Monday, November 29, 2010

Why The Grinch Compels

This piece is going to appear in some form or other in the next issue of the Editor's Guild Magazine, but since most of my blog readers don't get it, I reprint it here for holiday enjoyment:

I know how it begins.  “Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not.”
I know this Scrooge-like, green fellow will try to stop Christmas from coming.
I know he’s going to show up on TV every year, and get his “wonderful, awful idea.”  He’ll disguise his dog Max as a reindeer and suit up as “Santie Claus.”  He’ll steal everything from all the Who houses, even the Who hash.
I know every clever Seuss rhyme, every flawless inflection of Boris Karloff’s narration, every simple yet perfectly story-boarded Chuck Jones’-directed frame. 
Yet I watch it again.
I grew up a cultural Jew on New York’s Upper West Side.  I was taught by my parents to be mistrustful of organized religion – even our own - because religion can divide as much as it can unite.  But I also went to a Quaker school where tolerance was taught.  The holiday lights of Manhattan were hard to resist, whether on Hanukah menorahs or the Rockefeller Center tree.  As a child no bigger than Cindy Lou Who, I reveled in watching the Grinch take his triumphant ride down Mount Crumpet.
The story analyst in me gets why “The Grinch” is so damned effective (and far better than the movie-length, live action version).  There’s the brilliant use of language, whimsical humor, Seuss-inspired animated world.  But what makes it resonate is the Grinch’s character arc.  What could be better than to see a character whose heart is two sizes too small, believably grow that heart three sizes, and find the strength of ten Grinches, plus two? 
Each time I watch – now with my own kids, Thing 1 and Thing 2 - I am as a child, struck anew with hope.  People can change.  Even Grinches.    

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our "Almost" Readers

This week, Late Blooming Dad had two amazing moments with the kids.  The first one was when he went to pick up the kids from school because I couldn't, and happened upon the Girl's kindergarten teacher sitting alone with her, reading a book with her.  The teacher motioned dad to wait a few moments till they finished; then she excitedly gushed, "She's so close!"  Yes, the girl is about to become a reader.  And this excitement came from the school's most veteran teacher, who has certainly seen this happen hundreds of times.  Late Blooming Dad was thrilled.

The second moment came with the Boy. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Is The Make-The-Lunch Fairy Coming To My House?

The kids were tucked all snug in their beds, visions of lunchboxes packed with delicious food filled their heads ... and I was standing in the kitchen, post-work day, after supervising homework/showers/changing into PJs/picking clothes for tomorrow/eating dinner/brushing teeth/reading books, and finally tucking them in, with some help from Late Blooming Dad.  But now I was alone in the kitchen, eyes scanning the fridge forlornly, searching for inspiration.   What to make them?  What to make them they'd actually eat some tomorrow if I made it for their lunch boxes tonight?  It's then I had a vision:  a vision of the Make-The-Lunch Fairy.

Our kids get visits from the Tooth Fairy whenever they lose a tooth.  Why can't we weary moms get a visit from the Make-The-Lunch Fairy whenever we are overwhelmed by life, and underwhelmed by the prospect of making yet another round of lunch box lunches?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Advice For Twin Moms, Nearly Six Years In

Yesterday, at a kids' birthday party, I was standing by the bouncy house watching my boy/girl twins, now five-and-three-quarters,  bounce themselves into a gleeful state, when a pregnant woman approached me.  Her own kid, a three-year-old girl, was bouncing along with mine, and she'd ascertained mine were twins.  "Any advice?" she asked, explaining, "I'm about to have twin boys."

I was instantly transported back to those early days of twin momhood, when I felt as if I'd been instantly propelled into a giant bouncy house the moment the c-section began.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kids And The Culture Of Cruelty

Maybe it started with the sniping between roommates on MTV's THE REAL WORLD, the grand-daddy of today's mis-named "reality" tv shows.  Or maybe it was SURVIVOR, which featured a weekly climax in which someone was always "voted off the island."  But whenever it started, it seems as if every "reality" show has one thing in common with every other "reality" show:  somebody's always getting eliminated.  Along the way, the contestants are generally humiliated and subject to verbal, even physical, abuse.  But that's just TV.  It doesn't mean our culture, the one in which we're raising our kids, is pervasively cruel, does it?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Working Mom's Latest Fear: Will I Be Sucked Into The School Volunteer Vortex?

There are 43 committees at my kids' school's parent booster club.

Is it just me, or does that sound like school volunteer overkill? 

