Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "children"

A Mother’s Company: The Mother Company

Posted on Aug 5, 2011 in Family and Friends |

A Mother’s Company: The Mother Company

You’d think by now I’d be fully BlogHer’d out. I’ve got my rather tattered sparkle skirt from last year, some party pictures from years past. I have stories of bedbugs, memorable stories of late nights, and other stories I wish were not stories from others.

By now most of us know the brands, the drill, the insider’s club scramble, and the indelible thought of otherwise very classy women with bags on their heads at CheeseburgHer. By now we know that P&G does a huge ditty and that Jimmy Dean has the dancing sun man (they couldn’t possibly pay him enough to do that). We’ve done the booths with milk mustaches and supported one-another’s sponsored companies.

By now we know that last year’s HerBadMother’s fight for Tanner was an emotional moment in time for all of us, and this year, there will be a line of women waiting to donate blood in honor of The Queen of Spain. Underneath the hum of the excitement this weekend Susan is on all of our minds. At the end of the day, we’re women and we’ve got some badass compassion under all those Skinny Bitch margaritas.

You’d think by now I’d be completely done with hangovers and high heels, how-to’s for pros and breakout sessions.

But yeah, I’m not. Because of The Mother Company.

A childhood friend of mine is the founder of The Mother Company, a parent-centric, child-focused company that aims to embrace the social and emotional development of kids.

This is little Abbie, for goodness sake! This is the kid I played soccer with and took ski trips with and played dolls with. (Wait, I don’t think either of us played dolls.) This woman and her team that are making a serious run for becoming the next Mr. Rogers. I think they just might do it.

So I swore off BlogHer until Abbie asked me to come and support her for BlogHer11. And then I packed-up and headed down here to San Diego.

I realized that BlogHer is about companies like this: built by mothers, funded by mothers, produced by mothers. I believe completely in my friend and her mother-driven company. I’m here at because I know what kind of people are behind The Mother Company and I know the products to be full of soul, tackling issues and lifestyles on an intimate, but digestible level.

So I’m here. No parties or hoopla this year. No business card swapping. No sponsors to be touting. And it feels good. I’m here to be a friend. I’m here to support and make introductions here and there. But mostly I’m here to watch a female entrepreneur make a run for the big league.

If you’re at #Blogher11, you can find The Mother Company all the way in the back on the left under the big “600” sign. Their booth looks like a comfy livingroom. They’re serving ice moca lattes and showing clips from their latest production. They’ve got a limited amount of DVDs to hand out too.

Between the chaos and giveaways and pitches at BlogHer, you’ll find these women to be real and ready to talk about the business of emotional learning for kids. You’ll find me there too, because BlogHer, at it’s core is about relationships. This one was worth being here for.

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Every Child Left Behind

Posted on Apr 4, 2011 in Featured, School |

Every Child Left Behind

I want so badly to write a post about the No Child Left Behind Act that is tearing into schools and communities throughout California. I want to write about angry parents and saddened kids and politics of the whole thing. But in all honesty, it’s just too maddening a subject to write about. I don’t understand how we Americans could have allowed a bill into effect that could cause so much damage to all children.

No Child Left Behind seems to help no one. It doesn’t help the high performers, the midline performers or even the low performers it’s designed to aid. NCLB seems to attack the very notion of Darwinism. Who let this obscene form of standardized hell for children come into our schools?

I want to write what I’ve been hearing statewide for months: Why can’t there just be smart kids and dumb kids and kids in the middle? Why can’t we have support for all of our kids? Why do all of our needs have to go to the children who will never prove to excel academically no matter what kind of services we pour into them Why? Because there are smart kids and dumb kids and most kids who fall somewhere in the middle. It’s not pretty, but this is what’s being said on playgrounds from Sacramento to San Diego.

But I can’t write that.

