Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stop Scrotal Warming!

My friend Jim recently posted on the one laptop per child initiative. I commented that perhaps this idea is part of a conspiracy to render our young boys infertile and control world population. I was joking, sort of. I recalled vague reports of laptops and their potential negative consequences for their male uses. So I checked in with Dr. Google. What I learned is that according to research from late 2004 "this topic warrants further study."

My fears are not totally unfounded. I thought there were some damaging waves or rays that might cause harm. I contemplated purchasing a lead apron (like one dons for x-rays) to wear for laptop use. I'd have to come up with some kind of cool name and rationale. "It keeps you from cookin' while you surf!" And I considered what would ultimately be more damaging and costly- frying their nads or the years of therapy that it would take to get over being forced to wear a lead apron while engaging in one of their favorite activities?

Turns out though, according to the preliminary research, the problem is the potential damage caused by heat generated by the laptop when it is actually placed on a man's lap. Forget about global warming, in the tech age we need to be concerned about scrotal warming if we want grandchildren.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Kinder, Gentler Big Brother

I knew my boys ran amok at the recent Happening, but I was unpleasantly surprised when, days later, they told me they'd been playing hide-and-seek at Starbucks and using the men's restroom as a prime hiding spot (Jim's daughter sure couldn't get them in there). Playing any game in public restrooms is totally uncool. It's not the germs I worry about as much as the potential for some creepy pervert to find them there.

DH is so much better than I am at calmly and rationally talking over sensitive issues such as this. As I was fumbling through a review of why we don't play in public restrooms, I got a bit more explicit than I intended to because every comment of mine led to more questions from the boys. I stumbled along until seven year-old Smartypants interjected, explaining it all to his five year-old brother: "Splinter, if a man came in and showed you his penis and told you to touch it, don't do it! It would be a bad trick because if you do it then he'll sue you for touching him!"

Oddly, this seemed to stress the seriousness of the situation and pretty much put an end to the conversation.

Edited 4/21/08 to add:
Welcome to those of you who are stopping over from BabyCenter! I hope you'll take a minute to explore Hormone-colored Days. Click here to go to my homepage and recent posts. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking here. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Big Brother is Watching

Here's a link that is just as disturbing now as it was last year when I received it from a friend.; make sure your sound is on for this. For some reason I'm unable to successfully embed the link. Maybe Big Brother really is watching.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Marital Arts

If one lacks zanshin (awareness) one might accidentally type marital arts instead of martial arts. So why not take a short break from the karate talk to discuss marital arts.

The other day I was perusing the new book shelve at the local library and chose a couple of intriguing titles that happened to fall into the self-help category. The computer had a problem accepting my library card, so I was waiting in the checkout line long enough to rethink some of my selections. I told the librarian that I had changed my mind about the wardrobe advice book put out by the What Not to Wear team. "I think I'm beyond help in this area," I admitted. She smiled and put it aside and started checking out the rest of my stack.

When she got to Dr. Laura Berman's latest book, The Passion Prescription: Ten Weeks to Your Best Sex—Ever! she winked at me at said, "I hope you're not beyond help in this area."

Okay, don’t Frey me. This last part did not actually happen, but it would have been funny. I checked out the book though, and I was thinking of making some similar crack to the sexagenarian librarian, but I'm not sure she would have appreciated the humor. Or maybe I just lacked the nerve.

So now you want to know about Dr. Berman's book? Well, I only had it on a two-week short-term loan, and it's a ten-week program and I'm no longer the high achiever I once was, so much of it went unread. It seemed interesting and informative. Here's my brief advice for a passionate life: send the kids off to…well, just about anywhere and hire a cleaning crew to come while you go out to dinner with your partner. I promise you that the sparks will fly when you return to your clean, child-free home.

Leave me a comment and let me know if it works for you!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Putting the MA in Martial Arts

Like many mothers, I began martial arts training due to my children. My boys, ages 5 and 3, started pre-karate and I soon followed. Our dojo’s promotional materials highlighted potential benefits like increased focus and enhanced sense of self-discipline. After five years at home with my kids I needed that stuff as much, if not more, than they did. Plus, I wanted to try something new and challenging before my looming 35th birthday. And a mom-friend advised that the kicking and yelling was especially therapeutic after a long day with preschoolers.

