The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The Man in the Mirror

First there was shock, then came the thought, "Who will take care of his children?"

That was what went through my head when I heard that Michael Jackson had died. 

I immediately thought of the woman who bore his first two children and hoped it would not be her. She was paid to be a surrogate, gave up her rights and from what I've read about her would rather raise horses than those kids.

According to several news reports she said something that she certainly did not have to share. Not now during such a painful time for his children. She said that Michael was not their biological parent. 

He was their father. They knew him as Dad. Fortunately, the children are with his mother and his family. Hopefully their nanny, who has helped raise them for most of their lives, will continue in that role.

There is something else about the death of Michael Jackson that has bothered me. My own guilt and judgement about him in life and the almost saintly quality I've given him now that he is gone. 

Death does that. Bad memories often give away to good, and they are what remain.

His skin was widely believed to be bleached. Now journalists are saying he really did have vitiligo, which splotched his skin and turned it pale. He also suffered from lupus, a harsh anti-immune disease. Perhaps that is why he wore surgical masks and allegedly took a number of drugs. That and years of strenuous performing left him in pain.

One thing I never believed was the molestation charges. The dentist who said Jackson abused his son, actually used a truth serum on his own child during a root canal. Can you imagine? Why did Jackson pay up? He said it just wasn't worth it. Haven't we all felt like that about one thing or another? OK, maybe not to the out-of-tune scale of $25 million. But understandable. 

And then like a modern Jean Valjean in Les Miserable there was the district attorney who was going to bring Michael down regardless of the facts. The infamous molestation trial. Michael in his pajamas. So many, including myself, thought he was faking it. But I have spoken to people who have been on trial or have had family members who have been and all said they were on medication for much of their ordeals. So, apparently, quite understandably now, was Michael. A weak case. One that should never have been brought, Michael won, but he lost so very much. The financial and emotional strain cost him his career, his credibility and he became the equivalent of a cartoon character. A freak. Someone not of this world. 

He was none of those things. He was a devoted father. A loving son. A caring brother. A man who, literally, thrilled millions and helped create the music video genre of MTV.

Michael Jackson is an object lesson in glass houses and to look at our own reflections before casting stones. Only then might we put down those rocks, and cast aside our harsh words and too easy judgements.

Michael Jackson is now in the same category as Elvis. His father said he would be bigger in death than he was in life. He left a legacy far larger than that. He had three children, just twelve, eleven and seven. Far too young to be orphaned. They are what is most important about Michael Jackson. He was their parent. He was their father. He was his children's dad. 

By Dawn Yun

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Monday, June 29, 2009


Sucker Punched

The three of us sat idly chatting while observing our young children practice their strokes during swim team practice. A pleasant enough afternoon safely protected from the sun’s harsh rays under the cool shade of a large patio umbrella.

A mild, uneventful afternoon watching our children.

Conversation meandered from good nutrition for our children to school volunteer activities, which led to my sharing the juggle of combining my work with the children’s schedules.

Somewhere in the midst of suggestions about daycare and nannies I asked one of the mothers, a former teacher, if she was considering going back to teaching sometime down the road.

She turned to me and replied confidently, “No, I enjoy being a Mom.”

I didn’t know how to answer.

My three-year old, dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, snuggled against me before scampering off to find a friend, her yellow gown billowing about her. The “princess phase” is in full tilt at our home and I can readily recite the soundtrack from the Princess and the Pauper movie.

The kids and I laughed on the way home from picking up their third grade sister about Grace’s interest in all things girly. Grace delights in the attention.

Gazing across the pool I watch my six-year old’s determined arms as he swims toward his instructor. He knows that I’m rooting for him. Strong arms! Strong legs! When he gets out of the pool inevitably he’ll race to me, hugging his wet body against me, eager to share how much better he’s swimming.

I think to my third grader’s determination to complete her homework first thing after school. She’s right now busy at work on a book of illustrated poems, inspired by Shel Silverstein, whose work I shared with her class.

They are my love.

I enjoy our life.

I enjoy being their Mom.

But why should I have to justify that?

I breathe in the still air and offer as evenly as I can, “I enjoy being a Mom, too. I also enjoy my work and am glad to have it.”

No more said but inside the wind’s still knocked out of me.

By Maija Threlkeld

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Sunday, June 28, 2009


Stop-Light Memories of Soccer Games Past

I was waiting at the intersection for the signal to turn green.  Suddenly, I heard sequels of laughter from the car next to me.  I turned and saw a Volvo station wagon full of girls in soccer uniforms.  They were about eleven or twelve chattering among themselves.  The mom driving was oblivious to the noise coming from the back seat of her car.

At first I was relieved it wasn’t me behind that steering wheel.  I couldn’t imagine driving one more carpool to one more soccer game.  For years I drove my two girls and their teammates to games all over the San Francisco Bay Area.  I spent many a weekend at tournaments, but one of the perks of endless hours of sitting through those games was comparing notes with the other moms about the whereabouts of our daughters. 

As our girls entered their teen years and boys and drugs circled their lives, we grew closer as a community of moms.  We began to rely on those weekend morning soccer games to review events from the night before.

I’ll never forget the first time my oldest daughter snuck out of the house.  It was a Friday night and I had come into her room around two a.m. to turn off the light.  Much to my surprise the bedroom window was wide open and pillows were stuffed under the covers on the beds where she and a girlfriend were supposed to be sleeping.  Two recycle bins were stacked on top of each other beneath the window.  They were the stairs for the “escape.”  I should have been furious but I had to laugh at the absurdity of their scheme.  I felt like I was in a “B” movie.   Fortunately, I lived in a safe, small town where I knew most of the families with school-age kids.  On this occasion she and her friend had snuck out the night before a Saturday soccer game.  My solace was in knowing I’d get the details the next morning comparing notes with the other moms.

Sure enough, it turned out that several of our daughters had snuck out and met up at a local park.  Some of the girls had said they were spending the night at a friend’s house.  Some, like my daughter, just jumped out the window.  By the time we sorted out who said what to whom, we were laughing.   

We discovered this was the best way to parent our teenage girls:  throw out a big net and make sure all the girls were safely in it.  We devised an appropriate consequence for their actions.  We made a pact: each parent would ground her daughter for the same amount of time.  No girl could then complain she had the “worst mom in the world” because as a community of moms, we had agreed on the punishment for all of them.  We later discovered the girls weren’t upset by their fates.  They were safe and they knew it.  Much to our relief we had a system for finding them when they were “lost.”

The light turned green and the Volvo with the soccer girls sped ahead.  I wished the mom good luck.  I didn’t miss the car-pooling, but I did miss the camaraderie among the moms which developed, not because our daughters were “good girls” playing soccer, but because they were bad girls testing limits to be themselves. 

By Marilee Stark

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


Music of a Different Sort for a Mother's and Baby's Ears

We were all tired. 

My four-year old was exhausted from a day of heavy play at Stinson Beach; my eleven-month old was pooped from missing his morning nap so that a friend could drive both our kids to the beach, and my husband and I were tired because we’d just run the Dipsea Race from Mill Valley to Stinson before playing three hours worth of Frisbee, sand castle building, and chase-the-crawling baby. 

