” she said through tears.

“John Kennedy said, ‘Life’s not fair,” I replied.

“What?” she said, scrunching her face. I told her never mind, but that the Tooth Fairy was a lady you could count on. And she wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

The next night I tucked my daughter in, gave her about twenty stuffed animals to hold tight and said the next morning would be a happy one for her.

Come sunrise, a new, five-dollar bill had replaced her baggy and tooth.

But I could see Mimi looked only somewhat happy. “I thought I would get ten dollars because she forgot,” she said. I was happy at least that she was learning her math.

“We’re in a recession,” I explained.

“What?” she asked, scrunching her face.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Hey what are you going to do with all that money?”

“Toys R Us!” she said.

As if there were any other answer. Oh, and the next time she loses a tooth – I’ll write it down in my appointment book, because as you know -- the Tooth Fairy is not allowed to forget.

By Dawn Yun

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Friday, October 10, 2008


To Be Someone

Sometimes a child sits beside you, and you just have to say something. 

I wouldn’t have predicted I would be that person, especially on that day. I had become frustrated by the children whose parents did not want to fish, but who came for the festival, and seemed content to let their kids crowd around us while my sister and I fished with our children. To avoid more feral kids I moved across the pond. After a thirty minutes respite, they came—a father and his daughter.

I felt jarred by the very first words he spoke to her. His tone was impatient, commanding, impersonal, as if he had come to fish and she was a necessary inconvenience.

“Now, sit down and stay still,” he said.

Overweight, about eleven and a very pale redhead, she started to protest that he had placed her in the sun.

“I’m not going to have you sit back from the pond just so you can be in the shade.”

He had a tackle box and an expert rod. She had a tiny plastic pink rod — something you’d give to a six-year-old. He cast her line and walked a few feet back to get his gear. She slowly reeled in her line.

He raised his voice, “I’m not going to keep casting your line. Leave it out there.”

I tried to ignore them. The father caught the first fish, praised himself for his prowess — this in a stocked fishing pond—and returned to berate his daughter again for tampering with her line, not sitting straight, not paying attention. . . I wanted to say something — watched her out of the corner of my eye.

When she hooked a fish her father stood some distance away involved with his own line. I called to him to help her. He grabbed the pole out of her hands and began reeling in her fish. I stood up and walked over.

“Let her do it,” I demanded.

Had I lost my mind? 

And had he? 

Because he listened to me. 

He handed the pole back to her and she landed the fish. I sat down. 

What was I doing? 

When she returned to that bench in the sun to dutifully catch another, I walked over to her and said what I hadn’t heard her father say, “Good catch!”

Her thin smile grew slowly and she nodded at me.

Satisfied, I decided to leave these people to their particular problems and enjoy my day. Every once in a while I heard his voice, alternating between tenderness and agitation — at its worse, critical and demanding. 

I heard enough and escaped again, moving back near my sister.

He, the redhead’s dad, came to us carrying a small white container.

“I caught my quota for today,” he said. “I used these red worms. Would you like the rest?”

As he stepped closer to hand us the worms, I surprised myself and told him, “You need to speak kinder to your daughter.”

He looked at me and bowed his head. “I know,” he said.

“She’ll remember how you speak to her for the rest of her life,” I said.

He made eye contact with me and sounded sincere. “I know. I will.”

My sister stared at me, but before she could speak another woman walked up to us. “I heard him talking to his daughter. That was good what you said to him. And good timing, too.”

I thanked her. I needed someone to say something, and just then, that stranger was my someone.

By Patricia Ljutic

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


Bed Check!

We don’t have a strict curfew for our seventeen-year-old daughter, but we do have one rule: she must wake us up whenever she comes home.

I demand more than the rumble of the garage door opening, more than a breezy, “Hi, I’m back!” from the hallway. I need skin-to-skin contact, to have her shake me awake, to hear how the dance was or what kind of sushi they ate.

“But you’re asleep. I’ll just turn the hall light out instead,” she protests. “What difference does it make?”

“I like to hear about your evening,” I say.

I don’t want to tell her that one difference is smell: illicit smells of pleasure and danger, like alcohol or cigarettes or marijuana or sex.

Another difference is sight, a once-over for pupil size and red rims.

