The Writing Mamas Daily BlogEach 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, February 29, 2008
This morning’s theme was “Outer Space.” Most stories were some sort of re-imagining of the “Star Wars” movie and followed a generally common story line depending on testosterone level.
The boys’ stories leaned toward traveling to outer space in the Millennium Falcon and invariably blowing up aliens to kingdom come. The girls’ remembered their manners and politely asked the antenna-waving aliens the way back home.
Not only did each of them read their story, but then everyone else got to indicate by a hand signal whether he or she enjoyed the reader’s story or not. Thumbs up meant, “Hey, I liked it.” Thumbs down meant, “I didn’t get it…” And thumb straight out, horizontal, meant its OK, but really, (insert exasperated sigh here) you could’ve done better.
Besides judging the stories on content, interest, and detail, the following factors also affected the critiques:
1) If the person reading is your friend (or as in my kid’s case, her mother is watching) then he or she automatically got a thumbs up.
2) If the person had pissed you off that morning, say by cutting in front of you in line, then of course, he or she got a thumbs down.
3) And if you missed the reading because you were whispering to the kid next to you or coloring, well, the best the reader could hope for was a thumb in the middle position.
It was a tough room. Nobody overly impressed the crowd. Everyone got a mixed review. No one was shy about reading their work and a few self-critical souls even gave their own stories a thumbs down.
When my daughter returned home I brought up the reading. Wow, I said hesitantly, that was “interesting,” (the generic term for - what the f%@k was that all about?). I complimented her classmates and her on sharing their work and taking their punches wherever they may fall.
“Mom,” she said, looking at me straight in the eye, “All you really need is a ‘can-do’ attitude.”
Thanks Yoda – from YOU many lessons to learn have I.
By Tania Malik
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Thursday, February 28, 2008
John, my 45-year-old brother, has been mentally ill since he was 18. He can’t balance a checkbook or pay rent. He subsists on cigarettes, junk food and beer. And when he’s upset, he punches holes in walls and doors.
His girlfriend, Natalie, whom he met three months ago at the neighborhood dive bar he frequents, is an alcoholic.
“Natalie’s gone back to Minnesota for two weeks to stay with her mom and get an abortion,” said my mother.
No -- wait! I scream silently. Let me talk to her! We’ll adopt the baby if she doesn’t want it!
This happy-ending fantasy has barely surfaced before I realize how absurd it is. Yes, how perfect it would be if I could simultaneously save an unborn child and fulfill my daughter’s yearning for a baby brother or sister.
Life’s not perfect though, is it?
I’ve never met Natalie. But I know her. I don’t have to think about what I’d do if I were in her shoes. I’ve been in them. I, too, am an alcoholic. Though I’ve been sober for many years now, I still remember what it was like to find myself pregnant when I was drinking.
More than once.
Like Natalie, the love of my life back then was alcohol. There wasn’t room for anyone else in my selfish, self-destructive world, especially not a helpless baby. I didn’t try to kid myself that I could stop drinking long enough to have one and hand it over to a loving couple or a family. I couldn’t go a day without a drink, let alone nine months. There was never a question about whether I would have an abortion.
The question was how quickly I could get it done, get back to my bar stool and forget about it.
No amount of alcohol could make me forget. No amount of time can completely erase the guilt that still sneaks up on me. As a mother, it’s hard to face the fact that I plucked budding life from my body as if it were nothing more than a rotten tooth or a bothersome hangnail.
When I look at my daughter, there are times I feel undeserving of such a gift. Why was I, in my forties, able to get pregnant so easily and have another chance to give birth when so many other women who long for that opportunity never get it?
It doesn’t seem fair.
But life’s not always fair, is it?
By Dorothy O’Donnell
*Note: The names of those mentioned in this blog have been changed to protect their identities.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Sleeping on the Couch
Gradually, he kept drifting out to the living room in the evenings and he refuses to admit it, but it is becoming his bedroom. I’ve tried to bring it up and the conversation goes nowhere. So now I’m trying to be the understanding wife. He’s in the middle of a big career change and he’s stressed out. It was hard enough for me to start a new career, young and single, let alone him being fifty-two with a wife, a kid and a mortgage.
So part of me appreciates how overwhelmed my husband is, how hard he’s trying to hold it all together.
Every night, he comes rushing home after his new clients, trying to make it in time for “family dinner” despite unpredictable freeway gridlock. Later, he climbs into bed to read stories to our son and often falls asleep as soon as his head hits the dinosaur pillowcase.
There’s still The List: take down the Christmas lights, pay bills, take out the garbage. Understandably, the man just wants a little s-p-a-c-e at the end of the day. Really, I tell myself, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.
He seems so happy on the couch. He gets out his blankets, his book, puts on the music he likes, gets his bowl of cashews. He’s got his alarm clock, his pillow. He is hunkered down.
Meanwhile, I’m in our California King; the one we picked out together back when I was hugely pregnant and we were making sure there’d be room for all of us. I remember how we weathered the newborn ‘family bed,’ the years it took to get our son to sleep through the night.
I kept thinking, ‘As soon as we. . . we’ll get back to us.’ Now I’m looking over at the empty spot in the bed where my husband used to be. I try to stretch out, read my book, end up instead with the stupid school newsletter that only reminds me of all the volunteer opportunities I’d be doing if I were a better mother. I’d actually like to help out more. Sometimes my work is like having thirty kids. So I’m not signing up for any volunteering this year. Except for Lice Check. I’m not giving any more because really, there’s not another piece of me left.
So I can understand my husband needing his privacy. I need him. I want my husband in our bed.
Deep down, I still believe that you need to get under the “same tent” with your mate, that you kind of re-fuel each other, that something happens when your dreams are floating around in the same room -- that it weaves you back together as husband and wife.
God knows, so much of parenthood makes you forget why, as a woman, you love this man. All those kisses and hugs for your kids, that easy, extravagant love you get to feel as a mom; it’s too bad it’s so much harder to get that going for the Spouse Person.
You tell yourself that there are times in a marriage your husband doesn’t want what you want and you have to decide: how important is it?
I’ve polled my girlfriends. Would this couch-sleeping bother you? I’ve discovered lots of people sleep separately. He snores, or we’re light sleepers. No big deal.
I've decided I can get used to having this big old bed, all to myself. Nobody to tell me when to turn off the light. I can tap these laptop keys to my heart’s content.
Then, just as I settle into this new arrangement, here’s the big lout, blanket in hand, back in MY room. It’s cold out there, he says, let’s warm each other up.
The mixed blessing: having kids means I can’t leave simply because my husband drives me crazy. Sometimes, that buys us just enough time to find the good in each other again.
By Mary Beth McClure
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Auditory Processing Disorder
Even though his hearing is perfect, he misses the content, so if you tell him something in three sentences he hears it, but he might only “get” a few words from each sentence.
Or he may understand just one whole sentence. It is unlikely he will get all the information you are giving him. When I say, “Go to your room, put your toys away and then we can go to the park.” He may head straight to his room, grab a bucket and shovel, and head to the front door, ready for the swings. It is not his hearing or his ability to pay attention; it the way he comprehends what he hears.
Eric has always marched to his own drum. He wants to do what is required, but he may not do it the same way as everybody else. I always admired this as it represented his independence. Now I wonder if it was because he never figured out exactly what he was supposed to do. What I viewed as a sign of creative genius was merely his way of coping; trying to do what others were doing without understanding the instructions.
