Saturday, September 27, 2008

To Treat Or Not To Treat?

Late Blooming Mom is not a treat Nazi. But neither do I hand out sugary snacks regularly and indiscriminately. Still, sometimes it's hard to know just what the best treat policy is.

Growing up, I had a best friend whose mom kept their New York City apartment 100% treat-free. She cooked health foods when the health-food movement was just gaining steam and coming into the main stream. And she made her kids finish what was on their plates. She did the same to me when I was visiting, and I was a frequent sleep-over visitor.

I still recall trying hard to swallow those cottage-cheese-laced pancakes for breakfast.

But I also remember what happened when my best friend came over to MY house for a sleepover.

My mom, who in contrast to hers, viewed life as a banquet to be sampled every day, kept our house stocked with treats. There were Entemann's chocolate or white sugar frosted donuts, Sara Lee yellow cake with chocolate frosting, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, and perhaps most loved by my brother and myself, Drake's Cakes: Devil Dogs, Yodels, and Yankee Doodles.

This stuff was always around, and my best friend knew it. So when she came to visit, she binged. She gorged. She simply could not get enough.

This was in contrast to my brother and myself, who were routinely satisfied with a single donut and a glass of milk.

A binge to us was eating two Yankee Doodle cupcakes instead of one. They came three to a pack, and three were never finished in one sitting.

Though I shudder now to think how much trans fat and hydrogenated oils I consumed as a child, I do know I always ate my treats in moderation.

My best friend, by contrast, has a sweet tooth so strong that to this day, she has to police herself.

So the lesson I learned was that it's okay to give your kids a treat sometimes, and a lot better than making them verboten.

I'm a lot less generous with treats than my mom was, and I tend to buy or make fresh-baked goods that are trans-fat free and missing those evil hydrogenated oils. It's probably better for my kids that Drake's Cakes are unavailable on the West Coast, where we live. And I have my little tricks, like buying those very very small organic, trans-fat free chocolate chip cookies from Trader Joe's, so I can give my kids two, which seems like a lot to them, and still avoid having them eat something the size (and unhealthy composition) of a single Chips Ahoy cookie.

I know many pediatricians and nutritionists would still condemn me for giving them anything made with white flour and refined sugar. But I also know I'm instilling in them a sense of moderation while allowing them some pleasure in treats. I give them plenty of fruit, and try heroically to get them to eat some veggies, despite major resistance. I think their diet is pretty good. So a cookie or a mini-cupcake here or there is just fine with me.

But there's another side to this issue, and that's timing. I've discovered that when you give a treat can mean the difference between a relaxing evening or a jaw-clamping, foot-stomping, give-the-parent-a-time-out-before-he/she-blows night of bedtime battles.

I've let my kids have a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt at lunchtime, and amazingly, they go down for their afternoon nap the same as they do any other day.

I've let them have that ice cream or frozen yogurt post-nap, maybe four o'clock in the afternoon ... and by six-thirty, they still have plenty of room for dinner. They've also behaved in their normal way: fits interspersed with mostly pleasant play. That's life with three-and-half-year olds.

But serve them those same treats as dessert at dinnertime, and an evening of hell ensues.

Last night I was a whupped and exhausted working mom. I picked up my kids from preschool around ten after five, after managing to get my work in on deadline even though it was a bear of a project. I'd had no time to make dinner, so offered to take the kids out to one of their favorite restaurants, the Souplantation. I did this knowing full well that the biggest attraction there, after the pizza and the blueberry muffins and paper cups full of raisins, is the miniature ice cream cone.

I got down on the kids' level, looked them both in the eye, and solemnly made them promise that, if I let them have ice cream cones as dessert after dinner, they would promise to be helpful at bedtime. They both agreed.

But, to quote CASABLANCA, "We know what German promises have been worth in the past."

I made sure they each got plenty to eat before the ice cream. I made them reiterate their promises as they ate it.

And once we got home, at first, it seemed as if they remembered their promises. They got into the pajamas and got their teeth brushed, all supervised by dad (who took pity on my end-of-the-week, working mom exhausted self, and took over for a bit). We did puzzles, which we sometimes do as a change from reading stories before bed. Then we put on the wind-down music.

