Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More Karate Mamas: Guest Blogger

The long holiday weekend sure makes Tuesday feel like Monday.

Six year-old Splinter was exceptionally whiny this morning; Mr. Smartypants had a tantrum and was angrily tossing some decorative couch pillows around the living room when he broke a small statue. Maybe that wasn't so bad. He broke a rather unattractive terra cotta statue that, can you believe it, his Spanish teacher was going to just throw out! The thing had been special to Smartypants, though, and I could see his heart shatter into a million little pieces as it smashed. There was no time to fret, however, because our carpool arrived. We hustled outside and the carpool mom announced that her son had a class party today until 6:00 and so, by the way, she wasn't going to do pick-up as planned. Grrrr.

As I drove to work WXRT was playing 10,000 Maniac's "These are Days." I forced myself to breathe deep and focus on the message of the song, and actually, my day did start going uphill.

Now it's late at night. I'm back from the dojo and a bit more relaxed. My friend Veronica Sax left a lasting impression on me in tonight's class (think black and blue). She wouldn't release me from her death grip until I promised her today's guest blogging spot. I'm kidding of course; it's great to train with Veronica, a fellow Skokie mom.

Veronica will now attempt to use her words, not her fists, to make an impression on you as well, dear blog-flocker. Here's her review of martial arts mama Jennifer Lawler's latest addition to the Dojo Wisdom series: Dojo Wisdom for Mothers (Penguin Compass, 2005).

Jennifer Lawler, a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and mother of a little girl, has filled this book with 100 life lessons. She brings the discipline and dedication from her training in the dojo into motherhood. She applies her dojo wisdom to solve problems, respond to troubled times and take care of herself, and she encourages readers to do the same. After each lesson, she provides exercises to give the reader a way to reflect on that lesson. I felt it was helpful to read a lesson and then use the exercise until I was ready to move on. Another wonderful thing about this book is that I could just open it to any page and I was able to relate to the lesson through my experience with my family or dojo training.

One of my favorite lessons is #2: From your chi flows your energy for calm parenting. She describes chi (pronounced “chee”) as inner energy- a source of focus and creative energy. “If you can tap into your chi,” Lawler writes, “you can find energy to create art, solve problems and responded to troubled times calmly.” She reminds mothers to take time for themselves to replenish their chi by regularly making time for nourishing activities. Karate training a few times a week does the job for me!

My other favorite was lesson #31: Pick your battles wisely. It's the biggest life lesson to learn as a parent, karateka and person. Let's face it don't we do this everyday? Lawler reminds us that although rules are necessary to guide children, we shouldn’t react to all broken rules the same way. For example, the response to a child’s messy room should not be the same as the response to a child doing something that is dangerous.

As a busy mom it was great to feel like I could pick up the book at any time, turn to a random page and find something meaningful without having to read it cover-to-cover. It's very truthful, heartfelt and insightful. This little book really pulls the reader in and helps her become a better person.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bar Mitzvah Disco

We are attending a bar mitzvah this weekend. It looks like we'll be invited to about three a year for the next couple of years until the explosion hits and our kids and their friends participate in this rite of passage.

Do you recall the bar and bat mitzvot of our youth? I remember a boy French-kissing one of my friends for the first time on the day of her bat mitzvah, "you are a woman now" the 13 year-old kisser pronounced. And when she told us girls about it, we sighed dreamily.

Those were more innocent times. While our behavior wasn't perfect at those parties, we were attempting, in some fashion to be like adults (you know, sneaking drinks from the bar). I'm shocked at what I've seen at recent events. (Caution: I'm closing in on forty and beginning to sound like a grumpy old lady.)

When we were kids the boys dressed in suits or at least slacks and a jacket. I can't believe what schlumps the boys look like these days-almost none in suits, shirts untucked even in synagogue.

And the girls dress like sluts. The anorectic adolescent who sat front of us at services was wearing some low-waisted black peasant skirt-y thing with decidedly un-peasant gold sequined waist band and a low-cut top. She defined the prostitot look.

But slutty dress aside, I watched the first slow dance, the boy of honor holding his chosen girl arms-length away. I nudged DH, “Isn’t that heartbreakingly cute? It’s so innocent and awkward.” “I’ll tell you awkward,” DH replied. "He’s holding her like that so she won’t know he has a massive erection.” I'm glad I was never a 13 year-old boy.

At a (girl) cousin's recent bat mitzvah there was a DJ and lots of dancing. A couple month’s later when we were getting ready to go to a (boy) cousin’s bar mitzvah, Smartypants asked what they’d be doing at the party. “What do you think you’ll do?” I asked.

“Well, girls like to dance. At J’s party, I think there will be mostly boys, so they’ll probably just stand around and play Gameboys."

