How Mommy Me Came to Be

In my childhood I went through many answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Firefighter was in there. Paleontologist, architect (Thank you bucket-o-Legoes), actress, and veterinarian which hung around until I had to take chemistry my first semester at college. But in whatever scenario I created, I was always a mom too. I was never a Barbie girl, choosing instead, babies to mother. Say what you want about the Cabbage Patch craze, my Andre and Alice (I don’t remember the middle names) were my mommy training wheels along with the beautifully handmade Kimberley Lorraine who now lives in my daughter’s room. Mostly though I credit the incredible mothers I had as role models. Everyone from my yiayia to my aunts to my mom’s close friends to especially my mother. These women who were real mothers and dealt with all of the challenges while never ever making the children in their lives feel anything but loved and valued (if somewhat frustrating. At times. Note: That was totally my brother and sister. I was a perfect angel and never frustrated anyone. Ever.)

I am also as close to a clone of my mother as a person can get. My mother just had to think about getting pregnant and BAM! Insta-blue line (or lab result. This was the 70’s and 80’s). So when John and I decided it was time to expand our parenting past beings of the furry four legged kind, I was ready for insta-kids too kind like Bill Cosby explained it.

That did not happen. It did not happen for a year. It did not happen on Clomid. It did not happen on Clomid with ovulation monitoring. It did not happen with artificial insemination.

We did not pursue infertility treatment past that. I went through the process of grieving my empty, apparently faulty, womb and the baby who would have the best of the genes that John and I had to offer. I cursed and celebrated my friends who all seemed to become parents much as my parents did.

I accepted.

We decided on adoption. The money was going to be spent one way or another, at least, with adoption you are guaranteed a kid. At some point. Even if that point is years away and several heartbreaks and therapy sessions later. And being parents was what we wanted. The whole passing on the genes or name or whatever was not our goal. (Though I totally understand how that can be part of the decision, and I get why people want to exhaust all the possible ways of having biological kids. That just wasn’t us.)

We waited. I got a tattoo of a baby phoenix breaking free of his shell and crying out his presence to the world. I felt it represented the chaotic triumph of adoption, a life created from ashes of poor decisions and dashed dreams but ultimately out of love.

We had been waiting over a year. We had had two matches, but the mothers had decided to parent once the baby was born. We were at a point where we needed to update our clearances and potentially look at changing our profile, so when the agency called that day, I anticipated it was something to do with that.

Instead it was the first time I knew about our son, our Coltrane James.

When you are adopting, here is something you hear that makes you want to bonk people over the head with an over-sized inflatable mallet: You’ll adopt and then get pregnant. I know [insert name and relationship] who that happened to.

I hated it when people said that. I know they didn’t mean it this way (most of them), but it makes the adopted kid seem like a lesser prize or a means to your real end of a biological child. So I scoffed and grumbled inside while offering platitudes.

And then in late October, Leila made her presence know with her own little blue plus side.

Yes, I ate a little crow. It tastes like chicken. Only blacker.

Here’s something else that made me wish for that mallet. See, you relaxed because of the adoption and got pregnant.

If anything the time between learning about CJ and his birth was one of the more stressful times in my life. First, his due date was changed by two months. TWO MONTHS. Then his birthmom was spotty in her communication with the agency. It was not all together a fun time.

I will always correct someone when they through that relaxed thing at me. Also I became sure that because it was so hard to conceive that I was going to miscarry. There were at least two or three trips to the bathroom every day for the first trimester in which I was sure I was going to see blood. I just couldn’t accept that something so striven for in such a methodical way could happen so randomly. Or that we were getting so much so fast.

Forward two weeks and we walk into a hospital, into a room, and are parents. No lights, no music, no ceremony. Just the quiet whisper of a very brave woman. “Look, it’s your mom and dad.” To which the only meager reply I had was, “Thank you.”

Can I just say, morning sickness when you are living between a hospital and a hotel is not fun. Though John seemed to enjoy it because it often meant he got to finish my meals.

