Post Election Wrap-Up

Posted: November 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Politics, Preschool | No Comments »

Last night as the networks reported poll results from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, monitored the Senate race, and Vanna-Whited high-tech color-blocked maps, I know what you were thinking. This is all very interesting, but what I really want to know is what’s happening at the McClusky house on Election Day.

Thankfully I’m here to tell you. (Although my infographics aren’t very impressive.)

Our day started early. Painfully early. At 5:30AM, in fact, when Kate—excited by the prospect of coming with us to vote before going to school—ran through the house turning on all the lights. This was followed by Mark bellowing just inches from my ear, “BACK TO BED, Kate! It is 5:30 in the morning!!”

At 6AM—around when we might have dozed off again—Paige banged open our bedroom door like she was walking into a Wild West saloon. “Is it time to do voting yet?”

Oy. Remind me never to hype an early morning activity to the children again.

I crawled into bed with Paige in the slim hope that we’d get a few more minutes of shut-eye. No luck. Instead I heard her four-year-old commentary on the presidential front-runners. “I want Brock Obama to win today, but then after he takes a turn I want Matt Romney to win.”

Yes, Matt.

At breakfast Kate channeled her Election Day excitement into sign-making. (She’s big on signage for our front door, as well as greeting cards for nearly every occasion.)

Some highlights from her rabidly enthusiastic, grammatically-challenged signs:

“Go! Oboma! Go! Go!”

“I [heart] Oboma xoxo”

“Goob luck Obomo! xoxo”

“Oboma Peawr!”

I don’t know about you, but I think these are all very peawrful messages. Looks like somebody might have a future in politics.

At our neighborhood polling center—a Korean Methodist church—two lines were formed. Depending on the street you live on you were shunted into Line A or Line B to vote. The girls waited patiently, waved to various neighbors and friends, and were stoked to each get an “I Voted” sticker.

On the walk home Kate skipped through the leaves and trilled, “I reeeeeally hope Obama wins!” Paige reached for my hand and asked, “Is Obama Line A or Line B?”

I’m so happy she’s grasped the two party system.

At the end of the day we got an email from the preschool. Turns out the political banter continued throughout the day. The teachers shared a snippet of a conversation they overheard on the playground.

Paige: My mommy is Mrs. Claus and Matt Romney is on the bad list. [She's referring to my Halloween costume, the dear.]

Annie: I want Obama.

Connor: I’m Bock Obama.

Miles: And I’m Mitt Romney.

Annie: I’m gonna choose who wins. You have to talk a lot. You are on the TV.  Now I’m gonna choose who wins. Eeeny-meeny-miny-mo. Obama wins. Here’s your trophy!

Miles: No fair! I want a trophy!

Paige: Now I’m gonna pick who wins. Miles! Here’s your trophy!

Annie: My brother wants Mitt Romney to win. But he’s disgusting. Like throw-up.

Ah, good stuff. You’d NEVER guess that these kids were at a progressive preschool in Berkeley, would you?

The teachers’ email went on to report, “Everyone in our class voted on a ballot and decided who they wanted to be our next president. Ballots went into a voting box. At our afternoon meeting, we counted each vote, made a tally and determined a winner. It was a landslide, folks. Obama: 25. Romney: 0.”

Move over Nate Silver. Paigey’s preschool is nipping at your heels.

And who knows, Paige’s personal prediction might also come true. Maybe Matt Romney will be the president in 2016. Whoever the hell he is.

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Control Freak Mom

Posted: November 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Holidays, Kate's Friends, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Preschool, School | 3 Comments »

I admit it. I had three different costumes this Halloween. And I’m not including the ones I made for the kids. I personally had three. There was the Mrs. Claus, the Preppie, and the Haunted Housewife.

I mean, it’s not like I spent gadzooks of time on the last two—those were sort of quick throw-togethers when I got sick of the unwieldy, uncomfortable Santa dress. Let’s just say the fur-cuffed fashion from the North Pole is a bit toasty given the Bay Area’s balmy fall temps.

But the fact is that no matter which of the costumes I wore this Halloween, it was the Control Freak Mom that I was really rocking. On the inside at least. And you can’t blame me. It’s not like I like being Control Freak Mom, it’s more that my judgment-challenged children force me into the role.

Though I did do what I’d call an impressive job of shoving Control Freak Mom down down down and outta sight. I guess you could say I managed to control my inner control freak.

Man, I’d be soooo good at therapy.

Anyway, take the pumpkin patch preschool field trip. (God help me.) Of all ten kazillion pumpkins at her disposal my darling Paige lovingly picked a dented, scratched-up little number with no stem. No freakin’ stem AT ALL.

And I’m telling you, someone would be hard pressed to find a crappy looking pumpkin amidst all the perfectly round, fresh-skinned gourds in the place. They’re genetically engineering pristine pumpkins these days. They practically have those carving kit stencil cut-lines already on them.  Paige had to look long and hard to find THE WORST pumpkin in that epic field of pumpkin perfection.

She hugged that thing fiercely like she’d found a Cartier tank watch in a hay bale. And instead of asking her why the hell she wasn’t going to pick a GOOD pumpkin, I just smiled weakly and took her picture.

SEE what a good mother I can be?

With the girls’ costumes I also had to suppress the Perfectionist Creative Director Control Freak in me. Though Kate did well deciding to be an Olympic gold medal runner. As a veteran of the newsy-timely costume myself, I thought her choice was a strong one. (Clearly something I passed along in the genes.) She had the running shoes, the little track skirt, a race number, and of COURSE a medal. But she needed the U.S. flag around her shoulders—right?! THAT makes it the perfect costume.

She was willing to drape the thing there briefly so her Obsessive About Photo Documentation Mother could take some pics. But after our extensive shoot (which DIDN’T make us late for the Halloween parade this year, thankyouverymuch) she tossed the flag aside and said breezily, “Yeah, I’m not taking that.”

WHAT?!? It is ALL ABOUT the flag with that costume.

