08 October 2010

Prudential and The Class Action Lawsuit

When you enlist in the armed services, one of the first sets of paperwork you'll fill in during training is for the Servicemember's Group Life Insurance (SGLI). It is still optional and sadly, many young enlistees opt out of it - to their families' detriment later down the line.

I, however, did not. I carried the highest premium I could (which effectively made me worth a whole lot more dead than alive) and I even carried the SGLI Spouse policy (therefore making my husband worth far more dead than alive too - call it mutually assured continued existence if you will). (I kid!!!)

I had no idea, however, what games Prudential has been playing with our money. And I also had no idea that once the company was contacted to pay out, the beneficiary could also opt for lump sum payment or payment over time, as this rather less than objective article states. It turns out that the plaintiffs in this case were allowed to choose for themselves even though the form has never changed and we, the servicemember's, make that selection when we fill it in.

I don't know how I feel about this. For one thing, I didn't even know that Prudential was the insurer. It was just the SGLI and I paid 37 bucks a month to have it. I wanted to know that my family would be very well kept if the worst should happen during a deployment, a training accident, or, for that matter, any accident.

I suppose I do feel like we're being used as a money market for this company if these allegations are true. We're a profit maker. And I loathe the idea that my money has earned them money that my family could certainly use and would most certainly never see if the worst happened. The average age of the policy holder is probably around 22 or 23. Healthy kids, too. There is some risk here yes, but it seems to me that the risk is nominal compared to the rewards this company appears to be reaping.

I also feel like I should have known about this when I elected to carry the SGLI. It may have made me think harder about it and perhaps even made me shop around way back when I first elected to carry it (I carry life insurance through work as well and it does NOT cost me 37 dollars a month for a nearly identical pay out - that just dawned on me actually...). Something stinks here and I hate feeling like I've been had simply by virtue of my profession and my concern for my family's financial well-being if they lost the primary income earner.

I suppose it will be interesting to see how this all plays out - and another lesson to be added to the ever expanding Box of Lessons to Pass Along to My Offspring.

06 October 2010

Who's Really the Nincompoop Here?

First, let it be known that because I have the sense of humor of a 4-year old, the word nincompoop still cracks me up. Mostly because it contains the word, "poop". Obviously, that, coupled with my obsession over all things helicopter parenting meant that I had to read this: Are We Raising a Generation of Nicompoops? It is currently the most e-mailed article on Boston.com - and has been for over 5 days.

On reading however, I was sorely disappointed in what I found. Rather than another interesting commentary on the ill effects of helicopter parenting as children come of age, it was an unintentional slam on the parents themselves. So, I thought it would be fun to dissect the article here (feel free to play along and add your two cents!):

1. Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

My Thoughts: Um...your daughter literally will not know how to use a can opener if she's never been shown. Clearly, you have one in your home because you have inferred here that not all cans in your larder have pop-tops. You have witnessed the dejected sag of her slender shoulders as she realizes that, yet again, she is foiled by a can and may not partake of her snack of choice. And yet...you have not stepped in to demonstrate the fine art of utilizing the most ancient of all tools - the can opener?!

You, Ma'am, have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 1

2. Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her "kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger."

My Thoughts: You allow your kids the luxury of throwing their clothing on the floor. I will assume here that you pick them up for them. You've given them pegs to utilize. You admit to have seen them struggle with a hanger. Please see comment #1. Again, Ma'am, you have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 2

3. Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.

My Thoughts: How? Why? Our toddler has "chores" if you count the fact that we ask her to put her sneakers in the hallway after she takes them off, and we ask her to clean up her toys at the end of the day. I'll have her put her dirty clothes in her hamper and she throws away rubbish without being asked. Age appropriate chores, but in a sense, chores nonetheless.

Drive through and take away are luxuries - expensive and unhealthy ones 9 times out of 10. Even families I know who have 12 hour days before they get home and start dinner typically cook, especially now, especially in this economy. Granted, that's anecdotal. But it's my experience and the concepts in this paragraph are so foreign to me that I'm afraid the parents lose this round again. Clearly, chores and home cooked meals can happen. These parents simply choose to not have them happen.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 3

4. "It's so all laid out for them," said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book "The Winter of Our Disconnect," about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. "Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation -- the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of it for you!"

My Thoughts: So, Miss Maushart is actually trying to wean her family off of the technology that she chose to raise them with. Interesting. That aside: Velcro is great for right now. Our 2 year old can fasten her own shoes. However, I do note that shoes with laces are still in great abundance (and velcro was around when I was a wee lass, yet I still know how to tie my shoes...) and as kids age, there's nothing stopping a parent from buying them.

Pull-ups factor heavily in our lives at  the moment - or perhaps they don't? After all, it's only during very long car rides, naps, or bedtime that Miss A wears them. She's getting goood at this "using a toilet" thing. And she's only 2! Imagine that. Teching a kid that peeing in your pants isn't for life...wow.

[sigh] This is really getting depressing.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 4

5. The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he'd never had to get cubes out of a tray -- in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don't understand can openers.

My Thoughts: OK. Really?! 99% of the homes I've been in, either my own or friends' or acquaintances, have normal fridges with freezers that require ice cube trays. In fact, my own fridge does have an ice maker (though it's not an "in-door" model), but we have no water line to connect it to. So, we use ice cube trays. Just like most of the canned goods in our larder, and so many others, require an opener (have you noticed that a pop top actually adds a buck or more to the price?!), so we must suffer in what's apparently viewed as neolithic servitude - slaves to our manual kitchens that do nothing for us, never mind wipe our bums too.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 5

This is too depressing. I think I'll stop here and call it a loss for the parents.

Now, while I'm the first to gleefully admit that I can't wait to be of that age where I can scream at kids to get off'n my lawn...and I've certainly been known to go off on my own, "KIDS THESE DAYS CONSARN'T" rants and raves (usually after a cherub-faced 6 year old tells me to "F**k off"), I will also be the first to come to the defense of the youth of today when they are unfairly maligned.

It's not the kids who are the nincompoops here. It's the parents who never taught them; who never made the time; who value the material and ease over anything else. I also suspect that the number of kids who are like those in the scenarios culled from the original article and noted above is vastly smaller than those who aren't - and it's totally unfair to use them to paint a generational picture like this. Let's call it like it is: There Is a Generation of Nincompoops Passing Their Nincompoopery Along to Their Offspring.

04 October 2010

Making Sense of the Senseless

I'll be the first to admit that when violence grips the most violent parts of this fair metro area of mine, I'm rarely surprised and never truly shocked. Even when it hits close to home, at the other end of the city, I'm not surprised. After all, the truth of the matter is this: I don't feel safe in my neighborhood, particularly after dark. There are a large number of addicts living around us and, while our street is generally safe and neighborly, 30 seconds around the corner(s) yields another place that is not.

I was, however, angered at the brief but seemingly random spate of violence that my own community experienced over Labor Day weekend - 24 hours of gun violence that left 3 people dead, in two unrelated shootings. The first happened about half a mile from our house, the second happened closer to home - and that headline is already too old. Within 48-hours of that event, a second man died from his injuries.

My anger has barely calmed to a simmer if only because our Mayor has dismissed these acts as "some bad actors who came to Malden", and said nothing more. There have been no updates on the investigation(s) and I suspect that we'll never know whether anyone will be brought to justice in the case of the victim from Stoneham.

Almost a month later, a section of Boston that I've never visited and probably never will...a section that I've always seen as dangerous and no stranger to the violence that's making it's way to the suburbs of Boston (can our community truly be a suburb when it's about 3 miles from the city-proper's limits, 2 T stops away, and the skyline is quite visible from certain vantage points? Boston is eating it's suburbs like a beast, incorporating them into itself...), experienced an event that rattled me. Last week, 3 men, 1 woman, and 1 toddler were gunned down in the streets. All but one of the men was killed, and he is currently on life support, not expected to live.