Both kids fell asleep the minute we got in the car to drive home, but I knew that my son needed more than the thirty-five minutes of sleep that the drive afforded.  So I unloaded my husband and daughter at our house and kept driving sleeping Asa round and round the town of Larkspur.

I’d hoped I could pull over into a nice, shady parking spot, leave the car running, and sleep while he snoozed, but the minute we stopped moving, he’d wake up. My butt and quads and hamstring were all tight and achy and I desperately needed to get out of the sitting position, but even more than that, I needed Asa to get more sleep so he could make it through the rest of the day without crumbling.

So on I drove. 

I was too tired to venture north or south; I knew that getting stuck in any kind of traffic would put me over the edge.  Instead, I made myself intimately familiar with the back streets of Larkspur while listening to the Playboy channel on our new satellite radio. 

Who knew there was such a thing as a Playboy channel?  Who knew you could really say cunt, jizz, and tea bagging on the radio?  Who knew I’d be driving my baby son around listening to callers complaining about their erectile dysfunction/ distaste for oral sex/ anxiety about a wife’s gift of a threesome?

I stumbled on the station while exploring the essentially disappointing selection that our newly purchased Sirius Satellite offered.  And you know what?  It beats the monotony of Alice 97.3 or the tired children’s mix of Baby Beluga, Get Your Jammies On, Slippery Fish, that’s for damn sure. 

For a tired mother whose libido could stand a boost, listening to people talk about sex for an hour while cruising the suburbs probably isn’t such a bad thing.  I just need to remember to change the channel before my daughter gets in the car; otherwise I’m going to have a lot of tricky questions to answer.

By Eliza Harding Turner

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Friday, June 26, 2009


Gluten-Free Writing

The great thing about writing is that you get to take life's challenges, and turn them into opportunities for assignments!

My article "Gluten Free Dining in the Bay Area" in June's Parents’ Press newspaper is an example of this. Having a three-year-old son who is gluten free, I've become a reluctant expert on where to dine without wheat. But I also learned a lot about Celiac disease as I researched this article, so it added to my conversation today with my son's doctor at his physical.

So now we get to decide if we want an official Celiac diagnosis, which would mean putting him back on gluten, having a blood test, and possibly an endoscopy, and if in fact he does have Celiac disease, or is just gluten intolerant, we would just end up back where we are now- avoiding gluten. I'm not sure if it's worth all that, but we'll see.

For now, I'm just grateful for all the food options we have that are gluten free.

By Kristy Lund

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Thursday, June 25, 2009


Top Ten Reasons to Clean Your Refrigerator

10.  Rewards sloth—the longer you put off grocery shopping, the easier it is to clean!

9.  No moral quandaries about whether discards are suitable for Goodwill.

8. Potential for discovering medical breakthrough growing on leftovers.

7.  Possibility for weight loss if growth on leftovers results in food poisoning instead of Nobel Prize for Medicine.

6. As productive procrastination goes, it is more gratifying than cleaning your sock drawer.

5. Discover container of leftover chocolate sauce, rear bottom shelf. Yum.

4. Uncover tonight’s Mystery Dinner to augment Found Dessert (see #5).

3. Unlike most household chores, does not need to be repeated for a really long time.

2. Out with the old! (May generalize to closets, hairstyles, and boxes of adorable infant clothes that no longer fit your middle schooler.)

1. Make way for the new!!! (OK, it’s a cliché, but applicable to untried recipes, a better wardrobe, and material for write ‘em fast blogs.)

By Lorrie Goldin

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A Favorite Aunt Visits Her Favorite Niece

My best friend, Amy, is visiting.

This coincided perfectly with my daughter, Mimi, seven, getting out of school. The two have been inseparable. It's such a joy to listen and watch them interact. Amy doesn't have children so she takes her responsibility of being a godmother and Mimi's favorite "aunt" very seriously.

That means some hard core silliness, tickles, playing with stuffed animals, and chasing each other. Mimi will affectionately lay her head on Amy's chest, while her aunt holds her close. 

The loud moments are as precious as the quiet ones.

Amy has been my closest friend since we were both eleven. To see her being as tight with my daughter as she is with me makes me enormously happy. 

Mimi has it all figured out. Amy, her husband, "Uncle Vinnie," Maggie, her cat and Mimi's other "aunt," and godmother, Cal, and her family (husband and dog) will move to California so we can all be together all the time.

Amy can't move. She likes where she lives in Washington state, she has clients and her husband has a job. Cal would love to move to California but circumstances at the moment dictate it will likely be a few years before that becomes a reality. 

I wish both lived here, too.

While Amy remains I revel in the pristine love between her and my daughter, as she delights in everything Mimi says and does. I observe this close-up and at a distance. Mimi is so easy to love. She's a sweet girl, with a kind heart, a fun disposition, and a fast mind. 

Of course, I do enjoy that while Amy plays with Mimi I get a bit of a respite from parenting. But it is only momentarily as Mimi comes bounding over to share the love, which I love.

Mimi is my greatest gift. My absolute joy. She makes me smile. 

While children can sometimes be pains in the ass -- be honest! -- the vast majority of the time they are our greatest source of pleasure.

There are only has a few more days left with Amy. Mimi will treasure each one. When we take her to the airport on Saturday, my daughter will cry. The memories she will have, that all three of us will hold, shall last forever.

By Dawn Yun

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


When It Comes to Accumulating Things, Less Really is More

Why is it that every day my daughter expects something new? From a stuffie (stuffed animal) to clothes to a piece of candy. 

It is the something/anything syndrome.

I am trying to teach her that we are in a recession. Her pronunciation of it is difficult enough. Though it is the explanation that counts.

Money. Have to save. People are losing their jobs. No Daddy still has his work. Yes, Mommy is still bringing in money, too, however small it may be. 

Mimi does get it. The problem is that she still wants it -- something/anything.

No, has become a very big word in my vocabulary: as have -- be appreciative, be grateful for what you have, not for what you don't, maybe for your birthday.

Confession: I want things, too.  The worst the recession gets, the more I want, even though I've never needed less.

My car is perfectly fine. It is a 2001, in decent shape and has only 60,000 miles. Yet, I will have a new car before the end of the year. This week I will test drive the new Prius, in black, and the Honda Insight. I feel as though I have to make up for our family's lack of ecological karma, what with two SUVs polluting the planet. Plus, the inside of the Prius, the way it lights up, I feel like I'm on a space ship ready to take off (though I think the acceleration is probably a tad different).

My latest obsession is the new iPhone. About three months ago I bought an iPhone, even though I instinctively knew that a new one would be out in the summer (despite Apple and AT&T telling me not to count on it). I didn't think I could wait until then so I bought the one they had at the time. Then the iPhone 3GS just came out.  It is twice as fast, double the battery life, has a much improved camera and more importantly, video recording capabilities that can be immediately downloaded to YouTube. 

Mind you, I've already loaded the new software for my old iPhone onto my current phone and it provides many of the improvements found on the new phone. You can write in landscape mode, it has an audio recorder, you can cut and paste information.

