Friday, January 29, 2010

The Thought Box, revisited

I'd previously written about my brilliant idea (stolen from SuperNanny) to create a thought box for my 9-year-old daughter to write down what she wanted to tell me when I couldn't give her my undivided attention. Many comments asked for an update.

You all knew, didn't you? You all knew that the chances of this actually being successful were slim at best.

It also reminded me that I always wonder what happens to the families post-SuperNanny. Do struggling couples really learn to communicate better? Do moms never again lose their cool when trying to implement the time-out techniques? Do they remember to stick to their routines and new reward systems?

I can't answer that. All I can tell you is the result of our own experiment with the thought box.

The first few messages she wrote were along the lines of "I hate my sister!" and "I want my own room!" Still, by the time she read them to me, she was already laughing about them. I suppose it was a good place for her to direct her anger.

After that, she forgot about the thought box altogether, and right now, neither of us could tell you just where it is.

I don't think it was entirely a FAIL, though.

She seems to have re-adjusted to our nightly routine, does her homework without complaint (and does even more at her after-school program than previously), and a few times, she has led me to my bedroom to talk privately after our nightly duties are done.

I think the real benefit of the thought box was that, despite the times that my attention is elsewhere, she knows I'm here for her.

Maybe, as time goes on, those families stop using some of the devices because they no longer need them. Maybe the foundation has become strong enough that rewards are no longer necessary. Maybe the children start leaving the room when they're upset to give themselves space to calm down, and no longer need an official "time-out."

The only thing I definitely know about parenting is that the job constantly evolves as our children keep changing on us. I may not be SuperMom, but I think both my girls know that I'll always give it my all.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Jan. 29, 2010.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Re-thinking education (yes, again)

I happened upon an #edchat on Twitter, and I'm so glad I did!

Not only was it encouraging to see so many people talking about education in a thoughtful way, but it really helped me see the forest through the trees. (But it didn't change my love of cliches, apparently.)

If you've been reading me lately, you've read a lot of whining and complaining about homework and budget cuts and blah blah blah.

Well, the edchat brought me back to what I really care about when it comes to education: preparing our children for adulthood.

It's not supposed to be about getting into a good college or becoming the next Steve Jobs. It is about developing and nurturing our children to become the next generation. It is about entrusting our world into their hands.

At some point, I tweeted that the most important thing I learned was that it's not what you know, but how you go about learning what you don't.

I came into the workforce with nothing. I was an actor, hadn't finished college, and just needed to be able to support myself. Most of my employment has been obtained through temp agencies. I could pass their basic skills tests with flying colors. I knew my alphabet, I taught myself to type when I was a kid (so I could write all my crazy stories), and knew how to get along with adults because of all the theatre I'd done since age 6.

It turned out that's all I needed.

I could communicate effectively, I could be pleasant to co-workers and the general public, and I could follow directions.

Everything else was on-the-job training. Once I learned the job, could perform it well, I'd get bored. I'd start suggesting ways to improve the company/department, and create projects for myself. And I'd get promoted.

This isn't meant to be bragging, by the way. This is meant to say that anyone with basic skills can support themselves.

My girls have already shown that they grasp some of these basic skills, and more. Riley, as I've boasted time and time again, is a natural problem-solver, intuitive, empathetic, creative and thoughtful. Sylvia is passionate, creative, always a teacher's pet, energetic and caring. They both can express themselves effectively. They both have a keen interest in the world at large.

I think I need to relax a little.

Now that's not to say that I won't complain about insipid homework assignments ever again (hey, I'm still me!) or stop paying attention to what goes on in their schools. I cared about education even before I had kids, and I still believe that education is the greatest factor, for better or worse, in determining our country's future.

Lately, I've just been feeling as if I'm banging my head against a wall; worrying that the hours we've been spending on long-winded homework have been a waste. While I'm not convinced that they haven't, I'm less concerned that they've been damaging, either. I can also better appreciate certain talents and skills they have that may not show up in any report card, but may be a far better barometer of how they'll do in the real world.

