Friday, January 30

Making a Break for It

Cost of two bottles of Children's Advil : $18

Cost of new thermometer at 4:45 a.m.: $12

Cost of Urgent Care per child; $20 x 2

Cost of Prescriptions per child: $20 x 2

Cost of bottle of S2 wine to survive kids having Strep Throat: $27.95

Cost of escaping with kids to the beach to blow it all off: Priceless

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Wednesday, January 21

My Name is Lexi

I've got a Starbucks name: Lexi. A lot of folks in my family have a Starbucks name (formerly known in my single days as my bar name), Spike, Fanny, Phyllis. I'm Lexi.

Lexi stands for Lexapro, the antidepressant I've been taking for two years. Better known at the happy pills, the meds, the livesaver, the be-more-of-me drug. I take such a low dosage of Lexapro that Scientologists probably get happier from smelling glue.

I know a frigging truckload of Stay-at-Home-Moms (SAHMS) that take some sort of anti-depressants. I've been thinking a lot about the SAHM culture the past week after four friends all were complaining of the blues.

Now before you start rubbing you play your micro-violin for me or tell me how SAHMs have been around for centuries or how lucky I am, let me tell you one thing: shut up. :) I know how lucky I am, as do my friends who are going through similar struggles. Being fortunate and having the blues are not related. Lucky, wealthy, mentally healthy, HAPPY people get the blues.

I read an article years ago -- some special edition of Newsweek or one of those -- about the depression and the stay-at-home-mom. It described the upper-middle class SAHM as one of the most depressed in our society: Get up, get on eliptical, get kids up, throw on clothes passing over the nice ones you used to wear as an executive, go into enclosed garage, get in car, drop kids at school, run errands, pick up kids at school, go home into enclosed garage, make dinner, go to bed. The article described the solitary life that is lived by these women. Relatively no human interaction, no use of their natural senses (smell of a subway, taste of a street vendor's pretzel, touch of a crowded elevator). I've been crawling the web for this study, but have yet to find it. I remember, although not a parent at the time, that story really moved me. If you find it, sent it to me.

Why do so many SAHMS have the blues this time of year? There are too many of us in my small community to warrant it a coincidence. When I looked up the subject on Google, I got a zillion born-again Christians who tell you how great it is to be a SAHM (and inevitably a handful of recipes from making playdough to Wal-Mart dinners). On the other end are the SAHMs that are not in a happy, supportive environment like I am with blog headlines like "Fucked in Brooklyn" Those are the ones that kill me. Oh for god sake. And, if one more blog tells me that laughter is the best medicine...

Upper Middle Class SAHMS like me, are happy, smart, well-adjusted women. We're brainy enough to have playground banter that goes beyond PB&J; we rally our local communities (just ask a certain County Supervisor who met me an a brigade of 100 at the local park when we demanded it fixed); we raise our children with conviction and humility and passion. We're educated and we know how to take care of ourselves, even if it is a $10 copay on a good SSRI.

So what's the deal this time of year? Here's what I think:

* We put it all together for the holidays, we make everything warm and exciting and enticing. Then, come the first week of January, it's all gone.

* We get to have almost a full month of family time -- Thanksgiving through New Year's we get our children, our spouses, our extended families. We get physically hugged more, spoken to, engaged with. Then, come the first week of January, everyone goes back to their lives, school, homes and the touching and warmth is gone.

* We get to have expanded or contracted budgets to accommodate the holidays -- buy different foods at the grocery store, go shopping for gifts and special occasion clothes for our families. Then, come the first week of January, all of us are broke and the fun is gone.

* We get to engage with food that isn't mac & cheese. We make family dishes during the holiday season, splurges, cookies, candies, tamales and cioppino. We get to drink more too (what a holiday without some Cheer?) -- Then, come the first week of January, it's gone and we're left with five extra pounds and a worn-out liver.

* We get to spoil our children with toys and activities and make-your-own gingerbread houses to celebrate the season. We get to give them special treats and stay out late and go on tours of the lights and displays all around town. Then, come the first week of January, the lights are down, it's cold and dark and the fun is gone.

What's the solution? I'm guessing, there isn't one. We, my dear friends, are doing a great job. And as my mom says, most things in life need a 1% course correction, not a sweeping 180-degree turn. I think, for me, knowing that the SAHM blues are valid this time of year is, for the most part, enough for me. And, knowing you're having it too.

Chin up, friends. We've got ninjas to raise.


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A Ninja in my Pocket

"Mom, you can't leave the house without a ninja in your pocket," said my son.

All day I carried a tiny little green ninja in my jean pocket that my son had gotten from a 25-cent vending machine at Tomato Thyme the night before. Every now and again, he'd ask me if I still had my ninja and every time, I'd pull it out of my pants proudly. Yesterday I surprised him, "Got your ninja in your pocket, son?" He grinned when I showed him that I was carrying mine a second day.

Today, he's back at school and I'm missing my ninja. I've got the tiny figurine in my pocket again today. My real ninja reminds me constantly of who I am. I'm a mommy: Purell at-the-ready, recyclable bags and soccer balls rolling around in my trunk, snacks in various stages of consumption in my handbag and a ninja in my pocket. Not a bag gig, if you can get it.

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Wednesday, January 7

You Work Today?

When we decided to put the kids in Two Way Bilingual Immersion (Spanish), we knew things would be different in some ways for our kids in Kindergarten. Most parents I respect in the neighborhood opposed the program at our school -- it made me sad to challenge them with my own beliefs on my children receiving a bilingual education. I listened to every argument from my wise, experienced friends, and, in the end, still supported the program.

