Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Membership Has Its Priveledges - Dining on Burnt Dogs in the Sick Club

Can you tell that I'm desperate to get my flu-stricken son to eat and drink?

I'm SO not above baiting him with Pedialyte in a WINE glass. Have you ever tasted that stuff? Pure salty schwag, I tell ya.

He was scrawny to start but now he's looking even more threadbare minus two fever-melted pounds. The evils (flu germs) are having their way with his lanky bod.

Mouth is ever sharp, even when he's ill. And he's milking to his advantage.

"I'm too weak to bring my plate up," he feebly whispered for added effect this morning. As long as he is as dog-sick as this, I'll let him get away with it.

Sweet bed head, mister.
This is his third day in a row missing school. Poor little trooper.

Anyone have any tricks for making the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet more palatable to picky kid eaters?


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Slackstress Fires a Rant Round at Gun Toys

Why are so many boy toys so violent? Here I am teetering yet again on my soap box.

Hey, I had a fake Uzi submachine gun as a kid and I'm not a serial killer. It came complete with realistic firing sounds that I proudly annoyed my parents with to no end.

Should we helicopter parent to the point of limiting our boys' toys to only nicey-nice, educational gear like Leapsters and Matchbox cars? Are modern moms caring too much? Creating a slippery Pollyanna bubble for our children that might soon pop in our overly concerned faces?

Why not give our sons (and daughters) the gun toys they want so they can work it out for themselves?

You already know where I stand. So, what do YOU think?

Here's a stellar Feb. 25 article from the opposite camp called "My Sons Like Shootouts. What's Wrong With That?" by a Washington Post writer who allows his sons to play with toy guns:

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about Part 2 of It’s Only Breastfeeding in Public, People, Not a Wet T-Shirt Contest. My 6-year-old has a major case of the evils, or what we call the flu around our house. I'm way too busy picking up sick. Anyone know where I can pick up some Teflon nose clips? I promise I'll follow up with Part 2 as soon as I can.

It's All Fun and Games Until Mama Develops and Eye Twitch

I was hoping it was a fluke. Just a passing phase. Like the flutter of an eye.

Nope. I'm not so lucky. It's official, people -- I have developed a permanent eye twitch.

It's as if my right eye lid is possessed, obsessed with shaking like Shakira's jellyfied ba donk a donk butt. Now I have yet more in common with Dr. Evil other than constantly asking myself "Why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?"

And apparently it's not going away (like my moles that recently met their fates on my dermatologist's chopping block).

This is what mothering three children born nearly back-to-back will do to you. Ex-zip-it-A: the telltale bitch twitch. Someone signed me up for this without even asking. How rude!

Great. Now I have what's called a tell. Let's call my new eye twitch a mommy tell, shall we? An obvious, dead give-away that I'm constantly trailed by three mini-me's like a ketchup stained wedding gown train with springs attached to it.

What will "they" say about my new perma-blink? (Ever wonder who the nebulous "they" are anyway? If you figure it out, send me "their" address so I can send "them" a nasty-gram via snail mail.)

I imagine what "they" say might go something like this: "Whoa. Look at that crazy chick's eye go! She must be a whacked out, stay-home mom stress case. It's like her lid's got a life of its own. That's just sad."

But wait. My new consta-flicker eye affliction isn't all bad. With my newfound on-and-off eye-cessory I can more accurately aim an even more menacing "mom face," yes, you know what I'm referring to ladies. Yup, it's "the look" I speak of. All moms naturally develop it over time and readily display with uncanny skill when they've "had enough" from the unruly kid ranks. Yes, the "evil eye" we shoot at the kids when on the verge of snapping but cannot raise our voices because we're in public. The look I fire off when I wimp out and opt out of a major freak-out, when I give in and merely dole out yet another threat of a non-effective time-out. But I digress...

... and, yes, it's true that now I can better ward off staring, brimming with bad mommy judgement strangers (you know the kind, the ones who think they can do a better job and who were never, ever antsy kids at the grocery themselves) in the check-out line when I stare back at them with my creepy twitch-o-meter. The faster the twitch, the more offended by their stares I am. So, it's even more creepy now when I ask them to "put their eyes back in their head."

If you're with me on this, twitch on mamas. Get your twitch on.

Hey, I can't be the only one out in the mommy trenches with a mommy "tell." What's yours?

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When No Nap Nellies Attack - I Nanny 911 Myself to No Avail

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Monday, February 26, 2007

MySpace Yanks "Obscene" Pics of Breastfeeding Moms

How coincidental that I should write today about banning shame from breastfeeding in public on the same day that mothers in huff over the same topic launch a cyber protest of MySpace? Seriously, I had no idea or I would have joined them earlier.

Because there's nothing more offensive on MySpace than an appropriately employed lactating breast, right?

Without users' permission, the powers that be at MySpace have been removing photos of mothers nursing their children. Have you heard of this?

First Starbucks. Next the airlines. What next? Our own front yards?

Check it out. The following was excerpted from an Associated Content article written Feb. 19 by Summer Minor:

"As a virtual protest many mothers have begun changing their user pictures to that of nursing babies. The breastfeeding mothers claim that nursing is not offensive at all, and that by being more public about it they are helping to normalize something that has been hidden under a cloud of shame for years. Many feel that the sexualization of the female breast makes it difficult for many to see a difference between using the breast for sex and using the breast for its intended purpose, which is to feed a child. This is on top of an already diminished view of breastfeeding held from the early 1950s when doctors often told women that their milk was not good enough and many families felt that formula created by science was a better choice.

The debated over breastfeeding photos has sparked a fire among those who support breastfeeding in public and those who feel it is disgusting. Many mothers who have breastfeeding photos are finding themselves attacked by those who feel that the breast is a purely sexual object. Hate filled messages are being sent out to many mothers on MySpace for sharing their breastfeeding photos, some are going as far as reporting every photo that the mothers have on their account often resulting in all of the photos deleted by MySpace.

The mothers involved are furious and are not going to take it. So far MySpace has not yet commented on the issue, but breastfeeding photos are still being removed. Many women are claiming that this is discrimination. Images of partial and full nudity that includes the breasts are found on a majority of MySpace profiles, yet it is the breastfeeding photos that are being removed. As the ban on breastfeeding photos continues the firestorm continues to grow. One mother on MySpace commented 'The power of lactating women has been demonstrated often in the media lately (Delta, Pork Board, etc.). Now it's time for us to take on Myspace.'"


It’s Only Breastfeeding in Public, People, Not a Wet T-Shirt Contest

(The Nursing Moms Not Gone Wild, Part 1)

Today I was hoping to write a scholarly defense of breastfeeding in public, with or without covering up the wet bar. A hopefully intellectual argument in favor of nursing mothers asserting their state right (yes! I live in nursing friendly Calfornia!) to breastfeed wherever they want, whenever they want, in public or in private.

However, (no) thanks to spiking flu-related fevers and defiant diapered nappers, ample time for this overly opinionated mama to coherently blog/vlog is now irrelevant. As irrelevant as the recent ill-educated, overly sexualized opinions of several male YouTube vloggers who are repulsed practically to the point of upchucking at the sight of a lactating pair of bare breasts aimed into the hungry mouths of babes.

So, given that I could be interrupted by kiddie complaints at any second, I’ll simply share with you my personal experiences nursing my three children. (Funny – Right here is ironically where I had to stop writing and coerce screaming Pigtails back to sleep before she started a domino wake-up effect with her brothers. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!).

I can’t think of a place I haven’t nursed -- sometimes in hiding in seedy restrooms, from behind a downy wedding gown skirt collapsed in a heap on a dressing room floor, in full, naked chest view of shocked, ogling strangers waiting for the train in Paris and every place in between.

Hey, I’ve even nursed at Starbucks, a place where nursing used to be about as welcome as a branded to-go cup of joe from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

I’ve even nursed uncovered and bare chested in front of my father-in-law. Ew. Maybe even double ew. (Now that I’ve used a pair of back-to-back “ews,” I can kiss any hopes of coming off scholarly goodbye, right?)

Where was I? So, I decided to breastfeed because I really respected my sister for doing it. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics book my obstetrician gave me highly recommended it (and I lived by that book as an insecure new mom the first year of my son’s life.)

My mother chose not to breastfeed me. “That just wasn’t the thing to do at the time,” she tells me. Really? I was born in 1975, a supposedly nature-happy time when breastfeeding was making a major post-advent of formula comeback. Chalk her choice up to personal preference, something that is entirely her right.

