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.


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.


Milk Curls

Posted: March 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Paigey pic by the incomparable Mary McHenry ( met an Italian woman last night who admired Paigey’s hair.

“How old is she?” she asked in a fabulous thick accent.

When I told her two, she smiled and said her son used to have curls just like Paige’s. Until she stopped breastfeeding.

“In my country we call them ‘milk curls,’” she said. But really I think in her country they probably call them something like curlio latte.

Anyway, she said that the first haircut he got after she stopped nursing, the curls never grew back.

I was aghast.

As much as I mock those who refuse to cut their kids’ hair—particularly boys’ hair, and especially for reasons such as fearfulness that blondness or curliness will go away forever—as much as I disdain those folks, I have never cut Paigey’s hair.

The thing is, she hasn’t NEEDED a haircut yet.

And God knows that now, based on this new information, she may never get one. Unless, of course, I can somehow manage to muster some milk from these previously-retired boobies.

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The Luck of the Not-Quite Irish

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

A little part of me has always wanted to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Between the freckles, the binge drinking, and the spontaneous singing of Danny Boy, what’s not to love about those people?

Most other days of the year I wouldn’t dream of changing my half-Italian, half-Polish background. But I’m sure I’m not the only person who suffers from intermittent cultural jealousy. I mean, think of all those Irish-Americans yip-yip-yipping and twirling to accordion music at big polka festivals. They stuff themselves silly with kielbasa and just wish they had some of what I’ve got.

I married into Irish blood. But I never really felt I could claim it until we had kids. Somehow their Irishness embodied with my genes made me feel a closer kinship to Guinness beer. I’m not running out to get a four-leaf clover tattoo mind you, but in the past several days I’ve been experiencing what has just got to be the luck of the Irish.

On Friday we heard back from schools. Of the three we applied to for Kate, she was accepted at two, wait-listed at one. Or rather, “wait-pooled.” I wonder if that sounds more European—being in the pool rather than on the list? Or does the term ‘waiting pool’ conjure some sort of contented foot-bathing images in ones mind, making it seem like not a bad place to be?

At any rate, one of the acceptances was from my first choice. (Mark’s second runner-up.) I am SO WICKED EXCITED about this place. All three schools deemed Kate ready for kindergarten, and even though there’s plenty of time and potential for me to beat myself up over this decision later, we’re pulling the trigger and starting her next year.

Yesterday the girls and I drove to the school and happily handed over a check. And even though there are 19 (not 20) steps leading to the main entrance—something that left Paigey and I, who were counting as we walked, hanging a bit—I’m confident that we are going to love love love the place. I’ve already mentally signed up for every committee and volunteer opp.

Still riding high on the news about kindergarten, we went to Kate’s preschool auction Friday night. And I was feeling thrifty. Already we were shelling out for tickets to the event and babysitting. The last thing we should endeavor to do was get into a bidding war with some other family over a set of gymnastics classes or a weekend in Napa. (Because finally, a year or so into the recession, Mark and I are trying to be good about spending.)

But open bars tend to weaken people’s resolves. And after just one turn through the silent auction tables I’d bid on a painting (several times over), and Mark succumbed to the roving raffle ticket sellers.

Seconds before the auction closed I placed the winning bid on the painting. Yee-ha! It now hangs above our bed, and should The Big One hit, at least Mark and I will be clocked on the heads with a lovely work of art, the sale of which benefited a deserving preschool.

Desperate to get more drinks down before the school’s babysitting ran out, we were leaving for a restaurant when the bellowing auctioneer announced the raffle drawing.

“Please forgive me,” he muttered, squinting down at the square of paper. “I’m terrible pronouncing names.”

I had a twinge.

“Mark, uh… Mik-CLUSS-kee?” he said, looking up from the mic hopefully.

A roar of cheers went up amongst our friends, and I double high-fived Mark who’d already edged himself nearly out the door. We are the proud new owners of an “instant wine cellar,” a collection of 40 bottles of first-rate wine, each contributed by different families at the school. (Of course, Mark has already logged them all into our online wine cellar app, cackling with delight like a kindly Ebenezer counting his money.)

Saturday morning’s hangover made me useful for only one thing. Shopping. Specifically thrift shopping. I headed to San Fran with Kate to hit up my favorite stores for used kids duds. Nothing thrills me more than finding a lightly-used Oilily frock for $9.

