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

Posts Tagged "mom"

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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Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

Posted on Sep 23, 2010 in Featured, Rants, School |

Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

I can see the headline now, “Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher” with a horrific tale of a mother at wits-end with her child’s teacher. It’s not pretty. Trust me, because you’re looking at Mama Bear. Rowr.

I’ve been wondering what’s going on with my Thing 1, a normally fun-loving, silly, smart, smartass, school-loving kid. About a week after school started he began to refer to himself as “bad,” started lying, getting in trouble at school almost every day and yelling at his friends. At home, his regular excitement for school was replaced with silence. Something was wrong. I asked the doctor, talked to friends and to my Thing. Why the seismic shift? Somehow for all my investigation into what could be bothering my child, it never occurred to me that it was his new teacher that would be the cause.  And when it hit me — it hit me. Hard.

In a fit of frustration, I pounced on the poor woman. I screamed and pointed and cried. I smashed my hand into my fist and went off on her, “YOU are the reason my child is unhappy. You know what’s wrong with him? YOU! YOU!” Oh, that was just the beginning. I went completely off-the-deep-end. After 10 minutes, I left, exhausted and frustrated. She had said nothing.

Somehow, the mystery had clicked for me and I was mad as hell. I — who writes strategic marketing plans for school programs for fun, who worships my kids’ teachers and promotes their school and their programs like it’s a full-time job — completely let-loose. Never mind that this woman is a  seasoned, highly regarded teacher with a stellar reputation.  I was the mama bear protecting her baby and there was nothing that was going to stop me from letting this woman know how I felt.

I went home and was sorry. Not sorry that I’d finally gotten to the bottom of what was going on with my kid, but sorry that I’d spoken to someone with such passion. I wrote an apology note immediately, but you and I both know, an apology at that point is worthless, I caused more damage than she could have ever done to my kid. I am now going to be known as the crazy mom that went off on her kid’s teacher.

The next day I read about the father who had boarded a school bus to defend his daughter being bullied. The normally upstanding guy with a nice family and good home simply lost it. He told CNN the next day: “She finally opened up and told me what was going on,” Jones said. “And from there, you know, being a dad just loving my daughter … and just loving all my kids, you know. … [At] that point, my heart broke when I [saw] her standing there … [she] wasn’t going to get on the bus crying. And a dad is a dad. And I was going to be her protector that day.”

I can relate. Truly. My feelings as a mom overruled any logical, reasonable behavior I could have mustered. I truly feel for James Jones as a parent and as a dad who was overcome by the need to protect his child. I feel for him as a parent who must apologize, like I did, for behavior unbecoming to any upstanding person. I feel for him as a man who made a bad situation worse, because that’s just what I did. I made it about me, not about the issue.

There is something carnal about parents and their children. Maybe it’s instinct to protect or an overwhelming sense of responsibility to make their lives as happy and peaceful as they can possibly be. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction that bears have to their cubs — keeping danger at bay with all the ferociousness they can muster. Maybe I’m just a mom.

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Scheduling Freak

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 in Featured, Motherboard |

Scheduling Freak

Some people call me the Sleep Nazi. Others call me the Schedule Freak. Call me what you want, I’ve got the magic trick to getting kids (well, at least mine), to adapt to school easily.

Maybe you’ve read all the how-to books. You’ve mastered The Happiest Baby in the Condo Complex or whatever. You’ve changed sleep habits and Tivo’d SuperNanny. Do what you want. I’ve got your ticket to kids being ripe for transition. How did I get so smart? Dora the Fricking Explorer. Seriously. And even today, five years after I have even laid my eyes on Dora,  my kids will go back to school with the same tricks I’ve used all these years. Watch me as I head back into my alter ego: The Schedule Freak.

Here is the Dora magic (and hellno, I am not a Dora representative, fan or even particularly fond of the show). Dora tells things in threes, Dora repeats the tasks, Dora has rewards at the end, Dora includes the children in the journey. Dora sets expectations. Dora is more of a scheduling freak then I am: “Big Tree. Wide River. Magic Forrest!” Not only does the character tell things in threes, she’s super clever in that she repeats what has been done, so there is accomplishment throughout the journey. “We’ve climbed the big tree — now we need to find the Wide River to get to the Magic Forrest!” This repetition is enough to drive a parent crazy. Until, you can use that chubby little four-year-old to your benefit.

