Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Scream, I Scream

Gwennie hit a milestone last night. And while that is very exciting (for us, anyways), her reaction to every one else's reaction is really the most notable.

So there I was, laying on the floor, rolling a tennis ball under my shoulders when Gwen crawled to my side. I braced myself. Recently I've become little more than a human speed bump for her as she cruises across the carpet. She placed her chunky little hands on my belly. I watched, and waited. But to my surprise, she didn't launch herself over my torso. Instead she brought herself to a squat and then slowly let go of me and stood herself up. Her knees straightened out, she raised her arms over her head. It looked like a stance of triumph but was probably closer to curiosity about what would happen if she also did that.

Anyways, there she stood. Toes curled slightly into the carpet. She teetered slightly for the first several seconds but her feet remained steadfast on the floor, bearing the weight of her body. I know this happens for every kid. It happened for my last two, but man, I never cease to be awestruck when Gwennie comes upon these milestones.

She looked around the room, still standing and looking a little more steady. I didn't want to alarm her, so I didn't react as enthusiastically as I wanted to. However, her older sisters were in the room and they were very outwardly enthusiastic. They screamed, they clapped, they cheered like rabid fans, "Gwennie's standing on her own! Gwennie's standing on her own!"

With my eyes fixed on Gwennie's face, I tried to quell the pep rally. Her silent content changed to confusion when she noticed her sisters' boisterous celebration. As they continued, confusion became concern which finally turned into panic.

That's when it happened, the notable reaction to her sisters' well-meaning reaction:

There Gwennie stood. Her fair skin took on the "I'm-Seriously-Freaked-Out-Here" Fuchsia hue. A fearful wail tumbled out of her. She leaned into me and began clawing at my neck the way she does when she needs comfort.

I held her, shushed her, soothed her while explaining to Allie and Sofia why their over-zealous excitement scared the bejabbers out of her.

But you know? Her histrionic fall out makes this milestone reached SOOOOO much more memorable. Don't you think?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flowers for Abraham

We've got these pretty weeds growing in our backyard.

My 8 year old agreed to pick the abundant flowery weeds for $1. Since that means a chance to browse the dollar section at Target and actually walk out with something she wants, she was very very eager. Unfortunately, my 6 year old had a hard time understanding that these were weeds and therefore, could not stay. She reaped the discarded flower-weeds as Allie pulled them out of the ground.

A little bit later, I saw her at the back door with a bouquet of them in her hands. I slid open the door, told her how beautiful they were and followed it up with, "those have to stay outside. You can't bring them in the house." The smile fell right off her face, and her expression started to turn into one of near heartbreak. She stared solemnly at me with her sad, wide brown eyes.

"But mom... these flowers are for Abraham?" 
"Abraham Lincoln. These are for his grave!"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wishes For My Daughters: Reflections On Being A Mother

As I stack the basket of freshly stuffed cloth diapers near the pack n play; as I listen to the older girls make paper lanterns and discuss the creep factor of Dora's talking map; as I enjoy the momentary lull of feeding, changing, and entertaining the baby, I find a rare moment of relative peace. Reflections of my 8 years of experience as a mom soon followed. I found  myself wondering, do I wish anything were different? Turns out, yes. There are many things.

In no particular order:

  • I wish the bathrooms would stay clean longer than a day.
  • I wish I didn't have to throw out entire loaves of bread because they put it back in the pantry but didn't close it.
  • I wish I never had to walk into a kitchen to see spilled milk left pooled on the floor, or cereal crushed into the kitchen tiles.
  • I wish homework helping didn't make me want to scream, and that bath times didn't end with a quarter inch of water outside the tub, still.
  • I wish I didn't have to request their help more than twice.
  • I wish I didn't waste so much energy trying to be the Ideal nutritionist, cook, maid, tutor, playmate, scheduler, teacher...
  • I wish I didn't feel so burdened by how much extra house-work they create.
  • I wish I wasn't usually too tired to enjoy them more.
  • I wish sometimes I didn't really want to sell them to Gypsies.
  • I wish I didn't waste so much energy feeling inadequate.
  • I wish I 'd never spent so much time feeling ashamed to admit these feelings

But of all the things I wish were different, there is one thing I wish will never change-