The kids went bonkers. They were literally bouncing off the walls, having giggle fits, running into one another, zig-zagging from bed to bed, and refusing to listen to any request that it was time to calm down, cuddle, and get into bed.

Dad wisely gave me a time-out when I started to lose it.

A few minutes later, we divided and conquered: I got Thing 2 to bed after some cuddling, while he went off to another room with Thing 1, who had been the most hyper and the true instigator. But it still took until well after nine o'clock before both kids were off to dreamland.

Lesson learned for this mom: no treats at dinnertime, no exceptions.

Except .... we have three families from school coming over for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Tuesday, and there will be honey cake and apples dipped in honey and apple pie, so this lesson is going right out the window that night. I mean, how much of an ogre would I be to deny the kids a traditional holiday treat?

I'm weak, I know it. And I'll have only myself to blame when they're impossible Tuesday night. I guess all I can do is bank on a tough bedtime that night, and put it down to starting the new year on a "sweet" note. I want my kids to remember the sweetness of a family holiday, and sweets are part of that. My guess is, one day we'll forget about the bedtime battle that inevitably followed after, but the sweets will be fondly remembered.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Just spent twenty minutes using my car key to jimmy pretzel sticks and smushed raisins out of that narrow crack between the bottom of the car window and the passenger door.

This was after Hoover-ing the backseat floor with the DustBuster, sucking up ground Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (did you know they now come in colors? I'm serious. There are green, red and purple Pepperidge Farm Goldfish). The mini vacuum also sucked up discarded Pirate Booty, more pretzel sticks, the clear wrappers for plastic straws that come with vanilla soy milk boxes, and the odd miniature rubber tire from a Matchbox car.

By rights I oughtta be cleaning out the backseat floor and area around the car seats every other day. But because life has more pressing concerns, I wind up doing it oh, say, once a fiscal quarter.

The one saving grace of the car's interior upholstery is that it's leather, so when the kids spill liquid on the seats, I'm able to mop it up without mold setting in. The carpeting, well, that's another matter entirely. I've been known to utilize Nature's Miracle there, a potent potion concocted for the sole purpose of neutralizing cat urine. Clearly the makers of Nature's Miracle are missing their ancillary market: the parents of toddlers.

But lest I think I have it bad, my friend Jenine, mother of three kids -- one set of twin toddlers among them -- tops me with this recent correspondence (hope you don't mind my stealing this for the blog, Jenine):

"What price would you put on a plastic
Tyrannosaurus Rex toy? 25 cents? One dollar? How about $209.58?
This 4- inch toy is the most expensive toy we own. Two hundred nine dollars and fifty eight plumbing repairs. It seems that someone in this house likes to stuff things into holes. I'm not pointing fingers, but my guess is N. (The twin boy). Apparently he thought that the toilet would be a good place for this prehistoric monster to live. Or maybe he just thought the dino might like to swim. In any case the thing got lodged in our toilet. Of course it had to happen after unloading a particularly nasty mess into the toilet that R. (the twin girl) made in the bathtub. Eww! Cleaned that up, flushed, and voila, toilet overflow! It took the visit of two different plumbers to get it out. The first one tried to get us to buy a new toilet! At first we thought maybe it was a clog of diaper wipes used when R. decided to unload the contents of her diaper to use as "food" in her play kitchen. But no, it was just one plastic toy living a goldfish's nightmare. The toilet isn't N.'s only target. He really loves to remove the heat registers and put things down into the vent. It took me 3 days to find the TV remote and a good 2 hours to fish it out with plastic straws and packing tape. I wonder if my calculator is down there too? So that's life with twin toddlers. When I'm not clamping my jaws with displeasure I'm laughing until my sides split."

I can't speak for Jenine, but when my toddlers are not creating a general nuisance by trashing a car's interior or gumming up plumbing, they do so by misplacing things.

Case in point: Monday night, before bed, we must've spent fifteen minutes in search of the twin stuffed duckies Thing 2 cannot sleep without. They were discovered in the hamper, where she had dumped them while changing out of school clothes and into her nightgown. She was no help finding them, as she'd forgotten she'd dumped them there (or put on a pretty good act of forgetting, so as to further delay bedtime and watch as mommy, daddy, and an old friend from NYC who was over for dinner, searched the entire place repeatedly with the urgency of the Gestapo in a W.W. II movie looking for escaped P.O.W.s).