Is it vigilance in the guise of love? Or love in the guise of vigilance?

Yes and yes. Perhaps they are no different.

But I know I will sleep more soundly after the exquisite pleasure of hearing about her evening, kissing her goodnight, and knowing she is safe.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008


The Color of Purple

October is breast cancer awareness month, and rightly so; in the U.S. this cancer affects 250,000 women every year.  To increase screening and raise money for a cure there are pink ribbons and wristbands to wear, pink products to buy, and pink races to run.  But you may not know that is October is also domestic violence awareness month and purple is the color representing the 1.5 million women victimized every year. 

Purple, like a bruise.

For me, all this pink highlights the absence of purple.  Domestic violence gets very little public recognition and I want to know why? 

It is certainly an epidemic of grave proportion. It weakens the fabric of society. Not only does it kill, wound, and demoralize, but also it teaches children that violence is normal and that angry words and hurtful actions bring power.  The cost is also born in sick days; the need for more police, social workers, and jail cells; and higher costs of health insurance.  We are all paying in one-way or another.  As violence begets violence, we collectively give birth to the next generation of batterers, ensuring the perpetuation of the cycle of violence.

So why can we talk so freely about breast cancer, while domestic violence generates innuendo and hushed conversations?

Is it because domestic violence is ugly and scary?

Well, so is breast cancer, but because of hundred of thousands of women who have walked and advocated we have become became aware.  And when they were silenced by their cancer the voices of their families and friends continued, screaming to ALL who would listen, “Get screened!” So breast cancer survivors have been empowered, and in turn have empowered us all.

How has society empowered victims of domestic violence?

After years of demoralization many victims cannot see the danger or have simply resigned themselves to their fate because they simply can no longer visualize a different life.  Some are financially dependent on their batters and children make a complete separation almost impossible.  Many more simply have nowhere to go.   But all are afraid to leave.  Holes in the wall serve as a potent punctuation to what might await those who try.

Our attitude towards domestic violence is not just a crime of omission.  If we were to really hold up the mirror we would also see that we assign blame to the victim, sometimes subtle and other times not so much.  “Why can’t she just leave?” “Didn’t she know?” or “She went back to him, again?”

If we heard that someone we loved had breast cancer we would probably say, “I am so sorry, are you OK?”  “Can I help you in anyway?”  We might also silently offer a prayer, both for her and for ourselves, and then quickly book our own long overdue mammogram.  We would never ask our friend how her gene malfunctioned, why she didn’t get screened sooner, or if she likes a drink or two.

So who will start this empowerment? Who among us will break the silence and chip away at the cycle of violence? Does domestic violence only happen to other people?

We must remember few victims are able to raise the standard, to speak up and be heard.  Never mind shouldering the sordid societal connotations, but victims, past and current, are afraid to speak out, because of what that attention might bring.  It is hard to do a 5k while you are looking over your shoulder.

We remind our sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends to get their mammograms.  Can we not turn that same light on their relationships?  Can we not routinely ask, “Are you safe?” “You seen stressed, tell me about things at home,” or “I am concerned how your were spoken to.”

This weekend I was amazed and empowered by the wall of pink at the grocery store.  On Monday I booked my overdue mammogram.  But it also made me cry, because I wondered if there had been a sea of purple when I needed it if I would have left sooner?

By Jennifer Gunter

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Monday, October 06, 2008


MOM ALERT! Former Physicist Has Found a Way to Create Time

I have gained a scant bit of time by using recorded television to my advantage.  Call it TIVO, DVR, whatever – I call it a time machine.

Granted, I don’t watch much television to begin with -- two minutes of weather and news in the morning, and nothing for the rest of the day.  But, roughly half of the nights of the week, after the kids are tucked in bed, I settle down in front of the tube to give my brain what it needs -- a well-deserved break from thinking, organizing and avoiding content inappropriate for children: bring on the murder, scary monsters and scantily clad adults, all so long as they are NOT animated.

Sure, I am a day or more behind knowing who got booted from Project Runway or what character got offed on CSI but this doesn’t affect a mother of two who rarely speaks to adults, especially those who may reveal some sort of cliffhanger. 