But you know, I just folded that damn flag up all nice and popped it back in the bag to return to Target. Bless their flexible return policies.

Paigey was a mail carrier. Though it took several semantic attempts for her to settle on that term. When asked what she was going to be she knew Mail Man was all wrong. This is a gal who freaks out when you compliment her cowboy boots. “They are cow GIRL boots,” she’ll correct. So she told folks she was being a “mail girl.” This had gender-bendy San Franciscans thinking, “A male girl? Oh, nice idea, honey.”

She had the pith helmet, the blue shorts with the marching-band-like stripe down the leg, the U.S. Postal Service light blue shirt. I even bought her a pocket chain for her mail box keys and geeky black knee socks that totally rocked. But every time Kate and I suggested she have a stuffed dog biting her in the butt Paige started to cry.

Why you would ever CRY at such a brilliant suggestion is beyond me. It’s like sometimes I don’t even think the children find obsessively perfecting their costumes the highest calling in their lives. And yet, they expect me to be seen trick-or-treating with them.

Life can be so unfair. But you know what? Since I didn’t think a crying mail girl with a stuffed dog on her ass would be very in-character, I dropped the whole matter.

Let them pick crappy pumpkins! Let them have their costumes the way THEY want them to look. Whatever.

I don’t know, maybe if my kids and I were from the same generation they’d understand me better. Of course, I realize that by nature of the fact that I’m their mother this same-generation concept is an impossible dream. I mean, I’m not an idiot.

But at Kate’s school parade this notion really hit me. I was in my Haunted Housewife costume. You know—June Cleaver wig, gingham dress, tray of cookies right out of the oven, fake blood dripping from my mouth and eye sockets.

A girl tugged on my arm and asked me, “Kate’s mom, what are you supposed to be?”

I smiled lovingly at the little dear, leaned down and cooed in my best smooth mama voice, “A haunted housewife, honey.”

“Oh,” she said thinking. “Like, you mean, a haunted-house wife? Like… the wife of a haunted house?”

The poor lamb had never heard the term housewife. Which made me assume that “homemaker” would also be lost on her. She’d probably construe that to be some kind of residential architect.

Which wouldn’t be all that bad really, but of course I’d need to be carrying some AutoCAD drawings for that costume. Duh.


Not Feelin’ It

Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Clothing, Daddio, Doctors, Husbandry, Learning, Miss Kate, Parenting, Preschool, Sensory Defensiveness, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Halloween is like black licorice. You either love it or hate it.

Me? I loooooooove Halloween. It’s the attention-seeker’s favorite holiday. The one time of year when you can unapologetically dress to elicit attention. You get to be creative. Plus there’s candy. And jack-o-lanterns. And cinnamony, nutmeggy, pumpkiny foods.

And did I mention the attention part?

Junior year in college I lived with a family in France. The mother was in her forties. Super young-looking, fashionable, and pretty. And she was a maniac extrovert. When my friends would come over she’d run around opening wine (as if we needed encouragement), cranking music, and dragging the furniture to the side of the room to get us dancing.

Her teen-aged daughter would be cowering in the corner. She was painfully, hideously shy.

Our parenting days were light years away, but my friends said, “That is SO going to be you and your kid some day, Kristen.” (They called this up to me while I was dancing on the couch.)

Weirdly, neither of my girls has retreated like a threatened snail in the wake of their mother’s extroversion. In fact, Miss Kate, my oldest, holds her own quite well. She’s one of the youngest in her class, but as other parents have commented, “You’d never know it.” I think that’s code for, “She’s all  in your grill with the sass and spunk you’d expect from a much older kid.”

Or maybe they’re just referring to her mad reading skillz.

Anyway, it turns that I’m worried about Little Miss Self Esteem. On the one hand she’s so socially bulletproof. She went from camp to camp one summer without knowing a soul, and without batting an eyelash. She was the only girl in an animation class with 19 boys. And she was totally un-phased.

She’ll happily let anyone babysit for her. (I should take advantage of that and work a deal with some homeless folks.) She’s independent, confident, funny, and a good big sister—90% of the time.

She blew away her preschool teachers by asking if she could lead Circle Time. Apparently no kid’s ever done that, and her teachers ended up handing her the Circle Time reigns a bunch. (“Today,” she’d report, “I led the kids in some yoga poses and we sang a song about snowflakes.”)

These days as a big second-grader she volunteers at Paige’s preschool reading to the children and leading art projects that she comes up with on her own.

My Kate is the future Most Likely to Succeed.

And yet I’m fretting about all the things she isn’t doing. It’s not that I want her to do more. It’s not that she’s disappointing me in any way. It’s that there are things that I know she wants to do that she isn’t doing.

And it’s all because of clothes.

You may’ve seen me write about this here before. Kate hates clothes. She’s not a nudist, just a super-sensitive kid who can’t stand the feel of seams, stiff fabric, sewn-on decals, and zippers.

We’ve gone through phases with this. As a baby it seemed non-existent, but somewhere along the way she forsook pants for dresses. She whittled her wardrobe down to a handful of acceptable well-washed, worn out, super-soft cotton clothes.

She saw an OT a couple years ago and we brushed her and did some other exercises to desensitize her skin. It seemed to work. A bit, I mean. Even just learning other kids have this problem helped us all.

But it’s far from behind her. I’ll nearly forget about it, then she’ll need new shoes and I’ll realize how not-normal this behavior is that we’ve become so accustomed to.

So we started with another OT this fall. A well-respected woman who’s in walking distance of our house. She gave us some new insights and exercises, and already Kate seems to feel some things are easier. She recently wore a long-rejected shirt that Mark had bought her on a business trip. We nearly fainted when she walked into the kitchen with it on.

At school the other day I caught the end of her P.E. class. She was wearing a red vest along with her teammates. I was thrilled. We went shoe shopping a few days later and to my shock she picked out a pair of tall leather boots.

Things like these are victories. Totally unprecedented stuff.

So, what’s the problem? What I’m worried about is all the things she doesn’t want to do because of an outfit or uniform or some kind of gear.