I have struggled with this for years. I have defended Eric’s behavior, felt guilty about my own parenting and tried in vain not to compare him to his older brother and sister who are both star students. It is not that he doesn’t pay attention. He has a bottomless attention span for his chosen activities. He can draw, build with Legos, and engage in solitary imaginary play for hours. But try to get his attention by calling his name and good luck.
I thought he suffered from “selective hearing.”
We had him assessed last year and were told he was “fine” and would outgrow many of the things that I considered concerns. It was only because a close friend insisted I go somewhere private that I got the answers I needed.
Watching him take his assessment test was an eye opener. The counselor was amazed at how many words he knew while I was in tears when I saw how much he did not know. He has huge holes in his comprehension, and hearing his sweet, little voice give wrong answer after wrong answer was heart breaking.
I have known for a while something was not quite right. It is a relief to have an actual diagnosis. Now he can finally get the help and support he needs. After a disastrous attempt at kindergarten, we pulled him out after six weeks. I was convinced it was mainly because of his immaturity, but now I see it as so much more. There was no way he could have comprehended or followed all of the instructions he was given.
Because he is obviously so bright, his inability to follow along was viewed as a behavior problem which made everything worse. He was not a bad kid, but he was being treated like one. The numerous trips to the principal’s office were leading him down “the troubled student" path.
I am fortunate that we caught this early and we are sure that this Fall he will finally be “ready” for kindergarten. We will start with speech therapy and go from there. There are tricks and skills we can use to help him get the information and learning skills he needs.
He may always learn differently, but now I can learn how to teach him.
By Cathy Burke
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Monday, February 25, 2008
Time to have a “man to man,” “woman to man,” “mom to son,” -- heart-to-heart talk!
“Is there anything going on that I should know about, Nathaniel?”
“What do you mean, Mom. You know everything,” was his quick, glib reply.
“Oh, I was just wondering. You seem to have no energy, no real drive. You just want to stay in bed and sleep. Can I do something to help?”
“Sure, Mom, you can do something. Stop worrying.” He sauntered out the door.
The days passed and still he showed little of his usual enthusiasm and zeal. Even lacross, at which he excelled, seemed to require inordinate encouragement.
One day he initiated the conversation stating that it bothered him that I expected so much energy and constant enthusiasm about everything from him.
“It doesn’t give me much self esteem knowing you consider me dull and slow, Mom,” and then he added sarcastically, “just because you’re such a perpetual motion machine who loves to get up at day break.”
I thought about this for a day or so. Rather than talk about it, I sat down and wrote him a letter, a letter about self-esteem. Look at the words, I told him. I cannot give you what you must take for yourself. You must feel that what you are achieving is sufficient, your best, or at least makes you proud of yourself and satisfied that you did your best.
This seemed to alleviate my concerns. No more was said. Time passed and he matured into a son to be proud of, one who has well deserved self-esteem and gives credit and thanks and notice to others.
Years later, my son remarked to me. “Remember, Mom, how I hated to get up in the morning, how tired I always was, and how much this bothered you? Those were the two to three years I grew from five feet, nine inches, to six feet, four imches. My feet went to a size thirteen shoe.“
I realize now that he was right. You have the same number of years to reach six foot four as you do to grow to five foot hour, and growing and building additional bone and tissue takes a lot of extra sleep. It’s so logical to think about now, but at the time I was not aware. I was thinking of the psychological implications of the need for extra sleep.
Hindsight does not always help much in mothering.
By Ruth Scott
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Sunday, February 24, 2008
"Look! It's the Jonas Brothers!!! Can I have the magazine, please, please, please?"
The Jonas Brothers are three siblings ages fifteen to eighteen that are one of the hottest boy bands on the planet. Mimi has watched them on TV and she saw them on the "Hannah Montana" movie.
Her request brought back a flood of memories. When I was a tween I would buy "16 Magazine" every month because it featured cute posters of boy musicians and TV stars. I remember the editor's name, Gloria Stavers. I already knew then that I wanted to be a writer. I would read each word carefully.
Then I would cut the cute boys' photos and tape them to the walls of my room.
"Please," Mimi said jumping up and down. "Please can I have it?" It was a Disney magazine. I said OK.
At home we opened the publication. "Look Joe Jonas!" Mimi screamed. He's the oldest brother and the lead singer. "And Nick Jonas!" He's a guitiarist and the youngest.
She got a pair of scissors, tape and cut their photos out, then adherred them to her walls.
I stared. She was doing the same thing I used to do. Only she's six.
I used to think I grew up young. Taking the train from Westport, Connecticut, into Grand Central and going to concerts in Central Park when I was 11 and 12. My friends' parents and my own were from New York where they grew up taking city buses, at, well, 6. It was never a big deal to them for us to take the train into the City to go clothes shopping or to see a concert.
That option isn't available to Mimi or her brother, Jay, 15. Safety is such an issue these days that childhood is overscheduled and parents overly-watch their children because we KNOW what's out there.
I have mixed feelings that Mimi is a little boy crazy. "Boys are dweebs," she says, while chasing after her old boyfriend, Ethan, while he tries to steal kisses and she hits him, then chases him when he ignores her.
She wants to be a singer like Miley Cyrus when she grows up. Mimi was quite upset the other day. When I asked what was wrong she was genuinely distraught. "How am I going to be a singer if I don't have a songwriter? Whose going to write my songs?"
"Sweetie, you can write your own songs. The most talented singers and musicians all do their own writing that way they can really express themselves. You can do it."
"What do I write?"
"Well, a lot of songs are about emotions. How people feel. Why don't you write about your feelings?"
Mimi grabbed a piece of lined paper, a pencil, her face scrunched into her work, and wrote: I love my family. I love mommy and daddy and Jay when he's not beeing a nerd, and Pikie and Paris. I feel emotion.
I will keep her first song lyrics forever.
This year its ballet and taekwondo. Next year she will take up an instrument and singing since that's what most interests her. I've always promised her and her brother that we'll try to give them whatever they want if something intrigues them so that it might develop into a passion. That has happened for Jay with taekwondo. I had writing from a young age. Mimi is very into art, but her new, unfulfilled passion seems to be singing.
After she saw the Hannah Montana movie I asked her what she thought. "Rockin," she said. This summer, when she should be reading fully, I will buy her a karokee machine.
As I pass her room and see paintings from pre-school on the walls and animals prints put there before she was born, Hello Kitty posters, and now photos from "High School Musical" and The Jonas Brothers, I can see her tastes and personality change.
I smile. My little girl is growing up. I can't wait to see what's in her future.
By Dawn Yun
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Saturday, February 23, 2008
Longest Days and Shortest Years
Never mind that my children are a mass of flapping hands and bobbing heads while I’m silently willing the shopper ahead of me to stop chatting with the checkout clerk and actually write her (expletive) check so I can get the (expletive) out of the grocery store. (I must return to yoga.)
I’ve heard this comment before. I suspect it’s familiar with moms of young children. Usually it’s dolled out by an older woman apparently lucky enough to have survived these fledgling years herding jousting offspring out of polite society and back into the confines of the cracker-strewn car before their mother seriously loses it again.
Day after endless day.
Why is it so often that I’m in the throes of a more challenging moment of parenting that I hear this remark, too? In a way, it’s oddly reassuring to know that whatever difficult developmental stages I’m up against will zip by at warp speed and soon I’ll be providing my self-reliant adolescents a nice send off as they fly the coop to conquer their worlds; my own head abuzz with self-indulgent opportunities to finally pursue.
