Thursday, May 27, 2010


Have I mentioned that the monsters' chess teacher, although certainly not the most warm and personable fellow, has this phenomenally magical touch when it comes to calming the kids down and keeping them focused on their lesson?

They only see him once a week. For 45 minutes. And the class spans in age range and ability from 1st grade novices to 5th grade smart asses.

But, somehow, he does it. Every single time, he does it. And the thing is that I don't think he even realizes what he's got.

But the kids do. Kids always do.

This past class, the kids were starting to get a little rowdy. The holiday weekend is coming up. The sun is shining. The spring fever has been mounting since December.

So, when he could no longer keep their attention, he just stopped talking, walked over to his bag of magic tricks, and slapped a couple of magnetic chess boards underneath some metal tables in the library.

Santiago. Was. In. Pawn. Heaven.

And I just sat there, smiling from ear to ear.

This is EXACTLY what a naturally gifted teacher would do, and what ALL teachers should strive to be. Creative, innovative, and flexible, but still completely focused on teaching.

It's not about how much information you can drill into the kids in one day so that you can check it off your list. It's about HOW you get it in there so that it'll stick.

Bravo, Mr. Eric! We love you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


We have the handsoap in our guest bathroom on the left side of the faucet. And when I say 'we,' you know, of course, I mean 'me.'

It's a thing. I know.

Like the toilet paper roll going over, not under.

It's my thing, okay?

But every single time I come into the bathroom, it's moved up on the counter about 8 inches.

Which is, of course, a good thing because it clearly means that someone is washing (or at least pretending to wash) their hands.

So, I move it back, wipe the counter, rehang the handtowel.

A few hours later, wash, rinse, repeat. It's back up on the counter 8 inches from where I left it.

I move it back, wipe the counter, rehang the handtowel.

Heading up before bedtime, closing up the downstairs, and lo and behold, the handsoap has migrated once again.

Move soap back, wipe counter, rehang towel. And up to bed.

The following morning before we leave for school, I'm the last one out, so...


And now I'm thinking of writing a psychological thriller about this singular activity this summer. It is beyond maddening!

I can actually feel my brains spilling out all over the counter the second I walk in. The very thought of it as I round the corner to come into the bathroom makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And then the moment I step inside, I hear spine-chilling screams in my head, and echoes of psychotic laughter reverberating between my ears.

And, truthfully, it is the very definition of insanity, people, because the fact is, that unless the magical contractor fairy surprises us in the middle of the night and suddenly moves the countertop 8 inches forward, NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE!!!

And the thing is, if I thought for one second that it bothered them even a tenth as much as it does me -- that if every time they came into the bathroom they rolled their eyes and sighed with exasperation at having to move the freakin' handsoap 8 inches closer to themselves AGAIN -- that might actually give me some sort of tiny perverse pleasure...

But NO!!! You know damn well that they don't even think twice about it, the diabolical little devils!!

But the thing that kills me most is the assumption that the metaphorical handsoap is always gonna be there in the right place, full, clean, and waiting -- It's just setting them up for failure!!! Or at least that's what that crazy militaristic mother on Wife Swap said the other day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Did you hear about this? How is this even possible?!?! What a freakin' pisser!!!

Because if you're anything like me, as much as you may love that cute little Kindle or that very shiny, very smart, very sexy looking iPad, you also know that there's just nothing like holding a real ink and paper book in your hands. Feeling the various textures beneath your fingers, staring lovingly at the images and fonts and the way the light changes them when you move, appreciating and interpreting the selective and intentional formatting, and then ever so carefully finding just the perfect spot on your shelves, right between to The Extended Works of William Blake and The Story of O.

But seriously...I'm just unbelievably heartbroken to know that children's books about saving the rainforest are actually, sadly and frustratingly, partly responsible for their deforestation.

Evidently, most of the children's books (from 9 out of 10 major US children's book publishing houses!!) tested in this random sampling contained materials sourced from Indonesian forests. Indonesia is now 3rd (to US and China) in greenhouse emissions.

But Indonesia also houses 10 percent of the world's mammals, 11 percent of the world's reptiles, and 16 percent of the world's birds—not to mention a number of endangered species, including orangutans, Sumatran and Javan rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and Asian elephants.

US publishers must commit to eliminating from their supply chain any and all materials sourced from Indonesia. And we, as parents and lovers of children's books, must demand it. They also need to know that producing rainforest-safe books is not only possible, but that they're already being produced.

To that end, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has issued a LIST OF 25 RAINFOREST-SAFE READING BOOKS.