She used to love ballet. Everyone else wore tutus and tights and slippers. Katie was in a baggy cotton dress, barefoot. This was fine with her teacher, but somewhere along the line from toddler to first-grader Kate decided ballet wasn’t her thing.

She adored choir until the performances last spring where I had to coax her into her uniform while drugging her with TV. This year she quit choir after one rehearsal.

She still has training wheels on her bike since she can’t tolerate a helmet.

And she’s expressed interest in horseback riding and theater, but admitted that the required clothes or costumes made those things a no-go.

I also think she’d love Halloween, but—in my mama brain at least—she sees it as a day when she’ll have to wear something other than her four soft-and-cozy skirts or her three approved cotton shirts. Dressing up is anxiety-provoking. What’s fun about that?

A few weeks ago I’d just about decided that we’d put her in therapy. In addition to the OT, I mean. Might as well come at this from every angle, right? My dad and I had a long phone conversation about this and he agreed it was a good idea. Let’s hit this thing with a hammer.

But a chat with her pediatrician later that day had me reconsidering.

“Is she doing okay socially?” he asked.

“Yeah, totally,” I said. No-brainer to that.

You’ll go through two or three years when she’ll say no to things, the doc said. But you have to trust that she’ll pull out of it. Eventually there’ll be something she wants to do badly enough that she’ll be willing to wear whatever she has to for it.

Putting her in therapy, he contended, will just solidify this as a big issue in her mind. It could make it even harder to shake.

I called my dad to discuss this new perspective. And we agreed that it made sense too.

Oy! What to do?

It’s hard to resist that modern-day reflex to throw as many resources and specialists at a problem as possible. Especially when that problem relates to your sweet young child. Isn’t being a good parent about removing whatever roadblocks prevent your kid from being their best selves?

I said that to a friend the other day who replied, “Or maybe it’s about letting them remove those barriers themselves.”

For now at least I’m back-burnering the therapy idea. Mark agrees. Let’s focus on OT now and see what comes of that.

So then, time to hone my maternal patience skills. Time to sit on my hands when I see Kate yearn to do something that she ultimately decides against because some part of it won’t feel good. Time to sit back and appreciate all the dazzling things that Kate IS doing, instead of fretting over what she’s not.

And time to go put the finishing touches on my own Halloween costume.

Happy Halloween, y’all.

A friend emailed me a link to this excellent short video. (Thank you, Melanie!)
My husband and I related to so so much of it. In fact, Mark said it made him cry.
Check it out, yo.

The Emperor’s New Onesie from Hillary Frank on Vimeo.


Love You Long Time, Ladies

Posted: May 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Mama Posse, Mom, Other Mothers, Parenting, Preschool | 14 Comments »

Last week my kid’s hippie preschool had a “Mothers and Others” breakfast. Because if they didn’t include “others” some crazed PC parent would be enraged and offended and break all the windows and set the garbage cans on fire. Then go live a tree for ten months to protest.

Yawn. Just another day in Berkeley.

The breakfast was lovely actually, and one of the mothers—or maybe she was one of the others—was telling me her four-year-old has been asking a lot of heavy questions lately.

“So the other day she says, ‘What happens to you after you die?’”

“And I tell her, ‘You know, that’s a very good question, Lindsey, but I don’t know really know the answer.”

The mom looks up, “So she says, ‘Well why don’t you just Google it, Mom?’”

Honestly, I was about to give the woman the very same advice. (I always thought that Lindsey seemed like a smart kid.)

Instead I recommended the mom get a tattoo of the exchange. I was willing to get a matching one. I mean, some of these gems you’ve got to write down to remember. Others need commemorating in a more lasting manner.

As mamas I love that we have a front-row seat to all this crap. We work damn hard for the access, but times like those help get you through the day.

Ever since getting my very own C-section scar, I’ve been goony with adoration for mothers. I realize it’s narcissistic that it took me having to become a mom to appreciate all my mother did, but I’d guess I’m not alone.

I’ve learned a shit ton from my friends over the years, but I’ve found the mom-friend provides a unique level of intimacy. Hell, I’ve shared tips for unplugging breast ducts with total strangers in the produce aisle at Safeway. Imagine how I am with mamas I know—and love.

Today I want to honor the moms whose wisdom, talent, humor, and guilt-free ability to drink during playdates has dramatically improved my adventure in motherhood.

Like my friend Mary. Why spend the money on an overpriced plastic Barbie Dream House, when you can make one from a shoe box? It’s brilliant. She’s also happened to take every beautiful photo of my family that I could never take myself. When I’m sitting in a nursing home in my own diaper some day, I’ll be fondly looking at photos Mary took of my family, and blasting Glory Days REALLY LOUD from my clock radio.

And Megan? She taught me about the transformative powers of drinking a cold beer in a hot shower at the end of the day. It’s the modern mother’s Calgon bath. If you’ve never done this, I beg you to try it right now.

My friend Sacha took her kids to museums when they still had their umbilical stumps intact. And I’m not talking about kiddie museums, though she does those too. Those kids know their way around The Asian Art Museum and The De Young like most kids know the playspace at Chuck E Cheese.

I have another friend named Megan, and it’s the weirdest most impressive thing. Every time I’ve seen her daughters outdoors—in photos or in the flesh—they are, get this, wearing HATS. Like, they keep them on their heads. I don’t know what more I can say about that other than, wow. I think Kate wore a hat for 20 seconds once. It was one of those pink and blue striped caps they stick on newborns in the hospital. Even though she couldn’t focus her eyes she clawed that thing off her head nearly instantly. And hasn’t worn a hat since.

My neighbor/friend/walking partner Jen is the cleverist, most creative, all-natural homemade kinda mama I know. Luckily she lives next door and my kids often glom onto her fabulous sewing, rubber stamping, or gardening projects. Her kids come to our house to watch TV.