Somehow I’m encouraged and paid to write about Earth Day, skin care products and diet options. But I can’t write about what matters right now. Right now I can’t write about political decision that affected every child I know. The fallout for NCLB in California is like effects of a tsunami, barreling through our communities and leaving disaster everywhere. Families that can leave public school are leaving in droves for private education, home prices are so out of whack because of the schools that we find ourselves trapped, unable to leave and unable to stay in public schools. It would be unpopular to write about the clear racism that stems from NCLB, where the Hispanic kids in California are seen as the little rodents that our dragging our schools down because they were not raised speaking English and have a higher likelihood of being underprivileged.

I can’t write about how painful No Child Left Behind is for the middle-of-the-road kids, or, how kids with true potential are falling through the cracks right before our very eyes because all of the support services goes to the underperformers. I can’t write about how frustrating it is to see midline children in need of a little boost get no support at all. I can’t write about the high-level performers who also receive no support or learning services of any kind.

What are parents left to do? Fight? Fight whom? Fight for what? And which battle should we fight first?

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We’re Leaving… on a Jet Plane (and train, and bus and boat)

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 in Europe, Featured |

We’re Leaving… on a Jet Plane (and train, and bus and boat)

Two years in the making, dozens of conversations, one giant wall map, four plane tickets bought and zero plans.

We leave with our backpacks and children in just over six weeks for a six-week stint in Europe. We have no business doing this. None. La Gringa’s got a new job she loves, I’ve got full-time work on the horizon and the kids are missing a lot of school for this little nutso plan that started as a year abroad concept that somehow, between life and work became a trip of a lifetime instead of an escape from life. Somehow a year abroad seems a lot more manageable to me than six weeks on-the-move.

The plan is to be plan-free. I’ve done enough homework and traveled enough to know the gist of what we want to do and where we want to go. This isn’t a sightseeing-type vacation. Instead, we will plan on heading from the UK through a few countries in western Europe and a quick stop in Slovakia before La Gringa leaves. I’ll hunker down in Spain or Italy for a couple weeks with the kids until heading to Ireland with Aunty T. to see her home town. By then, I’ll need a good night in an Irish pub, no doubt.

I haven’t been afraid of this adventure at any point until now. I’m worried a bit about the stability in the Middle East, despite the fact I was in some pretty hairy jams when I traveled in the mid-east in 2000. I’m a bit concerned about money — gas prices, cash flow and inter-country travel is starting to make me nervous. And the kids told me that they are worried about where we’ll be sleeping. I want them to feel free, not afraid.

This week I’ll work on some modifications to the trip — a few hotel reservations, some goal dates to hit and maybe some pre-purchases of train and air travel within Europe so that I can get the best deals possible.

The purpose of our trip is to feel life without any restraints. As we approach departure, I’m noticing that the concerns are creeping into all of our minds. It’ll be my job this week to try and alleviate some of those concerns.

I’m not planning on going into the Louvre, but maybe playing tag on the lawn outside of it. I’m planning on showing the kids the Coliseum in Rome, but know they will care more about throwing Lire in the Trevi Fountain. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s perfect. We’ll go to Monza race track near Milan because Thing 1 read a book that describes the grand prix racing there. It’s also in the great book The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Long before I had children, I had the notion that I’d raise my children as people of the world, not just of a small community, a city, a state or one single nation. I wanted my children to be multi-lingual, have an open mind about people in the world around them. I wanted children that would have empathy for the needs and beauty of places beyond themselves. It is my hope that we, as a family, will grow from our journey together.

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Religionless Lent

Posted on Mar 14, 2011 in Featured, Thing 1, Thing 2 |

Religionless Lent

I knew when the kids asked about the meaning of Mardi Gras, that it was all over. Dang inquisitive little people are relentless on a mommy who doesn’t really want to talk about the murder of Christ while running carpool to ballet class. These conversations always happen in the car, and inevitably when I’m running late.

