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

Posts Tagged "mommy"

Taking off Training Wheels

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 in Featured, Thing 1, Thing 2 |

Taking off Training Wheels

I taught my kids to ride their bikes on an overcast Saturday morning. It took all of ten minutes to teach them how, and at the bottom of this post, I’ll teach you how. It’s an amazing rite of passage and, for me, one that passed too quickly. I can remember so clearly watching them wobble down the park path, a mix of fear and triumph on their faces — I’m certain my face said the same. I was ready to peel them up off the road and kiss every boo-boo and failed attempt. And, I did.

Now, three years later, my kids can ride up to 15 miles, know road rules, ride in streets and on trails. But with this awesomeness, comes the letting go of being able to kiss it away when they crash, hit a hard bump or get distracted and smash into one-another, falling into an embarrassed heap. The kids fall, pick up their gear, their bikes and one-another. They inspect scrapes, wipe off dirt and get back on their bikes all before I can get to them and offer a mommy kiss. Sometimes I wish we could go back to training wheels.

Here’s my sure-fire way to get a kid off training wheels. Do exactly what I say and your kid will be riding the trails in no time at all. My kid were three turning four when I taught them to ride.

1. Tell them days ahead of time that by Sunday they will be riding without training wheels. Plan a ride together. Drive it, show it to them on a map. It’s a big person ride! Don’t say “if you get off your training wheels” or anything like that, it’s simply something that they *are* going to do with the family this weekend.

2. Remove the pedals. Some bikes require a tool for this and be sure to plan ahead if you need to take the bike to the bike store (If you live in San Jose,Hyland Bikes is the best place in town for this).

3. Lower the seat to the very lowest it can go.

4. Find a park with a slight incline path. This is an important part: Do not try this on a sidewalk. Again, if you live in San Jose, there is a great path near the tennis courts at Bramhall Park. Ideally it is wide with a very slight incline and grass on both sides.

5. Put your kid on the bike and pat their left thigh. Tell your child this is ONE. Pat the right thigh. This is TWO. Ask your child, “Which is one? Which is two?” Have them glide on the bike as you call out “One!” “Two!” They should put their foot down on the leg you are calling out. Have fun with this down the path a bit. If they lean a bit to the left, call out “Two!” to have them lean right. Get it?

6. Glide a few times using One and Two until they are comfortable with it. Slow down the timing of calling out. So call out “One!” then wait a second or two before calling out “Two!” The reason for this is to make sure your child is using the right timing in balancing their bodies and this simulates the amount of time it takes to rotate the legs on the pedals.

7. Put the pedals on. Try not to make a big deal of it. “Great! Now we put the pedals on.” Keep the seat low. Have your child do the One and Two count while just sitting still on the bike. One foot down then the other.

8. Hold onto the back of the seat and the one of the handlebars. Give a good push off and be sure to count outloud, “One!” “Two” as your child needs to balance on each side. If they tip right, call out “One!” to get them to shift balance to the left. You’re almost there.

9. Put the seat up slightly.

10. This is it. Repeat step 8 a few times and your child will be riding. I guarantee it.

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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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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 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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Thing 1 and the Tickle Monster

Posted on Feb 13, 2009 in Family and Friends, Thing 1 |

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My Name is Lexi

Posted on Jan 21, 2009 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Rants |

I’ve got a Starbucks name: Lexi. A lot of folks in my family have a Starbucks name (formerly known in my single days as my bar name), Spike, Fanny, Phyllis. I’m Lexi.

Lexi stands for Lexapro, the antidepressant I’ve been taking for two years. Better known at the happy pills, the meds, the livesaver, the be-more-of-me drug. I take such a low dosage of Lexapro that Scientologists probably get happier from smelling glue.

I know a frigging truckload of Stay-at-Home-Moms (SAHMS) that take some sort of anti-depressants. I’ve been thinking a lot about the SAHM culture the past week after four friends all were complaining of the blues.

Now before you start rubbing you play your micro-violin for me or tell me how SAHMs have been around for centuries or how lucky I am, let me tell you one thing: shut up. :) I know how lucky I am, as do my friends who are going through similar struggles. Being fortunate and having the blues are not related. Lucky, wealthy, mentally healthy, HAPPY people get the blues.

I read an article years ago — some special edition of Newsweek or one of those — about the depression and the stay-at-home-mom. It described the upper-middle class SAHM as one of the most depressed in our society: Get up, get on eliptical, get kids up, throw on clothes passing over the nice ones you used to wear as an executive, go into enclosed garage, get in car, drop kids at school, run errands, pick up kids at school, go home into enclosed garage, make dinner, go to bed. The article described the solitary life that is lived by these women. Relatively no human interaction, no use of their natural senses (smell of a subway, taste of a street vendor’s pretzel, touch of a crowded elevator). I’ve been crawling the web for this study, but have yet to find it. I remember, although not a parent at the time, that story really moved me. If you find it, sent it to me.

Why do so many SAHMS have the blues this time of year? There are too many of us in my small community to warrant it a coincidence. When I looked up the subject on Google, I got a zillion born-again Christians who tell you how great it is to be a SAHM (and inevitably a handful of recipes from making playdough to Wal-Mart dinners). On the other end are the SAHMs that are not in a happy, supportive environment like I am with blog headlines like “Fucked in Brooklyn” Those are the ones that kill me. Oh for god sake. And, if one more blog tells me that laughter is the best medicine…

Upper Middle Class SAHMS like me, are happy, smart, well-adjusted women. We’re brainy enough to have playground banter that goes beyond PB&J; we rally our local communities (just ask a certain County Supervisor who met me an a brigade of 100 at the local park when we demanded it fixed); we raise our children with conviction and humility and passion. We’re educated and we know how to take care of ourselves, even if it is a $10 copay on a good SSRI.

So what’s the deal this time of year? Here’s what I think:

* We put it all together for the holidays, we make everything warm and exciting and enticing. Then, come the first week of January, it’s all gone.

* We get to have almost a full month of family time — Thanksgiving through New Year’s we get our children, our spouses, our extended families. We get physically hugged more, spoken to, engaged with. Then, come the first week of January, everyone goes back to their lives, school, homes and the touching and warmth is gone.

* We get to have expanded or contracted budgets to accommodate the holidays — buy different foods at the grocery store, go shopping for gifts and special occasion clothes for our families. Then, come the first week of January, all of us are broke and the fun is gone.

* We get to engage with food that isn’t mac & cheese. We make family dishes during the holiday season, splurges, cookies, candies, tamales and cioppino. We get to drink more too (what a holiday without some Cheer?) — Then, come the first week of January, it’s gone and we’re left with five extra pounds and a worn-out liver.

* We get to spoil our children with toys and activities and make-your-own gingerbread houses to celebrate the season. We get to give them special treats and stay out late and go on tours of the lights and displays all around town. Then, come the first week of January, the lights are down, it’s cold and dark and the fun is gone.

What’s the solution? I’m guessing, there isn’t one. We, my dear friends, are doing a great job. And as my mom says, most things in life need a 1% course correction, not a sweeping 180-degree turn. I think, for me, knowing that the SAHM blues are valid this time of year is, for the most part, enough for me. And, knowing you’re having it too.

Chin up, friends. We’ve got ninjas to raise.


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