Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ten Things I Want My Teenage Son (and everyone on the internet) To Know

As the mother of a teenage son, I'm experiencing things I'm pretty sure no one has ever experienced before. You know, stuff like slamming my foot on the invisible passenger side brake during driving lessons; giving constant reminders to pick dirty clothes off the floor . . . every day for the last thirteen years; figuring out how to get an apple or a glass of milk into the stomach of a kid who makes daily passes through the Taco Bell drive-through.

I'm basically a pioneer.

As a ground breaker, it's my responsibility to impart the wisdom that comes from being a parent for 16 year and 10 months, so when you reach these milestones, you will know what to expect and be prepared for the feelings and emotions that no one else has ever had before you.

These are the ten things I want my teenage son to know, and that I'm pretty sure you will want your teenage son to know too.

1. Never seek answers from a numbered list. Life is not that simple or succinct.

2. Beware of click bait that promises quick and easy reading. They're always selling something.

3. You are not the first person ever to feel the way you are feeling. About anything. Use that knowledge to be compassionate towards others.

4. When you are pretty sure you know everything, you definitely don't.

5. When you are pretty sure you know nothing, you probably know more than you're giving yourself credit for.

6. Sometimes, it's okay for lists to only have six items.

7. But if you need a seventh thing, use your imagination. I'm sure you can come up with something.

8. If you need to communicate important information to someone, writing it out and posting it on the world wide web is never preferable to, you know, just talking.

9. Always leave room for something completely frivolous.

10. No matter what you do in life, there will always be nasty trolls trying to tear you down with their comments. They are miserable people who deserve our pity.

There you have it! If your son knows these ten things, he's pretty much guaranteed to turn out to be a strong, confident young man. But not stronger or more confidant than your daughter. He will be exactly or slightly less strong and confident than your daughter. Because this world is only big enough for one gender to be strong and confident at a time.

That's how it works, right?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I have been in a cranky mood today. My plethora of peeves are like a series of little earthquakes releasing pressure along a California fault line to avoid "the big one." I've tried to spread my complaining around, so as not to overwhelm any one person, all along thinking, if only I had a creative outlet to get this all out in one fell swoop. And then I remembered my blog. Which is public, but no one reads blogs anymore, right?

So I'm sure that I will offend no one by offering the following things that I find tiresome and annoying.

1. Starting a sentence with "that awkward moment when . . . "
2. Referring to ones female offspring as "girl child."
3. People posting pictures of their feet on PDX's iconic ugly carpet on social media.
4. Making the heart sign with your fingers, natch. (I thought this trend would have slipped into the nether by now.)
5. Death knellers on Facebook who seem to love being the first to post celebrity death RIP's.
6. My back hurts
7. Waning laptop battery. (RIP laptop battery)
8. The seemingly overnight increase of real estate in my belly area.
9. Miscommunication.
10. Me overreacting to miscommunication and making my boy child sad.
11. People not calling my cell phone when there is a miscommunication.
12. The Kardashians.
13. Starting the Christmas countdown in August (or anytime before December 15th).
14. Bitstrips
15. Procrastination via means of blog post kvetch session.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Hidden Message in "The Lego Movie"

When I heard Fandango's Harry Medved, on the radio, say The Lego Movie was going into its third week as the number one movie, I knew it was because there was probably a secret agenda that was being promoted that everyone who loved the movie was just too confused to recognize. So I decided to see it for myself, uncover the secret agenda, and publicize it to the world. You're welcome.

I shamefully admit that I loved The Lego Movie. But right away, the secret agenda became as clear as Kragle oozing from its tube. The Lego Movie secret hidden agenda message promotes dangerous experimental animal hybridization. I believe they are doing this to normalize experimental animal hybrids and confuse the upcoming generation into thinking animal hybrids are acceptable.

In The Lego Movie, animal hybrid UniKitty is presented as an adorable, big-eyed cross between a unicorn and a kitty. UniKitty is fun and up for any adventure, but it quickly becomes obvious something is not right with UniKitty. Bubbling beneath UniKitty's sweet-as pie personality is dark violence, a trait that is neither present in the majestic unicorn or the independent, but clever kitty.