I suppose which nourishing liquids sustained me in my first days doesn’t matter in the long run. I turned out healthy and thriving having fed only on a factory-made mimic of nature’s best first food.

When I was a happily bottle-fed baby my mother and her French-Canadian friends and sisters nicknamed me “grosse poule,” which means “chubby chicken” or “fat chicken,” so it’s not as though I starved without mother’s milk. Later, in my tall, lanky teens, I looked more like an emaciated, starved chicken than a portly one. Now, well, I think I’m once again leaning towards the title of chubby chicken.

Let’s go back six years past, when I had my first son in the hospital, where I sloppily, feebly attempted to breastfeed him seconds after he took his first amazing breaths. Well, that is as soon as he was squeaky cleaned, suctioned and pricked by the eager nurses as well as inspected head-to-toe by my protective husband. (Why does he always get to hold our babies first? I’ll never know because, trust me, I’m soooo done having babies.)

Experts backed by tomes of lab research say infants have a better chance of learning to breastfeed if they latch on directly after birth. At the time of my first pregnancy (an emotional, touch-and-go, bed-rest mired nine months) I steeped myself in how-to first-time-mom books. Armed with facts, figures and the resolve to succeed, I wasn’t about let myself "fail" at breastfeeding. (Now I understand that there is no failing at such an act. Only trying your best and going from there.)

I was determined to avoid formula, even if it meant cracked, sore nipples and sleepless sour milk nights. As a result, I endured all three for weeks.

Have you heard of the term “breastfeeding Nazi”? Well, that was me. Breast is best and all the rest. Totally convinced that breastfeeding was a gift all mothers should and must give their deserving babies. It was judgment city for my formula feeding friends and family. Like everything else, I admit it. I was a bitch about breastfeeding. Sometimes I still am.

Flashback again to when my first son was a nursing infant .. When visitors came to have a peek at our new bundle of boy, I shyly retreated to my bedroom in the far end of the apartment when it was time to feed him. Rarely did I nurse in front of guests, outside of my mom and mother-in-law. Both were at “that end” when their first grandson crowned, so I figured they’d already seen it all. What difference would a nipple or two make? My mother-in-law nursed both of her sons and even helped me with a few pointers when I asked.

My first few attempts at “undercover” nursing my first-born son using a fancy, expensive felt breastfeeding bib manufactured by some trendy baby product company didn’t fly. It was like trying to drive in traffic with a blindfold on. Sweaty and stressful. My little muffled below baby breathed labored, gasping breaths. It almost sounded like he was suffocating. I hated it and he seemed to too. Later, I switched to lighter swaddling blankets and eventually got the hang of it without sending him into a fit of frustration.

Once I felt he was portable, which was a ridiculously long time thanks to new mom paranoia and a serious case of post partum depression, I carefully toted my son around neighborhood parks and beaches in an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder.

(I wonder if the folks who named that contraption were puffing something wacky and skunked when they named it. Hmmmm. Dorky name or not, my Over the Shoulder Baby Holder worked.) Now I could easily nurse my hungry sapphire-eyed guy in public by simply pulling a pinch of fabric over his vacuum suctioned face. No onlookers were the wiser. At least I didn't think they were.

Baby number two was a completely different story. He was nearly attached to the breast 24/7. I was a ‘round-the-clock feeding machine, and it didn’t matter where I was. He had to have it. I learned to walk and nurse. Even run after his 2-year-old big brother at the park and nurse.

The mini-troopers are restless and unruly. Sick of staring at the back of my blogging head. Part two will hopefully come as soon as I time-out them into submission!


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Up Next: Fire Goddesses and Chinese Dragons

This morning I woke up from a bizarre dream that I was swimming in an over sized can of black olives to the sound of my boys vroooming their new Transformers in the playroom.

Instead of joining them and losing track of time playing for hours in my jammies and morning breath like I normally would, I stretched on all fours like my cat and went back to sleep.

Next, my daughter climbed into bed with me with a crumpled up bag of Wheat Thins that I left out. The bedside remnants of a midnight snack. In all, I think I ate six, yes that's six, string cheese tubes warmed up to melty in the microwave last night. I'm going to require gobs of fiber to recover. Gobs.

The kids are scrambling like Lord of the Flies scavengers for breakfast and Wheat Thins won't cut it for much longer, so I have to keep this short.

Oh gawd, Pigtails just ripped her diaper off, an over-poofed with overnight pee sagging bag. Yuck. She left it on the kitchen floor. Makes me think of a bloated corpse floating in the water. How dark is that? I just threw it away and washed my hands.

So, you might be wondering what the heck I was alluding to with a title like "Fire Goddesses and Chinese Dragons." They are the two top agenda items for me today. One with the kids and one without. Fire and kids don't mix so well, so you can probably guess which venue WILL NOT include my kids three.

Once we figure out what breakfast is and scrub ourselves to presentable, we'll climb in the cookie crumble spilled coffee stinkin' minivan and head to China Town L.A. for the 108th Annual Los Angeles Chinese Golden Dragon Parade.

It's the year of the boar. Isn't that just a fancy name for pig? In my effort to continually expose the kids to multicultural arts and eye candy, we try to do something with an arty ethnic slant at least once a month.

This is so not coming off as intelligently as I'd like it to. Blame it on my caffeine deficit. Normally by now I'm half way through the coffee pot all on my own. But I slept in and haven't gotten there yet.

Tonight I'm heading off on my own to see Sirena Serpentina at my son's charter elementary school for the arts. Now I sound like a snob, right? Well, I admitted here yesterday that I am in fact a big snobby mommy, so you might as well know that. I'm not hiding it.

Serena Serpentina is a dance troupe that practices an amazing movement art form that involves spinning fire balls tethered to metal chains all around their amazingly adorned bodies. I think each dresses like a particular goddess, demon, fairy, depending on what their theme is.

Words fail when describing them, so I'll leave you with these pics to feast your eyes on instead. Can you believe a major city unified school district would give the okay on a school grounds performance like this? Only at a progressive charter school. I'm so happy we transferred him here. And so is he. You should hear him speak Spanish now. He's teaching his little brother and sister because Spanglish is pretty normal for him now. I'll post more about this later.

I'll try to vlog from both the L.A. Chinese New Year celebration and Sirena Serpentina fire dancing tonight. Who knows what lies ahead?

This is my friend Rachel. Her kids go to school with my eldest son.

Ps. Not that anyone other than me cares, but I thought I'd share with you that Pigtails just pooped on the potty without being encouraged or asked to. Yay. No-effort potty training in full swing.


Friday, February 23, 2007

My Kids Are NOT Walking Advertisements - Dora BackPack Backlash

Call me a snobby mommy. I admit it: I refuse to let my kids wear a single fake leather smelling scrap of trademarked, tacky cartoon character tattooed gear, including Lightening McQueen Cars crap, Dora drivel and Disney debris.

As Dana Carvey used to say while spoofing the first President Bush (when SNL still ruled Saturday night), "Naw gun' duh. Stay the course. Thousand Points of Light" and all the ridiculous rest.

No character apparel. No way. No how. Not ever.

To me, character TM apparel is to kiddie fashion what Kraft Squeeze Cheese is to the fromage industry. C'est domage. Yep, I'm a snoot. Calls 'em likes I see 'em, even when I am calling my own self out on an issue that makes me look like a jerk.

While you're at it, might as well call me a mean mommy. One who just says a hearty "No!" to her kids' persistent, nasal Target shopping aisle pleas for mass marketed, decal decked out clothes, light-up Velcro shoes and mini walking billboard/movie trailer junk in general. (That's right. My trademark run-on sentences are running on and on and on again. Old habits are hard to break.)

Finally, you can call me a hypocrite because I do have one faulty exception to my snooty no-character clothes rule. I do allow my character decal deprived kids to don cartoon character pajamas and underwear. Spiderman and Disney Princess ones, actually.

That way not one suspecting soul will witness them sporting Dora, Hello Kitty and The Hulk alongside snobby mama me in public. As if I'm too sexy for their shirts.

Nice or not, I purposely keep our nighttime TM merchandise marauding our very own dark, mass appeal, sell-out secret.

And I'd like to keep it that way, although now I've totally (over)exposed our nocturnal mass market conformity by admitting it here on my blog.

Then again, aren't embarrassing confessions that humanize/humble me as a real and flawed modern mama what this blog is about in the first place?