But the older mother’s wistful look? Could it be that like childbirth she has somehow forgotten all of the pain and suffering and recalls only the happier moments of child rearing? Then there’s this need to remind me, guilt-gullible me to savor every precious memory of little hands with dimpled knuckles and flush-cheeked faces beaming while going “weeeee!” down the playground slide.
I truly wish I could take in these moments more. I’m sure somewhere in my paper-strewn office I have a reminder scribbled on a ragged-edged paper to do that very thing. Catch is -- I’m too distracted by the more taxing elements of rearing, like tantrums and potty training. Plus, moments when I’m trying to escape the grocery store with hyper kids in tow as aforementioned above (and now relived momentarily in a rude flashback).
Politely I nod back in response to both acknowledge the sentiment and try to mask own my disbelief. ‘Grow up fast?’ It never seems fast enough during the trying times of parenting.
I wonder if boarding school or boot camp would make the time fly quicker?
But I know that her intent is to remind me that the arduous times will pass, too. And to try not to lose sight of the little hands behind the messy finger paints.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a customer service representative who came on the line just as my son started to drill me loudly with questions, having been quietly playing independently all the while I waited on hold. The service rep couldn’t help but hear him in the background demanding my attention. “I remember those days!” she chuckled.
“He was quiet until a moment ago, of course,” I laughed back in my exasperation. Our conversation continued while I placed my order and then she paused and offered, “A friend once shared about parenting, ‘These are the longest days and the shortest years.” Then I paused, too.
How true it is.
How I wish the moments of soft-cheeked kisses and little voices singing in the house were longer and the trials of parenting shorter. But time flies regardless and in a blink the kids are grown. Years from now when I overhear another woman share,“They grow up so fast!” with a mom fraught in a parenting moment -- I hope I don’t weep too loudly.
They grow up fast. Far too fast.
By Maija Threlkeld
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Friday, February 22, 2008
A Hasty (not Tasty) Conversation
So, when I came home with an eight-person monstrosity called a crock pot (a.k.a. slow cooker) my husband looked at me and said, “Well, I look forward to our first meal,” not-so-secretly knowing it would be a while.
But one day I decided it was time. No more trying to decide what to cook at three p.m. No more ordering pizza or Chinese. I picked out a wonderful-sounding recipe called “Chicken and Rice Pacifica,” which included chicken, soy sauce, bell peppers, and pineapple.
The cookbook had pictures, and the meal looked wonderful. The ingredients weren’t elaborate, but to wash, cook and put them in the pot somehow took me an hour.
I feel unnecessarily guilty (like always) that I’m not spending quality time with my sixteen-month-old son, Lucas. But he entertained himself most of the time by turning on and off the TV which I decided for that day was an OK activity.
I triumphantly put the ingredients into the pot, made a quick call to a friend to make sure I had set up the crock pot correctly, and turned it on. The house started to fill with a wonderful aroma. I began having visions of myself cooking every night and providing my family with wonderful balanced and healthy meals thanks to the crock pot.
Maybe I’d win an award for best crock pot creation. My sister called. I told her she needed a crock pot. A friend visited. I was surprised when she said she didn’t use her crock pot. I told her this was my new savior, and I planned to tell everyone about it.
As the afternoon reached three, then four, then five o’clock, I loved the feeling of not having to do anything for dinner: it was already done! The crock pot seemed to be working, and life was good. Why did it take me this long to try it anyway? What was I going to make tomorrow?
I opened the lid. It didn’t look exactly like the picture. In fact, it didn’t look anything like the picture. The rice was floating in a sea of brown water. The bell peppers had shrunken down so only their skins were floating on top. I called my husband and told him he might need to pick up dinner through a drive-through. “It can’t be that bad, can it?” he asked.
I was hoping that although it looked bad it would still taste wonderful. We would want to cook this meal all the time. And that Lucas, normally an extremely picky eater, would suddenly decide he liked all the ingredients and eat them.
Better make some new rice, just in case. And shoot, the recipe had called for toasted almonds, better read how to do that now. My husband, now home, took care of my son as I finished up the “quick meal.” Another hour later we were ready to eat.
As we tried our first bite, I knew that my over-night conversion had been in haste. The floating bell pepper skins were just that, and the meat was somehow dry, even though it had soaked in water for hours. I picked around, and ate a little, as did my husband. Lucas wisely did not touch his. My husband thanked me for dinner, and I smiled, but he said that I had worked hard. Which, when I thought about it, I had.
Tired from the day, I said dejectedly, “I guess I won’t be using the crackpot anytime soon.” A slip of the tongue, crackpot instead of crock pot.
It is now two years later, and my crock pot sits silent and empty in my kitchen cupboard. My cooking-adept friends assure me that I just tried the wrong recipe. Others tell me they now think of me whenever they fail in the kitchen. I’ll accept that honor.
By Kristy Lund
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Thursday, February 21, 2008
I usually have a rotating list. I will be thinking about one guy 'till he wears the wrong thing. Or I will meet someone new and he will knock another one down a few pegs. Sometimes all it takes is a different haircut to change someone's status.
I love my husband, but that does not mean I don't think about other guys -- especially other dads. I am not sure why I find them so appealing. They are probably just as irritating, sloppy and human as my own husband. But still, there is that element of mystery. How are they different from my own spouse? Are they more tender lovers? Better kissers? Do they help put the kids to bed? Do they actually help with the laundry?
As I drop off and pick up my children at school, I check out these men. Some are parents of my sons’ classmates. One is a gym teacher. A few live nearby. I see them at the coffee shop or the supermarket. They are all sexy in their own way. Maybe it's a body type, or a great smile, a tight butt. Or perhaps it's a certain sense of humor.
I love the fantasy element because anything is possible. I imagine a liaison in a minivan. A stolen kiss at the park. A make out session against a rock while on a hike with our dogs.
I can't see myself actually acting on any of these crushes. First of all, I am friends with some of their wives. The reality could never match my imagination. And I would be so disappointed to have the tall, strong guy I see at Safeway throw his back out as he tossed me onto the bed.
I know none of these guys could ever really be better than my own husband. My mate is perfect for me in that I know and accept him for all of his good and bad qualities. I know exactly what I am getting. But still, I can't help drooling over these other men.
I picture them wandering around my house with no shirts, bringing me cocktails, fanning me, cleaning the bathroom.
By Cathy Burke
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Ashes to Ashes
The other day I realized that I did not know what my husband wanted me to do with his ashes should he be the first to, uh, go. Was this a sign that our relationship was not on solid ground? We have been married for six years and I figured this is something I really should know.
So I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said looking at me when what he really meant was “where do you get these stupid questions?”
“How about the family ranch in Texas,” I answered smartly. An obvious choice as it has been in the family for generations.
“Scattered into the Pacific?” I retorted, not to be deterred.
“Nope,” as a small smile crept into his voice.
“Mountains in Colorado,” I squeaked?
“No way,” he answered, getting engaged in spite of himself.
I thought about it for a minute. How well do I know my husband? I was ready to admit defeat when. . . gotcha. The perfect answer popped into my head.
“You want me to blow your ashes into the faces of everyone who has pissed you off so you can have the last word.”
“Perfect!” he said as he smiled that really big smile, you know, the one that only comes naturally.
Man, we are made for each other.
By Jennifer Gunter
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008
No one was going to slap that label on my child.
I’d read plenty of news stories, about the rampant over-diagnosis of A.D.H.D. and other behavior disorders in children. I’d shake my head in disdain at parents who doled out medication to their children as casually as if it was Gummy Bear vitamins. It seemed as if they were looking to make their own lives easier and shirking responsibility for their kids’ behavior.