Although I’d started exercising a few months before I signed on at the dojo, I’m not what you’d call athletic. I’ve never had a reputation for being coordinated or strong. I’m only five feet tall with a pound or two left from my pregnancies and my dominant learning style relies on note-taking. This experience would be a stretch in every sense of the word.

I signed up for a 13-week summer session figuring I could stick it out that long even if I hated it. When Sensei, the head instructor, welcomed me to my first night of training his words echoed in my mind. “Training? No,” I thought to myself. “I’m just taking a class for the summer.” The only karate I’d observed was my boys’ pre-k class.

I envisioned myself punching and kicking, jumping and ducking or maybe tossing the medicine ball as we shouted kiai! I didn’t know kata (forms) from kumite (sparring). In the blissful ignorance of my Beginner’s Mind I had no idea what I was getting into. Needless to say, my class was a bit more challenging, but fortunately, I joined an adult beginner section with a supportive atmosphere. We were spoiled by a high ratio of attentive senpai (teachers) to novice karateka (students). Our class was small and cozy. Well, as cozy as karate training can be.

I’d nervously watch the “real” adult class that took place before mine, heart pounding in anticipation of my turn. I fretted: Would my back give out on me? Would my chronically dry mouth burn before our water break? What if I had to pee? At the same time, I was in awe of the power, skill and intensity of those I watched. Might that be me some day?

Initially, my schedule only let me to train once a week. Each time I returned to the dojo it felt like a month had passed. My muscles burned. It took weeks to get my right and left sides to cooperate. I remember learning soto-uke (inner blocks). It looked easy enough when senpai demonstrated, but when I tried to imitate his movements, my brain was unable to communicate with my limbs. I couldn’t perform my first kata independently until I’d written down all the steps. Yet, the confusion, the sore muscles, the rising blood pressure--these were Good Things, signs that I was being challenged. Besides, it was nice to get an adrenaline rush from something other than watching my boys zoom and crash on their bikes.

When I saw Sensei at the dojo it was our first meeting in 15 years- he’s a friend from high school. In our brief discussion he mentioned personal goals. “Goals? I can’t even have a conversation,” I sighed as my children velcroed themselves to my legs and dragged me out the door. I do have goals, but they revolve around my family and don’t make for interesting reunion banter. Would my bachelor friend be impressed by the fact I’ve never run out of diapers in five years?

While that conversation took place just a few months ago it seems like a distant memory. In addition to numerous playdates as well as trips to the zoo and pool this summer I’ve also published two articles, launched a zine for women in the martial arts and, of course, kept my family fed and in clean underwear, even if the house got a bit messy. And my chocolate consumption dropped to an all-time low! I can’t say karate changed my life, but having spent the last several years cocooned in the Land of Young Children, it’s reassuring to know that I can find a place in the world beyond my backyard.

That summer I tested for my first rank promotion. The night before my test I stayed up way too late obsessing over petty concerns, wallowing in self-pity and a sense of victimization (unrelated to my upcoming exam). I psyched myself up to “powersleep,” so I’d be well rested by morning. But instead, I got a bedful of boys around 4:00 AM thanks to a loud thunderstorm. The early morning excitement took its toll on us and we slept in until nearly 8:00, leaving me in a rush to get everyone fed, dressed and dropped off at grandma’s in order to make it to the dojo by 9:15.

The exam was physically demanding and mentally challenging; I punched, blocked and kicked. I moved forward and backward and executed turns in every direction. I held stances until my legs shook; did pushups until my arms felt like overcooked spaghetti. I passed and proudly received my new rank. The previous night’s feeling of helplessness was replaced by a sense of strength. Exhaustion turned into exhilaration. The details of my day look uninspired in print- I played with the boys, did laundry and whatnot, but everything flowed. It was a great day! Over the course of a few months I’ve made great strides and I’m eager to continue on the long path ahead. For many seasons to come, I hope I’ll be going to the dojo.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Friends of the Blog

I want to thank Miriam Peskowitz for mentioning Hormone-colored Days in her blog yesterday. Also I noticed that Rosie Gorelik's essay, (No) Thanks for the Mammaries, is among the headlines today at another fave site, Imperfect Parent.