Since my kids have been in kindergarten -- two weeks -- I have filled out dozens of forms from the club, not to mention the kids' teachers, all to do with what activities I can volunteer to be a part of, in the classroom and outside of it, ranging from re-shelving library books to driving kids to and from field trips to helping to organize and run any of the myriad of fund-raising events and activities that occur throughout the year. I've been told of mandatory commitments per child at the school, e.g., every family has to work one traffic safety shift, at pickup or drop-off, per child, during the year. I have been invited to no less than four volunteer events, and I've already missed two of those. I've been asked to contribute the "suggested" amount per child -- and nothing that you can pay in ten installments is cheap --  because, though a public education is free, a great one is not -- especially nowadays.  Every day brings more mail in the kids' backpacks, offering additional ways to get involved.

If I get another piece of paper from the parent association, it's quite possible my head is going to explode.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kindergarten On The Spin Cycle

It seems an endless weekday spin cycle in the week and a half since kindergarten began.  (The Spin Cycle is what my childhood friend and now fellow Late Blooming Mom, Lauren, calls it -- and that's exactly how it feels.)

Kids' chatter drifts in from their bedroom around 6:35 a.m.  By 6:40, it's up-and-at-'em, with Late Blooming Dad standing over the kids urging them to dress in the clothes they picked out the night before, so as to avoid delays.  What happens?  Delays anyway.  Little minds change:  "I don't want to wear that shirt."  "Where's my sweat band?"  "Can you help me put on my socks?"   If one happens to start playing with a toy, the other wants it ... even as dad insists, "This isn't playtime now."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kindergarten Jitters

Thing 1, the boy around here, has been, as the expression goes, "acting out." He may only be five and three-quarters, but he might as well be a teenager given the attitude he's suddenly acquired. There's been some "I hate you"'s to Late Blooming Mom and Dad, some "I'll never play with you again!" to his sister, and a lot of throwing small objects across the room. There's been defiance -- "I won't eat chicken for dinner again!" -- and attempts at negotiation -- "I'll put my toys away IF you let me watch TV." And there has been some kicking, though the victims have generally been the wall next to his bed, or the floor (sorry yet again, downstairs neighbors).

But there have also been some "I need a hug"s, and some teary, "I'm going to be shy" moments when Thing 1 confesses he is afraid to be in a kindergarten classroom without his sister, Thing 2.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Never Too Young For Cultcha

I took my five-and-half-year-olds to see Shakespeare yesterday. 

It was family-friendly Shakespeare -- THE TAMING OF THE SHREW trimmed to about an hour's length, performed outdoors under the trees, with rock n' roll, acrobatics, and juggling interspersed; characters with mohawks and dyed pink hair; entrances and exits made on skateboards and bicycles built for two.  But it was still Shakespeare:  the dialogue, monologues, characters, story, all his, and pretty much intact despite the cuts.  (Thank you, Actors' Gang, who've dubbed this particular production of their annual Shakespeare for Families series "Katie the Curst.")

It was a small deposit in the kids' "cultcha" bank account ("cultcha" is what my Brooklyn-born, Manhattan dwelling parents thrived on).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dad Gets A Taste Of Momhood -- And Lives

Late Blooming Mom has been out of comission for a few days.

Just the other week I was saying to Late Blooming Dad, "I wish someone ELSE would plan, shop for, and make their every meal for a change!"  It's my least-favorite part of momhood.

It took me undergoing surgery to make it happen. 

I can't say the trade-off is worth it.  But I have to admit, now that I'm recuperating and over the anxiety of having someone knock me out and cut me open, I am not missing kid-meal duty.  In fact, this whole experience has provided a sort of mini-break -- albeit one aided and abetted by Darvocet and frequent ice over the incision -- from many of the kid-tending duties.

Monday, August 2, 2010

From Adorable To Impossible -- In Seconds Flat

Car ads often boast that the vehicle being hawked can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in seconds flat.

Those cars have nothing on my kids.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 can -- and frequently do -- go from adorable to impossible, and do so faster than a speed measurable by modern physics.

They seem to pick two particular periods of the day in which to exhibit this astonishing capability: 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moms: A Special Kind Of Crazy

In the opening chapter of Allison Pearson's quite funny bestselling 2002 novel, "I Don't Know How She Does It," working mom protagonist Kate Reddy, in the wee hours of the morning, desperately tries to make a store-bought pie look home-made for the next day's bake sale at her daughter's school.  God forbid the other moms might suspect she didn't bake them herself.  That's a special kind of crazy. 

In Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman's uncannily accurate daily comic "Baby Blues," in which they chronicle the lives of often exhausted, ever harried, yet wholly committed-to-parenthood parents-of-three, Wanda and Darryl MacPherson, Wanda is a full-time, stay-at-home mom, yet just as desperate as Kate Reddy.  In the strip that ran 7/20/2010, Wanda tells Darryl she needs 48 cupcakes for a bake sale today that her son has just told her about.  When Darryl suggests she could just buy them for the store, Wanda is outraged at the idea.  Sure, she could buy them at the store, she tells Darryl, "If I wanted to FAIL AS A MOTHER."  Once again, there's that special kind of crazy.

Last night, I was a poster mom for that special kind of crazy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Kvetchiest Generation

Does having kids make people less happy?

According to New York Magazine's July 12 cover story, and the research discussed within it, the answer is pretty much yes, if you're talking about day-to-day, moment-to-moment happiness. And the answer is no if you're talking about how having children makes life purposeful, meaningful, and connected.  In other words, in the long run, you'll be glad you had kids, if you did -- and regret not having them if you didn't.  But in the short run, while you're bringing up kids, well, you're going identify with articles like this one, which is subtitled, "The Misery Of The American Parent."  (You can read the full article here:  "All Joy And No Fun".)

I found myself nodding in recognition and ruefully reading portions of this article aloud to Late Blooming Dad as we hurtled through time and space above the continental U.S., making our way home with our kids on a west-bound jet after a harried, hurried summer "vacation" visiting family and friends in New York City and suburbs. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Entering The Golden Age?

Late Blooming Mom has an older brother who also became a parent later-in-life.  He has one child, and she's about a month shy of twelve as I write this.  He once described the period of a child's life between ages six and twelve as "The Golden Age Of Childhood," a time when kids are self-reliant enough to do some things for themselves, way more interesting to be around than they used to be, yet not yet infected with the attitude and hormones that tend to govern adolescence.

All signs point to Thing 1 and Thing 2 entering that Golden Age. 

Every day, they finds things about which they seem to be just plain thrilled.

They are gigglers, even uproroarius laughers, and can tell and make their own jokes.

They are curious, asking questions to figure out the way the world works.  They are quick to put new concepts together, and creatively combine old knowledge and new -- if not with entirely correct results.  (Just last night, when I was reading a picture book to Thing 1 and the text mentioned "Neon," he asked if "Ne-off" is when the lights go off).   They have activities about which they are passionate.  Even the mere promise of dinner at Souplantation, where they will get baby ice cream cones, is cause for celebration.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Their First Graduation

I admit it, I've been a cynic about the growing trend of allowing kids to "graduate" from anything other than, say, high school.  Since I was a kid, it seems graduation ceremonies have multiplied, and now kids are donning caps and gowns for eighth grade graduation, elementary school graduation, and yes, even preschool graduation.  From the outside looking it, before I become a parent, this trend just seemed to me an extension of the growing American over-emphasis on self-esteem -- making everybody a winner, and conflating every move up a grade level into some extraordinary achievement.

But I am a cynic no more.

I liked the home-made motorboards.

They were made of construction paper, and each preschooler decorated his or her own.

No rented graduation caps for these kids, nor formal robes.  This was a happily home-spun graduation, from a warm, fuzzy preschool. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Everything's Still Beautiful At The Ballet

Nothing like seeing your precious little ballerina in a group of three-to-five-year-olds prancing around a stage in white tutus and bunny ears to make you gush.  My daughter appeared this afternoon in her dance school's annual end-of-the-year production, her very first real performance.  This year's production was entitled BEYOND WONDERLAND.

There were plenty of students on stage at this production who'd studied ballet, jazz, tap and modern for years.  And they did some amazing work.

But I was all eyes on the wee ones, the ones who, like my daughter, take 40 minutes of dance class once a week.  I expected to be at least a wee bit emotional when my kid took the stage.  But the funny thing is, my eyes started watering the first time some of the smaller kids took the stage, long before my own kid's group.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

FREEEEEEEDOM! Or, Mom's 3-Night Vacation

Last weekend Late Blooming Dad sent me off to the East Coast after assuring me, for weeks, that I'd have a much better time at my 25th college reunion if I wasn't encumbered with two five-year-olds whom I'd have to feed, bathe, and escort to the bathroom, not to mention make sure were entertained at every event.  I admit I'd had misgivings; my first instinct had been to schlep the entire family with me for the big event, even though I knew from previous reuinons in my pre-kid life that, aside from the family field day event, which always involves a few child-friendly activities, there would be precious little for them to do while I ran into person after person I hadn't seen for decade(s) who wanted to chat me up.  I had a picture in my mind of my kids frolicking on my college green, where I'd spent many a happy/tortured/day-dreaming/angst-ridden/text-book-reading/frozen-lemonade-eating hour.  I thought about them wearing way-too-expensive clothing  items purchased from the university bookstore, emblazoned with the university's name.  I thought about dining with them in the dining halls, sleeping with them in the dorms, and the cosmic coolness of walking around my youthful haunts with the kids who weren't even a gleam in my eye back then.