Still, it's not the same. I want the new one. 

There is the small matter of the $500 I would have to pay AT&T to get a new phone, even though mine is only three months old. There is no way I am going to do that.

Cheapness wins over function every time when my brain cells are all firing. I will keep my iPhone. Besides, I don't need the new one because I already have a flip camcorder for downloading to UTube, which I rarely use.

Still, every ad for the new iPhone speaks to me. I try not to listen. 

Something/anything. Am I really any different than my daughter? I want, want, want, too.

I very much use the mantra of  -- less is more. Mimi very much neither uses, believes, nor understands the concept. One day she will. Fewer things that really count, have meaning and memory are what matter. Not the number of them. 

On the car, though, that one I feel I do need a change. I want to leave a smaller carbon footprint behind (my husband rolls my eyes at this. I kinda do too. As soon as the words spring off my tongue, I think, 'You are so full of shit. You just want a new car.') 

The truth is I could lose pretty much every thing I have and I would be fine. It is a lesson I continually teach my daughter and one I still need to remind myself.

Something/anything? How about nothing? There is something very elegant about it.  I think my daughter and me might try it more often.

By Dawn Yun

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Monday, June 22, 2009


A Lesson to All Teenagers -- Call Your Mothers

Lying. This is a biggie for me, being a child of divorce with abandonment issues. 

I can handle most any kid-related screw-up, but lying.  The phone didn't ring, allowing me to sleep until five a.m. when I woke with a start. I knew the second my eyes were open that he had not called.  I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and punched the missed calls log.  Nothing.  Lifted the receiver on the house phone.  No interrupted dial tone indicating a message.  He had not called when the concert was over or when he safely arrived at his friend's house.  Two checkpoints skipped and it was now five-fifteen and I was full of adrenaline.  I called his cell -- straight to voice mail.  I called his friend's cell. Same.  I called his again. Same. 

I got dressed.  

"Don't go over there. It's too early, you'll wake everyone up," my husband sleep talks from the bed. 

"Uh-huh,” I agree as I pull my hair into a ponytail and start to wash my face. 

I called his cell again after I got my shoes on and headed for the back door.  Voicemail again. 

I'm pissed and a little scared.  Mom mode.  Odds are he just screwed up.  Of course his friend's mom or someone would have called if there were an accident.  Or an arrest.  Or he'd OD'd.  And then there was the possibility that his friend's mom was too distraught over the death of her own son to tell me about mine.  Or they hadn't found the body yet after the car went off the bridge.  All this ping- ponging through my uncaffeinated brain as I wind up the narrow redwood-lined road to the house where I was going to yank my brat kid from a warm bed to kick his ass.

I didn't knock or ring the bell.  I let myself in through the garden gate, and down the steps passed the pool to the first door.  I knocked and listened to the birds and noted that the sun hadn't yet come over Blithedale Ridge. My cell rings.  My husband, urging me to go get coffee, calm down and wait an hour before I barge in and embarrass our son. 

“Good idea,” I say. “OK.”

I knocked again and a sleepy teenager answered.  My guy was across the pool in the main house and I asked the boy if he would tell him that his mom was here.  When he came to the door he looked worried, and asked what was wrong. 

"You didn't call." 

"Yeah I did."

"No, you didn't.  Get your things and meet me in the car."  I thanked the sleepy messenger and walked back up to the street and waited for him.

He didn't waste time, threw his things in the back and got in the passenger seat barefoot and bleary eyed. He insisted that he had called after the show, at eleven, until I showed him my call log on my phone and asked to see his.  Nothing since nine p.m.  Then he says he was too caught up in the moment, that his phone, keys and jacket were rolled in a ball under the seat where he couldn't reach them. 


I am so relieved to have him in the car and that he is whole and alive -- and so fucking pissed at him that I tear up when I say,  "You lied.  That is the part that disappoints me the most.  Why would you feel that you need to lie to me? You had an opportunity to establish a foundation of trust here. It was so easy. All you had to do is call and check in. I want you to go out in the world and be with friends and see music and have fun.  I want you to show me that you can do this and make good choices and be safe and check in.  I have to ask myself, what would cause you to not check in?  You are always so good about this.  And then you lie. That's the worst part." 

Now, my six-foot, two-inch, one hundred eight-five pound boy is shaking and tearing up and apologizing.  "I screwed up.  I'm sorry, but I swear I didn't drink or do drugs." 

I nod, "Well, fine.  But you also swore that you called.  So there's that." 

I'll never know why he didn't call.  I do know he'll at least think about it next time, and hopefully he will get it right.  That morning I made him sit with me at the Depot café and have coffee and chat for over an hour while the sun came up.  He was clearly uncomfortable and really didn't look too good.  I enjoyed that.  His leash has been drastically shortened and did he ever make a nice Mother's Day breakfast for me the next morning, complete with coffee just how I like it.  He volunteered to unload the dishwasher and asked if he could help me plant tomatoes.  He and his brother took me to see “Star Trek.”  He accepted his younger brothers’ ribbing about how “mom kicked your ass.”

Sadly, I know I'll do it again.

By Mary Allison Tierney

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Sunday, June 21, 2009


From the Mouth of Babes Come All Kinds of Words

Last week, while clearing away the dinner dishes, my boys, Ethan, five, and Alex, three, began their debate. 

Ethan, in an authoritative voice, fired the first shot with, “Storm troopers have cooler weapons than Jedis, you know.”

“No, Jedis are good guys,” answers Alex.  He doesn’t even know a light saber from a blaster.

You’re so stupid, Alex.  Storm troopers have cooler ships.”

“No, Jedi!”  Alex pounded his fist on the table.

“Hey!”  I interjected, “Next one to fight with his brother eats dessert alone in the dining room!” 

Alex turned on me.

“Well, if you put me in the dining room, I’m gonna go postal on you!”

Where do they get this stuff?  It should have tipped me off back when Ethan was two and he dropped his ice cream cone.

“GODFUCKINGDAMNIT!” he yelled at the sidewalk.  

As parents, we all know that kids are little parrots.  So, when Ethan began repeating Daddy’s swears, I threatened to wash Daddy’s mouth out with soap.  Now that little Alex is of parroting age, he knows how to remind Kirk, “Watch your language,” because he hears it from me.  Swearing has become a thing of the past.

Sometimes, I find that the ugliest things I say get repeated.  Last Thanksgiving, with the entire extended family assembled, Ethan announced, “Mommy says we can’t hang out with (relative’s name omitted) because she’s lousy with kids.”

Now, that required some explaining.

Not all of the things my kids repeat are that hideous.  I often hear from Alex things like, “You did such a good job with your dinner, Mommy.  Now you get some dessert,” or, when I’m on the toilet, I’ll get a reassuring pat on the knee from him.

“I’m so proud that you pooped in the potty, Mommy.” Yeah, like I’d ever be caught wearing a Pull-Up!

Right before the November election, Alex asked Ethan why George Bush gets the thumbs-down, and without missing a beat, Ethan said, “Because he’s a moron.”

Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?

My boys have mastered the parentese, and they’ve also gotten the context.  Yesterday, we were putting on our shoes to go to the park.  In a rare display of fraternal helpfulness, Ethan assisted Alex with the Velcro on his sneakers.  I was tying my laces, musing on Ethan’s maturity, when he asked me, “Do you really know how to tie your own shoes?”

“Yeah,” I said.  He sighed and shook his head. “Sometimes I just can’t believe how grown up you are!”

Right back atcha, kiddo.

By Mindy Uhrlaub





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Saturday, June 20, 2009


Godparents Make the Best Friends and Relatives

When it came time to chose godparents for my daughter I gave it careful thought. I wanted her to have two godparents and wanted them to be people she could always turn to as I had a sense -- correct I might add -- that my daughter and I would fight often because we would be so much alike.

We do and we are.

Amy, my best friend since I was eleven, is visiting today. Mimi is camping with her father and brother. I am Jewish. I don't camp. I hotel. 

The night of Amy's arrival from Seattle we will have too much wine and laugh.

Come Sunday morning when my family returns, Mimi will jump into Amy's arms and shower her face with kisses. Amy will stare at her with wonder and joy, the same way I look at my daughter every day. I will watch the scene play out exactly as I had envisioned it seven years earlier. I can imagine it seven years from now. And years and years beyond that. 

I explained to Amy that her role wasn't just to buy gifts, but to be a second mother to Mimi. To bestow her wisdom to my daughter when she is perplexed and needs an opinion outside of her mother's. 

The same with my friend, Cally, who lives in Florida, and is an artist.  Art, besides being a rock star and a vet, appear to be Mimi's calling. When Cal calls now they talk intensely about drawing. Aunt Cal offering advice about blending colors and how to show perspective. 

My daughter is blessed to have two wonderful godmothers. I am lucky to have them as friends. For we love each other unconditionally.

It helps that both are hysterical, fun, playful, insightful and smart.

They'll always have us. And we will always have them.

By Dawn Yun 

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Friday, June 19, 2009


Guitar Gaze, Keeps Family Ablaze

Ever since I took up the guitar about a year and a half a go I've skipped my mid-life crises because I'm so happy strumming.

Without dreams of fame or fortune just appreciation for making a D minor chord blend with  its cousin,  A minor. I feel transported.

My guitar is not on display in the living room for show. It's for playing. I practice for fifteen to thirty minutes daily.

At first my family was incredibly supportive. Now I have to give them warnings before I play. The sounds of doors closing sharply throughout the house make their own kind of music.

Lately, I notice that even the cat leaves the house, slipping though a hole in the screen door, to take refuge in the garage, safe from my sounds under holiday wrappings.

While my guitar playing may sound like noise to them, for me the sound couldn't be sweeter. Nor I any happier.

To my family and anyone who hears me playing while passing by, I promise to try and lower the volume. And, I might add, "Rock on!"

By Dawn Yun

By Dawn Yun

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Thursday, June 18, 2009


Vacation for Mom -- Family Free with Friends Who Are Family

School is out for summer!

School is out forever!

Well, no, not really. But it is over for me for the next two and a half days! Woo-woo-hoo-hoo!!!

My husband usually takes the kids camping for approximately eighteen hours. Enough time for me to say, "I have the night to myself." In the wee hours of the a.m. I see them climbing down the front stairs. "And the morning for my family."

I am grateful for the free time however short it may be.

But this is long one. Roughly two days is equivalent to a week for me.

With the family gone, I read, write and lounge.

Tomorrow morning a friend is visiting from Palo Alto. About one p.m. she will leave so I can pick up at the airport my best friend, Amy, in from Seattle who is visiting for a week. Amy called last week to say she had an unexpected opening her her schedule and wondered if she could come and visit.

This was untrue. Unbeknown to me, her mother revealed that Amy's  intentions for suddenly coming were, "Dawn's had a lot of deaths the last year. I know it's been hard. I have to come and be with her." A true BFF. Her mother is my second mother (pronounced muth-a). A New York Jewish mother if ever (pronounced ev-a) there was one. I am lucky to have this family in my life since I was eleven.

Amy enjoys her pot. Not my thing. So I've been trying to score some from a friend who lives life firmly on the edges.  Her telephone is not accepting voice message, texts or anything that resembles communications. Oh, well. I have two great bottles of wine, an entire evening without children and we can have a gabfest.

This looks to be a wonderful beginning to what I feel certain will be a great summer.

By Dawn YunPublish Post

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Once a BFF, Always a BFF

My friend Deb called me last October.  I hadn’t seen her in about seven years.  Our 35th high school reunion was coming up and she wondered if I’d want to go with her.  I was thrilled to hear her voice although I’d been hurt and confused during the past several years, wondering why she’d let our friendship wither.  I’d long considered her one of my closest friends, but calls and cards had gone unanswered for a few years before I’d stopped contacting her. 

Toughest to digest was that our friendship moved from the slow lane to the exit ramp when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty-four.  I so wanted to support her through her treatments but she did not need me.  She had her husband, her sisters and other friends who lived closer.  I heard enough to know she’d survived, but her not needing or wanting my support forced me to realize our friendship had eroded more than I’d been willing to admit.  A few years later, my holiday card was returned with a red stamp of No Forwarding Address.  I took this as the final signal that I should let the relationship go.

The high school reunion was a blast.  Deb spent the weekend at my house.  We gabbed for hours.  She made no mention of her silence over the years and I’d decided beforehand that I would welcome her back, no questions asked.  I honestly don’t think the years of silence were anything personal – probably more to do with living one-hundred miles away, raising two teenagers and finding time with a husband who worked long hours.  I can’t say I felt no resentment but mostly I was glad to have her back.

And she is back.  She initiated my family’s spending a weekend at her home.  We’ve met for lunch.  She sent me a lovely bouquet of pink roses when I hit a tough patch at work along with a card saying how happy she is that we’re back in touch.

She also asked me to join her this July in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  We’ll trek twenty-six miles in San Francisco over two days.  We met for a twelve-mile training walk last week.  We exchanged fundraising tips, sock recommendations and organic snacks.  I’ll be there for her on July 11th and 12th.    We’ll walk together to honor her ten years as a breast cancer survivor and our thirty-eight years of friendship.

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Maybe There Should Be Camps for Parents

It’s the first week of April and I have not signed my children up for summer camp yet. The squares on my calendar spanning from the middle of June to the end of August – the 10 full weeks that make up summer vacation -- are blank.

I am at once calm and panicked. I am proud not to have succumbed to the pressure to plan our summer schedule half a year in advance. I am terrified that those summer days will blend into weeks and then months of whining boredom.

Like Christmas decorations, the camp brochures seem to arrive earlier each year. Glossy pamphlets began filling my mail box in early February. Sorting the mail tempts me to live not in the moment, but to propel myself months into the future. On a cold, grey, mid-winter afternoon, I give in and anticipate what we’ll be doing the first week in August.