Even if the plot is unintentionally revealed to me through a glance on my Yahoo home page, or by a mom outside kindergarten class, I still revel in viewing those forty-eight minutes of mind-numbing joy.  All of you doubters of my ability of physics in college -- I have done the impossible and created time.  By fast-forwarding through commercials I have gained at least twelve minutes for every “hour” program that I watch. 

Twelve minutes per hour.  

I wish that I could gain extra time all day this way, but, alas, I only have these two hours from eight-thirty to ten-thirty at night.  That only totals a gain of twenty-four minutes, and only half of the days of the week.  

However, I have set aside these moments as a mother’s cherished “me” time.  I have to confess that there are days I use this valuable time to do laundry and other mundane household chores, but most days I take for myself. 

I daringly stand over my light-colored couch and sip my plum-colored wine.  I lay on the floor knowing that there is no chance that I will be dived on, or have a Thomas-the-Tank engine hit my head.  I multi-task and read an entire magazine article while watching Mad Men and comprehend both without having to re-read any lines.  I exhale, twice.  I have time for an intelligent thought, yet not quite enough time to get it collected and written down. 

If only the kid’s school started one hour later, I could stretch my bedtime to eleven-thirty, gain another twelve minutes; enough time to write down that intelligent thought, wake up an hour later, and not feel like I have to main-line my coffee in order to get the kids to school on time.

Ultimately, by wasting time I am gaining time and all of these do-gooder educational types that say television rots your brain aren’t smart enough to figure out how to use it for personal gain. 

Yet another lesson to teach my kids --“Go to college.  Pay attention.  Get good grades.  If physics sounds like a bunch of people got together and made it up over too many Vodka & Tonics, still pay attention.  You never know when you might use the knowledge you have gained.”

 I have.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy


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Sunday, October 05, 2008



In trying to be a responsible parent, last week I pulled aside one of the fencing coaches of my daughter and informed her that Natalia’s father and I were beginning the divorce process, and that this might affect her performance in class.

The coach said that indeed she was holding back, and that she was not progressing at the rate that they had anticipated given her stellar start.


A few days passed. As we prepared to leave the house one morning, I said – and it just came out like this – “Hey, Natalia, you go to fencing tonight. You have to train so you can kick some ass at the invitational this weekend.”

My daughter giggled. I shrank. Oopsy, I thought, I ought not use that language.

I could have said, "It’s okay to win. It’s okay to want to win. No need to be a lady."

Or, I could have gone the let’s-talk-about-our-feelings route. "You know, honey, Coach says you’ve been holding back. Is anything wrong? Do you want to talk about it?"

But, my friends, what I said worked. The next practice, she reverted to the aggressive fencer that she was before, and was much happier for it.

I remember the moment when I lost my fear of skiing. I was in a van with my brother and a bunch of his medical student friends, none of whom I knew and all of whom I feared. Vermont was six hours away. What would I do with all that time if I had no intention of talking with them?

I decided that I was going use the time to brainwash myself. I was tired of being a wimpy skier. I had been cautious way too many years, and I felt bored. So I began my silent self-hypnosis. I am not afraid of skiing. I am whizzing down the mountain and I feel exhilarated. I am strong.

The next day, I pushed myself off the chairlift and without hesitating, I headed straight down the mountain. I am not afraid. I am strong. Whee!

I want my daughter to feel the same liberation in all the things she does. If it takes a few choice words to steer her toward that, well, that’s what it takes. Language is meant to be used, no?

By Vicki Inglis


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Saturday, October 04, 2008


A Boy Can be Anything He Wants! -- Even a Rockette?!?

My son, Mateo, wants to be a Rockette.

He saw them twice last year on television, first performing at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and then in a one-hour special during their annual Christmas Spectacular.

From the minute that line of thirty-six tap-dancing showgirls shuffled onto the TV screen wearing furry red Santa skirts and dazzling smiles, Mateo was transfixed. My normally rambunctious three-year-old boy sat staring at the images as though he’d been hit with a stun-gun.

“Look, there are the girls on a double-decker bus! Sneaking around in Santa’s workshop! And now getting shot by a cannon and falling backward—stiff, like this!—in outfits like wooden soldiers!”