Boston Globe columnist, Brian McGrory, summed up my feelings about this better than I ever could have. A child killed in his mother's arms; men stripped naked and shot in the back of the head in the dark of night, on the streets...

It's too surreal. Just like a firefight just down the road from where I live is too surreal. Nevertheless, both events happened.

I understand the price we pay in choosing to live in an urban area - crime will be more in evidence, including violent crime. I don't understand the stubborn silence of my mayor and his persistent refusal to acknowledge a significant increase in crime in our city or at least parts of our city. I don't understand the extremely foreign feeling act of ultra-violence that occurred in Mattapan last week - almost a culmination to a growing number of depraved murders this year in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Mostly, I don't understand how, as my own daughter grows, to even begin to talk to her about these types of things that she will see and hear about. The crack heads and heroin addicts we see too often are easy topics to handle. Even the not-so-surreptitious drug deals on the corner can be dealt with fairly simply. This other stuff though? I can barely wrap my head around it. I'm not sure I could possibly explain the why's and wherefor's of these acts.

It's not about gun control. It's not even about crime control. There are far more deep seated issues that ultimately drive people to commit these most vicious of crimes or have to battle for their lives in self-defense (though a gunfight in a tight, urban neighborhood, even when it's home or self-defense, is still a dangerous venture for anyone to engage in what with stray bullets and all...).

Moving is not an option nor is it a solution. I suppose the best I can do is the Right Thing (as Top Telly used to say to me. Constantly.) where our daughter is concerned - and give her the tools she needs to navigate all of this. After all, soon, the cameras will be gone. In the case of our Labor Day Extravaganza, they left in what seemed like minutes after arrival, especially as it became clear that Mayor Howard is no Mayor Menino, and has not spoken out and demanded justice at any cost. No news there. Just another day in Malden. But in Mattapan, after all the outrage has been aired, all of the talking heads have said all that they can say, life will go on as well.

How much will any of these events, here or there, change anything? The best we can do is keep on teaching - street savvy, street smarts, and keeping away as best one can from a lifestyle that begets violence.

It's all I can think to do.

01 October 2010

This week has been longer than most. Obviously, since it's been 10 days since my last post and for that, I am a bad blogger. Seriously though? M and I were just talking a little while ago about how loooong this week has been - and not in a good way. We were sagging with relief at it's end, breathing deeply, when what should we hear from another room? "Uh-oh. Mommy Daddy I have a pooop!"

[whimper]

As we flew in to the bathroom, we were greeted by the following scene: A pull-up on the floor. A poop...next to the potty. On the floor. A girl-child with her pants around her ankles and her mouth completely covered in...black?

I did not even know where to begin. Clearly, she had been eating markers. Clearly, she had missed the potty but tried really hard not to. Clearly, I should not have been trying to take a moment's worth of deep breathing before she was in bed.

M went to work on the poop on the floor. I went to work on her face. And then checked myself and cleaned off her bum. And then her face. But here's the dirty secret about Rose Art's water soluble, washable markers: THEY AREN'T. Even after the bathroom and the girl-child's bum were de-poopified, the face, the teeth, the tongue...were not.

I don't think I've ever had her brush her teeth for that long. Or rinse and spit so many times.

It seemed a most fitting end to this work week though, arguably one of the longest work weeks in the history of work weeks. Truly, there is nothing more perspective inducing than seeing your toddler literally covered, head-to-toe, in a giant mess.

I'm grateful that it's over.

The ray of sunshine in all of it? The fact that she really did try to make it to the potty in time. Were it not for the fact that I forgot to lift up the lid on her little pot, she probably would have done well. So, I do take that responsibility.

It's time to breathe out now.

20 September 2010

A First Kiss


Over on my personal Live Journal, I'm doing a 30-Day Meme to get me back into the habit of writing daily. It's been working well for the most part, but today's question, "Your First Kiss, In Great Detail" stumped me.

It took me a while, and in the end I drew inspiration not from a torrid and wonderful, love laced past or doe eyed adolescence, but from an amazing few days in which I've been thanked for a perspective on adoption by a local adoptive mom...and cried on during a chance and wonderful encounter with a birth mom. She is a woman I've known for a while, a woman I never knew had a son she gave up, and who is back in her life, as her son in adulthood. Our stories are different, but needless to say, both encounters gave me serious pause to reflect, once again, on this topic.

So, I'm sharing a version of my meme response here today. It's pertinent to the topic, from my perspective as an adoptee.

Read on...

Your First Kiss. In great detail?!

I think that the immediate conclusion one feels they should make from the question posed is that they must dredge the recesses of their memories to find the file marked, "My First Time Kissing a Boy/Girl Based on Sexual Preferences Exhibited in Early Childhood".


I disagree. A kiss is a kiss, unless it has a meaning behind it. Truthfully, I have memories swimming in the miasma of time of kissing a boy in pre-school when I was about 3. He ran up to me and stole a kiss on the playground. We were toddlers. It was also the day that he came to pre-school wearing his sister's barrettes in his hair. I'm not even sure that such an encounter could possibly count as a first kiss. After all, how seriously can you take a boy with barrettes in his hair?

Trudging ahead, there is a memory, but I'm not even sure that it's truly real, of kissing my neighbor when I was probably around 12. He must have been 13 or so. It was a "real" kiss. But even then, my memory tells me that I thought it was rather meaningless. It was an experiment. We had passed the Making Out With Our Pillow stage of adolescence and wanted to try the real thing. We'd known each other since childhood, but we weren't close and didn't play together as young children. Yet, it was a safe kiss. There were no sparks. I don't really remember ever kissing him again.

I could even say that my "first" kiss was one I'd already written about in another entry in my Live Journal. It was a first kiss from M. It had meaning. There weren't just sparks, there were lightening storms. But it wasn't my first kiss ever. Just the first one that I remember meaning much of anything at all. And in some way I can't help but wonder if every first kiss, in every past relationship doesn't somehow count as "your first kiss".

Maybe I'm just stalling because I never really liked kissing before I met M. Maybe my body knew what my brain did not fully realize (that I didn't care for kissing) until I met M and my life changed forever, and so before that point, my body chose to give me a mildly repulsed reaction to the act of kissing?

Ultimately though, I know when my first real kiss was. This is it, in great detail. Brace yourselves...

It is a day in April 1975. I have spent almost a month between a hospital and then, a foster home. I am brand new to this world and I don't think I've found a home or a bond that will last. I don't know what my foster mother or father look like. I don't know if I've kept them up each night, as newborns do. I don't know what room I am in, what my crib or bassinet is like, or even where I really am.


I know that I am fed formula. A lot. And on this day in April 1975, I am bundled into a blanket, and then into a car. 

I am taken somewhere else. There is a hand over to someone else. And then another one, again.

A woman takes me, with something like tears in her eyes. She looks into my blanket and I look back. She looks happy, shocked. And then she kisses me softly on my forhead and says, "Hello, little girl. I'm your mother."
 She is not the woman I was born to almost a month ago. She is not the woman that has been feeding me and changing my diapers for the last month. She is, in fact, my very own, real mommy. For the first time in my short life, I am kissed by own mommy. It is the most enduring first kiss that any child will ever have and it lasts forever.

I don't know that it actually happened that way, but I like to think that it did.

What do you think?

16 September 2010

On Poop

There are a great many things that I never thought I would say in my lifetime...and among them, the following utterance probably ranked right near the top: "Now remember, don't pee on Ni Hao honey. It will make her saaaad."