I think we're on the right track.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A beautiful day at the spa

More check-ins at Hyatt Spa trip
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Read all about my Sunday at Pacific Waters Spa at my review blog and get 20% off any 60 minute treatment!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The past is now the present

When Jessica Gottlieb posted that she would be on Dr. Phil, thanks to DirecTV's account services online, I was able to record the episode. After the girls went to bed that night, I poured myself a glass of wine, pressed play, and found Jessica sitting next to one of my closest childhood friends, Teresa Strasser.

Teresa and I did Fiddler on the Roof together in San Francisco when I was 9. I lived in Santa Cruz, and she in SF so after the show was over, we became pen pals. I moved to L.A., and we continued our letter writing for a while, but eventually, we lost touch.

There was something completely jarring about seeing Jessica and Teresa sitting there...and something totally cool about it, too.

It reminds me of what it's like to be on FB, and read a status update from one of my high school friends, and then a comment from my mom, and then a link written by a fellow LA Moms blogger.

During my marriage and for a few years after separating from X, I didn't want to see many people from my past life here in L.A. I'd had so many ambitions and I hadn't come through. And now, here I was, a single mom, struggling to get on my feet, working as an assistant in a profession I did not yet think of as my own, and steeped in debt.

I was scared of attending my high school reunion, how to answer the questions of what I've been doing for the last 15 years. What would I say to anyone that I knew back then? "Well, I'm a total loser now, and what are you up to?"

Still, I went. A friend that I actually had kept in touch with for those past 15 years begged me to go and offer moral support so I went. And I had a great time!

It really was great to see everyone again, and see that while most of us did not have the lives we thought we'd have, we were happy.

I guess that's when I realized that everyone goes through this. None of our lives turn out the way we think they will. Even if dreams come true, they're not without unexpected twists and turns.

And, yes, we all make mistakes that have consequences.

Still, seeing Teresa up there, remembering a private joke we had onstage during Fiddler, I smiled all over again. Each time I've seen old friends from high school or other parts of my life, old memories have made us laugh, either like the first time, or with the new perspective of time.

I used to think that person I was before X was gone forever. Each friend on FB that came B.X. has reminded me that I'm still me. Each family member and old friend that has been there the whole time, and each new friend that I've met in my new life through every new experience I've had post-X has helped me reconcile the past into my present. To ignore or deny any of them would be a denial of who I am. Because I finally understand how it all adds up to who I am and where I am today. And reminds me that the future is full of unexpected possibilities. There will be new mistakes, too, more consequences to endure, but without those, there would be no new friends to add, no new experiences and laughs to have.

And I know that it's all about the people I am lucky enough to call friends. FB or otherwise, blood relatives or former colleagues or classmates, it's the people that enrich my soul and make every present moment a memory for smiles and laughs for years to come.

This post was inspired by Vinomom's own journey from the past to the present.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Discussing parent teacher communication

I would love to know your thoughts, either as a teacher or a parent (or both), on my latest Parentella contribution.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It doesn't get better than Kristin Chenoweth!

Thanks to Oscar Mayer's Good Mood Mission (who invited me to blog about this event), I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kristin Chenoweth, the original Glinda in Wicked, Emmy winner for Pushing Daisies last season, and featured this season in Glee and as a guest judge on American Idol.

Oscar Mayer kicked off its Good Mood Mission last week at the Grove, and the celebration featured not only Chenoweth, but the USC marching band, Oscar Mayer's Hotdoggers, and Flash Mob America.

In this time where hope in Haiti is sorely needed, it's easy to forget that there are too many Americans who go to bed hungry every night.

As I've previously mentioned, the LA Times recently reported an increase in homeless children here in the LAUSD district. Across California, the number of residents receiving food stamps rose by 25% (as stated in that same article).