My daughter has always been strong-willed, impulsive and hard to control. But even as she got older, and complaints about her behavior mounted, I didn’t want to believe she had a disorder.
When she started kindergarten last fall, though, I could no longer deny that my little girl was different from the average five-year-old. With her disruptive antics and inability to follow directions, she quickly became the queen of timeouts. She was also the first student in thirteen years that her teacher, a patient and wonderful woman, had to send to the principal’s office.
What I’d been so intent on avoiding -- labeling my daughter in a negative fashion -- was happening anyway.
She’s known as “the girl who misbehaves” by classmates and some teachers. She refers to herself as “the worst student in school.” And during the anxiety attacks she’s recently developed, she says things like “I wish I wasn’t on the planet anymore -- I make too many mistakes.”
My little girl’s crying out for help.
I’m finally listening.
Through her school, we just completed a comprehensive mental and behavioral evaluation. The results point to A.D.H.D. and an anxiety disorder. But I’m meeting with outside medical and mental health professionals to rule out other possibilities. I’m educating myself so I can make informed decisions about treatment options if she does indeed have A.D.H.D.
I can’t strip away the negative labels others may attach to my daughter. I can only do my best to get her the help she needs.
Hopefully that will be enough.
By Dorothy O’Donnell
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Monday, February 18, 2008
Kashi, our four-month old Bichon Frisee, needs constant attention. He wants to cuddle, he wants to bite, he wants to pee and poop whenever and wherever he wants. He has me on a strict schedule. We head outside every forty-five minutes and I wait, oh so hopefully, that he’ll do his business on the street and not on my new carpet.
When I walk with him through the nearby shopping district, we spark the same attention I used to get with my baby boy. I was fortunate enough to join a mothers’ club and now it seems I’ve joined a dog lovers’ club. Almost everyone we pass stops to admire my puppy.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“He’s so cute.”
“How old is he?”
“What kind of dog is he?”
“You’re so lucky.”
Most of the time I feel lucky. I’m much more frustrated with the puppy than I ever was with my son, Nick. I felt like Nick got me, that he knew he’d be well taken care of. The puppy is still not certain of what end is up (pun intended) and pays me little heed. On the other hand, the puppy sleeps through the night and for that I am grateful.
And then there are the products. Who knew? Moist treats, dry food, Greenies, kennels, pee pads, leashes, collars, play toys. I’ve resisted my son’s begging for dog clothes.
Instead of a nanny, Kashi has a personal trainer who comes weekly. The trainer lets us know exactly what we’re doing wrong. All fault lies with us, not the child. Oh, excuse me, the puppy.
My quiet mornings are gone. My cherished hour before my husband and son arise. My time to myself with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, my writing time. I rise now to a whimpering puppy that needs to be taken outside within two minutes in order to avoid peeing on the floor. I sit with my coffee, the puppy by my side, nipping my toes with his sharp pointy teeth.
The similarities to having an infant continue. My husband and I had dinner with ten friends last Saturday night. The puppy was the main conversation. One woman shot me a look of disdain when I admitted I had no photos of Kashi with me to share.
And why does my voice automatically change to baby talk when I hold Kashi? “I wuv you liddle boy,” just floats out of my mouth. “Mommy take care of you.”
So what’s the payoff? I do love the little guy and I’m his mom. No matter what, I take care of him. Then there’s the joy this puppy brings to my son. The look of happiness, of completeness that lights Nick up. And he’s a good boy, taking equal responsibility for toilet training and walking our little white fluff ball. Our only child now has a constant comrade.
Okay, I admit it; I’m not a dog person. But I’m a Nick person, from head-to-toe, from heart-to-heart.
By Marianne Lonsdale
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Sunday, February 17, 2008
For the Last Time
When it proved to be cancer, radical surgical procedures were performed. I experienced a very special event during the week before surgery. I was walking down the street in Mill Valley holding the hands of my four-year old daughter, Ann, and my seven-year old daughter, Alison.
In their other hands they each held an ice cream cone. I remember extreme awareness of my surroundings as I thought to myself, "If this is all there is then I am blessed.” At that moment I saw every leaf on the tree before me as individual, unique, and important, yet interconnected to the whole. I've never forgotten that moment. I later heard someone describe a similar feeling that they had experienced with psychedelic, acid-type drugs.
I could understand why they would want to have this experience again. Life with cancer had given me a blessing. I felt centered, free to be in the moment.
Twenty years later I had my second cancer. One of my thinking processes at these times was to accept death, and try to learn its lessons. I wrote, "Thoughts of death bring sweet return, when from them more of life we've learned."
If you do not live you have little use for this lesson, but there is always the chance that you will have time to practice what you have learned. I admit that I have learned many more things than I have been able to put into practice. I believe it was Goethe who wrote, "A seeker of truth is a student of death.”
I believe this is true.
I created a game, a habit, of looking at or experiencing things as if it were, "For the Last Time.”
We go through life learning new things, doing them for the first time. First we learn to see. Our eyes do not focus so vision must be practiced and learned, and it really is exciting if only we could remember. You can watch a child take his first step and see the joy and excitement it brings. We may record his first spoken word.
There is a different excitement and joy that comes from doing things and seeing things for the last time. There is a sense of appreciation and thankfulness, a gratitude for having the experience that a "first" cannot compete with on the same terms.
To watch my grandchild take her first step is magnified and appreciated for perhaps I will never again experience that moment when a child launches herself into the bi-pedal upright stance. I savor the moment as I do all the times in the last few years that I have skied down the perfect slope on a clear winter day for the last time. You see, I can still ski, I just can't fall so I'm sure I should quit while I'm up, but I go back to relish the last time.
This summer I jumped off the Scott's jumping cliff on Long Lake below Mt. Elwell, again, for the "last time.” The height scares the grandchildren; the cold of the lake challenges me, but it's there and the "last time" makes it seem easier, not so cold. “I won’t have to do this again,” I say, and I jump. My grandchildren may return at seventy five and remember, saying, "Well, Grandmom did it, so can I.”
Perhaps, I'll inspire from the grave what I could not inspire in life.
I climb again to my favorite pine that grows high on a rock over Big Bear Lake. It is alone, and one cannot see any soil around its trunk, only rock. Year after year this pine is still there, facing winter storms, the cold, and the weight of wind and snow, and still it survives, bonsai, and beautiful. I come back every year for the "last time" receiving comfort and strength. "If you can make it, I can make it,” I say to this tree, my friend and inspiration.
I can walk through Mill Valley for the last time and it's amazing what I see and review and I am renewed. It is enough to have had each experience and if it is the last of the last times I am fortunate to have appreciated each moment in time.
First times you can only have once; last times you can experience over and over again.
By Ruth W. Scott
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Saturday, February 16, 2008
-- Maya Angelou
I began reading the book “A Complaint Free World.” The idea is to go twenty-one days straight without complaining. You wear a bracelet to remind yourself, and move it over to the other wrist when you make a verbal complaint.
Before starting this practice, I considered myself to be fairly positive, at least in my spoken words. Though I’m still working on my never-ending negative thoughts floating around in my head. The book likens it to a Tasmanian devil, wreaking havoc in your mind. I know mine sometimes says, “You really suck as a mom” or “Everyone else’s kids are in extra-curricular activities, why aren’t yours?”
I have a nice voice, too, and she reminds me I’m doing beautifully, we are all human and my kids are doing fine without being in tons of activities. But I’m trying to get rid of the Tasmanian devil. His time has come.