I imagine spontaneously packing up the car with a cooler and towels to head off to the beach looking like some family out of the Lands' End catalog. I picture us taking long bike rides, going on picnics, working a lemonade stand, making hand-cranked ice cream. But experience tells me that after a few days of hanging out with Mom, my kids will crave time with their friends. And their friends won’t be free to join us on an outing to the beach. They will all be in camp.

With resignation, I settle down to register fearing most camps will already be full. I sift through the pile of promotions. The possibilities are endless, overwhelming, and the cost often outrageous. I’ll need a spread sheet and a GPS device just to figure out whether I can promptly deliver two children to two different camps in opposite directions during the correct week – the week their best friends can also attend. (I have been known to show up at last week’s sports camp only to realize that my child is currently attending art camp on the other side of town.)

My 7-year-old daughter and I narrow the choices down to horseback riding, musical theater, cooking, ceramics, and gymnastics. My 11-year-old son considers soccer, kayaking, clay animation, golf, newspaper reporting, and fencing. Suddenly, there are not enough weeks of summer (or dollars in my bank account) to accommodate their preferences let alone squeeze in a family vacation.

I throw up my hands in dismay. I want to go to camp.

By Tina Bournazos

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Monday, June 15, 2009


An Unexpected Twist on Parenting

You know the scene in the movie when the Mom goes into the kid’s room to give a last good night kiss, and instead they find a faux human made of pillows, and the kid has run off somewhere?

When our daughter was missing from her bed, I did not react as calmly as Donna Reed might have in Father Knows Best. I don’t know who would have known best in the situation I found myself in, but it sure wasn’t me in that moment of discovery.

“OH MY GAWD!!!!” I screamed out for my husband. “HENRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Katie has been a rambunctious teenager. She has come in too late, had too much to drink, too much to smoke and gone too far away from home without asking if she could beforehand. 

She has been an honorable student and polite to strangers, but when it comes to getting her to put away her laundry or answering her cell phone when she’s out, she’s been a challenge.

I recognize Katie’s rage because it’s not that different from my own adolescent rants that still emerge from time to time.  Her beliefs are interwoven with contradictions but she can always justify them and sometimes what she says is hard to argue with. According to Katie, organized religion is the root of all evil, but she loves to rock out to Jimmy Cliff. (Ganga Man God.)  She thinks the police abuse their power in most situations but wonders why the police are never available to help the homeless people.  Homeless people should be respected as real and valuable however, her parents (Henry and me) have acted in ways that have not led her to respect us.

The list goes on.

Young people change the world, I know that, and so, when I found the rolled up clothes and pillows under the covers instead of Katie, after my shock I became quite thoughtful.

Maybe it was time for me to change.

Katie has just graduated from high school, it is the summer and I can’t stand fighting anymore. Henry and I did not devise a grand consequence for Katie after we tracked her down by texting all of her friends and eventually got her tucked away in her room.

As we lay in bed at two a.m., wondering how to be better parents to our teenaged daughter, we were exhausted. “Maybe it’s time to let her go a little,” Henry said.

Usually I was the bad cop parent, but at this point, I was too tired to enforce any more strict rules. “Yes,” I agreed. “What we’re doing is obviously not working.”

On Sunday morning after the debacle, we had “the talk.” We took a very different approach.

“Katie,” I said. “We know that you’re a good girl and are sure that most probably you regret the decision you made last night. We have a proposal for you that we’d like to try on an experimental basis. ”

She looked at me suspiciously.

“We would like to lift your curfew.” The surprised smile and delight on her face was large.

“Show us that you can handle it, which means you cannot be unreasonably late every night. Keep in touch with us so we know where you are, and help out around the house more. Show us more respect so we can give you more responsibility.”

Henry was unusually quiet. We usually spoke over each other during these group parenting events, but we both remained calm, and hopeful.

Like I said, this is an experiment, and we will see how it goes one night out at a time. Letting go, separating, leaving home, it is all so uncomfortable and awkward; but it does have to happen eventually.

By Gloria Saltzman

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Sunday, June 14, 2009


A Friendship Based on Illusion

The baby and toddler years will always be amongst my most memorable memories. It wasn’t easy finding a group of women who felt the same exact way I did about mommying.

We shared insecurities, secrets, tips, and truly gave each other what was left of us that we didn’t give to our children.

Then -- something changed.

Maybe when my youngest went to kindergarten. When I began to work again. When I got diagnosed with an unexpected illness.

Suddenly, I could see clearly what I could not observe, or did not want to notice: true friendship.

And one person, who I thought was the most giving of people, upon closer inspection, really was not. Oh, there was so called generosity. Groceries in particular. She always came laden with them. And liked to present me gifts with that I neither needed, sought nor could use.

What she had trouble giving -- was herself. I noticed when I talked, she rarely listened. I babysat for her child way out of proportion to her watching mine. Then there were the unkind words that sometimes found their way out of her mouth. They were always so shocking that I was speechless in reply.

One day, after a particularly virulent spiel -- I could no longer ignore my internal voice. It yelled: MOVE ON!

The problem: her daughter and my daughter are great friends and I don’t want that ruined. We also run in similar circles.

This is where being a mother and the wisdom I’ve hopefully gained must come into play. This is not about me. This is not about her. This is about our children.

Still, there is sadness for what once and for what will no longer be.

I’ve always tried to create family from friends. My best friend at 11 is still my best friend today. I laugh as hard now with my college friends as I did with them back when we were in our 20s (a-hem, that being just a year or two ago).

I’ve been fortunate to have lived around the country and have friends in each place where I have resided. And I have incredible mommy friends who will be my sister-friends forever.

I am happy that by putting an end to something that once was beautiful but is now toxic, I am taking care of myself and I will be watchful for my daughter.

I will also be something else – mature, graceful and kind. The qualities I want my children to have.

Still, I am sad to lose a friend or the friend who I thought she was only to realize that person was an illusion.

I'll try to remember the good times, even if there was imagination on my part.

Right now our daughters are BFFs. But watching her constantly angle, setting up play dates, sans my daughter, yet she always seems to want one when she knows my daughter has a play date with another friend, borders on the manipulative and absurd.  

I wish things were back to how I thought they once were. But I know now those were only dreams. And we awaken from our dreams.

By Dawn Yun

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


A Nursing Home Holiday Filled with Family, Memories and Tears

My father-in-law, Glyn, moved to a nursing home in early December. We came bearing gifts on Christmas day – my husband, me, our 10-year old son, along with my husband’s brother and his 11-year old daughter.

Glyn sat in the dining room. A first for him as he had been taking all his meals in his room. He ate his prime rib with gusto as we hovered around the table. Conversation was sparse. I had thought that this visit to the nursing home would be sad but it felt okay.

Holding a gift box and tearing the wrapping paper off was difficult for Glyn. My husband helped him open a large box filled with a heavy black jacket. I wondered if he’d ever get the chance to wear it.

“Did you bring the camera?” my husband asked.

“Yes,” I replied, fumbling in my purse and hoping the batteries were charged.

I focused the camera on my husband, our son, his brother, and our niece as they stood behind my seated father-in-law. I felt a rush of anxiety. Should we be taking this picture?

