The State of Now

I took my son’s temperature and it was 103. Well, that’s that, I thought. I’m not flying off to New York on a moment’s notice. I’m a mom and I don’t do things like that anymore.

This story starts in a bar, like many good stories. I was at an LA mixer in June for the 140 Conference when an announcement went out through the throngs of people. I had won a trip to New York City! And a VIP pass to the 140 Conference, a conference that explores “the state of now!”

When I went up to accept my prize, Jeff Pulver, the conference organizer and cult figure, asked me an important question. “Can you go?” The conference was in 2 weeks. I then uttered words I never in my life thought I would, “I need to ask my husband.”

I called my husband who was home with our kids, if he was a) going to be in town that week, b) if he could pick up and take our kids to school, and c) if he could manage to feed, clothe, and nurture our boys for several days. He said an enthusiastic, “Yes! You should do it.”

Right after my ticket to New York was booked, my husband called and said that he had to go to a conference in San Diego that overlapped with my trip, but not to worry because he would be back in time to pick up our kids from school. We live in Los Angeles and it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to get from San Diego to Los Angeles.

I panicked, and frantically called my support network of friends and told them that there was a small chance that they would need to spring into action. I asked for their help. They said, yes, of course.

My airline tickets and hotel were booked and it was happening. A spontaneous trip to New York. I couldn’t believe it. I was actually living “in the state of now.”

And then I picked my son up from school the day before I was supposed to go. He was hot and cranky, but he seemed fine. As the night progressed, he got sicker and sicker. The state of Now was now sucking.

His fever went from 100 to 103. I gave him Motrin, then Tylenol. A cool bath. He seemed better by the time he went to sleep.

This scenario isn’t one I don’t deal with all the time. Between school, friends, and each other, my kids have been exposed to all kinds of illnesses. I spent the first couple of years of their lives home with them being sick or injured.

But this was different. I would be leaving my sick child. What kind of a mother leaves a sick child to travel across the country?

A mother who works, my husband said, calling me on my drama. I did win the trip, but it was a conference that would be great networking and I’d be working at the same time. “Call the babysitter,” he said from his conference.

Babysitter? I’m so used to handling everything in-house that it never occurred to me to call her. I texted her at 11 p.m. and asked if she could care for my sick child. “Yes, not a problem.”

So I started packing at 11:30 p.m. and wrote a detailed list of everything she needed to do.

The next morning I went to New York. And do you know what happened at home after I left? Nothing. My son didn’t get sicker, he got better. My babysitter was great and so was my husband when he got back from San Diego.

Everything was fine. Maybe this is my new state of now.

Trader Joe's

When the cashier picked up the last blueberry, I remembered why I swore to never again take my kids with me to the grocery store.

Monday started out badly. The kids didn’t get enough sleep because it was the last day of Thanksgiving break. After much struggle I dragged them both to school. I had so much work to catch up on, I was late picking them both up that afternoon and they were not happy about it. They were also not happy about the after school trip to Trader Joe’s.

“We’re going to the store to buy gum and Toaster Pastries!” I told them. They cheered loudly so for a minute I thought it was a good plan.

Once we got to the store I knew it was not, in fact, a good plan.

Late afternoon is not a good time for 5 and 6-year-old boys. The older one kept running around with the cart and I had to put my body in front of it to stop it from hitting anyone. There was a woman who seemed to be right next to us the entire time sighing loudly. My pleas for my kids to stop jumping around, yelling, and sneaking things into the cart were heard only by the sighing woman and everyone else within 2 aisles of us.

When we walked past the meat section I grabbed a whole chicken and boys both yelled, “chicken!!” and started poking at the bloody part of the packaging. I warned them that it would be really bad if the bag broke.

When we went to the checkout I noticed something dripping from the packed cart. They had poked a hole in the chicken bag and blood and goo was oozing all over the seat of the cart.