The list includes the following titles:
The Earth Book by Todd Parr
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
SpongeBob to the Rescue! By Alison Inches
Bunny’s Garden (Pat the Bunny) by Golden Books
Nature Discovery in My Backyard by Rebecca Mattano
The complete summer reading list (which is dynamic and continues to evolve) can be found here:

So, while you continue to enrich your children's minds, expand their horizons, and reduce their carbon footprint this summer, HAPPY HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I love the smell of books.

Love. 'em.

Old books are best.

But not libraries so much as old bookstores.

Musty. Dusty. Ignored. Forgotten.

Berkeley used book stores are ideal for that. Nooks and Kindles, eh, not so much.

But Scholastic Book Fairs come in a close second. Okay, bad segue, but stay with me here.

Of course, they're all new books. All crisp and shiny. All laid end to end, overlapping perfectly, and you have to totally elbow a couple of kindergarteners just to get close enough to touch the shelves, but, man, there just ain't nothing like it.

I mean, sure it's just a microcosm of a Barnes & Noble, without the overpriced coffee shop, elevator music, and overly enthusiastic associates. But those are just the positives.

It's oh-so-oh-so-much more.

I remember fondly bringing home those Scholastic Book Fair pamphlets in the 5th grade. Of course, when I was growing up, there was just the one. It was only about 4 pages long, but I would meticulously comb through every single description, summary, and illustration. I'd pull out my favorite markers and carefully, deliberately, gingerly begin circling only those I knew for sure I just could not live without. Red for must-have. Green for would-really-like. And Yellow for negotiable. Because you always have to make it appear as though you're willing to sacrifice something.
[Looking back now, many of my must-have selections came with life-size posters of very pretty boys in gold or silver lamé tracksuits with gorgeously shiny flowing hair. Hmm... Wonder how we all missed those cues. Seems pretty obvious now that I was either destined to be a Catholic priest or a lesbian. (Ouch. Too far? Ok, let's just move on.)]
At some point, though, like every other company in the world, even the great and wonderful Scholastic Books fell into the trap of marketing diarrhea. There are now at least 7 -- yes, seven -- supposedly different pamphlets, each the size of a small dictionary, and each more annoyingly irritating than the last. Every single page is bleeding and screaming with numbers and colors and pictures. They're not done well. They're not enticing. They're overabundance and commercials and brats being dragged through the aisles of Toys 'r' Us all wrapped into one.

So, I don't -- I just WON'T -- order from them. I flat out refuse. And I don't care that the kids' classroom will get a free book. I don't care that Santiago has spent an hour with his own markers, carefully circling 9 out of every 10 random things with a cute animal face. I don't care that there appear to be these really really really great deals if you type in this code or buy that combination or say pretty please with a cherry on top.


But...I'm weak. I am. So weak when it comes to books. And we've never, ever, not once, in all their years of book fairs, been able to leave with less than a $100 bucks in purchases. And that's low-balling it.

It's just too easy. They're all just so pretty. So new, and shiny, and vibrant. They're screaming from the shelves, "Pick me! Pick me!" It's like walking into a freakin' animal shelter. Each one is special. Each one hand-crafted. Each one does that shakyshaky leg thing when you scratch it under its belly. Plus, you know, some of the money goes back to the school, and the monsters are thrilled for days, and, truthfully, there is no such thing for me as too much money spent on books.

What are you gonna do? It's my mother's fault.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Obviously struggling with a title today, so this is just a mish-mash of stuff we did.

Saia, our budding chef, insisted on making breakfast on her own this morning. So, after I plugged in the griddle (and maybe flipped the first egg in a nest), she was on her own...cracking eggs, flipping bread, serving juice, the whole bit.

At least I won't have to worry knowing she can short-order cook her way through college if need be.

Next on the agenda was softball. Saia, as usual, was spot-on. Having received the game ball AGAIN last week, she's been riding pretty high and putting in extra effort on the field. I can't wait to watch her play soccer!!

Then it was off to lunch, where our bibliophile could not be bothered with the cheesy burrito and a side of chips so long as Wolverine still had a job to do!!

But it's not like I can even get after him for this. He just loves his books soooo much. And this growing interest in comic books has really influenced his drawing and illustrations. I mean, if I'm gonna pimp him to Pixar by the time he's 10, I've got to continue to water this seed, people.

But anyway...

Back home and not wanting to waste a moment of the gorgeous sunshine, the kids pulled out their bikes and practiced balancing-more-than-riding up and down the sidewalk for about as long as they could stand. See, this is the first year we've lived in a house where our street is not on a steep incline or near an exit ramp, so when they discovered how much effort it was actually going to require to balance AND pedal at the same time, it became a pretty hard sell for Mama.