The car ride over was Kate talking NON STOP. Now, I have no one but myself to blame for her propensity for chatter, but MY GOD, do these kids sense when you have a hang-over and set out to jabber like they’re filibustering? Ouch! “Blah blah ballet class. Blah blah dancing Swan Lake. Blah blah the bee-oooo-tiful princess turns into a swan. He turns into a swan too. Have I ever seen a swan, Mama? Is a swan like a goose? Where is Swan Lake, Mama? Can we go there? Pleeeeez, can we? Can we get the book? Can we see Swan Lake some time?”

I said something that a non-abusive college-educated woman who is gently trying to shut her blathering child up might say. I mean, I’m not even certain now what it was. But there was a LOT of talk, and I was softly muttering hopefully conversation-curbing responses.

At our first store, after grabbing all the fabulous French outfits I could clutch, I scanned the book and toy shelf. And there, front and center was a pristine, hard cover copy of none other than Swan Lake. 99 cents.

“Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I muttered in my best Irish brogue, as I slid the book off the shelf. “Would you look at that?” A little more luck of the not-quite Irish.


Gone Fishin’

Posted: May 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been about a week or two now since my breasts retired.

Yep, their workin’ days are done. With Paige being the final output from Mark and Kristen Productions and all, these girls of mine are hangin’ it up. Cashing in after years of noble milk-making service. Buying a nice little condo in Clear Lake maybe. Or better yet, Palm Springs. You know, subscribing to TV Guide and marking with a yellow highlighter all the shows they plan to watch.

As good as it all sounds, they do experience temptation to return to work. On a nearly daily basis, in fact. Paige has had a wretched hacking late night and early morning cough that makes them want to go to her, to comfort her with warm Mama’s milk. Not to mention a kind dose of healing antibodies.

And their desires aside, sometimes the whole of me will catch a glimpse of the little tummy paunch that wasn’t there just weeks ago. The eat-like-a-farm-hand,  turn-blood-to-milk, have-baby-suck-milk-from-boobies holy trinity, which requires no use of Thigh Masters or of even breaking a sweat, but manages to keep one’s weight in check. And is now sadly over.

Trouble is, I still eat like a farm hand.

But my head tells my heart—and my heart tells my boobies—that this decision was okay. Paige is nearly 16 months old now, and I’ve done right by her nursing her for as long as I have. Whatever mother issues she’ll bring to a therapist as an adult, I’ll have victimized her with honestly, but in totally different ways than this.

In the way that mother’s forget the pain of childbirth, children forget the bliss of breastfeeding. Right?

Well, whatever the case, planner, achiever and overall anal retentive gal that I am, I’ve got a plan. Any agita I’m experiencing during this transition I’m brilliantly intending to offset with the intake of alcohol. Consuming it happily and recklessly, knowing my body’s the only one I’ll task with processing its toxins.

As for the boobies, with all the free time they’ve got themselves now, it seems only natural for them to consider taking up golf.

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Best T-Shirt Ever

Posted: December 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Today we dragged our sorry hung-over post-holiday-party three-measly-hours-of-sleep asses to the Farmers’ Market. Because that’s what we do on Sundays.

One booth right near the entrance was selling t-shirts and Mark pointed one out to me. It had a drawing of Obama on it and below the illustration it said PILF.

How brilliant is that?

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A Word from Mr. Kristen McClusky’s Wife

Posted: November 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Got my knickers in a twist and sent this letter to the head of my former prep school today.

A justifiable rant, or am I off my rocker?

Dear Dan:

As an alumna and lifelong fan of Wheeler, I want to thank you for the great job you’ve done helping me feel connected to all that’s happening at the school. I appreciate hearing about everything from curricular enrichment to campus development, how my donation dollars are being spent, and even being kept in the loop in times of tragedy. All these things have made me feel closer to the Wheeler community than I have in years. If I didn’t live 3,000 miles away, I’d send my daughters to Wheeler in a heartbeat.

I’m sure it’s in that same spirit of inclusion that somewhere along the line correspondence to me from the school started to be addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Mark McClusky.” My husband has attended some Wheeler events with me, and even he commented on how odd it is that as a result my own name has dropped off all mail from the school.  