I asked the cashier for plastic bag and a paper towel and in record time she grabbed the chicken, wrapped it, cleaned the seat, and sprayed all of us with antibacterial spray. After both boys rubbed their hands together they took a big sniff and yelled, “Ewwww. It’s burning.”

They recovered quickly and started helping her with the groceries. The younger one handed her a yogurt and it fell to the ground breaking. I saw this happening and yelled, “NOOOO!!” and knocked over a container of blueberries.

The cashier told us to go get a new yogurt and blueberries. I sent the boys off and I bagged the groceries while the cashier picked up the blueberries one by one.

After a while I thought, “Hmmm, I hope the boys come back.” Then I heard, “We’re back!!!”

At this point the lines were 5 people deep and everyone was looking at us. I desperately tried to avoid eye contact. We were finally ready to go and as we pushed the cart away the cashier stopped us.

“You have really nice boys,” she said and handed them both a row of stickers. She took them back fast and asked, “Are you going to listen to mom?” They looked up at her and the older one said, “Of course!”

Then I had a flashback of the time we were at Trader Joe’s and both boys were sitting in the cart and when I turned around I heard a “plunk, plunk.” I looked over to see them dropping eggs through squares in the bottom of the cart. There was also the time the younger one pulled a lemon from the bottom of the pile and dozens of lemons tumbled to the floor. Or the time when they were fighting over a container of berries and it went flying up in the air scattering berries all over the produce aisle.

Yep, they may listen to mom sometimes, but not at the grocery store.

Itchy and Scratchy

I love my kids and I feel like I’m a pretty tough mom, but if my kids come home with lice I’m going to move out.

I don’t know what it is about lice. I know there are other bugs living on our skin, but I can’t see them or feel them. I’ve been puked on and peed on, I’ve had my son rub his eye lashes on my eye lashes and two days later puss was oozing from my eyes. I’ve experienced what it feels like to swallow razorblades after my older son came home with a mild case of hand, foot, and mouth. I’ve been sick more in the last 6 years than the prior three decades. It’s fairly disgusting living with two little boys (and one husband).

But lice? Gross. Vile. Alive. I’d rather have gunky eyes than bugs crawling in my hair. My friend has been coating her girls’ heads in a concoction of olive and tea tree oil to keep the bugs away. I haven’t gone that route yet, because in addition to my fear of lice, I can’t stand wet (or oily) hair. I blow dry my hair, even when it’s 100 degrees outside. When I spent a summer in Alaska, my brother said he pictured me in a tent in the outback with my blow dryer and a tube of lipstick.

My boys and I all have thick, curly hair. A ridiculous amount of hair. At points in my life I’ve been nicknamed “Hair” and “Cousin It.” And my boys have such thick locks they make Alec Baldwin look like he’s going bald. Lice in that forest of hair would not be fun.

So what do I do? It’s going around their schools so I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time. If those disgusting little things camp out in my boys’ beautiful hair I may have to (gasp!) shave it off. And my hair? I think I’m going to oil it up, put a shower cap on and take some Xanax.

This post was originally published in LA Moms Blog. I was thinking about it after I saw a note at my son’s preschool last week announcing that a child in his class was home with lice. I don’t have lice, but I’ve been scratching my head since Monday.

Razor Playdate

My younger son is shy and adorable, but when he warms up watch out. He’s full of energy and he’s not afraid of much.

That’s why I was a little worried about the Razor Playdate picnic a couple of Saturdays ago at the skate park in Culver City. Kids were supposed to bring knee and wrist guards and helmets. They would ride scooters, skate boards, 3 wheeled bikes that can spin in a circle, and a motorized tiny car.

This was all very scary for me, as the mother of a 5-year-old boy who had stitches twice before he was 3-years-old and who had also watched the same boy hit his head 3 times while on a camping trip the week before the event.

We (or I) put fear aside and went to the picnic. One of the first things we saw was this.