This summer, just before we left for the airport and a flight to NYC, Thing 1 lost his binky somewhere in our building lobby, never to be found again, and we were forced to break into the emergency binky stash. Thank goodness we had a spare.

I shudder to think how many hours of my life have already been frittered away searching for things they've put where they shouldn't, or cleaning up a mess so spectacular even the Bush administration can't take credit for it.

Yes, I love them. Yes, I wouldn't replace them. But would it hurt them to put the expensive organic raisins in their mouths and not down the car window crack?

Friday, September 19, 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Mick and the Stones got it right.

But somehow, no matter how many times I say it, I can't seem to get my three-year-olds to learn it.

Much like the Bush-Cheney administration, my three-year-olds have proven impervious to logic.

Take getting ready for school. Thing 1 wants to wear his red Lightning McQueen t-shirt (for the uninitiated, Lightning McQueen is the hero of Pixar & Disney's CARS), but the shirt is in the hamper, dirty, needing a wash. Thing 1 is told the shirt is dirty. Thing 1 throws a fit anyway, convinced he will get his way. Ten minutes and much cajoling later, a gray Lightning McQueen t-shirt has been located and offered as a substitute. The shirt goes on.

But the next impossible request is made. Thing 1 wants frozen waffles for breakfast topped with peanut butter and jelly. Late Blooming Mom makes the discovery that we are out of peanut butter, and explains patiently and repeatedly to Thing 1 -- now thrashing about on the floor again -- that until such time as she has the chance to go to the grocery store, there is no peanut butter to be had. Thing 1 cannot be pacified with promises of future peanut-butter-laden waffles. Nor does the offer of a pancake work. We're in for it: a fight to get him out of the house, into his car seat, and all the way to school. There, teary-eyed, he'll be given a snack by a teacher, a snack that does not involve the merest smidge of peanut butter, yet somehow, amazingly, does not arouse even a whimper of protest. Suddenly all is right with his world again. Not so much for the parent who drove him to school, who is still traumatized, nerves frayed and jangled by the morning's events.

Upon preschool pickup later, Thing 2 doesn't understand why she can't have a pink lollipop when Late Blooming Mom has searched the entire bag of lollipops and can't find any in that color. Thing 2 is invited to undertake her own search. She can find no pink lollipop: its utter absence from the array of otherwise delightfully flavored lollipops has been confirmed. Nevertheless, Thing 2 cries, "I want a PINK one!" And proceeds to repeat this plea twenty times in the next two minutes.

They want, they need, they must have, the very thing that is not immediately available, or simply can't be had.

No arguments to the contrary are brooked, even when it is demonstrably proven that said object of desire is unattainable.

As I said, they are impervious to logic.

And the fits go on.

Distraction occasionally works. Bribery with some OTHER potential object of desire might do in a pinch. But often, there simply is no solution save letting the explosion run its course.

Somehow or other, though, I keep appealing to reason, presenting clear and easy to follow arguments and demonstrating my point with all the evidence I can muster. I don't know why I do this. It's as if I expect them to suddenly, instantly, this time, grow up just enough to understand and accept that they cannot, at this moment, get exactly what they want.

It ain't likely to happen, yet I persist.

Could it be that I, too, am impervious to logic?

Uh oh. They're starting to infect me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mammograms For Mommies

I'm heaving a sigh of relief today.

Had my yearly mammogram.


I've had several of these since becoming a Late Blooming Mom, and even a few before that. Now it's become a yearly ritual moms in my age bracket have to endure. It's nerve-wracking each time.

Today went great. So did last year. But about nine months after my kids were born, I had a "suspicious" mammogram, and soon after, underwent surgery to remove the "suspicious" "chunklet" -- that's what my surgeon called it -- of me.

Days went by before the results came in.

The results were just fine.

Waiting for them sucked.

Nobody wants the threat of cancer hanging over their head. Worse, though, is having to actually deal with it -- like family members of mine, and friends and colleagues and colleagues' wives, have done.

The good news about doing yearly mammogram screenings, according to the radiologist who reads my films (actually digital pictures these days), is that when they do catch stuff, they can catch it early. Early screening means early treatment, and that means a lot of women, will survive and thrive.

