Saturday, May 29, 2010


I feel like this whole teen thing has kind of snuck up on me, and I don't feel ready for it at all. One day Kevin was this sweet little boy who watched Blue's Clues, and suddenly I blinked and here he is a teenager, wanting to do teenage things.

Today he was at a friend's house down the street. He called me and asked me if it was okay for his friend's 18-year-old brother and his 20-year-old friend to take Kevin and his friend (the 18 y/o's little brother, age 12) to Carl's Jr. to pick up food. As in, in a car. Caught me completely off guard, although it's funny, I've had flashes lately of Kevin being in high school in a couple years (actually, in ONE year and THREE months, to be exact) and getting into friends' cars, and how am I going to feel about it and what ground rules am I going to lay down. Anyway, I told him I needed a few minutes to think about it and that I would call him back. I consulted with Michael, who thought it would probably be okay this one time, but admitted that it would be breaking the ice, so to speak, for future, similar requests. I agonized about it for about five minutes. Of course I want Kevin to be happy, and I don't want to be the sort of mom who doesn't let her kid do anything, because that just sets the stage for sneaking around and rebellion (I speak from experience). On the other hand, teenage drivers - particularly teenage boy drivers - freak me the fuck out. I don't think people under 20 should be driving. And I'm not kidding. They just don't have the good judgment that is required to handle such a massive responsibility as driving around a deadly weapon. I quickly envisioned the worst: Kevin splattered all over the road, and me suicidal with grief, wishing I could turn back the clock and say "No, you may not ride in a car with so-and-so's brother, I'm just not comfortable with it." Then I quickly pulled myself back to reality, called Kevin back, and told him just that: "No, I'm sorry, you may not ride in a car with so-and-so's brother, I'm just not comfortable with it." He copped a little bit of 'tude over it, but not too bad.

People talk about how horrible the teenage years are, how kids turn into aliens with chips on their shoulders when they hit the teen years. It's true that the attitudinal aspect is tough, but so far I am finding that the hardest part is just this whole process of letting go, of trying to figure out which lines to draw and where, of feeling inept as a parent because this is all completely uncharted territory, and of knowing that you've finally reached that point where, at least to some degree, you have to step back and just hope that all the lessons and values you've tried to instill in them will guide them to make good, smart choices.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

Wow, lots of comments on this one! I appreciate them all. I would have liked to hear from some teachers, especially teachers who are also parents.

Let me say first that I hold my kids' teachers in the highest regard. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for what they do. We've been very fortunate to have landed with some really great teachers over the years.

That said, here's my beef:

First of all, this Teacher Appreciation Week came right on the heels of Mother's Day. Now, I'm not going to enumerate all the trials and toils we mothers face in the process of gestating, birthing, and raising these kids, but suffice to say that it involves much blood, sweat, tears, money, sleepless nights, worry, loss of sense of self, sacrifice of bathroom privacy, loss of ability to eat meals without having to share with grubby little fingers, sacrifice of ability to carry on phone conversations, willingness to be pooped on, vomited on, peed on, bled on, have snot wiped upon, and have one's heart stomped upon by doing all of this only to hear, "I want DAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYY!" And this goes on for years. Not just a measley nine months out of the year. And we mothers don't get paid for what we do, either. Okay, I know teachers are underpaid. But everyone knows they're underpaid. They go into it knowing they're going to be underpaid. I would venture a guess that nobody goes into teaching thinking they're going to become rich from it.

Okay, it's not a contest, but let's get a little perspective here, folks. A week? Really? Whose idea was that? I want a week. Mother's Week. I'm thinking of lobbying the Powers That Be for it, actually.

The whole thing just hit me all kinds of wrong ways. After being asked to shell out money week after week after week all the school year long, I really had to stifle a scream when this flyer came home. It's not that $8 is going to break me (actually $16 since I have twins in kindergarten). It's the principle of it. More money, more money, more money.

I started the school year off by providing a big shopping bag per each of my kids full of supplies for their classrooms. I've written checks for fundraisers. Every field trip costs money now. Public education is no longer free, my friends.

And now this. It just gets to be old, constantly being asked for more.

Not any single item on the list of gifts and treats is problematic. It's all of it taken together. It's A LOT, in my book. The PTA luncheon - who do you think foots the bill for that? So, we're supposed to bring in a little gift AND contribute to the fund for the big group gift? And yeah, at $8 a kid, we're looking at around $240 for a group gift. That's quite a lot!

What bothers me the most is the obligatory nature of it all. None of this is presented as optional. The Room Parents have decided that this is what we're doing to show our appreciation, and we parents are expected to take part, even though nobody asked us what we think. That doesn't sit well with me. And really, how much does required appreciation mean anyway? Isn't something kind of lost in requiring it?

