Monthly Archives: February 2009

Because I am too sleep deprived to do the work myself

For almost two years, I have been entertaining you folks.  Week in, week out, through moves and babies and earthquakes.  So, today, it is your turn to give me your thoughts:

The woman who recently gave birth to octuplets, a woman who already had birthed six children, was apparently offered a million dollars to star in hard-core porn.  Please discuss.


             “Mommy, I’m very jealous,” he declares from the middle row of our minivan.  Although my eyes are trained on the traffic in front of me, I am well aware of the pout that accompanies that tone of voice.  I proceed cautiously, because I also know that his four-year-old sense of justice requires me immediately to remediate the situation once he has voiced his dissatisfaction.  “Gavin’s daddy drops him off at school every day.”

            Hitting my right turn signal so I can queue up to get on the 405, I silently curse Gavin’s daddy.  I’m jealous, too, I want to say.  I’m jealous that Gavin’s mommy only has to come to the preschool once a day. I’m jealous that she does not have to parent all by herself on the weekdays.  And, most of all, I’m jealous that she does not have to hear her son kvetch all week long about not having his daddy around.

            Of course, this is not how I respond.  I glance in my side-view mirror and say, “I know you miss your Daddy, baby.  He’s working really hard right now.  I miss him, too.  But, you get to see him all weekend, and you get Mommy dropping you off at school.”  Even as I say this, I know I am offering weak solace, at best. 

            Zachary is at that age when children start to identify with the same-sex parent.  He is trying to learn what it means to be a man, and he is looking around for role models.  Unfortunately, there are none to be found.  From Monday to Friday, my kids rarely speak to an adult male, much less see their father.  When he is not on the road, my husband leaves for work before they wake and returns once they are in bed.

            It is hard on the children, I am fully aware, but it is the nature of his work.  Even as recently as a few months ago, I railed against it myself.  I admonished Jacob that we could not continue this way indefinitely.  “You are going to need to find a way to be here a few evenings a week,” I told him.  “We always said we would not be one of those families where the kids never see their father.”

            Jacob, on the other hand, was between a rock and a very hard place.  What exactly was he supposed to do?  He was giving his all to a project at work that demanded his attention, but he was also giving his all on the weekends to his kids.  How much “all” did he have to give?

            My friends fueled my frustration.  Tell him he needs to pull back from work, they advised.  It’s not fair to you or the kids.  We are the generation that is not going to be like our parents, with the father scarcely seeing the kids because work is so all-consuming.  I was enforcing fairness and the values we had agreed upon long before we had children.

            When we had first discussed having children, we had promised one another that Jacob’s career would not become more important than mine, even if he earned more than I did.  We declared that he would always be home to tuck the kids in, except when he was travelling.  We pledged to maintain a sane work-life balance, even if it meant a career sacrifice. 

            However, when we so sagaciously committed ourselves to this perfectly aligned equation of parenting, we failed to factor in the variable of Wall Street raining bricks while the housing market sank.  We neglected to foresee our savings bleeding value and layoffs across almost every industry. 


            It becomes a lot harder to nag my husband to leave a job he loves in search of one that brings him home in time for bath when there are no jobs for the getting.  I have suddenly gained the perspective of valuing the fact that he is employed, even if he spends more time working than I would like.  Not everyone is so fortunate these days.

            Suddenly, counting our blessings involves appreciating the chance to work one’s tail off.  The economy is giving us a new outlook on all of the alternative scenarios.

            As I veer the car off onto the Olympic/Pico exit, Zachary informs me he only wants Daddy.  I acknowledge his complaint, although the refrain is getting a little stale as far as I am concerned.  Really, child?  Is that much whining absolutely necessary?

            From Zach’s perspective, of course, the whining is warranted, and perhaps it is even effective.  If he draws enough attention to the tragic state of affairs, perhaps it will miraculously resolve itself.  Resolution-by-bitching, as it were.  Only from an adult viewpoint is whining pointless.  As we mature, we realize that complaining about the unchangeable merely puts us in a foul mood; results are best obtained through actual action. 

            This economic catastrophe has been one giant kick in the rear for the country and the world, forcing us to stop complaining to one another about how hard life is and start looking for real solutions.  I turn into my driveway, considering that, in fact, our family does not have it so bad.  


            In Toni Morrison’s Sula, Eva is torn apart by her son’s drug addiction.  This is the child who was so constipated as a baby that Eva had reached her finger up into that tiny little rectum and removed the painful blockage manually, giving a whole new meaning to the truism that mothers are generally shat upon.  That he is now a man broken apart by his PTSD and his addiction is too much for Eva to bear, and so she sets him afire.