The book says the average time it takes people to complete twenty-one straight days of non-complaining is four to six months! Being a bit of an over-achiever, I thought I could at least make it through one day.
I lost count around eight times having changed the bracelet back and forth. My first complaint was about politics (why you have to be registered in a certain party to take part in their primaries). Later in the day, I took my boys for a walk around the block. Up the hill, my two-year-old, Henrik, decided he wanted out of the stroller, and to be carried by Mommy. Soon, I could not hold him any longer while pushing the stroller and pulling his brother on his bike by a rope. I started to complain to him about how he wasn’t walking.
Suddenly, a random woman I’d never seen before yelled jokingly from across the street, “Hey Mom, aren’t you gonna run?” I think the universe planted her there as a practical joke. Sorry, not in the mood today.
I could have just waved and smiled to this woman, but I instead I complained to her about everything. (For now I’m letting my writing off the hook. The program is about spoken complaints.) I take a break from my mommy Olympics to switch the bracelet over two times.
As I arrived home from the walk, with Henrik screaming bloody murder due to the fact that I had forced him back into the stroller in order to get home, all I wanted to do was whine to my husband about how horrible it had been. But I was trying not to complain. When he took the kids to give them a bath, I sat in the kitchen and just cried to release all the negativity I was feeling. I felt much better afterwards -- and I hadn’t complained.
With a few hours between me and the walk, I remembered how wonderfully my four-year-old son, Lucas, had done on the walk by helping me out, listening to what I asked, and riding his bike by himself up most of the hills he normally needs me to help him with. After we were home, Lucas came over and said, “It was nice to have some time with you, me and little crying Henrik.” Clearly, some good had happened as well.
Later in the evening, my husband and I had decided yet again that we would love to take a family trip, but don’t have the energy to travel with the kids right now. I looked at my husband and said, “I just wish you and I could get away for a weekend. Should it be so hard?” clearly in a “poor me” voice.
A few minutes later I was talking to my husband about the complaint-free program and he caught me -- “Hey, didn’t you just complain?” Ugh, he was right. Damn bracelet -- move it over to the other wrist again. My husband gave me permission to quit the program. I think he wonders why I bother myself with these sorts of things. I wonder too sometimes.
But now I’m curious. How much do I really complain? I get to find out again tomorrow, the twenty-one days start over.
Wish me luck!
(Follow-up: it’s been ten days since I began. I’ve made it one day without complaining, and that was three days ago. This is harder than I thought!)
By Kristy Lund
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Friday, February 15, 2008
As a result, I’ve been a little lax about the TV being on during “mommy hours,” which means my three-year-old has been consuming a fairly regular diet of CNN political coverage.
She also averages about ten questions a minute these days, so she’s now pretty well informed about the Clinton-Obama horse race. “Who’s that?” she asked me last week as we were watching the Super Tuesday results come in.
“That’s Barack Obama,” I tell her. “He’s running for President.”
“And who’s that?” she asks as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer switches to a graph detailing exit poll results for California. “That’s Hillary Clinton. She’s running for president, too.”
The girl definitely pays attention. This morning as we were walking to preschool together, we pass by a neighboring apartment building, a Clinton sign in one window and an Obama sign in the other. Emi recognizes the signs as having to do with the presidential election, as I also have an Obama one in my office and she has, of course, asked about it. “Hillary Clinton is running for President,” she reminds me. “And Barack Obama.”
“You got it,” I answer. But forgetting that she is only three and I don’t really need to make my pitch for either one, I add, “Mommy voted for Barack.”
We continue on our way for a few minutes, me on the lookout for Volkswagen Beetles. Keeping a running tally of how many we spot is how we generally pass the time on the way to school. But Emi wants to keep talking politics today.
“I’m for Hillary Clinton,” she tells me.
Well, I have to say, I am impressed and proud, even if she’s not supporting my candidate. You’ve got to love a young woman who thinks for herself.
By Shannon Matus-Takaoka
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Thursday, February 14, 2008
Boys Just Take Longer
My son was three and a half and still in diapers. Her daughter had just turned three and had been wearing big girl panties for nearly six months!
It was humiliating.
There was my big boy with his padded butt running towards the play structure, the crinkle of plastic piercing and painful to my ears.
I felt like a failure. A real looser.
Was this an indication of things to come?
Would my inability to encourage, coerce or cajole my son into mastering the potty be a marker of our continued shared inadequacy?
I vowed to try harder.
To become more focused.
When his aim is accurate and he dunks the Cheerio, I’ll offer a bigger and better reward.
Or maybe I’ll buy the potty toy I saw advertised last week, the Tinkletoon. It plays happy music when ‘hit with number one or number two.”
I read all the books.
Just yesterday we had diaper free time. I’m not quite sure how it is suppose to work. He usually just ends up peeing on the floor.
As I sit pondering a new and more effective approach to potty training, my son calls to me from the top bar of the jungle gym.
“Look at me,” he sings gleefully as he climbs up onto the platform.
Down below, I hear a whine and a grunt as my friend and I watch her daughter struggling to pull herself up to the first level.
“She really wants to be up there,” my friend says wistfully.
Suddenly it all becomes clear to me. Everything is as it should be.
"Don’t worry," I reply. "She’ll eventually do it."
Girls just take longer!
By Rachelle Averbach
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008
After multiple I.V. insertions into her little arm, and numerous tests, ranging from urine and blood samples to ultrasounds and CAT scans, doctors were finally able to get her symptoms under control and make a diagnosis.
Throughout all this, the doctors and nurses were so thorough— treating her symptoms carefully and listening to her every word— that despite my daughter’s pain and fear, I had confidence in her care. So, I felt calm and strong.
My mother, though, had another story. When I was five, the same age as my daughter, I developed a raging earache. My mother, who was working full-time as a bookkeeper in a lumber yard and receiving minimal child support, made a midnight trip to the Emergency Room. There, she learned that her insurance wouldn’t cover the visit because it wasn’t technically an emergency.
How dare they? I thought. America prides itself on the choices its healthcare system offers. But what kind of horrible system would make a parent choose between the care of an ailing child and an unaffordable financial hit?
As I thought of the trauma my mother must have experienced, I cried. It was the only time during my daughter’s ordeal that I did.
Fortunately for us, we’re poor enough as a dental student family that we qualify for excellent state insurance – and I am grateful to my government for that.
But I can’t help but think of all the families who fall in between: the families on insurance that won’t cover certain conditions, or the families who work really hard but still can’t afford any insurance at all.
When I think of my little girl, pale and exhausted after days of fever and pain and uncertainty, I know it was never a question of whether she’d get care, only how well the care would work.
Shouldn’t it be that way for everyone?
Note: For the 2-minute audio essay that aired on KQED’s show, Perspectives, listen at: http://www.kqed.org/programs/program-landing.jsp?progID=RD62 where it’s archived for February 11th.
By Anjie Reynolds
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I once was perceived as a good mother, the positive force behind a popular and successful student and athlete. I had many friends among the other parents who waited outside elementary classroom doors at the end of the school day.
It was there I’d be handed invitations to neighborhood BBQs and teachers would seek me out to tutor a student who was falling behind. When my son graduated to middle school I suffered no pangs of sadness because I had another son entering kindergarten at the same time. The elementary school would remain in my family’s life.
From the first day of school, however, things were different with my younger son. He was obviously smart and sweet, but his teacher complained he was a challenge in the classroom. He refused to write, wiggled in his seat during quiet times, poked and prodded other children to distraction and sometimes tears.