I wish my girls NEVER doubt that however mean, frustrated, exhausted, unfair or demanding I may sometimes be, I ALWAYS love them. Even when I don't. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Apologies To My Mother

In honor of this upcoming Mother's Day, a list of all the things I'm sorry for putting my mom through:

Dear Mom, I hope you accept my sincerest apologies for all of the following:

  1. The times you asked me to do something, and I said I would but didn't. I'm sorry.
  2. The times I forced you to referee petty disagreements between me and my sibs. I'm sorry.
  3. The times I said I'd be home at "x O' Clock", didn't, and then fought with you about why I shouldn't be in trouble. I'm sorry.
  4. The times you toiled in the kitchen after a long day of work to make dinner, and I told you I wasn't going to eat it. Rudely. I'm sorry.
  5. The times I told you "you don't know what you're talking about!" I was wrong. I'm sorry.
  6. The times I checked out books from the library or rented movies without you knowing... until you got the bill for the over due fines. I'm sorry.
  7. The times when I wouldn't accept "no" for an answer. A thousand apologies! I'm sorry.
  8. The times I asked for your help and then got angry when you gave it. I'm sorry.
  9. The things I destroyed, intentionally or not, at your and dad's expense. This includes, but is not limited to: the cabbage patch dolls I beheaded (mine and my sister's), the barbie dolls I scalped, the two windows I cracked practicing goal shots in the yard and the alarm clock I broke trying to shut off
  10. The times I swore I didn't have anything to wear to school, although my closet was bursting with clean clothes. I'm sorry.
  11. The times I didn't let you use the bathroom in peace. I'm truly incredibly sorry. 
  12. The times my mode of operation was stuck on DON'T. STOP. TALKING. And all you wanted was a little bit of peace. I'm sorry.
  13. The times I ate that last piece of cake/pie/whatever, that you were saving for yourself. I'm sincerely sorry.

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to stop here. Just know that this is far from a complete list!

Then I started a list of things I appreciate about my mom, but then decided to list only a few of them. Not because there isn't much to be grateful for, there's much. But because each of these items is at the heart of everything my mom did for me. So here goes-

Dear Mom, 

Infinite thanks for:

1- Your enduring love. I know I wasn't the easiest kid to raise but, I kept you on your toes, right? =D

2- Not loading me onto a boat to the Philippines with a hobo sack, a snickers bar and a note saying, "DO NOT RETURN TO SENDER." Or even threatening to.
Looking back, I can imagine you were tempted many, many times. Probably even several times a day.

In conclusion,

Happy Mother's Day, mom! 
Even though I forgot to send a card, I want you to know I'm thankful for you every single day.

Love Always,
Your Best First Daughter

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homies Helping Homies

I can't avoid it any longer. The kitchen counters are in serious need of decluttering, and the pantry and the fridge need to be culled. Because I'm determined not to let my children skate through their youth thinking they get a free pass with the housework, I request their assistance quite frequently. Getting them to cooperate, though, is usually more trouble than it sometimes feels worth. For every one thing they seem to clean or put away, three other things revert back to a state of entropy. Plus, there's the battle that almost always ensues between myself and one or both of the girls. And I'm too tired to continue engaging over even the smallest things (please throw away your granola bar wrappers). Battle fatigue has set in with no chance of immediate reprieve. So when I get a child to cooperate, I'm happy. When they take the initiative to go above and beyond, I'm pleasantly confounded and extremely grateful.

Enter Sofia.

This morning I tasked her with clearing off the kitchen counter. I was putting away pantry things and left out dishes, she was supposed to throw away the banana peels and wipe the chocolate syrup off the counter. But then she decided she wanted to be a super duper helper today, and put away her toys that were in the kitchen, then help me wipe down the breakfast bar. Wow!

As we were spraying and wiping she said to me, "helping each other is a really good thing, isn't it, mommy?"
To which, of course I replied, "indeed it is, Fi." And then she said, "Homies helping homies. That's how it should be, huh?" I laughed, and once again agreed. "Absolutely."

As I feed Gwennie (and work on this blog post waiting to see if she's finished or not), Sofia continues amaze me in the kitchen. She's put stuff away in the pantry, swept and is currently rockin' the wetjet on the kitchen floor. All of her own volition.

