Overcoming the temptation to cheat
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:25 | Comments Off

My fingers trembled as I reached out tentatively, my longing gaze nearly igniting a fire. At that moment, I wanted this more than anything.

My mind rationalized at warp speed. What would be the harm? I’ve done it before and gotten away with it. Other moms do it all the time.

It took the last remnants of willpower to pull the Sharpie back from the calendar, where I was about to scrawl “off” across a day later this month.

I would not cheat on the guys.

It’s a conflict for many a working mom – what to do with a day off. I have an extra one coming up in a few weeks, for President’s Day, and I’m allowed to float it a month in either direction. It’s revived

Kindergarten decision weight goes to Big Guy
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:24 | Comments Off

His smile was wider than a kid at Toys R Us as he pressed his nose to the library window. “Look at all those books! Can we get some today?” Big Guy asked.

“Not today,” I said.

Before he could work up a decent protest, though, he spotted the multipurpose room and ran to leave nostril prints on that glass. “That’s the biggest stage on EARTH!”  he shouted. “Do you think I’ll get to sing there?”

“Wouldn’t surprised me,” I replied, invoking the parental non-committal committal learned long ago.

“Can I go see the teacher?” he asked.

“Not now. She’s busy helping the kids study.”

“Oh. OK. Mom, what’s ‘study’”

Thus began Big Guy’s journey to kindergarten, with our trip today to pick up registration papers. It’s an issue that’s pretzelized me

Product recall: Evenflo Discovery infant car seats
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:23 | Comments Off

If you’re relying on Evenflo to keep your baby safe, pull out those model numbers.

Friday, the government and the company announced a voluntary recall of 1 million Discovery car seats after tests showed that the seat could potentially separate from its base in a high-impact side collision.

The recall involves Discovery Models 390, 391, 534 and 552 manufactured from April 2005 through last week. If the description matches your carrier, you can call Evenflo toll-free at 800-356-2229 between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. west coast time, weekdays, or visit its website for details about getting an additional fastener officials say will make sure the seat stays on its base.

This is a voluntary recall, for a couple of reasons.

First, the base is considered a convenience. Technically

Tune torture for a cause
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:22 | Comments Off

With the guys, you gotta have a gimmick and, unfortunately, gimmicks have the lifespan of a housefly with them.

For two weeks, the chew-chew choo-choo was the perfect vehicle for chugging them down the hall and getting them going. It worked in the mornings and evenings.

Yesterday, boredom set in and it ceased to work at all. What to do now?

Fortunately, I remembered that it really annoys them when I sing. Not that I can blame them – at times, it’s hard to differentiate between me singing and the neighbor’s blue tick howling. Except the hound can stay on key at times.

Thus a new gimmick was born: Tune Torture.

Warning to any parent considering this strategy: I am not an international law expert, but I’ve heard Tune Torture

Easy-to-use car seat a myth, and the ratings prove it
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:21 | Comments Off

I’m from the government and I’m here to help you?

That actually happened today when the National Transportation Safety Administration unveiled a new way for parents to evaluate car seats – ease of use.

All the old standards remain – quality of instructions and labels and, the most important one, how well it secures the child.

Now they’ve added ease of use to the five-star system, in an attempt to tell parents how hard the seat is to install.

You’ll have to pardon my pessimism – I refuse to say “how easy the seat is to install,” because none is. Not unless you’re Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci. They’ve probably choreographed a floor exercise based on car-seat installation.

I am a smallish, fairly limber person, but my cute

The older child’s burden
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:20 | Comments Off

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bratty older sister.

My most famous stunt, the one that will be recounted at every family gathering as long as there’s anyone still alive who remembers it, was when I about 3 and decided to style my brother’s hair with Vaseline. That’s probably why my mom was stunningly unsympathetic when 1½-year-old Big Guy did the same thing with his hair – and his clothes, and his bed.

Still, for every time I was busted, there were almost as many when I was wrongly accused. Such as the tomahawk incident, which started with the poor victimized brother playing cowboys and Indians in the back yard. He let out a whoop and hurled a claw hammer. It stuck in

“Wife Swap” and the chaos of the middle path
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:18 | Comments Off

I would love to let Jennifer Galvan take over my house for a week, if for no other reason than to titter as the Clutter Beast cowered in a now-immaculate closet.

And I’d enjoy a visit from Melissa Martin-Portala, because it’s always nice to have a refresher in the joys of childhood, to see people play with the guys in ways I’ve either never thought of or forgotten in the midst of the day-to-day grind.

Galvan, a Modesto working mom was sent to the Martin-Portala household in Toledo, Ohio, where the whole family supports dad’s career as a magician. The results will air tonight on the television show “Wife Swap.”