Notice how many feet are between him and the ground. Thankfully, those were Team Razor skateboarders and we couldn’t get into the area where they were skating. When we did get to the scooters, I was relieved to find all the equipment on flat ground.

My son really loved the Rip Rider 360 and how fast it spun around. We will not be getting that, but we were given a 10th Anniversary scooter to test out. It’s great and my son loves riding it. He had a 3-wheel razor that we got him a couple of years ago, but it wouldn’t go fast enough for him. It’s been so nice since we got the new scooter. My husband went out and bought both my boys new skate/bike helmets (ones that actually fit their heads, unlike their old bike helmets) and they ask to ride their scooters every day. I’m not just saying this because Razor gave us a scooter, but it’s really nice to have my kids ask to go outside instead of play video games.

Please Vote!!

I don’t have a lot of time to spare. Call it poor time management, but I think I’m overambitious and try to cram too much into the short window I have while my kids are at school. But last Friday, I set aside 2 hours to go down to the Obama headquarters in Culver City to help get people to vote.

When I arrived (late because I had to get work done in the morning), I was surprised by the lack of hustle and bustle. There weren’t many volunteers and my job was to call around to get volunteers to come into the office for the weekend. Making calls during the middle of weekday isn’t so easy, I have to tell you. The people who are home aren’t thrilled to be getting a call. One woman said she was home with two sick kids and couldn’t volunteer. I wanted to say, “don’t use the sick excuse with me lady. I invented that excuse.” (Mostly because it’s always true! We’re sick all the time here and I was sick on Friday and still am today). But I let it go.  I thought of all the things I needed to do at home, which included baking a cake for son’s school party, cleaning my house, doing other work, and getting the kids ready to to to a friend’s house so my husband and I could have a date night. After that I needed to go on the “date night” and try to forget how tired and sick I was.

Well, I’m sick again today with asthma that sent me to the doctor. I came home with four prescriptions and feel like crap. But I’m going to pick up my kids from school and we’re going to vote. No matter what.

If you do one thing the rest of the day. One thing at all, please vote!.

5 Tips to Prepare You for “Back to School"

When my older son started kindergarten last year I thought I was so prepared. I had bought him a cool backpack from REI, a lunch box that I was sure wouldn’t smell after a week, and a collared shirt for the first day.

Well, I thought I was prepared, but when the first day rolled around, I quickly learned it wasn’t true. Here are the five things I learned:

1)   Don’t buy everything you think you need before school starts.

I went to the back to school sales in the summer and bought my son the cutest blue colored shirt, a couple pairs of shorts, jeans and shoes. The first time I washed the shirt it shrunk an entire size and was even too small for the 4-year-old to wear. Then the 5-year-old went through a crazy growth spurt where he ate everything in sight. So much for the shorts. I bought them one size too big, but they shrunk a bit, too. And I didn’t take my son with me to buy his shoes because until then he really didn’t care. When I showed him the awesome hiking shoes I got him he said, ““These are not cool and I need to be cool!” I hate to break it to you honey, but with these genes, cool is unlikely no matter what you’re wearing.

2)    Find out from a parent with older kids exactly what you need.

The one thing I was excited to buy my son was his backpack because it came from REI and gave me an excuse to go shopping at my favorite store. I love gear and my son’s backpack was super cool – black, sleek with mesh water bottle holders. It’s Kelty so I knew it was good quality. It’s absolutely fabulous except that it doesn’t hold anything. In retrospect, it’s tiny. It needed to fit a lunch box, folder, books, a snack bag and possibly a jacket. But I could barely get the lunch box inside. It survived the year, but I have to go get another one for 1st grade. I’m contemplating a suitcase.

3)    All lunch boxes are disgusting

I looked everywhere for a lunch box that had no fabric so I could wipe it out every night to avoid the moldy, rotten food smell. I found one that seemed perfect, but after a week it smelled like a homeless man used it as a pillow. I had tried the sack lunch boxes from Whole Foods, which cost around $3 and were great because I could wash them, but they fell apart after a couple of weeks. I ended up washing the Kindergartener’s lunch box even though the instructions said not to. Hopefully I did not release toxic chemicals into the box. At least it smells good.