But Late Blooming Dad was right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When The Tooth Fairy Comes Too Early

It hasn't quite been 48 hours since some older, bigger kid at the playground bone-headedly leapt off the top of a play structure directly onto my daughter, resulting in one of my daughter's two front baby teeth being knocked clean out of her mouth.

My daughter is now fine.

I am still verklempt. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day For Those Who Aren't Moms

This Mother's Day, I want to send out an embrace to those who aren't moms.  Because Mother's Day isn't always so great for them.

I struggled with infertility for 3+ years before I tried IVF and hit a one-round jackpot, becoming a twin mom.  This day reminds me of my luck.  But on this day, there are, no doubt, many moms-in-waiting who are experiencing that same struggle, and others who went through it and didn't wind up with a child, whether via assisted means, adoption, or just getting lucky.  I want to send out an embrace to all of you.

There are dear friends of mine who've wanted to become moms, but for one reason or another -- medical conditions that preclude it, or aging while still without a suitable partner and not wanting to handle the demands of single parenthood -- they haven't become moms.  Some friends of mine are in their mid or late thirties or forties, single, and still want a kid, but it hasn't happened yet.  I want to sent out an embrace to you too.

And there are those friends who've simply chosen not to have kids, and are happy with their choice.  You get a hug too, for putting up with listening to me talk about my kids and for reading my writing about my kids.  And for putting up with yet another Mother's Day, with all its lame Hallmark Card connotations, and the annoying cultural demands it places on everyone -- making those calls, sending those flowers.  Not to mention how it may make you feel different and singled out if you're not a mom, and never want to be one.  (For more on this, check out Anne Lamott's piece in Salon, here.)

As always, I feel empathy with anyone who's lost their mom, as someone who's been mom-less since 1992; there's no relationship quite like that one, and no one who'll ever love you quite the same way as the person who gave birth to you. 

I really truly want to hug you all today, whatever your relationship is to motherhood -- because even if you're not a mom, don't want to be one, still want to and haven't, whatever -- we all have this in common:  we had one.  So on a day that can be joyous for some, but hard to take for others, everybody deserves a hug.  I know it's true. 

Mom taught me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Return Of Grouchy Mom

I don't wanna be Grouchy Mom, really, I don't.  Neither do my mom friends.

But sometimes, we find ourselves being really, really Grouchy to our kids.  Take yesterday.  Thing 2 announced, more than two-thirds of the way home from school, that she'd left Cheetah, the stuffed animal with whom she sleeps nightly, back at school. 

This isn't the first time it's happened.  But despite my warning, the last time it happened, that I would NOT return to school for it, and the lecture I delivered about how HER toys were HER responsibility... well, I turned around the car and went back to get the damn thing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Fun Of Seeing Through Five-Year-Old Eyes

One of the ceaselessy charming aspects of being Late Blooming Mom, of late, has been getting clued into my son's  perspective as he tries to make sense of the world.

"Grandma Is Dad's Mom? For Real? You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me!"  This is a direct quote from Thing 1, AKA the boy, after I tried to explain to him that the "mom" his dad kept referring to in conversation is the woman he's come to know as grandma.  I guess we never bothered explaining to him what a "grandma" is, exactly.  And once we tried to, it blew his five-year-old mind.

He simply cannot get over the fact that the person he has come to know as Grandma is his father's mom.  He is genuinely tickled that Grandpa is his father's dad.  And he finally seems to get that his uncles are, respectively, my brother and my husband's.  But he's not quite sure how his aunts are related to him, or what exactly aunts are, even though he has two of them.

The total freshness with which he sees the world -- and the unbridled enthusiasm he has for it -- blow me away sometimes.

He's known for a week that today was the day we'd be going to see the Yankees play the Angels in Anaheim.

Nearly a week ago, he'd already picked out a new (well, hand-me-down, but new to him) baseball jersey and baseball hat to wear to the game.

This morning, he showed up in our bedroom fully dressed in his attire -- and carrying his baseball glove -- at seven-forty-five a.m., like a new blade of grass poking up into the morning light; it was as if you could still see the dew on him.