No, no, not here, not the annual family picture in a nursing home. Pictures would stop with last year. No more, no.

The nervous surge receded. I could take the picture. This is where we gathered, where we honored Glyn this year. I pushed the button, capturing the three generations.

“This is the nicest Christmas I’ve had in a long time,” my father-in-law said.

“I’ll bring his presents to his room,” I said and quickly grabbed the jacket and another gift. His room was a short walk down the hall. I barely made it before bursting into tears.

By Marianne Lonsdale

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Friday, June 12, 2009


Christmas Memories La La La La

It's only summer, but already my mind is on Christmas past.

When the doorbell rings for our tree-trimming party every year, we turn up the volume on Handel’s Messiah, ladle out hot mulled cider, and put our guests to work hanging the ornaments.

I’m the only one invited to the untrimming party. Soon Joni Mitchell’s Blue is blasting from the speakers as I bring up boxes from the garage and get to work dismantling Christmas.

But I’m not blue at all. I love taking apart the wooden train set and stowing away the brightly painted nutcrackers. I scrape melted wax from the mantel and toss withered cedar boughs into the fireplace. Scummy vases once overflowing with holly and white orchids get a good scrubbing.

Then I untrim the tree, from hand-blown glass balls to hand-crafted macaroni angels. It’s like unearthing a time capsule. Here is the rocking horse era, followed by the rise of the snowmen. Family pets are honored by an abundance of dog and cat angels. Crazily misshapen Santas record the preschool years, while “Baby’s First Christmas” bears round out the collection.

My favorite part is tossing the denuded tree off the balcony. Such a satisfying crash! Pine needles blanket the asphalt below, but I don’t sweep them up; the wind and rain will take care of the mess. This act of purposeful sloth thrills me as much as tearing out spent petunias from the garden at the end of the summer. Annuals and Christmas trees are supposed to wither and die, then get tossed. Unlike the perpetual nurturing demanded by children, pets, perennials, and husbands, limited care for ephemeral glory is the only requirement.

After all, it’s the dismantling that brings about the restored order and hope of the new year.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Thursday, June 11, 2009


School is Almost Out for the Summer!

This simply cannot possibly be true.

It is.

School is almost o-ver!!!!

In my home I'm uncertain who is more excited, my kids or me.

My 16-year old son, who scores so high on his tests but forgets to do his homework, is facing five weeks of hard labor: intense summer school in English and World History.

He has promised us Bs from the summer forward. He will need to if he hopes to get into a decent college. 

"You know you're going to be one of those kids left behind and you're way too smart. So just do your homework, please?"

Mimi, my seven-year old, enjoys taunting her older brother that she does not have to go to summer school.

"You're in second grade. There's time. Just wait."

"Jay," I admonish.

The day after Jay gets out of school we are leaving for vacation in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We will fly into Salt Lake City, I'm still unsure why, and then drive into nature.

My husband knows that I do not camp. I hotel. So he has booked some nice lodges.

Then in early August the kids and I will leave for a week to see my family in Connecticut and we'll visit New York City and Boston. I'm taking my kids and niece and nephews to see the play, Hair. They don't know the ending. But the sun will definitely be shining in. It will be their first Broadway play and I'm excited to share it with them.

We'll catch fireflies at dusk and watch them light up Mason jars with their light bulb-like backs and then set them free. During the mornings we'll take long walks down Martha Stewartesque country roads. I'll laugh with my sisters. And probably fight a bit, too. The cousins we'll also laugh. And probably argue as well. This is why my husband stays home. He is not used to the noise. I grew up with it. To me it's just ambient sounds.

In between there is camp for Mimi three days a week and play dates on the other two. I sense this is going to be a beautiful summer. We'll see old friends and hang out with our neighbors. 

The opportunity to slow down, reflect and enjoy is that for which I hope. The reality, I know, is more likely my son will forget to do his homework and my daughter will say -- just as she does about school -- that she doesn't want to go to camp.

Still, I look forward to the respite. Even if it's only in my imagination.

By Dawn Yun

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


A Seriously Bad Case of Writer's Block

This sucks. It sucks so bad. Right now this is beyond sucksome. It is so sucky that I have to make up words just to feel creative.

I've got a terrible case of writer's block.

It seems whatever I write doesn't flow, the words don't make sense and I have no fucking idea what I want to say. I'm trying hard to make good points but right now things are too sharp. 

I'm feeling and I'm feeling nothing at all. 

Trying to write something at a level I've worked hard for years to achieve is just not there.

Today I realized why I'm so incoherent in my thoughts -- I'm in remembrance and grief. And I have to write something that is upbeat! Hap-hap-happy!!! I might just as well draw that stupid ass once and soon to be again ubiquitous, yellow smiley face. The Sunday New York Times says it has returned. I have a suggestion: yellow head go back to nostalgia where you belong. 

Losing loved ones is beyond painful. Three in one year is a lot. But twelve years earlier I had four family members die within six months. I also had ten chapters of a book due. I missed deadline after deadline until I finally turned them in. I was living in total shock. A sort of protective bubble enveloped me as I tried to figure out life. My life.  I was single and childless.

The bubble has burst. Now I'm married with kids and my attention has to go to my family. Trying to focus in on what they are saying and to be in their moments is not easy. Sometimes I have to force myself. We're all sad. But the kids have a sense of joy that my husband and I lack.

I have been down this road before. 

I feel as if I'm riding a bicycle with a crooked wheel.  I try to steer in the direction I need to go, but I can't.

When I want to write something that leads the reader down a certain path, even with a compass -- a past draft proposal -- I'm lost. 

I know I am sorting. Feeling. Making jokes on the outside and crying within. I am prone to saying funny things to others. I am just having the most troublesome time writing them down.

What I've learned of grief is that it is a process. Not one to be rushed. It takes time. Something I don't have when I'm on a deadline.

By Dawn Yun

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009


A Mother's Wish for Children

I want something. Something good. And important. For Children.

It costs $200 million dollars.

Impossible, right?

The Buddha said, "Love each person as if they were your own child.”

What if each mom reading this believed that the amount of juicy, unwavering love they feel for their child could in fact translate into a focused laser of goodwill that facilitated a miracle.

What would you want to see happen?

I want to see a children's hospital come into being.

There are three amazing pediatric hospitals in the Bay Area that have saved countless children's lives -- kids just like yours. Many kids have been transported here or their families brought them here from all over the world for help with conditions and diseases untold.

One of these hospitals is a training center for some of the most promising young surgeons and pediatric specialists in the world.

And that hospital is housed in an ancient, exhausted building in San Francisco. Parts of it look like a third-world structure.

There will be no improvements made. The rates of infection and cross-contamination are highly affected by crowding and sluggish ventilation.

A new hospital has been decided on, so no funding will improve what is already there.

Here's the hitch: No hospital will be built until at least $200 million dollars in private funding is accumulated. One young administrator told me, "I will be retired before they break ground on that hospital.”

Here is my wish, my hope that good conquers avarice and love for children creates miracles. San Francisco built a baseball stadium downtown against a few odds. Little big deal. got people to boot the administration's congressional minions. Bigger deal.