So began our final journey into a diaper free world last Sunday. It's been almost a year since A bought her own potty, but last week, she also picked her own underpants.

For the record: Ni Hao was the compromise. Even though she doesn't watch Dora the Explorer, she knows who Dora is. I hate Dora. We both agreed on Ni Hao. (And don't talk to me about Dora being the same as Ni Hao. They're not. I don't hate Ni Hao.)

Fortunately, play skool also potty trains. And of course, because she's an angel at play skool, she's a champion potty-goer there too. But at home, especially this weekend, after a week in underpants, we've had more out of the potty than in, or so it seems. She refuses to poop in the potty at all here, although I'm bribing her with sparkly, shiny stickers as of todaytty, so who knows.

Last Monday, I spent 40 minutes in the bathroom waiting for a poop. I showed her how to make the  "I'M POOPING!" face; I sang the pooping song. I applauded poop. And I thought to myself, when I used to say I was in the shit, especially overseas, I never thought that someday it would come to mean this. My, how the toughest do fall...

That was the first, and last, potty poop thus far.

Now, I am so tired of poop. I know we're in the beginning stages, but poop is poop and I have "potty trained" enough puppies in my day to know that I'm so damn done with cleaning up accidents, especially poop. If I never see another poop where it doesn't belong again, it will be too soon. Even my own mother, mother of all mothers, sent me a text on Monday that said, "Potty training is a good form of birth control."

I texted back saying that was true, but it's also a milestone, and almost typed millstone instead.

I know we'll get there. She's great with not peeing on Ni Hao, Yo Gabba Gabba, or her frogs. It's just that I don't like poop. I really don't like poop.

Tips or tricks on potty training you'd like to share?

14 September 2010

Down Home Wisdom - Not Always Wise

There is a saying, probably as old as the hills. It is a saying that, for some reason, middle-aged women often lay before me in conversation. It is: "If Momma ain't happy, ain't no one happy!" In every instance, it's followed up with a knowing wink, a little nudge-nudge, and an, "Amiright?"

I hate that saying. In fact, the next time someone throws it out there in conversation, I'm going to respond, "NO! You are NOT right!!"

Let's nevermind the fact that I believe that any unhappy family member will, to a greater or lesser degree, affect the general happiness of the entire family. In the last couple of weeks especially, I have come to determine that ultimately, in families with young toddlers, the real saying should be, "If baby ain't happy, ain't no one happy."

Never had I dreamt of the power of a two year old. She does determine when we will be happy and when we will not. If misery loves company, then there are many days where she's got close companions in this household for sure.

An irate, irritable, or just plain stubborn two year old is capable of pegging the family's Happy Meter at zero. In fact, there are times when I'm fairly sure that she's engineering the Happy Meter to reach into the negative numbers.

I understand the age. I understand the push and pull, the Jekyll and Hyde, the love and loathing. I've just never experienced it so acutely, so clearly, as I have lately. I mean, it's bad enough that we are, apparently, nothing more than trained circus bears, here for her amusement ("MOMMY! SING A SONG!" - mentally, I always add a "DIDI MAU" to this, and the many other like it, demand(s))...

Now, we're only allowed happiness when she is happy.

Nope. Mothers do not mandate the mood in their households. Their children do. And while it is possible to remain happy in spite of a tiny whirling dervish's best efforts, they are still at the forefront of Mood Control.

Best of luck with that. And the next time someone starts to say to you, "If Momma ain't..." - slap them for me, will you?

12 September 2010

Like a Bucket of Ice

I am an emergency responder. A attends day care at my place of work. These two facts don't seem, on the surface, to be at all related and in fact, I had neatly compartmentalized them into two separate bins myself...until a couple of weeks ago.

When I dropped A off, her teacher said, "Hey, big day tomorrow, Miss A!" and looked at me. "She doesn't do well with evacuations. It scares her."

Because I was currently rummaging about in the "Dropping of fat Daycare" bin in my brain, I gave her a blank look. "Um, and what's tomorrow?"

She looked at me funny in turn. "The active shooter exercise? You know? The whole base?"

Oh. Damn. I did know. I knew because my job puts me in the nerve center for response and command and control. But then, I didn't know because daycare is...well, not located in that mental compartment.

I knew when A was evacuated, twice the week prior, for smell of smoke in the facility. And I knew about what had happened during the first evacuation. But I wasn't part of that because it was small in scale and easily handled by first responders. I also knew that she, along with many other kids, didn't do well with it. So, we talked about it on the way home and now, she's walking us through fire drills. She doesn't like the alarms, but she's working through it.

What I never really considered though, was the simple fact that, if something does happen here that requires a full reponse, I'll be, well, responding. I suppose that some people might find that comforting, but the problem I see with it is that my job mandates that I know what's going on. Most other parents with children in day care don't know what's going on until a while after it's happened.

And then I did the unthinkable in this particular situation: I started to think, as I drove from daycare to my office, about high impact targets on the base. And if I were a gunman, I'd go for the heart and soul. And to me, that's the kids. It was like I'd been punched in the stomach.

What danger have I unthinkingly put my daughter in? It gnawed at me all day and most of that night. I also berated myself for not thinking about it before. What kind of parent am I?

The exercise, however, came and went. Instead of dwelling on my daughter, hunkering down in the designated safe room with the rest of the class, my focus was on command and control and what was happening out there and what we needed to do in here.

In the end, the kids, including my daughter, did well. They played games involving being quiet and actually had fun. They had no idea what was happening, or why. As it should have been. I try not to think too much about it either, but sometimes, it creeps up on me. I work on a potential target for bad people to do bad things, moreso than most other places of business. My daughter is growing up in many ways there too. The benefits outweigh the risk, but what sort of parent am I that I never before thought of that risk?

What do you think? Is civilian daycare safer than military daycare or are military parents inherently more at risk?

07 September 2010

I Never Thought I Would See This Day...

As A and I walked out into the beautiful, sunlight afternoon today, I looked down at her while she trotted alongside me, watching her feet for anything interesting they might happen across. I stroked her golden hair and thought, I did this for you. No one else but you.

Today was a bittersweet day. In my last post, I made brief mention of the fact that I would probably be going into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). There's no more probably about it. I submitted my letter requesting the transfer today, knowing that I had my commander's verbal authorization already.

I don't know how I feel right now. The idea of not wearing a uniform for a period of years is foreign to me and it makes my skin crawl. Knowing that I can come back (and will) isn't exactly the consolation prize that I had hoped for. I do, after all, have 11 years of my life invested in this endeavor and part of me feels like I should have my boots in the sand right now - not my butt in a comfy chair.

Yet, I know that I'm doing this for all of the right reasons. I can't operate effectively when I'm needed at home in the way that I have been. So even though I feel adrift and more than just a little lost right now, I also feel a sense of relief and freedom. I'll have more time here. More time to just be here, with her. With M. More time to support them without worrying, even if it was only subconsciously. If something happens, I'll be here. There won't be any more conflicting work schedules to worry about for a long time. It is a relief.

And yet...

I can't fully express how hard this decision was for me. I put off the letter for as long as I could. But it's done, with no takesies-backsies. I'm not sure when I'll return yet, or even where I'll return to. But I will come back. I have to.

Just...not now. Not while I have this golden haired viking's tiny little hand still holding so tightly to mine. Not at this time in her life.

Thoughts?

04 September 2010

Labor Day Again?!

I'm not ready for this. Even though it's not the official End of Summer, it's really...the End of Summer. Even as Un-Hurricane Earl passed last night, the oppressive summer weather we'd had for...well...ever, evaporated literally overnight in his wake.

