Tuesday, March 04, 2014

My annual Lenten reminder

"Nobody gets the moose,” I growled, pulling the toddler roughly from a rocking stuffed moose she had commandeered from my daughter.

I snatched the moose and put it up on a table, far away from their reach.

Moments before, this girl had shoved my daughter from atop the moose, knocking my girl's head on the sharp bricks protuding from the nearby fireplace.

I was very angry, and it showed. After removing the moose, I hugged my daughter and checked her head for bleeding while silently condemning the other child who seemed smug.

“They don’t know what they’re doing at this age,” the other mother told me from across the room.

“Like hell they don’t,” I thought bitterly.


I have gone over this old memory so many times that it’s become a very smooth pebble in my pocket. I had enjoyed a wonderful friendship with the other child’s mom, and after the moose incident it began to fall apart.

I have spent too many hours in the intervening years puzzling over WHY

Did this other mother see some out-of-control person in me, losing her temper when children were simply playing and “not knowing what they’re doing?”

That other mother distanced herself from me over the next few weeks, eventually not calling at all anymore. It shouldn’t have been as much of a problem as it was, but I hadn’t gone to the trouble of making any back-up friends when I had kids. She was my main friend. Between her and the other four women in our playgroup, that was it for me.

She had called me the night after I took the moose away from our children.

“Are we OK?” she asked.

I was perplexed. I hadn’t given the incident another thought since my daughter stopped crying, but to her the Moose Incident seemed to be a big deal. Had she heard my evil thoughts about her daughter?

Then over the next few months she stopped communicating at all with me.


Soon afterwards, there seemed to have been some kind of agreement that I was no longer a part of our playgroup -- they reorganized without me. One of the other women closed a door directly in my face walking into preschool and made no attempt to hide her disdain when in my presence.

That madness was exactly seven years ago. I remember the approach of Easter, I sat in playgrounds by myself, feeling hollowed out by loneliness. I thought I had the best mom-friends a woman could possibly hope for and they all simultaneously dumped me.

It broke my heart. And yes, it allowed for what would eventually become the REAL best mom-friends a woman could hope for. (Shout out to my soul sisters...)

And I have written repeatedly about the playgroup that dumped me, and sat ruminating about it for silly amounts of time. I have spotted one or another woman from that group, particularly the mother of the moose-girl, and I felt like a giant awkward ass, sweating and running away.

It’s this time of year that kicks me most in the gut. And so I vow to be a good friend.

This doesn’t mean I’m never going to rip a moose from underneath another toddler, or that I won’t think evil thoughts about kids who hurt my kids (daily).

It means that I’m going to be about mom-love. I’m going to reach out to the lonely mom in the park and give her the love she needs, immediately and without judgement. Because I have been hollowed out by women who treated me horribly. There is no “crime” that could justify their behavior. I hereby renew my vow to be the one with the casserole, the one with reassurance, love the mom-sisters.

And it is what I teach my daughters now: Be gentle with one another, don’t break hearts, life is brutiful and it’s a rotten thing to cast a friend aside. This painful time of year is my reminder to love the sisters and share the moose.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In which we cross the line into public school

Tomorrow is Gigi's first day of kindergarten.

It looks wildly different from Chebbles' first day of kindergarten.

On Chebbles' first day of kindergarten, we sat her in front of an advanced video of Khan Academy math and videotaped her while she watched it. She didn't understand the topic, but we snickered with glee... it was the first day of kindergarten -- homeschool-style!

Kindergarten generally looked like this for us: Chebbles and I would sit together at the kitchen counter after her sisters went down for their naps, and we would first tackle a series of math problems, then some handwriting and grammar, then after a trampoline break we would run back inside, or sit on the hammock, and read history and science together.

It was cozy. Only occasionally would she resist a lesson, and she would soon get back on track, particularly if I gave her a little snack for brain food.

And you know what? Kindergarten was awesome like that. She learned so much, so quickly, and she still had plenty of time to read her books and play. But eventually both she and I were starting to feel a little lonely.

I found some homeschool groups, and made some connections, but homeschooling people like us were difficult to find, and none of them were local. We were homeschooling because Chebbles is very gifted, and the local school was not prepared to take her on, in my opinion, as they had 31 kids and one teacher in the kindergarten classroom.