The Good Mood Mission is a perfect opportunity to give back in your community without spending a dime. Simply visit their website, and finish the sentence "It doesn't get better than __________" and Oscar Mayer will donate one pound of food to Feeding America. If you update your status, and become a fan of the Mission on Facebook, you'll donate even more! Oscar Mayer kicked off the event by donating one million pounds of food already. It just takes a few minutes to help meet their goal of one million more pounds by September.

After speaking with Chenoweth, the girls and I rode around Hollywood in a Wienermobile! The girls tried to spread good moods on this rainy day, by telling people through the speakers, "Have a bunderful day in Hot Dog Hollywood!" It was pretty fun to see people's looks of astonishment, excitement, and befuddlement at this massive hot dog on Sunset Boulevard!!

We took a break from the roads long enough to get Starbucks; my thanks to the Mission for buying my coffee and the girls' pastries.

It was a crazy, dare I say, amayonaising day (oh, yes, I did!). Can't really say I'd ever imagined riding in a Wienermobile or interviewing Kristin Chenoweth. And to think it all happened in the same day? I still can't believe it. And for such a worthy cause?

It doesn't get better than that!

Friday Fragments - when it rains, it pours!

Please visit Mrs. 4444 to join Friday Fragments.

***In case you haven't heard, it's been raining all week here in SoCal. And not just raining, but flooding, hail and even tornadoes! I wish it could be more balanced. And in two weeks, they'll be telling us we're still in a drought.

***One website profile of mine lists 5 current job titles. It looks like I'm going to be adding another. I'm going to be joining the Parent Action Committee they're forming at the girls' after-school program. Last night, the Program Director and I started brainstorming about activities for the parents and families, and I'm already excited!

***I have a whole post I need to do on how we spent our Tuesday, and I can't wait to share it with you! For now, let's just say it involves feeding the hungry, wienermobiles, and Kristin Chenoweth.

***Tonight, we have our PTA Movie Night fundraiser. Tomorrow, I'm going to see Nine the Musical with my dear friend, Nancy, and Sunday, I'm going to a spa. Yeah, my life does not suck right now.

***Last weekend, we had a family post-holiday party which was fun. My mom always includes games, and I won one of them, and was awarded a $25 Target gift card. Woo hoo!

***The girls and I were thrilled when Glee won Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes! And Meryl Streep's speech made me cry. Nancy and I texted each other all during the awards, which was totally fun.

***Sylvia got another stupid homework assignment for vocabulary. Last night, she had to count how many times a letter appeared in each word. Thankfully, not as time-consuming, but still the mind boggles.

***Instead of just putting in the calendar invite to Nancy: Nine the Musical or something like that, I called it Afternoon Delight. I'm so easily amused.

***This LA Times article reported on a survey that found "Almost one-third of principals reported increased homelessness" in their LAUSD students. That same article stated that LAUSD is going to try passing a parcel tax to subsidize budget cuts. Yet, there was no mention of how an increased parcel tax might further increase homelessness and dislocation for LAUSD families.

***As I've been writing this, there have been emails flying with my fellow PTA parents about tonight's Movie Night and things we need. Right now, everyone's fantasizing about bringing beer and wine. Is it any wonder I adore these people?

***Oh, on the continuing saga of Riley's broken glasses, our fabulous George was able to repair one pair to get her through, but I did have to break down and order a new pair. But she hasn't had her appointment with the optometrist this year yet. Because even though it's a new year, our vision plan actually counts the months between visits. So if we find her prescription changes at the next appointment, then I get to pay for another pair. But really, who needs health care reform?

***George mentioned on our last visit that Riley's glasses are probably breaking more frequently because she's growing. As we were walking back to the car, Riley said, "I'm just clumsy." I reminded her what George said, and she said, "but I am clumsy!" It's my fault. You get that from me, kid.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hold that thought (box)

The other night, we had the unusual experience of having time on a weeknight. We normally get home around 6:30, I make dinner while the girls do their homework, they usually have to finish their homework after dinner, I have to make lunches for the next school day, wash the dishes from dinner, get the girls ready for bed, and then just collapse.