Over the following months, my husband and I sought possible causes – food allergies, anxiety, learning disorders – and explored possible treatments. I worried and turned for support to my peers. But my efforts to reach out to the parents of my son’s classmates were returned with little more than chilly politeness and often not even that.
Circles of chatting moms would remain closed to me as I waited nearby to take my son home. One mother handing out birthday invitations hid the stack of envelopes behind her back as I approached.
Clearly my son would not be invited to that party. What I realized that day was that I wouldn’t be invited to any parties, either. My son may have exhibited inappropriate behavior from time to time but it was me the mothers didn’t want to be near.
I moved my waiting place to a bench several yards away to avoid encountering the awkward silence that interrupted the happy chatter of the other moms whenever I approached. We survived that difficult school year, my son and I.
We found a therapist whose treatment has calmed him without diminishing his natural cheeriness and enthusiasm. She taught my husband and me how to parent his unique needs.
This year my son has a new teacher, a man so gifted and compassionate that the school directs many of its so-called “high-maintenance” kids to his classroom. My son has blossomed there.
And life on the bench?
It turned out that I wasn’t alone there after all. My son wasn’t the only child who for one reason or another didn’t fit in. Over time, mothers of those other children approached me and we sought out relationships as our children became friends. My son’s birthday is approaching. And in addition to whomever else he wants to invite to his party, I’ll be sure to hand out an invitation to every single child whose mother sits on that bench.
By Laura-Lynne Powell
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Monday, February 11, 2008
I relaxed down into my snug seat breathing in the familiar dry, recycled air that would sustain me for the next ten hours. I had my front row seat near the middle of the plane, my headphones, plus an engaging book.
I was prepared and ready to enjoy my flight. On went my music and I disappeared.
Not long into the flight my comfortable front-row oasis became crowded with angry and surly people. At first I didn’t notice the crying, but the crowd cleared as a proud, classic and lean-framed woman carrying her crying child appeared, moving with the power and strength of a protective mother.
This woman sought out sanity and sat in a seat across from me reserved for the flight attendants. My heart filled with rage. How could she be so rude? I knew my manners were out of sorts so I silently glared through closed eyes. Couldn’t she disappear into a bathroom for blessings sake? My thoughts were rampant. I made eye contact with fellow travelers, all plagued with contempt. Oh my God, how he wailed and screamed. The misery was impossible to escape. Some people were blatantly rude, others just dealt with it.
The torture was unbearable.
She held that baby and walked the plane end-to-end checking in on her children then walking, walking, swaying, and bouncing. My eyes followed her and prayed for peace of mind. She sung and hummed lovingly. She kissed his little, soft head. She never once lost it and got angry; AT ANYONE, not her baby, her other children, not even the angry and avoiding eyes of her fellow travelers.
I was aware that I was witnessing something powerful and beyond my understanding. I didn’t know how to offer help. I don’t recall giving a smile. She wouldn’t have noticed anyway. They were safe and untouchable.
I was blessed with a gift on that flight. I am a mother now and that gift is that this woman has been my mentor and my teacher throughout this journey into motherhood.
I keep an alter in my sacred heart to the powerful experience of LOVE called motherhood, a much shorter trip than a long ten- hour plane flight.
By Thea Daniels
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Sunday, February 10, 2008
When he first heard it my husband smartly stifled the laugh when he saw the fierce look in my eyes.
“Shut up, you’re Lollipop,” I snarled.
Why Momma Jumbo? We watch every Disney movie and while female characters are less common, there are still plenty to pick from. I do not “fit” the traditional princess mold in appearance or attitude so I understand why I didn’t get Cinderella or Snow White (even though I have dark hair). If he was stuck on a cartoon character there was Jessie from “Toy Story 2," or heck, I’d even take Dory.
My son shook his head. “No,” he said. Those names were not right.
My four-year-old son does not know about my life-long pre-occupation with my weight and my crazy body image issues.
He does not know that I have always felt fat even when I was not (although in case you are wondering, I am actually leaning more towards the fat end of the spectrum so I am a bit more sensitive to the whole Jumbo moniker). He doesn’t see the look on my face when I step on the scale or when I try on a pair of pants hoping that the size 12 will fit and the utter look of devastation when I realize I need the 14’s instead.
He doesn’t know that even when I am thin as I am so tall I always feel large. He does not know that I have secretly longed to be petite like a Disney Princess, to be the type of woman who is easily swept into the arms of her lover.
When I jokingly ask my husband to pick me up I see the momentary look of panic on his face.
So Momma Jumbo is hitting a bit too close to home. Regardless of actual physical size, most women do not want to be analogous to an elephant, especially one called Jumbo.
I sigh and ask him, “Why Mama Jumbo?”
He looks me straight in the eye and says, “Because Mama Jumbo loves her baby more than anything in the world and that’s how you love me.”
I am speechless.
Momma Jumbo it is and I am proud of it!
By Jennifer Gunter
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Saturday, February 09, 2008
After spending a couple of hours at my desk writing in the morning, one would think that this initial sense of accomplishment would propel me to ensure that I would succeed in getting my daughter out the door, in the car and into her classroom on time.
It seems like there is always something. And that something always seems to come during the last, critical five minutes before school departure. My five-year old will suddenly have to go to the bathroom; need me to admire her output; wipe her bottom; want a different breakfast; have a stain that can’t be hidden; can’t find a sock; doesn’t like her shoes; hasn’t brushed her teeth; asks if she has to go to aftercare; cries that she has to go to aftercare; wants to have a spirited discussion on why she has to go to school at all.
Those five minutes are the difference between getting to school on time and missing the second bell.
I always think, “Made it!” when the bell hasn’t rung. When it already has, I have to make a decision. Do I press my daughter through the classroom door, where all the other children are already sitting neatly at their desks, and smile at or avoid the teachers, or admit defeat and trudge into the school office and ask for a late slip.
Gail, the women at the front desk, already knows my name. I can only attribute this to our tardiness.
I wish I could figure out a way to magically make us arrive at school on time. But the truth is that I have been late for everything my entire life, including my own wedding, so it’s really no surprise that I’m late when bringing my daughter to school.
Or that my daughter is late on her own. The thing about progeny is that they inherit the good and the not so good. Oddly, for some reason, I’m always one of the first mothers for school pick-up. And Mimi is always one of the first kids in line waiting to be picked up.
She loves to possesively shout, “My mommy’s here!” her hand waving wildly in the air as her Hello Kitty! backpack wiggles behind her.
While school mornings usually have insane beginnings, afternoon pickups almost always have happy endings.
By Dawn Yun
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Friday, February 08, 2008
Me and My Flat-Screen TV
In the front yard, they open the box with crowbars, prying off the protective, hard exterior, allowing the high-tech, delicate insides to see sunlight for the first time since Japan.
The once cloudy sky clears and a golden ray of sun beams down on us. I hear the chorus of “Halleluiah!!!!! Halleluiah, Halleluiah!!” Angels sing. My husband’s face is rapt, in awe, in love – here it is, finally – our giant, flat-screen HDTV.
I walk back into the house and peek over at the two-by-two black box in the corner. Our “old” TV now, so bulky, so 1990s with its square shape and fuzzy picture. Poor old guy, I think. Let’s spare him the misery of meeting his replacement. His younger cousin. His super cousin. His svelte, sleek, in-your-face cousin.
I throw a towel over the old TV. Don’t look.
My husband floats in the front door. “Are we ready to bring her in?!” All five feet wide and four feet high of her. Holy guac! A TV on steroids, I think, in awe of her movie-screen lines.