I love it when my homies come to my aid. And I love it even more when those homies call me "mom".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Win a 2011 Maclaren Triumph Stroller

Baby Gizmo is giving away a 2011 Maclaren Triumph Stroller for this weeks giveaway. It's a great site chock full of reviews on all kinds of baby items. I just recently found it but wished I had sooner!

Anyways, check them out to see how you can enter to win this lightweight stroller. Hurry, contest ends tomorrow. Don't forget to use my name in the referral space and GOOD LUCK!

I want to win a Maclaren Stroller!

Friday, April 8, 2011

You're Toooooo Late: Military Pay Already Effected by Budget Impasse

Military members have been anxiously keeping their eyes on the news recently to see how the impending Government Shutdown of 2011 will play out. There's a lot at stake here. The very least of which has anything to do with ruined vacation plans (due to National Parks being closed). Our Troops and their families going to really feel it where it hurts- in their paychecks.

Let's get one thing straight, right off the top. Military members will still be paid for their service. They just won't receive any of it after April 9th if the government shuts down Midnight, April 8th, for however long the shutdown lasts.

Half the day is over, but apparently, it's too late to avert any financial fall-out for our Troops (many of whom are currently deployed to war zones, helping to pave the way for Democracy in other countries).

Military pay statements are out, and from what I can tell, they've already been cut in half (meaning they've only been paid from the 1st of April until today). How long will it take for them to reverse this if Congress reaches an agreement by midnight tonight? Who knows. Anyone with experience getting back pay from the military knows what a pain in the ass it is.

Here is the official line from the Defense Financial and Accounting Services (the ones who officially handle the paychecks):

Government Shutdown Impacts on Pay
Due to the government shutdown, the Department of Defense has no legal 
authority to pay any personnel - military or civilian - for the days during which the 
government is shut down.  The shutdown will not affect payments to retirees and 
annuitants as those funds come from a retirement trust fund.  Below is the effect 
the government shutdown will have on active duty military, civilian personnel, 
retirees and annuitants, and DoD contractors. 

Military Active and Reserve military members will be paid on time for pay earned prior to 
the expiration of the CRA (midnight April 8) -- approximately half of their normal 
mid-month payment.   Active duty military and on-duty reservists cannot be paid 
for duty performed after the CRA expired, until additional legislation is enacted.  
Once another CRA or an appropriations act is signed into law, normal 
disbursement of pay will resume for pay earned after employees return to work. 
Military members who perform duty during the shutdown will be entitled to 
retroactive payments. 

Check out this link for the full FAQ: DFAS Government Shutdown FAQ

So, here's the bottom line- from a Veteran of the USAF, and current military Spouse, thanks, Congress for nothing. 2012 is an election year, and I damn sure will remember.

Monday, March 14, 2011

In Pursuit of Tastiness: Homemade Roasted Ginger Carrot baby food

I've been making most of Gwennie's baby food for a few months now. I'm not a purist, I do buy baby food every once in awhile. They're very handy when we're on the go, I don't have to worry about refrigeration or thawing... and there are some things I'd rather not bother with (at least right now). Like squash. But mostly, I make it. And I'm not the culinary type but I find that I'm actually having fun thinking of new combos for her to try. Also, watching the food squish out of the sides of the blade guard as it purees makes me happy for reasons I can't explain.

This afternoon I tried something new- roasted carrots with ginger, and am I glad I did! It was yummy, and I helped myself to a few as I got ready to puree. Try it with Pomegranate Vinaigrette- OMG, YUMMMMM!

Gwen doesn't seem to be a fan of carrots in general, and she definitely isn't a fan of them plain. But I didn't want to keep mixing them with other foods all the time, so this seemed like the perfect compromise. They're still carrots, and taste like carrots, but with a little more flavor. Initially, she seemed unsure of the roasted ginger carrots (which I expected- new ginger taste and all) but she ate them with more gusto than she does plain carrots, although certainly lacking the enthusiasm she normally has when I feed her mango carrot puree. But she ate the whole 2 oz. serving, which counts for something.

I followed it up with a 2 oz serving of roasted bananas, which she enjoyed much, much more. But we'll keep working on it.