The other day, I picked them up from school to take them to get their eyeglasses fixed. We made it home before five. It made all the difference in the world. We not only got everything done that we had to do, but when we looked up, it was only 7 pm! Still plenty of time to talk, to relax, to actually enjoy each other's company!

The very next night, my 9-year-old daughter was not at all happy to be back in our regular routine of rush rush rush. She let it be known in her own little way; not listening to me, fighting with her sister, not doing her homework. After we got through that, she broke down crying that she just wanted time to talk to me. But I'm always making dinner or helping her sister with her homework or washing dishes or cleaning up and she doesn't get to talk to me.

Of course, I assured her that if she needs to talk to me, all she has to do is tell me. Sometimes, it might have to wait until after dinner's ready or I'm done helping her sister, but I'm always here for her.

Then I stole a page from SuperNanny, which my daughter also watches (because it airs on Friday nights). I explained that unfortunately, there isn't always time during the week, or right when she needs it, so I suggested she put a Thought Box together and write down what she wants to say. On the weekends, or when we find time during the week, we can sit down together and go through the Thought Box without being rushed.

She loved the idea and rushed off to find a box. She also found one for me. I talked her out of taking it to school with her, but told her she's welcome to write anything down at school or her after-school program and put it in the box when she gets home.

I strive to keep our Sundays free. This Sunday, I look forward to sitting on the couch with my daughter, and discussing whatever she wants for as long as she wants.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Jan. 20, 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mrs. 4444 is our host for Friday Fragments.

***Casi Cielo is back! This is my absolute favorite coffee in the world.

***I realized this week that my verbal editing skills have suffered as a result of being able to backspace and delete so often. Not that they were that great anyway. Oh, and my handwriting? Pathetic!

***Last weekend, I saw Expressing Motherhood, and was utterly moved by the show. I wrote about it for Examiner.

***I left work early on Tuesday to take the girls to get their glasses fixed (yes, both of them!) and we ended up getting home before 5. It was incredible the difference that made! We didn't feel rushed, the girls got their homework done, it was good.

***Last weekend, the girls came with me to DreamDinners and really enjoyed it. I think next time, Sylvia can make some meals solo and Riley can help me, and it will be a nice family outing for all of us.

***Our department had our holiday dinner last night because we couldn't get everyone together before the holidays. It ended up being even nicer since none of us were concerned with all that had to be done. And I got the best gift! My Secret Santa took the holiday photo that I'd sent and made a coffee cup out of it. AND the coffee cup holds nearly twice as much as your average cup.

***I already said this in a comment on someone else's post, but I find it really interesting that as much as people roll their eyes when talking about social media, the mainstream media had no problem showing tweets and youtube videos when they couldn't get into Haiti earlier this week.

***Remember about 3 ***'s ago when I said I got both the girls' glasses fixed? Riley's are broken again.

***And with that, we head into a long weekend. Yay!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I resolve to less stress

The Yahoo Mother Board has asked us to talk about resolutions. (Ironically, I found this out just hours after writing this Examiner post entitled: No resolution? Already given up? No Problem!) Years ago, I made an annual resolution to not make New Year's resolutions.

It was just too much. I was still adjusting to single motherhood, had just survived the holidays, was going to school part-time, and it felt self-sabotaging to add yet more to my plate. So I said enough. And a weight was lifted. Or rather, a self-inflicted weight was not added.

It's made New Year's so much more fun ever since!

Now, that's not to say that I don't take the opportunity to assess where I am when I need a new calendar. I take the time to reflect on where I need to improve.