More importantly, it was actually only yesterday that we celebrated A's second birthday. That was at the beginning of spring and I just refuse to believe that the summer passed us by that quickly.

Granted, August was a whirling dervish of weddings, work, TDY, and out of country guests. I expected it to go quickly. And June and July were, well, spent in a cocoon of hospitals and doctors.

So even though we're not packing A off to Kindergarten, and I didn't have to shop for school supplies, I still feel like I've been ripped off and am owed a summer. Granted, the oppressive humidity was enough to make me welcome autumn weather. And yes, I'm looking forward to crunchy leaves, pumpkins, and apples. Because I'm a bit soppy when it comes to autumn and I require these rather trite, traditional things. Perhaps moreso now that I'm a parent.

Yet...this also means that in just over a half year's time, we'll be ramping up for a third birthday. I'm not loving this time flying thing that comes with parenthood.

On the other hand, I'll soon be an Individual Ready Reservist as opposed to a traditional reservist. This may help time slow a little. I won't live drill-to-drill, tour-to-tour. I'll be able to focus on where I'm most needed which, at the moment, is still here. But it won't get me my summer back.

I demand a refund!!

18 August 2010

Is Anyone Still Out There?

Just a little over a month ago, I officially logged off. My status as a mother on reserve had change to full-time, active duty. This was no Title 10 or 32 order, but a definitive look at what my priorities were - and unfortunately, writing was not, and could not, be one of them for a while.

A had been sick for the better part of a month-and-a-half and we had been warned that her symptoms were consistent with Leukemia. So, until we received a diagnosis, and until I could breathe, and until she was generally better, my life, the one I call my very own (not the one I call mother or wife or colleague or Sergeant) ceased.

Now, we know that she does not have Leukemia. Nor does she have the legion of options we were given. We don't know what it is/was, but we know what it wasn't. And we know that she's progressing well. The almost daily calls to pick her up from daycare have tapered off and life has resumed a semblance of normalcy.

I still find that I'm holding my breath sometimes, especially when the phone at work rings. I know now that we still have many more visits to various practitioners, but Boston Children's Hospital is the best there is, so I also have faith that she's in wonderful hands.

Our new normal, however, has also meant that I'm seeking leave of military duties for now and placing myself into the inactive ready reserve (IRR) program. With one car and a high ops tempo between the unit and my job (which is the same thing I do at the unit, just for the active duty), I don't feel comfortable or right being far from home for long.

I've found that not only am I OK with that idea, I'm relieved about it. It's a weight off of my shoulders. It's one less thing I'll have to wrap my head around for now. And when we're comfortable with either a) her final diagnosis or b) where she is in terms of her overall health, then I'll be able to return with fresh eyes and a refreshed spirit.

So, I suppose you could say that this is the official return of Mom on Reserve, the Blog. Hopefully I wasn't gone so long that everyone wandered off.

How have you been, Dear Reader?

14 July 2010

Walking in the Shadows

I owe all of you who have read so regularly both an explanation and an apology. I have not been, and will not be, writing for a while. A is in the process of being diagnosed with an as yet unspecified illness and I have spent the last month home more than at work, ferrying her to doctors and trying my best to keep everything together.

Not too long after this started, M was "counseled" by his manager that it was his "job" to provide for the family and my duty to stay home with the sick child. I'm the one who, according to his boss, is to tend her, pick her up from daycare, and take the time to go to the doctor's. Never mind that financially, we're dependent on my paycheck...

Unfortunately, this is all under pain of losing an income on M's end if he doesn't comply. He's not been there long enough to be protected under FMLA. So, we're sucking it up and dealing as best we can, but obviously, if I was a mother in reserve as the name of this blog says, then I clearly have been recalled to active duty.

I will write as time allows and, as we grow nearer to a diagnosis and, if necessary, the development of a care plan, I'll be able to better budget my time to get this back on track. I love being here and don't want to give it up - but my priorities are a little altered at the moment and free time is a fleeting and random thing that I have taken to sleeping through.

So, check back (and check on Twitter from time to time - or even Facebook) but know that it doesn't have to be frequently at the moment...and know that, if you enjoyed reading me before, I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

23 June 2010

Never Mind Hanging Up and Driving. Hang Up, Tune In, and Parent!

Early last week, before my TDY (translated to civilian-ese, "business trip"), I stumbled across a rather poorly written OpEd piece on distracted parenting. While I felt that the piece lacked cohesion or a good conclusion, the central point was clear (if only because I'm a parent). Parents who don't focus on their babies' needs or who interact with them in a vague manner fail to teach them key things about themselves and the world around them.

I remember reading up on newborns when A fell into that category of child - and thinking, "This makes perfect sense". Babies imitate. Your faces are their meter for their actions. Your expressions and tones teach them about the world around them and their relationship with you. In fact, time and again, experts emphasize the fact that the best new baby toy you can "get" for your child is...your face and your voice.

With that in mind, both M and I focused on A. We talked to one another on the phone when she was sleeping and hung up straight away when she woke or screamed or cried. We didn't let TV or telephones or even music distract us while we fed her or interacted with her. In fact, for the first almost 12-months of her life, the TV was on all day - tuned to the classic music channel. Nothing to watch and soothing music all around helped avoid distractions.

Now, of course, things have changed. A is a toddler and a very independent one at that, but I haven't been able to help but notice more and more "distracted parents" when we're out and about.

In Faneuil Hall's North Market on Sunday evening, a young baby began crying while his mother sat, eating her dinner and yelling into her cell phone. As his cries got more persistent and angry, she raised her voice to be heard and idly messed with the carriage. It took 10 minutes (yes, I timed it) before she finally took him out

14 June 2010

Meet the Fall Guy

His name? Well, according to the Official Ugly Doll website, it's Secret Mission Ice Bat. He can live in the freezer and steal your noms. Be that as it may, according to our daughter, that is Wombat. It is her lovey and God forbid you ever do something like forget him in the doctor's office on a Friday because then you'll have to invent a story about how he was sick too and he had to stay for observation. Over the weekend. But isn't Fishcakes nice? (Don't ask - it's another lovey, second best.)

Ahem. So anyway...

With A's imagination in full swing these days, wwe've discovered that she has adapted to her single-childhood well. I grew up with two younger brothers that were close in age (and later, a baby sister who's 10 and a half years my junior, so she missed out on this...) and M grew up with an older brother. That meant that we always had a Fall Guy.

The Fall Guy was the one you pointed to and said, "HE DID IT!!!" while you were standing in the middle of a pile of broken pottery and your brother was playing innocently across the room. The Fall Guy wrote on the walls, made the mess, jumped on the bed until it broke.

Sometimes it worked, most times, our parents gave us the hairy eye and then a good talking to or, more likely than not, a sore rear and sent us to bed, even if it was only one in the afternoon.

Single children, however, don't have that luxury. Or do they? Wombat, as he is lovingly known,

11 June 2010

The Switch is Flipped

It has been a long week. In fact, it feels as though it's been the Longest Week Ever. Between M having serious issues with his job (to the unintentional detriment of the household mood) and A suddenly and ferociously exhibiting every negative aspect of Toddlerdom you can fathom, I am ready for some Mommy/Daddy Alone Time tomorrow night.

The thing I've realized about this coming of age saga is that it really is as if a switch was turned on, starting Monday. It's the week where Mommy Can Do No Right. A kiss has been enough to set off a litany of wrongs perpetrated unto her, beginning with, "MY HEAD MOMMY! NO TOUCH MY HEAD!! NO KISS MY HEAD!!!! MINE!!!!"and culminating in, "BWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

This, of course, will set the tone for the remainder of the day.

