Sunday, December 4, 2011

Insomniac Mom: The Human Blackberry

"You're doing it again," my husband said to me in bed the other night.  "You're making lists."

This is what my mind does, compulsively, before I can fall asleep.  I lie in bed and think about all the stuff that's gotta get done -- for work, for the kids, for my husband, for me, for the general maintenance of a family-of-four household.  And I bet I'm far from the only mom who does this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Testing 1,2,3 ...

He's testing me and his dad a lot these days.

He says he's not going to Hebrew School ... and waits for a response, lolling idly on the sofa.  We ignore.

A few minutes later, he refuses to come put on his rain boots.  I give up on those -- that's an argument I can afford to lose -- and coax him into his room, where I put him in a cozy sweater and rain jacket.

A few minutes later, at the door, it's "I hate this day," and "I'm not going."  This time, he loses a sticker on his ready-for-school-on-time chart, and stickers mean something:  once you earn 20, you get a dollar to put in your piggy bank and save up for toys. 

He throws a mini-tantrum.  Then, when Dad gets stern, he starts to laugh.

Dad has had it.  So have I.  It's been testing, testing, testing ever since he's been awake, and it's not even 9 a.m.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stealing The Halloween Candy: It's Proust's Fault!

I confess.

I did it.

After the kids were abed, I made my way to the plastic jack-o-lantern buckets on the kitchen counter, and dumped out both kids' hauls on the floor, on the pretext of sorting through any loose, unwrapped candy or candy they could choke on. 

Looking at the bounty before me, childhood memories flooding back, mouth starting to water, suddenly craving artificial-tasting, factory-made, non-artisan treats, I lost all willpower.  Within seconds, I'd unwrapped and devoured my first Fun-Size Nestle's Crunch bar in perhaps a decade.  The Mounds Bar, we're probably talking 25 years.  And this wasn't my first transgression.  At the Halloween party, I ate one of the ghost-shaped cookies too -- smothered in orange frosting.

It's not that I haven't eaten any candy in years.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mom On The Hamster Wheel

You know that wheel the little furry pets run on endlessly, spinning and spinning and spinning in their cages?

I'm on the Hamster Wheel, and I don't know how to get off.

I read the phrase "Work-Life Balance," and I laugh.  Because there is no such thing.  Not around here.  Around here, there is only the Hamster Wheel.

Here's what life on the Hamster Wheel looks like: 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Sorest Loser

"That's not fair!"  - my son to his sister, while playing UNO.

"You're cheating!" - my son to his sister, while playing the card game WAR.

 "You're a liar!" - my son to his sister, while playing Candy Land.

Is it any wonder when I got to the passage about six-year-olds being sore losers in Your Six-Year-Old:  Loving And Defiant,  by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. & Frances Ilg, M.D., that it sounded so familiar?

The wise lady authors say, "To lose with a smile requires first of all that you do not care too terribly about the game -- and that you must be able to take a back seat once in a while.  The ordinary Six-year-old has neither of these abilities.  His emotions are violent and he cares intensely about almost everything.  It is almost impossible for him to take a back seat.  One of the cardinal rules in his life is that he wants and needs to be first."

Yeah, that's my boy ... at least, that's him when playing with his twin sister, who is, of course, also six.

Whassup With The Potentially Shorter School Year?

This year the school year may wind up being seven days shorter, and I'm steamed about it.  You can read more here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Defiant Ones

I just finished reading YOUR SIX-YEAR OLD:  LOVING AND DEFIANT, by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. & Frances L. Ilg, M.D.  I don't have a PhD nor an MD, but I could have told them about six-year-olds being loving and defiant:  after spending half a year with twin six-year-olds, I should be awarded my own PhD in six-year-old studies.

My boy nails that  "loving-and-defiant" thing.  Just this morning, he left the house blowing me a kiss and calling me his "true love."  Okay, it's a little Oedipal, but I'll take it:  it's really sweet.

Where Have I Been Lately?

Not posting here, my faithful readers, and my apololgies for that.  You'll find an account of my so-called "summer vacation" on the momsla website, here:  There's No Such Thing As Summer Vacation. And I'll have an article featured soon on the MotherhoodLater site and/or its spin-off webzine, BabyBloomer.

But writing elsewhere is no excuse not to keep faithful with my faithful.  So a brand new post is underway...
coming very soon.  In the meantime, happy midsummer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Drill Sergeant Takes A Vacation

A strange and amazing thing happened not long after I wrote my last post.  I only had to get one kid ready for school and out the door -- Thing 2.  Thing 1, poor lil' guy, was sleeping in after being up much of the preceding night with a cough.  Thing 2 got herself up and dressed, brushed her hair, and appeared in sprightly and cooperative manner at the breakfast table.  She ate what was put in front of her with nary a complaint.  She had a pleasant breakfast, but didn't dawdle to the point where she had to be nagged to finish.  She brushed her teeth when asked, cooperated for the application of sun screen, got her shoes and backpack on, received a reward sticker, and popped out the door with Daddy, right on time.