So without putting a name on it, I told myself this time around that I need to get better about the housework. It at least needs a place on my priority list. I've taken some time on the weekends to clean up some 'hot spots' as FlyLady calls them. The living room looks better, as does my kitchen counter! And I'm making mental note of other areas, but I refuse to stress myself out over them. (*just to be clear here, our place is nowhere near the Grey Gardens or anything, and we can usually find everything we need to leave the house. But there is a mad dash if we have company coming!)

Still, if during the month of May, I think of something I want to do, I don't wait until December and put it in writing first. Call me impulsive, but I'd rather tackle it while I can still remember what it is!

So I'm pretty much the last person to ask if you want help with your New Year's resolution. But call me if you want someone to tell you that it's not the end of the world that you slipped. There's always tomorrow.

Yahoo provided us with a few resources to share:

Here's an article on personal finance by the Motley Fool

Styling tips from Redbook.

Here's one that explores ways to overcome the common slip-ups.

And from fellow Mother Board members:

Tales from the Crib's Resolution?

SoCal Mom's Stinkin' Resolutions

And from my dear friend, Kori, I loved the obligatory new year's post. (Is it any wonder she's my best friend?)

If you've written about resolutions (from bah hambug to watch me soar), please add your links in the comments.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Balancing the blogging criticism

I mentioned a few days ago the perception that bloggers are narcissists, or at least, self-centered.

Fellow bloggers know that we create a community here. That we cheer each other on, commiserate together, learn from each other. We relate to one another's human experiences, and find our common ground.

So what's the root of this criticism? Is it a few bad blogs? Is it the social marketing?

No, the criticism of blogging began just about the same time as the first blog entries. I don't believe it has to do with the content of some blogs. I believe it comes from the very essence of what blogging is: using our voices.

That ability used to belong to just a select few; those lucky enough to have weekly columns or talk shows or had the money to be influential where it mattered.

As much as we tout free speech, as much as we believe in the ideology, never before has it been able to be practiced to the extent that we can today.

If we're not rich, famous, powerful, we're supposed to lead lives of quiet desperation. Bloggers refuse to do that. We speak our minds. We tell our stories. We're rarely desperate, and never quiet.

Mainly, we don't let others speak for us. We don't rely on politicians, authors or experts to tell us how we should be feeling or what we should be doing. And we demand better of them.

Personally, I'm delighted when someone thoughtfully challenges my views. If I'm not being personally attacked, I'm happy to have some back and forth discussion and debate. I have, however, had to implement some comment restrictions (sorry, BigLittleWolf) to keep my critics honest. I've had too much spam and too many hateful comments, and I will exercise my right to keep my space my own. Free speech has always had its price.

I won't run away, though, because someone slaps a label on me. I'm not afraid of being called a narcissist because I know it just isn't so.

I don't know if I'll blog forever. I'm grateful it will always remain my choice to do so.

Still, I won't ever apologize for being a blogger, or even (gasp!) a Mommy blogger. Nor will I apologize for speaking out loud. I prefer that label to being quietly desperate any day!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Fragments - Jan 8, '10

Do you know about Mrs. 4444 and Friday Fragments?

***I can't believe I forgot to mention here that the PTO Magazine article, featuring yours truly, is up! I was really pleased on how it turned out, and I hope that it benefits schools and their families.

***Homework hasn't been too bad since the other night. And Riley is excited to do her diorama book report, of all things. Hey, whatever makes you happy, kid.

***We're already planning our next trip. It's in Arizona for a family anniversary, but it gives me an excuse to hang out with Nat and her family so we're excited about that. And the girls are excited to go to another state.

***I haven't done any budgeting this year yet, but I'm pleased to say that I'm doing much better fiscally right now than I thought I would.

***I put pics of our trip up on FB.

***I'm excited that the girls are now old enough to come with me to DreamDinners. We have our first family outing there tomorrow. I'm thinking it will be hectic the first couple of times, but then it'll be nice to have help!

***Even though I've ranted quite a bit here this week, I'm really fine. The beauty of blogging: having this avenue really helps me to get it all out and then move on with my life.