I started with simple stuff when the kids were about 3-years-old:  “First we’re going to the post office to send mail! Then we’re going to the grocery store to find fresh fruit! Then we’ll come home and make dinner!” I realized an immediate difference. The kids were invested in the process and loved the idea of being included. There were no secrets, certain conclusions and full knowledge that they wouldn’t be sitting endlessly in their carseats. Their tasks had a purpose. Shazam!

As they grew a bit older,  I worked up to more complex rhythms: “First we’re going to get dressed, then we’re going to see grandma and then we’ll have lunch at the park.” The rhythms were more vague (get dressed means teeth brushing, clothes, hair, shoes) but the final task was always a reward (free time). The game still worked.

By school age, the kids craved the patterns: “We’re going to have breakfast, get dressed and go to school,” soon morphed into “We’re going to do our morning thing (breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, hair shoes, etc.), then we’re going to school (six hours of tasks), and then mommy will pick you up.” My children never spent one day afraid of school — they knew what came next. Call it kid empowerment, call it transparency. I call it Doraisms.

Today the Dora rhythm is still in-play at our home.  The key to Dora-esque scheduling of kids and grownups like them:

1. Use a wide angle lens. Let the kids know what is happening in the big picture. We have a dry erase calendar and as they eat breakfast and dinner, they look at the calendar to know what’s going on around them. They count down just like Dora does. “Five days until we sleep over at Aunty’s house.”

2. Give them a Daily Dose. I let my kids know the schedule as it unfolds each day. They can not only depend on their schedule, but also trust that their needs will be met. If it’s a school day it works like this:

7 a.m. Wake up, cuddle time (15 minutes), no TV or videos

7:30 a.m. To the kitchen for breakfast and morning chat about daily expectations

8 a.m. Brush teeth, get dressed, brush hair, find your way to the front door for shoes and backpacks.

8:30 a.m. Leave for school

2:50 p.m. Mommy, La Gringa, Grandma or Aunty/Uncle pick you up. No exceptions, no disappointment (Dora doesn’t say, “Oh, go with the Grumpy Old Troll because mommy has a conference call)

3:30 p.m. Home, wash hands, change clothes.

3:45 p.m. Snack, homework

4:30 p.m. Play

6 p.m. Shower, jammies, cuddles

6:30 p.m. Dinner

7 p.m. Read with @La_Gringa

7:30 p.m. Lights out

3. Give them some Wiggle Room. Adding in spontaneity is key to a highly scheduled kid. My kids live and breathe their schedule, but they know if I tell them, “Today we’re going to chill out,” they will get more creative. This third part is vital to the life of a scheduled child: NO SCHEDULE. The entire reason to schedule my kids is so that I can break the schedule. The ability for my kids to adapt is important to me. I am learning daily how to make sure there is enough wiggle room for the kids to drive their own Doraisms.

As the back-to-school frenzy begins, I find myself happier than much of the unscheduled summertime. The kids knew their patterns for today and followed them beautifully. They wiggled-in an hour of four square, I squeezed in a quick trip to the fish market. In watching my children’s growth, I have come to understand that the Dora scheduling philosophy might have set patterns for my family that are so much greater than I ever imaged. Setting the patterns clearly, the goals cleanly and the success certain are the keys to Dora’s trove of wisdom that I hold so dear.

This post is for the topic of Back to School from my dear friends at the Yahoo! MotherBoard.

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Cardboard Cutout Grandma

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 in Family and Friends, Featured |

Cardboard Cutout Grandma

My kids are fed up. They’re sick of both of their grandmas being sick. Their sick of us being sick of it. They’re sick of changes in schedule, flip-flopping of plans, and modifying just about everything. They don’t like it. They hate it. And they’ve decided to replace their grandmothers with a lifesize cardboard cutout.

This late-night announcement came just hours after Grandma J’s lung cancer surgery and minutes after Grandma’s decision to delay her Alaskan cruise scheduled for today. This of course means that the kids couldn’t go on the giant cruise ship for a tour — this grandma sick business is really cutting into their summer fun.

Our moms are both sick. @La_Gringa’s mom had a cancerous tumor cut from her right lung yesterday — a horrifying orderal that’s gone on for over a year. Despite crap-house stats for lung cancer, Grandma J. looks to beat the odds with a very early stage tumor and extremely good overall health. But yesterday, during the five-hour surgical procedure, it sure didn’t feel like the good news that it is. It felt like hell for the entire family. And although kids are clueless sometimes, it was hard to miss the frightening undertone from the past several months. They sense that something is out of kilter, even if they can’t put their finger on it.