Taking things one step further, the movie portrays UniKitty's dark, Berserker-like violence in a positive, almost heroic light. If there is one thing kids do not need mainstreamed, it's the idea that going berserk is okay.

In real life, the kind of animal hybridization that created UniKitty would be considered abuse and never tolerated. There would be protests, sit-ins and PETA would throw blood on people! Yet small children, unable to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, will most likely attempt their own hybridization experiments. Before we know it, the world will be overrun with CatDogs, HamsterBunnies, and GeckoGoldfish. Admittedly, HamsterBunnies (patent pending) would be irresistible. But what evil leaning lies beneath the surface of the cuddly HamsterBunny?

HamsterBunny (Patent Pending)

I don't think the world is ready for the answer.

I also have issues with The Lego Movie's hidden secret message that Batman is suitable boyfriend material, the promotion of the "old blind men with long beards are wise" stereotype, and the mainstreaming of cat memes. I will save those arguments for another time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One Mom's Music Review

I grew up in Northern California in a town called Castro Valley. This is the town that brought the world late Metallica bassist, Cliff Burton as well as MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow and Pixar producer and Academy Award Nominated Jonas Rivera.

Now, I think it's safe to say, we are nearly ready to add a few more names to that list of famous Castro Valley sons and daughters with the latest release of the Up and Down's album, "Hell of a Time." My friend and former Castro Valley High Class of 1987 classmate William Baptista (wikipedia page pending) plays drums for The Up and Down, and if you like bluegrass punk, the Dropkick Murphys, or any other tunes with a heel-kicking, pub-crawl-meets-hootenanny vibe, might I strongly suggest you check out this album.

If you're still not convinced, take a listen to this live performance of their title song here.

And if, after that, you are still not convinced of how thoroughly enjoyable this album is, take a listen to actual feed back from my teen and pre-teen children.

I played the CD (available here, or here) in the car while driving to church (seemed like a great time) and since the kids couldn't go anywhere for six to eight minutes, I had their undivided attention.

Me - So boys, what do you think of this music?

Jonah (11) - I like it fine. It sounds like stuff on the radio.

Isaac (10) - On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say it's seven . . . ish. Or eight, probably nine.

Isaac - It sounds like Mexican music.

Jonah - It does not!

Isaac - Yes, it does.

Jonah - You don't even know what Mexican music sounds like.

Ethan (16) - It's fine. Hey you know what would be cool? A zip line from our house to Burger King.

So, there you have it. Irrefutable proof that The Up and Down are on the fast track being the go-to band for quinceaneras catered by Burger King. Jump on this band's wagon now and you can say you loved them before everyone else.

(Seriously, if you want to put yourself in an instantly good mood, check out The Up and Down's "Hell of a Time." Did I mention it's available here and here?)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Boy Bathroom Update

When we arranged to have new flooring throughout our house, it seemed like the perfect time to update the boy's bathroom from the juvenile "frog" theme to a more mature decor. We figured it would be a piece of cake to slap on some paint, update the light fixture, and buy some new artwork and coordinating towels.

And then we found black mold. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a before and after . . .


I started off by covering up the apple green wall paint--which honestly did not look as migraine-inducing in real life--with a couple coats of primer. I then added a coat of "white clay"to create a neutral palate with which to work.

When the mold was discovered, the toilet came out and the floor was pulled up to assess the damage. Two professional opinions later, we found that the mold was limited and treatable, but the wet subfloor required that a rental fan run for about three days straight. That wasn't loud at all.

You might also notice in this picture that I primed the vanity. The doors and drawers had been removed previously and were also being primed for a new color of paint.

Two coats of black paint later, things are starting to come together. My precious light fixture arrived, as well as the toilet paper roll holder and new faucet, all in brushed nickel. My next task: get Robert to install them all.

Lights up, faucet installed . . . and did I mention new hardware for the cupboard doors and drawers? I got new towels and some Doctor Who art for the walls and a shower curtain. 