I suspect I could learn a lot from both women. But could

The guys and new customer service standards
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:17 | Comments Off

Note to self: Find a new exterminator.

The current one has been tried, sentenced and executed in a court of mom for high crimes against the guys.

The offense: Failing to react appropriately last week when Big Guy doled out one of his treasured Disney stickers in honor of a job well done. Instead of smiling as if someone had handed him a winning lottery ticket, this man said, “That’s for Christmas. Why would I want that?”

The furnace repairman the week before knew why. He grinned broadly and even let Big Guy put the sticker on his cell phone. “Thank you, buddy!”

I really wouldn’t be as capricious as to ax the exterminator over something so trivial – not, at least, until the latest ant outbreak quits breaking.


Big Guy meets his romantic rival
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:16 | Comments Off

She’s a raven-haired beauty whose soft brown eyes and gentle spirit caught Big Guy’s eye before he could even focus. And she, an 11-year-old who’d never much cared for babies, was smitten with his exuberant goofiness.

And so it was for four years with these polar opposite kindred souls.

He’d rush to her side the second she was in sight. They’d disappear into her room, playing KoRn CDs and giggling for ages. She entered a Goth phase; his favorite color became black. She had a Jonathan Davis birthday cake; he wanted an “On David” birthday cake, too. Her cell phone ring tone said, “Hello, Moto!” and that was Big Guy’s first intelligible phrase.

We always knew, of course, that the day would come when Big Guy’s First Love

The night stalker
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:15 | Comments Off

One hour, 11 minutes: A personal record tonight for Little Guy.

Not a household record, however. Big Guy once fought sleep for three hours. That was a special case, though – the eve of his third birthday, plus one of my sisters was visiting, so he had someone new to entertain.

We’re in week two of Operation Sleep Deprivation, with Little Guy showing far more stamina than I’d previously given him credit for. It’s just a phase, I keep reminding myself. It can’t last much longer. Can it?

I thought last night was rock bottom, when he bounced out of bed three times to lie in front of his door and cry. To make it worse, I was trying to cook tonight’s dinner at the time. Every tried

Undecking the halls of holiday busy-ness
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:14 | Comments Off

‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the land, the pressure was mounting – almost more than I could stand.

The guys were all nestled, all snug in their beds, while visions of disaster danced in my head.

Had a brief bout of holiday hyperventilation today, brought on by last-minute shopping trips. Yes, trips, as in two. One with each guy, to pick out presents for the other.

Big Guy finally has accepted my basic tenant: You don’t get to shop for your own gifts. He still has a little trouble buying its corollary — you don’t get to know what they are until you unwrap them — but his resistance is fading.

Little Guy wasn’t buying any of it, though, as he saw Mean Old Mom

In love with teacher
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:14 | Comments Off

There comes a moment in every boy’s life when he realizes there are other women in the world besides Mom. When he notices a certain lady with a certain light who outshines all others.

At the guys’ preschool, that moment comes at roughly age 2½, when Teacher L captures their attention.

The first six months of preschool, you see, are spent getting used to the strange new land, adjusting to the structure of “class time” and jockeying for position. Once that’s dispensed with, there’s time to fall in love.

It happens to all the boys at that preschool. The 4-year-olds in her class fight to sit next to her during lessons, and a chance to be by Teacher L’s side no doubt is more responsible for Big Guy’s

Martha Stewart caves in to Christmas kitsch
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:13 | 2 Comments

Dad tried to get a grocery-store tree past Big Guy this year, figuring he’d combine the ATM stop and the purchase. But Big Guy was having none of it.

“No, no, no. We have to go to the Christmas tree stand,” Big Guy insisted. “Kissmas tee, Kissmas tee,” Little Guy chorused.

They got their way, because on issues that really matter, I do that when I can. And to a 4-year-old and 2-year-old, Christmas trees are near the top of the really matter list.

I’ve always put up Christmas trees, even in the years I lived alone. There’s such peace in relaxing in the still of a cold night – often a snowy night back then – and gazing at lights.

Back then, it was white lights only. And

Conquering the “I Can’t Do It” syndrome
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:12 | Comments Off

I am about to enter the Mommy Guilt Hall of Fame, first ballot, unanimous vote.

I tricked Big Guy about his letter to Santa, and it’s bugged me for a week. How’s that for pathetic? I’m remorseful over deceiving a kid who was writing to a mythical character.

It was his first letter, you see, and I’m a sentimental schmuck about such things. It’s going to lead to an ambulance crew one day finding my body among piles of cake pans, cookie cutters  and memorabilia from the guys, but that’s the price I’ll have to pay.