I wish I could explain what it feels like when the parent switch it turned on. It’s really a dimmer switch. During the waiting or the pregnancy, it slowly turns up, brighter and brighter until the moment that baby is placed in your arms and nothing can get any brighter and no words can really do the moment justice. Nothing will change you so quickly. (And sorry non-parent friends. You probably want to hit me with an over-sized inflatable mallet.)

The only moment that ever felt as right was when this handmaiden-of-God Athanasia walked around a table three times linked to John by a ribbon between two crowns.

It is amazing to realize that even as a small child, I was right. I was meant to be a mommy. I am good at being a mommy even if there are times I feel like I am not. I know I have joined the ranks of women who while not perfect, while sometimes yelling and crying and sleeping and feeling guilty and overwhelmed always love.



Karen’s Top Ten

Two in a row!

Karen is the person who probably knows the most about me on the planet. It’s that college survival thing. God bless the housing computer that put us on the same dorm floor freshman year. She also has the same birthday as my dear Pappou. I couldn’t bring myself to do a list for him. Miss you, Pappou!

So on to Karen (Another one that is hard to choose just ten.)

10. The Soil Sciences are not the same as Geology.

9. There is nothing that can bond two women together more than a love for the same childhood books and chocolate at a museum. Or at least near a museum.

8. There never was a question of who should it be, Ben or Noel. Noel. Always Noel.

7. If you can drive together in a Ford Festiva in a snowstorm and remain friends, you are friends forever.

6. Creating a border of Peppermint Patty wrappers in your dorm room is totally recycling.

5. Family bonding can be done over taped episodes of Young and the Restless.

4. It is OK to cry when your team loses the World Series.

3. If you’re going to be one of the first of your friends to have kids, you might as well do it up and have twins.

2. You can make having a career and a family totally work. Maybe not sanely, but…..

1. She is the most amazing wife, mother, friend, teacher, good person ever. She is my role model.

Jake’s Top Ten

Good lord, people. I’ve known Jake since kindergarten. That’s a lot of material. A lot of laughs. A lot of life. I’m glad we stuck.

10. If you are going to tell a tall tale, make it a Paul Bunyan sized one.

9. You can’t sweat the elementary school bullies because someday you are going to be a fourth degree black belt in Tae Kown Do, and they will be in jail.

8. A good actor can pull off anything including a 6 foot Japanese houseboy, stereotypes included.

7. There should be a phobia centered around the fear of Mola Ram ripping your heart out. Seriously. Shudder.

6. “Janet!” “Dr Scott!” “Janet!” “Brad!” “Rocky!” That never gets old. Ever.

5. The Princess Bride should be memorized. And also never gets old. No matter what Entertainment magazine says.

4. If you find a genie, your first wish should really be for a luck dragon. That’s how you get around the rule about not wishing for wishes. Two should be a Jedi powers including a light saber.

3. When you watch your friend wash her car engine at the car wash and flood her distributor cap, so the car won’t start, you don’t make fun of her, even if you said it wasn’t a good idea in the first place.

2. Finding your calling is a truly amazing thing. Working your ass off in grad school to make it your career is a brave act. Also one of endurance.

1. You know that cheesy quote about friends know everything about you but love you anyway? Yeah. Truth.

Leah’s Top Ten

Leah and I are a prime example of the good that comes from Facebook. We don’t get to see each other much anymore, but we have gotten to watch each other’s kids grow up!

10. Party to the fullest but not the dumbest.

9. You have to kiss a lot of frogs (or date guys who wear utility kilts) to find a prince.

8. Being Jewish should not keep you from owning a mighty fine collection of Christmas music.

7. Sushi is meant to be shared. And if there is a bottle of wine too, even better.

6. A knitted thong is a conversation piece.

5. Always praise your friend’s workouts. It will always make her day.

4. If you’re wearing a red bridesmaid dress, you have to dance to Lady in Red.

3. Know what you want, then make sure you are in charge of getting it.

2. Knowing when to listen and when to advise, makes you an amazing friend.

1. Celebrate life with lots of laughter.

Uncle Nick’s Turn for a Top Ten

April is riddled with birthdays! Next up is my Uncle Nick. It’s still his birthday for an hour and a half.

10. When your sisters are dressed in furs, but you are not, you must rise above it.

9. Scaring small children is a fine art. Go too far and your niece may hide the scary bear statue where you will never find it even when you remodel. (Disclaimer: I am not this niece.)