For late blooming moms, who've already lived long enough to realize the preciousness of our numbered days, early screening can mean being around to enjoy seeing those kids grow up and maybe even have families of their own.

It's the fear of not being around that grips us when we go in for those yearly screenings, the fear we try hard to push to the back of our minds, or to forget about, conveniently cultivating our amnesia about it.

So just at this moment I'm pausing to be grateful for passing my mammogram, and to wish that all my fellow late blooming moms get the same happy verdict this year, and for all their mammogram years to come.

I send good thoughts to all those who are dealing with the consequences of breast cancer, wishing successful treatment and strength while undergoing it. I'm picturing you in the warm embrace of those children who came into your life later than most, and whose love you so richly deserve.

To imagine life without breast cancer -- and how you can help make that happen, visit Susan G. Komen For the Cure.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Toddlers Need A Turkey Timer

You know that little plastic thermometer that pops up when the Thanksgiving turkey is done?

This morning, Late Blooming Dad came up with the idea that there should be such a thing for toddlers ... only it should pop up ten minutes before they're done. And by done I mean about to become impossible.

Today we took Thing 1 and Thing 2 to the Brentwood Country Mart, a place most small kids adore. That's because it has coin-operated rides, a toy store, and ample kid-friendly food options, as well as an outdoor courtyard in which to eat adjacent to aforementioned kiddie rides and toy store. You'd think our kids would've been thrilled to be there.

For a little while, they were. They emptied our pockets of spare quarters, and rode the same rides they'd ridden before with no sign of boredom. They eyed the toy store and promised to be good and eat their lunches in exchange for the chance to inside. But somehow, by the time food arrived, their moods had shifted.

It wasn't as if we hadn't fed them breakfast and offered plentiful snacks. They'd had French toast and fruit before attending a one-hour kiddie gym class, and upon arrival at the Country Mart, were given yogurt squeezers (for the uninitiated, that's yogurt in a tube, so it's like a push-up popsicle). We'd also plied them with breakfast bars just before and after gym class, though they'd only nibbled on these. We'd even given them the City Bakery's delectable pretzel croissants to munch on while waiting for their food to be prepared (but they stopped after a couple of bites each).

Food arrived. The grilled cheese for him and eggs on toast for her went mostly uneaten; demands for mommy and daddy's lemonade were incessant; and when daddy procured rotisserie chicken legs, they still had to be coaxed to get protein into their systems. Only the promise of the toy store visit coaxed them to eat the chicken they normally devour. By now, they were unable to sit in one place and wanted to run amok on the courtyard ramp, only there were too many people around to make it sufficiently easy to navigate.

Daddy explained they could go to the toy store on condition that they would not be allowed to get a new toy. Reluctantly, they agreed to this precondition. By now it was getting precariously close to nap time, and here's where that turkey timer popping up would've been most useful.

Unfortunately, though we managed to coax one out of the store peacefully, the other had to be carried out screaming. By the time we arrived at the car, screaming one had calmed and was practically asleep, but the other hit her stride and refused to get into the car seat, prompting an exasperating wrestling match. The ride home was marked by a stop to calm her and re-insert her into the car seat's five-point harness, out of which she had partly wriggled. The top-of-the-lungs protest continued for a few painful minutes, followed by wimpering and at last, when I put a comforting hand on hers while contorting my body in ways no one should to reach the back seat, quiet finally reigned.

It was on this drive that Late Blooming Dad came up with the idea for an early warning Toddler Timer similar to the Turkey timer.

I'm ready to buy stock in the company that first puts these on the market.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back To School, AKA The Return Of The Von Crankensteins

What is it about the start of the school year -- or in my kids' case, the preschool year -- that brings out the worst in everyone in Late Blooming Mom's house?

Thing 1 and Thing 2 returned to school last Thursday after a nearly two-week absence from the school itself (it's where they attended summer camp), and promptly turned into the toddler equivalents of Dr. Von Frankenstein's famous monster and his bride. Worse, in reaction to their tantrums, whining, and incessant demands, Late Blooming Mom and Dad were similarly transformed -- into Von Crankensteins, the elders.