In past years, I have chosen to not take part in the group Christmas gift to the teachers, or the Teacher Appreciation/End of Year teacher gift, because I'd rather show my appreciation on my own, in my own way. That seems more meaningful to me. But I have found that the Room Parents will then hound me about it. I've been shadowed before and after school by Room Parents reminding me (over and over) to turn in my contribution. It's beyond annoying. I told the Room Parent last year that I was getting a gift for the teacher on my own, and she actually got a little pissy with me!

What is it with these Room Parents, anyway? Sometimes it seems like they take their position a little too seriously. Or it seems rather political almost - like, what are they after? Is this how they try to gain status for their kids in the school, or curry favor to get their children placed in the classes they want or something? Or maybe some of them just have too much time on their hands, and being Room Parent is their thing. I actually have a good friend who is a Room Parent in her child's class at a different school, and she told me that there tends to be some competition between some of the Room Parents to do the most, and get the most for their teachers. What the hell is that all about?

Bottom line: I think it's way too much to ask of parents, especially when said parents have been being asked to give, give, give all year long, and chances are, said parents have multiple kids in multiple classes, and are therefore being hit up from all sides. I think one day of Teacher Appreciation would be plenty, and I, personally would appreciate the whole thing being toned down.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's About Time!

Behold, the lost tooth:

This came out this morning. Finally. Joey will be 8 years old here in a few short weeks, and this is only the third baby tooth he's let go of. And I do mean let go of. He lost his two front bottom teeth about a year ago after their having been loose for about six months. His two top front teeth have been loose forever. He's been completely freaked out about them coming out. He's very, very squeamish about blood, for one thing. For another . . . uh, actually I don't know what the other things might be.

Anyway, so this morning, it was clear that this tooth needed to come out. It was so loose it was practically blowing in the wind. After much drama and tears and threats from me and Dad that we would gladly remove it for him, he went into the bathroom and yanked it himself. Could a mom be more proud?

And really, I thought this boy could not possibly get any cuter, but I was wrong. He's even more handsome with the gap, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts, please.

I'd like to know your thoughts about this. Even if you never comment here, let me know what you think of this. Please be frank.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Word on the street is that two seventh graders at Kevin's school had sex in the restroom at school during school hours recently, and got caught. This is not idle gossip - it happened. The details are fuzzy (i.e., how they got caught, etc.). But the police were involved, and from what I hear, the two kids involved have been removed to different schools now.

Hell's Bells. Seventh grade. Thirteen years old. Kevin is a thirteen year-old in seventh grade.

So this prompted a conversation with him this afternoon. I first asked him if he knew anything about this incident. Yes, he had heard rumors. Yes, he knows of the two kids involved, though he's not friends with either of them. I laid it straight out for him: "The fact is, Kevin, kids your age are having sex. And maybe you're not thinking about it now, but there will come a time eventually when you'll start seeing girls in a whole new light, and you will be thinking about sex. It's a really, really big deal. It's a huge responsibility. I want you to respect yourself enough to believe that it's sacred, and that it should only be shared with someone you really care about, and who cares about you. There can be really big consequences for engaging in irresponsible behavior like what those two kids did." And I told him how when I was in junior high school, a classmate of mine got pregnant and dropped out of school when she was 14 (true story). And another girl in high school dropped out to have a baby. And I told him "Making a bad choice like that can have a really big and really bad impact on the rest of your life. You can catch a disease, too." He said, "Yeah, I know, Mom. It's called AIDS." "AIDS is only the worst disease you can get. There are lots of other diseases you can get as well."

Am I trying to scare him? Yeah, I guess a little. Mostly I'm just really trying to impress upon him what a big, big deal this is. It's not something to be taken lightly. He was very uncomfortable and fidgety during the conversation. I did pretty much all the talking (and believe me, it's not the most comfortable topic for me to talk about with my adolescent son, either). I also tried to impart to him that his dad and I are always here to talk if he's got things on his mind.

But I'll tell you, this kid just does not open up. It's like pulling teeth to get anything out of him as far as what he's feeling.

There are lots of emails going back and forth between him and those two girls. Several every day. I'm not digging it. And I've found myself getting very caught up in it all, about what they say to Kevin and how he responds. The one girl, C, the one Kev's known since third grade, has reiterated to him that "Dang, your parents are Strict, with a capital S :(" I'm trying to figure out why this is bothering me so much. It doesn't bother me that she sees us as strict, but I get a sense that she's kind of disrespecting us. Which I suppose is typical behavior for a thirteen year-old. It feels like we're treading a bit on Peer Pressure territory . . . like she's trying to get him to see that his parents are too strict, perhaps? I sense a suggestion from her that he shouldn't be too happy about it. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