Kick-Ass Mamas

We've made it through International Women's Day and here at Hormone-colored Days it's now Women in Martial Arts Month. The cynics among you might accuse me of simply trying to recycle the contents of my 2004 publication, Reflecting Pool, the zine for women in martial arts. Well, you are right.

We're going to kick things off with Janet Rosen, an aikidoka (student of aikido). Janet had an illustration in the zine as well as two haiku; she even paid me for an ad, bless her soul.

Check out Janet's website; it's a one-woman show full of art, essays and Riot Crone t-shirts (see Angela's poem). Janet is also your go-to gal if you're looking for a fashionable, handmade weapons bag- and really, who isn't? Seriously, what a cool way to protect and carry your sword. Her bags make me wish I had a sword to protect.

Here are her haiku:

Technique unfolding
Wind flies freely cooling all
Damn obi untied

(an obi is the belt worn around the uniform)

Waves of warm water
Ukemi flows like neap tide
Another hot flash

(ukemi is the attacker)

I'm going to raffle off a copy or two of the zine. To enter send me an email at with your name and address. (Info will only be used for purposes related to this blog.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Simpsons Live

I was not planning to post tonight, but felt obligated to share this link with my blog-flockers.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Guest Blogger, Angela Allyn

Angela give us something to think about on International Women's Day.

April 15, 2003

Racing across town in the minivan
I ripped the first certifiable gray hair outta my head today.
not blond
not golden,
ash gray.

A rite of passage barely noticed
packed in between a surprise three-hour managers’ meeting
the line at the post office
don't be late to the NEW carpool schedule (tag, you are it).

Oh, it's coming all right.
That doorway to another age is forming
in the haze of e-mails and junk mail and lots of appointments.
The weird menstrual cycle and shifting hormones and creaky stiff muscles are whispering: change.

And in the odd and heartbreaking way that my universe balances itself,
my nine-year-old daughter gets her first pimple
and suddenly needs to bathe--
she is entering the room I am about to leave.

So where are the drumming, the sage, the elders,
welcoming me to the third age?
I want my croning ceremony,
I want to mark this inevitable moment
with something more
than the mental note to pick up the henna that covers gray.

The cell phone rings,
the idiot driver in front of me makes a left turn from the right lane
and the river of life washes me on downstream.
My first gray hair blows out the window in the warm spring breeze.

For lunch tomorrow this newly minted crone
will get a pedicure,
and tonight, a fine red wine with the microwave dinner.
To celebrate my coming of age.

This Body of Mine

This body of mine is not the body I really wanted.
This skinshell is not the stuff of dreams
But it does the job.
Three other people have lived here
A House they were renting
While their own place was built
And we are still having
“Ownership Issues.”
Squatters forget they don’t own the place.

This body never got to be the body I envisioned—
Always more than I liked and less than I wanted
It would have been good to be 5’8 with smaller breasts
That wouldn’t bounce then sag when I ran.
And the great bowl of my pelvis assured I would never have
A boyish dancer’s body.

But in the end, the shell moves forward
Attempting to overcome any functional flaws.
The lack of a deep pliƩ, a dearth of turn-out,
Completely pitiful extensions, and too long of a waist to grace a leotard—
How I manage to have a decade-long career as a professional dancer
With this jalopy of a carcass is a bloody miracle.

So I point my wagon down the long road of aging
Where the parts begin to fail.
My scars are chapter headings as questionable pieces are removed
For further study.
So far, none of my cellular improvisations has proved dangerous,
But it does put you on the lookout for unruly growth.

And I watch time passing in my structure
In my skin.

Angela Allyn, founded her first dance company at the ripe old age of 18. She holds a BFA (Cum Laude) from the University of Notre Dame in Fine Art with a concentration in Photography and earned her MA from Columbia University. She has an broad background in the arts. Most recently she has become known as a poet, with work published in several collections and featured on Public Radio International. Currently, Allyn serves as the Cultural Arts Coordinator for the city of Evanston.