8. Being good at poker should be on your resume.

7. If you are married to a travel agent, you should take full advantage of her profession.

6. Never miss an opportunity for a naughty joke.

5. Always enunciate. There is a big difference between the phrase “stealing tips” and touching tits”.

4. Fishing and golf are not boring!

3. Give.

2. Love.

1. I am exceptionally lucky to have such a giving and loving uncle.


Ya’ll. My mom is up. YAY!

10. If your pets don’t outnumber your kids, you’re doing something wrong.

9. You don’t need a DVD player or iPad to entertain kids in a car. All you need is a cassette player and a Bill Cosby tape.

8. Star Trek is a family show. All of them. And Captain Kirk is the real captain.

7. Every meal is Greek in someway.

6. If you don’t serve a meal, then you didn’t have a party.

5. Dance like everybody is watching.

4. Nancy Drew is perfectly acceptable read aloud material for a four-year-old.

3. Family is not always a genetic distinction.

2. I could not be raising my children to be the amazing people they are without my mother.

1. There is nothing I have accomplished in my life without the support, love and influence of my mother.

Margie’s Top Ten

This was a hard one because choosing just ten was really hard. Next to my mother, Margie is the woman who has had the most influence on my life. I love you, Gray! Happy Birthday!

10. You can learn a lot if you have HBO and a VCR.

9. Who says you can’t fit four kids in the back of a Fiesta?

8. Having multiple cats does not a crazy cat lady make.

7. Gardening is a religion not a hobby.

6. Speak softly and walk a big dog.

5. Always make friends with the waiter at your favorite restaurant. He may own the place someday.

4. Dinner is never complete without a bottle of wine.

3. When you have sons, you make friends with their wives. Being really friendly helps a lot.

2. My kids get to have three grandmothers.

1. I am a better mother because Margie was and is in my life.


Why I Don’t Think Princesses Are Anti-Feminist

*Disclaimer – Per this post’s subject: If you disagree, I am cool with that, please, don’t flame me about it though.

My daughter loves princesses and all things tulle and pink.
I am enough of a feminist to have pondered whether I wanted her to be allowed to enjoy the likes of Belle and Cinderella.
Here’s what finally decided me.
They are cartoons.
She loves them.
I believe that I can give her enough real life strong women role models. I believe I can teach her how to enjoy fiction while having a healthy understanding of reality and society. You can enjoy something without emulating it.
And like any literature, princess stories can be interpreted differently. They can be anti- feminist as this cartoon states.
But you can also look at it another way. For instance Belle was her own person, who loved books and learning, despite what her society dictated her role should be. She was brave and smart and did what she felt was right. And in the end she chose love. Jasmine was a rebel who fought against the system that was trying to turn her into a commodity.
Each of those princesses’ stories can be interpreted in different ways.
But ultimately, they are just stories. They do not have to be commentaries on the human condition. They can just be stories with happy endings. Yes, the idea of happily ever after is silly. But isn’t it fun to pretend? And yes they are all beautiful in the most unrealistic way. That is because they are ink on celluloid or pixels on a computer screen. Humans like to look at things we think are pretty, especially when it isn’t always around us in the world we live in.
I think I can explain to my daughter that she shouldn’t look like a cartoon. (Princess Leia may be a little more difficult. I think that damned gold bikini did more for my body image issues than Sleeping Beauty. We’ll concentrate on Leia’s ovaries of steel. Thermal detonator, anyone?)
So in the end, I choose to let her enjoy her princesses because fiction holds only the truths we bring to it, and often it’s fun. Also, you say no to this.523612_4798531602426_1995732985_n

She and I and her dad and brother enjoy most of the princesses, their stories and their music. (However, if she ever wants to read Twilight, we will have a long talk about writing style, and why sneaking into a window to watch a girl sleep is worthy of a restraining order, not true love.)
I believe I can teacher this lesson almost as well and Abby Caddaby and Justice Sotomayor.
Abby and Justice Sotomayor


My Dad’s Top Ten

It’s my dad’s birthday.