***I watched Julie & Julia last night, and was struck by this impression that seems to be ubiquitous these days that blogging is a form of narcissism. While I can certainly see how it could be used in that manner, I'm having a hard time believing that all bloggers are narcissists. A separate post on this may be forthcoming.

***Just one more full week of work and school and then we get another 3-day weekend :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Apparently, I'm a national disaster!

I've dealt with this before, I'll deal with it again. In one of my email groups, one person decided to go against the grain of the group and talk about how marriage needs our support. (Oh, did I mention this was on the Alternatives to Marriage Project email list?)

As I think you all know, I'm not against marriage. I belong to that group and footloose femails not to BASH marriage, but to find like-minded people who have decided that we prefer remaining single. It's pretty hard, actually, to find groups for singles that aren't all about dating.

Now I'm not real sure why someone would be so concerned that marriage is dying. I know many happily married couples, saw a bunch of people getting engaged on Rockin' New Year's Eve, and have protested for people to have the right to get married! There seem to be plenty of people who want in on the action.

The reason they joined, it seems, is because they're trying to get federal funding to promote marriage. Because otherwise, you know, no one would do it. And AtMP is in the forefront of opposing that legislation.

So one of the people fighting for the legislation joins this list and says, "single parents and their children are a national disaster."

Um...excuse me?!? Hurricane Katrina was a national disaster. The jobless rate is a national disaster. The homeless rate is a national disaster. I am not.

At first, I was so mad that my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn't type. (And, at the time, I didn't know his agenda.) Still, I feel better now as one by one, we have proven all of his arguments false.

Of course, his biggest one is that children do better in 2-parent homes. Bella DePaulo has written extensively about the studies on this, and what she found is that children in 2-parent homes with a grandparent do even better. So what this really proves is that the more adults that love and care for a child, the better the child's chances are for success.

My daughters have two grandparents involved in their lives on a regular basis, aunts and uncles that love and care for them, the adults at their after-school program, Sylvia's former principal, friends of mine from work, their therapist and many, many more. I think they're okay.

The pro-marriage guerrilla states that juvenile crime is more likely to be committed by children in single parent homes. Juvenile crime takes place mostly between 3-6 pm, after kids get out of school and before parents come home from work. Provide more after-school programs (or keep them in school longer), and juvenile crime will go down - and not just for those children in single parent homes, but all "latch-key" children.

Interestingly, this came the day after I told a friend that my one and only regret was actually marrying X. Not being with him, mind you, but legally wedding him. It proved to be a very costly mistake.

This man claims that he wants to educate couples on marriage. As I told him, I hope that education is that of a legal one: one that lets the individuals know that what they are about to do is agree to financial responsibility to one another. That your spouse's driving record will be taken into account for your auto insurance, even if he/she won't be listed as an insured on that vehicle. That any bill your spouse will incur while you're married, whether or not you know about it, you will held liable. That should you decide to separate, you will still hold all of the financial and legal obligations of marriage. If that's what the funds were paying for, I'd be all for it.

But it's not. It's paying for billboards to promote marriage (because, sure, once I see a billboard, then I'll be dying to wed!), it's promoting marriage education in high school (oh, please don't talk to my daughter about marriage in high school! But you're welcome to talk to her about credit card debt!), it's to pay for even more studies to say that two parents are better than one. Because Ann C (or, as I normally call her, stupid f**ing c**t b***h whore) needs another book to release next year.

Again, I'm not against marriage. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm against it for me. But I'm not against it for everyone.