It's also tough to watch. It's hard to see your child losing her mind and inevitably, we can see when things have gotten to the point of no return - that stage of the tantrum wherein the child has forgotten what they were mad about and is now just mad because they're mad and they don't know why they're mad so now they're scared and mad which scares them more...

You can see where that's going - and seasoned parents, you can please stop pointing and laughing at me now. Really.

We try to rationalize it anyway. She's mad at me because I've been TDY a lot lately and this started after I returned from drill. She's in a growth

03 June 2010

Play-Skool - It's Work Too

I often think that it's a damn shame that we don't really seem to view children as actual people. Usually, these thoughts come when I see light to nearly non-existent sentences for parents found guilty of physical abuse or pedophiles found guilty of repeat offenses. It's easy to see it in those cases - light sentences for those who assault other "almost-but-not-yet-quite-people" just smacks of a certain level of de-humanization to me.

And I realized last night that on some level, no matter how much we may value our smallest of humans and their very humanity, even the best intended and most loving parents do it too. It was my mini-epiphany for the night when, after ensuring that A was snug in bed, I took a moment to breathe and revel in the silence and reflect on the evening to that point.

She was quiet, as she often is for a while, on the car ride home. Sometimes, when I ask about her day, she just sticks her thumb in her mouth and gives me The Look which is when I leave her alone. But yesterday, we got home early

02 June 2010

Un-Schooling - Child-Centered or Parental Laziness?

A few days ago over at In the Parenthood, Lylah M. Alphonse asks us, "Would you support your teen's decision to drop out of high school?" Most of the answers in the comment section were predictable - parents stating that they'd drag their child kicking and screaming if necessary;  that anyone who lets their kid do this is trying to be cool, hip, a friend and is, therefore, a bad parent.

I take a slightly different view because, frankly, in spite of my parents very best efforts, I was a wayward child and no amount of punishment, discipline, dragging (kicking and screaming inncluded), or other more serious efforts could curb my desire to live life on my terms, in my way. So, I support a parent who realizes that ultimately, there comes a time in a child's life when the parent has exhausted all available options except for prison (which seems a wee bit extreme here...) and it may be easier to support their child in their endeavors than fighting them tooth and nail.

But this afternoon, I came across a flipside to this coin: Un-schooling. At first blush (a light, grazing, almost non-existent blush at that), un-schooling seems to be an interesting method of exposing your children to the world. No cirriculum, no tests, child-driven learning through-and-through....a little like Montessori on serious steroids. Except, after reading more in depth and checking out this Nightline article where an un-schooler and her family were observed at "work", I had some serious questions about the veracity of this "radical, new school of thought".

31 May 2010

Today We Remember

Today, some flags were flown half-mast. Most were not. Some people were sleeping off the weekend food and drink hangovers. Most were continuing the revelry with barbeques and beach trips. And as we celebrated the unofficial start to summer like most other Americans, doing much the same, a small part of my brain kept whispering, "Remember".

While some, as evidenced in the Davis Square Live Journal community, believe that Memorial Day is a day to celebrate war, others, like my family, take the time to remember.

Memorial Day is not a day to celebrate. Nor is it a day to warmonger and it certainly shouldn't be a day to further polarize an already split populace.

It is just a day to remember.


  • Buckley, Eugene        US Navy                       WWII      Died: 2005

  • Coughlin, Richard      US Navy                       Vietnam    Died: 2006

  • Greenwood, Robert  US Army                        Korea      Died: 2003

  • Harrington, Fred       US Army Air Corps        WWII      Died: 2004

  • Hersey, Kenneth       US Navy                        WWII      Died: 2009

  • Jack                         US Army Air Corps        WWII      Died: 2003

  • Mahoney, John         US Air Force                  Vietnam   Died: 2009

  • Nadeau, Ralph          US Marines                    Vietnam   Died: 2008

  • Thoms, Robert          US Army                        Korea     Died: 2008

All of these men touched me in a way that will remain with me, in my heart, for the rest of my life. Were it not for their service, I wouldn't know them. Were it not for their service, they wouldn't have wended their way into my life to leave their lasting marks, their memories, their stories.

Today, I heard them in the surf as I laid on the beach. I saw them in the light of my child's eyes as she laughed and played with friends at a neighbor's cookout. They were all buried with military honors, though too many of them left this world alone, in pain, and in ways we never would have expected.

So take a moment before you go to bed tonight, please. And just...remember. That's really what this weekend is all about.

24 May 2010

Never Trust a Friend

We are fortunate to live in one of the greener urban areas in this nation - and by that, I don't necessarily mean "environmentally correct" (though we are, as a community, that too). Boston and the immediate "suburbs" (hard to tell where the city ends, really) boast parks and green stands both large and small, including riverwalks, bike paths, beaches and wooded areas. These are, for all intents and purposes, Open to the Public, free to use by any and all, free to enjoy.

But naturally, with parks comes maintenance and with maintenance comes cost and with the threat of losing some of this public space due to cost come, as inevitably as the red tides of summer, the Friends.

Most Friends start off as small groups of devoted users of trails, land, parks, beaches. They are as attached to those spaces as barnacles are to the hull of a fishing boat (and eventually, prove much harder to scrape away). Friends might even be considered devotees, if one were inclined to be snarky (which one never is inclined to be, oh no). Friends have time to devote to their friendship. Friends have money to devote to their friendship. Friends are usually well intentioned at the outset (please recall the paving stones along the route to hell), but over time, and with enough money in the coffers, Friends morph into something else...something more sinister...

They are no longer Friends. They are Owners. But make no mistake, you will never meet a president of a group calling itself, "Owners of the...[insert park, beach, trail here]". It just doesn't have the same, upbeat tone to it as "Friends of the..." does it? It's not as welcoming. Of course, they're not actually owners of anything except a stake in the resource in question, owing to the fact that they've thrown so much money at it to remain devoted friends that usually, government entities like DCR throw themselves prostrate as the friends walk by, begging them not to remove their funding.

And so it has been with mild bemusement that I've watched the saga that is The Fells Land Use unfold

21 May 2010

Gosh. I Feel Like a Woman. [snerk]

A wasn't feeling herself last night. We could see that. M told me that she put his hand on her belly while he was reading her good-night stories last night and whispered, "Hold, Daddy." She was tired and warm, two signs of pending illness for sure.

She wasn't up to par this morning either, but when I took her temperature, it was normal. So, we got on with our day. I did let her teachers know that she wasn't altogether well, but with no fever, I couldn't justify taking the day off (especially since I have next to no paid time off to take and a buffet platter of work and meetings and training that's overflowing) and, I thought, M's job won't let him go if I'm around.

And there's the rub. Mechanics, you see, are men. Men don't do women's work. At least, that's the prevailing sentiment that I see over and over again. When M told the last Service Manager they had that he was leaving to stay home with his infant daughter full-time, the man actually accused him of lying to cover up the fact that he must be going to another dealership. And when I was in the field, they were unhappy with him for leaving early by 15 minutes each day to make sure he could get to A before the center closed. Never mind that they knew this would be when they hired him...

In fact, the HR woman at one dealership he interviewed at actually reacted with a, "What do you mean, your wife may deploy? I don't know if we can

18 May 2010

Motherhood and Youth

Sunday morning found us shopping at Target for some necessities (diapers) and a few incidentals as well. A excitedly picked out what I can only describe as the LOUDEST PAIR OF PANTS EVER - leggings with large seahorses printed on, in every color of the rainbow. Of course, we got the matching top which was far more subdued - a turquoise blue with two seahorses, nose to nose. On her, it's adorable. Loud, but appropriate. And I remarked to M later that night, "It must be nice to be 2 and be able to wear something that loud and pull it off."

"Well," he said, "There are more than a few women who..."

I didn't let him finish the thought. "I SAID, and pull it off."