If you're Mcmerchandise sell-out happy and you know it and you really want to show it, well, good for you.

As for slightly pretentious me, I'm sticky to the plain stuff.

Take it with a grain of schmaltz, from a thrifty mom who gets most of her clothes second-hand from generous hand-me-down sources.

Dora defying Slackstress OUT.

So, which of you mamas are with me on this? If you're not, tell me about it. I'd like to hear both sides. Do tell.

*Hopefully someone out there in the blogosphere is actually reading this. Hopefully I haven't lost all five of my dedicated regular readers thanks to my embarrassing, over-the-head panty hose pull vlog. I'm still in shock that I actually hit "publish" on that one but there's no going back. My kids ran around like panty hosed robbers half the night after watching their wacky mama on YouTube. Talk abouy cheap AND fun. (more) (less)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Panty Hose on My Head for You, Mom, Love Your Strange Daughter

This vlog is my gift to my mother for her birthday, which is, yes, you guessed it, TODAY.

When she watches this, two things could transpire. Make that three:

1) She will be mortifyingly embarrassed and regret ever sharing my blog URL with her friends and coworkers (if she doesn't already). Wait until my memoir hits bookshelves. What will she do then? Yikes.

2) She will outright disown me. Highly unlikely since I’m one muy importante half DNA donor to her precious blondie grandkids three, at least I'd like to think so.

Highly unlikely also because she would miss out on visiting breathtaking Southern California beaches blanketed in clouds of choking smog. What out of town visitor would diss me for good and miss out on that?

3) She will cackle hysterically (okay, mom, you don’t cackle, more like delicately chortle. I cackle and Dena guffaws and Aunt Claudette, well, she ... you know how she laughs – jolly and loud like Santa with a megaphone). Next, she'll pick up the phone and call me across the 3,000 plus miles to congratulate me on being such a zany weirdo mama. Props from one zany mama to another. I truly learned from the best!

Happy birthday, mom. I hoped you like the daisies. What kind of a cheap-ass daughter sends a tiny handful of daisies to her mother for her birthday?

Well, slackstress me. It was the best I could do. Never mind not even sending a card of gift at Christmas. As you would jokingly say, mom, “I deserve ten lashes with a wet noodle!”

Speaking of noodles, remember when cousin Ricky threw an entire boiling pot of pasta against Aunt Connie’s wall to check if the noodles were ready? I prefer the more modest version – thwacking a single strand of spaghetti against the wall to see if sticks. If it does, it’s ready.

How many of you reading this right now have moms who always kept it light, fun and easy, even during the roughest of times? Here’s to the best, my mom. Bon Fete! A votre sante! Felicitations!

I bet you’re really savoring this birthday, mom, now that your ticker is poof, presto, blam-o fixed. You deserve all that buttered up lobster you'll feast on tonight. Just don't forget to wear that funny looking tuxedo lobster bib. You, like me, can get pretty messy when it comes to eatin' stuff we love (and devour in seconds flat).

Love, Kim, SuperMan and the kids three

Ps. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Slackstress Vlog: Sticks are the New Pet Rocks

Sticks rock. Stones, well, they ARE rocks already, so they don't do jack. I suppose they roll, but I digress in a really cheesy, lame brain kind of way. Deal.

Yep, I'm officially an old-fashioned mom-tool because I think plain old sticks are hotter toys than Nintendo's enormously popular Wii Play.

And nature provides a shapely, frighteningly jagged array of sticks, twigs and branches for no-attention-span, bored for no friggin' reason children at no - zip, zilch, zero - cost to their no-patience, strapped for time and play time creativity soul-sucked parents.

Today I lost my wallet (again - oh airhead snap!), so Slackstress me and the blondie kids three were up the creek with no dough for entrance to a stuffy local art museum (that might have bored them to tears anyway).

Here, out in the breezy, sunny, salty Southern California air, I learn that the value of simply throwing my wound up spawn trio a stick like little wild doggies is completely underrated.

I say, stick it to yourself when the sun IS shining. Stick with simplicity. Stick with sticks when the terrain gets sticky. Sorry for the cliche train but you're already stuck. That was bad, I know.

Any-whoo, I think you'll agree that fun is always funner (more fun?) when it's FREE (and distracts your hyper three-kid army from blitzkrieg-ing one another into oblivion for more than five whole minutes -- long enough to inhale a Venti latte without aspirating your lungs or burning your kid boo-boo all-better smooching freshly stop sign red lipstick painted lips)!!!

You can't beat the Pacific Ocean view in this quickie vlog either.

Stones are sure to top the Slackstress "it" toy list next when my brood soon outgrows stabbing each other in their beady eyes with randomly strewn by gale force wind sticks.

Stones ... hmmm ... simple ... free and DANGEROUS, even a desperate weapon of choice in, gee, well, some perpetually war-torn parts of the world.

I think I'll stick to sticks after all.

Slackstress Vlog: Grandparent Jealousy

Insta-recipe for a much-needed hand with the kids: Simply add willing grandparents ... within driving distance, that is. I wish it were that simple.

Perhaps I'd trade my balmy, season-less Southern California weather paradise for closer, more convenient proximity to my children's grandparents (both sets are 3,000-plus miles away).

If I moved where they are, I'd have to suck up my inner weather wimp and endure either power black-out blizzards (New Hampshire) or having to translate into semi-sanitizedd terms just what a "Gary Glitter" is and what "Gazungas" are to my children when they're old enough (the UK). I can't get enough of strange Britishisms.

Name one burned-out mom who wouldn't kill for the kind of uber granparent help I witnessed today at my son's preschool.

Unfortunately, I think I'd dump the kids off more than would be welcome, perhaps even legal. We'd have to draw up a contract just to keep me from abusing the torrent of gushy-mushy grandparent love.

Meanwhile, as I vlog all this from my usual spot - my minivan crumb crumble donut home on wheels, my daughter begs for junk food by name. What the?

Monday, February 19, 2007

(Hard Advice) Hike to the Hollywood Sign

Here I escape my three-kid circus for a brisk hike to the famous Hollywood sign, but find myself in hot water with my hike-mate cousin, who started what was supposed to be a relaxing Mt. Hollywood trek off on shaky footing by giving me some sudden, unexpected parenting advice.

For the record, said cousin has NO children. Not a one! And he’s fully aware I’m blogging about this. He even taped this video, where I jokingly threaten to throw him over the fence and onto the Hollywood Sign following his critique.

It was grueling for me to hear his fault-finding but accurate observations, the sum of what I already know to be true (and deeply loathe in my parent self) -- I yell and scream at my kids all day long with few results and often fail to follow through with heaps of threatened discipline.

Basically, I suck. Am I a bad mother?

At least that's how I felt during the first part of our “talk” (unplanned intervention?).

How do you rise above your fired up mother emotions and not take such intimate criticism personally?

The way in which you parent your children -- Is there a subject that is closer to the heart?

How well do you receive criticism re: your (flawed or not) parenting style, constructive or not?

Does it matter to you if the person critiquing your parenting style has children or not? Haven’t you heard: “It’s always the ones who have none who know the most.” Hells yeah.

In all, I know my cousin’s intentions were pure. Nothing less. He cares for my children. He loves my family. In the end, I understand where he was going and why, even if it was hell to hear. Change is hard but we our family really could use some, right away. If my cousin’s hard talk was a catalyst for that change, then I’m glad we “went there.”

But the whole thing still felt a bit like I was an alcoholic and this was my official intervention. No hard feelings, though, cousin. I’m not mad. More like sad.

Are you able to see past your personal, emotional reactions to outsiders’ parenting advice, evaluate their advice and eventually apply your new, hopefully helpful but hard-to-hear knowledge?

How have you reacted to having your shameful, embarrassing parenting realities/bad habits exposed like a raw nerve and then pushed up close to your nose for you to see in plain view?

*Please don't watch this with the kids because I swear like a trucker in it. Not one of my best vids, but hey, it's a holiday Monday and I'm moving like a snail.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Slackstress Vlog: Confessions from the Brat Race Follow the link to see my latest vlog:

You'll see Slackstress me, harried mom of three (3, 2 and newly 6 as of yesterday), sounding off on the manic nature of my experience of modern motherhood - crammed schedules, hours upon inactive hours logged in confining car seats, scarfing down artery hardening food scraps from random drive-thrus, always in a hyper-rush and "inconvenient truthfully" blowing minivan fumes into the warming atmosphere. Can you relate?