Maybe I can help. I don't know anyone very wealthy. But I am good at phone trees and writing and have lost a good deal of social inhibition. I am going to find out where the money could come from and what I can do to help. I am going to believe that what the Buddha asks of the world is possible, to varying degress, for all of us.

I'd like to hear what other moms wish for, against the odds or not.

Just imagining the combined love for our dear children makes me think we're unstoppable.

By Avvy Mar

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Monday, June 08, 2009


California Politicians Need to Do The Right Thing

In the wake of the Special Election, Governor Schwarzenegger and other leaders should not be so quick to throw up their hands and declare that raising taxes is off the table because the people have spoken. Such an interpretation is inaccurate and irresponsible.

Although surely many voters intended to convey an anti-tax message, countless others rejected Propositions 1A-1E for different reasons. We must also consider these meanings behind a NO vote:

·      NO to slashing funding for children and the mentally ill

·      NO to depending on the lottery as a means of financing education

·      NO to the Trojan horse of permanent spending caps and rainy-day funds in exchange for temporary and regressive tax extensions

·      NO to appeasing a legislative minority that holds the state hostage

·      NO to muddled language, intent, and outcome

·      NO to government by ill-informed citizen initiative and legislative buck-passing

·      NO to applying bandaids instead of addressing the real problem.

The real problem is both structural and moral.

Structurally, California will remain in a stranglehold until we reform Proposition 13, get rid of the two-thirds requirement for approving taxes and the state budget, and stop governing by initiative.

Unfortunately, these structural remedies constitute the third rail of California politics, and legislators understandably shy away from high-voltage risks. Still, unless leaders and voters have the moral courage to grab that third rail, the state is doomed to something far worse than political suicide.

Our predicament stems not only from a tanking economy, but from  a failure in leadership and a failure in citizenship.

Instead of capitulating to the tantrums of anti-tax zealots, Governor Schwarzenegger and other elected and civic officials need to put taxes back on the table. As Bill Clinton notes, “There’s a lot of evidence you can sell people on tax increases if they think it’s an investment.” Rather than sell California down the river, our leaders must find the courage to reframe responsible taxation as not just necessary, but a good investment.

Ordinary citizens must also find the courage to listen. Too many Californians want it all, but want it all for free.  Such entitlement creates a dangerous disconnect from reality and the responsibilities inherent to good citizenship. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed, “Taxes are dues we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society. “

They are bargain dues at that. Taxes utilize economies of scale and are cost-effective. Before the slash-and-burn tax revolt of the '70s, they bought us the finest state parks, K-16 education, and infrastructure in the nation. Taxes are the modest means by which we equitably share the responsibility of providing common wealth for the common good.

Keeping taxes off the table also ensures that Californians will pay more in hidden costs. The price may not show up in our tax bills, but it surely shows up bloated everywhere else: skyrocketing fees at our public universities, losing a day’s pay standing in line during curtailed hours at the DMV, struggling to care for your elderly aunt when she loses her home health attendant.

Even if our personal pocketbooks can absorb these now-privatized costs, nobody can afford the huge societal costs. Taxes are an insurance policy against blowback that results from defunding worthwhile services. If we fail to support prevention upfront, we will pay the much higher cost of intervention later, in the form of uneducated and latchkey children, unemployment, homelessness, overburdened emergency rooms, and increased crime.

Finally, tax policy is a reflection of our values. We ought to be ashamed of protecting tax loopholes for rich yacht owners while eliminating health care for millions of poor children. Have we no sense of decency?

Some argue we can’t afford to raise taxes. We can’t afford not to—for the state of our state, the state of our pocketbooks, and the state of our souls.

By Lorrie Goldin


 Let your voice be heard:

Budget Conference Committee Members: Names and fax numbers listed at:

How to find out your legislators’ contact info:

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Sunday, June 07, 2009


Surreal City Scene in Suburbia

Monday was my daughter’s first day back at school after a two-week break. We went shopping so I could return some sweaters.

That was the plan. What resulted was anything but. The trip to the mall was one big exercise in getting something/having anything.

I was trying to look at bras with my five-year old. Now, a woman cannot be rushed when deciding on a bra. Mimi put one around her neck. “Does this fit?” she asked.

I laughed, but stopped when she darted. “I want something!” she yelled while grabbing underwear. “Please!?! Just this one thing?”

“Mimi, you’re too young for a thong,” I tried to reason.

There was no reasoning and it soon became apparent there was even less reason to stay. This resulted in a full-on tantrum. I led her by the hand to the car, her screams trailing behind.

There was a van parked extremely close to us. Its wheels were on the white line that should have separated our two vehicles. Mimi flung open the door and it hit the van, which was impossible to avoid.

I got her into the car seat and sort of noticed a guy getting out of the van and back in. When I opened my door, it scraped his. I got into my car and he bounded out.

It took me a second or two to realize how angry he was. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any respect? What’s wrong with you?”

My first thought: Fuck you. (Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.) But just as quickly, I thought: I have a child. So I calmly put the key in the ignition and said, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I was inconsiderate. It was my fault. I’m sorry, sir.”

He took a step toward our car. I wondered if he was going to smash the window.

“I should kick your fucking ass,” he said. “I should. I should do it. I should kick your ass.”

It is not so unusual to see this in New York, but in suburban Marin, it is. And, it was made more surreal because my child was there. I apologized, looked away, calmly closed the door, LOCKED it, put the car in reverse, and drove away.

“Why was that man so mad, Mommy?” Mimi asked.

“Some people are just mad, Mimi." I realized the irony as five minutes earlier I was that angry. “And sometimes people act out because they can’t express their feelings.”

She seemed to consider my words. I thought about them, too.

“Mimi, I know that being a child is really hard for you. You don’t like being told what to do. But you’ll get older. It’ll get easier. And no matter what, I’ll always love you. Always.”

I reached my hand out behind me and she held it. I smiled at her reflection in the mirror and she smiled at mine.

By Dawn Yun

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Saturday, June 06, 2009


My Son The Sport Savant

My son Jack may be a savant. Don’t immediately think “Rain Man”; think more Madden. Jack is 4 1/2 and has an extreme fascination with football.

I can’t figure out the connection. Both of his parents are well versed in the sport and are fans to a certain level (somewhere less than face painting) but we certainly haven’t had any time or energy to devote to building our own knowledge of the sport, let alone creating a prodigy.

He can recite scores -- both as they happen, as well as some that happened months ago. He knows the names and purposes of all positions both offense and defense. He has favorite players, jerseys of favorite players, names of favorite players, great plays of favorite players, all colors of teams, all names of teams, all mascots.

Perhaps my personal favorite is his desire to go to Tom Brady’s house and get tips on how to play football. Who am I to squash this dream? I would like to go to Tom Brady’s house and get tips on… stuff, too. My job is to see his dreams happen, even if they seem impossible.

Jack really does have a unique talent. He knows the difference between college and pro teams and games on television. He can count to any score and knows the value of every point scored. He has three team’s regalia complete with jersey, pants and helmet, and wears the helmet when catching a touchdown pass at the end of the living room.