I knew, for example, that it was very likely that my children would not be taught to read English until 3rd Grade (Thing 1 is reading now in English on a 2nd grade level and reading Spanish 1 books); we knew that our kids would be put in class with the less fortunate kids; we knew our test scores wouldn't help the school any. Hard decision, to say the least. We went for it.

What we were not expecting were lessons that have taught not just Thing 1 and Thing 2, but have taught me and LaGringa some lessons in humility and grace that everyone could use a shot of every now and again.

Every day when I drop the kids off, one mom asks me, "You Work Today?" and every day, I say, "No," (slightly embarrassed). Every day she says, "Maee-bee-tomorrow," encouraging me. I don't have the nerve to tell her I don't work by choice, that we can afford for me to not work, that I am occasionally "consulting" -- WTF is consulting to her?

Every day I reply, "Are you working today?" And every day she tells me about her night. She cleans office buildings in the middle of the night while her child sleeps with a neighbor. She returns home in time to see him wake, make him breakfast, take him to school. After she drops him, she sleeps for 3 1/2 hours. Then she is there, at the gate waiting for him to get out of school. She walks. No car.

Today I peeled into the school parking lot to drop the Things a bit late. She saw my car and said, "You are working now! You have a CAR?!" Her sincerity brought me to tears. She had believed that because I walk the kids to school that I didn't have a car and, she thought, like her, it was hard to get work with no car. She was thrilled for me.

I watched my girlfriends leave the lot in the Volvos, Lexus SUVs and the beloved Honda Odysseys, en route to the grocery store, gym, yoga, coffee with a girlfriend. This woman looked at me so kindly as she walked back toward home and said, "Now maybe you work today!"

I will work today. I will work on remembering how blessed I am.

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Tuesday, January 6

Project: KidGive

"This feels like I won the championship," Thing 1 told me today as he held the Salvation Army tag he'd pulled from the Christmas tree at the mall. Thing 2 kept showing people in California Pizza Kitchen her tag, telling everyone around her, "There is a 9-year-old girl who isn't going to have Christmas presents and I'm going to get her a real art set!"

Project KidGive is an idea LaGringa and I have been thinking about for awhile. The plan was, like so many other families, to pick a child's name off the Christmas tree at the mall and have the kids earn money themselves to make enough to buy the toy for a child this Christmas.

Project KidGive became the focal point of the kids' days, doing chores, talking/fantasizing/questioning about the child they were so determined to help.

In the end, it took six weeks of cleaning out mommy's car, taking out the trash, folding laundry, being the "light police" by turning off the lights in the house, offering to help neighbors and grandparents.

When it was time, we went and picked out the toys. It took They looked and sampled and price scanned dozens of toys, looking for the most special, coolest, most fun one they could find. At last, they were satisfied and we took the gifts to the mall.

The holiday crazed mall concierge caught on fast when I started coming toward her with two beaming kids, arms laden with presents, handmade notes and drawings that were to go with the gifts. I took photos and cried with pride. Mission accomplished:: The Things worked from their hearts for a stranger in need and for more than a brief moment, got to live the true spirit of Christmas.

How We Did It:

1. We told the kids about the project with great anticipation before we went to the mall to get the Salvation Army tags. That way, they knew what was going on and we didn't spring it on them. I didn't multi-task, I went to the mall for that reason only and I read them every single tag, allowing them to pick them for themselves.

2. We made everything very visual. We posted a progress chart that they could fill in daily. There was an unexpected bonus with this, since we were able to count how much we made for the day and how much was remaining. Good math skills!

3. La Gringa and I praised constantly for their work. We showed visitors their chart. We touted them as givers, we told them they were like Jesus (and they always added: and like Santa!). We didn't confuse household responsibilities with these special chores.

4. We made the goals attainable. This took some work, as I had made the dollar values too low at first (10 cents per chore, on average was way too low). As time went on, we had to get more creative ($3 for reading a book). We made sure there was always room for a chore (30 seconds to run around the house and shut of lights to 15 minutes of putting away laundry).

5. We let them have control over picking their gifts. Gave them the money they'd earned and took the time to drive them to (three!) stores they wanted to investigate for their gifts.

6. We gave them one present on Christmas Eve: it was the same gifts they had earned for the other children. We praised them and talked about their giving, the feeling of giving and reinforced how they had made someone else's Christmas a good one.

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A Toody Ta-Ta

A Toody Ta-Ta, originally uploaded by Thing Family.

Monday, January 5

Heading to the Vomitory


Three bouts of the stomach flu in three months had me at my knees (literally). When I saw this posted in the hallway of Candlestick Park (at the 49ers vs. Redskins game!), I had to grab a picture. Here's to not needing the Vomitory any time in the near future.

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Friday, January 2

Thing Family Resolutions

La Gringa Thing:
1. Run at least one day per week.
2. Have more fun with Mommy Thing.

Mommy Thing:
1. Run six 1/2 marathons in 2009 (one more than 2008); one of them under two hours.
2. Take yoga weekly, if possible. Learn to integrate it into my life.
3. Try not to be so cranky in the evenings when the day is done.

Thing 1:

1. To run more than I ride my bike. Run a race or two.
2. To give some of my toys to Goodwill all year long.

Thing 2:

1. To not complain as much.
2. To take my dance classes

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