These poems appear in the book From There to Here: Points on the Circle of Life a collection of personal stories, poems and photographs. It was published in 2005 by

Giving up on Public Education at MOMbo

This week Nanci Olesen is featuring my essay, "Giving up on Public Education," at her fun and interesting mama-centric site, If you've just hopped over from MOMbo- welcome; my December archives contain several gifted-related entries that may interest you. And if you'd like info on a couple of upcoming Chicago-area seminars on gifted issues contact me at

I should note that I had titled the piece "Private Thoughts on Gifted Education," but it was renamed by an editor when it appeared last December in Chicago Parent magazine. I have to admit the new title is more eye-catching, but I have not given up on all public education. It's a great concept! Unfortunately most public schools, especially in the days of No Child Left Untested, lack resources to focus on children who are at the high-performing end of the bell curve. I'll revisit gifted issues on my blog in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Photos of the Happening

Scroll past the photos to read about the first-ever Hormone-colored Days Happening.

The kids put on a show of their own. Posted by Picasa

Jim's daughter shares the spotlight with me. Posted by Picasa

Angela reads her poems. Posted by Picasa

Starbucks Brewmaster in Action

Zack demonstrates the fine art of coffee-tasting. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Happening

On Sunday, March 5, Hormone-Colored Days went live with our first-ever community event- a caffeine-charged literary gathering. It was fun and well-attended.

As delightful as our Starbuck's hosts were, the almost constant whirring of the Frappacino blender and the buzz of the coffee grinder made it a bit difficult to hear and impossible to podcast. Oh well. I'm still appreciative that my friend and blogging inspiration, Jim, showed up with his laptop. Read his witty take on the event here.

Our group enjoyed the attention of two dedicated baristas ready to respond to our every coffee concern. Ben kicked things off with a warm welcome and an explanation of Starbucks' philosophy and the company's perks. In addition to lots of free coffee Starbucks employees, er, partners receive gems like 100% employee paid health insurance even for part-timers. I'm considering a career change….

Then Zack took center stage. He was dazzling in his black Master Brewer's apron. This special outfit is earned by a small number of baristas with a vast amount of coffee-specific knowledge. When it comes to coffee Zack is The Man. He taught us how to make the most of our java. We learned about cupping, aroma, and other subtleties of coffee-tasting. He demonstrated the importance of pairing the right blend with the right food. My friend Teresa finally understands why her bold Kenyan blend doesn't work with her cornflakes. The good news is that chocolate complements all coffee. Make that great news because, Super Taster that I am, I can't stand coffee without a splash of mocha and dash of whipped cream.

And that's why we were at Starbucks in the first place. When the drive-through Starbucks was being built near my house I used to go by and think, "That place is going to change my life." I imagined sitting there sipping my coffee, pounding away at my laptop. Trouble was I neither drank coffee nor did I have a laptop. But the first mocha I drank rocked my world. What a difference a few years makes. (See the previous few posts for the evolution of my writing career.)

After Ben and Zack primed the crowd with caffeine and sugar it was time for the literary treats. I dished out my "Super Taster" essay, the current VOICE feature in North Shore magazine (not yet posted online). Next up, Abigail Raymond, my fabulously funny friend, recounted a hilarious story about her religious devotion to her morning cup of brew. And then Angela Allyn read two of her poems that appear in From There to Here: Points on the Circle of Life (JRC Press, 2005, Evanston, IL) a collection of personal stories, poems and photographs . I'll post these wonderful poems later this week. Finally, painter Gabriella Boros illustrated the importance of persistence in artistic pursuits with her current solo show as a prime example of what comes when one doesn't give up.

My thanks to everyone who participated and just plain showed up. Special thanks to Erica at Starbucks for enthusiastically accommodating our group and Skokie's own Mayor van Dusen for supporting the local talent and economy. Thanks also to DH for presenting me not with a useless bouquet of congratulatory flowers, but a much more practical printer server so I can finally print off of my new laptop. In our family nothing says love like computer peripherals.

Look for Angela's poems later this week. And check out the links for my talented friends!