Still, I think this legislation is worth opposing for the simple reason that I can think of about 100 other things where that funding could go that would better support all children. Here's a partial list:
  • Public schools, of course. You all know how I feel about the state of education these days. We're about to start another budget fight. Putting more federal money in public schools certainly couldn't hurt.
  • After-school programs. You want to cut down on juvenile crime? Give these kids some place to go and something to do.
  • Child support services. Help the single parents get the money their children need.
  • Exempting single parents from being held financially responsible for their ex's debt. If you know Kori, you'll know that she's paying off her deadbeat's bills right now because they were incurred while they were legally wed. Given that he's not paying child support, and she's supporting her children on her own, I think the least the government could do is get these creditors off her back.
  • Give us our money back! Why in the world are you paying for billboards when you could be going after the banks that are now solvent!!
If you're happily married (or just contentedly married), if you're single (by choice or not), if for any reason, you're not cool with the government spending money promoting marriage, then please sign AtMP's petition.

This national disaster will thank you!

*edited to correct petition link

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ranting about homework

So we're all fine and all, just haven't been inspired lately. But today, I'm inspired to rant about stupid, pointless homework that makes me crazy and costs my daughters sleep. And my sanity.

Last night, we had the PTA meeting so we didn't get home until after 8 pm, and while they'd both done some homework at the Club, they had more to do. Riley had 5 pages (!) of Math homework. She was on the last page at 10 pm, and was starting to nod off, so I sent her to bed.

In the meantime, Sylvia was in the middle of the most insipid homework assignment I've ever seen. For each of her 25 vocabulary words, she had to do what I think they call step-ladders. Here's an example of what she had to write.


It took her nearly two hours (or, as she put it, the entire cast recording of In the Heights). And the last thing she wanted to do were the two extra-credit "bonus" words. I just wanted her to go to bed already. Neither of them were excited to get up and go back to school this morning.

This happened to take place on the same day that I received's email on homework. I should not have been stunned (but I was) to learn that the 10-minute per grade rule comes from absolutely nowhere.
“The source [of that figure] was a teacher who walked up to me after a workshop I did about 25 years ago,” says [Harris] Cooper. “I’d put up a chart showing middle school kids who reported doing an hour to an hour and a half were doing just as well as high schoolers doing two hours a night. The teacher said, ‘That sounds like the 10-minute rule.’" He adds with a laugh, "I stole the idea.”

He adds with a laugh?!? Well, thank you so much for taking this topic seriously, Mr. Cooper. It must puff your self-importance up sufficiently to read all the painstaking efforts that teachers and parents have been agonizing over to ensure that our students live up to your little joke.

I'm getting ready to throw in the towel, people. Clearly, nobody knows anything on how to educate our children in a manner that will best suit their needs, or our country's needs. Teachers' unions just want to protect their unions. Politicians only care about test scores. Parents are supposed to care just enough to make their teacher's copies, and sit back quietly, thank you. And students? Well, your life's destiny was pre-determined back in pre-school. You either went to the right school or you didn't. Welcome to the ranks of community college, then transfer to your state's university, then get an average job, and spend the next 15 years paying off your student loans. Oh, and it doesn't matter what you study or what you think you know. You'll do the position the way that you're trained to do the position because everything is on-the-job training and all the academics was just to make sure your resume didn't get thrown away.

I'm really starting to wonder why I care so much. Even if I do want them to think critically and for themselves, what will it get them in life? After all, it is their lives, not mine.

The night before last, I'd been helping Sylvia with her Algebra homework. I was doing fine keeping her on track until it came to some stupid word problem that she was to convert into an algebraic equation. I had no clue how to do it. She had to fly solo. So of course, I felt inadequate at that point. At the same time, I struggled through math throughout my academic career, and managed to find work that doesn't require me to do math.

Math has been Riley's strong suit, but this year, she's doubting herself more. It's harder, and she feels like all the other students in her class are better at it than she is. I did the whole, "all you have to do is your best, it doesn't matter how anyone else is doing." Didn't really help her feel any better, though.

What's the point of all this homework, all this time and energy we're all spending on it, if it just leaves us feeling inadequate, irritated and tired? Do I really care if either of them don't go onto a career in science or medicine? And why should I care when it's going to be up to them in the end?