"Ah. Good point."

I was thinking of the article I had read earlier in the day that discussed, rather venomously, youth obsessed mothers, particularly those who share crushes with their tween and teen daughters. My initial reaction was to be mildly revolted by these women

17 May 2010

Level 1 Prohibitory Monsters - Do You or Don't You?

Lately, I've been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett. So much so, in fact, that I'm sort of wondering myself when I'll pick up a different genre again. I suppose it has a lot to do of being immersed so deeply in the rather humorless work of the government grind - I need someplace fun and satirical to escape to when I read. Yet I find that, not only is Terry Pratchett funny, he's also extraordinarily intelligent. So I was rather excited to get my mitts on a copy of The Folklore of Discworld, wherein he and a British folklorist, Jacqueline Simpson, explore the myths of Discworld and Earth (and the remarkable cross between the two worlds). It's both entertaining and educational - and being in the throes now of a time in our daughter's life where there can be no doubt that Magic and Monsters exist, one section gave me a lot of pause to think and wonder.

In several chapters, particularly on races (dwarves and trolls featuring highly here), Elves, and the Nac Mac Feegle, our own ancient myths and legends through the years are dissected - and discussed in terms

14 May 2010

As Green as it Gets...For Us

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm calling the Yuppie Greenification of MA Movement. It seems that every time I turn around, another law or regulation has been passed to make the state a greener place. On the one hand, I see nothing wrong with making the world a better place. On the other, I have to wonder why, now that it's such a popular thing to do, the cost of going green has gone so...well...high.

I also wonder how, if environmental education is the latest trend in elemetary cirriculums, I will explain to my sweet little cherub (snerk) exactly why Mommy and Daddy are limited in their ability to jump on board this bandwagon.

In terms of Green Points, I present the following:
  • We only have one car. It's a 2003 Impala, but it's one car. For the family. Now, with M back to work, we all commute together. He drives to his workplace (about 10 minutes from mine), and then I take the helm and drive to A's play-skool and my office. We reverse the trend going home. We don't drive when we can take the T though.
  • We recycle. Two bins a week.
  • I use one green cleaning product for light cleaning only. The others I've tried were ridiculously expensive and performed worse than soap and hot water, so there's still plenty of chemicals in the house - which means I don't think I can claim a full point here.
  • I use a re-usable water bottle for tap water and coffee mug instead of buying them individually.
  • When we buy seasonal fruits and vegetables from our commissary, we automatically get the local deal. Same with milk and eggs. They're not, however, certified organic or free-range. That might equal out to zero points.
OK. So, we're off to a, well, a start. But here's where I get annoyed and wish that the fashionistas would find something else to ruin so that prices come back down.

I recently did a cost analysis on the value of getting rid of the Impala in favor

11 May 2010

No Other Mother's Day Gift Like It

On Friday when I picked A up from play-skool, there was a "gift" on top of her cubby. The kids had planted bean seeds and their teachers had stapled their picture to a popsicle stick, which was then stuck into the soil. It was accompanied by a rather silly ode to mothers, signed with the individual child's handprint in paint.


I remembered making these things when I was little and mocking them when I was large. I never imagined that I would ever be the intended recipient of the same someday, nor had I dreamed that my heart would actually melt when I received it.

Truly though, my real gift from her has been the change to revel in her recent explosion of language and imagination that's happened in the course of the last couple of months.

Her teachers tell me that she excels in both emergent writing and dramatic play (for daycare, this is really more like pre-school given the concepts they're being taught). We see it every day. She's often offered imaginary popcorn by Woozles (see Winnie the Pooh if you're unfamiliar) that seem to follow wherever she's got a craving for popcorn (which she's only ever had once, ages ago). Friday, on the way home, she was being offered imaginary lollipops by the mermaid sitting next to her in the back seat. Last night, she raided a store under the sea on an impromptu oceanic adventure in the bathtub. Naturally, mermaids helped.

She sees monsters in dark parking garages and the woods as we drive by. Some are good, some are bad. The ones currently under bed are her friends. Same for the ones residing in the closet.

I knew life was going to get interesting a few months ago when I had cleaned out her playroom closet and left a shallow, dish shaped basket on the floor while I contemplated it's fate. I walked in one night to check on her and she was sitting in it. She looked up at me and said, "My nest!" Under her bum were 3 bug-mobiles that were vaguely egg shaped. She was "hatching them" and then placing them reverently in a box.

I hadn't realized then how interesting, and funny, it was really going to become.

What better Mother's Day gift than a happy, healthy, giggling, playful, imaginative daughter could there be?

07 May 2010

A New Way to Feel Bad

It's no secret that most working mothers feel some form of guilt over...well...the fact that they work. Of course, so do stay-at-home moms. Some speculate that, as mothers, we're pre-programmed to beat the hell out of ourselves for failing somehow (usually in our own minds).

I've been a little smug on this topic. I never felt it. Nope. Not a lick. Our family is the way it is, I do what I do, it's different from you, you're different from me which, by the way, is the stuff life's made of...soooo...

I pressed on.

Until now. Right now, I'm not sure if I actually feel guilty for wanting what I want or guilty for not actually feeling guilty, but there's certainly some element of "Bad Mommy!" playing out in my head. Why? Well...

26 April 2010

Finding Another New Groove

I'll have to update my profile soon...but not tonight. Tonight, I'm running on pure adrenaline and the moment my body realizes what my brain already knows (that it [my body] is on E and the fumes aren't going to get it much further...), I'll be collapsing.

Today was the first day, since she was 5 weeks old, that A has had a dual-working parent family.

I get it now. I get all of it. I understand the pangs of regret that happen when you get home in a flurry of activity, cooking, cleaning, and suddenly - it's bedtime.

It took us a little bit to get into our groove when she started Play Skool. After all, I was suddenly getting home an hour and a half later (5 instead of 3:30), with toddler in tow no less. Now, with one car and the three of us car pooling, it's later still.

Did I mention that we get up between 5 and 5:30 in the morning? No? Well, we do. [falls down]

It'll work out of course. It always does. I found my groove after only a few days last time. It's just a shame that I have to leave for the field for almost a week just a few days into this new routine.

I keep reminding myself that when she starts elementary school, I can go back to my old schedule. Then again, she won't be a toddler anymore and, for all of the tantrums and messes and lumps, I really don't want to rush her out of this stage of development just for a schedule change. It's entirely too much fun. After all, having a 2-year old teach you a new dance just before bed absolutely cannot be beat.

22 April 2010

Your Momma Wears Combat Boots - So What?

While searching for the end of the internet a few days ago, I came upon Stanford University’s Hoover Institute. There, I discovered Mary Eberstadt, a contributing editor to Policy Review. What caught my eye in the first place was her February feature, Mothers in Combat Boots. I would like to note, now, that I really wanted to post about this THATVERYMOMENT but was ultimately too enraged to write coherently. For a few days.


I have so many feelings regarding this piece that it’s almost impossible to disentangle them. In her piece, Ms. Eberstadt lambasts the “military policy” that deploys mothers. Not just single mothers. Not fathers. Just…mothers. But in order to make her point (which is, to spare you the eye strain, that the US, it’s people, it’s military, must stop this practice forthwith and offer incentives for women to either not have children or to defer their service completely), she took a long and winding road that touched on everything that had to do with mothers and women in the military.

To make her point, she cited the case of Army Spc. Hutchinson who refused to deploy last year. I wrote my own assessment of that situation here, and I was not alone in my thinking if Ms. Eberstadt is to be believed

In the end though, Ms. Eberstadt’s ultimate goal appears to be the expulsion of mothers from the military (active, reserve, and guard) for the betterment of our culture, our country and, of course, for our moral well-being. Oh. And the children. Won’t somebody please think of the children??