Never in seven hundred bazillion years would I have allowed my husband to buy such a thing. He’d been begging. I’d been resisting. “What’s wrong with our sweet, little dinosaur?” I’d glance towards the black box in the corner. Grumbling, my husband would mutter about hi-def, keeping up with technology, and living with Wilma Flintstone.
And then the phone call came in. He’d won her in an office raffle. An office raffle??? I demanded to see credit card receipts, proof, bank statements that no giant sum of money had mysteriously gone missing.
Could it be true??? And why do I resist? Am I like Grandpa with the fax machine or the clichéd Great Aunt Edna curmudgeoning on and on about how easy young whippersnappers lives are today with things like the wheel, toilets and refrigerators… “In my day we dragged ice up from the lake, backwards, blindfolded, and hopping on one foot!!!”
Ashamed of my quiet disgust for the new toy and my similarity to Great Aunt Edna, I realize my intense emotions come from wanting to protect my kids from this centerpiece of technological couch-potatodom. This alluring magical screen has public health officials’ heads spinning as family dinners and backyard games with the neighbors’ kids after school become obsolete and her siren calls beckon us to become blobs. As a mom, I am a protector of all things evil, of monsters in our midst. Isn’t this an irresistible monster in disguise that we’ve invited into our home?
So here she joins us today. This mammoth flat-screened creature from my deepest lagoon. We will enjoy her in moderation despite her powerful call to watch her 24/7. I will teach my children to resist her sexy ways. We will survive as a family unit and not let the machine take us over.
And, as for my husband, he can now watch every single dewy drop of sweat cascade down Jeter’s brow as if he were in the dugout himself. I’ve already lost him to the dark side, and he’s loving every minute.
By Annie B. Yearout
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Thursday, February 07, 2008
Forward to the Past
But in the gift shop of the Budapest Art Museum, I fell in love with a piece of artwork that I absolutely had to buy for my future child’s nursery. Something about the two dressed bunnies riding on the back of a tangerine lion made me smile. My traveling companion politely averted her eyes as I forked over my lunch money in exchange for the bulky poster.
“It’ll be worth it someday,” I told Paulette as she offered me a bite of her pizza.
Years later, I hung the print in a clean white frame in my oldest son’s nursery and it has been in one my boys’ rooms ever since. Was it worth the extra baggage and the missed lunch? The boys never really noticed it, nor did I -- until yesterday.
While holding my youngest, eight-month-old Colby, I noticed him focused intently on the print across the room. I took him closer, and he smiled.
“Lion, bunny, bunny, sky, sun,” I said. He laughed and reached out. He patted the lion, cooing and babbling away and I forced myself to pause – turn off the To-Do list items buzzing through my brain, and just look. I smiled, the colors reminding me of the children in paddle boats on the lake next to the museum.
The moment passes.
The laundry stills need to put away and I have work to do. I put Colby down on the floor and hand him a toy. But, he’s not finished. He crawls over to the nightstand and tries to pull himself closer to the print hanging above. “Uh, uh,” he says trying to propel himself up on wobbly legs and desire alone.
I lay the print down on the carpet and as I watch him crawl on top of the frame, mouth on the lion’s face and patting the bunnies, I laugh with him. This was why I sacrificed lunch so many years ago, back when my only responsibility was myself.
Even then, I identified with the lion’s long nose and narrow green eyes that said, “I will take my baby bunnies with me wherever I go.” Sharing smiles, Colby and I can go back together to a time with no To-Do lists.
Simple, beautiful moments like these, must not be allowed to pass.
By Maya Creedman
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Where the Time has Gone
We go when she has to go. We go when she doesn’t. We go no matter where we are or what we are doing. Sometimes I hear those words, and I cringe, “Again? Are you sure?”
I also hear, about five times a day, “Mommy, pretend that I’m Cinderella.” This requires that we change clothes into five different outfits because, just in case you have forgotten, Cinderella starts in her night gown, changes into her work rags, wears the pink dress the mice make, dons her blue dress for the ball, and then sports her wedding dress at the end.
Usually I’m facilitating costume changes while balancing a nine-month old on my hip and holding the phone with my shoulder. There have been days when I think that if I have to play the part of the handsome prince one more time, I might die of boredom.
And how many more times do we have to read "Who Pooped in the Park?" I am so incredibly tired of that book that I intentionally hid it so that we simply could not read it before bed again. Lucky me, I have become an expert at deciphering wildlife droppings.
No doubt, the repetition can be tedious and the interests of a three-year old, uninspiring. However, there are those surprising moments when my daughter says or does something that I want to engrain in my memory forever because it strikes me as one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard or witnessed in a long time. Often it happens when I least expect it, during one of our most mundane activities.
Today, it took place while she was sitting on the potty. After impatiently asking her if she was done, she responded, “It’s taking a while...” At first I thought she meant that it was taking a while to finish her business on the toilet.
Then she continued, “It’s taking a while for summer and to plant flowers in spring and for Valentine’s Day with heart cookies and pink sugar, and for my birthday and for getting taller. It’s taking too long. When am I going to get taller?
At that moment, I wanted to freeze her in time so that she would always be my three-year old Samantha with so many simple pleasures to anticipate. It reminded me that there will come a day when she doesn’t want to play Cinderella or read that poop book or have conversations with me while on the potty because some day she will be taller -- so tall that I will lamentably wonder where the time has gone.
By Rebecca Elegant
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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Sutter's Gold Rose
Even though Mom didn’t water it; the crimson, orange, yellow, and gold glory grew over eight-feet tall, loaded with blossoms in Tiburon
during spring and summer.
Mom said the rose thrived on neglect, but maybe it was the Miwok Native American earth where Mom’s house was built that nurtured it.
Nestled in a cove of Richardson Bay, Mom’s house was tucked in at the bottom of a rock sprinkled mountain with a 360-degree view of seven Bay Area counties.
Before I went to first grade, I remember going out the backdoor into the yard and clipping two or three roses. I felt the prick of bold thorns, which I later learned to slice off with a knife. I brought the
straight-stemmed flowers inside my house and placed them in Mom’s bud vase because I had to have them on the dining room table.
As a child, I defined beauty by the way those rose petals blended color from deep crimson orange through to yellowish white, like a candle’s flame.
As an adult, after Mom died in early spring, I hoped the rose would bloom again, because I needed the quiet understanding of my botanical relationship to what became of my family.
The rose clustered buds through its dark green stem did not disappoint me.
Once again, the Sutter’s Gold rose let me see.
By Pru Starr
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Monday, February 04, 2008
The Third Time's a Charm
It’s a grand thing that I was only half awake or I would have had some snippy remark that would have eliminated constructive marital conversation for days. Instead, he left the room and I thought about what he said.
By golly, he was right. I do that. I can justify it a multitude of ways, but I, in short, I am constantly searching for someone who can relate to raising two colicky babies eighteen months apart; clawing for some human that can justify the insanity that I felt.
I decided that I should stop that -- it might scare people away. So, I promised myself that from this point forward, I would not mention that unless formally asked (does blogging break this rule already?).
There are many benefits to raising colicky babies, first and foremost is if you are speaking in the past tense about raising the children, than you already completed what seemed to be an insurmountable task -- surviving the constant, inconsolable crying. Another perk is that I graduated from being someone who didn’t know which side was the front of the diaper to a mother who can console any baby.
Eight years ago, my friend of thirty-three years was enjoying her kid-free life. As my roommate in San Francisco, a constructive day for her was waking up at three p.m., talking on the phone for three hours, going to work, and then attending the latest triple-bill concert. She felt that her life was her own and she was fine with not having kids -- ever.