The other girl, N, the one who Kevin has never met face to face, she's definitely flirting with him and pursuing him. Little chippy. And he appears to be enjoying the attention. Perhaps, just like with adults, it's easier to say things and behave a certain way behind the shield of a computer screen than in person, but I still find myself not liking these email exchanges between them. There has been nothing overtly inappropriate, but where is this flirting leading to? I'm concerned. And now watchful. She wants his cell phone number now. So I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see how he's going to handle that one. Because the rule is that he isn't supposed to give his cell phone number out to anyone, because his cell phone isn't for socializing - it's to keep in touch with us when he's away from home, period. So what's he going to do? Tell her that he's not allowed to give out his cell phone number and risk being seen as a square? Or break the rule we've made and give her his number? I almost feel bad for him, being in that spot. But this is only the beginning as far as peer pressure and making choices go. They also keep talking about meeting at the schoolyard over some weekend to talk about their "band." In the past, I have had no problem with Kevin meeting a friend at the schoolyard to hang out, but I can say for sure that he will not be meeting members of the opposite sex without adult supervision. Not at this age. They (generally) are clearly on the cusp of developing decidedly unchildlike feelings. I'd like to meet this girl face to face, let her see my face. I'd like to meet her parents and impart to them that their daughter is sending flirty emails to a boy she's never met. Because I would want to know if my thirteen year-old daughter was doing this.

Ahhhh. Honestly? I feel like my heart is breaking a little. I feel like I'm losing my boy. I mean, I know I'm really not - not yet. He's still here, he still needs his mom, he still needs hugs from me and for me to tuck him in every night. But he's growing up. He's got secret feelings and a whole other life outside of this house and this family that has nothing at all to do with me. It's very painful, this gradual separation. He's taking a piece of my heart with him as he slowly grows away from me.

And I have no idea at all if I'm doing this parenting thing the right way.

Understanding Sex Offender Registries

I meant to include this in my post yesterday because I think it is worth noting. This is an excerpt from the Joyful Child Foundation booklet I picked up yesterday:

"There are a variety of online sex offender registries that people may use to search for registered sex offenders in a given neighborhood. These registries are a valuable tool, but it is important to understand the service and level of accuracy that these databases provide. First and foremost, you should remember that online registries are databases of convicted sex offenders who are required to register themselves as sex offenders. It is up to states to determine which sexually based crimes warrant registry. Not all states, counties or even judges use the same criteria for establishing which crimes warrant registry. The federal government, furthermore, has established guidelines for recommended sentencing and registries, but they are guidelines and not mandates, which means that, ultimately, the decision to register a sex offender is up to state governments and/or based on the individual case. In fact, few states comply with federal law.

"Not all convicted sex offenders are required to register publicly. This means that there are sex offenders who will not appear on public registries although they do register with local law enforcement agencies. When a convicted sexual predator is required to register, it is also important to understand that they do not necessarily have to register for life. The term of the registry may be as little as a few months or as long as the perpetrator's life. Furthermore, registries are created based on publicly available records and self reporting. If someone's record is protected by the court system, it will not appear in a registry. Most states rate sex offenders' level of risk to re-offend from 1 to 3, 1 being the lowest risk. Some states only publish the information of high-risk offenders. If a sex offender fails to register himself or herself, they may not be in the registry at all or their information may be incorrect. Furthermore, if a sex offender registers as homeless, they will only be searchable by name and not by location.

"Harassing anyone on the offender registry is a punishable crime that can not only result in jail time and monetary fines, but may lead to a sex offender's registry record becoming protected by the court. The purpose of sex offender registries is to identify sexual predators so that you may keep yourself and your children away from them. The registries are not to be used as a tool to hunt them down. Vigilante aggression against registered sex offenders will jeopardize public notification thereafter, reversing the progress we have made.


"Once you begin checking the sex offender registries, you will find sex offenders in your neighborhood. It is a good idea to find out what type of sex offender this person is based on what crimes they have been convicted of. Keep in mind that many offenders have had their offenses reduced as part of a plea bargain process to avoid a criminal trial."

A good example of a sex offender's record being protected by the court is in the case of an offender who is a minor. It is not uncommon for a teenage perpetrator's record to be expunged when s/he reaches adulthood. Ummm, I'm talking from personal experience here. I am related to somebody who molested a four-year old neighbor girl as a teenager and spent six months in juvenile detention for it. His court record was expunged when he turned 18, so there is no public record of his crime. And sadly, studies and statistics all show that sexual predatory crimes are never a one-time occurrence; chances are if there is no record of this person having committed any further sexual offenses over the years, it's only because he hasn't been caught.

Personally, I have never checked any of the public registries for sex offenders in my neighborhood. It's probably foolish, but it seems to me that there are too many loopholes, like the ones outlined in this booklet. And really, what about the sex offenders who undoubtedly live in every neighborhood who haven't been caught, and therefore have never been required to register? I pretty much treat every neighbor as a potential sex offender, meaning I keep a very close watch on my kids and we are very clear with them about safety, and who and under what circumstances it's safe to talk to and interact with, and who and when not. Although there are always further measures that can be taken, and I'm really interested in this radKIDS program.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I went to church today.