We were not homeschooling because we were Christian and we were not homeschooling because we were idealists. It was a default choice for a kid who turned 5 in September yet was reading very advanced material.

We tried to send Chebbles to public school for the second half of first grade, but it was not a success for our wildly asynchronous child. When she wanted to read something other than the Berenstain Bears, she was restricted from more complex literature -- super-frustrating for all of us as she began to regress in her main subjects and start to get really bored and sad at school -- so I went back to homeschooling.

Second grade at home was a grind for both of us, leading me to sign her up for a lot of classes and outsource the maximum amount of classwork I could. She became more resistant to my teaching and I started getting bored with homeschooling. We were an increasingly combustible combination when the time came to actually show she was working (which she commonly wasn't).

We'll see how third grade goes for Chebbles, now that her lessons are mostly in others' hands (thank you, Quantum Camp Microschool), but Gigi?

Gigi is starting public kindergarten tomorrow. And I may be completely deluded but I think it's a really good idea. She even has the same teacher that Chebbles had in first grade, and I also think that will be a really good match!

Today I took her to "Welcome Day" where we signed up for various programs (Spanish!) and met more of the parents and kids at our local school. The whole thing suddenly seems like such a good idea. Gigi is such a different kid than her sister. She's bright, but she's not reading. She loves playing with numbers, but doesn't really "get" how they come together. (She is particularly vexed by the idea that 99 cents is less than one dollar. I mean, REALLY, how can that be?)

Gigi will be heading into a classroom that is filled with kids a lot like her. We are lucky in that we live in a neighborhood where the demographic is basically a lot of kids who are much like our G. And a teacher who sails on a very even keel is exactly what our middle girl needs.

And you know what Gigi doesn't need? A bored/stressed-out mother trying to muster enthusiasm for teaching D'Nealian handwriting again.

I am having further fantasies that I can put both Chebbles AND Birdy in public school with Gigi next year. I have this vision in which I walk them all down to the bus stop at 7:15 in the morning and then they all get on it.

Then what!? I will probably go home and take a five hour bath the first day, with a cocktail and a stack of Sunday New York Times Magazines.

And then in the ensuing days I will write short stories and nonfiction. Because Alice Munro just officially retired, North America needs a new mom writing short stories between loads of laundry. Then perhaps I will consult for companies who need public relations, or edit something fascinating. Some activity that involves other grown-ups, perhaps?

So often during my homeschooling career, people would say, "Oh, public school is just state-sponsored day care."

And I would totally agree.

And now I'm thinking, waaaaait a minute. The state sponsors day care? Why am I not taking advantage of this?

I am ready to do something a little different with my life next year, when a few hours of childlessness might stretch before me. I am ready to stop gestating babies, and possibly to stop micromanaging their education. I am not saying I would abdicate their entire education to the State of California, but I am saying I am ready for the State of California to start helping with the load.

And I felt so strident about homeschooling several years ago, with my five-year-old genius and her sleeping sisters. But my babies have grown up, and all of them know how to roll their eyes, and it's time for all of us to do something a little different.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The video blog that features extreme close-ups of Slinky the corn snake

This one was fun to make! In the future though, I will do the blogs before I have wine, so I don't end up calling the snake a "rodent."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flowers for Algernon in Reverse

Once I discovered that the cause of my increasing idiocy was physiological, it was a snap to fix.

Why didn't anyone tell me this EIGHT YEARS AGO before I spent the better part of a decade bumping into the walls in a fog?

This is the story of my before and after with anemia.

Shaken Video

I've posted my first video blog!

It's here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pushing my buttons

I keep thinking of something Glennon said last night about mothering.

She said it much more eloquently than I can paraphrase, but basically that she doesn't believe that women should stop their entire lives when their children are born in order to be a servant to that child for the rest of her life... her point was, "Where does it stop?" ... or who gets to work toward something even greater? She wouldn't want her daughters to stop their entire lives in order to raise their children.

I hadn't heard it said quite this way before, and I'm surprised that it rang true to me.