It would be one thing if he couldn’t catch or throw a ball, but he seems talented in doing that as well.

My younger son has realized that opposition is hopeless. His “No hootball game” has turned to “watch ponies” or “watch Patwiots.” He gets bored in the first minute or two, but Jack will watch for hours if we let him. He reenacts plays in the living room complete with straight arm, jukes and tackles. I know that some people see the violence, but I see the passion, with proper protective gear.

He asked me six months ago when he could play football. I didn’t know, so I went to the Internet to look up how old he would have to be to play. I told him he could play when he turned 7. So, every day he asks me how long until he turns 7? Every day I answer. Yesterday he asked if I would watch him play when he turns 7. I said that I would be there every game. He said, “No, on T.V.?” In his world, he was already playing in the N.F.L.

Childhood is a blessing in dreaming big. Parenting is hoping that they can achieve every one of those dreams.

By Jennifer O’Shaughnessy

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Friday, June 05, 2009


Disney Dollars and It's Not Even Disneyland

My niece, Lily, introduced my son, George, to Disney’s Club Penguin.

It’s an online video game filled with virtual penguins colored pink, red, purple, green or blue. Colors cost twenty game coins each. The penguins wear baseball caps or long brown wigs and waddle through town, a sandy beach or snow.

Who can resist the penquins’ pets, the puffles: small limbless balls of fur with eyes and wide-gapping mouths that smile, frown or yawn? Adopting a puffles cost 800 coins and colors denote their special abilities, tricks, and personalities. The gray one can be grumpy. Puffles must be fed, allowed to play, put to sleep and can attend parties and play dates. When my son’s penguin isn’t home his puffles live a secret life in their igloo. Once we caught them dancing...  

... Ahhh, Mom Look!

Then there’s the social value of the kids interacting with each other’s avatars. Of course in this game everyone’s avatar is a penguin. Penguins, sit, dance, waddle and wave on command. They also emote and send postcard messages: ‘Bring your puffle out to play.’ ‘Igloo party.’ ‘Be my buddy?’ ‘Cool outfit!’ So far no one’s raised money for charity, held a political rally or cleaned up the beach.

The penguins are distinguishable one from the other by user name, clothing and accessories. Children must purchase these from the various on-line catalogues: one for puffles, one for igloo upgrades and another for penguin attire. Club membership, $29.99 real world dollars, gives children access to more extravagant accessories.

And that’s my problems with the whole thing.

Who wants to be friends with the poor kid—I mean a common penguin wearing an old-school black and white tux?

My son and niece earn game coins for their penguins by playing in various games environments. These include surfing waves, cart surfing through a mine, fishing (catching the giant red mullet earns 100 coins), and something my niece just taught me, making pizzas. Once coins are earned, the kid goes shopping. If you’re not a member, product selection is extremely limited, which is why my son begged me to let him be a member.

Cute and social verses exploitive and commercial. Hmmm?

The other morning my son held an igloo party. My niece sat beside him commenting on the event as it unfolded.

“George, you need to buy some more stuff for the igloo or your quests won’t stay,” Lily directed as penguins popped in and out of George’s igloo.

“Why won’t they stay?” I asked. After all my son’s split level igloo has a dance floor, a DJ turn table, an electric guitar, eight puffles, two couches, a bean bag chair, and two magical coffee tables that provide bowls of snacks.

What’s not to love?

“Unless you have enough stuff they get bored and leave,” Lily warns.

Bored in less than two minutes?

Today, my son says he needs more buying power. He asks me to join him as his penguin rides through the mine cart surfing. If he works the directional part of the keyboard that makes his penguin perform tricks and I keep the penguin jumping up and down by pressing the space bar, George earns more coins than playing by himself. As we sit side by side, George makes his penguin perform hand stands, back flips and cart wheelies. It’s so ridiculous that we start laughing.

Two hundred and fifteen coins! High five!

By Patricia Ljutic

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Thursday, June 04, 2009


Unattainable Ideals Offer Unrealistic Comparisons

The Society for Sex Therapists and Research recently released the greatest public service announcement in history. Perfectly satisfying intercourse between loving partners most often occurs between three and thirteen minutes. This does not mean that somewhere in America, someone—not you—is coupling every three to thirteen minutes, but that longer is not necessarily better. What a relief that marathon lovemaking is more myth than measure of intimate pleasures.

We so often suffer from comparing ourselves to some unattainable ideal and bearing the shame of coming up short. Movies, magazines, TV commercials depict smiling people in designer homes living the good life, or at least having lots of long, hot sex. Excluded are those of us with cellulite or moods.

Maybe it’s time to recalibrate our standard measurements. But why stop with sex?

When my daughters were tiny, I went to a talk by a revered Bay Area nurse-turned-guru for new mothers. This is how she measured parenting success: At the end of the day, once the children are asleep and you no longer feel like killing them, on the whole, more days than not, does your pleasure about having kids outweigh your regret? If so, you’re doing fine.

By that measure, I’m doing better than fine. Usually I’m glad I became a mother even before the kids are asleep.

And how about the fashion industry? When dress sizes were reconfigured so that overnight I went from twelve to ten without liposuction, I felt much better. I also spent more money on clothes. No matter how you measure it, that’s a win-win for both me and retail sales.

Now I’m waiting for the next greatest public service announcement in history—research conclusively proving that perfectly satisfying sex between loving partners can occur far less frequently than one point five times per week.

By Lorrie Goldin

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Listening to Children's View of Love

I drive my daughter, Miranda, to camp in the morning along with her best friend. I’ve been doing it most of the summer. With a little pal in the back seat, my daughter doesn’t demand my attention. So, I turn the radio on and listen to my NPR programs. That is until the radio announcer started talking about dying children in Iraq, and I quickly shut it off.
And quickly tune in to what my daughter was saying to her friend.

“Diana and Jeff are in love. I saw the love at the party.” My daughter’s very serious tone drew my attention like a laser to the back seat. I slowed down and angled my head so I could hear more clearly.

“Yeah, sure,” Her friend said in an equally serious tone. “They’re boyfriend and girlfriend. I saw the love too.”

“But, he doesn’t love me.” My daughter sounded puzzled at that.

“No. But he likes you.” Her friend sounded reassuring.

“The grownups say they’ll get married.” My daughter said this as if she was planning what to wear to the event.

Her friend said, “Sure.”

My daughter then asked her friend “Are you still girlfriend to Dave?”

“No,” said her friend. “That’s gross. We broke up.”

Silence in the back seat until my daughter changed the subject. “I’ll be the princess and you’ll be the baby and I’ll find the palace.”

I sat forward and switched on the radio again, but kept the sound low. I wanted to laugh and cry. The conversation sounded like 16-year-olds, but these girls are only six.

Yet they can see the “love.” They already know what “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” mean. So, my new resolution is to keep the radio down, a friend in the back seat as often as possible, and listen carefully to get the critical information I need.

For when I ask how things are, already I’m getting the much-used word: “fine.” Followed by silence.

Note: Names have been changed to protect friends.

By Georgie Craig

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