*As you can see by my blog postings, I'm having technical difficulties with the new version of Blogger. Can new version users delete posts? Where the heck is the "delete" button?! I'm super irritated by this. My blog is wacked now.

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Repost of Slackstress Vlog: (Not) Avoiding Shopping Cart Ebola

Recent studies show shopping carts are dirtier than toilets. So why is my daughter licking one? Where can I get one of those nifty quilted shopping cart seat covers? Would I really want to be seen with one, though? Talk about anal. (I just learned the hard way that if you try to edit the text of a posted YouTube video, you will lose your video. Poof gone. Please forgive my technical ineptituded.

Slackstress Vlog: Confessions from the Brat Race

Here's Slackstress me, harried mom of three (3, 2 and newly 6 as of yesterday), sounding off on the manic nature of modern motherhood - crammed schedules, hours upon inactive hours logged in confining car seats, scarfing down artery hardening fast food scraps from random drive-throughs, always in a rush and "inconvenient truthfully" blowing minivan fumes into the atmosphere. Can you relate?

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Slackstress Vlog: (Not) Avoiding Shopping Cart Ebola

Recent studies show shopping carts are dirtier than toilets. So why is my daughter licking one? Where can I get one of those nifty quilted shopping cart seat covers? Would I really want to be seen with one, though? Talk about anal. Do you sweat shopping cart germs? Count me out.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Over-booked and Over-Tired (5 is the New 30)

As if you could stomach another depressing case of KGOY (Kids Getting Older Younger) ...

Suck it up, brave mamas, as I bring you yet more proof that today's children are no longer allowed to simply be children, wild and free with UNSTRUCTURED time to burn exploring the world around them.

My startling KGOY update arrived today during a real, true conversation I had a couple of hours ago at my son's Jr. NBA basketball practice:

Smolderingly Gorgeous Lebanese Dad: "Yeah, it's nice to meet you, Kim. Your son might be the next Kobe."

Me: "Likewise."

Smolderingly Gorgeous Lebanese Dad: "See you at practice next week."

Me: "Great."

Smolderingly Gorgeous Lebanese Dad: "Wait. I think we have a scheduling conflict next week. We'll have to figure it out. I think Rayne's double-booked."

Me: "What?! Double-booked?"

Smolderingly Gorgeous Lebanese Dad: "Let's see. Rayne's schedule is so busy, so confusing these days."

Smolderinly Gorgeous Lebanese Dad whips out his Palm Pilot for instant access to his uber five-year-old's double-triple-quadruple crammed extracurricular schedule.

I cannot believe what I'm seeing. Is that his kid's Palm Pilot or his?

I pull myself together and pick my eyes up off the high gloss planks of the basketball court, where our sons are spastically wrestling each other on their backs for control of the ball. Cheaters. Well, they are only five after all.

Gorgeous Lebanese Dad: "That's right. I remember now. Hmmm... Yes, Rayne has Jr. NBA on Mondays and Wednesdays, piano lessons on Tuesdays, gymnastics at this great place in Huntington Beach on Thursdays and ice hockey on Fridays. Oh, and preschool five days a week. But I think I booked a golf lesson for him during practice this coming Wednesday. What was I thinking?"

Is he serious? Does he really need a Palm Pilot to keep track of his son's over-booked, over-scheduled five-year-old world?

I won't get a chance to find out any time soon, a chance to corner Gorgeous Lebanese Dad for the answers to my burning RGOY (Rayne Getting Older Younger) questions.

Gorgeous Lebanese Dad said if his son does squeeze basketball practice in Wednesday, he won't be the one bringing him. I'll just have to ask Rayne's nanny/chauffeur.

Here's a solid article on the topic of today's over-booked children. Check it out, that is, if you have time.

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Welcome to the Mom Blogularity Contest, Take a Number

*Thank you, Oh The Joys for emailing me and helping me gather enough courage/gumption to re-post this for keepers:

Several commenters on my blog recently pointed out that some mom blogs are now doubling as popularity contests. Ya think?!

I feel relieved that other mom bloggers are buzzing/ranting/bitching about this at a time when blog awards bestowed upon bloggers from fellow bloggers appear to be at an all-time high. And some blog awards are getting downright ridiculous. And, yes, I'm jealous.

There's an award for everything now. While I'm all for patting each other on the blogging back, well, I think it's gone a little too far. Did I already admit that I'm jealous?

Perhaps I wouldn't be knocking some of these awards, gratuitous or not, if I'd just become the recipient of some amazing, impressive, complimentary mom blogging award. It's pretty likely I'd be basking in the glow of my accolades, not knocking the ubiquity and overall overcooked processed hot dog quality of the recent glut of blog awards.

I'm going to come out and admit the ugly, embarrassing truth right now -- I wish I were a popular mom blogger. I hate it when I (compulsively) check my Google Analytics and see that only 26 people stopped by my blog on any given day.

What ever happened to when I used to get 100 visitors a day? Doesn't sound like much for some, but those kind of numbers spell success to me. Oh yeah, that’s when I was busy broaching controversial topics like sex after kids and the freaky pedophiles that stalked my blog for weeks on end.

I abhor it even more when I log on and see that my post of the day only garnered one measly comment or perhaps none at all. Why is it so easy to become a comments addict?

Hi, my name is Kim (aka domestic slackstress) and I’m a comment-a-holic. I have been comment free for 10 days. I’m now living my life one comment at a time. From this day forward, I'm going to work the program and work the comments.

I wish I were as modern-mama-blog-a-mama cool and commercially blog-successful as Dooce, who only seems to turn on her comments capability when she feels like instantly getting 368 validating answers to basic questions about potty training and nutty fan letters. You know you want to be like her too. Admit it, honey. Why can't short hair like Heather B. Armstrong's look as sharp and edgy on me?

How can I be as naturally funny as OhTheJoys? That's right. Funny isn't learned. It just is.

I wish I could post something as simple as "I went to Trader Joe's with the kids to buy Japanese Rice crackers because we had a collective craving for MSG and seaweed," and instantly receive 32 comments saying irrelevant blibber blubber like, "I loooove Nori Maki too." and "Wow. Great post. I was moved by your simplicity. Way to list your grocery list, girl. Keep up the good work." Some of the posts that win a million comments are shockingly mundane. Shockingly terse. Shocking in their lack of content shock value. Shocking in their Lack. Of. Content. At. All.

Why do I feel the need to be a well-known, super-popular mom blogger? What drives me to be such a star-struck blogger with a blog that started as a way to pitch in a little Google Adsense (Google No-cents) money into our bad joke of a non-budget? Exactly how sick of my unending questions are you?

Let's face it. I need the money. I want the fame.

Between tackling toppling stacks of laundry and scraping dried-up jelly donut innards from the germ incubating kitchen floor, maybe I'll have time today to create my own blog award called Most Wanna-be Dooce-i-est Mom Blogger Award. I’ll even nominate myself for it straight away.

Don't hold your breath. Just be sure to click on "Comments" before you turn blue.

These are the narcissistic ramblings of my tired night mind. Of my busy digesting crab rangoon and nine sesame date balls I stashed into my purse at the buffet mind-body-belly. Stuffed like a hormone swollen turkey at Thanksgiving with Chinese food from a cheap Chinese joint.

Does a bottle of Tums count as dessert?

Ps. Someone who is royal a pain in the arse kind of good friend just now reminded me that I won a Rolling on the Floor Laughing Award (ROFL) for my Oct. 2006 toy ad satire post called "F-Bomb Cop." You didn't hear me complaining about that award, now did you? Now I can shut up and cease being a hypocrite. I even wrote a post-win post about winning the award, officially making me a willing member of the mom blogularity contest. Oops. Count me in.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

This Bitch Be Stinkin' Up da Whole House

Something's wrong with Trixie the cat.

This bitch is horny. She's running around the house with her ass in the air, calling all the Tom cats in the 'hood to her cat-gina. I can't take her high-pitched whining any more.

I halfway feel like I could just set her loose on the neighborhood, just to get her the hell out, away from my three kids, who she keeps waking up with her horny cat-calls.

I've punched my friends and loved ones for lesser offenses. I don't care if the four male cats waiting on my stoop with their lipstick units still fur-sheathed, at least for the moment, tear little Trixie to bits in a kitty battle royale for the gift that's impossible to Indian give.

My couch, my beloved microfiber sage colored slouchy couch, stinks like rotten cat crotch. It's not even funny. Trixie's outta' hand. Purring. Rubbing. Licking herself into feline oblivion.