The PTA meeting was great. But by the time I went to bed at midnight, I just wanted it to be the weekend again and the last thing I want to ask the girls about today is their homework!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

One of those mothers

What struck me most about See Mom Run were the confessions in a majority of the essays about a previous resolve that went by the wayside when reality set in.

We all hope to avoid becoming one of those mothers - whatever stereotype we're trying to avoid.

So here are my confessions of being one of those mothers.

I am one of those mothers that will put my child's hair in a ponytail to hide the tangles.

I am one of those mothers that put a TV in my girls' room because I couldn't stand to listen to Spongebob one.more.time.

I am one of those mothers that didn't attend Sylvia's Back-to-School Night because I forgot that it was that night.

I am one of those mothers that doesn't really enjoy playing games with my girls. They get way too competitive and fun soon turns to fight.

I am one of those mothers that let my middle schooler have a cell phone.

I am one of those mothers that yells at my girls sometimes. I've gotten better about this in the past year, but it happens. All I can do is what I can do.

I am one of those mothers that enjoys feeling superior to the families that appear on SuperNanny.

I am one of those mothers that will let the girls stay up past their bedtime so we can all watch Glee together.

I am one of those mothers that doesn't keep a spotless home.

I am one of those mothers that believes in picking my battles. I'll change the rules on the girls when I feel like something has to change. I'll let the girls watch SpongeBob in their room so I can finally get the living room back in order or do some laundry. Or watch a grown-up show with a glass of wine.

I am frighteningly aware of all the girls' imperfections, and my own. I am also aware that our time together is getting shorter and shorter. So sometimes I'll choose instead to just cuddle with them. To allow for singing and dancing around the house. I'll endure sibling rivalry because I know in the end, these girls will be each other's best friends for life, and they'll grow out of it. And I'll have too many hours to myself to clean the house without interruption in just a few short years.

In spite of all our imperfections, I'm one of those mothers that loves my girls unconditionally, and they know that in their hearts.

*This post is part of SV Moms book club.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My decade of Motherhood

My first daughter was born in 1997. In 2000, I welcomed my second. Ten years later, I have more than a decade of being a mother under my belt. And I don't feel anything like a veteran, even though it's the longest-running title I've held.

Back during Y2K, I was just about to start a new job. I was married, living in San Jose, mother of one. I thought my life was just starting to settle. Since then, I've had another child, moved to Pittsburgh and Rochester, NY, then left my husband and came home to L.A. to start again as a single mom.

Two years ago, I did not want to think of my life as settled at all. I could only survive single motherhood if it were just for the day.

Now, I hope nothing changes. Of course, as a mother, I know it will always change. These girls just keep on growing, and changing on me when I least expect it.

And now I know that nothing will ever make me feel that as a mother, I am settled. My oldest daughter used to just put on whatever clothes I lay in front of her. Now she spends hours fretting about what to wear, and if she fits in. While my younger daughter's hands still feel small in mine, her legs are longer, her mind is quick-witted.

They love me so much that they constantly test me. They look at me defiantly, they try out laughs and smiles on me, they try something new without me, then they run excitedly to me to tell me all about it.

I will never stop being blown away by how much I mean to them. Of course, they mean everything to me, but I didn't expect it to work the other way around.

They're in their room, playing now. I'm waiting it out until they grow tired of each other, as is bound to happen. I'll tell them to take their baths, I'll make their dinners, we'll watch TV later together. I'll kiss them good night, and tomorrow I will tell them it's time to get dressed, to eat their breakfast, it's time to go.

I'll complain about having to nag them to do it so often. And then one of them will make us all burst into laughter. And I'll love how little has changed, and how each development simply makes us all stronger and better.

This decade, my role as their mother will change dramatically as they go to high school, then to college or whatever comes next. I'll stay up late, waiting for them to come home at curfew. I won't have to get a babysitter to go see a play. I will have to focus more on training them to be less dependent on me.

But through the decade, and all the decades to come, I will always be their mother.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Jan. 1, 2010.