It turns out J had a DJ and lots of dancing too. And, lured by the chance to win some kind of prize, Smartypants even joined in some of the dance contests.

This weekend's bar mitzvah will be as always, I reminded the boys, at a synagogue. The party, however, is going to take place at a minor league baseball game. We're looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Restaurant Show Excitement and Stuff to Read

Imagine yourself at an all-you-can eat buffet that stretches on for miles—that's the Restaurant Show- where I spent my day yesterday. Thanks goodness for the elastic wasitband. (Or maybe curse it). I will post later this week about food trends. Plus, the kiddos are going report their opinions on some samples I was able to snag.

The oddest and most exciting thing happened while I was waiting in line to try MooBella, customized ice-cream from a vending machine. Keep in mind this is a show attended by 30-50 thousand people. I heard these guys in line speaking Hebrew and when I turned to look at them, one of them seemed familiar. I checked his name badge and, sure enough, I worked on his kibbutz for a month back in 1990. In addition to growing crops, this kibbutz is involved in some light industry as well as foodservice design. My parents actually hosted this man and a few of his colleagues about 15 years ago when they last attended the restaurant show. It was a fun reunion and hopefully we will see him and his family again!

Check out Anne Lamott's 5/22 essay at Salon.com about her teen son (must watch an ad first if you're not a subscriber). I'm already missing my little boys when I read this. (Also check out Ariel Gore's book on raising a teen daughter, Whatever, Mom.)

And today salon features an article about http://www.momsrising.org/ that's also worth a peek.

Friday, May 19, 2006

breaking out the "fat pants" again

Now that I've lost twice my weight in old toys and basement furnishings (we donated our old couch and a lounge chair), I'm off to the NRA. No, not the gun lobby; I mean the other NRA- the National Restaurant Association's annual foodfest in Chicago. I'll be leaving my dark, lonely blogging corner and heading out to learn about the latest trends in food and foodservice equipment. As I walk the miles (literally) of aisles, I will be sure to stop and sample the culinary delights and I will grab all the tchotckes I can for my boys because now that we've lost all this weight, it's time to start filling up again.

One year Ostrich was the up and coming meat (unfortunately, it never quite made it and some Illinois Ostrich farmers simply set their flocks free). Another year the big buzz was about frozen cheesecake on a stick. Rumor is that this year everyone is talking about trans-fat-free oils. I'm not sure how this will play out—lots of free French fries?

No Child Left Untested?

This recent post at the Gifted Exchange Blog caught my eye. Laura Vanderkam writes about a school in California where well over 100 students opted out of the state testing--over four times the number that denied the testing last year. Is this a growing trend from fed-up parents and students?

I shared my thoughts on testing and opting out (a right most parents aren't aware they have) back in December; read them here.

Technorati tag

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I lost 36 pounds!

I lost 36 pounds! The weight came from my basement. No, this is not some metaphor for my hips or thighs (if only…); I lost weight in my basement because I finally convinced the resident kids to part with their old toddler toys. Many items went to a children's resale shop, but this garnered a pittance. Still, the overall equation looks something like this:

Spiderman Kiddy Scooter $6.00
Toddler Workbench with Tools $5.00
Little Tykes Car/Train Set $3.00

Clean Basement: Priceless

Later that day I took the so-called worthless toys along with some household items to a charity resale shop. And we piled up the sizeable Rescue Heroes collection for a baby cousin. (Splinter said he might play with them again, but only on the condition that they are called the UNrescue Heroes and all take on Bad Guy roles).

Hmmm. Maybe I lost more like 80 pounds!

A friend of my told me that cleaning out one's basement is the Feng Shui equivalent of an enema. Yeah, kind of a conversation stopper, isn't it? I can't really speak to my friend's comment, but I will say that getting rid of all that useless crap has left me feeling rather energized.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day, Part III

"Where's the garbage can?" DH asked. I love it when he talks trash to me.

"The can is drying out in the laundry sink," I explained. "I washed it and bleached it out. I do that stuff sometimes, you know."

"Yes, and you should be paid $100,000 for all your hard work."

Ah, he had checked out the link I sent him to the Mom salary calculator at salary.com. You can check it out by clicking here.

All in good fun, I came upon this related item. It's clearly written by some jealous slob. Tell me if you notice anything, uh, a bit suspect about this guy's estimations.

Happy Mother's Day!

Husbands worth:
Security guard - $91,980 per year
Therapist - $22,100 per year
Personal sports trainer - $71,700 per year
Transporter – $35,000 per year
Referee/coach/cheerleader - $45,000 per year
Sexual services (9 to 17 times per week) - $724,000 per year
Accountant/Money manager - $89,000 per year
Mechanic – $125,000 per year
Yard service - $2,800 per year
Home repair - $245,000 per year
Home doctor - $78,000 per year.