I thought it was a fluke, this oddly helpful behavior, this smooth morning vibe, this easy-peasy morning routine.  But then it repeated itself a second morning, while Thing 1 remained in bed again.

My inner Drill Sergeant had been granted leave, and happily went on vacation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What We Say, What They Hear

Years ago, FAR SIDE cartoonist/genius Gary Larson drew a cartoon in which a man was talking to his dog Ginger about her habit of rifling through the garbage.  The cartoon was captioned, "What We Say To Dogs" and "What they hear."  The man went on about how Ginger had better not get into the garbage again, or else, but all the dog heard was, "Blah blah blah GINGER, blah blah blah GINGER."  (You'll find the cartoon here.) But you can already guess my point:  this is pretty much how six-year-olds hear their parents.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Life Is Too Short For Birthday Party Pizza

To all whom I'm about to offend -- especially parents who have graciously invited my kids to your kid's birthday party -- I apologize.  But I cannot help myself.

Life really is too short for Birthday Party Pizza.

By Birthday Party Pizza, I mean the super cheap kind that comes from a national fast-food chain and is meant to inexpensively feed a horde of small children who'd rather get right to the main event -- birthday cake -- and is also meant to feed parents who attend the parties too and find themselves in need of a little more sustenance than the precut carrots, celery sticks and ranch dressing.

In this day and age of slow food, locally grown ingredients, organic this and free-range that, there is some awesome pizza to be had out there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Attack Of The Mom-Brain

The other day, I ran into a pregnant mother of two at the mall, trailing the kindergartner who's in my daughter's class, and her preschooler.  I mentioned Thing 2 and I were looking forward to the playdate we'd scheduled with her kindergartner the upcoming Saturday, and she got a puzzled look on her face.   "Wait, is that the 7th?" she asked.  I nodded.  "That's her birthday," she exclaimed, pointing to her preschooler.  The mom had actually suggested the date to me about three or four weeks back in an email, when she wrote about making a playdate.  Now it was suddenly occurring to her that she'd double-booked, and not just on any day, but her other daughter's birthday.  She turned a bit reddish and then said something to the affect of, "You must think I'm a total space cadet.  But see, I have three calendars.  I know I shouldn't but ..."  And on she went until I interrupted with this:  "It's fine, I get it.  I have Mom Brain too.  You not only have Mom Brain, you have Pregnant Mom Brain."  She knew what I was talking about: moms have too friggin' much to remember.  And it's to the point where, yes, you could actually FORGET the date of your own kid's birthday in a moment of well-intentioned, over-scheduling madness.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Republican War On Children

Half the teachers at my kids' school got pink-slipped. 

You read that right. Half.

Some of those pink-slips MIGHT be rescinded, but they wouldn't have come at all if less than a handful of Republicans in the California State Assembly had allowed Gov. Brown to try to extend some tax increases that were due to expire, by holding a special election in June.  They offered him the kinds of "compromises" that nobody should take -- gutting environmental regulations in the state was one of them, and by the way, dirty water and dirty air hurt kids too, not just cuts to education.  The Gov. had already agreed to all sorts of cuts in programs that help the poor and the elderly, concessions to public employee unions, etc.  But no, the greedy bastards couldn't muster a few votes, and now it's pink-slip time at LAUSD.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Of Fast Pokes, Cupid, And True Love

The other day, I was walking the kids to school from our parking spot nearby when they accused me of making them late, insisting I was a "slow poke."  I pointed out this could not be true because I was, in fact, many strides ahead of them, at least a quarter of a block ahead, when they said it.  At this point, the girl, AKA Thing 2 (because she's the second born of twins), took off on a tear, zipping in front of me and gleefully shouting, "I'm a fast poke!"

I asked her where she'd heard that before.  "I just made it up," she said.  At which point, the boy, AKA Thing 1, tore past me, shouting, "I'm a fast poke too!"

I had to write it down because I'm afraid if I don't, I won't remember this stuff; it'll too easily get lost in the shuffle of filling out permission trips for field trips, making the 100th lunch of the school year, and tying yet another loose shoe lace.

When I picked them up from school the other day, I stopped the car at the corner and noticed the puffy clouds, covering a swath of sky in cotton-ball softness.  I pointed them out to the kids.  "I wish I could go up there and touch them," said Thing 2.  Thing 1 then commented, "I wish I could stay up there and meet Cupid.  Is Cupid real, mommy?" 

