mom of the year

The story of a small Singer sewing machine

by mayberry on October 30, 2008

As I have mentioned, Jo is a bit of a dilettante. Like most kids, she’s a sucker for anything new. Last Christmas, she got a finger loom which she loooooovvved for about two weeks (and even that was a very long run) and has since almost completely ignored. She’ll beg for a toy or a game or a book with the tenacity of an e-mail spam overlord and then blow it off almost as quickly as she receives it. She’s taken a incredible range of extracurricular classes, from music to art to tumbling to (most recently) ice skating, but the only one she’s stuck with consistently is swimming.

Her most recent prized possession was a toy sewing machine we picked up at TJ Maxx for $12. It’s pink and plastic but it really works. So for a few days Jo was a busy busy seamstress (mostly just making seams with no practical purpose). And after that, of course, the little machine sat and gathered dust.

What I wonder is how much of this is my own doing. See, the sewing machine–like many other hobbies she might try/stick with–requires intervention from me: helping her thread the needle, find fabrics to work with, follow instructions, etc. And you know, there is a reason why I don’t own a sewing machine myself. I am just not interested! So if Jo asks me to help her, I will; but I’m not going to go out of my way and say “Psst! Hey kid! Wanna sew?”

So I don’t think I am actually suppressing my child’s interests. The question is whether I am doing enough to encourage them. I like to think I am allowing her passions to shine through (she is only six, after all!). But as we’ve established, I’m pretty good at rationalizing.

Multiplication and division

by mayberry on July 27, 2008

It’s now been two full weeks since that offending little piece of tissue was removed and my little girl is still in the hospital. She had to have another surgical procedure on Friday, round two of ridding her body of the infectious gunk that is so firmly lodged in her gut. So far, she seems to be responding well, and we’ll know more tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe she’ll even get to come home.

When we got home from San Francisco last Sunday night, I stayed up until 2 a.m. completing a freelance job that had to be in by 8:30 that Monday morning. After I mailed it off, I stared at my bedroom ceiling for another hour fretting about everything on my long to-do list, from unpacking to catching up on work to Full Mommy reviews to weeding my overgrown flower beds.

Needless to say, another week has evaporated and I’ve done almost none of those things that were so important they kept me up that night. In the hospital, I have wireless but I don’t have any ability to concentrate. If it isn’t the worry (are 5 CT scans too many for a 40-pound, 6-year-old child? How much longer can this possibly go on?), it’s the endless Disney Channel loop, or the nurse coming in or out, or the entreaties to take just one more sip of Gatorade.

These days, more than ever, I feel like every minute spent doing one critical task is a minute stolen from some other equally critical task. Time playing with Opie (an absolute trouper during this whole ordeal, I must note) is time away from Jo’s bedside. Fifteen minutes answering work e-mail is 15 minutes not finding something nutritious for us all to eat. A half-hour sleeping is a half-hour not blogging (aka taking time for myself).

This has been the longest and shortest month of my life. Wake me when it’s over.

Except it wasn’t her heart Jo left in San Francisco. It was her appendix.

Instead of Chinatown and the Golden Gate Bridge we are touring the emergency room and children’s ward. My big girl has an IV taped to her arm, plastic bracelets on both wrists and three small, heart-shaped bandages on her belly. She hasn’t had a bite of solid food since Friday evening.

Yes, our child had a ruptured appendix and instead of taking her to the doctor, we put her on a plane and flew her halfway across the country. You can line up right behind us for the Jerks of the Year award.

She needs four or five days of intravenous antibiotics and recovery time. It’s been 24 hours since the surgery and she can barely stand to move an inch or be touched anywhere on her body.

Which is to say: I may not make it to BlogHer. And the thing is, I don’t even care. I’ve been looking forward to it since the minute I drove away from the W last year, and I have lots of new friends I really wanted to meet this time (not to mention old ones to see again). But right now, the only place I want to be is next to this bed, in this vinyl-covered recliner, waiting for my sweet girl to smile again.

Lessons in laissez-faire

by mayberry on April 16, 2008

If you have been reading this blog for awhile you may have gathered that I am a pretty relaxed parent, or at least I try to be. I don’t think there is any use getting worked up over whether kids can recite the alphabet at 18 months old or kick ass at soccer before kindergarten or start a successful dot-com while they’re still in high school. Or, for that matter, whether anyone runs in the house or jumps on the furniture or eats crumbs off the floor or lets the dog lick their fingers. Yes, we have rules and we do enforce them but I try to maintain a “don’t sweat the small stuff” attitude.

But. All of a sudden Opie is 3 and I feel like I’m being followed by some kind of huge, menacing, loudly ticking clock. He is neither potty-trained nor at all interested in giving up his pacifier. While he was 2 I just thought to myself “Well, he’s only 2.” Now that he’s been 3 for all of 11 days I am totally doubting myself and my “he’ll do it when he’s ready” attitude.

He started in a new room at his child care center this week and between that and the birthday hangover, he has not taken a nap since a week ago Sunday. Reason to cut him some slack, or total rationalization?