We let her out for five minutes. Five hot minutes. She came back in a changed kitty. Disheveled. Confused. Dirty and fluffed.

Anyone want kittens?


Pretzel Sticks Are Too Salty to Be Cigarettes

It's nearly 11 and I'm still in my jammies, which I only put on when I woke up. I was too lazy to deal with a change of clothes last night. Living up to my slackstress title is so trying.

The kids are fighting. Pigtails wants to vacuum. She thinks it's a toy. The Lawyer is playing basketball in the house with a ball that isn't Nerf but not exactly regulation. Cheeks is talking gibberish to himself while taking shots at the small mesh pockets in the tent with a mushy mini-basketball that his sister bit a chunk out of.

Oh well. I'm ignoring everyone and writing. Nothing new there. Adam is outside smoking his weekend wake-up cigarette. Nothing new there either.

... which brings me to the topic of my children knowing their father smokes. For a long time I tried to shield them from it. (Hey, didn't I chain smoke three cloves at the hookah bar last night? I was alone. It was an indulgence. An assertion that I'm still me before being a mom. Still independent enough to make stupid, unhealthful choices. Still cool enough to throw caution to the wind, along with a few fragrant plumes of smoke. Sound the hypocrite alert?)

Without going into to much explanation, eventually I relaxed my rigid rules and stop relegating my husband to the garage when he puffs on his beloved Camels. Now he leaves the garage door open when he smokes and asks the children to go inside until he's done his "break."

The kids aren't stupid, though. They may be young but they know what's going on. When they ask me where dad is and I say, "He's having a break," they know exactly what mommy's referring to.

"Oh, you mean he's outside smoking," The Lawyer clarifies.

"No, he's just having a break," I un-clarify.

"No. He's smoking. Why don't you just tell the truth? That's what you tell me to do."

Point taken.

So, if my children know their daddy is a regular, one pack a day addicted smoker, where do we draw the line with their inclusion in the circle trust (or TMIL - too much information loop)? Should they light his cigarettes for him? (I just threw that in there to incite reaction, to goad you on. Obviously I would never allow that. I'm being dramatic, something I've never, ever done before for attention. Me? Neva'.)

Should I allow them to pretend they're smoking while salty pretzel sticks jut from their pouty mouths like extra long Virginia Slims? Well, when it actually happened, when all three were on the front lawn on a picnic blanket pretending to light each other's pretzel sticks, I promptly, sternly asked them to stop. I was disgusted. My daughter often tells me she's going outside to "have a smoke." It's really gone too far. Way too far.

"Why would you want to pretend to smoke? Smoking hurts people," I said, hoping the neighbors hadn't noticed my pediatric trio of would-be smokers.

"Because Daddy does," Cheeks replied.

"Yeah, because Daddy smokes. Daddy smokes cig-wets," Pigtails confirmed.

How sad. But really, how sad? As the teachers at Cheeks progressive preschool say time and time again, "Life is not a fairy tale." In some cases, children should know the truth, even if it isn't laced with powdered sugar sprinkles and rainbow jimmies. Is this a truth they should know? All signs point to no. But I'm afraid it's too late. At least their father doesn't smoke near them or in the house. We don't want to endanger their health. I even force him to change his shirt when he holds them.

Yes, children, your parents are human. They are real people. They make mistakes. They made choices that aren't always right. They aren't the poster people for perfection.

Just last week I hid outside cloaked in darkness in the front yard with my mom friend. We sneaked cloves in front of the bushes, like a couple of kids hiding from the camp counselors, doing something bad. Something that could get us sent home from camp if we were found out. And you know what? It felt good. Really good. Really freeing. Really adventurous. Again, how sad? Maybe not so sad after all.

It felt good until my daughter peeped through the mail slot and saw me.

-- To my older and only sister: I hope your quitting experiment is a success.

Ps. What ever happened to those fake, pink-tipped candy cigarettes I used to gobble up as a kid? Did the candy industry get a conscience or did Big Tobacco cut off their funding? I wouldn't let my kids "smoke" them anyway. They have enough poor role modeling in their orbit as it is.

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Luck, luck, bo buck, banana fana fo ...

Today I feel lucky.

I'm lucky that I get to hang out in my son's new K-1-2 (kindergarten, 1st and 2ng multigrade split) homeroom class with his younger sibs for however long I want, whenever I want. I'm lucky none of his classmates threw up when my daughter dropped the A-bomb in her diaper and then announced to the class, "I just die-ree-a, ev-bod-ee." I was more worried about her lack of descriptive accuracy. That rock was solid. Can you say fiber alert?

I'm lucky I got to join my kindergarten wonder for a field trip to the local city college's lush garden. I'm lucky I didn't step in chicken skat when we visited the garden's grungy chicken coop.

I'm lucky my son has a warm, caring teacher named Jose, who was kind enough to offer my other children a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a shiny green apple when they looked at me grimacing because I forgot our field trip snack at home. I'm lucky they let me have the last bite.

I'm lucky my pediatric dentist will still see my children. She reminded me that my husband missed the kids' last appointment. "That's two no-shows on your record," she said in an admonishing whisper off in a dim office corner where her other, no doubt more conscientious parent customers wouldn't be able to hear.

I'm lucky my 3-year-old didn't bust his head wound open when he fell backwards out of the sit-and-stand double stroller today. I'm lucky no onlookers snapped back at me when I loudly advised them to "put your eyes back in your head" as I scooped Cheeks off the dentist's waiting room carpet and back into the stroller. Note to dangerous mom self: Fix broken backseat double-stroller straps ASAP.

I'm lucky my best childhood friend, Cyndi, cheerfully quickly replied to my message. She even subscribed to my blog feed. Thanks, girl. Like you said, we won't lose touch this time.

I'm lucky my husband tore my laptop apart, reloaded Windows and enabled me to get back to regularly blogging. I know he expects a little something in return, so why am I typing this right now, just after midnight while he waits for me? I'm a selfish shit.

I'm lucky my maiden name means "lucky" when translated from French to English.

I'm lucky so many wonderful people left me positive comments on yesterday's pity-party-for-me lamenting blog post. Seriously, I feel a lot better knowing someone out there enjoys this blog and might even find relief and humor in my retelling of my many maternal misadventures.

I'm lucky my husband put the kids to sleep (the boys are drooling on pillows in our 8-person tent, still set up from last weekend's sudden school switch/mom-guilt allaying sleepover bonanza) so I could steal away to the local hookah/espresso bar to work on my book. I'm lucky my writer's block fog lifted, even if only for an hour or so. I'm lucky Mike, the new cafe owner, makes such awesome homeade baklava and supple, wet feta cheese that actually bends without breaking.

I'm lucky I didn't inhale three-in-a-row clove cigarettes. I hear those things can make your lungs bleed.

I'm lucky there's still some java left in my mug. Who cares if it's past midnight? It's never too late for a caffeine buzz.

I'm lucky my daughter stopped yelling "NO WAY!" at the top of her impressive little lungs at the pediatric dentist's today when I threatened to take her favorite retired cell phone away because she flat-out refused to get into the stroller. Okay, I admit it -- I said I'd throw it away. I was desperate. Like you've never said something so unessecarily and overaly harsh to a two-year-old as onlookers judging eyes bored into your back? My kids are going to come out so warped, it's not even funny. She clammed up spit-spot and climbed right back into that stroller seat, though.

I'm lucky for mom friends who "get it." Who get me and my three-kid madness. Thanks, Amanda, for making us feel at home at the "new" school, and for staying with my snoozy little girl at the van so I didn't have to wake her to pick up her brother, then strap right back into her car seat. Am I the only mom who feels totally overwhelmed by simply transporting three young children from point A to point B. Just the five-friggin'-point straps alone are a bitch to get through. Throw in throwing food to the very last row of seats, back to my hungry sons. Aim is key. They know to be at the ready when mom yells, "Ready? Aim. Fire!" "How's that quesadilla mom just chucked into your face, little bud?" It gets scary when I hurl Aquafina bottles in their direction, but, hey - they asked for it!

I'm lucky you are reading this right now, especially when you consider that I hardly visit anyone else's blogs and seldom comment. See, I really am lucky.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

What I Would Have Written in a Journal if I Still Had One

I'm not sure why but so much is building up in me like a cloud heavy with precipitation.

I'm tired of writing a blog that has no focus. No point. No theme. I'm tired of not knowing what to write about. How to attract a regular audience. How to make ad money of this blog. How to write good enough material to earn links. How to turn my ideas into traffic.