Later, at the game, he was full of questions about what was going on.  The concept of the bull pen, no matter how many times I repeated it, seemed to thorougly elude him.  The reason for the Yankees wearing gray uniforms, instead of their pinstripes, was laid out several times, but the idea of home versus away games pretty much escaped him too.  Whenever I brought up that Yankee Stadium in New York is the Yanks' home, he wanted to know if the players on the team actually live there, or if not, where their houses are.   He at least seemed sort of interested when I started counting off how many pitches the remarkable Andy Pettite had thrown, or when I pointed out Jeter, A-Rod, or former Yankee Matsui at bat.

But he was more fascinated by the P.R. gimmicks -- hot chicks bedecked in Angels attire shooting tee shirts up into the stands through a plastic gun (which I called a tee-shirt shooter, since we don't approve of guns in our peacenik household), and a man tossing wrapped bubble gum into the stands -- than by much of anything else that happened in the game.  We're clearly years away from any discussion of the in-field fly rule.  But he actually understood that when you hit a foul ball, you get another chance.  He enjoyed the spectacle of it even if there were large parts of the game that were a mystery. 

Then, an Amtrak train zipped by in the distance.  He demanded I grab the camera and take a photo.  Later, he said that was his favorite part. 

His sister Thing 2 couldn't have cared less about what was happening on the field.  Her attention was utterly fixated on the snacks -- pizza bought in the stands from a California Pizza Kitchen vendor (amazingly, the pizza was still hot); blue cotton candy; sips of Late Blooming Mom's chocolate milkshake; dad-peeled peanuts; and spoonfuls of frozen lemonade.  When she was finally lacking for snacks and had even reached her sugar intake limit, if there is such a thing, she demanded we go home, but after much intercession by dad, who kept finding ways to re-engage her, she managed to last all nine innings through the Yankees' victory.

Thing 1 once again showed off how a kid mind works, or at least the unique way HIS kid mind works, when I pointed out snow-capped Mount Baldy in the distance, seen from our seats (we were high up, just five rows down from the top of Angel Stadium).  He suddenly remembered the name of a scary part of Disney's Fantasia, which I've not let him see for more than a mere glimpse -- "Night On Bald Mountain" -- and asked me if this was the same mountain.  Mind you, he probably hasn't watched our battered VHS copy of Fantasia for over a year.  But that's the kind of memory he'll bring up when you least expect it.  Nothing is lost on the boy, every experience filed away for later use.

As for Thing 2, I think aside from the blue cotton candy (I have a photo in which she proudly displays her blue-tinted tongue), the biggest highlight came right when we entered the stadium and she spotted a giant Mickey Mouse statue decked out in MLB attire, an advertising gimmick for this year's All-Star Game, to be held in Anaheim.  Mickey's stature in the lives of my five-year-olds cannot be underestimated.  The fact that Mickey was in the stadium added a stamp of Disney approval that my daughter, well, clearly approved.

Both kids took the greatest delight in climbing atop the baseballs made of cement that surround the parking lot, and the giant red metal mesh Angels hats were way cool for the kids to stand underneath.

Their fresh perceptions of the whole event made it more fun, or "funner," as Thing 1 would say, than games their dad and I have attended on our own, even if it was at times work to keep them occupied and entertained.

We ended the game playing catch in the parking lot with dad's, and Thing 1's, baseball gloves and a soft T-ball good for little fingers to catch.  There were a lot of through-the-legs, Bill Buckner moments.  But a few parental throws were actually caught and tossed back, and when Thing 2 in particular, who has not attended her brother's "Little Base Runners" class, got the hang of using the glove in mere moments, I couldn't help but kvell.

Between that, and her brother's morning visit to the bedroom in full regalia, I've a wholly new appreciation for the joys of baseball ... and how some things never get old when you see them through a five-year-old's eyes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Alice Is Still Wonderful

As a kid growing up on an enchanted isle called Manhattan, I was taken many times to visit the statue of Alice In Wonderland in Central Park, AKA the Margarita Delacorte Memorial.  Almost from the time I was aware of the book, and possibly before I'd even seen the animated Disney cartoon version, I loved climbing on that statue.  And for those who don't know of it, yes, you read that last sentence right:  Alice is a statue you can climb on.  In fact, you're supposed to, especially if you're a kid.

Flash forward to this year, when my five-year-olds starting seeing billboards for the Tim Burton movie of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.  They were very curious and asked about each of the characters.   I was able to get them to listen to at least a few pages of the book read aloud, and even purchased the Disney cartoon version for them, which they watched on a visit to their grandparents, enrapt.  My daughter is rehearsing a dance number to be performed as part of her ballet school's production of ALICE this June.  Given this confluence of events, a trip to New York, and the gorgeous weather on Easter Sunday, I knew it was time for me to revisit Alice.