My mom is doing better, but not better enough to be better enough to travel. Complications from CIDP, Lupus, Hepatitis and skin cancer are messing with her vital organs and she can’t risk being away from medical care if things dip, even slightly. Just 16 hours before departing for a week-long cruise, the doctor pulled the plug. Mother fricker. The blows just keep coming.

The kids don’t care about the wheelchair or Grandma’s ballooned-up face. Really they don’t. But it does affect them, “I am sick of my grandma being sick,” Thing 2 said while waiting for her pasta to arrive yesterday. “I’m hungry and dont’ want to talk about this,” replied Thing 1. Ah, the female-male dynamic of managing crisis. They went on later to tell me they wish they could make a life-size cardboard cutout of their grandmas and carry them around doing all the normal stuff they are used to doing. Convinced that they could still visit the cruise ship, they schemed how to make a cardboard replacement for grandma. “What’s the difference? We can put the fake grandma in a wheelchair and just roll her up the plank to the ship.” The planning went on and on until I chimed in:

You can make a fake grandma and take her anywhere you want,  but your real grandma will still be here waiting to do it herself.

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Is Boyscouts Morally Wrong for Us?

Posted on Mar 23, 2010 in Family and Friends, Featured, Rants |

Is Boyscouts Morally Wrong for Us?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out that my kid would not be welcome as a Boy Scout.

I knew that there would be places and people along the way that could pose issues for my child from having been born to same-sex parents. I had done my homework. It was only after a lot of research, thought, prayer, self-torture that I decided to have children by an anonymous sperm donor. As my children began growing up,  I prepared myself and them for the day that we might be ostracized.  And now, at the ripe age of 6 1/2, the day is here: My son wants to be a BoyScout.

I knew before I had children that being in the Boy Scouts was a likely no-go because of their (shockingly legal) stand on gay people.  What I didn’t account for was that my son would want to be a Boy Scout so badly that I’d have to consider foregoing my own moral standards, and consider my son’s desire to be part of an organization that discriminates against his parents.

If you don’t know the back-story, here’s the brief recap: In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled (Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale) that The Boy Scouts of America was a private organization and could set whatever criteria they wanted for their membership. Today, the organization legally prohibits Atheists, Agnostics and Gay people. The organization fought to uphold the right to ban and refuse membership to any of the above. The ruling stands today.

My son is the grandchild of two Eagle Scouts who, by all accounts with the exception of faith,  follow the Boy Scout creed and, indeed, are two of the most moral people I have ever known. To follow in their footsteps would be a great honor and my son believes with all of his heart that he will grow up to be like his granddads and obtain the very special honor of Eagle Scout. My first question was to my step dad who told me that the national organization had little to do with the local troops — it was all about the scout master and not about the politics. He might be right.

When I contacted our local troop leader, she replied with the following:

” Pack *** is a family centered group, our focus and concern is with the child and welcome any boy wanting to participate in scouting.  Our Pack does not discriminates against anyone due to their color, race, or religious practices.  We encourage active participation of all  family members regardless of what makes up a scouts family.  We do not address private, personal, or political issues at the pack level.  That is not our focus, again, the scout is our focus and concern.  I hope to see your son there and look forward to meeting you.”

This gave me great hope, and I planned a date to take my son to his first meeting. That was until I was sent the 2010 Boy Scouts of America Bylaws, which states:

“We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed and homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”

With that creed in-tow, a two-mom family’s son was kicked out of boy scouts in Vermont in 2009. It was followed by a deep decline in membership and loss of sponsorship including the United Way, director and Eagle Scout Steven Spielberg, Levi Strauss, Chase Bank and CVS. Entire states withdrew annual contributions. Religious organizations including the United Church of Christ, the Secular Coalition of America, and the Unitarian Universalists all issued statements indicating that any form of discrimination was against the teachings of Christ.

Despite all of this support, I remain confused about our decision about whether or not to allow our son to participate in Boy Scouts. I never want my child deprived of anything because of my personal choices. My partner and I talked about what to do. Do we want to roll the dice and allow him to participate, knowing that he could get kicked out? Should we  try and divert efforts to something like Adventure Guides, the YMCA version of Boy Scouts? I have friends who have refused to be a part of Boy Scouts because it discriminates openly; are we hypocritical if we don’t follow suit?