            There have been times in the past four-and-a-half years when I have wanted to set a few fires of my own.  I’ve never been tempted to burn the kids, but there have been not a few poops that led me to believe it might just be easier to set the entire house aflame than to try to dispose of the evidence.

            Such was the case on Friday, when I unexpectedly had the two-year-old boy who we carpool at my house for a couple of hours after school.  In the course of forty-five minutes, three out of four children needed my assistance with their bowels.  Our guest had a poopy diaper that was easily flushable.  Next, Zach had a movement; fortunately, he is old enough to do that in the proper location and I just need to come in after the fact as the Wiping Brigade.  And, of course, Benjamin had one of his thrice-daily Produce-Junkie Specials, poops so nasty as to make me desperate to finally convince him to avail himself of the toilet facilities we so generously supply.

            The only one who didn’t poop was Lilah.  Five-month-old Lilah, who had gotten her Rotavirus vaccine on Tuesday and had subsequently ceased to poop.  This is a new vaccine and it is oral, which in itself is complicated because we have learned she throws up all medicine unless she takes it on an empty stomach.  The first time she took it, at two months old, Lilah ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  Since there was no connection between the vaccine and the pneumonia, we forged ahead and gave her the second booster.  I am just not one to turn down a vaccine that the doctor thinks we need.

            Except, now it appears that this particular vaccine stops up her bowel movements.  Crap.  Actually, no crap.  Except for tiny little green and foul smelling smudges that she pushed out that itty-bitty tushy with much sturm und drang.  One day I waited.  Nothing but mighty pushing and much face-turning-red.  Two days I waited.  Screaming, more red-facing, me holding her legs up to aid her.  Three days.  I really thought she was going to rip herself a new one.

            So, I did it.  I pulled a Toni Morrison.  I’m here to tell you, it’s just as disgusting as I’d imagined it would be.  And it still took three suppositories, four hours at the urgent care clinic, five days, and a pureed pear to finally clear that sucker out.

Made off with it

            Judaism does not sponsor a version of Hell.  There is no promise of fire, brimstone, and three-headed dogs for the sinners among us.  As far as I can tell, we are supposed to behave well in order to honor God and people, rather than to avoid getting sent to the ultimate Naughty Chair.

            Perhaps it is this lack of cosmic punishment that allowed Bernie Madoff to behave as he did.  Maybe he figured that, if our religion gets it right, he isn’t going to Hell because there is none, and if our religion is wrong, he’s going to Hell on account of being Jewish.  He seems to have forgotten the part about honoring God and people, however.

            Let’s set aside for the moment what he has done to make Jewish people look bad, because we all know how well a greedy, conniving Jew is playing in the media.  Honestly, that fallout is going to happen every single time a Jewish person behaves badly around money, simply because it plays right into anti-Semitic hands.  Let’s also set aside the fact that the last thing the economy needed right now was yet another economic scandal. 

            No, what I’d like to think about for a moment is the way this dude has affected non-profits.  This was not some twisted Robin Hood scenario.  He wasn’t just taking from the rich and making himself richer.  He was taking from the synagogues, the charities, and the human rights organizations.  Yes, thanks to this dickwad (and you know how frequently I use terms like that), Physicians for Human Rights is now short almost 30% of its budget.  (If you have some spare change in your pocket, feel free to click on this link and help them with the shortfall.)

            No matter what sanctions Bernie Madoff faces here on earth, when he goes to his maker he is going to have to answer for stealing money from organizations who do things like work to eradicate landmines and fight epidemics.  It’s enough to make me start believing in Hell, just so there is an appropriate place to send him.

Three is Enough

I have a post up over at L.A. Moms’ Blog.  Go check it out to learn who I plan on suing if I have any more children.


            “You know who’s going to come to school next week?” Zachary asked in the bath last week.

            “No, who?” his father replied, only about two-sevenths paying attention because he was attempting to scrub tofu out of Benjamin’s hair.

            “The grandparents!” Zach announced.  Suddenly, he had J’s full attention, or, rather, I did.  My husband turned around and shot me a look about eight paragraphs long.

            “I told the teachers,” I muttered as I zipped up Lilah’s pajamas, then louder to my son: “Baby, it’s Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day.”  Despite my reminders that we would be providing a special friend in lieu of a grandparent, it seems that the teachers had been advertising only the first half of the title.

            J took over.  “Grandma and Grandpa aren’t going to be there, Zach.  You get a special friend.  Andrew is going to come to your school.”

            Zachary got a four-year-old look on his face.  “I don’t want Andrew,” he snapped.  “I want Grandma and Grandpa.” 