It’s true that the military does not give mothers of newborns the recommended period of one-year to breast feed before

21 April 2010

Corporal Punishment. It's Not Actually a B-Movie.

Spanking. To some parents, it’s a word synonymous with abuse. To others, it’s not really a big deal and it is, indeed, incorporated as a tool for use in their individual discipline structures for their kids. But no matter what side of the fence you live on, it’s a hot button issue sure to spark debate (if you’re lucky) and flame wars (if you’re not).


With that in mind, it was with a little bit of dread that I clicked on the Circle of Moms featured discussion the other day – “How Do You Feel About Spanking/Swats/Butt Busting”. My first thought was, “Butt Busting”? WTF is…who the $%^# calls it that unless you’re using a belt on a bare bottom?! (M tells me that it's actually a porn thang that has nothing to do with children or discipline. I suspected as much. Ew.)
I am not a spanker. I am not against those who are and I do believe in the freedom of families to choose discipline or punishment that is within the confines of the law – and that works for them. In fact, I was spanked. A lot. I also had my ass busted a few times. It left a very definitive mark on my personality, never really curbed the transgressions it was meant to (just made me a little more clever at hiding my tracks) but I would hardly say that I was abused…and I love and respect the parent that meted out the punishment.

Yet…we don’t do it. Odd that, given that both of us knew corporal punishment as kids and, let’s face it,

19 April 2010

The Forsaken Cake

It came to me in a flash on Friday as I removed our daughter's birthday cake from the improvised cooling "rack". (Er, a pizza pan. It had holes! Holes let air through. Air cools things. What did I know?!)
I am terrible at most domestic activities. I can't sew. I don't have a crafty bone in my body. If I dare to iron, I actually iron wrinkles in to the clothes...and frankly, I can't create beautiful cookies or cakes like that one, over there (look left). I can cook and make a halfway decent presentation of it...as long as I don't have to do anything fancy with a knife to make...you know...fruits or vegetables into teeny, tiny sculptures. But crafty things and baking pretty things that you'd almost rather just photograph than eat? Ummm...no. Notsomuch.

I learned that a pizza pan, while having holes to let air through, does not, in fact, make a good cooling rack for a cake. Especially a moist cake. Cake, even when cool, apparently sticks to things. Which is, I told myself as I tried not to weep, probably why cooling racks are rather, well, like racks and not trays. Less stuff to stick to.

Yep, the top of my cake came off. [sigh]

But! Nothing frosting can't cover, yes? Weeeellll...um...no. I mean, yes, if you add a bottle of sprinkles. After surveying the damage to the cake, I frosted it. With the flat of a shinto knife because along with cooling racks, I also don't have a proper frosting thinger. I don't even know what it's technical name is. It's just...the frosting thinger. I noticed, almost straight away, that the cake was crumbling into the frosting. Like toast crumbs in butter (eeyeck).

I had to walk away and bang my head off of the wall. Party planning and me just aren't good friends. I start with grand ideas (like saving lots of money and going DIY) and realize when it's too late that I do not have a skill. At all.

In the end, it was covered over with sprinkles. You know, rather like toothpaste in thumb tack holes. A loved it because, well, it was a funfetti mess of a cake and she loves her sprinkles, but I knew. I knew that I'd also forgotten soda (don't drink it, didn't dawn on me), chips, and other sundries. M ran a lot of extra errands on Birthday Party Day.

But there was my cake. Most of my mommy friends are talented. Last year, one of them made her daughter a Little Mermaid cake. And it was beautiful. Of course, my cake was tasty (hard to (*#^% up instructions on the back of a box that only has 4 ingredients all told), but dammit...it was my reminder that I am just not cut out for the domestic diva-dom. I don't even have the right tools for it. Baking without the proper accessories is akin to changing the oil in a dirt bike with a mallet and water. It just won't work.

The fact that I even use a comparison like that should tell you what I'm probably better at, shouldn't it? The odd mommy out is how I feel whenever I attend other parties, for sure. I don't talk the talk...but when A asked for a motorcycle, I told her she could have one next year and I would teach her (and Daddy) how to ride.

So next year, I'll be sure to have the right tools for changing the oil in her PW50 AND for baking a damn cake.

How about you? Are you a domestic goddess or a dirty disaster?

15 April 2010

Recipe for Disaster...Er...Pajama Picnic!

How to Throw the BEST Disaster Pajama Picnic Ever

Ingredients:
1 Bath (ensure tantrum for best effect)
1 toddler - or however many children still of tantrum-throwing age you can find/buy/steal (spouses count)
1 Spouse (see above)
Pajamas for everyone
Front Porch (Enclosed) - Ideal but not necessary
Food - All of the leftovers you can scrounge that aren't quite this side of manky just yet, and can be served cold. Condiments for impromptu finger painting a definite bonus

To Create:
1. Chase unruly toddler around the house, trying to cajole him/her/it with a bath using "Mommy's Special Soap" (no one needs to know that it's because you forgot to buy baby soap. Again.) and all of the toys he/she/it wants.

2. Lay down and weep.

3. Wrangle toddler into bath and behold! At this stage, if done correctly, he/she/it should have a complete tantrum/shit fit and demand that Daddy bathe him/her/it. Walk away relieved. For a minute.

4. While Daddy gives the bath, slap all of the food ingredients onto a plate, cut up some bread (a little stale for best results) and take it out to the front porch/designated picnic area.

5. Try to bribe toddler OUT of the tub with the picnic and groan when he/she/it demands that you, Mommy, finish the bath.

6. Tantrum. Oh. The kid too.

7. Dry toddler and allow them to pick their own PJ's. Wait for about 10 years before the final decision is made.

8. Tantrum.

9. Remind toddler that the picnic is ready and sigh hopelessly as you realize that your spouse is cleaning the cat box.

10. Behold! Picnic!! For best results, the toddler in question should take exactly one bite of every piece of food available...and place it back on the plate. Added bonus if said toddler tries to spoon mustard into his/her/it's mouth as the largest serving of anything.

11. Encourage spouse to put toddler to bed, then collapse and die.

Note: If step #11 doesn't yield one collapsed, dead mommy, you've done it wrong and should start over from the beginning.

13 April 2010

Only but Not Lonely

"So. When are you going to give A a little brother or sister?" This, mind you, isn't from my mom or M's mom or any actual relative at all. This is the mantra of older friends, neighbors, and general acquaintances since A is now 2.

"Oh, how about never?" is my pre-recorded response. Always, I'm met with protest. Kids should have siblings, families are to be treasured, blah, blah, blah. I've found that the best way to end the conversation (short of a beer bottle upside the head) is to say, "Fine. You pay for it, I'll do it. That means diapers, food, clothes, toys, birthdays, Christmases, after-school activities, college...you know. The works."

But now I've committed the Ultimate Sin. I've ensured, surgically, that I will have no more children. I just turned 35 myself; I have an amazing son in the world and my own little 2-foot tall Viking Horde in the house. Children, the having of, was never an imperative for me to begin with. We are happy just the way we are and A is certainly not wanting for playmates or, presently, for material things.

But why...why is it the wont of some to push their family ideals on others? I find that the most vociferous of these people are those who came from a large family but don't, themselves, have an immediate family of their own.

Let me give you the short and sweet when it comes to my opinion of living vicariously through others, whether it be your friends, your children (especially your children), your favorite screen character or author: STOP. You have your life, with all of it's lumps, corkscrews and bumps. STOP living through others. Live what you've been given and if it's unsavory, change it. It's your life. Get your grubby paws off of mine.