Shocking, huh?

Okay, it was really only a chapel. Strictly for funerals, apparently. But it still looked and felt like a church. And they let me in! And I didn't melt like the Wicked Witch did when Dorothy threw water on her!

Anyway, don't worry, I haven't gone and found God or anything. Joey was asked to perform in a recital by his piano teacher. And here he is:

Can't really see his handsome face, but you can hear him tickling the ivories.

This actually was not your run of the mill piano recital. This was an event to raise funds and awareness for missing persons. Joey's (and Daisy's and Annabelle's) piano teacher, Jannel, has a sister who vanished without a trace ten years ago. She's never been found, and Jannel founded, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about missing persons.

Although Jannel's sister, Gina, was an adult when she went missing, Jannel focuses a lot on missing children as well - something none of us like to think about. At the event today, thirteen missing children were profiled, and flyers for each of them were available for attendees to take and post in public areas in their neighborhoods.

After all of Jannel's students performed their various musical and vocal talents, Erin Runnion spoke.

If you don't know who Erin Runnion is, she is the mother of a beautiful little girl, Samantha Runnion, who was abducted by a stranger while she was playing outside with a friend right outside her home almost eight years ago. Her body was found the next day, dumped about seventy miles away. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled. She was not quite six years old. She was abducted just a hop, skip, and a jump from my neighborhood, so it was all over the local news. I remember it very well, and how sad and horribly unsettling it was. It was right after Joey was born, and at the time, Kevin was about the same age as little Samantha.

Anyway, Erin Runnion, Samantha's mother, is an amazing woman. I honestly can't think of anything more devastating than losing one's child - under any circumstances. But I would imagine knowing your child had been so heinously victimized and brutalized might be especially nightmarish. I honestly don't know how people find the strength and resilience to go on in the wake of something like that. But go on is exactly what Erin has done, becoming an outspoken advocate for children. She founded The Joyful Child Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping communities protect their children from predators. She also talked about radKIDS, a "Personal Empowerment, Safety Education, and Violence Prevention" program for kids, which I personally am going to look into.

I picked up a pamphlet, too, that has all kinds of information and resources, and I thought I'd share the resources pages here for anyone who is interested (the links aren't clickable but easy enough to type into your browser):

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Apparently, we have a reputation for being "strict" parents among some of Kevin's friends.

Okay, I confess: I've been peeking at his email from time to time, even though I said I wasn't going to read them anymore. They come through on my iPhone. I don't read every single one word for word anymore, most of them I ignore, but I've reserved the right to periodically skim.

I digress.

At first when I read it in an email from this girl who Kevin has been emailing back and forth with (more on that in a minute), to wit:

"I heard from c---- that ur parents are really stricked thats too bad :("

. . . I was a little taken aback and a tiny tad offended. But just for a split second. Okay, so we're strict! Yes, we have clear rules and boundaries for our kids. That's a good thing! And I think it's better to be known as "the strict parents" among one's teenage children's friends than "the cool parents."

Anyway. So this girl. No idea who she is. Never met her. In fact, Kevin's never met her. She's a friend of a friend (another girl) whom Kevin has known since the third grade. All three of them are seventh graders now, although Kevin does not attend the same school that the two girls attend. Kevin lost touch with the one girl for a while and has recently been back in touch with her. She suggested to Kevin that they form a BAND. (I am trying not to snicker here.) It's true that Kevin has been taking drum lessons for several months, and he's actually getting pretty good at it. The girl, C, has envisioned herself in the role of guitarist for said band, despite the fact that she neither owns a guitar nor has ever taken any lessons. Okay. Anyway, so she's got this friend (the serial e-mailer mentioned above), N, who is in choir at school and so, naturally, will be the singer of the band. So the three of them have been emailing each other about this band they've (not) formed. But I have to say that N, the girl I've never met, seems to be rather forward. She seems very eager to meet Kevin and "hang out." She apparently can't wait to sing a duet with him. "LOL." She seems rather flirty in her emails. And I wonder: do her parents know? Do they know that she's sending rather forward, flirty emails to some strange 13-year old boy she's never met? Because if it were me? I'd have a big problem with that. Huge.

This is all new parenting territory for us. Kevin and C have known each other for a number of years, and up until they were 11 and even 12, they still had "playdates" once in a while, which consisted of Kevin going to C's house and playing video games and such. He's clearly beyond the age of playdates now. He's still innocent. And I'm not just saying that. He's what I think will end up being something of a later bloomer. He's grown taller over the last year, but he's still a boy. I think at this point he still views girls very platonically and might be a little scared of them even. But the winds of change are a blowin'. I'm not naive. One of these days, the lightbulb is going to flash on over his head and he's going to see girls in a whole 'nuther light, my friends. And the thing is, girls tend to "get there" often before boys do, and this girl seems to have gotten there - meaning she's flirting, she's interested, she's pursuing. Which makes me downright nervous.