So, for anyone interested here is the recipe for the roasted ginger carrots. Making this is suuuuper easy regardless of who will be eating them:

****Don't forget the 4 day wait rule when introducing your baby to new foods (to watch for allergic reactions), and talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns****

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees:

*1/2 lb- 1 lb baby carrots
* fresh ginger, sliced (I used about 4 small-ish slices about 1/4" thick)
* water 

     put the carrots in a baking pan and add the ginger, spreading them out in the pan.
     Add the water (enough to barely cover the carrots)

     bake for 30-45 minutes or until tender

     for the baby food, pour the carrots into the blender or a bowl & puree to desired consistency. 
     Discard the ginger.

Now, you could use plain water to help thin the carrot puree, but I had already boiled some ginger with water for my other daughter who was home sick so I used some of that and it all came out quite nicely.

the 1/2 lb. of carrots I baked made about (14) 1 oz. servings.

After preparing them, I pour the puree into ice cube trays, cover and freeze. Once they've frozen after a few hours, I'll move the cubes into a freezer safe container, which frees up my tray to use for another food and makes it easier when it's time to feed Gwen. They keep for about 2-4 weeks in the freezer.

If you try it, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Like Moths to a...

Last summer Sofia saw a moth in the house and totally freaked. She was worried it was going to eat her. Where she got this idea is a mystery, but there it was for me to deal with. Of course, I told her that she wasn't going to get eaten by a moth.

"Moths don't eat people," I explained. "They like natural fibers like wool. They'd rather eat my yarn." Naturally my response was followed with, "why would moths want to eat your yarn?" I gave her an honest and factual answer. "Because," I said, "they just like to eat wool and I have yarn that's made of wool."

I thought the expanded explanation would soothe her fears. I really, really did. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Granted, she's no longer worried the moths will eat her flesh and bones. Instead, she worries they'll eat the clothes off of her body- including her panties- and leave her standing nekkid for all to see. Apparently, this is terrifying to a five year old. Even one who seems to distaste wearing anything besides panties around the house. She doesn't fail to point this out whenever a moth gets into the house.

"Ahh, get it away!" she shouts. "It's going to eat my clothes!"

In hindsight, I probably should have just left it at, "moths don't eat people", never mind the why's.

Whoever said knowledge is power clearly did not have children. Otherwise he/she would know that sometimes knowledge is just another fear waiting to be planted in the mind of a child. No matter how ridiculous it seems to us.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Impulse: a poem by Lynn Werre

The minutes are but 
A drop in the bucket of Times indifference
To my desire for it to speed up, slow down
Or altogether 

Time is a compulsion 
That must keep moving forward.
Won't stop, can't stop
Or change its steadfast pace.

Choice is not an option,
Except for mine-
To lay down the impulse
To tell Time
      To go 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't Make Me Eject You!

Allie slid into the passenger seat when I picked her up from school today. She began studying the various buttons on the dash panel ("getting a head start for when she learns to drive").

Allie: Is this the eject button?
I glanced to see what she was pointing to. I noticed it was the hazard button.
Me: No, babe. It's not.
Allie: So, it won't eject me out of the car if I push it?

I tried very hard to swallow my laugh.

Me: No, it won't eject you, or anyone else, from the car.
Allie: Do those things even exist then or is that just in the movies?
Me: No, they exist. But only in planes and helicopters and stuff. Cars don't have eject buttons.

For a tiny moment, I allowed  myself to imagine the usefulness of an automotive eject button...

"Don't make me eject you!"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something To Write Home About

This afternoon, the girls and I received these beautiful cards from my husband.

One for each of us (Sofia ran off with hers and I was impatient to take photos while I knew where the rest were). Of course, getting a card from a loved one is (usually) a sentimental experience. But when I realized these cards were handmade by volunteers for troops to send to their families, it took on even more meaning.

Being the crafty type myself, I realize how much thought and care goes into each card. The fact that some wonderful paper crafter took the time to make even one card to donate to our Soldiers is incredibly touching in a way I can't fully express.

Operation Write Home is the name of the organization that accepts donations of blank handmade cards to distribute to our deployed troops to send home. Please, please check out their website for guidelines and info on where to send them if you are interested.

And to any and all crafters who contribute their talent to such wonderful endeavors, thank you! A handmade card may seem small, but the impact it made on my day is bigger than you will ever know. I will pay it forward.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Snack Attack

Well, hello there yummy left over California Rolls. Why yes, I do believe I will eat the rest of you. Who is that yelling, me too!? Why, howdy, Chocolate Cupcake. It looks like you've lost you're delicious-looking pink whipped cream frosting top. Don't worry, I'll scoop it back on for you. And yes, of course you may join the party in my tummy (so yummy, so yummy).