We don't want more children, no matter what anyone else thinks for us. We love the one we have. We can provide for her. Maybe her experience as an only child will make her want a large family in the future, but so far, she's on par with her peers socially and intellectually. It hasn't hurt her, neither has it spoiled her.

What about you? Is less more or do you think that everyone should have lots of children to love?

12 April 2010

So You Say it's Your Birthday...

"Mommy! I have birfday soon!" chirped a little voice from the backseat. This was a month ago and caught me completely off guard. "Yes!" I exclaimed.
"Oh! And I have bleeoons and a poh-sickle and a cup-cake...and I blow out candle!!"
"Yes!" I exclaimed again, taken aback at the amount of thought she'd put into this whole thing. "Er...would you like...pizza on your birthday?"
"Nnnnoooo. I like macaronicheeseHOTDOG."

I was in the drivers seat, nearly weeping with joy. Easiest birthday EVAR. "Um," I stumbled forward with a little dread, trying to plumb the depths of my nearly-two-year-old's mind, "What kind of present would you like? A dolly? A book?"
"No." After almost a minute of silence, "Oh! I like a ball."
"A ball?!"
"YETH!"

For the last month, we've been hearing about balloons and cakes, candles and balls...and a more recent request for a special birthday hat, non-stop. So guess what today is? It's her birthday. But shhh...she doesn't know it. Her party isn't until Friday, when my mother, sister, and nephew arrive. Why? Because neither of us want to set a precedent that one's birthday comes more than once a year. Part of me feels badly about it, but in the end, she'll have her party with balloons and popsicles, cakes and candles, and of course, her Very Special Hat. People will make a fuss over her and she'll go to bed that night knowing that birthdays are special indeed.

And we'll hear about it every day until next year...or at least until a month before Christmas when the tune will change to Santa Claus.

Today though, I'm taking this as my day to celebrate that two years ago, I first held her in my arms - a tiny, transluscent thing with a small cry. I'm celebrating the fact that she has survived two years of our parenting, a combination of muddling and bungling through. I am celebrating the fact that we have, for two years, managed to save her from herself on a daily basis. After all, it is the job of every mobile baby and toddler to attempt suicide at least twice a day. Today is her birthday and it marks a huge turning point in all of our lives, even if she doesn't know it.

10 April 2010

Adoption - It's For Life, Not Until the Warranty Runs Out

I've been largely offline lately, owing to a recent surgical procedure and subsequent regimen of medication that has rendered me useless in any venue requiring coherence, so this morning, I thought I would catch up on some news over breakfast.

What a mistake. After seeing this headline, Russia Furious Over Adopted Boy Sent Back From US, I choked on my eggs. My blood pressure rose and parts of my body that were only throbbing twanged with renewed pain. It's true, stress and anger manifest themselves physically.

The crux of the story is this: A woman in the US adopted a boy from Russia who, after a period of time, she claims became too violent and difficult to handle. So, she bought him a one-way ticket back to Mother Russia, with the equivalent of a "Return to Sender" note pinned to him.

As adoptee, birth mother, and general advocate for adoption in general, I was outraged. I've seen it too many times in forums and in anti-adoption websites (Google it. Have fun reading)..."it" being this notion that adopted children are malcontents who come pre-packaged with issues beyond the norm and no reasonable parent-in-waiting should be asked to burden themselves. It doesn't matter whether the child is adopted later in life or as a newborn, it's an industry we must not feed, producing demon spawn that will eat our generous souls.

Adoption, whether done here in the US or overseas, is expensive. Yes. It's no guarantee of familial bliss either. I can attest to that, remembering the own misery I inflicted on my family. But they didn't send me back with a note. They rode out the storm and are still my family to this day. They, unlike Ms. Nancy Hansen's daughter, understood that family comes in all forms and that adoption is an agreement to be that family, for better or worse. It's, in fact, a larger committment than marriage. You don't normally divorce your children when they lash out. Instead, you seek help.

Ms. Nancy Hansen, the returned child's adopted grandmother, vehemently denies charges of child abandonment. After all, she claims, the boy was under the charge of a stewardess for the entire flight, and her daughter, the boy's adopted mother, had paid a stranger some 200 US dollars to pick the child up in Moscow.

Think about your families for a moment, whether blended, adopted, or biological. Think about your special needs children, your children with emotional problems - especially those of you who gave birth to those kids. Are there days you wish you could return them? Of course! Do you find yourselves clambering over them, demanding they get back to whence they came, right now!! No. Responsible, loving parents, no matter how they came to be, weather the storms, understanding that parenthood is a sacrifice, but that ultimately, they are responsible for fixing what is broken.

This Russian child has already been "abandoned" in his own mind once, by parents who could not, for whatever reason, raise him and gave him over to the state. He realized a dream that many children in orphanages around the world, including here in the US never do, and that was to find a family of his very own. Now, he's been abandoned again, by a woman who clearly doesn't understand that parenthood, whether natural or adopted, is forever, bumps, scary emotional rides and all.

What sort of precedent will this set in the end? How many children waiting for adoption will be affected by this woman's now public rejection of "broken goods"? How many other adoptive parents will ultimately follow this lead? And what sort of renewed voice will this give to the anti-adoption set?

As a mother, an adoptee, a birth mother, these questions will haunt me - as will the fate of that troubled little boy.

24 March 2010

The Trouble With Monsters

Before she started daycare, A came running out of her playroom and nearly bowled me over, shrieking, "MOSSTURS!!" "Monsters?" "YETH! MOSSTUR!!"

Since then, she has shown me where she sees the monster by the ceiling or in her closet or under her crib...and we don't know where she picked this up. Being Irish and therefore naturally superstitious, I have decided that the house is haunted. M is a little more pragmatic and has declared me silly.

Haunted or not, silly or not, the fact remains that A sees monsters. Everywhere. Except lately...

12 March 2010

Keeping Up With the Joneses isn't Easy to do in Uniform

It's been almost a month since A started daycare but only about a week since M started job hunting. As we've all finally adapted to the new routine and are finally getting comfortable, M was offered a job with the following hours: Noon to 8 pm, Sunday through Friday. He accepted the job but...

02 March 2010

For the Love of Anonymous Vitriol

Unfortunately, in recent weeks, the job that pays has taken precedence over everything except my family life and I haven’t been able to be as productive in my writing (obviously) as I would like. I feel like we haven’t talked, you and I, so let’s do that. Tonight, let’s talk about choice. More specifically, let’s talk about lifestyle choices – to have children or not – and what, if anything, that really means. Let’s talk, too, about how we teach our kids to deal with the choices they make and how things have changed since we were on the playground.

I got to thinking about this after reading Erica Noonan’s latest column, Will the Real Childfree Movement Please Stand Up? Ms. Noonan has, apparently, just learned of the existence of the so-called, “Childfree Movement” and is a little put off, as is evidenced by her writing.

17 February 2010

Drink...More...Ovaltine?!

This week, we have entered the newest chapter in the book of our Life as Parents - Chapter XX, Daycare (Play Skool), Trials, Tribulations and...Who Knows What.

The night before day 1, no one slept. Why? Because Miss A kept crying. And crying. And crying. And when I finally got her to tell me why, she looked at me pitifully and said, "Pay skool, Mommy?" Aha! Anxiety. Of course. I reassured her that there would be fish. And slides. It worked.

Day 1 drop off went far more smoothly than expected. I got a hug. I got a kiss. I got a look that said, "When we get home, I'm peeing in your shoes," as I walked out the door.

At pick-up, I was rewarded with a loud and excited, "MOMMY!!!!" before I even opened the classroom door. I was tackled and then given a tour of every toy in the room. Twice.

Day 2? Ah. Here's where the lead in will make sense to some...