And Becca—wait, is this starting to sound like that B-52s song 52 Girls? (Don’t worry, it’s not the extended dance mix—it’ll be over soon.) So Becca is a triathlete, ER doc, the first lady of Surly beer, and… I swear there was something else. Oh, right! She has FOUR YOUNG BOYS. Quattro. And a puppy. Becca is my in-the-moment mama role model. Her boys ask her to read Harry Potter, play Candy Land, or build forts ALL DAY LONG—when she’s not at work pulling forks out of people’s eyeballs, that is. Becca always says yes.

If everything goes according to my plans Becca and I will plan a wedding together some day. For our kids, I mean. I’m not professing my love for her here. At least not that kinda love.

My sis-in-law Lori is a military mother o’ two. Her husband’s gone tons, so she cares for their kiddos and cooks like Betty Crocker like it’s no big thing. She’s the master of the early bedtime, which is a brilliant alternative to strangling your children when it’s been a long day.

Lori’s family moves a lot, on accounta the way the military does that to you. That gal can unpack a house and have her kids enrolled in the local school in, like, 20 minutes. It’s really quite impressive.

While we’re at it my neighbor Brooke is a military mama with a deployed son. There are yellow ribbons round her old oak trees, for realz.

My hat goes off to both you mamas.

And here’s to all the moms who I’ve openly—or in a more closeted fashion—adopted since my own mom left the planet. (To be clear, she died. She’s not an astronaut.)

France Demopolus’ kitchen table is where I’ve felt unconditional love since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. If I could make my home this way for even one of my kids’ friends, it’d make up for other things in my life, like not competing in the Olympics or never having gone to summer camp.

And my mother-in-law Peggy has wiped my children’s butts, folded my family’s laundry, and drank white wine with me at the end more days than I can count. She’s also told me more than once, “You’re doing a great job with those girls.” And whether or not she’s been paid to say that, it’s amazingly good to hear.

I’m totally out about my adoration for my friend’s mom Claudia. She’s an elementary school teacher, a reading expert [swoon], and a world-class grandma. And if you ask her how an 8-hour drive was, she lights up like you’re asking about her wedding day and says, “So. Much. Fun.” The woman has a good time getting her teeth cleaned, I swear. I wanna live like her.

Enough of my ramblings. It’s probably time for you to ring the bell for another mimosa or foot rub. Or if you’re a dad, to peel more grapes for your wife. Or pull that B-mer with the big red novelty bow around to the front of the house.

The way I see it, being a mom on Mother’s Day is like getting an Oscar nomination. It makes me want to say what an honor it is to even be in the company of these talented, amazing women. And I’d also like to thank Harvey Weinstein.

Don’t forget your sunscreen today, and grab a light sweater, honey, and I’ll see you back here in a couple days. xoxoxo


Paige’s Birthday Interview: Age 4

Posted: February 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Birthdays, Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool | 6 Comments »

We recently had an all-girl bring-a-doll tea party for Paige’s fourth birthday. We set a long kid-sized table with nice linens, plates with doilies, and a remarkably-nice-from-the-grocery-store bouquet of roses. We cut PB&Js into animal shapes and grilled cheese into little squares, and stuck toothpicks with pink ruffly tops into pieces of fruit. We arranged everything on cake pedestals and fancy platters.

But the best part? Mark wore his tux and served the girls. He poured dramatic high streams of cocoa from a silver teapot into teensy china cups. He bent crisply at the waist to take in whiny requests like, “I want MORE mini marshmallows!” He returned folded napkins to girls when they came back from “the potty.”

It was a hoot.

Especially since Paige’s homies aren’t exactly the Fancy Nancy set. They enjoyed themselves, but were hardly holding their pinkies up or sending mini bagels back to the kitchen for more cream cheese. They were more like a soup kitchen crew, muttering incoherently at times, grabbing food off each others’ plates, and occasionally burping and scratching their crotches.

Good times.

Anyway, after Mark’s stellar performance I thought of a new standard us gals should set for selecting a male to breed with. Will the guy be game for catering to the needs of a gaggle of four-year-old girls with the grace and proficiency of Carson from Downton Abbey? If so, ladies, grab that man and drag him down the aisle.

Kate reminded me this morning that I haven’t interviewed Paige for her birthday yet. It’s so helpful having her around as a second-tier mother.

So this morning, in keeping with my better-late-than never approach to birthday interviews, I sat down with Paige and asked her a few questions.

Me: If a genie could grant you one wish, what would it be?
Paige: Flying.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Paige: A mermaid. [Pauses, thinking.] I need a tail.

Me: What kind of job do you want when you grow up?
Paige: Be a nurse.

Me: What do nurses do?
Paige: Give shots.

Me: Where do you want to live when you grow up?
Paige: Penn-siv-vania.

Me: Do you think you’ll have any animals?
Paige: YEAH!

Me: What kind?
Paige: Camel.

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Paige: No.

Me: Why not?
Paige: Because I’m going to be a mermaid.

Me: Do you want to have children?
Paige: Yeah.

Me: How many.
Paige: Seven. That’s a lot of kids.

Me: Do you feel different now that you are four?
Paige: Way older. Way way way way.

Me: How so?
Paige: Because I’m almost 8!

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Paige: Turquoise, pink, and purple, and violet. Because one is that turquoise is the color of the sea, and one is that pink is the color of the sunset. And purple when you mix it up with pink it makes violet.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Paige: Penny. [A girl who used to go to her preschool who she hasn't seen--or mentioned--in months.]

Me: Why?
Paige: Cute.

Me: Now that you are four, do you think you’ll have a boyfriend?
Paige: Yes. [Giggles.]

Me: What do you think about world peace?
Paige: World peace? I love you! [Laughs.] I said I love you. I love world peace.

Me: Do you know what it is?
Paige: No. That’s why I said I love you!

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Paige: What is that polar bear movie?
Kate: Knut.
Paige: I love Knut. And Sponge Bob Square Pants.
Me: Huh. I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen Sponge Bob.

Me: What’s your favorite thing to do that’s not TV?
Paige: Have candy. And do cartwheels.

Me: What’s your favorite activity that’s not about candy?
Paige: Painting and drawing. And getting candy.