Where to start? Twelfth Night? The Three Kings? Magic? Dark magic Ann Rice-type stuff? Ash Wednesday? Sin? None quite appropriate for two smiley faced 7-year-olds. But again, my kids proved to me, as they always do, that they grasp the meaning of life so much more than I ever will.

I told them about Fat Tuesday and the meaning of the word Mardi Gras, I told them that the next day began a long, quiet time for Catholics who sacrifice something each year to remember Christ’s long, quite time in the desert away from family and friends. I told them when he came back that he was killed for the things he believed in. I told them, as to the best of my recollection from Catholic school,  that Easter was not about a bunny, but about Jesus rising from the dead. It’s hard to tell this story, because my own beliefs are more along the Spring Solstice than the death and rising of a man, but I tried to be objective. Yes, Fat Tuesday is a party, but it’s not just for party sake.

“I will give up ice cream for Lent,” my Thing 1 said frankly. “Me too. And guacamole,” my Thing 2 chimed in.

I explained that our family is not a family of religion, but of faith. I told them that this type of sacrifice was not necessary. They nodded at me in complete disagreement:

“I believe in the good of every religion. I believe in the good in every friend. I am going to do Lent with them, because if they are giving up something for what they believe in, they I should do it with them to make it easier.”

And so it was decided. My religionless little children, Christlike without knowing who Christ even is, decided our fate for the next 40 days.

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To Mom

Posted on Feb 24, 2011 in Family and Friends, Featured |

To Mom

Dear Mom,

You became a mother 40 years ago today on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Your world at 20-something had moved into a new chapter, forever shifting your life’s focus to being a parent. I wonder how you felt that day. I wonder if you felt, as I did at the moment I became a parent, that you had just participated in a miracle, leaving you breathless and full of joy you’d never known — you had become a mother.

I gain my daily and my abstract inspiration from you, mom. Unlike me, you are Pollyanna, always finding the good in every situation. And as time passes, I have tried to learn a bit of that from you — call it a Pollyanna Placebo, if you will. Being a true woman comes naturally to you. I am reminded every day I see you, that being a woman means being as brilliant as your mind can take you, as kind as your heart can muster, and, as strong as your body will push you. Being a woman, I’ve learned from you, is never compromised by being a lady. Being a lady comes first. Mom, you are quite a lady.

Today, I am 40. Today, no different than yesterday or tomorrow, I will rely on you for guidance, and take only half of it. I will look for your nod of approval and then question it from every angle. Today like all days, I’ll not quite be complete without seeing you or speaking with you. Unless I don’t, and that’s okay by you too. Today you’ll make me beef stroganoff even though I doubt anyone in the free world eats beef stroganoff anymore, you’ll do it for me like you do every year on my birthday. And today, you’ll make me a lemon cake because I love lemon cake, even if you don’t. Because you’re a mom and I’m your kid and it’s my birthday.

I have a million birthday memories with you, mom. Most are happy, some hard, some just getting through the day. My first memory of my life is my birthday party in our backyard on Bundy. I was wearing yellow and you were wearing a white lacy shirt. You made my cake, of course, and brought it outside. It was a cold afternoon and my feet were tingling and wet from the cold bricks. There was a rectangular table and my friends and I wore party hats. I remember you bringing out my cake with candles on it. It had white frosting. I’ll never forget that first memory as long as I live: my beautiful mother and my beautiful life and my beautiful birthday cake in the backyard.

There are others too — I can remember a very rainy birthday party where you were sick, much like you are right now, and Aunt Maria was there. I remember feeling claustrophobic, playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey on the wall in grandma’s livingroom on Teakwood. On my Sweet 16, you took a chunky, friendless girl and made a magical day for me, despite my pathetic teenhood. I remember my 21st birthday in college with a massive box filled with 21 gifts from you, each with a clue written on it and hand-wrapped. The 21st gift was a string of pearls. I love my pearls, I’m wearing them today. On my 30th birthday you quietly told me to pick boys over girls, not for judgement sake, but because it would just be less messy. Pregnant on my 32nd birthday, you bought me a soft black dress for a small fortune in a maternity size extra large. You made me feel pretty — and surprised! — at that secret fete.