She resides, as ever, atop a mushroom, surrounded by a memorable, familiar cast:  her cat Dinah at her feet, the White Rabbit nearby clutching his pocket watch, the Mad Hatter conversing beside her, the doormouse perched to one side on a smaller mushroom, and the Chesire Cat observing the scene from a tree branch.  If you look closely, you can also find other Wonderland denizens, e.g. that inscrutable caterpillar.  The whole ensemble can be found just north of the conservatory, which some of us know as the miniature boat basin, located at seventy-fourth street and Fifth Avenue, on the East side of the park.  (The conservatory is famous for a scene in another children's book, STUART LITTLE.)

On the particular Easter Sunday when we visited, the weather was about as glorious as it gets on a spring day in NY -- bright blue, nearly cloudless, and warm but not yet in the full heat of summer.  And though many a kid and tween and even teen clambered over the statue, it wasn't so crowded that the kids couldn't gain purchase several times and occupy some choice spots.  For Thing 1, that meant sitting atop the doormouse; for Thing 2, that meant sitting in Alice's lap and holding Dinah's paws.

Photos were snapped, and there was much scrambling hither and thither in and around Alice, and on the statue's many plants and creatures.  (I say hither and thither because, well, those words just come to mind when one is thinking about Alice.)  Grandma posed with Thing 1 and the Mad Hatter, and Thing 2 never seemed to tire of smiling for another snap while occupying Alice's lap.

I couldn't help but feel a bit wistful, missing my own New York childhood; since moving all the way across the country in what seems a lifetime ago, pre-kids, pre-marriage, post-college, I've created my own West Coast life, but I can't help but feel, after all this time, it's still a little inadequate.  Sure, I can get my kids to Disneyland in an hour from where I live.  But somehow, the lure of the simpler pleasure of an attraction like that Alice statue remains more powerful, more compelling. 

The best art invites you to interact with it, and by that standard, the Alice statue more than succeeds.  As I perched atop it, alongside Alice, I thought back to a childhood in which the big event of the day was climbing all over that statue, not passively seeing a movie version of the Alice story in 3-D.  I know I'm waxing nostalgic about childhood, and that's such a cliche thing to do.  But there's something genuine at the heart of most cliches.  And for me, watching my kids enjoy the Alice statue was a lovely link between past and present -- something about which it's worth getting sentimental.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Let The Kids Hold The Menu Hostage

The other day, Late Blooming Dad said, after justifying the choice of a certain restaurant for Sunday brunch that didn't have much in the way of kid fare, "I'm not going to hold the family hostage to kid food."

So off we went to this place, even though the few kid items on the menu didn't fall into the usual list of foods acceptable to Thing 1, aka The Picky One.  Thank goodness Thing 2 has a broader palate and can be more easily assauged.  Thing 1 doesn't go much beyond dry cereal, muffins, pancakes, French toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, plain roast chicken and potatoes, cucumbers, pizza, grapes, pears, and only two forms of mac n' cheese:  Koo Koo Roo's or the Annie's kind that comes in the shape of Arthur.  Not a terrible diet, but a dull, dull, dull one if you're not a small and stubborn being.

At first the meal went pretty well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When You're A Twin Mom, Every Day Is Operation Overlord

The other day Late Blooming Dad remarked that just getting out of the house with our five-year-old twins, which invariably involves the packing of jackets, spare clothes, sippies, favorite toys, the various and sundry items required for a specific activity (ballet? swimming? gym class? school carnival?), a half-hour of coaxing toward the door, more time spent putting on shoes, taking them off when minds are changed ("I don't want those, I want these!"), putting on the other shoes, the doubling back from the elevator for the forgotten item (or, if you're unlucky, doubling back from whatever point already underway when you have to get the stuffed cheetah without whom SHE WHO MUST BE PACIFIED cannot go anywhere), can make every day seem like Operation Overlord.

For those who are not familiar with Operation Overlord --

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sleep Vs. Getting It On: The Tired Mom's Dilemma

Last night, I was at a support group for parents of multiples, and the guest speaker, a clinical psychologist, brought up how important it is to maintain intimacy with your partner after having children. She meant every kind of intimacy, not just the in-the-bedroom kind, but when hands went up for questions, one mom said what was on a lot of our minds: "How do you have sex when you're tired?"

She really should have said "exhausted," which is the word that kept coming up again and again among the new and recent parents in the room. And even Late Blooming Mom, who is going on five years at this parenting gig, but has to work AND be mom AND be wife, is having a hard time getting to the getting-it-on part of the wife gig sometimes.

The guys in the room were tired too, and some of them said it certainly doesn't help anybody get in the mood when dad gets home from work and mom hands him a baby or kid as soon as he walks in the door.