And then, during one of his many tumbles, he jumped back up only to discover that his 2nd huge chomper that had only been hanging on by a sinew, was nowhere to be found. So, he had Saia and I crawling on hands and knees with him around our neighbor's driveway feeling for the runaway tooth. Luckily, I spotted it in a puddle. Not so luckily, it was snuggled right up next to a degenerating earthworm.

Cut to 5 hours later, and the Toothfairy's digging through purses and wallets and piggy banks for yet another damn $5 bucks.

But wait, there's more!

It was also movie night. We decided on Lord of the Rings. And I was actually a little surprised that I hadn't thought of it before. As much as they love Harry Potter, Narnia, and Spiderwick, it really did seem like a logical choice. And, of course, they loooooved it.

It was so awesome to be able to share it with them. I loved the books, and really think the movies did them great justice. It has so many wonderful life lessons, and there's not really any actual blood, so I thought we were good as golden. Really. I did. 'Til about midnight.

See, first, I completely forgot that it was a THREE. HOUR. MOVIE. So, that made it, like 9:30 by the time we even walked upstairs. They were exhausted (as they've typically got a 7:30 bedtime), but so excited and wanted to talk more about the movie. Eventually, I got them quiet and down for the count.

But then, I forgot about the Orcs.

And four shrieking, wake-up-the-entire-neighborhood nightmares later, and the boy ended up hogging my bed for the rest of the night.

Friday, May 14, 2010


One minute, I'm emailing his art teacher to remind her we'd all agreed prior to registration that Chago would try to focus on different artistic techniques and begin to fill his toolbelt with the fundamentals of painting, sketching, etc, and not so much with the artsy-craftsy.

And the next minute, this popsicle stick / tissue box birdhouse he'd evidently made in art class last week just prior to "the conversation" (not to be confused with "The Situation") is being pimped and bedazzled and midievalfied by le artiste himself.

I'm not sure, I didn't check, but who wants to bet there are spinners in the turrets, shag wall-to-wall in the foyer, and lava lamps in the towers?

Somebody better tell the Joneses that the neighbirdhood's just been upped.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It was about 5:45 yesterday morning (or some such ridiculousness) when the boy snuggled into the bed right up next to me, propped up his pillow, piled about 3 books between us, pulled up the covers to his chin...

and turned on the bedside lamp!


"Sorry, Mama!" he fake-whispers. (I still don't know why he hasn't learned how to whisper properly.)

And then he proceeds to read, half to himself, half to me, as I begin to drift back to sleep to the sounds of Wolverine.

But no sooner was I imagining myself lounged out on the Amalfi Coast being hand-fed grapes, and wine, and cheese by a...

"MAMA!!!" he whisper-yells.


"Huh? Wha?!" I reluctantly peek out from beneath the coolness of my pillow.

"MAMA!" he says again, much less gently.

"Uhhnnn...yes, Bubba?" I roll over. "What is it?"

And he's sitting there with a huge face-encompassing toothless grin, holding the big chomper in his hand like a trophy.

"I pulled it out, Mama!" he proclaims proudly.

"I just reached in and yanked it right out."

"Oh, Bubba, congratulations!!" I say. "We need to get it into your toothbox for the Tooth Fairy tonight."

"Oh, no," he says. "I think I better brush it first."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Oh, wait, was that just me?

Well, it totally rocked, just the same!!

From the moment the first of 6 children lined up behind me to baby-duck-it to the parking lot to pile into my truck, I knew I hadn't stocked up on nearly enough caffeine that morning.

But the inventors of the in-vehicle DVD player are just angels sent down from heaven, I tell you. And I don't feel that way about much -- outside of my iPhone, FLIP, and MacBookPro.

So, we made it to theatre, sanity intact, and managed to find a parking space about as far away from the entrance as humanly possible. And somewhere between, "Hold hands and stay together!" and "Anyone have to go potty?" I began to slowly realize that our two little first-grade classes were clearly not the only ones there.

And as the dramatic music began to swell in my head and the lights began to blur and swirl, I turned in slow-motion as we entered the theatre and scanned the sea of tiny little human beings pouring into their seats and flooding the rows, crashing and thrashing against the shore of parent volunteers relegated to the end seats in what could only be described as feeble efforts at containment. The waves of children rose and fell. The thunderous sound of chatter and springy seats was deafening.

And then everything went dark.

Thankfully, it was just the lights.

And who knew that's all it would take to silence an entire auditorium full of 1000 squirmy wormy children? Well, that, and 20 nazi-ushers, who, in addition to obviously not being big fans of children's theatre, are also, evidently, not big fans of parents.