Husbands = $1,428,580 per year

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's a Girl Blog Book Tour

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger Laura Friedlander. Laura is a woman of many talents. She's an award-winning photographer, a talented writer, a good friend, and she bakes the best apple pie. Most importantly for today's purposes, she is the mother of three girls. Below are her thoughts on It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters.

“It’s a girl” were the first words I heard after the doctor pulled my first daughter out of my uterus via Cesarean. “It’s a girl?” I sluggishly stated thinking for sure I was having a boy. It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters is the name of a fine collection of essays edited by Andrea J. Buchanan. This book has 30 essays about various issues related to mothering a girl. The essays are filled with open and honest words about the mothers’ trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations of knowing themselves as mothers and the personalities of their daughters.

The paperback book is a perfect 5 x 7 size making it easy to carry with anywhere. I read an essay while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, another one while sitting on the toilet, and many others just before dozing off to sleep after an exhausting day of mothering girls.

Naturally, from 30 essays I had my favorites. Trying to figure out if there was a theme amongst these favorites, I realized that as a middle-aged suburban mother I was attracted to the more “edgy” pieces. I was drawn to the essays that dealt more with the ambivalence of raising daughters in this modern world. The essays that focused less on being a “feminist” mother and more on the challenges and sacrifice of just being a mother. Carolyn Alessio’s essay “Her Perfect Woman” begins: “A few days after I gave birth to my daughter, I realized my life’s true calling: to be a 1950s father and husband.” What crazed mother doesn’t fantasize about having all the fun of parenthood without any of the responsibility?

I remember my sister-in-law once saying how every marriage is like a different country. Well, I think this statement could also be said for every mother-daughter dyad. We all bring into our relationships history and experience and a filter of how we view the world. This is then communicated down to our daughter and passed on, some of it spit out, some of the information absorbed. In Jennifer Margulis’s essay “Spilled Wine” the mother-writer comes to terms with her feelings of mothering a challenging child: “I still worried that my girls might be having an imperfect childhood with an imperfect mother to care for them, but I realized their experience would not be an exact replay of my own. Athena had taught me that she was her own person and that I needed to love her on her own terms.”

I find it rewarding to read about other mothers’ experiences, some of them seeming to mimic my own, while others are totally different “countries,” yet still I am fascinated. The ease of reading this collection is that depending on your mood you can choose your story. Just as intriguing to me as the essays were I also found myself reading every writers’ bio, wondering about their lives. Andrea Buchanan also edited a companion book It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons. Since I am the mother of three girls and no boys I am not sure if I would find myself reading this book. But I would bet that it would be a stimulating read for mothers of sons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's a Girl?

For the duration of my pregnancy with Splinter, my snuggable younger boy, I was sure I was having a girl. Well, I did have this one powerful dream in which I had a boy, but I put that aside. We did not find out the sex of the baby from medical tests; I was just sure in that way a person just knows something.

When he was born, before the doctor even had a chance to make The Announcement, DH blurted out, with a bit of annoyance, "Kim, we have another son." He was not annoyed at our lovely new family member; rather, he was annoyed with me. I had convinced him that I had superintuitive, somewhat mystical feminine powers, but clearly I'm just an ordinary gal.

Here are some scenes from our boy house:

Splinter at age three: Will you get me a real gun for Chanukah? (This from a boy raised in a house free of even fake weapons.)

Same boy at age four: Somewhere between listening to XTC's "The Man who Murdered Love" and Van Morrison's "Real, Real Gone" both of which mention cupid, he asked if Cupid ever uses a gun instead of a bow and arrow. When I told him no, he let out a deep, disappointed sigh.

Age 5: He came home from school with a worksheet asking him to compare and contrast a butterfly and a bird. Compare: they both fly; contrast: one is easier to smoosh.

Tomorrow I'll be bringing you a review of Andrea J. Buchanan's latest book, It's a Girl, as part of her Blog Book Tour. As the mother of two boys, I was a bit intimidated this book, an anthology on raising daughters. I enjoyed it just fine, but felt unqualified to blog on it. I recruited my talented good friend and mother of three girls, Laura Friedlander, to share her thoughts. The Girl book definitely resonated with her! Stop back here tomorrow to read her comments.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

T-Ball Revisited

A few photos below illustrate my earlier T-ball thoughts.

I left something out of my earlier parody- the third base coach wearing his Bluetooth [or, as we like to call them, cancer magnets (of course this is based on intuition, not fact…at least not yet on fact)].