4)    Don’t think because your son or daughter starts school that life will suddenly become easier.

After many years as a stay-at-home mom, I imagined that when my son started school I could start to seriously concentrate on my business. It was the light at the end of the tunnel and I was finally there. Wrong again. It was harder to get any work done. There was homework for my son to do (yes, there’s homework in kindergarten), field trips to go on, and volunteering to be done. Because I had a flexible work schedule I felt I should do as much as I could for the school. In addition to all those, the kids got out early once a week and some days they were off completely.

5)    Don’t say yes to everything. You’ll burn out quickly

On the first day of school, the parents got a questionnaire asking what we would like to do to help volunteer. I checked almost everything off not knowing that I would get a call or email every week asking me to volunteer. At first, I did until I realized it was okay to say no. My plan for the Fall is to volunteer for only the things I’m able to do.

This year, I’m doing very little advance shopping. We’ll figure out what we need as we go.

This post was inspired by the  Yahoo! Motherboard.

A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Action

Here is how a typical conversation with my husband goes:
Him: “Do you think we should put the good desktop computer in the boys room?”
Me: “No. Absolutely not. They already spend too much time on their ancient computer where they can hardly do anything.”Of course, we have a dispute about what was said. His version included me saying “Yes, dear.”

My boys are 4 and 6 and, I feel, too young to have 24/7 access to the computer (other than the ancient, painfully slow computer they had before). My 6 year old is about a month away from being smarter than I am and I’m sure he’ll be able to deal with those pesky parental controls by the time he’s 7. His cousin could take a computer apart and put it back together by the time she was in the 6th grade.

So of course on Friday evening I come home to find the computer set up in my boys’ room.

I couldn’t argue much because the husband did this while I was out to dinner, the second night in a row I stayed out past 10, and he watched the kids. I left the arguing to the next day.

I normally don’t worry too much about Internet security so when Yahoo! Motherboard chose the topic for its bloggers, I didn’t think I would have anything to talk about. Well, thanks to the husband, now I do.

It’s not that I’m consumed with fears that someone trolling on the internet will find my kids and want to chat. I’m more worried about what they will consume while I’m trying to get a little work done. They love to watch videos. I want them to play educational games with Sid the Science Kid on PBS Kids, but instead they “found” (which means my husband showed them) the Lego site and now they watch videos on Lego Star Wars and Batman.

These are not horrible for kids (in fact, they are awesome), but I don’t think it’s good  for the 4-year-old to see so much violence even if it’s acted out by Legos. They play Lego Star Wars and Batman on the Wii and now Xbox (which, for full disclosure, was given to me last week by Xbox).

Back to the husband. I mentioned to him that I thought the 4-year-old was being exposed to too much violence. I told him that I felt strongly that the games and videos were having a negative effect on our younger son. Sports games are fine, but no more Lego games until they’re older.

“Okay,” he said. Saturday he took them out to buy some games for the new Xbox. Of course, they came back with a Spiderman game (and Toy Story 3). I wish I had a parental control for my husband.

The Great Momtini

I come from a sports family. My sister was a softball star, my oldest brother was a basketball and track star and my other brother continues to be an amazing tennis player and coach. And then there was me.

Sports was not my thing. I liked to read, watch TV and eat peanut butter sandwiches. Gordita was one of my nicknames, and I was definitely gordita. And not too fast. And half blind. I didn’t get glasses until the 5th grade. That was years after I started playing T-ball and came home with black eyes from not seeing the balls flying toward my face.

Needless to say, I was not a popular kid and my family is not known for sensitivity. My sister described our childhood as “Lord of the Flies.” So to make up for that, I try to be very sensitive to my two boys. I encourage them to be happy just the way they are and I try not to be critical. That was, until, one of my kids started playing basketball.