They were even worse than the ushers at Wicked who were all very ready, willing and able to climb right over the seats and yank that cellphone from your illegal-picture-takin'-facebook-updatin' little hands. These guys were condescending beyond belief, using very harsh finger-pointing gestures (no, not THAT finger) to ensure that "you adults" all slouched down appropriately to accommodate the overwhelmingly under-4-foot viewing audience. Could slouching for an hour-and-a-half cause scoliosis, I asked my amazonish volunteer co-parent, who clearly couldn't respond with her chin in her knees.

But the show was surprisingly cute. The costumes were great. And the music was, at least tolerable. Although, it was the cross-dressing purple bunny scout that I think I'll miss most of all.

Then somewhere around minute 75, the buzzing began to ramp up again and the antsy little whac-a-moles started bobbing up and down in their seats.

Luckily, the show came to an end right on time and just before the stretchy headbands and smuggled plastic animals began flying across the room.

The downpour outside was no match for the level of excitement (read: missed morning snack) of the kiddos on the way back to school. But as far as field trips go, this one definitely gets a 3 out of 5 toothless grins from me. Live performances pretty much just rule!!

Monday, May 10, 2010


This is the one that I hesitated posting.

This is the one that I'll get all those nasty comments on.

This is the one that I know you don't wanna read, but will read anyway 'cause you can't turn away from a hot mess anymore than I can engulf myself within it.

I didn't get to sleep late. I didn't get breakfast in bed. I didn't get to skip out on making everyone their two cups of leche before 7am. I still picked up around the house, and made dinner, and got their backpacks and lunches ready for tomorrow.

Because the thing is that there's no one else here to remind them what to do on a day like this. There's no one to whisper to them, "Let's let Mama sleep in." Or, "Let's surprise her with some yogurt and granola and a venti chai in bed." Or. "Let's make her homemade cookies or give her a pedicure or write her a song or yank up a flower, roots and all, and shove it into a vase that's two sizes too small."

And yes, of course I know I shouldn't feel so sorry for myself. And I don't -- on some level -- because I have two of the most amazing, brilliant, loving, healthy, strong, and beautiful children in the whole wide world. But I'm finding myself so jealous of those mothers who have a partner who order them to stay off their feet and rest today, who are cooked for and catered to all day long, who are pampered and wined and dined, who are lavished with attention and adoration and gratitude.

And that's not me.

That's not my life.

Me. I have to share. And it truly is one of the downsides of being in a lesbian relationship that I don't think a whole lot of gay mothers talk about. Sharing motherhood is not an easy thing. It's not even a natural thing. As women, as caretakers, as the cores of our families, we're naturally territorial. Naturally selfish of our brood. Naturally possessive and protective and mama bears through and through.

But there are two of us here. And not even here. Here and there. Our home and hers. And I don't want to have to share this day with anyone.

Because this is MY motherhood. Mine. And I know as I write this how horrible it must sound. Because yes, of course, this is also hers. Yes, of course, she's as much their mother as I am. Yes, of course, we made that decision together, and I don't and won't ever regret how quickly and easily we put those steps into place, so that there's never ever once in all their 7 years been a question about who she is to them.

But I don't want to have to concern myself with that anymore. Today, I don't feel like being a good partner, a good co-parent, a good friend, or even a good ex. She's opted out of this life with me. And that means that all those benefits of my being so understanding and sympathetic and considerate and giving go with it. Don't they?

Or do they?

Maybe they should.

And maybe they would.

For someone else.

As for me, of course I made sure they gave her the perfect gifts. The ones that would tear at her heart and jog her soul. The ones that would remind her, if only for a moment, how truly lucky she is today and every day from the moment they first drew breath. And so, yes, I make sure she always gets Mother's Days she never could've imagined. And yes, I always make sure she knows that this is just as much her day as it is mine.

But dammit. Dammit. Dammit.


Sunday, May 09, 2010


So, they crawled into bed at the crack of dawn, whispering "Happy Mother's Day" and slobbering me with kisses. We talked about the day they were born (although their favorite stories are the ones when they're still in the womb). And we all went to brunch this morning, and came home briefly to open our gifts from the kids and from each other, which, yes, included those awesome portraits of one another for their Mommy's place.

Then the kids and I went to see a live performance of Cinderella playing in our little hometown theater.

And it was absolutely the best thing I could've done.

I lovedlovedloved watching them experience the whole thing. From the moment we walked up the sidewalk to the ticket box, and they kept commenting on how everyone was all dressed up and "fancy," and several people gave Santiago the nod of approval and two thumbs up for his little vest and tie combo, too (that he'd picked out all on his own, by the way), to the walking through the hallways and looking at the pictures of previous live shows and trying to identify the characters from their costumes, to the surprising request from my two little social butterflies who insisted on walking around during intermission to say hi to people they knew.