Why is the dad at third base wearing his cell phone a-go-go? DH thinks it's so he can discuss secret strategies with the coach at first, but instructional league t-ball only involves three basic strategies: hit the ball, run, or throw the ball. (I suppose there is a fourth strategy related to catching, but that's largely theoretical for these youngsters.) Is the dad a CIA operative? Was he waiting for an important call? Hot business deal? Awaiting news that his wife has just given birth while to another child while he's out on the field with number one son? Or maybe he just forgot to put it in his pocket. I think it's a sign of this era's blurring boundaries. One is rarely just at work or playing the role of devoted parent. It seems like we're always struggling to be everywhere at once thanks to modern technology. Or should that be no thanks to modern technology?

Back to T-ball. I'm thinking it might be a bit more interesting to watch these little boys run around if their t-shirts were emblazoned with Hormone-colored Days on the back. Maybe I'll sponsor a team next year- or at least try to- I'm not sure how the powers that be (mostly, if not all, dads) will react.

I very much wanted to play baseball as a child, but girls were not allowed. So when I saw the little sister of one of the players show up with this, I was in awe. I would have taken a picture but she was mid-tantrum and it seemed like an awkward time to introduce myself to her mom and all. For those of you who aren't up for clicking on the link, it shows a pink and purple baseball mitt. A decade ago I would have been annoyed at the sports company's reinforcing girly stereotypes, but from this veteran mom's perspective, I can see that they are offering what many girls desire in a baseball glove. Yes, Virginia, you can play baseball and, by the way, Santa Clause brought you a pink mitt!

He swings and.... Posted by Picasa

Kickin' it in the outfield. Posted by Picasa

What's on second? Posted by Picasa

Bee Season

Our short-lived spelling bee season has passed. Our event, graciously hosted by the Skokie Swift Starbucks, was a success. About 14 children participated, each comforted by a complimentary kid's hot cocoa as they were knocked out. Unfortunately, I was sick and missed my own event, but DH was a star and handled things just fine.

Despite a relatively healthy winter, I've been sick with some or other stomach bug twice this spring. Of course, the silver lining is that I'm losing weight just in time for bathing suit season!

And speaking of purging, today I'm off to children's resale shop. With the boys' permission, I am getting rid of several of their toddler toys- Mega blocks and Dupls. and other chunky toys of early childhood. There was some hesitation on their part-for example, Splinter has asked me to take photos of him with many of these toys so he can remember them- but the money we'll get from the shop is earmarked for a Game Cube or some other big kid toy that promises to turn them into video zombies, so they acquiesced.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What a Mom Wants, Part II

Yeah, yeah. We want love, appreciation, respect, and all that, but a token of that great stuff is nice too. Here are a few gifts to consider for those who are not the *bling* type.

Mombo CD set, or for the very budget conscious, give the resident mom some time and quiet space to listen to the 2006 MOMbo Mother's Day special on the local NPR affiliate. Click here for times.

Consider buying a good mom read such as Mothers Who Think, Operating Instructions, Mother Shock, Literary Mama, or a gift that keeps on giving like Brain, Child Magazine.

Another gift that keeps on giving is soap handcrafted by the women at The Enterprising Kitchen (If you're like me you'll have to push back thoughts of the movie Fight Club in order to best enjoy these products.)

How about sending mom for a massage followed by a couple of hours of free time so she can relish her relaxed state? Even better, do the dishes and clean the house while she's gone so she returns to a sparkling home.

What's your favorite Mother's Day gift? Everyone who leaves a comment or contacts me at mom@moldofsky.com will get a special something from the big mama at hormone-colored days.

Monday, May 01, 2006

It's Game Day! Who's on First?

Who's on first? It's hard to see behind the cloud of dust he's kicking up.

What's on second? There's a collapsed lump of a child hunched over scratching his name in the dirt.

I don't know is on third studying the airplane flying overhead.

The batter has stepped out of the box. "My butt itches," he yells to his puzzled coach.

After taking care of business he's back in the game. He puts so much energy into his swing that after missing the ball he spins around like a ballerina. On his next try he knocks the ball off the tee and runs for base…third base. After some help from coach he heads to first. He's safe! He rounds the base and makes it to second because the left fielder was busy picking dandelions and didn't notice the ball.

I appreciate my boys learning to play baseball in a fun, noncompetitive atmosphere, but when it comes to instructional league T-ball, the T stands for tedious.

Gifted Ed in Illinois

As a self-proclaimed "public school refugee" I couldn't leave my car when this piece aboout gifted eduction came over the airwaves. You, dear blog-flocker, can listen (or read) in the comfort of your own home. Fluff up your seat cushion and grab a drink before you turn it on; I think it runs about 7-8 minutes.

Think your child has been left behind? Here's a chance to share your comments.