10. He can do every Muppet voice spot on.

9. He is the biggest Harry Potter fan I know, next to me.

8. Ramen noodles with eggs is a gourmet meal.

7. Give him a guitar or harmonica and just sit back and listen.

6. Legend of Zelda is a way of life.

5. So is Tetris.

4. He read me Brer Rabbit and Uncle Wiggly a lot. A whole lot. With voices.

3. He gave me my love of nature.

2. He has put his life on the line for others more than any person should have to.

1. He is Grandy.

Driving with Chrome

I am an Apple person. Or at least I was. Our first computer (after the Commodor 64 that hooked up to the TV that lead my dad to typing swear words to the AI in Castlevania) was an Apple II E with the green screen and an actual floppy disc drive. We kept upgrading. My first college computer was a Prima. Ain’t that a kick? There was a laptop then an iMac, graphite, then iBooks. At some time during 2002 or 2003, I was happily typing away on my iBook. This iBook’s battery had long since given up the ghost. It needed to be plugged in to be used. I sat at this moment, as stated, happily typing away. Then the dogs ran by, yanking the cord and snapping off the end in the computer (This was before the magnetic doohickey ) . I had exactly seven minutes to transfer all my files to a disc (I think it still had a 3.5 disc drive.). This computer’s Apple Care plan had long since run out. All around, it was time for a new computer.

John is a computer engineer. Macs are against his religion. And they are expensive. (For a good reason.)

I ended up with a PC. There was a line of them, ending with a Lenovo purchased in 2007. By the last third of 2012 it needed to be put out to pasture. By sides missing all the arrow keys, the enter, the 6, and the u (Thank you, Toddlers), it was starting to crash a lot.

I went in search of potential replacements. Today, computers are like cars. They use to be straightforward, large beige boxes. There were only Apples first, then either Apple or IBM running Microsoft.

Now there are more choices. Like automobiles, computers have more personality. There are colors and different sizes with a variety of keyboards and other accessories. You can customize. There are more than two operating systems.

At the time I was looking for my replacement, Samsung introduced a Chromebook for $250. I would never have looked at a Chromebook prior to that. I mean why pay $400 to $500 for a system that needs a WiFi network just to function? But for $250, I looked. Because I liked using Chrome on my PC. Google has proven to be a reliable company in my experience. For the most part the Chromebook would do what I needed. There were two big issues, I couldn’t sync my phone and lack of some software such as Publisher (I do a monthly newsletter for my MOMS Club chapter.). But I took the leap and said I wanted a Chromebook.

And then I had to wait until Christmas because John bought it as a Christmas present, after all. (Usually he is a pushover about this, but not this time. Even during NaNoWriMo. Do you know how hard it is to write a novel with no enter key or u?)

Finally, Christmas afternoon, it was mine. I promptly put the “I aim to misbehave…” graphic (another present) and powered it up.

I do not regret my decision. It is a handy little machine. I like the look and especially the feel of the smallish keyboard. (I have small hands.)The keys would be really hard to pop off (I try and keep the kids away from it, but still…)  I’ll be honest and hope like hell that my computer doesn’t blow up as I type this…. It reminds me of a Mac….

OK, good. No smoke or crashing. The machines haven’t obtained sentience. Yet. Or they are above petty human competitiveness.

The size of the book is a plus for me too. It is just as portable as a tablet. And because they basically replaced a bulky hard drive with a battery, it lasts longer than most laptop batteries. And the start up is nothing. In fact, I open the device and it powers up.

I also got two years of 100 gig of Drive spaces for free. I don’t know what I will do after the two years, but that’s two years from now. Maybe I will be rich enough to pay for space. Or own Google. Just sayin’. I also find using Google to edit documents for friendly than the latest version of Word in which I feel they moved things around in a very non-intuitive way. And the computer makes all of my files available offline, so the WiFi isn’t as big a deal if I want to work on something. I have my iPhone for important tweets and instaposts. Plus, we live in a WiFi world. If I want WiFi I can typically find it. Usually with coffee. Score.

Chrome was my preferred browser on the PC, so using it as the equivalent of an OS has been seamless.

All in all, I find my Chromebook gives me smooth functionality with a great look. Something I have missed since that last iBook died.