It was a really fun performance. They laughed and clapped at all the right places. They even stood up at the end to give the players and orchestra a standing ovation.

And then we went for yogurt afterwards, which, here lately, is just one of our all time favorite any-time-of-any-day-on-any-week-for-any-reason thing to do.

Then, evidently inspired by the events that afternoon, they decided to put on a play of their own for me once we got home, complete with paper plate masks, capes, singing, and even an intermission, during which I was allowed to turn back on my cellphone, but "only for 5 minutes."

As if that weren't enough, they then prepared and served me an after-show snack all on their own. She brought me a cute plastic decorative plate with a vine of red grapes, a little glass bowl with granola, and a graham cracker on the side with a maraschino cherry on top. It was tasteful. Appealing. And just so sweet. Clearly, she's a Top Chef in the making.

He brought me a sagging paper plate with a whole bruised apple, 2 wrapped Babybel cheese wheels, a graham cracker with slices of strawberry (replacing the dirty butter knife back into the silverware drawer), and 3 maraschino cherries on the side (one of them clearly half-eaten). But it was adorable. And so beyond sweet.

And they made sure I ate every single bite.

We showered, trimmed the boys' hair, read some Harry Potter, and sang some of their favorite baby songs before tucking them in for the night.

It turned out to be a surprisingly lovely day.

But I spent the rest of that evening missing my mother and grandmothers. Wishing I could be near my cousins and aunts and friends who are mothers. Looking through baby pictures of my roly-poly little monsters. And trying to ignore the pangs in my uterus.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Sitting in karate yesterday watching our monsters spar against those poor unsuspecting children. Cringing every single time my squirrely boy straps on his gloves and helmet and comes out a-swingin', but ever so grateful for his opponent's padding. When suddenly the woman next to me, whom I'd never seen before, leaned over and asked me if I was Santiago's mom.

"Yes," I said, grinning, already expecting her to say something about his firecracker, ants-in-the-pants ways.

When she proceeds to ask with a kind of dreamy smile, "Is he always so happy-go-lucky?"

And I was just floored.

"I wish my son were more like yours," she said, casting her eyes to the floor. "Nathan just gets into these grumpy moods," she went on, slowing shaking her head. "He just doesn't smile enough, you know? He's too young not to be smiling. But every time I've ever seen your boy, he's laughing and smiling and joking around."

And I just stared at her. Unable to say a word.

"He's always got such a unique perspective when the instructors ask questions. He makes everyone think. He never sees things the same ways the other kids do. He must be such a joy to be around."

My mouth agape, I felt immediately awash in shame.

That she was absolutely right. That what I keep trying to squelch and quiet and control for fear of him being distracting to other kids, or derailing lessons, or not fully recognizing and respecting rules and guidelines and expectations are actually just his way of living life in the moment, of finding the fun and laughter and frivolity in every hour of every day, of letting things just slide off his back and not change who he is at his core.

My God, I can think of a million times I wish I had had even a tenth of that ability.

And no, it doesn't mean he's suddenly gonna get away with murder 'round here, but it does mean that maybe I could stand to take a step back to value and appreciate and perhaps even learn a thing or two from my joy-filled, happy hearted, infectious laughter inducing boy.

Monday, May 03, 2010


I reaaaaaally dislike Rigatoni's. I do. But the kids love their bread bar.

So, we go twice a year. Once in the fall and once in the spring. The two fundraisers for their school. The monsters always get the same thing: fettuccine alfredo. But only 'cause I make them. If they had their druthers, they'd be parked in front of the bread buffet shoving slice after slice of warm baketty goodness into their little beaks.

Saia, of course, must dip hers in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Oh, yes, she does. :)

For Santiago, as long as it's got a crust, it's going down.

So, we show up shortly after the lunch rush because chess class goes til one. And there's not another single person from their school there. But they both keep making excuses for the kids in their classes, like, maybe they're coming for dinner instead, or maybe we just missed them, or maybe they got carry-out instead, or maybe they're on their way RIGHT NOW.

And I found it so admirable and even a little uplifting that rather than think, "Man, there's nobody here but us. Why are we always the ones that show up for these things?" (Like Mama was thinking.) Instead, they want to believe the best about their friends. Have faith in people. Trust that everyone's doing the right thing even if you can't immediately prove it.

And I felt pretty good about that.

And even better when the principal and her family showed up, glanced around the room, and then came right over to chat with the kiddos. :P