Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bad Parents

Child_abuseThere's been a lot of controversial discussion lately on the SV Moms Blog about on what constitutes bad parenting. Parents taking their kids on the campaign trail. A toy-gun wielding tot. There's been a lot of opinions and some heated debate. And us blog addicts and (some blog trolls) have all been glued, if not slightly entertained by it. But I've got a category of bad parents who I don't think any of you is going to argue with or be entertained by: child abusers.

I've been sick to my stomach in last month. Not just because I'm twelve weeks pregnant, but because of all the recent news stories of children being abused, tortured, and even killed by their own parents. Just in the Bay Area in the last month, there's the heavily covered story of the 6-year-old San Jose boy who was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend; the Richmond mother charged with murder and torture of her 8-year-old; and the 22 month old from San Jose who was cruelly tortured by his meth-head mother and boyfriend. Amazingly, this little boy is still alive, but faces incredible needs--medically, socially, emotionally, psychologically (read the Merc story to see how you can donate to a trust fund set up for him).

And if you google this topic, or visit Parents Behaving Badly you'll find story after story after story: parents drowning their kids, setting them on fire, overdosing them with OTC drugs, leaving them in a hot car while visiting a brothel, on and on. Very depressing. A good way to toss your cookies--fast. I've been so affected by these stories it that I often have to put down the paper, turn off the TV, or shut the browser and block it out of my mind. I do that to protect myself, so that I can function the rest of the day.

But I'm thinking my response is wrong. How many people, like me, turn away from these news stories, block it out of their minds, and don't even talk about it, because it's just too painful, too unfathomable, that we live in a world where atrocities like this can happen almost every day it seems. So I'm thinking we need a different tactic. Let's be completely outraged, get engaged, and see what can be done that isn't already being done to prevent such tragedies. So, outside of more resources going into child protective agencies (a possible discussion for a presidential candidate), I have a wild idea-let's try to keep the violent criminals, drug addicts, and psychopaths from having children.

How? Well, that's complicated but here's a few ideas. Maybe we could start with more parental screening in hospitals. Something a little more extensive than bringing your car-seat into the recovery room for the nurses approval before you can leave the hospital (how does she know it's even installed correctly in your vehicle?) Maybe, while admitted, they could do background checks?

I recently got a hand out from the California Department of Social Services from my son's preschool regarding caregiver background checks. It states, "A person convicted of a crime such as murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, crimes of sexual violence or molestation against children cannot by law be given an exception that would allow them to live in or work in a licensed child care home or center." Well...hmmm...maybe we could take this a step further and maybe not let those people have kids either.

In most state--California included--criminals are not allowed to vote, that right that is taken away when you commit a felony. about we take away the right--or the ability--of a murderer, rapist, torturer, kidnapper, or child molester to bear children? Maybe along with whatever prison sentence, they should be sterilized as well. Crazy? Maybe, but consider this: Child protective services has the power to take kids out of abusing homes--often times too late. So why not step in before that happens? I KNOW involuntary sterilization reeks of government control, is a scary proposition, opens a whole host of moral and ethical implications, and is probably not even constitutional, but....bring on the debate and whatever ideas you have because I'm tired of seeing children suffer at the hands of cruel, evil, sick people.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

30 Minute Meals?

I'm sitting here watching a Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meal episode. Her meals are delicous. I've made more than a few and they are always enjoyed. However, these meals always take more than 30 minutes to make, and I just realized why.

She doesn't have any kids!

Here's what we really need to see. As Rachel quickly and effortlessly sautes some shallots and garlic in butter, her 3 year old statrts screaming bloody murder because the baby just put his favorite aciton figure in her mouth: the baby of course cries too. At the same time, the phone rings. It's her older child's school - volunteers are needed for yet another candy drive. She handles the phone call only to walk into the living room with the two fighting children and see that sometime in the last five-and-a-half minutes they have managed to spread goldfish all over the carpet. Rachel will be challenged to diplomatically handle the kiddos dispute, clean up the Goldfish, and then return to the kitchen to continue the meal. She will realize she forgot to begin boiling the pasta water. Her hair will be disheveled and her shirt will be stained with baby spit up. The oldest child enters the house, in a funk, and Rachel will demand, . . ahem . . request, that this child set the table only to have the child burst into tears because she wasn't picked first for kickball that day. All the chldren will now be in the kitchen with her, asking what she's making. In unison, they will yell "Eeewww, that's yucky" after she tells them what they are having.

Maybe someone can create a reality show called "How my 30 Minute Meal took 1 Hour and 20 Minutes." It will show of real moms making Rachel's meals showing how long they actually take to make when you are trying to deal with the demands of family life at the same time. I'll think I'll give the foodTV network a call right now.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Boy's Blessing

One evening many months back, when Jeep was younger and more often waking multiple times a night, in a sleep-deprived haze I thumbed through a book of devotions and found a prayer that I have prayed with my son every night since:

Dear God, shelter us under your wings of love. Grant us a peaceful night and a restful sleep.