But my favorite thing has to be the mirror frame. I purchased this on-line at some place that specializes in frames for mirrors. I just entered my measurements, answered a few more questions, paid the small fortune they asked for, and a week to ten days later, a box arrived with all of the parts and instructions for easy assembly and installation. 

At this point in the process, however, I was still waiting for the floor and toilet as well as a few other things.

Today, one month and four days after starting this project, I can say we are 99% done! The toilet appears to not be leaking, the towel hooks are installed and the floor is caulked. The only thing left is to caulk around the toilet and we're in business! We also have to install the toilet paper roll holder. Then we will be in business.

Pretty! I mean, cool.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Are We Not All Homeschoolers?

Have you ever noticed that mothers are constantly questioned about the decisions they make for their children? From what we feed them, how we protect them, the way we discipline them or maybe neglect them (we call it "teaching independence"), it seems everyone has another way to do it. And whether or not they come right out and say it, it's usually implied that they think their way is better than yours.

On the surface, it seems to make perfect sense. I love my kids, ergo, I will make what I think are the best decisions for their upbringing. If my decisions are best, and yours are different than mine, then, by the transitive property, your decisions must be inferior

I think the fallacy we are operating under with this model is that there is one way to raise a child. That is simply not true. I know this. Everyone knows this. Yet the mompetition--if you will--persists and the human tendency to want to win sometimes trumps grace and kindness when it comes to interacting with other moms.

Nowhere is the parenting technique divide wider than in the way we choose to educate our children. Some choose public school, some private, some home school, while others might do none of these things, or a combination of all of them.

I used to feel "less-than" when talking to moms who educated their children differently than I did. Whether I was picking up on non-verbal cues that these mothers really did think I was inferior in my intelligence and lacking in foresight, or my own insecurity was the culprit, it always felt like the education discussion was an attack and I was on the defense.

Until one day.

I was in the produce section of the grocery store with one of my kids. We were buying something and talking about price per pound. We covered estimation, multiplication and measurement just in picking out a few Honey Crisps. And it hit me: This is homeschool. Life is homeschool. I educate my children every single day.

Manners, comportment, social interaction, work ethic were all things I teach my kids just as a matter of fact. I give them religious education at home as well as financial education. I teach math when we make cookies and science when it snows. They pick up computer science, graphic design and music composition from playing video games (this might sound like a stretch, but my 16 year old has started to compose some of his own music based on his interest in video game music). They learn about the natural world around them by exploring outdoors, biology from catching frogs and finding owl pellets. Nutrition from family dinners and helping to cook, health and fitness from bike riding, running, jumping, and hiking. Engineering from fort building and strategy from playing games.

I supplement this homeschooling curriculum with public school, Boy Scouts, church every Sunday, family vacations, and summer camps. I even unschool on days we just need to relax. I do it all!

Regardless of where we send our kids every day from September to June, every mother is at least a part-time homeschooler.

I don't feel threatened anymore when another mother's choices are different than mine. All of the mothers I know are doing the best things for their family they know. Just because their "best" doesn't look like my "best" doesn't make either of our efforts inferior.

We don't need to separate into sub-groups of public schoolers and homeschoolers in order to claim an identity. Rather, let's embrace our shared, greater identity as mothers. Because we need each other, and when it comes to mothering, don't forget: There is more than one way to raise a child.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Mothers Cry at Eagle Courts of Honor

If Ethan ever earns the rank of Eagle Scout, at his Court of Honor, when he bends down to pin that mother's pin on me, I will remember the day I worked so hard to sew patches onto his new and bigger shirt so that he could meet with his Scout leader the next night to pass off the One Last Thing he had to earn his Life rank.

And I will remember the next night, the night of the meeting with his Scout leader, when it was revealed at dinner that he hadn't yet done that One Last Thing.

I will remember the fighting as Ethan tried to teach Jonah how to tie a bowline knot using the EDGE method. I'll remember the screaming and the stomping and thinking there was no way those two boys would be able to cooperate long enough for Ethan be able to complete this One Last Thing in time.