I know this is likely is a matter of old-world etiquette. And in that vein, it makes me ponder whether Mary C. Wheeler herself was ever married. I don’t believe she was, but I can’t help but wonder if she had been–even back in 1889–whether she’d have named her progressive all-girls school something akin to The Mrs. John C. Smith School.

It appears that you are mindful about how you present your own name in school correspondence–sometimes signing with the familiar “Dan” rather than using your full name and title. I’ll continue to look forward to receiving news from Wheeler. I just hope that going forward you’ll be as thoughtful about how you address the envelopes as you are about their contents.

Kristen Bruno McClusky, ’85


Palin in Comparison to Biden

Posted: October 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I’m exhausted just thinking about how much cramming Sarah Palin is doing to get ready for the debate tomorrow.  

I wonder what approach they’re taking with her. Flash cards? Crib sheets? Miking her updo? For her sake I hope they’re coming at it from all angles.

Oh Sarah. It’s sure to be a long night for you. But all the coffee along with the stress–I mean ‘energy’–coming off the pack of Republican handlers frantically working with you should help get you through.

Besides, remember all those long nights you’ve had conferring with the Russians on complex foreign policy issues? You’re used to burning the midnight oil!

And really, we’ve all had our share of all-nighters in college, right? So it’s in that spirit that we in the McClusky household will be watching the debate tomorrow night. We’ll do a shot every time Palin says something utterly asinine.

Now that I’m thinking of it, maybe Mark should plan to take Friday off of work.


Flying Solo

Posted: March 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

So, here I am with a baby who is 4 1/2 weeks old, and of course with Miss Kate who is 2 1/2 years old, taking care of them solo for the first time. And wonder of wonders I’m not weeping, freaking out, or calling Mark to come home immediately. But give me time.

As with Kate, I’m once again daunted by the prospect of staying home to care for kids. It’s really a luxury that I realize we are lucky to be able to afford (at least temporarily), but as someone who is addicted to people and action and energy and activity, in my most fearful hours I look at is as a jail sentence.

The thing is, if we lived in some turbo suburbia where there were rows of houses occupied by other stay-a-home moms (and kids), I think it would be easier. Just walk out the door and there’s someone else doing what you are doing–in other words, clutching a latte for dear life and looking desperately for something to do to entertain the kids that is inexpensive, safe, not overly taxing on your own energy, and maybe even somewhat educational. I guess if some were to walk through our neighborhood they’d make the argument that I have nothing to complain about. You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a $700 stroller.

But invariably it’s being pushed by a nanny. I mean, not that I’m opposed to socializing with a nanny and her charges, but somehow it’s different from conspiring (and sometimes commiserating) with another mom. Probably ’cause we’re not getting paid.

All this thinking has me wondering if a different setting would make the staying home thing more fun. I mean, shouldn’t I be springing from bed each day delighting in the fact that no part of my day will involve saying my name when I answer the phone, or sitting in a gray cubicle as Outlook tells me where to go and what to do? You’d think.

Oh great. Kate is wailing in her room, “Mama! Mama!” trying to dodge taking a nap, and the lawn/garden guys just pulled up in front of the house ready to turn on their volume 11 weed whackers and whack to high hell any hope of Kate settling down. See? I used to worry about client presentations. Now I fear that my well manicured lawn could result in a cranky over-tired toddler. Sheesh.

Paige, on the other hand, is napping nicely in her carseat bucket. Must remember to relish this early-life sleep ethic.

Okay, call me crazy but I’m “going in” to see if I can settle Kate down into restful slumber. Wish me luck, and see you in the grocery store. I’ll be the one in the $10 Target Mom sweatpants…

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Things I Forgot about Newborns

Posted: February 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

1. It’s nearly impossible to put one of those stretchy hospital-issued baby hats with one hand. That’s one of the main reasons why you need to have someone help out with the new baby. The hat thing is definitely a two-man job.

2. Where toddler poop is discernible through smell, infant poo is audible.

3. Much time is spent deconstructing the newborn face. To wit: There’s consensus that Paige has Mark’s cleft chin, and Kate’s ears (which have a little heart-shaped notch). Thus far no features have been attributed to me–unless people are comparing the fat folds in our thighs behind my back.

4. Baby poop smells like butterscotch.

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