After the above phrases, I rattle off a list of "God blesses" starting with Daddy, Mama and Jeep. After the three of us, the nightly list would vary widely from every grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin, to all of Jeep's classmates and the neighborhood pets. A couple of months ago, Jeeper surprised me by interupting me after the word "sleep" and reciting "God bess Daddy, God bess Mama and God bess Jeepee." So sweet. He has been in charge of the "God blesses" ever since! It has been fun to observe nightly who he selects to bless. Daddy and I almost always make the list, but beyond that it may include that day's favorite teacher, one of his stuffed animals or a neighborhood pal.

Last weekend, a good friend was visiting from Oregon and she was sitting on the living room floor with me and Jeep when I told him it was time for his nap. He sunk into my arms and began chanting "God bess Daddy..." I laughed because we don't usually say prayers for naptime but it was funny that he related it to being about to get into bed. Then he said, "God bess Mama," and paused before he pointed to my girlfriend and pronounced, "God bess dat one."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Diana Chronicles and My Summer of Keeping Appearances

I picked up the Diana Chronicles at Costco right before our trip to Montana to visit the in-laws. Even though I’ve always been fascinated by Princess Di, I’ve never read any of the books written about her until now. I’m glad I waited. Tina Brown has put forth an impeccably researched and objectively written page-turner. She covers everything from Diana’s dysfunctional family and doomed marriage to her PR prowess and amazing capacity for empathy, to her tragic death. When I mentioned to one of my friends that I was reading this book and how affected I was by it, she said, “I don’t believe Diana was meant to have a long life.” I’m still digesting what she means by that, but it does seem that high profile people carrying with them the hopes and dreams of people and nations seem to live short lives (i.e. John Lennon, MLK, JFK, JFK Jr. ).

It seemed appropriate to read this book as we approach the 10-year anniversary of her death. I found it ironic that I was reading it in Montana, where I got married just four years prior on August 31, the day she died. So aware was I of Di even when planning my wedding, I asked my-then betrothed if we should pick another date. We didn’t. (But in hindsight, perhaps we should have since the entire state Montana was engulfed in forest fire when we married, but that’s another story.) But what seemed more ironic about the timing of this read, was that the theme of my summer was slowly starting to emerge: The Keeping Up of Appearances. Visiting the in-laws this time around with toddler in tow, I became keenly aware of the importance of appearances in front of their friends--a bunch of retired transplanted Californians playing golf in the wilds of Montana.

Only three weeks before we spent a week in Idaho where I realized my own family’s obsession with appearance, theirs being more about religion and social conservatism. (I was practically burned at the stake for not taking my husband’s name yet no one could articulate the real issue with it except that, “it just doesn’t look right.”) We recently visited friends and related to them our experiences with the grandparents. And, M, who’s French and whose mother lives in France (and still they’ve had a heavy dose of grandparent drama) commented, “For our parents generation, it’s all about keeping up with appearances.”

Between that comment and reading the Diana book, everything seemed to come together. Here Diana married into the Royal Family were everything was about maintaining appearances and following protocol. Duty before self. (And it’s worth noting that the Queen herself is the same generation of my parents.) How suffocating that environment must have been. I can’t even imagine. How glad I am to be living in a day and place and class of society where I can pretty much look out for my immediate family and me and forget all the pomp and circumstance.

But then I wonder (as I keep contemplating new remodeling projects) is the keeping up of appearances only a thing of our parents’ generation or in our modern society do we just do it differently? Unlike Royals, here in SV it’s not cool to wear suits in the office and we address pretty much everybody by their first name (even kids to adults). Yet maybe we’re not so different in the appearance department.

Now that I’ve started to “put down some roots” here in SV, I’m becoming all to aware of the tallying of the score: what house you live in, what neighborhood it’s located in, what car you park out front, what high-tech you or your husband works at, what preschool you’re filling out applications for so that your son can get in the right elementary for the right middle school so he can go to Bellermine.

It all gives me a headache. And, I realize that unless I choose to live more consciously, and surround myself by others who try to do the same, I too, will be one of those parents suffocating thier children for the sake of appearances.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On the Good Ship Lollipop


As many of you know I have a true ballerina princess living in my house. While, she can handle soccer balls being hit at her by her older brother and can handle a light saber with the best of them, my daughter's heart lies in getting all gussied up and get her groove on. Thus it was just a matter of time before we signed her up for her first dance class and subsequently she had her first dance recital extravaganza.

We signed up a The Dance Affair, a studio in San Jose run by the fantastic Erika Fairfield. Erika and her team are loving, patient, organized and kind, which is all you can ask for in dance studio. Most of all they were grounded. They were not under some delusion that all students were going to become primaballerinas. Erika in a very loving way creates an environment where kids have fun and somehow learned a routine.