At least, I thought at first it was about it being his first letter. I realized later that it’s about a mom learning something important about her child, something I’m really glad

Why there are no more Lion Kings
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:09 | Comments Off

It’s a dark tale of a murderous uncle who denies his nephew the throne. Ghostly visions ultimately convince the prince to return from exile in a far-off land, goofy sidekicks in tow, and take back the crown.

This tale has gripped the guys for the past week. And if you’re going to be sentenced to seven days of home confinement, you could do worse for entertainment.

Hamlet? No, sillies. “Lion King.” It might well be the greatest animated movie of all time and the last one in the true Disney tradition. Everything that’s wrong with children’s movies today is right in this one.

It has everything – romance, action, drama. Its straight-to-video sequel is better than most of the schlock studios are cranking out today. I’d take the

Big Guy’s determined recovery
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:08 | Comments Off

Big Guy’s a battler — you can see it on the soccer field and in the “Piston Cups” he awards himself for every victory, real or imagined, over Little Guy and me. Until the past week, though, I had no idea just how much determination a scrawny little body could hold.

Big Guy had surgery last Monday for an umbilical hernia. I’d long known the day was coming. The hernia was roughly the size of a golf ball when it ballooned out after his cord fell off. While the gap’s narrowed in recent years, he still had  a thumb-sized whole in his abdominal wall and an elephant trunk where a belly button should be.

It wasn’t a life-threatening condition, and it wasn’t major surgery – it took

He ain’t heavy. He’s my budder
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:07 | Comments Off

The second we found out Little Guy was a guy, I steeled myself for sibling rivalry of epic proportions.

In this corner, Big Guy: As the oldest son of an only son and the oldest grandson, he holds a hallowed position in the paternal side’s pecking order. The world had been his for almost two years, until along came …

Little Guy: Despite his early laid-back attitude, he’d have to be robotic not to start giving it back to his brother.

And so it devolved to this:

Big Guy developing an immediate and intense interest in any toy Little Guy had and grabbing it, just because he had the size advantage and could.

Little Guy sauntering up and thumping Big Guy on the back, just because he was occupying space.


Yes, he does windows
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:06 | Comments Off

Anyone know where the nearest center for genetic research is? Stanford, maybe?

Because experts need to examine Big Guy. He’s displaying behavior that definitely doesn’t come from Dad or me.

Seems the boy loves to clean. It goes way beyond the usual kiddy “aw, aren’t they cute standing tip-toe on the stool washing dishes” stuff. The past two Fridays, he’s been dying to get home to clean.

It’s even more amazing when you consider that Friday is ice cream night, and he’s consistently picking hot water over hot fudge.

Two weeks ago, it was my car. “Mommy, it looks like a garbage can in here.” He had a point. “Let’s clean it out when we get home.”

Last week, it was the windows, every one in the house that he

9to5to9: Sharing Little Guy’s magic
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:05 | Comments Off

Little Guy started tentatively, teetering in his Thomas the Tank Engine sandwich board, one hand clutching his engineer hat and the other clutching mine as Big Guy scampered up the street.

Big Guy has two more Halloweens under his belt. He knew what the night is all about. Little Guy had yet to learn, so he was tickled just to be wearing his beloved Thomas costume, chugging up the sidewalk and giving it his best “woo woo.”

I would have been tickled to stay home.

I was exhausted after baking too far into the previous night – cookies and muffins for their party at school. I swore I wasn’t going to do that this time, but, because that’s what I do with every holiday and birthday

Big Guy’s autumn awfuls
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:04 | Comments Off

Big Guy’s Best Girl ran up as I got to the preschool this evening, yelling my name. She’s done that daily for the past few weeks – it’s a Big Thing when you’re a kid and learn an adult’s name. Except today, she looked serious.

“Debra,” she said, hands on hips. “He’s weird to me.”

I was afraid to ask, but I did. “How’s he weird?”

“He’s just so goofy! ” she giggled. Right on cue, Big Guy bounced up, doing his favorite new dance, the one that makes him look like Pinocchio without strings.

“I was nice to my friends today!” he whispered.

It wasn’t that way for a while. By mid-September, he’d realized that many 5-year-old friends wouldn’t be back. Preschool resumed, except it now involved sitting and

Read a blog, save a buck, trick a kid
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:03 | Comments Off

If you add mashed broccoli to macaroni and cheese from the start, your kid will accept that it’s supposed to be green. Until a baby-sitter screws it up for you, that is. Frozen spinach can be chopped finely enough that you can’t tell it from the basil in marinara sauce.

Pumpkin is a vegetable, even if it’s in a muffin or ice cream. It’s an easy switch to sweet-potato oven fries, especially if the fry’s sole role is ketchup delivery.

You’re not really lying if a kid assumes a muffin is a cupcake, simply because it’s in a pretty paper and has sprinkles on top.