However, miracle of miracles, they did! Now, all that was left was getting to the church with his Scout shirt and his Scout book so he could talk with his leader and schedule the Board of Review and advance to the rank of Life Scout.

And on that day (if it ever comes) when Ethan earns the rank of Eagle, this is what I will remember most: me, sitting in the car, waiting for him to come downstairs so I could drive him to his activity where he would meet with his Scout leader. I will remember how he came down without his Scout Shirt and how I said, "Go get your shirt!" The shirt I spent hours sewing patches onto so you would have it for this very moment! (I ironed that shirt, for crying out loud. Ironed!)

And I will remember Ethan saying, "No, I'm not getting it. I can't find my Scout book, so there is no reason for me to wear my shirt. I can't pass off that One Last Thing tonight."

And I will remember me begging to PLEASE, just get your shirt. Let's talk to your Scout Leader and see if we can get it passed off without your book.

And he said no.

So if you see me getting the mother's pin pinned to my blouse at the Eagle Court of Honor that may or may not happen, and notice a tear trickle down my cheek, you will know exactly what is playing through my mind.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Down With War

War. What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing.

This sage wisdom from Edwin Starr holds true for all war, but also for the most widespread, prevalent war: the Tired War. The tired war is being fought on every single continent between spouses and parenting partners over who is more tired.

Who is more tired? The parent who leaves the house to work at a demanding job? Or the parent who stays at home to work at a demanding job? And if both parents leave the house for demanding jobs, which job is more demanding?

The Tired War tries to answer these questions.

There are no winners in the tired war, only people who feel momentarily victorious for being more tired. And what is that good for?

Stop the Tired War!

Stop demanding your spouse or partner justify why they can't keep their eyes open at 2:30 in the afternoon, or 5pm, or 10am.

Do away with resenting the partner who sleeps well. For once. In 19 years.

If one person says she is tired, don't counter attack with your own more-tiredness.

And for the love of Mike, don't torture your significant other with sleep talk: how many hours you got; how many hours you think you will get tomorrow night; whether it was the sunlight that woke you up or the kids' fighting; the hour you spent awake during the night trying to get back to sleep. How many times you pushed the snooze button. Just stop.

We're all tired.

Let's just shut-up about it all ready and end the war.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Don't Forget

I read this paragraph on the Momastery blog the other day and it captured so well how I feel about mommying little kids--toddlers, babies, pre-schoolers. It's a feeling that is still fresh in my mind and in my heart even though we've made it through that phase. Even though my children are now mostly lots of fun to spend time with, I can still remember the days and nights of exhaustion; the feelings of demand. From everyone. Everyone just wanted, wanted, wanted.

And I'm posting the Momastery quote here. And I hope that's okay. I don't know Momastery and haven't asked her permission to repost (probably should do that, but I'm just a small-time nothing blog and I hope this thorough attribution, plus fan-praise is enough).You can click through to the actual blog post titled, "Save Your Relationships: Ask the Right Questions," to read it for yourself.

So here it is, Momastery's description of a day in the life of a mommy-to-toddler/babies. I couldn't have said it better:

"How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I’d explode. I was both lonely and absolutely desperate to be alone. I was saturated- just BOMBARDED with touch and then the second I put down this baby I yearned to smell her sweet skin again. I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed with so much to do. Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst. At 3:30 today I decided that we should adopt four more children, and then at 3:35 I decided that we should give up the kids we already have for adoption. Husband – when your day is completely and totally dependent upon the moods and needs and schedules of tiny, messy, beautiful rug rats your day is ALL OF THE THINGS and NONE OF THE THINGS, sometimes within the same three minute period. But I’m not complaining. This is not a complaint, so don’t try to FIX IT. I wouldn’t have my day Any.Other.Way. I’m just saying- it’s a hell of a hard thing to explain- an entire day with lots of babies." 

And this is why, when I see a young lady, ready to have baby number one, I'm filled with so many emotions. Mostly I'm excited for her. But a part of me wants to hug her and say, "You'll be okay. You'll make it."