Having never taken dance lessons, I wasn't sure of what to expect. Prior to the show we had several "Dance Outs", where the children performed in public at festivals, churches etc. They had full costumes and had to where makeup. Yes, makeup - brown eye shadow, red lipstick, mascara - the works. Kiley, of course, loved putting it on. I, on the other hand, worried, that I was taking my child down the path of Jon Benet Ramsey and beauty pageants for 5 year olds- yikes! What was I thinking... what happened to my baby? She is growing up too quickly.

The show, the 20th anniversary show, was held this past weekend at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts. We were amazed at the whole production. The place was sold out and the show was great! Kiley loved being in the show. She already picked out the costume she wants to wear next year. I now get why they had to practice wearing makeup and see that the community practices were essential for the kids to get used to performing in public. My worry about big hair and egos were laid to rest as I looked around and saw there were more moms like me who had no idea about how to get mascara on a 4 year old and decided to abandon that idea.

As for being worried that my baby was growing up too quickly, well she is certainly maturing. After all she put the pink lipstick on without getting it on her cheeks "too" badly. She is more confident in her version of pirouettes and arabesques and can leap frog like no one I know. We went out for ice cream to celebrate her big show. I firmly believe a scoop of rainbow sherbet should always tops off any important night. As I carried her from the car to the house, I looked at my sleeping little ballerina in her costume, smeared pink lipstick and dried ice cream on her face and thought, "I love being her mommy."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Remodeling Mom?

A while back I was having a phone conversation with an old friend. We were lamenting about our new lives in motherhood—she working outside the home, me working in the home. Our sons are six weeks apart in age and hers turned two a week and a half ago. In that time she’s taken maternity leave, gone back to work full-time, gone down to work part-time and now back to work full-time. Like all of us, she’s trying to figure out the life-work-mothering balance.

We were onto our familiar topic of “how to manage it all” and “what is the ideal situation anyway?” She commented that she wanted some perspective from stay-home moms but didn’t know that many. And that I really didn’t count because I was a Remodeling Mom. We had this conversation nearly two months ago, and those words keep haunting me. What does that mean, Remodeling Mom?

I mean yes, life has been pretty crazy coping through a kitchen-living-laundry-bathroom remodel with a toddler. To avoid living in the construction zone, we stayed at a friend’s place for a month (while she biked across Europe), went camping in Idaho for 10 days (well, it’s better than the backyard), and are now are living in 700 square feet of our 1400 square foot house. My day usually involves going to some home supply store, meeting with the designer or contractor, or scouring the Internet for a light fixture. If I’m not working on the house project, my time is spent coping with our situation--making pasta on the camp stove, doing dishes in the bathroom, begging a friend to let me use their laundry facilities, or driving around the block 25 times for naptime since it’s too noisy to be in our house.

I pretty much drag my near two-year-old with me everywhere on my daily agenda. It doesn’t mean we don’t go to the park or the pool, try out the finger paints in the backyard, or build trains together, but he does watch quite a bit of Curious George whenever I need a quiet, un-interrupted minute or two to make a phone call or heaven forbid, blow dry my hair.

Despite the financial, emotional, and physical challenges of going through a remodel, I do think it’s serving an interesting purpose for my psyche. It’s replacing the mental stimulation of working and even to a certain extent the social aspect of the office. Granted I’m limited to the wacky world of contracting—a culture that is not without it’s own level of gossip and politics. But the bottom line is, I’m pretty much the CEO of my project, interesting people come in and out, and that keeps me busy and engaged. I hope that’s what my friend means, by me being a Remodeling Mom.

My dark side tells me that what it could mean is that I’m not an active member of Las Madres, don’t have organized play dates to the zoo, am not baking gluten-free, sugar free cookies, nor am up to date on the latest parenting philosophies or pedatric alternative healthcare buzz. Not to mention his birthday is coming up in less than a month and nothing has been planned. If my kid turns out to be some weirdo, we’ll blame the Remodel of 2007. But that’s just the dark side talking…or is it?

This was cross posted to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Vote for me!


Holy schmoly! I just got back from a weekend at the San Jose Family Camp. Looking spic and span, I opened up my email and found out that I got picked to be one of the six finalists for the SV Moms Blog. WOW! It couldn't have come at a better time as I pick leaves out of my hair and look at the mound of laundry on the floor. It was a great time, but whew how did we get so dirty? And why did we bring back a stack of sticks and a jar of dead bugs? hmmm...

As I huffed and puffed climbing up the hill to our tent, I thought more about how I really need to work out. But of course, publicly blamed it on the high altitude:) With the make over, I can just see myself climbing up the hill with ease next year, maybe even running...okay now let's not go crazy!

Don't forget to vote for me so I can stop whining.

To the SV BLog Moms community- thanks for this HUGE honor! It is super inspiring to think that my random rants can lead to so much more!!! I am sure there are moms that are much more deserving (the other 5 finalists are a testament to that!), I just want you to know that I appreciate the vote of confidence and support. As a new blogger, this means a great deal! Thanks!