During the weekend following the resumption of school, there has been more outright yelling, foot-stomping, wheedling, needling, mewling, and collapsing onto the floor into a flailing heap while kicking at anyone daring to come into kicking distance than during our entire end-of-summer vacation, even though THAT involved two long airplane trips, sleeping in an unfamiliar location (grandma and grandpa's house) and the total disruption of daily routine.

Last year around this time, I remember talking with my dearest friend Karen, an elementary school teacher and mother of two who has always displayed the cool, calm wisdom of an earth mother even though she was pretty young by the standards of our post-collegiate crowd when she had her first kid. Karen told me that the weeks around the back to school period are ALWAYS stressful in her house. It matters not that her family has been through the school year's start time and time again. Crankiness abounds, snippyness becomes the normal mode of communication, and everybody seems to be in a constant bad mood.

Still, I was unprepared for the strength and force of this perfect storm, this emotional tidal wave of short tempers and hair triggers. Sometimes when I've had a bad night's sleep or two, and the kids are less pliable/more vehement about getting their way than normal, I find myself momentarily turning bitchy and tight-faced and gritting my teeth or storming out of the room until I can get hold of myself. But this past weekend, I was in a near-constant state of maternal irritation, just-about-to-boil fury, and more than once, my pot simply boiled over. I taught my kids bad lessons by modeling the loss of self-control when frustrated. Bring on the Child-Rearing Police. If yelling, door slamming and storming out are the charges, I plead very, very guilty.

I have an old friend I wish I was more in touch with, a Kentuckian by birth, whom I remember, when she had two toddlers, using the vividly colorful Southern vernacular phrase, "stepping on my last nerve." I guess the idea behind it is that you've got a bunch of exposed nerves when you're a mom, and your kids keep stepping on them, and yet you cope, until they get to that very last, untouched nerve. And then they don't just step -- they stomp. You utterly lose it, and the kids know it. It's as if they've been waiting to provoke you to reach this point, just to see what will happen, or worse, thrive on the negative attention this maternal volcanic explosion garners them.

My last nerve has most definitely been stomped on.

Dad's too, for it was he who had to get them out the door without my help this morning (I had an early appointment) and drag them, howling and clinging, into school in front of all the other moms or dads at drop-off. (Thanks to those parents who've helped out during moments like this, taken pity on him after a shared look of recognition and a sigh of relief that at least it wasn't their kid(s) this time).

Dad called me to vent on his way to work. It was his way of coping. Now I am coping my way: trying to take some time for myself to be calm, get into some kind of Zen place where fountains of water are gently flowing (or at least I hear the fountain in the courtyard outside my office window), my inner self is at peace, and I am in control so I won't utterly lose it later when I retrieve Thing 1 and Thing 2 from preschool.

I can't really blame them for their rebelliousness if I consider that, during vacation, they had mom and dad's undivided attention 24/7, doting grandparents, gifts of new toys and books for the plane rides, access to more treats than usual, and days devoted to visiting playgrounds, museums, a kiddie pool, and the toy-strewn houses and apartments of our relatives and friends with children. Then, suddenly, they were thrust back into full-day preschool, where they were separated from mom and dad for many hours, had to share with lots of other kids, and conform to what somebody else decided they should do. They weren't happy about this change, and registered their dissatisfaction sort of the way our cat did when we picked him up from four nights' boarding at the vet's. (That night, the cat pooped and peed in all the wrong places. Message received, oh furry one.)

But then again, my kids can theoretically reason and communicate at this age -- certainly more than my cat will ever be able to. So did they have to be SUCH primadonnas in venting their displeasure? I'm reminded of the scene in SPINAL TAP when Nigel Tufnel throws a snitfit over the size of the cocktail bread he's been given to snack on backstage (not to mention and his irrefutable -to-him, child-like logic that a guitar amplifier that goes to eleven is SOOOO much better than one that goes to ten, even though it really is no louder).