So we're trying to keep the lines of communication open with him. I've asked him innocently, "So, I notice you like to check your email a lot these days. Who are you emailing?" And he did mention several friends, including this girl, N. And Michael had a talk with him the other day, you know, man to man, about girls being forward and guys having to be careful and never taking advantage, etc., etc.

And of course Kevin was horrified to be having such a discussion.



And then, today, Kev received news that his grandpa has cancer. His grandma told him on the phone. When he got off the phone, he told me, "Grandpa has cancer." His face looked . . . held together is the best way I can describe it. He walked away. At first I was going to let him, but I followed him into his room and asked him if he wanted to talk about it. "No, I'm fine Mom." I asked him if he was scared or sad or had any questions. "No, Mom." Here's the thing about Kevin: he talks A LOT, but he doesn't open up much. It's hard getting things out of him that deal with feelings. He said, "Well, we just went through cancer with Dad last year, so I'm not really scared about Grandpa." But the thing is, his grandpa is 80, and apparently he's got liver cancer. I have no idea what his prognosis is, but it doesn't sound too promising to me. And I don't really know what I should be doing as Kevin's mom here. Let him hang onto his optimism, or prepare him for a possible sad outcome? I don't know.

I worry. Kevin's already dealt with plenty of death. Both my dad (his "Papa Joe") and his first dad died within six months of each other. Kevin was really little then and doesn't remember it, but it's impacted him nonetheless. And yes, we went through the terrible cancer journey with Michael last year. And now his grandpa has cancer. I don't want to shelter Kevin (or any of the kids) from the realities of life - death being one of them - but I also don't want Kevin to have a sense that people he loves are transient.

He didn't want to talk about it much. But he sort of shadowed me for the rest of the evening, making small talk, giving furtive hugs, keeping that invisible string connecting us. I know it's his way of seeking comfort and reassurance. It's his way of saying, "I need you, Mom," without actually saying the words.

Ahhhh . . . it never gets easier, does it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trich Diaries

The Box 'o Tricks (or should I say "Trichs"?) seems to be showing the most promise in the way of things we've tried to curb Annabelle's hair-twirling/pulling. I actually haven't seen her sucking her fingers or messing with her hair for a couple of weeks now, although I don't think she's completely stopped. I've seen telltale corkscrews twisted into her hair a few times, but not daily like before. It's hard to say if her hair is growing out - I don't think enough time has passed yet for it to really be noticeable. I did trim her hair again tonight after her bath to even it out, but I didn't have to trim much, and the shorter part might have been from before this "behavioral therapy" we're trying.

I feel like I should clarify, too, that she's never pulled to the point of creating bald patches. When she pulls, she apparently doesn't pull the hair out at the root, it's more like she breaks it off farther away from her scalp, so that the area she tends to mess with is usually noticeably shorter than the other side. This also leads me to believe that whatever pulling she does is not purposeful pulling, but more likely the end result of overly-vigorous twirling.

Anyway. I've restocked the Box a couple of times. It's been a matter of trial and error finding things that are tactilely pleasing enough to her to keep her hands out of her mouth and hair. The Kooshie ball that looked like a pig that she liked so much only lasted a couple of days before it got a hole in it and was a Kooshie ball no more. She never really developed any interest in the pom-poms or the chenille stems, which kind of surprised me. The Silly Putty was tossed pretty quickly when it ended up smooshed into the carpet (no surprise there - I guess I asked for that one). I replaced the pig with a squishy rubber turtle filled with sand, and she really, really likes that. I also got a bright pink bath pouf, and she likes that as well. Once in a while she asks for one of the brightly colored feathers from the box, but mostly it's the turtle or the pouf.

I don't get on her case about her hair anymore, which has been surprisingly easy, probably because I really haven't seen her sucking and/or twirling. She doesn't suck or pull at school (which her teacher has confirmed), undoubtedly because she's plenty busy at school (and the girl thrives on structure). It's when she's got down time that she starts in with the fingers in her mouth and hair (which has me feeling somewhat anxious about summer break, which is fast approaching). So now she takes one of her things from the Box to bed with her, and in the car, and when she's watching TV. It really seems to be helping. I'm trying to be realistic and not look at this as a permanent cure, but I feel optimistic about it right now. More so than I ever have.

Friday, May 14, 2010

And now, for your listening pleasure . . .

. . . may I present . . . Annabelle:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is this "Gentle Discipline" of which you speak?

In this book I just finished, The Three Martini Playdate, the author talks about how a certain breed of parents has emerged who believe that "no" is much too harsh a word to say to their children, for fear it will bruise their little egos and break their little spirits. She describes an incident wherein another child repeatedly hauled off and socked her son, and the parent of the hitting child gently pulled the boy aside and explained to him calmly that it was "innappropriate."