            Benjamin perked up, turning away from his Nemo toys.  Someone had said his favorite word.  He began a monologue about people and his school and visits and the Grumpy Lizard and GRANDPA.  He’s really into Grandpa, but we’re pretty sure he’ll be thrilled when he realizes Wanda is going to be visiting his class.

              The conversation had aftershocks over the next few days, when every time we mentioned that J’s best friend and his family were coming for the week, Zach would start in about not wanting Andrew.  Once they arrived, of course, he was reminded that Andrew is the only person he knows who never gets tired of conversation, so Zach was too busy talking his ear off to remember that this was an also-ran.

              Still, when you were the kid without a mother to show for Mother’s Day or a father to come in for Father’s Day, you get kind of sensitive.  They don’t call these events “Guardian’s Day,” believe it or not, and it always felt like the school plays and assemblies and graduations were events specially designed to remind me that there weren’t any adults who gave a fuck about my existence.  So, forgive me for hovering, but I am trying my damndest to be everything for these kids, given that they are short on extended relations and those we are still speaking to live a very long way away.  And, when I rustle up two friends to cover Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ day, I’d appreciate if you didn’t start applying White Out to the second half of the title.

             I might have been a wee bit testy yesterday when Zach’s teacher asked me, “How many people are coming in for Grandparents’ Day?” because I read the fine print.  Andrew may be thirty-five years younger than all the other visitors in the preschool this morning, but I can assure you he is a very special friend.

He survived

This was written almost two years ago.  I had just started writing, but I had no idea what I would write about or where I would go with it.  It was before blogging and the book, if there is such a time.  Yet, it expresses much of how I feel now, two years and one more child later. 

The kids slept late.  Zachary only had a level four temper tantrum upon waking, and he did not wet his pants during breakfast.  Benjamin’s poopy diaper came before breakfast, so it was all changed and clean before we even sat down.  We were in a bit of a rush after breakfast because Zachary also needed to poop, which requires literature, and then his teeth needed to be brushed, but because it was raining, we at least did not have sunblock to slow us down.  Pinning down Benjamin was a bit more challenging than usual, but both kids were dressed and ready to go three minutes before 9:00.

Then it happened.  Zachary was already in the stroller, and I had even smeared him with some sunblock (the sun made a last-minute appearance).  I went to put on Benjamin’s jacket and smelled it.  He had performed twice in one morning.  It was an encore.

I tossed the baby over my shoulder, told Zachary I would only be a minute, leapt up the stairs, and dealt with the ramifications of yesterday’s blueberries.  We made it out the door by 9:03, still plenty of time to make it to school.

And so, as I walked along at a brisk pace, I was pretty darned proud of myself.  When we stopped to wait for a crossing, I made sure to mention to Zach how proud I was of his cooperation this morning.  He smiled, I smiled, even the now-clean baby smiled.  We crossed.  Life was good.

Through this all – the poop and the breakfast and the tussle over blue jeans – I was 75% with my kids.  25% of me was writing in my head.  But that was fine, because I remembered to close the gate at the top of the stairs, and we were still going to be on time for school.  I had even remembered a little box for whatever Zach made in cookery.

When I went to hand the box to the teaching assistant, she told me they were having a picnic instead today.  Panic set in.  Last term, a class party had meant I needed to bring in apples.  Was there some culinary contribution I had neglected?  I wracked my brain, trying to remember if I had signed up to bring in paper plates or juice boxes.  Needless to say, I am not reckless enough to sign up for something like sandwiches.

It turns out that what I had forgotten was a teddy bear.  Crud.  That’s right.  Today was the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  It turns out that the 25% of me that was writing in my head was the 25% in charge of remembering teddy bears.

As I looked around, I finally noticed that all the other children were proudly marching in, stuffed animals in hand.  On a little table at the front, a display of teddy bears had already been started.  Zachary had not noticed yet, because he was thrilled to see no one was playing with the pizza in the plastic kitchen.  For once, it was all his.  Maybe there was still time.

On the way out, I asked the teacher what time they would need the missing furry friend.  10:45.  OK, I thought.  So, if Ben took his nap in the stroller, I could get home, grab an animal, race back, and still get him to swimming.  Or, he could nap at home, and we could skip swimming to deliver the stupid teddy bear.

I pause for a moment here to mention that, just as Miss Georgina and I were having this conversation, Sebastian walked in with a teddy bear that was only slightly larger than he was.  Sebastian has a very good mother.  You should have seen the hat she made for the Easter bonnet parade.

It turns out Miss Georgina had a spare bear for just such emergencies.  Translation: she brought in an extra bear in case the stupid American mother forgot that today was the teddy bear’s picnic throughout the UK to raise money for charity.  She’s a good teacher.