It's beautiful on the other end of that mommy-of-toddler world. It really, really is. Just hang in there.

And I hope I never forget this. I hope that when I have daughters-in-law, I'm sensitive, and helpful and cognizant of what it is really like. Not that fluffy diaper commercial moment where the baby never screams and kicks, or pees on you while you're trying to wrap up a diaper full of poo so it doesn't smear all over everything.

I hope I never say, "enjoy every moment. It goes so fast." Yes, it goes fast, but only in hindsight. When you're in the moment, those years go incredibly slow. Painfully slow. And you're sleep deprived for most of them.

I hope I don't give advice like, "sleep when the baby sleeps," as if it were that easy. Why do we say stupid things like this?

And I want my sons to know this paragraph from Momastery as well. I want them to understand and to empathize. I don't want them to come home at the end of the day and complain about traffic or a bad phone call and not acknowledge the emotional, physical, psychological strain of raising babies their wives are experiencing.

It's so hard.

But it's so worth it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shoes vs. Children

The "Class Treasurer Heel in Blue" and I were meant to be together. I knew the first time I laid eyes on the pair of funky retro, not too high and not too low heels that they must be mine.

After browsing through the comment section on the shoe website, where everyone attested to the fact that the shoes ran small, and examining the American to European sizing chart (I'm a size 39 in France, evidently), I realized the Class Treasurer Heel in Blue was probably sold out in the size that would fit me best. Still, I had to chance it. I ordered the shoes in the next size down, prepared to send them back, but needing to know, one way or the other, if they could be mine. Besides, the shoes were occupying much of my waking thoughts, as well as the sidebar of my Facebook page. The only way to exorcise the shoes from my consciousness was to buy them.

After 5-7 excruciatingly long days, the shoes arrived. I got my thinest sock: a little nude-colored ped. At first glance, the shoe looked like it wasn't going to fit. The momentary tension was what I imagined filled the room when Cinderella and her sisters tried on the glass slipper. But I didn't let the tension build for long. I slipped my foot into the shoe and it fit perfectly.

Relieved, I set the shoes neatly in a corner where I could admire them for the next few days, and get a feel for all the different outfits I would be wearing them with.

Just looking at them brought me much joy.

Later that night, Jonah came in and asked, "What are those?"

"They' re my new shoes," I told him. "And I love them."

Jonah looked at me a little confused.

"But not as much as I love you." I assured him.

He looked relieved, but then I added, "But it's very, very close."

I laughed and kissed him and let him sleep on the fact that his mom might be passionate about something besides her children every once in a while. Then this morning, as he was leaving for school, I hugged him and told him that in a few weeks, my love for the shoes will diminish. New things are fun and exciting, but they become old quickly.

But my love for him, I insisted, would grow forever and never get old.

Did I redeem myself?

(I do love those shoes.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hate Is a Strong Word

I don't hate the Olympics, but I really don't care for them. At all.

It all seems a bit disingenuous to suddenly become interested in something that I have no interest in the other three years, 50 weeks between Olympics. Two-man louge? Skeleton? Curling? Not to mention the myriad of sports our US broadcasters don't show us because a) we don't have an American participating or b) it really is too, too small of a sport to drum up any kind of dramatic interest in for the short-attention-span American television viewing audience. (Ski mountaineering anyone?)

But that is just one reason I don't care for the Olympics. The other, of course, is the drama. All those special interest stories they put together about how the athlete struggled and sacrificed and lived in a van down by the river eating government cheese so he could practice bobsled for 12 hours a day while his mom was on dialysis and his dad worked in the coal mine getting black lung--it's too much.

I don't need my heart strings manipulated like that.

I'm not going to watch the opening ceremony, or any of the sports in between--especially ice skating. I will endure the "spoiler alerts" on the evening news and look forward to the closing ceremonies, which I will not watch, but which I will be aware of their happening.

I have no desire to fake interest or get sucked into the manufactured theatrics.

That is all.