A few seconds with an immersion blender and a dash of milk will quickly turn any soup into an acceptable “cream of.”

Take those

Whose purse is it anyway?
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:01 | Comments Off

A mom limped her way to Saturday’s soccer game, her flip-flop having flopped halfway across the parking lot when one of her kids accidentally stepped on it.

“Anyone have any tape? A safety pin?” she asked. I have all this stuff for the kids, she said, but nothing to fix my shoe with. Can you believe it, she asked.

Well, yes. I have a receiving blanket and a warm snuggly bunting in the trunk of my car, and I’m not even sure which kid they’re left from. Do I have any idea where my umbrella is? Let’s just say my current plan is to hope it really doesn’t rain tomorrow.

The sad state of the car doesn’t bother me much, because my automobiles always have been four-door versions

Picture perfect epiblogue
Sun, 1/06/08 – 21:00 | Comments Off

Little Guy was just not feeling it today.

It’s not that every part of Picture Day wasn’t a fascinating experience. The giant mushroom props were a blast, and “sneak behind the backdrop” was a great new game. And trying to crash into expensive photo equipment is always fun.

But when it came to actually sitting or standing still long enough for a picture — thanks, but not now. Big Guy, on the other hand, was angelic. Sat and posed nicely. The smile wasn’t even too goofy. Big Guy, however, is old enough to understand a bribe, and I was rolling out the heavy artillery. “If you be a good listener, we’ll stop by my office after pictures. And we’ll go to the donut shop after that.”

It was

I not a baby!
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:59 | Comments Off

The moment I’ve dreaded for 26½ months came at 7:16 tonight, and it shocked me down to my shoes.

“I not a baby!” Little Guy insisted.

This time he was talking to Big Guy, who had just insulted the burgeoning boyhood. “Here, baby” Big Guy said as he handed his brother a Popsicle.

I know it will be directed at me soon.

With Big Guy, it was cute and cantankerous the first time he said it. It wasn’t unexpected at all – Big Guy’s been cute and cantankerous since he drew his first breath. And with Big Guy, it seemed to take forever to get to this stage. Little Guy’s life, on the other hand, has flitted by in five minutes.

You watch words grow over the months, from gurgling

It stinks to be 2
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:58 | Comments Off

Three weeks into my career as a soccer mom, I was ready to call it quits. I’d had enough of the constant complaining at practice. The incessant crying during the games had flat worn me out. Forget the fact that we’d already invested $100. I just wanted out.

The problem wasn’t Big Guy. He’s taken to soccer quite well – even ran toward the right goal for most of the game Saturday.

I’m talking about Little Guy, who was crushed to the depths of his little soul because Big Guy could play and he wasn’t allowed.

To make it even worse, there’s a player on Big Guy’s team with the same first name as Little Guy. And for three solid weeks, every time a coach yelled, “hey, Little

Picture perfect? Not much of a chance
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:57 | Comments Off

I spent $39 Saturday, and I have no idea what I bought.

Oh, I have the vaguest of notions – two 5x7s, two 3x5s and 16 cute little baseball cards. There goes that dang weakness for cute again.

But as to exactly what the photos will look like, I have no idea. I was at work during the picture day portion of Big Guy’s soccer Saturday.

Which was probably a good thing. For one, it was pouring the rain most of the morning, and Dad got to suffer while I stayed nice and toasty at the office. For another, putting preschoolers before cameras always is dicey, and I’d prefer not to be around to see the train wreck. I’ll just write the check to cover the damage.

I swore

The little host with the most
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:56 | Comments Off

It started two weeks ago, with a package of discount-store napkins.

It ended Monday, with Big Guy falling to his knees on the sidewalk, weeping bitterly.

But this is not a sad tale. It’s a story of a little boy who busted his butt to make something happen. And it’s a story of a mom falling in love with her son all over again.


The napkins were a moment of weakness that broke several rules. No. 1, don’t buy it if it’s not on the list. No. 2, buy cute paper goods only at Big Lots or at end-of-season sales.

But for some reason – probably my weakness for cute – I gave in when Big Guy wanted the fall-color napkins. “Go ahead,” I said. “We can have a

The alphabet and the stinkin’ cards
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:55 | Comments Off

I should have learned long ago, sometime around the start of the Mufasa Bridge phase, to be careful what I start with the guys.

At least I can blame my lengthy detours to see the lions guarding the Seventh Street Bridge on an accident – we drove that way one morning to avoid a train, and I wound up taking that route for weeks. Even Little Guy joins in on the pleas – “Fasa Ridge, Mommy!” – and the only thing he knows about “Lion King” is “Thimba.”

This latest insanity, though, was a deliberate action on my part – one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time,” and it would have been if I’d just kept it simple.

But, noooooooooooooo! Instead, I