Why do I blog in the first place? To connect to other mamas in the trenches. To feel that I'm being heard. To feel a part of something bigger than me. To feel like I still have "it" enough to know what the hell a blog is without having my babysitter explain it to me because she's younger, cooler and more Web savvy.

I blog to share my experiences. Nothing unique about that. I blog to make a place for myself in the madness of motherhood. A quiet place. A place just for me.

Comments. Yes, I blog for the comments. For the sheer narcissism of comments. For validation. For instant gratification. For the potential that I might have a fledgling fan base.

I blog to see where this experiment takes me. I blog because I'll implode if I don't. I'll be forced to write in plain old lined notebooks, ones that my kids might get their paws on and fill with squiggly marker lines and wiped-off boogers. I blog so I can sort the laundry piles in my mind at the end of the night. There are more darks than lights lately. Far more darks.

I want to make art. I want to write a good book. I want to have a story worthy of telling, of publishing, of selling. A story to be proud of. I want to write a book that elevates me as a writer. That showcases talent. First I have to feel that I'm talented in truth. Writing compelling articles is a very different animal than writing funny memoirs. I want to be funny. I want you to think I'm funny. I want to be exotic. Exciting. Witty. Hilarious.

But I can't fake it. The truth is, I live an average life in suburban Southern California. I have three kids and a helpful, caring husband. My life is not a train wreck. We're not rich. Far from it. Just regular folk trying to make it on one salary. Totally cliche and unoriginal. The truth is, I'm a pretend writer. A blogger without a point. A blogger without a unique skin. This green on green template will have to do until I can afford something better, something sharp.

The truth is I'm too tired at the end of the night, at the end of two school drop off and pick up days like today to write anything more than a grocery list, let alone the chapters of a book or a blog posting.

I want to be a literary genius. Critically acclaimed. But I'm hopelessly average.

Arm pits and Armani - Strange Sex Studies

Have you heard about the recent Unilever study suggesting women prefer clothes over sex?

That doesn't say much about their sex lives (and/or deflated libidos). According to another recent, bizarre sex study, when our men aren't busy getting the shaft while we shop, all we need is a whiff of their sweat to get back into the mood.

"Women on average say they would be willing to give up sex for 15 months for a closet full of new apparel, with two percent ready to abstain from sex for three years in exchange for new duds, according to a new survey of about 1,000 women in 10 U.S. cities. Sixty-one percent of women polled said it would be worse to lose their favorite article of clothing than give up sex for a month. " Source: Reuters

Are women that shallow? What about having sex while wearing our favorite clothes? What then? Why does Unilever even care?

Almost half of the study participants also reported that their favorite piece of clothing makes them feel sexier than their sex partners. One thousand women from 10 U.S. cities took part in the study. One thousand women who apparently need to be getting a whole lot jiggier.

Dry Idea
"Researchers concluded women who sniffed a chemical found in male sweat experienced an elevated hormone level, along with higher sexual arousal and a faster heart rate." Source: Metro Networks Communications Inc.

And I thought I was the only deviant who liked the musky scent of my husband's sweat.

The study, conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, is published in this week's "Journal of Neuroscience."

Are the experts really cluing us into anything we didn't already know?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How I Blew as a Mom Today, Let Me Count the Ways

The ways I sucked as a mother today (yet another Domestic Slackstress exercise in confession as catharsis):

- I slurped the leftover milk from my cereal bowl in front of the kids at breakfast table this morning, then drank theirs ten times more noisily while they cackled. Anything to keep their infectious, addictive belly laughs coming.

- I allowed them to gargle whatever milk I hadn’t already filched from their bowls of soggy Honey Nut Cheerios. It was a classic case of “do as I do.” Instant lesson reinforcement of a different, milkier kind.

- I brushed one out of my three kids’ teeth without toothpaste. And I use the word “brush” generously. It was more like held the electric toothbrush on the same jagged eye tooth for five seconds while taming her brother’s Billy Idol bed head. Yet again zooming to school on time trumped fighting fuzzy teeth. What can I say? At least it wasn’t my kindergartner blowing morning breath at his new classmates today.

- I raided all three kids’ piggy banks for gas money, then spent it on an overpriced latte. Thank goodness for Visa gift cards left under the couch from Christmas, then rediscovered when needed the most…

- I caved and let my daughter eat a Ziploc bag of stale Ruffles potato chips … for, um, breakfast. Maybe I should have used toothpaste on her chippy teeth after all. She refused to eat any thing else. Next time I’ll wait until she’s so hungry she’ll eat whatever I’m serving, which will hopefully have less saturated fat than even one of those ridged, deep-fried potato shaving thingys that taste so good shellacked with Ranch dip.

- I threatened my 3-year-old son with having to personally phone the ER doctor that stapled his head two weeks ago when I found him jumping on the couch yet again. “You can tell Dr. So-and-So that you want more staples in your head if you keep that up.” Mean. Just plain mean. He got right down and found something safer to do – spinning to the point of dizziness on the slate floor in the kitchen. I should just invest in my own staple gun. Wait, we have one in the garage.

- I lied to my 2-year-old daughter when she asked me to lay down in her bed to put her to sleep, a bad habit I’m desperate to break, telling her that I’d be right back after going to the bathroom. I never came back. She woke up in a sweaty panic an hour later, crying, “You still in da’ potty, mama? I’m waiting. Where aw’ you? You okay?”

- I let my kids continue to play with their fire hazard Easy Bake Oven despite today’s media blitz. I even showed them how to light the darn thing with a match. Okay, you got me … I made this one up. I swear all my other confessions are true. We don’t even have one of those dinky microwaves disguised as a sickeningly pink, tacky homemaker in the making toy … Try a real oven, people. Kids can learn to cook just as easily the old fashioned way with old-fashioned tools and machines. No one wants to teach kids how to cook without the EasyBake crutch anymore because real ovens cause real burns and demand real adult/parent supervision. Who has time to supervise anything these days?

Fellow mamas, did you do anything worth confessing today? If yes, I hope it didn't involve a crack pipe or a faulty EasyBake oven. I don't know which is worse.

Ps. I deserve not to be judged for my maternal imperfections today, the day the TV never once went on in my house. A TV-free day should nullify all of my mistakes. All my confessions are hereby expunged from my record.

Bizarre Maternal Coincidence

Both my mother and mother-in-law are having surgery tomorrow. Talk about a maternal coincidence.

"You'll be just fine," I told my mom on the phone all the way from New Hampshire while tucking the boys into their bunk beds tonight. "Just don't think you're going any where on me, okay?"

Tomorrow at 8 a.m. EST a cardiologist will insert a flexible tube into her heart and destroy the spots that are to blame for her recent heart rhythm problems (a.k.a. abnormal, dramatic spikes in her heart rate).

My rational mind tells me I shouldn't worry. Catheter ablation is a relatively fast, simple procedure. Thank you WebMd. Some patients even return home within hours of its completion.

My panicky, ever pessimistic mind tells me that there's a slight risk of outcomes I can't even bear to type the letters of here and now. Outcomes that simply cannot occur. It's best to put thoughts like these out of your mind, especially when the subject is your mother. How could I not worry about her? She's my mother, my maker, for Christ's sake.

Meanwhile, in an operating room all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in England my mother-in-law will become the recipient of a brand new knee. Her long-time chronic pain will be lifted, replaced by a three-month long recovery. Hopefully, with physical therapy behind her, she should walk pain-free again, without bone scraping against bone. She might even be able to keep up with her five grandchildren (ages 6, 3, 3, 2 and 1.5) once again.

Focusing on getting all three kids out the door to get The Lawyer to his third day at his new school on time tomorrow should take my worried mind off our moms. Tomorrow I run around like an over-booked, underprepared modern mom. One who is chauffeur, chef and courtside Jr. NBA fan. When did I become such a hopelessly busy, hopelessly uncool mom dork? Fitting in time to write tomorrow is pretty much a joke. So is my one-time status as someone who had a clue about life outside of mom-dom.

Here's a quick update on The Lawyer, who attended his new school on his own for the first time today.

"I loved it," he told me when I picked him up after his full 6-hour school day. He smiled bashfully, as if admitting that he actually dug the place that he "never wanted to go to in the first place."