Today, Mom, I’m excited to be 40. I can’t wait to celebrate with you. It is February 24. It’s the day you became a mother.

I love you.

Samantha

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The Manners Police

Posted on Jan 15, 2011 in Featured, Motherboard |

The Manners Police

Maybe it was over-the-top, or maybe I’m just from a bit of a different generation that my kids, but my childhood was filled with a mix of wild fun and play dotted by perfecting manners and etiquette from the age of 8. I spent endless weekends learning to pour tea (pour from the right, eldest/most senior woman served first) to working on my punch-drinking skills (take white gloves off, lay in lap, keep your head up). In retrospect, it seems a little intense, but I gots me some Emily Post skilz. I want to teach my kids manners that will help them navigate conversation and environment, and demonstrate grace when not nailing each other with Nerf darts.

Four tips I learned in finishing school (HA! DID I JUST TYPE THAT?!), that I’d like to pass along to my kidlets:

1. Ballroom Dancing: The Ode to Commander Unander. Every Friday night my brother and I would go to a hall with other kids in my neighborhood in our dressy clothes. I’d say it was itchy and uncomfortable, but actually, I liked wearing the dresses (below the knee), having my hair done nicely and wearing tiny high heels. The only thing I didn’t really like was the gloves. White gloves aren’t really becoming on anyone, especially on a girl like me with hands like Shaq.  Over several years we learned to dance ballroom with a strict, old, washed-up ballroom dancer. “Commander Unander” and his shiny black tuxedo shoes swept me across the room like a feather. I loved it. Learning to dance ballroom was a wonderful gift — I can still walz and foxtrot my way through any wedding reception without wrapping my arms around my date like a drunk prom girl.

2. Table Top Knowledge: AKA Why do I have three forks? I can remember sitting at a fellow manners freak parents’ house for table training. It looked like a dishwasher exploded in front of me, but in truth, it was pretty easy to decipher after just a few times of practice. When in doubt, work from outside by course with your utensils, unless you don’t, then the waiter is likely to save you. Just don’t use the same utensil for multiple courses or take it off the plate and put it on the table (that was the kiss of manners death). It was more than napkins on laps though. A lot of what we learned here was subtle: don’t push a plate away from you, use the butter knife to put butter on plate not on bread, drinks go on the right. So far we’ve got the kids setting the table for dinner as a first step.

3. Host Management: Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds. As a kid, my parents took me everywhere — from dinner parties to galas. There’s only one whale at any soiree: the hostess. Once you get the gist that it’s all about paying respect to her, you’ve got it made. Bring a gift (Not flowers or food, but instead a small gift  like a homemade card from kids or special soaps); look in her eye, give her a compliment about her home or food; and most of all, don’t do anything without the hostess doing it first. By that I mean don’t put any food in your mouth until she has. Neeeeevvver.

4. Food: Not See-Food. I don’t think I ever chewed a piece of food with my mouth open. I never remember doing it, anyway. My son, Thing 1, has never breached the open mouth gap, either. My dear Thing 2, however, is a see-food eater. Oh man, the battle. One thing I remember learning was a sure-fire way to help curb this food nightmare was to tell the kids to take very small bites. It helps, but it’s not full-proof. Counting to 10 while chewing is another trick. I’m all about learning opportunities, but this one I have no tolerance for. Chew with your mouth closed or don’t sit at my table.

I’ve come to understand that it’s not popular to teach etiquette to children in 2011 — I guess it comes off as snobby or wanna-be high class. I see it differently than that. I spent eight years as a kid going through manners training and in the end, I apply more of it today than most of high school classes put together. I want my kids to grow up with tools that will carry them from the house down the street to The White House and every little cottage along the way.

This post was inspired by the smarty pants team at the Yahoo! Motherboard. (#ymotherboard)

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