I console myself that after the worst of Thing 2's fits this weekend, she came and found me in my bedroom, where I'd curled up in a big comfy chair, utterly spent ... and she snuggled with me. Despite my having lost it in front of her, she still sought the comfort of my embrace, and we calmed down together. Later that night, my son held my hand and snuck into the space under my arm, where he so conveniently fits. Perhaps a lesson has been learned amidst the icky-ness of back to school stress: that even when mom -- or kid -- loses it, there is still plenty of love to be had around here. Getting angry doesn't mean you forfeit love and acceptance. My kids know my love for them is secure, even though their behavior may mean the temporary withdrawal of my apparently much coveted attention.

We don't have to like each other all the time, especially when it's back to school week, and we're all being impossible -- in kid or grown-up form. Somtimes we really wear each other out, but to paraphrase artist/author Ian Falconer of the OLIVIA children's book series, we love each other anyway.

Friday, September 5, 2008

That Lump-in-the-throat Feeling

Today I dropped off my very self-assured, confident, fearless preschoolers just one year after their very first day in preschool.

As I entered the preschool, its lobby decorated with back-t0-school welcome signs and helpful arrows pointing the way to each of the classrooms, I watched the nervous parents clutching their wary toddlers' hands or hugging them close, anxiously contemplating the parting about to come.

Walking in with my own kids, who now are preschool vets as comfortable at school as they are at home, I felt that curious mixture of sadness and pride that comes with the now familiar pang of separation. Last year, my kids clung to me like a lifeboat in a turbulent sea, even as they eyed the enticing projects set up for them in the classroom, and the other kids already assembled and singing for circle time. This year, after helping me put their things in their cubbies, and asking for a hug and a kiss, there was a brief bout of protest: "Mommy, I want you to stay," and some hand-tugging in the general direction of the tables laden with craft projects beckoning their little fingers. But within a moment, after the hugs and kisses were administered, I was out the door and they were busy, neglecting to even give me a longing look back.

As I walked out of the building, I spotted one of the school administrators calming a worried mom, and a husband and wife leaving, holding hands and consoling each other. They'd just experienced the milestone of their first preschool drop-off, and they, too, were feeling pangs.

I couldn't help but flash back to myself a year ago. I'd taken the day off from work to be available to hang around the school and retrieve the kids or return for a visit if the day was proving too stressful. At first I sat in the lobby with other moms, while school staffers ambled back and forth between us and our toddlers in the classroom, bringing us back updates on how our little cubs were doing in their new den. (Appropriately, their class was called the Teddy Bears). Gently, they encouraged us to go out for coffee, or better yet, stay away until the afternoon, and come pick up our kids not quite at what would be their normal pick-up time, but not too long before it. I remember aimlessly wandering over to a GAP store and realizing I could shop -- not for my kids, but for myself, a rare luxury. I remember also feeling strangely unmoored and adrift. I couldn't help myself a bit later, and I called to see how the kids were doing without me. The report came back: just fine.

Later that day, I'd returned to pick them up, and they ran to me with surprised and delighted faces, thrilled to be reunited, but also excited to show me just what they'd been doing. And in the weeks and months that would follow, the scene would replay itself again and again ...

Nowadays when I pick them up from preschool, they don't always shout gleefully and run hell-bent for my arms when they see me. Sometimes it takes me twenty minutes to coax them out of the play yard where they've been doing an obstacle course with the other kids, or out of their classroom, where they want to stop and play with toys. Some days, we spend what feels like a decade in the restroom before we go home. And the ride home, during which snacks MUST be served, is a mixture of recited songs, brief answers to my queries about what they've done all day, and of course, arguments over toys and snacks during which I've gotta drive and play referee and designated retriever of all things dropped on the car floor.

We've got a routine down now. It's dad who does most of the drop-offs, so I can get started on work and end in time to pick them up while he stays at his office and toils later. The kids know what to expect at school, and most days, they actually want to go. They're stimulated constantly there, mostly happy, and wildly busy when not napping or snacking. Preschool suits them just fine.

But this morning, walking back to my car, I couldn't help but flash back to a year ago. My eyes teared up a bit, my throat swelled. In some ways, I'm relieved I don't have to worry about that preschool transition. But I'm also sad because I'll never have that milestone again.

I'm proud that my kids can walk away from me after that hug and kiss and get busy having fun without me. But I have to admit I really live for those afternoons when they catch that first glimpse of me from across the play yard, and race into my open arms.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin Is A Danger To My Kids -- And Maybe Yours Too

Tonight I can't sleep because I'm worried about a woman who is a danger to my children's future. So much so that I'm willing to temporarily shift the focus of my blog tonight -- usually a light-hearted look at raising children as a later-in-life mom -- and write, at least for this entry, about why you, if you're a mom, ought to be having a sleepless night too.