He’s 6 and from the beginning I wasn’t sure that basketball would be a good fit for him. It’s a contact sport and he’s a sweet, gentle guy, not an aggressive one.

But you need a little aggression to play basketball. You need to get the ball away from the other team and clear your way to make a basket. You need to make a basket.

“You need to try harder,” I told my son after I had shown him for the gazillionth time how to dribble while running. I was one of the assistant coaches, which I volunteered to do because I thought it would be “fun.” If you would have asked my son at the time he probably would have called it “torture.”

No, I did not bounce the basketball off of his head or call him names a la “The Great Santini,” but it brought out a competitive side I didn’t know I had.

We bought a basketball hoop and played outside after school. We practiced dribbling and shooting and we played keep away. But he didn’t really want to keep it away or get it away from me. He’s just not aggressive and in your face and neither am I, but that didn’t stop me from expecting him to be Michael Jordan (see, I don’t even know the name of a current basketball star).

After several games, I noticed something. Actually, I didn’t notice something, the other parents pointed out that my son had not made a basket during a game (all of the other kids had at that point) and they assured me that it was okay. If it was okay then why was everyone pointing out to me that it was okay?

I haven’t mentioned that this basketball program is the sweetest, most non competitive program you can imagine. The teams are parent coached and no one keeps score. They are so nice that during several games near the end of the season the ref and my son’s head coach spent quite a bit of time setting him up during the game so he would make a basket. I would hold my breath when he would take each shot and then let it out when he wouldn’t make it.

But then in the second to last game, I held my breath and when I let it out it was a scream because he made a basket. I actually started to well up.

And it was in that moment that I realized what a total ass I had been. Who cares if a 6-year-old can make a basket (now that basketball season is over, he’s making them all the time). My son is amazing and smart and good at so many things. Why did I care so much? He’s 6 for god’s sake. How did I get to be that parent?

I still don’t know, but I do know that it takes a very special person to coach children’s sports. And I am not that person.

What is Appropriate?

What is appropriate? I’m asking myself this question after receiving a bizarre email from my son’s preschool.

It asked if parents had objections to the children in the 4 and 5 year old class watching G and PG movies. I feel the question is bizarre because how can one not know that it’s inappropriate to watch full length PG movies in preschool? It’s preschool, why are they watching movies anyway and how can you justify PG…in PRESCHOOL?

Many parents who responded to the email thought PG movies made for kids are fine and had no problem with it all.

I’m one of the parents who complained the first time a PG movie was shown. It was G-Force. The poster has guinea pigs holding machine guns. I didn’t want my kids to see this movie, but because my youngest goes to this school, he did. The preschool director said it was a mistake and it would never happen again.

It did happen again, last week, when the kids watched Planet 51. Full disclosure; I took my preschooler to the premiere of this movie. Looking back, I don’t think it was appropriate for his age and not something I would want him to watch when I wasn’t there. A friend of mine complained to the preschool director that the kids were shown this movie, which is what led to the email.

Some of the parents didn’t want their kids to watch movies at school, but what struck me was that they also had a series of other complaints, from lack of supervision to educational content.

It’s interesting to me how the one narrow topic of what movies should be shown has raised so many other festering issues. I wonder why these parents hadn’t said anything before, or if they had, what action was taken?

The last two occasional parent meetings at the school were cancelled by the director. The parents voiced concerns in the emails about issues that I have been talking to the director about for 2 years. If more parents would speak out, maybe it wouldn’t have to come to a mass email with parents going back and forth.

I chose this school for my kids because I liked the teachers, we can walk to it, and the parents seemed nice and down to earth. In the intervening years I’ve had many concerns about how the school is run.  When I come back to the question of “what is appropriate?” I’m certain it’s not PG movies, unhappy parents and an unresponsive preschool director.