Me: What do you like most about school?
Paige: Learning about dinosaurs.

Me: What have you learned about dinosaurs?
Paige: The way how they roar.

Me: What do you like to do in your free time?
Paige: Play mermaids. [Really? I have never witnessed this. If we were on The Newlywed Game my answer to this question would be "look at books." And we'd get in a fight later back stage that she came up with "play mermaids" totally out of the blue, leaving that other couple to win the new bedroom set.]

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Paige: [Incredibly long pause to think] I like peacocks.

Me: What is your favorite song?
Paige: [Thinly singing] Ba ba black sheep do you have any wool? Tell me, tell me… Wait. [Walks out of room.]

Me: Where are you going?
Paige: To get a songbook. [Returns with a binder of her preschool artwork.]

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Paige: Being a super girl.

Me: What can a super girl do?
Paige: Have power. And have a cape.

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Paige: Make a cake.

Me: What are you most afraid of?
Paige: Bumble bees.

Me: What about them?
Paige: They have stingers.

Me: What is your favorite thing about me?
Paige: I love you. I love when you read.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Paige: I love you.

Me: Okay, but what is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Paige: He can read.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Kate?
Paige: She can read.

Me: What’s cool about her?
Paige: I like her.

Me: Why?
Paige: Because she can read!

Paige: I don’t want to do this any more. Can you just read?

I finally did relent and read to the gal. Even I can take a hint.

Happy birthday, dear Paigey. I love you more than you’ll ever know.


The Buzz Around Here

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Doctors, Firsts, Food, Milestones, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool, Scary Stuff | No Comments »

Paige has developed a bizarre and extreme fear of bees.

I have no idea what brought this on. Every time I ask her about it I get a different answer. “Luke at school likes bees.” Or, “No reason.” Or, “Because bees go buzz.” Or, “Can I watch Sesame Street?”

When you want to get to the bottom of something with an almost-four-year-old, they’re often the worst ones to ask about it. Mark and I refer to this as the “bad witness” syndrome. What your preschooler reports ain’t always what happened.

But I know for sure that she has not been stung by a bee, negatively interacted with a bee, or read any scary books or seen videos about bees. I have not punished her by saying, “If you hit your sister again I will stick your hand in a bee hive.” I swear I haven’t. Even if I’ve maybe sometimes wanted to.

I have assured Paige that bees don’t come into the house. I’ve told her that if you don’t bother bees, they won’t bother you. I have remarked that in wintertime, bees aren’t even around because of the cold. (Though this is a bit of a hard sell with our NoCal winter this year. It’s been sunny and in the 60s for most of December and January.) I even said that if you DO get stung by a bee, it hurts for a little while, then goes away. No. Big. Thing.

But for a few weeks now she will wake up in the middle of the night and ask questions like, “Are there any bees in my room?”

Come morning she’ll drop her cereal bowl into the sink and troop off to her room to get dressed announcing, “I’m not wearing anything black today.” This because Kate’s preschool teacher told her FOUR YEARS AGO that the color black attracts bees. A fact that Kate has cleaved to, out of scientific interest more than fear. Therefore any time we come anywhere near a bee or perhaps the kind of flower a bee might like Kate does an inventory of all the clothing we’re wearing to ascertain whether any of us is in imminent danger.

It’s a shame too, since black looks so fab on Paige with her blond hair.

Last week I took Paigey to a pediatric allergist. She’s had some puffy-lip/barfy reactions to walnuts and I wanted to see if there was a legit issue at hand. The allergist was one of those super-goofy-friendly docs who works with kids and could probably make so much more money gruffly caring for adults, but is just too kindhearted and caring and gooberish. Thank God for folks like him, I guess.

Anyway, he was so desperately hell-bent on connecting with Paige I nearly had a diabetic seizure from his saccharine-sweet “Your lovey looks like a wonderful friend” and “Baba… what a nice name for a stuffed sheep” banter.

Paige was even a bit leery of the dude.

He went on to remark that if Paige was three she must be learning how to read, and started quizzing her on what letter makes the sound “rrrr” and, “What is the sound the letter ‘e’ makes?” Hell, I’m not even sure what sound the letter ‘e’ makes. Is it eeee or eh? Anyways, I don’t know what preschool HIS kids go to, but Paige comes home from school with paper plates that have colored cotton balls glued to them and with glitter ground into her scalp. And I don’t think it’s from rigorous academic sessions.

Anyway, Mr. Overly Nice Guy ended up balancing out Paige’s perception of him when he pricked up and down her back with tinctures of various allergens. It was not only pokey and painful, but many of the spots turned into itchy burning pits that she could neither reach nor scratch.

And worse than that the nurse wrote numbers on her back in red pen to indicate what each allergen was. On the car ride home between sobs she relayed to Mark on the phone, “They wrote numbers on my baaaaack!!! In PEN! I want to go home and take a baaaaath!!!”

Turns out she is allergic to walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. This prompted me to tell Goofy Allergist Doc, “I guess I’ve got to get her off that hazelnut coffee in the morning.”

To which he looked at my blankly and said, “Really? She drinks that?”

I assured him she does not drink hazelnut coffee (while sounding out the words in The Wall Street Journal). She’s more a double-espresso kinda gal.

When, oh when, will the rest of the world understand my sense of humor?

Anyway, now we’re one of those families who carry epi pens with them everywhere and have the preschool stock-piled with various meds. We have a kiddie rainbow-beaded Medic Alert bracelet on order. And I’m an even-more-avid food label reader. Were nuts processed in the same facility where this granola bar was manufactured? Was there “shared equipment?” Does this fruit chew possibly contain “trace elements” of nuts?

Doc Smiley told me that if the equipment in question is used to process almonds—no problem! Paige is not allergic to almonds. So he told me to just call the different companies to find those details out.

For real?

Me: “Hello, Nabisco? It’s Kristen. I’m wondering about the machines you got goin’ there. What nuts are we talking about?”