What's that, Capri Sun? Yes, you're invited, too. Silly fruit drink. Why wouldn't you be? I need something to chase down all those silly California rolls and cupcakes.

Wait. Everybody, shhhhh! I hear someone coming... Get down. I'll check it out but you're safe, don't worry. Tip toe, tip toe. 

Its the Sugar Monitor! Quick, get in my mouth so he doesn't see you all! Hurry. HURRY! 

WHEW! That was close! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bonding with Babysitting Mama

For Allie's birthday, we got her the newest game of the Cooking Mama franchise. Just as I thought she would, she LOVED it. And just as I thought I would, I hated it. But, what can you do, right?

So anyways, she and her sister were playing a mini game where these babies toddle across the screen nekkid, and you have to flick the nun chuck at just the right time to diaper the baby. Watching, I wondered why in the hell  8 babies were running around sans butt-covers? But that soon became irrelevant cuz then an inexplicable urge to try it out came over me. So I did. And afterwards, I challenged Allie and Sofia in a few of the other mini games. What follows is one of our various exchanges regarding a challenge:

On Feed the Baby (where you have to time carefully to put the spoon in and take out of the baby's mouth cuz she's all flailing and stuff):

Allie: mom, you're losing. You have to wait until the baby stops moving her arms to feed her.
Me: I know.
Allie: but you keep trying to feed her when she's moving her arms.
Me: I know.
Allie: you're making her cry!
Me: I know. Isn't it great?
Allie: mom, you're losing! Sofia's already fed her baby 5 times now and you only did 2!
Me (continuing to intentionally mis-time the task): it's okay. I don't think this stupid baby wants to eat, anyways
Allie: she does, she does.
Me: no she doesn't, she keeps knocking the spoon away.
Allie: because you're not being patient. You have to wait until she stops doing that before you feed her
Me: Pffffft. What's the fun in that?
Allie: What?
Me: this dumb baby isn't hungry anyhow. Look at that, she knocks the spoon away. Hungry babies don't do that.
Allie: yes, they do.
Me: Gwennie doesn't. If she's hungry, she opens her mouth. If she's not, she pushes away the spoon or bottle.
Allie: ... it's just a game mom.
Me (smiling): I know!
Allie: But you're losing!
Me: But it's much more fun this way.

I don't think Allie will let me near her future children after this...

I Hate Valentine's Day

You know that movie, "I Hate Valentine's Day" with John Corbett and Nia Vardalos? I'm thinking of writing a knock off called "I Hate Valentine's Day: The Parenthood Edition".

It'll begin with an overwhelmed mother (don't these things always) crying in the kitchen over the classroom cupcakes because the pink frosting is somehow purple, and she forgot to go to Target to get Valentine's for her kids to pass out at school the next day. I don't want to give anything away, but it will probably end with her eating all the "imperfect" cupcakes herself on the kitchen floor (all 30 of them). Her kids will walk in to find her wild eyed with purple icing and candy hearts stuck to her hair and "I Hate Valentine's Day" scratched into a kitchen cabinet with a kebab skewer.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention that her husband cancelled their Valentine's Day dinner plans because he's got to "work late" again?  But the sitter is already arranged so she'll probably hit some strip joint with $15 dollars worth of pennies and try not to dilute her pomegranate appletini with the tears of a bitter, wasted life.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

An Open Letter To Gwennyth

Dearest Gwennie-ca,

First of all, mommy loves you.

BUT... could you please stop growing out of your clothes faster than I can move them through the laundry? The growing pile of carefully picked out clothing, which you've grown out of before you could wear them, is depressing me. The eensy pile of clothing which does fit you, depresses me. And frankly, its sucking the joy out of clothes shopping for you. Which also depresses me, because clothes shopping for you and your sisters is usually something I enjoy.

Allow me to tell you a quick story:

Once upon a time, there was a Greek god named Hercules who traveled the world on missions and stuff. One day he came across a man who was terrorizing travelers by tricking them into lying down on a mattress and cutting off the parts of their legs that hung over the side. Hercules found out about it and took care of that nut job right quick.