Last week we sat down with our boy and explained to him the basic facts as cleanly and with as little opinion as we could muster.  After he told us that he would karate chop anybody that didn’t like his two moms, he told us simply, “I want to go for it anyway. I know they could kick me out.”

The decision is here, yet  I’m unable to make it without reservation. The Boy Scout law states that: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”  Oh, the hypocrisy — if only the Boy Scout organization acted with the same vigor of their Law, then my son could have the chance to follow in the footsteps of their granddads and be an Eagle.

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My Baby Daddy is a Number

Posted on Oct 9, 2009 in Family and Friends, Featured |

My Baby Daddy is a Number

Some people make love to make a baby, I made an Internet purchase.

I must have been 10 or so when I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be a mother. It was all I’ve ever really wanted to be. There was no career, life experience or world travel that could compare to the need. Motherhood was always my destiny. And as life would have it, I was faced with making my own destiny happen.

I decided in my mid-twenties, that by the time  I turned 30, I’d be a parent. I figured if I wasn’t married, I’d hook up with a hot guy in a bar and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’m, imakeababy. Not so easy. Somewhere along the way a  friend of mine offered his “goods” and I told him I’d let him know if I’d ever need them. When I turned 31, a year past my goal date, I asked him to donate sperm. He broke my heart when he told me no, since he had been diagnosed HIV Positive. After a soul-searching trip to Mexico, I came back with a new plan: I would find a sperm donor. I would be inseminated. I would have a child. And that is exactly what I did.

First on my list was getting rip-roaring drunk. I spent New Year’s Eve so lit, singing “Proud Mary” on my rented karaoke machine for hours on-end. When I couldn’t handle Tina Turner anymore, I switched to “Amazing Grace.” I had wanted one last hurrah before delving into the point-of-no-return of motherhood. You can imagine how I felt the next day, January 1, 2002. That was the day  I vowed to spend a year focusing on keeping my body very healthy including a ton of organic, fresh food, limited alcohol and moderate exercise. I got my privates checked out by a great OBGYN.  I took my BBT temperature every.single.day and logged it. I took prenatal vitamins but refused any kind of fertility drugs.  I parallel processed all of this with a year of research. I wanted to know just how f-ed up my child was going to be from choosing to have a kid with a test tube. I read everything I could get my hands on, including reports from the Journal of Pediatric Medicine, excerpts from the Journal of American Psychology, researching the ramifications of anonymous sperm donors versus known donors (kinda self-explanatory) and anything else that I could find.Bottom line: Sperm donor kids were just as well-off across the board as their “normal” counterparts.

My second step was to find a donor. Over 30,000 children are born each year from anonymous sperm donors. I narrowed my search by picking the best tissue bank clinic in the US. I was not going to mess around with quality here. Then I started narrowing down what kind of person I’d want to father my children. Not what kind of father I wanted my children to have, but rather what kind of genes I wanted my child to have.  I wasn’t married to this person, I was breeding with this person. I guess I know how horse racing legend Seattle Slew’s breeders must have felt. Well, at least that horse got some action when conceiving…

I had priorities. I wanted a donor that was tall, since height isn’t a great hereditary trait in our family. I wanted someone with a squeaky clean family medical background. I wanted him to be smokin’ hot, but I was willing to sacrifice that for someone who was educated. In the end, I’d read hundreds of donor profiles. When I found the donor on a random Tuesday night — 11 months, two weeks later — I knew it instantly. Maybe it was that he liked spicy food and travel. Or it could have been the curve of his writing on a downloaded PDF file. No matter. I ordered the goods immediately. By Saturday morning, I was pregnant with twins.

My children are 6-years-old now. They know a very special man helped mommy have babies. They know, they know that mommy wanted them so much that I went to a doctor to help me have them. My children know that most families come with a mommy and a daddy. My children know that all questions about their conception are answered. They know mommy will never lie to them about where they come from. Somehow transparency makes the whole topic a lot less interesting to them. I know they’re going to have lots more questions as time goes on. They might want to contact the donor since about 1 in 3 children of anonymous sperm donors express that interest. I’m ready for it if they do.

As for me, I pray every single day for the dude with the “goods.” I know that donating sperm helped pay his student loans or rent and nothing more. Wherever he is, I hope he is happy. Whatever his dreams, I hope they came true. He gave me my greatest dream come true. I can only wish the same in return.

Original post to SV Moms.


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