This does not seem like a call I’m likely to ever make. Not that I want to put Paigey in any jeopardy, God knows. But REALLY? Call the food manufacturer? I mean, who the frick do you ask to speak to? How many hours are you thrashing about in that corporate phone-tree quicksand before you eventually find an administrative assistant who is sitting in a cubical in St. Louis 2,000 miles from any actual food-makin’ “equipment” and really just wants to get you off the phone so she can get back on Facebook who gives you a vague, “Uh… I’m not sure” answer? Or worse, she lies just so she can return to her online solitaire game then update her status that the chicken salad she just ate for lunch was gross.

I’m supposed to trust her?

I think I’ll just be steering away from processed foods—as I try to do anyway.

And blessedly, Paige’s allergies are apparently mild. Not like some kids who see a picture of a peanut and break into hives. Benadryl will likely do the trick if Paige is ever exposed to something. The epi pens are for unusual, hopefully rare reactions. And, I think, just so I’m required to cram one more thing in my already unwieldy mom purse. I can’t get feelin’ all freed up now that I don’t have to carry diapers any more.

The allergist wants us to come back in a month just to check in. After this “lifestyle change” he said people often have many questions. Though I wonder how it is we’ve gone for nearly four years never knowing Paige had a tree nut allergy. (And is it just me, or are you also unclear about which nuts grow on trees? We didn’t have that unit in my science classes…) I mean, if we can just continue to do what we were doing up until now, seems like she should be okay.

Despite Paige’s tormented screams and wailing about her itchy-owie back, interspersed with rants about the numbers drawn on her—”Why numbers? WHY, Mama??”—I did manage to summon some rational thought to ask the doctor some questions, and one was about bee stings. In my mind bee stings and epi pens go hand in hand.

“Is she is more likely to be allergic to bees because she has a nut allergy?” I bellowed over the din.

And the answer it turned out is—no! There’s no relation to the nut and the bee thing.

Well, she may not have a physical allergy to bees, but she certainly seems to have a psychological one. I’ve just got to figure out what the antidote to it is. If any of you have successfully wrangled with similar sorts of preschoolers’ fears, I’m all ears.

I now also know to never write numbers on Paige’s back in red pen. And thankfully, that’s a lifestyle change I can easily accommodate.

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Ho Ho Hanukkah

Posted: December 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Milestones, Miss Kate, Music, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Preschool, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

On Friday when I picked up Paigey from preschool her teacher handed me her lunchbox and said, “I didn’t know you guys celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.”

To which I answered, “We don’t actually celebrate Hanukkah. Whoever might have given you that idea?”

She and I smiled down at Paige, who practically started whistling and kicking the dirt to look all innocent.

My friend Shira just wrote a sweet, funny blog post for my day job about growing up Jewish in a Christmas-hyped world. My daughter will likely blog some day about her unfulfilled childhood longings for latkes and dreidel play, and how she’d tear through her stocking on Christmas mornings hoping to find chocolate gelt.

And really, as a wanna-be Jew myself, I totally appreciate where Paige is coming from. In fact, this week I nearly ran away with a Klezmer band.

Sure, lots of people have chosen to follow The Dead, or become rock groupies. And really, who hasn’t read—and loved—Pamela Des Barre’s classic I’m With the Band?

But me? I want to throw caution to the wind and go on the road with a band that plays traditional Hebrew music dating back to Biblical times. Now THAT is hot, people. That’s how I’m plotting my rebellion.

And sure, it helps that one of my most beloved friends is the front man for them. They’re exuberant, joyful, funny, quirky—and alternately pretty deep and sorrowful. But before I start to sound like a music reviewer (and fail miserably at it), I’ll just say that the music they make draws you in, makes you clap, chuckle, stomp your feet, and belt out verses like “Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy!” And somehow, without even knowing what 90% of the words mean, you feel totally connected and a part of it.

Trust me, it’s good stuff.

I saw the band play Thursday night in Berkeley and was so fired up I decided to take Kate to their Saturday night gig. Which was an hour and a half away. And started at her bedtime.

But if as a parent you have ever had a moment of feeling like what you are doing is so exactly the thing you should be doing with your child, even though in all practical ways it seems totally wrong, well Saturday night was just that for me.

Kate spent the day yammering on to her dolls (and anyone else who’d listen) about “going to my first concert.” When we arrived, she marveled at the modest, rural community center, “I think this place is a mile long!” She played foos-ball with the drummer backstage. And when she saw Lorin walk up to the mic and start singing, I thought she’d levitate off her seat with bliss.

Even when I poured her exhausted, rumpled body into the car for the long, late-night drive home, part of me thought, “Let’s just drive on to L.A.! Let’s tap into more of that amazing, addictive energy! Let’s start writing set lists and chanting at encores for Mermaid’s Avenue.”

Oh, I wanted to oy yoy yoy all the way down to Disney Hall. But instead I drove home, tucked Kate into bed, and satisfied myself by watching them play tonight on the Conan show. My special band on TV for the whole world to see.

Here it is, less than a week away from Christmas and Mark and I have still not figured out what to buy poor Paigey. So Mark, in all his brilliant practicality, asked her yesterday what she wanted. And without batting an eyelash she made her pronouncement: “I want a menorah.”

Well then, of course. So as soon as I hit ‘Post’ here I’ll be going onto Amazon to find one. (Is that even where one buys a menorah? I’m such a hopeless goy.)

Yes, I think Paige has made her point loud and clear. The next time I pack up Kate and hit the road to follow a Klezmer band, I’ve got to make room for one more groupie.


Guest Blogger: Miss Paige

Posted: December 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool | 3 Comments »

Once again I’ve let the indulgent act of living my life get in the way of recording it here. Apologies.

Yesterday as I grabbed Paige’s jacket at her preschool, I saw a row of poems the teachers had affixed above each child’s coat hook. And as I read Paige’s—my heart ablaze with pride and love—I had a maternal aha moment. A thought that rarely crosses my mind: I don’t have to do it all myself. Or more precisely, why do it all myself when I can enlist my child to do it for me?