And then, she got married to someone who was ten years older than her -- who had no kids yet. He eased into the subject during the time they were newly married while she was a fun-loving and caring “aunt” to my kids. She gained confidence and even survived the few days she spent helping me while immersed in the mayhem of my second colicky baby. She was able to handle it all, even perfecting the soothing rock/bounce. She gained skills she didn’t know she had and gained the confidence it took to give mothering a shot.
Yesterday, I spent a good part of my day rocking and sshing her one-month old. I was calm, caring, and knew exactly what to do when the normal newborn challenges came up. Rock, feed, change, mellow conversation-repeat.
I was the mom that I desired to be during all of those stressful times raising my own babies. Of course, it helped tremendously that I was now the one who got to leave her house to enjoy a meal and a drink.
Since my husband and I agreed to never try for number three, my “nephew” will help to reassure my feelings that a baby is a beautiful and enjoyable gift and will possibly help me release my former feelings of inadequacy and stop me from searching elsewhere for the comfort of my fellow, formerly insane mothers.
By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy
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Sunday, February 03, 2008
The Boyfriend and the Dog
But being a mom to my daughter's boyfriend and his dog was not what I signed up for. Yet, in spite of this, I told my youngest daughter, who is twenty-two, she could have her boyfriend stay for awhile until he found a place and, of course, his adorable chocolate lab puppy could stay, too -- for awhile.
Over the months I grew fonder of her boyfriend who helped me fix things around the house. And his dog, Chuck, who chased my three cats for play, left dog hair in every corner of the house, and begged me in the mornings for walks, won my heart despite my complaints.
"Someone else needs to walk Chuck," I'd say three or four times a week, but every morning I'd look into those big brown eyes and dissolve, "Okay, Chuck, let's go. I'll take you," and I'd grab the leash, a few plastic doggie bags and off we'd go.
It didn't take long before I realized I needed those walks as much as Chuck. He took me places in my neighborhood I'd never been before and I met people I didn't know existed. On weekends sometimes I'd take Chuck on a run in the hills behind my house. We both needed the exercise. He would race back and forth coaxing me to play and run until I finally gave up in exhaustion and said, "Okay, Buddy, it's time to go home."
One day I woke up sick. This time not even those big brown eyes could move me. I looked him straight in the face, "No walks today, Chuck. I'm going to bed." I was barely back under the sheets when he landed, all forty pounds, at my side. I slept most of the day awakening only to Chuck's snores and a few wet kisses on my cheeks.
On one occasion I was reading on the couch with Chuck lying across my feet and my daughter's boyfriend walked in cradling my favorite cat, Oscar, in his arms. We looked at each other. Chuck and Oscar looked at each other, and at that moment I knew we had become a family. I stopped asking my daughter when her boyfriend and his dog were moving out, and settled into a comfortable home with one dog, three cats, my daughter, her boyfriend, and myself.
Until one day, a year and a half later, when my daughter announced that she and her boyfriend were breaking up. He and the dog would be moving out.
I looked at her aghast.
Nobody asked me if they could move out I cried to myself. It's not fair that twenty-something "children" only have to ask to move into my house, but they don't have to ask me to move out.
But who said being a mom is fair?
My house is quiet again. When I open the front door now no dog rushes to greet me, while my cats fly in different directions to get out of his way. I'm bereft, but I don't regret for a minute the time spent with my daughter, her boyfriend and his dog.
By Marilee Stark
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Saturday, February 02, 2008
Fragile winter sunlight filters through the branches of oak, bay and pine trees. The smell of rain-soaked earth mingled with dead leaves, envelopes us. I gulp it down like that first cup of morning coffee. I’d planned to walk, but now my body craves more, and I break into an easy jog.
I’m not the only one whose endorphins are kicking in. Forgetting he’s a senior with arthritic hips, Oro sprints ahead of me. I lose sight of him for a minute, but he waits for me to catch up when I call him. There’s a dopey grin on his age-whitened face, and he begs me with his eyes not to spoil his fun.
“Okay, boy,” I tell him, laughing. “Go on.” I know he won’t stray too far.
The woods have turned us both into kids again. We have the trail to ourselves and it feels like we’re playing hooky from the world. Those dirty dishes festering in the kitchen sink can fester a little longer. And that article I’m working on? It’ll wait until tomorrow.
For now, I’m not a mom, a wife or a worker. I’m just a girl on an adventure with her dog.
Treasures are waiting -- just for us, it seems -- around each bend in the trail: A perfect, bright yellow mushroom pokes its head through chocolaty soil; dozens of ferns cascade down a hillside in a silent, lacy green waterfall; a clump of twigs and leaves in a tree branch high overhead morphs into a mother bird sitting still as a statue on her nest.
I peek down at my watch. Time’s up. Time for me to get back to grown-up responsibilities. Time for Oro to have a long drink of water and a long nap. As we turn around and head for home, I’m grateful that when I allow myself the time -- the trail will be waiting for us.
By Dorothy O’Donnell
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Friday, February 01, 2008
The Mixing Bowl
Trying to make out his words, I repeated, “My elbow?”
“Mih-ing bow!” he said again with more emphasis.
Still unsure if I understood correctly I asked, “Your elbow?’
His mom translated: “Mixing bowl.”
“Ah! Of course, mixing bowl.”
His mom explained in a beautiful British accent, “All he wants to do is cook, cook, cook! He loves baking. All day he runs around saying, ‘Mixing bowl! Mixing Bowl!’” She continued, “Cooking is this intense passion of his. He takes it very seriously. . . ”
Not spoken, but understood -- he was destined to be a chef.
I joked, “Well, that’s fantastic for you!” I pictured the twenty-month old whipping up omelets and pancakes on a Sunday morning while his parents lounged around reading The New York Times.
And then it hit me! Do we discover our passions as early as infancy or toddler-hood? And is it basically up to our parents to pick up on what these passions are so they can encourage them so that we’ll actually get a chance to go after what it is in life we love doing?
I thought of all the people I know who enjoy their work. Their careers all started young. There’s Laura whose bio reads that her passion to be around a mic and camera started at age three. She’s now a producer and heard on-air.
I went to high school with Eli, whose parents didn’t flinch when he asked for a fake-blood splattered cake at his Bar Mitzvah. He’s now a horror movie director working on films with Quentin. I hear stories like these all the time.
There’s the architect who as a kid was obsessed with toy models. And the teacher who was constantly passing out lesson plans to siblings.
New grads often hear the advice: “Do what you love and you will be happy.”
Does knowing what we love come down to how clued in our parents are, and their willingness to cheer on our interests?
I also hear stories about those still searching for what it is that they love. There’s the guy who always wanted to be a musician, but whose parents thought he’d make a good corporate lawyer. In school he ended up on the debate team rather than playing drums in band.
There’s the woman who wanted to play basketball, but whose parents signed her up for piano.
People can end up feeling off track. It makes me sad because they were once on track, but for whatever reason got steered toward a different direction.
Their folks’ direction.
As parents, my husband and I are watching what our son loves right now. And we will continue to keep an eye out for what he gravitates toward, and will do our best to encourage him to do what he loves.
At every chance we get, we tell him to dream big, and to always believe in himself. We tell him that he can be anything he wants to be.
Except for a football player, of course. That would be too dangerous.
By Andrea Passman Candell
Andrea is the author of the newly published book: “His Cold Feet: A Guide for the Woman Who Wants To Tie The Knot with The Guy Who Wants to Talk About It Later.”
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