Not saying I'm going to do that so you still fit in your clothes, cuz that's just nutso. And also child abuse.
What I am saying is that, theoretically, there are ways to ensure you don't grow out of your clothes so quickly.

So anyways, mommy loves you. Even though you're growing way too frikkin fast.

Your mom

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Defense of the Tiger Mom

****Though I don't discuss specifics of the book, I do discuss my conclusion to Amy Chua's conclusion in her memoir. So, if you don't want a spoiler of any kind then you probably shouldn't read this post.*****

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Amy Chua's memoir, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Most of it is not positive. I would even dare say contemptuous. Amy Chua has now become the new face of the Mom- -That-Everyone-Loves-To-Hate.

I read her "essay", Why Chinese Mothers are Superior in the Wall Street Journal before her book was released. And I have to admit that my first reaction was, OMG. Doesn't this woman realize that this kind of parenting is precisely why Asian American girls have such a high rate of suicide? Doesn't she know that, while Western parents are too concerned with self-esteem, the incredibly high demand for nothing less than an A is one reason why Asian teenagers kill themselves? Because they feel they have shamed their family with their sub-standard academic performance by getting only a 'B'? And then I put it out of my mind cuz I have my own kids to take care of. By the way, apparently she does realize this, as it is briefly mentioned in the first few chapters of her book.

But then the firestorm began, and I was interested. Readers called her abusive and accused her of having Borderline Personality Disorder (which may or may not be true, but I don't really think its relevant). And then Amy Chua began making the rounds to promote her book, which only enticed her critics to now accuse her of "back peddling" when she pointed out that her book was never meant to be a parenting how-to guide. It's a memoir- her experience with this particular style of parenting which she threw herself into head first thinking it was in the best interests of her children. I became even more compelled to read it. Not necessarily because it's so controversial, but because I began to see that maybe there was something in this book that the noise makers were failing to see, and I had to know what that was.

So I bought the book, I'm reading the book (60 pages from the end). And this is the conclusion I have come to.

First of all, the "essay" posted by the WSJ is not really an essay. It is a compilation of excerpts taken from different parts of Chua's book and then pasted together to look like an essay. It's an excerpt. Period.

Second, the title "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" is misleading. Sensationalist? You bet'cha! But of course, that's probably how they got so many sucked into reading it and fueling the controversy. If it were title something more appropriate like, How a Tiger Mom Learned to Bend Before Her Kids Broke or How a 13 year old Girl Brought a Tiger Mom To Her Knees, most people probably wouldn't have been as interested. But this whole my-tiger-mom's-better-than-yours taunt just sounds more interesting. Besides, who can resist shouting back, "nu-uh!"

I think it's necessary to point out that I am not a Tiger Mom, although I could relate to Chua's battles with her youngest daughter from the very beginning. My kids are by no means over-scheduled. They don't play a musical instrument as of yet and our schedule is not jam packed with after-school activities. In fact, they are probably the most under-scheduled kids I know. I do this for two reasons.

I am cursed (or to some, blessed) with an incredibly meandering mind. It rarely wanders when and where I need it to. I'm so busy managing and redirecting what goes on in my head that most days I feel like an air traffic controller for my thoughts and its exhausting. This also tends to make me flakey and forgetful, even when I write things down in several different places and put it on my phone calendar with an email reminder. Therefore, I've learned to be very careful about unnecessary commitments for all of us. Because let's face it, the girls are not going to drive themselves to their lessons or remember the necessary equipment all on their own. That's another job that, right now, I just don't want to take on. The extra curricular activities they do participate in are taken once a week right after school at their school. So all I have to remember is what day I'm picking them up later than usual. Easy peasy.

The other reason I avoid over-scheduling them is simply because I don't want them to be so used to having their time filled with activities that they don't know what to do with themselves when they don't have any place they need to be. Of course, I still occasionally hear the "mom, I'm bored" complaint. And of course my reply is always, "well, you have books to read, toys to play, roller skates to skate with and a playground in the back yard. I'm sure you can find something you want to do." And then they disappear to find their own way out of their boredom. But this is just me. If I weren't so exhausted just keeping up with their care and feeding and keeping track of homework I might be more inclined to sign them up for something more regular but for now, this works for us.