His bubbly math teacher, who looks like an older Maggie Gyllenhaal with shorter hair, told me The Lawyer completed all of his word problems correctly. Not bad when you consider that math is exclusively taught in Spanish. "He was enthusiastic and got along just fine," she said. "He already knows his numbers in Spanish. He breezed right through."

His only complaint wasn't about the kids or the classes. "The food stinks, mom. It's so healthy it's gross. I hope you didn't pay for a whole month of hot lunch. I won't eat it again. I can't. No way!"

It could be worse. The school's hot lunch menu makes my home cooking look like perpetual Hamburger Helper, so what's he bitching about. Students can even choose vegetarian options that actually taste like food, not like cardboard. At least that's the word on the black top.

My brain is fried. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, on The Lawyer's hyper healthy school menu is fried.

There's a swarm of rice flecks below the kitchen table I have a date with. Someone has to clean up after the picky little fingers that flung them there on purpose.

Please put out the good thoughts for moms squared. I'll keep you updated.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Soup Rocks on the First Day of School

Exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Financially.

This morning I took The Lawyer to his new school. We met his home room teacher and new classmates.

The whole home room ordeal felt a little like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, not that I'd know first-hand. I just happen to be halfway through Dry, Augusten Burroughs' memoir about sobering up for good.

"Hi. My name is Teo (tay-oh). I'm a second grader. My favorite color is azul. What's your favorite color?"

"Uh, Hi. My name is The Lawyer (of course he doesn't refer to himself by his blog nickname, mostly because he doesn't even know it). That's spelled ... He actually spelled his whole first and last name out. My favorite color is, uh, I dunno', green. Yeah green."

"More questions for The Lawyer, anyone? Questions?" Jose, the young home room teacher asked, scanning the surprisingly calm circle of kids on the carpet for raised hands. Amazing. Every single kid had a question for the new kid.

"What's your favorite video game?"
"What's your favorite animal?" The room hushed and oohs and ahs bounced around after he said "Cheetahs ... but they're almost extinct."
"What's your favorite movie?"
"Where did you come from? What school?"
"What's your favorite toy?" "That's easy. My miniature football guys set with the felt field. It's totally like a real game except I control the players. I've had it since I was two. Never lost a piece."

The Lawyer surfed the tidal wave of attention like seasoned pro, fielding questions one after the other with increasing ease and flair. I was impressed. He'll be fine. What the hell was I so worried about?

By his second class of the completely bilingual morning (hardcore Spanish immersion .. almost all the teachers wear a bracelet on the left wrist for English and switch it to the right when they switch to Spanish ... and they switch a hell of a lot), The Lawyer was already raising his hand to answer questions and being called on often. He was confident, sure of himself and ready for more.

We only spent about an hour and a half at the school together. Tomorrow will be his first full day there on his own. He didn't even need me there today.


Tomorrow his Language Arts class will make soup from the ingredients they hand picked at the nearby downtown farmer's market on Friday. Using two crock pots, they'll make one soup the traditional way. The other soup will feature something not typically on the menu -- rocks. Have you ever heard of Stone Soup, one of those old Caldecott Award books? I'm hoping the teacher strains out the stones. After sampling stone and non-stone soups, the kids will vote on which tastes better. Either way, The Lawyer is thrilled to experiment with rocks in his food.

Iggy, the iguana that hangs out and freely wanders throughout The Lawyer's language arts program, stuck her tongue out at me today when I stroked her scaly back. She's longer than my love seat couch.

I forgot to mention that the teachers call the students either by their first names or "friend." When The Lawyer first entered his home room class, he made a b-line for the basketball sized desert tortoises in a tank at the back of the room. Teacher Jose chimed in with, "Hi friend. I know it's sometimes hard on the first day, friend. We'd like you to join us on the carpet when you're ready. We'll wait for you to let us know when that is, friend."

"Friends, it's mui importante to respect others when it's their turn to talk ... "

It's reassuring to know The Lawyer is already surrounded by so many "friends."

Oh, and by the way, apparently The Lawyer's adventurous Language Arts teacher isn't the only educator brewing sanitized rock infused soups.

Finally, to wrap up our busy day of new beginnings, The Lawyer and his little bro' Cheeks had their first Jr. NBA basketball practices at the local Jewish Community Center. I wasn't even planning on signing Cheeks up but the coach noticed him dribbling away and managing not to lose the bouncing ball, even when running full speed ahead. She asked if he could join the 4- to 5-year-old team that practices directly after his big brother's practice wraps. I said yes. Now I know how to get my little Cancer to come out of his shell - organized/team sports. What a difference.

A couple of moms whose sons were also on the b-ball teams were chatting within earshot about their hopes of passing the exam and interviews to get into The Lawyer's old school, a prestigious, very exclusive, expensive private school. One of them asked The Lawyer, "So, where do you go to kindergarten?"

He looked at her blankly and replied, "Uh, I don't really know."

He definitely will tomorrow.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nine's So Fine

I don’t even know where to start tonight. I’m procrastinating on the book again. Can’t even begin to think of what to write.

The boys are asleep and wheezing behind me in the tent. I’m a useless couch slouch.

The tent is so gi-normous that it swallows up the entire playroom. I’m comforted knowing that when it’s folded up and back in the garage the playroom will be perfectly clean for a split second, revealing a carpet free of a flurry of scattered "bad guy" toys and uncapped markers. Hardly a thing could be taken down off the shelves and played with because of the tent. You can hardly move in the playroom unless you’re inside of it.

Big tent. Big deal. Why aren’t I posting about something more interesting than our colossal tent?

I met my sister at IKEA tonight to drop off my niece. First I took my niece to Subway. We shared a 12-inch melty, mushy meatball sub.

Being with her is so easy. Almost effortless. She’s almost nine, so I don’t have to ask her “Did you use the potty, flush, wipe and wash?” 500 times before we leave the house. I didn’t have to wipe her chin between tomato saucy meatball bites (although she did lick each and every one of her fingers clean after painstakingly whittling her way through a bag of cheddar cheese dusted Sun Chips, which she ate in noisy, teeny-tiny gerbil bites).

I look forward to the time when my children are old enough to simply come along for the ride like their older cousin, without having to be strapped into the car five different ways. My niece no longer requires a booster seat. She could even ride in the front seat if she wanted to.

And she can actually get through a meal without competing like my cutthroat sons do. “I have more juice than you do. Oh yeah. Well, my juice doesn’t have as much yucky pulp in it than yours does. Let’s see who can finish their waffle first. More syrup. I want more syrup. Hey, he has more syrup than me. How come he gets his food first? I want potato chips for breakfast. How come he has that but I don’t? Ew. You burped. Betcha’ I can burp louder.”

My niece sleeps through the night. She doesn’t have to grip my brittle winter hair for dear life instead of a real, credible security object like a blankie or lovey or whatever the heck those things are called that my kids always shafted in favor of my messy mane.

Why can’t they love stuffed animals like other kids?! Why must they have me or can they substitute me for a wig, a real, live human being hair model type? Don’t they know yet that I’m a jerk? Seriously, if they really knew me, if they were old enough to grasp my many shortcomings, my controlling, bitchy nature, they wouldn’t want to be close enough to see what color the hair on my head is, let alone compulsively knead it like bread dough between their sticky fingers.

Instead of soiling them while cowering in the corner, my niece changes diapers.

Instead of demanding seven Mister Men books in a row at bedtime, my niece reads Charlotte’s Web to herself at bedtime. She’d heppily read to my kids, even put them all down to sleep if I asked her to.

Will life be easier, a little less harried around here when my children are 9, 7 and 6?

Oops. I just mentioned age. Talk about a can of sibling worms.

“I’m still older than you are. You wish you were the oldest. Nanner, nanner poo poo. You are still a baby. I’m the biggest brother. No, I’m the biggest brother….” And on and on until I arrive on-scene and serve nauseatingly ineffective time-outs according to age (about one minute per number of years alive … if I’m in a follow-through kind of mood). “Ha! You get a longer time out than me because you’re older!”

Nine’s dreamy. I want a nine year old in the house. I’ll just have to wait three years.

Parties, Tents and Sugar Make Everything Better

The Lawyer was pissed until I threw him a party.

Resentful. Angry. Confused. Sad. Peeved. He was all of those until he helped his daddy erect our massive 8-person tent in the playroom. The darn thing is so big it touches every perimeter of the room.

"I should just hit you with this bat right now," he muttered under his breath, gripping an aluminum baseball bat after hitting a few Nerf balls in the front yard with me yesterday morning.

"Whaddyou' just say?"