Still, I thought, maybe I need to bring in one of his bears.  He is not particularly attached to any specific animal, but what kind of a slacker mother forgets the Teddy Bears’ Picnic?  Actually, it turns out the other American mother forgot, too.  Perhaps it is some kind of national deficiency. 

The whole walk home I thought about it.  If I race around getting everything ready during Ben’s morning nap, I can throw him in the stroller upon waking, get the bear to Zach, and make the end of swimming.  I CAN DO IT!

Suddenly, there it was.  The end of naptime.  And 95% of me spent the 45 minutes writing.

The other 5% was running madly down the street, teddy bear in hand.

Violence Unsilenced

            If we are silent…

            If we hide the bruises…

            If we lie about the past…

            If we hold their secrets for them…

            Then we are honoring their violence.  We are accepting their estimation of us as worth a buck-fifty plus tax.  We are letting them write our stories.  We are feeling their shame as our own.

            And we are accomplices in allowing it to happen to us and to someone else.

            Go.  Read these brave stories.  Visit every week.  Because I for one am worth at least the price of a latte.


            When I post about Proposition 8, I create respectful and well thought-out debate.  When I post about karate, I hear from numerous readers about the way karate has affected them or their families.  When I post about losing my shit and hollering like a banshee at my children, I get a lot of “me, too” comments.  Last week, however, I clearly hit on the mother of all topics, because I have rarely gotten as many comments as I did on my post last week.

            Wow.  Like, you people have some serious opinions on kindergarten. 

            J and I appreciate all the feedback.  The consensus was that red-shirting will make him bored in school and an extra year will make no difference in his social anxiety, except for all the people who felt he definitely needs to be held because being the youngest will lead directly to a third-grade crack addiction.  In other words, there was absolutely no definitive answer.  Shit.

            The feedback that pushed us over the edge was probably an email from J’s cousin, who has a bit of experience with four-year-olds, given that she used to run a preschool and now teaches early childhood educators.  She was emphatic and unequivocal, and she told us what we were already thinking anyway.  Send him.

            So, while the decision is not 100%, Zachary will most likely be going to kindergarten in the fall.  Which scares the living shit out of me, because he may be ready for kindergarten, but I’m not sure that I am.

First date

            Zachary takes play dates quite seriously.  He plans them out in his head, thinking of all the things he wants to do with his friend, and imbues them with tremendous significance.  Then he crashes and burns ten minutes in.  The anticipation exhausts him before it even starts.

            Can’t wait to see this child on actual dates someday.

            We have learned to manage the anticipation, both by waiting to tell him about play dates and by keeping him calm and distracted in the moments before.  But, lately, play dates that take place at our house implode for a different reason: the other children steadfastly refuse to do whatever Zachary tells them to do.

            Now, I know that the bossiness might be a manifestation of his social bewilderment, and I get that an extrovert with social anxiety is drinking a mighty strong cocktail.  I just wish he would stop going ballistic every time he does not get his way.

            Like me, he does better with social occasions at other people’s houses or in a neutral spot, and he certainly is more in control if his two-year-old brother is not around.  But, I have three kids, and that means sometimes he has to have the play date at home with Benjamin there to pester him.

            Sometimes the other child’s mother tries to offer him a suggestion, which is especially effective if she cuts me off in the middle of telling him that no, he cannot scream at his friend for wanting to play with the Lincoln Logs.  When he is over-stimulated, you can imagine how well he responds to two adults talking to him at the same time.

            What works the best, of course, is when the other child has the ability to deal with it herself.  Such was the case a few weeks ago, when we had a play date with five-year-old twin girls.  Set aside for the moment the crude jokes about male fantasies and a pair of older women; Zachary likes these girls a lot.  I like their mother.  And the girls like him, although I suspect they might sometimes be using him to get to his baby sister.

            When they arrived, he wanted to serve them a snack.  They had already snacked in the car.  Seven seconds into the play date and we were on a collision course with a meltdown.  I tried to compromise with him, but he insisted that they all were to sit down and eat a snack together.

            “But, baby, they aren’t hungry,” I explained, completely exasperated.

            “Actually,” one of the girls piped up, “I’m a little hungry.”

            As I sliced up a pear for this little girl and an apple for my son, I filed away a thank you to the gods who had arranged for his friend to find a smidgen of hunger inside herself.  Five minutes later, Zach got down from the table and went to proceed to the next social landmine, and this little girl turned to her mother, whispering her guilty secret.  “I wasn’t really hungry,” she confessed.

            And, heaven help me, but I was just a little jealous of my friend for how proud she could be of her child’s desire to set someone else at ease.