I think Chua has touched a nerve because as parents, most of us are extremely sensitive to our perceived failures as parents. Hell, even if we haven't failed (yet), there it is looming over us- the fear that we'll cause irreparable damage to our kids which they will never get over without spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours talking to a shrink about how they're all fucked up because their parents were too strict/not strict enough, did/didn't breastfeed, did/didn't make us play a musical instrument or did/didn't let them quit little league when they didn't want to play anymore.

When someone comes out and says that they have The Answers to raising academically successful kids, we're sucked in. When we realize how extreme The Answers are, we're repelled. But then also a little part of us may wonder, but what-if she's right? This is what seems to be happening over Chua's book.

But I have to say that, as I read the book, I don't get the impression Chua is trying to say that her way is better than everyone else's at all. What she does is say how she approached parenting her children and why. Was she hard core, balls to the wall intense in how she went about it. Yes. Because she believed this to be the best way for her and her family. So, yeah. She comes off as cocky and self-assured for most of the book. Don't we all do that when we start out with anything? And did she stick to her guns to impose this philosophy on her daughters, even when it seemed counter productive? Yep. But then towards the end of the book she reveals that *gasp* she realized that perhaps her rigid Tiger Mom method isn't the best method for her children after all. And she begins to bend. But don't tell that to the critics who probably didn't even read past the first chapter. And that's if they even got past the WSJ article and decided to read the book at all.

One thing Chua does that makes it very easy for critics to completely ignore her conclusion is that her book is written chronologically, and not from an omniscient point of view. The reader doesn't know that Chua has had a change of heart until the event where her "ah-ha! moment" occurs. Which doesn't happen until the last half of the book. So if you're turned off by her strategy in the beginning and quit reading then you'll never discover Chua's realization that her Tiger Mom ways aren't quite working with her second daughter, and that someone (namely, Chua) needed to give.

Personally, I admire Chua's ability to claw down the curtain of pretense and let the world see her at even her (admittedly) ugliest moments. I actually enjoy reading this book and think it's a very well done memoir. If you've considered reading it, I think you should. I found the book to a very good testament to how different children respond to different methods. Being the Tiger Mother seemed to work for her eldest daughter. Not so much the youngest, who inspired the memoir.

At the very least you'll be entertained and reassured that it's okay to not be afraid to be hated by your children when you're motivated by their best interests. But perhaps, that's just me, too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

YOU get a friend, YOU get a friend,

"e-v'ry-body. Gets. A. Frieeeeeend!" I sang from the laundry room in my best imitation of Oprah. Sofia came running over.
"Ooooh, mama, can I clip some socks, too?" she asked, matching my excitement.
"Sure, baby. Grab a clip and jump in." I said, passing her a pair of socks and a sock clip.

I explained to her that I was trying to match the socks on their way into the dryer so that could have a friend with them and not be lonely.

"So we have to find them a friend?" she asked. I continued matching and clipping socks before tossing them into the dryer.
"Yup." I said. "But they have to be the same."

Sofia grabbed a clip between her skinny little fingers and exercised her super-girl strength to pry the edges open and over the cuff of a pair of socks. I had to help her out to get it the rest of the way, and then on we went,  matching the remaining socks in the washer.

Amazingly, this scene is not the fictional creation of my deepest domestic-related fantasies. It happened. For real's. Tonight. It turns out that, much like adults, a shiny new "gadget" gets my kids excited about helping out with the most mundane tasks. Even sorting socks.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I purchased these washer/dryer safe sock clips called sock cops. They are exactly what they sound like they are, little clips designed to be placed over a pair of socks to keep them together through out the entire laundry process. You can even keep them on when you take them out of the dryer and store them in your sock drawer that way, taking them off only when you're ready to wear the socks. And then, before you toss them in the laundry basket you can reclip them and the cycle starts all over again.

Yeah, yeah, I know. This seems a bit extreme to make sure I don't have a bunch of unmatched socks sitting around, waiting for their perfect mate to come along so they can be worn. I am well aware of this. Nevertheless, it makes me happy to have them. Even happier, still, that my daughter would be as excited as I am about the prospect of perfectly matched socks the next time she needs a pair. I'm sure this giddiness is only temporary but that's okay.  I can use them for clothes pins the next time I need to hang the cloth diapers out in the sun.