The psychologist told us how relationship dissatisfaction for many couples dramatically increases in the six months to a year after having a child. Looking back, I have to say that wasn't really the case for us. We like being married to each other, liked it before kids, like it after.

What we don't like is having to juggle busy lives to the point where we barely get to see each other until after nine o'clock at night, and by the time we've wound down after that, we're often barely coherent, let alone ready to be seduced or seductive.

The psychologist suggested scheduling fooling around, so there's a designated space for it. But when I came home and suggested this to Late Blooming Dad, it only made him sad: "Is that what it's come to? How un-romantic!" He had a point. Still, in truth, I'm a planner by nature (he always points this out to me) and there have been plenty of occasions when I basically scheduled the fooling around, though I didn't exactly put it in my datebook or on his Treo. I'd just suggest, "Hey, tomorrow night, after we put them in to bed and get them asleep, let's go right into the bedroom." Sometimes I'd do this more than a night or two in advance. Not romantic in the least... but in practice, the planning didn't diminish the enjoyment.

So I guess, some nights anyway, this IS what it's come down to: a matter of scheduling. Still, there are those spontaneous times still happening, when we're not both feeling as if we can't prop our eyes open after a full day's work and then the school pickup/dinner/bath/bedtime routine, during which our children seem to make about three demands on us per minute. The problem is, too often, it's can't-keep-our-eyes-open night.

My only consolation is that last night, in that room with all the other couples, I wasn't alone in this dilemma. But Late Blooming Dad wasn't with me -- he'd agreed to stay home with kids so I could go to the support meeting. Perhaps next time I'll schedule a different kind of support meeting -- after the kids are in bed -- and make sure I sneak off for a nap during the workday. If that's what it takes, it's what it takes. Late Booming Moms and Dads have gotta do what they gotta do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Parenting 101: Um, This Should Be Obvious, But ... Don't Bring Your Baby To A Bar. Please.

What about bars doesn't the dad in this story understand?

It's a place where people that are of drinking age go ... to drink alcohol.

Late Blooming Mom sometimes misses adult life, adult conversation, adult beverages.  "Miss" is actually too weak a word.  Sometimes I crave it.  Sometimes I'm almost desperate for it.

But not so desperate that I would take a kid -- let alone a baby -- to a bar.

To the dad in this story, I gotta say:  if you need a drink and you need to do it out of the house, get a damn babysitter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not Even Kindergarten, And I'm Already Anxious

Kindergarten starts in seven months.

But I'm already anxious about it.

The kids aren't.  They don't really know what kindergarten is, or how it's different from the warm, fuzzy preschool they've been attending for nearly three years.  They have some vague knowledge it's coming -- a big change -- and we've even visited what will be their new school, back in October for a Halloween carnival.  But they're really only dimly aware of it, and unlike Late Blooming Mom, who sometimes has trouble living in the moment, they're 100% in the here and now.  What's for dinner, what TV show can they watch before, are they taking a bath together or separately, and what stories will we read at bedtime -- that's about as far as their agenda goes most days.

Me, I'm already worried ...

Monday, February 22, 2010

That Helpless Feeling

One feeling I didn't count on when I contemplated parenthood was the feeling of being helpless to help my kid.

I don't mean helpless to help master a skill, or learn something.  I mean helpless to help when there's some illness or injury to overcome.

I'm a lucky parent in that my children have been pretty healthy, and I haven't had to deal with serious illness.  The little guy was born with a birth defect that was surgically corrected, and while it was hard as hell to hand my nine-month-old off to an anaesthesiologist and a surgeon, and then spend the night with him in recovery, knowing the poor little guy felt awful, I knew the worst would be over soon.  He had to endure casts on his feet for some months prior to, and after, the surgery, but that too was of a prescribed, finite nature.

It's only lately that I've had to deal with something of indefinite -- perhaps chronic -- duration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Every Child Left Behind

Utah is thinking of dropping 12th grade.

The state can no longer afford to pay for it.

That's how much value the state of Utah places on education, I guess. I'd like to say California, where I live, has its priorities a little more in order. But not much. This week, two school districts in my area, Santa Monica-Malibu and Los Angeles Unified, say they're probably going to shorten the school year by five days because of budget shortfalls.

That's five fewer days in which to teach kids the very same curriculum that teachers had a full school year to teach this year. Yet somehow, they've got to cram it all in.

LAUSD is already closed for three weeks at Christmas. When I was a kid, I NEVER had a three-week Christmas break. Did you?