Of course, Mateo is growing up in a household where the word “Rockette” is bandied about regularly in casual conversation. My eighty-year-old mother, Mateo’s grandmother, was a Rockette. (Or I should say is a Rockette, because as anyone with a Rockette in his or her family knows, one never stops being a Rockette, in the same way one never stops being a movie star.)

During mealtime, Mateo gazes at a photo on our kitchen wall of his Grandma Gerry at eighteen, hands on hips as she poses in a sequined leotard on the roof of Thirty Rockefeller Center, home to Radio City Music Hall and the “World’s Greatest Stage.” Not to mention Mateo’s familiarity with the scale model of the Music Hall at my parents’ home in San Diego, the shrine to my mother’s career of framed newspaper clippings, the closets full of top hats and canes. These objects are among Mateo’s cherished playthings.

“Can boys even be Rockettes?” I ask my husband, Tim. I secretly hoped it would be our six-year-old daughter, Olivia, who followed in my mother’s footsteps—that is, I hastily assure Tim, in between Olivia’s training for the Olympics and getting short-listed for the Nobel Prize.

Not Mateo. Not my only son.

“Our children can be anything they want to be,” Tim says, intoning his usual mantra.

I phone my mother and pose the question again.

“Not boys, not yet,” Mom answers. “It could happen eventually.” She pauses to consider the likelihood of Mateo making the cut, even then. “I’m afraid he’s a little short, though.”

“I don’t mean now….”

“And I don’t think he’s got the legs.”

She says this regretfully because, as we both know, there’s nothing anyone can do about “the legs”: You’re either born with exquisitely shaped Rockette legs, or you’re not. I’m the perfect example of not being born with these two natural gifts, which explains why I’ve spent my career toiling in front of a computer as an office drone, instead of captivating audiences with my high kicks.

“I don’t get it,” I say. “Mateo loves fire trucks and cement mixers. He’s all boy. Maybe it’s the sparkles he likes. The pounding sound the tap shoes make. Like thunder.”

“Mmm,” my mother says. It’s no mystery to her why Mateo or anyone else would want to be a Rockette. To my mother, “Rockette” is the greatest job title in the world.

“Have you been following Dancing with the Stars?” she asks. “A line of girls are dancing on next week’s show.”

I check the calendar and sigh. Tuesday night. Mateo and I will be watching.

By Jessica O’Dwyer

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Friday, October 03, 2008


Multi-Colored Threads Create a Quilt of Motherhood

Writing has always been my friend; that one constant loyal companion, always willing to listen whenever the joy or pain within becomes too much to bear. I have always known my voice, heard it clearly in my head and at times too loudly. For as long as I can remember it has been that one thing that truly defined who I really am; putting pen to paper and bleeding blue or black on crisp clean pages.

Lately now, I wonder if what I am experiencing is a sort of writer’s block. The blank pages keep taunting me, goading me to somehow dare to soil them. How I long for the sound of that first crumpled page, balled up in my ever wrinkling lonely fist. What is it that has dammed up all the once free flowing rivers of emotion that I bathed in before Motherhood?

Desperately, I search within each miniscule memory, hoping to somehow unleash that part of me that has become numb; a numbness borne of single parenting three post-teenage sons for two decades.

This malingering numbness began soon after my divorce. It escalated when I had worked 12 hour shifts, six nights a week, taking care of elderly people, so my sons could have a mother around in the daytime when they needed her most. It got worse every tired morning that I rushed back home to make breakfast and then hurriedly drove them to school. Then I’d rush back home, clean up the apartment quickly, so I could lie down for a four or five hour nap that I utilized in place of a good night’s sleep. It became number still, every time I slapped on that damn, peel-n-stick happy face, that pseudo-smile that I had learned to wear whenever we went out to eat and I said I was not hungry because I couldn’t afford to eat, too. Sometimes, it is just so damn hard to get beyond all the pains I suffered, to ensure that my children never would know that life can be really, really tough.

Motherhood, that is so far from the light, cutesy, saintly perspectives. More like an ever deepening dark pit where you hang from a fiber of your last thread; a place where you wake up each day still aching from a pain that a good night’s sleep just can’t heal. Somehow, I am still there in the muck and mire, knee deep in the decomposition of each part of me that I’ve had to abandon along this vast glorious journey. In spite of it all, somehow, Motherhood still feels like a blessing in disguise.

By Julie Ann Richter


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