I believe this is what is known as Gentle Discipline.

What a load of hooey.

There is a certain little girl and her mother whom we encounter nearly every day. This little girl, who is roughly Lilah's age and size, is what I have come to assume the object of this Gentle Discipline. Nearly every day I witness this little girl poking and pushing other children and grabbing things away from them - toys, books, even backpacks and lunch boxes. The mother - when she tears her attention away from the conversation she is deeply involved in with another parent, and notices that her sweet babe is not being so nice to the other kids - typically responds like this:

"Gentle, honey, gentle. We need to be gentle with our friends."

Seriously? Get the eff outta here. How about:

"No!" or the ever-appropriate "Keep your hands to yourself."

Yesterday this same little girl came right up to Lilah and shoved her, chest to chest. Lilah put on her best pouty-lipped scowl, Arnold Drummond style, and the little girl pushed her again. The girl's mother was busy chatting up another parent, so I marched right over to the little girl and said very sternly, "No pushing!" She looked at me, wide-eyed, shocked, I think, that an adult actually had the cajones to say "no" to her. "Why?" she asked me. "Because it's not nice," I said, still in my stern voice.

But the exact same scene played out again later in the day when we encountered her again. She went up to Lilah and shoved her. I intervened right away, marching up to her and saying "No pushing!" This time her eyes got big and she ran away from me. I think she's scared of me now. Good.

There was another incident a while back with a different little girl. I had Finn in the stroller, which I had pulled over to the side of the walkway and parked. There we stood, waiting, when this little girl walks right up to the stroller, looks up at me, and says, "Move." Um, excuse me? Her mom was standing a few feet away and gave me this knowing smile, as if to say, "Kids say the darndest things, don't they?" The little girl easily could have gone around us, but she decided that we were right smack in the middle of the path that she wanted to take, so there she stood, staring me down, waiting for me to move. I stared her down right back. Until finally she went away.

Mean, aren't I? But seriously. So rude! And her mother was just letting her get away with it!

I don't get it. What is it these parents are trying to accomplish, or avoid? Because I really don't think they're doing their kids or the world any favors.

I know - who the hell do I think I am? I'm certainly not winning any Parent of the Year awards, and my kids aren't perfect angels. They do, in fact, beat the crap out of each other at home - but they do not, I assure you, beat the crap out of, or in any other way assault, other children. They're actually pretty well-behaved out in the world, and I have to believe that this is due, at least in part, to their being given very clear boundaries.

I'm all about Attachment Parenting - breast feeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and all that. I'm a firm believer that our first responsibility as parents is to teach our kids in infancy that they are safe, secure, loved, and that they can count on their needs being met. But somewhere between their first and second birthdays, they start looking for boundaries, and if there are none, they begin to evolve into what is known in some parts as brats. And brats, unchecked, grow up to be very unpleasant people who believe that their existence is at the center of the universe, and expect to have their way about everything. They've never learned give and take, they've never learned how to value someone else's feelings, they've never learned humility or how to handle disappointment.

And I'm not saying parents should be mean to their kids. There's got to be a happy medium - something somewhere between Mommie Dearest and Polly Pushover. After all, we're the bosses, right? Right! Let's act like it!

So listen, all you parents out there: please introduce your child to the word "no." You'll be doing the whole world a favor - and your kid, too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Every once in a while, like for a short period this morning, there is an utter perfectness. The sun has not yet made its entire ascent, there is a faint chill, a light breeze is blowing, the sky is an impossible blue, all is quiet, and there is a crystalline quality to the air. I just want to drink it all in. It makes a person just glad to be alive.

(This is another reason I blog; if I spoke these words out loud, people would look at me like I was a loon. When I write it, on the other hand, it sounds poetic and eloquent, don't you think?)

There's something about the contrast of the green treetops against the blue, blue sky that I just love.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Does it seem like Annabelle is more often the topic of my posts lately than any of my other kids? That girl gives me a run for my money, I'll tell you.

So, homework again. Honestly, I am just ready to scream. It's a constant battle with her, this homework thing. I've tried a few different tactics:

  • Setting the timer, telling her calmly that she could work on her homework for 20 minutes, and whatever she didn't finish in that time just had to be left undone;
  • Having Daisy help her instead of me;
  • Threatening loss of privileges;
  • Bribing
Each one works for a while, but when the novelty wears off, we're back to square one. Meaning she dissolves into a puddle of tears and whining and wailing when I tell her it's time to do her homework. I'm just at my wits' end with this! And honestly, although I'm in large part frustrated with her, I can't be too mad at her. She's five! She's in kindergarten! Ack!