Monday, February 8, 2010

Kids With Learning Disabilities May Do Better When They're Included

My nephew has learning disabilities.

But he's thriving in school, and the biggest factor may be this:  he's included in a classroom with kids who aren't learning disabled.

Too often, it seems, kids who are different -- kids with speech delays, kids on the autism spectrum, kids who have a range of sensory and/or behavioral challenges -- get shunted off into special education classes.  And while that might be the right solution for some kids, it sure wasn't for my nephew, who started to come home from kindergarten imitiating the emotionally disturbed behaviors of some of his classmates, and was less and less responsive and engaged while at school.  A mid-year change to a new school, in which he got help from an aid but within the setting of a regular classroom, made a world of difference.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Naked Time

Five-year-olds love to be naked.

At our house, naked time is right before the bath.

Tonight, soon as the the kids had torn off their clothes and scattered them on their bedroom floor, they paraded into the dining room wiggling their rears at us. It was "booty-shakin' time." The girl cracked herself up after pronouncing the new word of the night: "Bootypenisvaginabootybutt."

Then she ran off cackling in the direction of the bathroom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Love Means Having To Drive Past Monterey Park

With all due respect to the late pop novelist Eric Segal, who penned the ridiculously inaccurate yet often quoted line, "Love means never having to say you're sorry," I submit the above definition, which proved its validity last night.

Late Blooming Mom, Dad and five-year-old twins were driving on Interstate 10 around dinnertime, heading back to Los Angeles from an overnight trip to see visiting relatives in the Palm Springs area. The drive between L.A. and P.S. is pretty much a culinary wasteland of Denny's, TGI Friday's, Mickey D's, the slightly more tolerable In-n-Out Burger, etc. But after you get through the strip-malled communities of Pomona, West Covina, El Monte, etc., you come to a culinary mecca for some of the best Hong Kong-style Chinese food outside of Hong Kong. It's called Monterey Park, and even the most casual reader of the Pulitzer-prize-winning L.A. Weekly food writer Jonathan Gold knows that a u-shaped segment composed of Atlantic Avenue, Garfield Avenue, and San Gabriel Blvd. contains a large number of excellent Chinese food establishments.

Sadly, Late Blooming Mom does not get out to Monterey Park very often, even though it is, traffic permitting, maybe 10-15 minutes east of downtown L.A.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Newden Days: Five And Counting

"Mommy, do we live in the newden days?" the boy asks as we read a bedtime story and I stop to explain that people sometimes wore hats to bed to keep warm "in the olden days."

"Yes," I say, after I stop laughing several minutes later. "We live in the newden days."

These newden days, I am getting used to having five-year-olds, and they are, indeed, very different from four-year-olds. The tantrums are fewer and tend to come only when someone hasn't had enough sleep. But they've been replaced by a near constant condition best called "selective listening," which is mostly not listening when asked to do something, but listening when there is the possibility of a treat, a new toy, or TV watching. Thanks to the inspiration of the president of the local parents of multiples club, I've instituted a sticker chart in which the kids earn a sticker if I only have to tell them to do something once. Fifty stickers -- a very big number for them to contemplate, but an achievable one -- will earn them a trip to the toy store at the Farmer's Market, and the chance to pick something out. We're only one day into the plan, so it's premature to say it's golden, but at least for now, it seems to be working.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Being A Mom Later Is Better, And Why It's Not

I started this blog two years ago to write about my misadventures as a late-blooming, AKA later-in-life, mom. Reflecting on those two years, in which my kids aged from three to five, here's what I think's better about being a mom later in life:

It sounds corny, I know, but I have a greater sense of time's fleeting nature and therefore savor moments with my kids in ways I don't think I would have, had I had them say, five or ten years earlier. I sometimes catch myself holding a little hand in mine a little tighter, and making a mental note to register the sensation of the warmth of that hand, and the casual but sure way it holds mine back for security, safety, and reassurance.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Your Boy/Girl Twins Have Just Turned Five. What Are You Gonna Do Now?

If you've made it through five years of late-blooming motherhood with twins, here's what you're going to do:

You're going to Disneyland.

Accuse me of being unoriginal. Unimaginative. An American parenting cliche. A victim of societal pressure. A rube taken in by the massive Disney marketing machine. A mom in for a long, long day that will no doubt include some whining, a tantrum or two, and overpriced snacks.

You're right.

I'm going anyway. Full disclosure: I'm not going today, on their actual birthday, because a number of factors (including dad's work schedule) mean Saturday is the big day, with more crowds; it can't be helped. But nevertheless, I'm going, with dad along to kid wrangle. I'm going because I went to Disneyland with my parents as a kid, and I loved it.