OK, I don't agree 100%, because I can't imagine that my life has just stopped since I decided to stay home with our girls. It certainly felt that way at first, but the more I wrote about things and then got paid to write about things and then took over the Girl Scout troop then started singing my heart out with the Berkeley Broadway Singers, the more I felt that I was using a crucial part of my brain.

In the meantime, I don't feel like a servant to my kids since I'm home with them all the time... or do I? And what is the alternative? Having a full-time live-in nanny? I worked so hard to get these kids into my life, I am afraid that if I had the option of handing them over to the care of a full-time helper, I would do that all the time.

What I think is this: my girls' childhood will ultimately be fleeting, so I am choosing to stare at them for the maximum number of hours before they escape from me. But Glennon's comments freed me from feeling like I had to judge working moms harshly.

You know why I did that? I was afraid they knew something I didn't, that they were having some kind of life I was missing out on. For example, working moms get to go onto elevators, possibly with pantyhose on, and push the elevator buttons themselves. What is that even like?

Because I felt insecure that I had made a silly choice on some level by giving up my PR career whole hog, I felt like I had to figure out a way to not like women who got to continue their careers. I had to figure out some way to take a righteous position on this issue.

And you know what, people? That is exhausting, living up on some ridiculous pedestal. It's also no way to live. When Glennon said that, about women not somehow being obligated to sacrifice their lives to the servitude of their children, it snipped a big cord between me and my desire to be righteous about what mothers should do.

Because ultimately, I don't have any idea what the hell I'm doing. I mean really, do you?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Brush with Momastery

There was one thing better than anything else about coming to Glennon Melton's book reading in Marin County tonight.

There were many good things. First, hearing her read the story of her girls' Target meltdown and the kind police officer who frightened them into silence was priceless!

Hearing others ask questions that were on my mind was also good. (How are the kids handling the separation? What's next for Momastery? Is it OK to have our own lives separate from being parents?) (The answers to all of those questions was basically "yes.")

Oh, and meeting Glennon that was good too. We got to take this photo and I told her about Gigi "feeling too much" just like Glennon does. She told me that her daughter Tish is wired the same way, and recommended "The Highly Sensitive Child."

Yes, YES and I also made Laura be my friend. Laura and her wife Jaime were featured in a series of amazing videos about gay families. Theirs is here. So when I saw her, I totally recognized her and thought she was my friend, and made her talk with me AND then she introduced me to Jaime and I saw their tired yet spectacular son, Simon and was immediately hypnotized by his eyes.

It should be mentioned that Laura made a spectacular suggestion that we should have Momastery Cruises. 303 meets Momastery? She's a genius.

But the BEST PART of coming to the signing was meeting six new friends who had also been pulled away from their families on a Friday night and driven rather long distances to wait in line with fellow Monkees for more than two hours. Oh my God they were awesome, and two of them were also named Laura, including this awesome Laura. Then there is Sue, whose firefighting husband has been sidelined by cancer, so we were all secretly praying the whole time she was talking about him.

I mean REALLY, it's too much. In a great way. Goodnight new Momastery friends!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My goal is to die last

I was thinking about death today, not because Stella insists on talking about it, but because of Cher.

There was some general accidental hilarity this week when Margaret Thatcher died (may she rest in peace), but the hashtag "#nowthatcherisdead" cause people to start memorializing Cher. And I though, what fun to know now how people will talk about you when you die!

Then I had a fantasy about my own death: I will consider myself a failure if, when I die, hundreds of people come and keen and cry and have a slideshow about me.

My goal is to die last, after everyone else is dead, and have the lamest, least attended funeral possible.

See, I want to live so long that no one is left to be sad about my death. I will attend everyone else's funerals and give really awesome eulogies when asked (hey, if you have a eulogizing talent, it's OK to flaunt it), and then I will just keep living and living.

My children and grandchildren will eventually tire of me, living their interesting neo-22nd century lifestyles, and I will continue to send them fat checks for their birthdays, or tickets for cruises in honor of The 303, and I will toddle on through my golden years, right into my platinum years, and I will die with no friends or people of my generation left to mourn me.

That just seems like the very definition of success: to spend my life lifting up those close to me, and only when I run out of people to lift will I shuffle off this mortal coil.