The rule is that Nuks are for sleepy time only but he begs for it the minute we walk in the door in the afternoon. He’ll even say “I just want it for one minute” or “I am going to take a little rest so I neeeeeeeed my Nuk.” (Hah! There is no way I am falling for that, dude.) I am starting to think that a few days of cold-turkey misery might be better than spending hours every day trying to distract him via snacks, water, play time, walks, etc.

Similarly, the potty … he kind of, sort of knows what to do and when to do it but not with any consistency at all, and he does not want to wear the cool Thomas the Tank Engine underwear his Grammy got him or even the Lightning McQueen Pull-Ups we stock by the dozens. He is not really motivated by rewards (like Jo is) so I am a little stumped. The last thing I want is a potty power struggle, but again … am I being a gentle, attentive parent or a lazy loser?

So help me, the other day I started to wonder whether I could tackle one or both of these issues (and/or Jo’s thumbsucking) if I promised them a kitten. Somebody stop me!


by mayberry on February 13, 2008

making gnocchiSome of you know that I have another blog on the site I work on. I don’t link it here because, you know, I feel that I am the second coming of Dooce. My mother is the most faithful reader of that blog (probably the only reader. Even I am usually bored with it, and it’s all about my kids). She checks compulsively for updates, never fails to mention what she’s read, and even suggests topics.

So today, when I felt a bit of bloggers’ block, I emailed my #1 fan. I usually can’t keep track of where she is because she travels all the time, but she does check her Crackberry constantly. Sure enough, she called me from her cell phone within a half hour and reeled off four ideas.

Write about everything you have to prepare before you go out of town.
Too stressful. NEXT!

Write about how you embrace the winter season with the kids.
Ha. Ha ha ha ha. I only embrace the sturgeon-spearing. Pucker up, dino-fish. NEXT!

Write about Valentine’s Day and all the learning opportunities that go with it [a lifetime ago Mom was a first-grade teacher].
Reasonable possibility. After Jo rejected my idea for homemade valentines (red construction paper hearts with cut-out pictures from other cards glued on top, and the text “You’re cut out to be my valentine”), we bought a couple of packages of licensed-character goodness. She sat right down and addressed and signed them all in one fell swoop. No nagging, bribing, or even coaching. I was very proud. But: If I do this, I’ll save it until after the school party, in case that yields any good stories. NEXT!

Write about how you cook with the kids, what they like about it, what they are learning from it.
Ding! I think we have a winner. Yes, I may be a kitchen lame-o but I am raising a boy who has an entire wardrobe of aprons and his very own whisk. Tonight: “Now you can help me mix up this stuff and make meatballs.” “I can use my whisk?”

Next time, though, I may just hire Grandma as a ghost-blogger. I can pay her a percentage of my lucrative salary of $0.

Life-us interruptus

by mayberry on November 19, 2007

“Approximately 156″ is the number of:

a) diapers I change in a month
b) times this fall we have raked our yard
c) pieces of Halloween candy still lurking in our pantry
d) times per day I am interrupted by my children

If you guessed D, you win (and I suspect your tally is similar). By 2 p.m. Saturday, my vaunted patience had long since been exhausted by the constant demands–many of them perfectly reasonable and age-appropriate–which interrupted my shower/pee/meal/sentence spoken/sentence read/chore attempted. I spent the next several hours snapping at everyone in my path for the slightest infraction. It really wasn’t fun.

Sunday was better because I fled the house in protest to go shopping. Only to be interrupted by my husband reporting that he “didn’t know” the snacks in the plastic bag hidden on top of the fridge were to be used for class snack this week.


At least they are funny.

1. OPIE, to JEFF, who is trying to set an example for a certain reluctant potty-trainer: Are you going pee with your penis?

2. JO: Wakes up at 4 a.m. and comes into our room. But first, she makes her bed, complete with artful arrangement of two stuffed animals resting on her pillow.

Gimme a merit badge in "grumpy"

by mayberry on October 29, 2007

Mama Merit Badges: Click to check them out My child has been a school-ager for all of 7 weeks now and I have decided I hate enrichment activities. I hate gymnastics because it is too far away and there is nowhere to wait safely and sanely with a 2-year-old in tow. I usually flee to Wal-Hell (to borrow Jamie‘s term) and that should give you an idea of how awful it is to stay at the gym.

I hate swimming because of the changing into suits/changing back to clothes, the grungy showers, the (again) dealing with the toddler in the locker room.

I hate soccer because I had to sign up two weeks ago (and pay $85) for a season that starts next May. And I had to pay an extra $25 so I wouldn’t have to be an assistant coach or some other ill-defined volunteer job that I have no interest in or time for.

I hate dance because of the inappropriate songs and costumes (Chicago‘s “All That Jazz” for 4-year-olds, anyone?).

I hate music because my son opts to stand in the corner, crawl under the table, or throw things and I’m left scraping sandpaper all by myself.

I do like Sunday school. It amounts to free babysitting and there are doughnuts after.