The dangerous woman I'm referring to is Republican V.P. nominee Sarah Palin. I saw her speak on TV tonight from the Republican Convention like millions of Americans, and what's keeping me up is what she DIDN'T say. She didn't say what she really stands for because it might scare off a lot of voters she's trying to attract. She didn't mention certain positions she holds that, if she's allowed to act on, could alter the future -- my kids' and your kids -- for the worse. So you and I have to look elsewhere, outside her big speech, to find out what they are.

I've looked, and I've found out. Here's why she's got me so frightened for my kids.

According to Time Magazine, as mayor of her small town in Alaska, Sarah Palin sought to have books banned from the local library and threatened to fire the librarian who objected.

I want my kids to grow up in an America that believes in expanding people's minds, a place where the government doesn't legislate freedom of thought by banning books.

I know Sarah Palin is a devoutly religious woman, and I fear it's her faith that leads her to think banning books is a good, or even acceptable, idea. But, to paraphrase a line from the classic play and movie INHERIT THE WIND, "The Bible is a good book -- but it's not the ONLY book." For the sake of my kids, as well as yours, I'd like to keep it that way.


She AND John McCain, like George W. Bush, believe students in public schools ought to be told to abstain from sex, but should NOT be told about condoms or birth control.

This from a woman whose own daughter is pregnant at seventeen. Don't you think Bristol Palin might've benefited from a real sex education class, not a muzzled one?

You can bet I'll be telling my kids about condoms and birth control, and I'll do it BEFORE I even suspect they're on the verge of becoming sexually active. But I also think it's vitally important that they and their future classmates get educated about these things in school too, sitting in a classroom with their peers. Sex education is not just about the importance of truly planned parenthood, so our children aren't saddled with the greatest responsibility a person can have before they're mature enough to handle that responsibility. It's about protecting their health and the health of others.

Nobody ever likes to have an abortion. But those who support a woman's right to choose know that there are times when it's medically necessary, and also that there are times when it's the right choice for other, equally valid reasons. Those who object on religious grounds don't have to have an abortion. They shouldn't have the right to dictate to those who don't share their view.

When my daughter comes of age, I want her to have the right to make reproductive decisions without government interference. But the very next administration is going to see the retirement of perhaps as many as three Supreme Court justices, and even a change of one vote on the court could mean abortion is no longer, in the words of Bill Clinton, "safe, legal, and rare."

Incredible as it may seem, there are some yahoos out there -- and make no mistake, Sarah Palin is one such yahoo -- who still refuse to acknowledge that the world's industrial activity and the resulting pollution have nothing to do with the undeniable, scientifically verified fact that the world is getting hotter.

I want my kids to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat a food supply that isn't irreparably poisoned ... and I don't want them to live in a world that's been destabilized because vast areas where crops used to grow have become desert, cities have been sunk in floods, and disease and hunger are even more rampant than they are now. But if the U.S. government is led by people who won't help the world to take steps to at least hold back the tide of climate change, let alone reverse it, it's going to get a helluva lot worse.

There is not a shred of evidence for Creationism. Last time I checked, actual evidence shows men and apes are pretty closely related, and the earth is much older than a literal interpretation of the Bible would suggest. Furthermore, dictating that Creationism -- a religious dogma -- be taught in public schools in contradiction to science violates separation of church and state.

If Sarah Palin wants her kids to learn Creationism, she is free to teach it to them at home or send them to Sunday school. It has no place in the curriculum of tax-supported public schools. I don't want Creationism presented to my kids as the legitimate, other side of an argument about the origins of earth or man. I want my kids to learn actual science.

Sarah Palin didn't bring up any of these things in her speech to the Republican convention. But these are, in fact, her firmly held positions. If they scare you as much as they scare me, then tell every mom you know.

This is the real Sarah Palin. And she's the reason I'm having a sleepless night.

Sarah Palin wants you to see her as "EveryMom." Well, I'm a mom too -- and she's my nightmare.