I knew what he said, but didn't press him to repeat it. He's never said anything even remotely as mean as that to me before. I chalked it up to anger and let it go. Let it bounce off.

Instead of dwelling on The Lawyer's soul sucking mood, I waved the white flag and organized a sleep over in his honor.

A party to celebrate The Lawyer's sudden switch to a new kindergarten had two basic purposes: 1) to lift his spirits, to surround him with the people who love him the most, to provide a sense of normalcy and 2) to ease my searing mom guilt over pulling the carpet out from under his feet with no warning.

So far, it's working. The Lawyer's favorite cousin came down on short-notice from Ventura with her little sister. His 9-year-old neighborhood boy hero joined the impromptu shindig as well. Of course, his younger siblings Pigtails and Cheeks were at his side, as always. Just enough super sugar injected children to make the 8-person tent feel far less spacious and more like a popcorn popper than a tent, enough to nearly give me a heart attack.

They screamed at the top of their lungs, played hide-and-seek forever, just barely watched Monster House (from behind shaking fingers that covered their eyes as it was projected drive-in style on white sheets taped to the wall), ate buckets of junk food like Doritos, Whoppers and Hostess cup cakes on the living room floor (two major coups for them -- I rarely allow them to eat candy, let alone any place other than the kitchen table).

The celebration continues with the SuperBowl kicking off at 3:30, when my husband will cart all three of our football crazy kids off to his brother's house to watch it on the flat screen.

The Lawyer's distracted and happy for now. We'll see how he feels tomorrow when we stop by his new school tomorrow to look in on his new teacher, his new class, his new world.

Yesterday I received a really sweet letter from his "old" school. The admissions officer wrote the letter presumably the day I informed her that we would be moving on. At least that's what the post mark would indicate. In it she said that she'd miss seeing Pigtails and Cheeks bounce around the office, on their way through to pick up their big brother. Very thoughtful, very touching, but also very professional.

I didn't think I would, but I too will miss our harried traipses through the office. The times the little ones dragged their feet on their way to get their brother, still groggy from nap time.

Tuesday is The Lawyer's first full day at his new school. Who do you think will be more nervous? Me or him? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Sudden Change of Smart

Today is Thursday, the day I announced to my son that he'll be attending a new kindergarten on Monday. Yes, this coming MONDAY! Tomorrow he'll say his last goodbyes to his current classmates with less than 16 hours notice.


At 10 a.m. today I received the call that a spot became available. By 11 a.m. I was tearing apart the filing cabinet in search of birth certificate copies and bright yellow immunizations cards. By 1 p.m. I'd notified the admissions director at my son's now "old" school. I discussed it with my son after he'd settled in at home after a long day at school, around 4 p.m. It all happened so fast. I'm still in disbelief. Maybe he is as well.

What a surreal sudden change. A change for the better, I hope.

I'm supposed to be thrilled about this, even ecstatic, right? After all, my little man's been on the waiting list for this school since he was merely three years old.

He drew a bad number in the raffle to get in last Fall. Since then, I've begged. Offered to scrub the floors at the school. To write dozens of press releases for free. Everything short of promising the school administrators my unborn children. (Okay, that's just going too far. And what would the folks over at the new school possibly want with my posthumous zygotes? Perhaps to study them up close in bio class? ... It's the middle of the night and I'm too tired for this to go anywhere good.)

Instead of reveling in wish fulfillment, I'm overwhelmed with bittersweet feelings, beating myself up over the suddenness of it all. Meanwhile, I'm trying not to let it show. I want to project nothing less than complete and total confidence in this change for the benefit of my son.

How would I have reacted at the age of five to my mother suddenly yanking me from a school I'd just now started fitting in at? Will The Lawyer (I think The Lawyer is a far more fitting nickname than Mouth) resent my decision? Will he have nightmares from stress? Will he stress this at all? Or am I enduring enough stress for us both at the moment?

This really isn't about me anyway. 'Lest I should forget my son in the emotional shuffle of the transitional new kid dance.

I'm not the one who has to march into an unfamiliar classroom on Monday. The one who has to forge fledgling friendships. The one who tomorrow has to say goodbye to his recess buddies, his first "real" teacher, his first "real" school.

It's fair to say that I'm a helicopter parent when it comes to my educational and social/emotional development philosophies, just one obsession in a sea of far too many other aspects of my children's lives.

I worry too much about how my children will turn out, often more about the emotional bruises they might acquire than the physical ones. When you consider that it could be the other way around -- I could be too busy to care at all -- I don't mind bearing the "smothering mother" title.

Right away, minutes after my announcement that a spot became available at my top choice school, The Lawyer asked me to take him there, to his new world outside of home.

He tried in earnest to lace up his new tan suede Skechers (he's still learning how), checked his hairdo in the mirror (he's such a California kid) and headed confidently for the front door. He threw open the minivan sliding door and strapped himself in for the ride.

"Let's go, Mom. I want to see exactly where I'll be sitting on Monday," he said, matter of factly.

Next came a flurry of questions:

"Are they gonna' make me take naps? Remember when they accidentally put me on the nap list in preschool? That's not gonna' happen again, right, because there's NO WAY I'd be okay with that!" How does he remember a same-name nap list mix-up from age two? Jeez, this guy hates to sleep. It's just like eating with him, he does just enough of it to survive. No more. No less.

"Am I going to start all over again, at the beginning of kindergarten? Are they going to want me to learn how to write my letters their way? Is the alphabet different at my new school?" His Muslim best friend moved to Qatar and writes in Arabic. Maybe that's where this question sprang from. We just got a book about Qatar out from the library and he was mesmerized and baffled by the images of veiled women.

"Do they have bathrooms? Where am I going to go to the bathroom if I have to go? Do I have to ask permission to go to the bathroom?" Way to be practical, kid. Bodily functions are important. Figuring out where to take care of business is equally crucial. Survival skills 101.

"Is it true they eat lunch on the rooftop of the school?" Note to over-protective self: buy industrial strength tether strap/bungee cord/harness if this rumor is true.

"Do you think the iguana that runs loose in my new classroom will whip me with his tail?" Um yeah, Mommy was afraid of the oversized, molting lizard too. But weird on-the-loose reptiles add character to the learning environment, no? Perhaps a lizard lashing jolt of primal fight or flight adrenaline helps keep the kids awake and alert.

So, tonight, after his baby brother and sister finally petered their inexplicable synchronized, tag team crying fest out, The Lawyer got down to the practical business of change. The sense of control that comes from organizing the mundane, every day tasks.

He carefully laid out his outfit for tomorrow, his last day of school as he knows it, which incidentally is a 1950s themed school spirit day. He tucked his new skull embossed skater shoes under his bed just-so for safe keeping, and asked one final question of me.

"They're taking a class picture of kindergarten all dressed up like 50s and stuff tomorrow. Can I still be in that picture, Mommy, even if I'm not going to be there any more?"

Talk about twisting the Mommy guilt knife. Nothing cuts deeper than mommy guilt.

I went to his bedside to watch him sleep, warm and innocent, human origami awkwardly tangled up in his outer space sheets. There, watching his chest peacefully rise and fall, listening to his stuffy nose whistle, I realized that parenting is mostly gray area. Completely murky.

There's no Magic 8 Ball for instant, definitive, no-fail answers on child rearing, on raising competent, independent, responsible, caring children. You never quite know if you're doing what's best for your child, even when you think you're sending them to the "best" schools your city has to offer.

In the end, you know you're going to screw them up somehow, in some way. How will your shortcomings as their parent(s) manifest later in their lives? Or will they manifest at all?

All a mother can do is cross her nervous fingers that her child's young, formative psyche doesn't get too jostled up and wrinkled in the spin cycle, in the fallout of his parents' decisions about what was best for him at the time, and also what was best for his lucky siblings, who automatically gained acceptance to the same school because of him.

Everyone tells me The Lawyer will be fine. That I'm worried for nothing about the sudden change. "Kids are resilient." "Children bounce back."

Others warn me to expect behavioral regression. "Don't be surprised if he lashes out in anger." "Expect him to not be himself for a few months." Months?! Oh my God. Am I ready for this? Is he?

The debate, my ambiguity, all of it is moot. There's no going back. Literally.

My husband says sea changes in childhood like these build character. He should know. He's living proof, having grown up a globe trotting Navy brat.

Were you ever suddenly pulled out of school and moved to another? If yes, how did it go and what do you suggest in terms of easing the transition?