But the fact of the matter is, regardless of the fact that I have issues with the whole concept of kindergarten homework, it's a fact of life. I can't change the world or school policy just because I have one kid who hates homework, and I don't see the point of said homework. She has to get used to it because it's going to be a part of her life for many, many years to come.

So she's in the midst of a full-blown tantrum right now because I told her it's time to do her homework. I finally threw my hands up and told her, "Fine, don't do it, then. It's your choice. But YOU can talk to your teacher about it, YOU can tell her that you didn't want to do it."


Mother's Day

Michael got me this:

It's a mother's ring; it has the birthstone of each of my kids in it:

  • Kevin - January/Garnet
  • Joey - July/Ruby
  • Annabelle - September/Sapphire
  • Daisy - September/Sapphire
  • Lilah - October/Tourmaline
  • Finn - July/Ruby
Isn't it beautiful? I love it. I've wanted something like this for a long time, although I haven't specifically mentioned it for quite a while, I think. Very nice surprise!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kindergarten Mother's Day Celebration

Ahhhh, I wish I could write all cheerfully about how sweet and cute it was. I mean, it was, but crankiness abounded today. Seemed like everyone got up on the wrong side of their beds, and the day started off with whining, wailing, and whimpering, and it just never stopped.

So the kindergarten classes had a little Mother's Day celebration this morning. With Lilah and Finn in tow, I took Annabelle and Daisy to their class where we first all sat on the floor and listened to a very sweet story read by their teacher. Then we moms were taken to our children's seats where we were presented with a book our child had made about us (I got double from the twins).

Aren't the likenesses to me uncanny? I felt like I was looking in a mirror! (No, really, I LOVE this stuff, I do!):

Then the lights were dimmed and the teacher said, "Moms, now I want you to close your eyes and relax, and enjoy a massage." At which point the kids rubbed their moms' shoulders. Very cute.

Then we all went outside to the kindergarten playground and laid out blankets and had a little breakfast picnic. Which would have been nice except the girls were fighting over the muffins I brought, and then Annabelle decided she didn't like any of the ones I brought and so instead started mooching food off our neighboring picnickers. Sigh.

Daisy and Lilah (who believes that she's a kindergartner, too - especially since the twins spent the last couple of days preparing her for today's event by teaching her how to be a kindergartner) played happily on the playground for a while, but Annabelle was super clingy. She wouldn't leave my side, and she wouldn't stop whining. When it was time to wrap it all up, she had a fit that she wanted to go home with me, and Lilah had a fit that she wanted to stay in kindergarten. Maybe I should have switched them for the day.

When it was time to pick the girls up from school this afternoon, they had flowers for me:

Only, they didn't want to actually give them to me and all three girls were fighting over them.


And the crabbiness still hasn't stopped. This has been the prevailing sound today:

People talk about whining being an inhumane form of torture. And it is. But I swear, just as intolerable is the wailing. You know, this:


Honestly, someone just put me out of my misery.

Oh well. Tomorrow's another day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebs Without Makeup!!

Okay, so I'm not a celeb. By anyone's standards. But it got your attention, right? I mean, I don't know about you, but whenever there's a magazine issue that features Celebs Without Makeup!! I eagerly peruse the pics. Because I want to see just how plain (and hopefully homely) they are without all the makeup. But the truth is, even without makeup, they still get those pics taken in flattering lighting and I'd venture a guess that there's still some photo editing going on.


So, here's how I woke up this past Saturday morning:

Michael,who had gotten up with the kids before me (I know!), came and sat on the edge of the bed next to me, and gazed at me as I slowly pulled myself from the grip of the Sandman. "Why do you wear makeup?" he asked me. Seriously, those were the first words I heard that morning. As if he had been pondering some deep mystery. What ensued was a discussion (or debate - call it what you will), which has continued through the next few days, about the merits/non-merits of makeup. Michael's not a fan, apparently. I, on the other hand, am a fan of makeup. Specifically, of wearing makeup. It's a security thing, admittedly. I've been conditioned to believe that I look better with makeup than without.

Here, you be the judge.

Here I am in all my un-made-up glory:

Puh-lain! Homely, even. (Color me insecure.) Washed out. Blech. Really, he prefers me this way? I'm sitting here telling myself, "It's The Man! The Man just wants to keep you down!" (You have to imagine me saying that in my throwback, anti-establishment voice; otherwise it's not funny.)

And here I am with my usual helping of makeup:

Completely unretouched, I might add! (As if you couldn't tell.) Really, I try not to use a heavy hand. I don't like the caked-on, mask look. So I go lightly on the foundation. But listen, I'm 42. I've got lines, and dark circles, and uneven skin tone. So I try to remedy those things a little. I do like to do my eyes up a little; otherwise they just blend right in with the rest of my washed-out look. I rarely wear lipstick anymore; instead I just swipe some Aveeno lip balm on about 153 times a day (have you ever heard of a lip balm addiction?).