I think I'm in love.  So I guess the answer to that would be yes.

Of course, this was followed quickly by the same question about Zombies.  It's not all sweetness and light around here.

But I am trying to savor the moments that are ... and forgive my kids or myself for the moments that aren't.

The kids often put me in mind of those car commercials where the announcer brags that the car can go from 0 to 60 in X number of seconds.  Only in my kids' case, they go from adorable to impossible.  You'd think, by now, I'd react by not being impossible too.  After all, I've had this mom gig for six years.  But I can turn on a dime too.

Getting them to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, get their shoes and jackets and backpacks on in the morning turns me into a drill sergeant, and I really don't want to be.  Neither does Late Blooming Dad.  But some mornings, it takes the two of us, barking at both kids, threatening to take toys and privileges away, to get them out the door in something approximating on time.  The other day, after Thing 1 had been dawdling and refusing to listen and preferring to take his sweet time with every task, or just plain refusing to do them, the parental haranguing escalated, with raised voices, and suddenly it was too much for the kid to take.  He burst into tears and declared, "I feel hated."  Late Blooming Dad responded by taking everything down and delivering a heartfelt hug.  I joined in briefly.  But I couldn't help feeling guilty for hours after.  All I'd been trying to do was get the kid ready for school on time, and he felt hated. 

Tomorrow morning, the sticker chart goes up and we try a new approach:  twenty on-time days -- a sticker for each -- will mean a new toy.  But the real change has to be in our attitudes as parents.  Yes, we need to get to work on time, and that means getting the kids to school at least close to on time.  But the haranguing only led to stress for all concerned, and a decidedly sad family moment.

I did feel better that afternoon, when I got to school and the door to Thing 1's classroom opened as the bell rang.  Thing 1 zoomed out of his classroom and into my arms, declared me his "true love," and gave me a kiss.  His quickness to forgive is another thing I don't want to ever forget.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Powerless To Resist The Princesses

Journalist Peggy Orenstein's latest book, CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER, was prompted by her own daughter Daisy's infatuation with everything Princess, brought on almost immediately upon Daisy's beginning preschool. According to Orenstein, who is interviewed in this Sunday's Los Angeles Times, after a week of preschool, Daisy "had as if by osmosis learned all the names and gown colors of the Disney princesses, and that is all she could talk about."  By age three or four, Daisy's peers had already been reached by the Disney Princess marketing machine, which ten years ago began marketing Princesses together who'd never been marketed apart from their individual movies.

Just yesterday, Late Blooming Mom's daughter attended a play date at which one of the main activities was dressing up as, you guessed it, Disney Princesses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dear Tiger Mom: I Don't Need Parenting Advice From The Wall Street Journal

Unless you've been in a media blackout -- which is something that can actually happen to moms who are too busy cooking, cleaning, feeding, bathing, and clothing their kids while trying not to neglect their husbands, and maybe working full-time too -- you probably know all about the Tiger Mom.  But in case you don't, here's a quick refresher:  Amy Chua is a Yale law professor whose parenting memoir, The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, was recently excerpted in the Wall Street Journal.  It's caused a bit of a dust-up over parenting methods, at least in the print and online media, with subsequent articles about the book appearing in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and it was even mocked satirically in the Huffington Post. 

The controversy it's generated seems to focus mostly on Chua's strict parenting of her tween-age girls, e.g., she didn't allow them playdates or sleepovers, they couldn't participate in school plays, they had to get straight As.  In one instance, her elder daughter was forced to perfect a challenging piano piece while her mom threatened to take her dollhouse to the Salvation Army, and then Chua deprived the girl of dinner and even bathroom breaks.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Three-Week Winter Break? Really, LAUSD?

We have -- just barely -- survived the three-week winter break that is mandatory in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Dear LAUSD school board, what are you thinking?   A three-week winter break?  REALLY?

My friends with kids in other school districts gasp in amazement.  Not one of them can believe it when they hear about it.

Taking kids out of their routine and plunging them into the hands of their exhausted working parents, NOT ONE OF WHOM HAS THREE WEEKS OFF over Christmas, is friggin' nuts.

Here's what happened around here.  Late Blooming Mom and Dad enrolled our kids in winter break camp, which while not outrageously expensive, is still an added strain on the family budget.  Winter camp was held the week before Christmas at a school that's not far, but still isn't our home school, necessitating our kindergarteners getting used to a new campus ("Where's the bathroom, mommy?").  Luckily, our workplaces were closed Christmas Eve day and New Year's Eve day, so we didn't have to pay for childcare on those days.  But there was no camp the week between Christmas and New Year's.  What, exactly, are working parents supposed to do?