I really think that child labor is under-utilized. It’s free! It’s there for the taking! And they don’t understand a thing about labor laws or minmum wage.

So then, to make up for my recent inability to cram blogging into my crazy-hectic days, I’ve enlisted the writerly stylings of my darling three year old, Paige. (She’s actually guest-blogged for me before.) Paige turns four next month, so I guess she’s really my three and eleven-twelfths year old. Whatever the case, at least I’m still not measuring her age in months. Am I the only one who hates hearing that someone’s child is 37 months old?

Whatever the case, you’re about to learn that Paige feels much older than her years anyway.

Here’s her above-her-coat-hook poem:

I am a flower.
I wonder if I can be a ballerina when I grow up.
I hear a snake hissing.
I see a baby tiger.
I want a treat from my Halloween candy.
I pretend I’m a baby tiger.
I feel like I’m a teenager.
I dream I’m purple.
I try to get my sister what she wants to do.
I am thankful for my big sister.
I am loving my big sister.
I am Paige.

If I get my act together in time for Christmas, I want to make a “sister” photo book for the girls with pictures of the two of them together. This poem screams out for inclusion in that book, don’t you think? Especially the part where submissive Little Sis Paigey tries “to get” her Big Sis “what she wants to do.”

I hope some day they’ll laugh about that, and not be processing it in a psychiatrist’s office.


Guest Blogger: Paigey

Posted: April 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool, Working World | 4 Comments »

So I started a new job today.

Well—for now at least—it’s a part-time freelance thang. But I’m working in an office! In San Francisco! With other grown-ups!

I’m just like a big girl.

The gig is with a website for mamas. In fact, it’s called So check it out, sister.

More on the work scene later. Right now I’m just fearful that actual paid employment could interfere with my ability to blog on a regular basis. But thankfully, I have back-up. In the form of a three-year-old. Specifically, my three-year-old.

Yes, today, for the first time in the esteemed five-year history of motherload, we have a guest blogger: Paigey.

Her post below, is actually a story she told to her preschool class. Paige has an eccentric yet wonderful teacher who carries around one of those geeky mini tape recorders to capture the cute crap the kids say. So this story—which she regaled upon the class at lunch recently—was captured verbatim.

And I don’t want to get all braggish, but the story just appeared in her classroom’s email newsletter. This is a publication that goes out to ALL the Huckleberry Room families. Which is something like 16 in all. So yes, Paige has been published. (Are you listening, Harvard?!)

Without further blather, I give you an original tale told by Miss Paige.

There’s a big giant pink castle with two princesses, who were both moms. And their child. And the cows went out, and picked flowers for their mom. And then they went back in and they were so happy. And then a farmer came in. And then, um, the farmer he…the end.

And they had good manners. And then the good manners said ‘Hey, what’s that game?’  And then they went walking along the bed. Walking along on its head.

Chapter One: “The Dragon.” The dragon was sleeping in his cave. The people were sleeping in their bed, too. And it was night and the dragon waked up and she was named Lindsey. She was the girl. She flied in the air and goed to her friend’s house. She said “Hi, friends, I’m named Lindsey.” She flew off to her grandma’s house.

Chapter Two: “The Guy.” The guy was sleeping in his coat. And they were stunning. Then there was a dragon coming. Then he closed his door. And then he went back to his house to take a (?).

Chapter One. “The Bird.” The bird was in her cage. And then the cave fox walked along with his… and then he was walking…”

And just like that, on the second Chapter One (which I find very innovative, don’t you?) the tale suddenly ends. Perhaps it’s Paige’s wish that we determine the outcome of it all ourselves—the fox, the bird, the lesbian princess moms, and let’s not forget the flower-picking cow or “the guy.”

A special hearty thank you to the masterful Paigey Wigs for graciously stepping in today as guest blogger. Now that I’m working again it’s reassuring knowing there’s someone else out there helping me carry the load.

As they say, it takes a village.


Egads! Paige is Three

Posted: February 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Firsts, Milestones, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool | 3 Comments »

Every summer when we visit my sister in Cape Cod Mark nearly drives off the road laughing when he sees the sign for this one hair salon. It’s called ‘Egads!’

It’s impressive that such a poorly-named business has lasted so long. And it brings us no end of entertainment. No matter how many times we pass that sign it sets off a little husband-and-wife comedy routine. In British accents, no less.

“Egads!” Mark will bellow, peering forward at me then retracting his neck in dismay. “Your hair! What on earth has happened to it?”

Or I might look startled and cry out, “Egads, man! Have you seen what your hair looks like?!”

Or Mark’ll say,”Your hair is so… interesting.” And I’ll fluff my ‘do, smiling coyly and say, “Why thank you. I go to Egads Salon.”

We sometimes natter on as if we’re renowned naming experts who’ve pulled down a huge commission for naming the place. “Ah yes,” one of us’ll say with erudite puffery. “One of the most brilliant brands I take complete credit from building from the ground up is Egads Hair Salon. Yes, yes, the one on the main road in Harwich by the Dunkin Donuts. Brilliant work, if I do say so myself.”

These things delight us immensely. (I’m so damn lucky to have found Mark.)

It’s just such good material. I mean, aside from all the negative connotations that make “egads” a terrible name for a hair salon, who even really uses that word anyway? Other than, like, Sherlock Holmes?

My darling love-dumpling Paigey Wiggle turned three years old last week. Or, as she’d put it, “fwee.” And lately, as if to remind me of her Big Girl status, she’s been providing me with scads of egads-worthy moments. She still can’t shake the angelic light I see her in, but man she seems to be trying.

The other day, while we were walking down the street an older gentleman saw her, bent to her eye-level and kindly said, “What a pretty dress you have on.”

She stared up at him silent and blinking. So I nudged her. “Paige, what do you say when someone compliments your dress?”

She looked at me, then looked at him, and with a big smile shouted, “BOOBIES!”

Not exactly what I had in mind.

“Egads, child!” my inner voice cried out, as I took her by the shoulders and guided her away, offering the man a weak smile. I would have attempted an explanation, but hell if I understood what she was thinking. Better to just move along.