So Michael tells me - adamantly - that he likes me better without makeup. I'm having a hard time believing him. I know I look better with makeup on - after all, as I informed him, when I was out in the front yard the other day watering the flowers and some guy in a truck drove by and howled at my ass (I'm not kidding! And you know what? I'm documenting it here because it's been a loooooooooooooong time since that's happened, and probably won't happen again too many times before I kick the bucket, and I'll take my ego boosts where I can get them, thank you very much), I happened to have a full face of makeup on. So what if he only saw the back of me!

Anyway, in all seriousness, what he says is that when I have makeup on, it's not like he looks at me and thinks, "Wow, what great skin she has!" but rather, "Oh, she's got makeup on her skin."


I used to be the kind of girl who would not leave the house without makeup. Not even to run out for a pack of cigarettes (really good for the skin, by the way). Now? Yeah, I like to wear makeup. But the truth is, I wear it less and less these days. Who has time? I see these moms dropping their kids off at school in the morning and they're all done up (Curbside Beauty Queens, I've dubbed them, because, you know, it makes me feel better) - full makeup, hair perfectly coiffed (or artfully messy), stylish, matching ensemble. They must have jobs (as in jobs which require them to present themselves in a certain way, jobs for which they receive a paycheck), that's the only thing I can figure. My usual morning look is: no makeup, hair pulled back in a sloppy clip, sweats, flip-flops. And I often spend entire days like that. On end. But after a while it starts getting a little depressing. I start feeling really schleppy, and I might catch a passing glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, "Boy, lady, you've really let yourself go."

So sometimes I like to put makeup on. And do my hair. It makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I still take a little pride in the way I look, despite the fact that I'm a 42-year-old stay-home-mom of six kids. Who apparently has nobody to impress.

Here's me all air-brushed and photo-edited (thank you, Picnik!) -

Dude. If I could walk around all the time all air-brushed? That would be NICE.

Or maybe this is my best look:

Anyway, I'm curious, oh female readers. Does your significant other prefer you with or without makeup? If you don't know, go ask and then report back to me, okay? Really, inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Box o' Tricks

So, after reading that book, Stay Out of My Hair, I found myself suddenly motivated and excited to try a different approach with Annabelle and her hair-pulling. Having come to the conclusion that for her, the habit is composed of two elements - tactile and self-soothing - it seems like the best approach to take at this point is to attempt to redirect the behavior by giving her other things to get those needs met. This is clearly going to be a path of trial and error; the stuffed lambs I gave her a couple weeks ago didn't work out. For whatever reason, they just weren't interesting enough to her and she didn't develop any kind of attachment to them.

I went on a little shopping adventure this weekend, specifically looking for things for Annabelle's hands. The main element I was looking for was tactile. I wanted a variety of objects with interesting feels and textures - things that will hold her interest and keep her hands busy during times when she's likely to mess with her hair. Here's what I came up with (it was actually kind of fun!) -

  • Silly putty
  • Chenille stems
  • Pom-poms
  • Feathers
  • A plastic lei
  • A Kooshie ball
  • Pink scrubber gloves
  • Beads and string
And a pretty box to put it all in (well, not all of it, just a few things at a time):

Before I presented the box to her, I sat down and had a little talk with her. I told her that she's not in trouble, that I'm not mad, but that I wanted to talk to her about her hair-pulling. I told her that no matter what, Daddy and I love her very, very much, and that she's a beautiful little girl no matter what her hair looks like. I told her that I understand that it's very hard for her to not play with her hair, and that's okay, but if she'd like to try and work on not doing it, I'd like to try to help. And if not, that's okay, too.

(All the while, hoping it didn't sound like a rehearsed speech; I mean, I meant everything I said, but I was trying very hard to say the right things, or at least to not say the wrong things.)

She was game. And she was very excited about the box of stuff. I wanted to give her a variety of things so she won't become bored with any of it. I didn't give her the box outright; I'm keeping control of it because I don't want to see it become one more thing to be scattered all over the house like all the other toys and things. My thinking is that this is Annabelle's Special Box of Stuff. Which, of course means that the other kids got pissed off that Annabelle got some new things and they didn't.

I told her she can have one thing at a time (and not when she's running around playing, but when she's got downtime, which is when she pulls). At first, she went through every object in the box very quickly; about every five minutes she was coming to me wanting to put whatever she had back in the box so she could try something new. Which was tiring, but I stuck with it. The Silly Putty was a big hit, but it ended up smooshed into the carpet, so that's history (no big surprise there; it was worth a shot, though). She seems to have settled on the Kooshie Ball, which is in the likeness of a pig and she has named it Oinkie. And I have to say, it is really fun to squeeze and play with.

So, we'll see where this takes us. The book made a very important point, and that is that praise and rewards should be given for using alternative strategies, not for not pulling hair. So I'm trying really hard not to focus on her hair.

Stay tuned.