Tell me it gets better when the kids get older, and I just sit in the car with a book while they’re off somersaulting or playing the French horn or whatever.


Bone appetit!

by mayberry on September 5, 2007

So, the kindergarten report: All was well. Drop-off and pick-up, while logistically messy (wait outside! no, wait near the cafeteria! no, go to the classroom!), were emotionally pretty easy. In four hours, Jo and her class squeezed in group time, an art project, a story, and a snack (Scooby-Doo animal crackers–Mrs. B. taught the kids to say “Bone appetit. Let’s eat” first), plus trips to the bathroom, playground, library, and cafeteria. She’s thoroughly ready to go back for more tomorrow.

So now I turn my attention to my first baby, our 9-year-old dog. Paradoxically (and I’m sure this is familiar to many of you who’ve made similar moves), she often got more exercise back when we lived in a 1200-square-foot apartment. Then, we had to take her for regular walks. Now, we turn her out into the backyard a few times a day and that’s about it. If we’re spending time outside, she’ll run around and play; but regular walks are, shall we say, irregular.

I’ve noted before that my attempts to exercise, including long dog-walks, seem to be constantly thwarted by children. So unfair. So it was kind of a stretch for me to tell the good people of Parent Bloggers Network that “Yes! I’m an exerciser! Sign me up for them free shoes!” But follow my logic: If I replace my six-year-old (yeah, six) cross-trainers with new, wonderfully comfortable, designed-for-women walking shoes by Ryka, I will be forced to use them.

Cliffhanger: Did I? What do I think of the shoes? And more importantly, what does my dog think? To find out, please check out my review over at The Full Mommy. There’s more good stuff there too: a cool building toy endorsed by our resident preschool teacher, a how-to video for dads, even our top picks for kiddie snacks. Plus, we’re welcoming a new reviewer: Mrs. Chicken!

Wearing my Food Sheriff badge with ambivalence

by mayberry on August 29, 2007

I like to think I am moderate, erring toward healthy, when it comes to my diet and my kids’. I try to make sure we eat a variety of foods, whole grains (yay for whole-wheat Eggo waffles), fruits and veggies, yada yada. Luckily, the kids are not particularly picky. We don’t eat a lot of organic stuff because it’s not readily available where we live. (I could get it but I am a little too cheap and lazy to do so). But we shop at our farmer’s markets as often as we can. I let the kids have candy and other treats sometimes and about once a week or so I give in to their begging for a snow cone after school. Otherwise, I try to limit the amount of processed crapola that they consume and the use of food as a reward.

And I have to say that even this small set of rules is really tiring to enforce. I feel like I am being undermined at every turn. Every time Jo goes to play at one particular friend’s house, she has mac-and-cheese, juice, candy, and ice cream for dinner–no thought of any fruit or vegetables, ever.

My husband created the tradition of “cookies, Nukkies and bookies” when it’s time for bed. Gee, thanks. Now he’s giving out cookies every night regardless of whether the kids ate any dinner or how many other sweets they might have had the rest of the day. When we arrived at my mother-in-law’s a few weeks ago, there was a giant box of “fruit” gummies waiting to greet us. Her co-worker had given them to her because the kids were coming to visit (“I wasn’t sure if it would be OK, but I didn’t know what to do with them”–so displaying them prominently in the living room seemed wise??). I let them have a couple of packs a day but in this as in every scenario, I am forced to be the bad guy just to maintain some semblance of health. I have no problem at all saying no to the kids. I just resent being forced to do so because no one else is paying attention.

I can’t imagine trying to insist on a fully organic diet or cutting out processed foods altogether–because we don’t live in a bubble, we live in a community. We live with other people who have different beliefs and value systems about food, and since eating is a communal activity much of the time, we have to work this out. How do you do it?

An open letter to my car, and a fervent effort to turn a moment of stupidity into a cool prize from CarBlabber via today’s Blog Blast.

I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. Please don’t hold a grudge. I need you to take me and the kids to day care, play dates, the flippin’ orthodontist, and the grocery store. I know you don’t want to go back there, and I wish we didn’t have to, but it is inevitable. The bike trailer can only hold so much.

I promise I won’t be as dumb as I was that day. It’s just that the cart was sitting up on the sidewalk by the store when I pulled up. I took it inside and filled it with liquid crack Honest Tea, diapers, and a few other essentials. It was only natural that when I finished my shopping, I put the cart back where I’d found it. I mean I knew it wasn’t properly corraled in one of those iron chutes. I hate it when people leave carts randomly strewn in the parking lot. But I thought I was safe. I thought you were safe.

I promise you I cringed when, just as we were backing out, I saw that cart roll ever-so-slowly, but unavoidably, unstoppably, across the sidewalk and off the curb, slamming right into your rear passenger door. I never meant to hurt you. You were the car we bought because we had a baby. You’ve served us well for over five years and 70,000 miles. I’m just sorry that karma bit you on the ass side instead of me.

How can I make it up to you?

Grovelingly yours,

Mayberry Mom