Lately too, even the smallest amount of liquid—even something remotely damp—is a source of abundant fascination for Paige. I know the bathroom will look like a tsunami hit if I send her solo to wash her hands before dinner. But I’m still sometimes too busy to chaperone. So I bellow from the kitchen where I’m cooking.

“You okay, Paige? No playing with water, please.”

“That’s enough now! Turn OFF the faucet!”

“Please don’t get into Daddy’s hair goop! That stuff is expensive.” (And a pain in the ass to clean up.)

But the other morning as I was packing lunches like a madwoman, cleaning up breakfast dishes with an OCD-level of care (in case the queen drops by), and wondering when I’d actually make it in the shower, I wandered by Paige’s room. She had three plastic cups lying on the floor, and another in her hand, dumping water on top of her toy box. The entire top of the wooden box, which is a long bench, was a pool of water. And there was a Niagra Falls gushing over the edge onto the floor.

I admit that I screamed.

It wasn’t at her, per se. More a scream of shock. Like, an “Aaaaagh!”

A more refined Bristish chap might have emitted a proper “Egads!” But my verbal reactions to stress or surprise aren’t quite so controlled.

Paige’s “water table” happens to be a piece of furniture that’s near and dear to me. One of those drag-it-out-of-a-burning-house type items. It was mine when I was a kid, and my dad not only built the thing, but he painted and decorated it too. It’s got my name across the top, the alphabet, and some little tigers and flowers on it. And it’s deliciously orange. Which Kate or Paige will be quick to tell you is Mama’s favorite color.

So, water was pouring down into the hinged crack where lots of toys are stored. It was flowing onto Paige’s big rug. It was likely pooling under the toy box too, leaving a nice big mark on the hardwood floor, but it was too heavy to move to know for sure.

In all the time I was busy being Morning Superhero Mom, Paige had been stealthily filling cups with water in the bathroom and ferrying them to her room. As if she were tasked with single-handedly putting out a fire, six ounces at a time.

I was crazed. Of course, Paige was immensely proud. As I was wind-milling my arms in the linen closet, grabbing towels with maniacal speed as if someone were going into labor, Paige was admiring her work and muttering things like, “All the water, Mama! All the water…”

Ah well, there went the 6 minutes I’d set aside to take a shower. (A more resourceful gal would have dipped her head under the waterfall and washed her hair, a la Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon.)

Miss Paigey is not only bragging about being “a big girl now.” My formerly easy-peasy dumpling has a new defiant ‘tude. She’s now prone to yelling No, stomping her feet (with her hands on her hips for added sassiness), refusing to take another step on the sidewalk, and even sometimes swatting at me. The other day her refusal to walk into the playground and her incessant whining once I lured her in prompted another mom to ask me how old she was. When I answered three, she didn’t say a word. Just sorta nodded her head.

But I could hear what she was thinking loud and clear: “It’s not the terrible twos, it’s the terrible threes.”

Lordy be.

Even though I could kinda see how she was thinking like she was, I still wanted to run after her, tap on her car window and explain, “You actually have it all wrong. This is Paigey. She’s not like that. She’s an angel!”

In fact, when people ask how Paige is, Mark says, “A handful,” at the same moment I’m saying, “Wonderful!” I always look at him like “Really?” It seems like we should get our stories straight.

But honestly, I think it’s me who’s suffering from temporary delusions and/or denial. I mean, I’m with her more than Mark is, so I should be acutely aware of her less-than-perfect behavior of late. But her sweetie pie angel-puss persona is so deeply ingrained in me. It’s hard to shake. It’s like when a friend chops off their hair or something. You still picture them the old way for a while, and you’re always a little surprised when you meet up with them and they look different from your mental image.

And if her sudden onset of cranky defiant negativity wasn’t offputting enough, it also turns out that Paige is in love. I know. I know what you’re thinking. The gal just turned “fwee.” But after two weekend visits to our friends’ house in Napa, Paige has become desperately infatuated with their 8-year-old son. (Who is, undeniably, handsome and charming.)

She wandered into my room the other morning, mopey and forlorn, climbed into bed and whimpered, “I miss Elliot.” Then she rolled away from me and slumped into the sheets like she couldn’t go on.

If she’s coloring, picking a book out from the library, or putting a barrette in her hair, she’ll invariably assert, “It’s for Elliot.” If I’m trying to coerce her into an outfit, I’ll sometimes tell her, “This used to be Elliot’s sister’s.” (Works like a charm.) And she spends entire mornings refusing to respond to her own name, and insisting that everyone call her Elliot. It’s like she parlays her lovesickness into becoming the object of her desire. Like that comforts her somehow.

It’s so dramatic as to be from another era—Austen-ian even. Which, of course, I love.

Anyway, a stricter version of me would make a stand and put an end to the thing. I mean, he IS five years older than her. But at this point I’m leaning more towards a simple “no boyfriends ’til you’re potty trained” rule.

Silly me, thinking I had a good decade or so before I’d be coaching my fwee- and five-year-old girls through matters of the heart.

A few weeks ago Kate and I went to pick Paigey up from school. Paige’s classroom is in the back of the school and down a set of stairs, where you can’t see or hear the street. As we walked up to her room, two of the teachers called out, “You were RIGHT, Paige!” and told me that about three minutes earlier Paige announced, “My mother is here.”

It happened again last week. “It seems like she KNOWS when you pull up and are parking the car,” the one nice afternoon teacher whose name I can’t remember said. “It’s amazing.”

I grabbed Paige’s lunch box and guided her up the stairs. Amazing? Nah. Paigey and I have always been tuned into each other that way. Like, when she was a teeny baby, I’d wake up in the night and not move or even open my eyes. A few seconds later she’d be flapping around in her bassinet. It happened later too, when she was sleeping down the hall in her own room.

We’ve got a few years and some layers of the world between us now, but that girl and I are still connected. Big three-year-old or not, I’m pleased to announce that Paigey-Lou is still her Mama’s baby.