A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

Read the full story »

Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

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Articles tagged with: my story

Blog on the edge of oblivion
Monday, 23 Jan, 2012 – 10:58 | 2 Comments

There was a time when I wrote two, sometimes three times a day every day of the week. A time when life seemed a little muddled once in a while but mostly clear.
That time is …

How Debra got her groove back
Tuesday, 28 Jun, 2011 – 12:31 | 2 Comments
How Debra got her groove back

A funny thing happened on the way down the mountain.
Maybe the cross at the top triggered a religious experience, or maybe my brain lapsed into giddy euphoria due to oxygen deprivation. Whatever the reason, exercise …

Making up for a misspent youth
Thursday, 25 Mar, 2010 – 12:12 | 2 Comments
Making up for a misspent youth

It started a few months ago with just one “for the kids” – but, then, isn’t that what they all say.
Three weeks later, I went back for me but I was careful to obscure them …

Life after journalism: A year later
Saturday, 5 Sep, 2009 – 12:32 | Comments Off
Life after journalism: A year later

We’re sitting outside a Starbucks on a sunny Saturday, Dad leafing through the local newspaper as I mutter while my WiFi connection flakes out again.
The first article he reads is a piece by a former …

Stopping credit-card fraud by stopping credit-card use
Thursday, 27 Aug, 2009 – 13:45 | Comments Off
Stopping credit-card fraud by stopping credit-card use

Want in on a little secret about how your credit card company is going to guarantee that you won’t be responsible for any fraudulent purchases?
They’re going to do it by stopping anyone – including you …

The Big Move: Deal with the desert or it will deal with you
Thursday, 20 Aug, 2009 – 14:32 | Comments Off
The Big Move: Deal with the desert or it will deal with you

The guys were grumpy and so was my hair as we headed back to the hotel after our first day at Fort Irwin, a day spent running way more errands than fried small fry should …

Putting the aged clothes horse out to pasture
Wednesday, 17 Jun, 2009 – 11:15 | Comments Off
Putting the aged clothes horse out to pasture

Want to clean a closet quickly? Do it when you’re grumpy and clothes you’ve kept for no good reason for years will fly into the discard pile simply because you’re in the mood to not …

A night owl says learns to say hello to morning
Monday, 1 Jun, 2009 – 11:20 | 2 Comments
A night owl says learns to say hello to morning

My memories of life as a night owl date back to early grade school, when I’d lie in bed and gaze at fireworks from the county fair and wonder why I couldn’t be outside for …

One man’s junk is one woman’s precious memories
Friday, 29 May, 2009 – 10:09 | Comments Off
One man’s junk is one woman’s precious memories

I can’t explain why it started, but I can say exactly when it began.
It was on a trip to Phoenix while I was in college – my first venture west of the Mississippi. I wanted …

If only life acted like Outlook
Wednesday, 25 Feb, 2009 – 11:31 | Comments Off
If only life acted like Outlook

Did you ever wish clearing personal clutter were as simple as cleaning out your inbox every morning? Just click, make it go “poof” and send it to another folder where it can’t cause stress.
FDA hits …

Happy Valentine’s Day – ugh
Friday, 13 Feb, 2009 – 11:19 | 2 Comments
Happy Valentine’s Day – ugh

I’d screwed up, and Big Guy let me know it.
“Mom!” he exclaimed, pawing through a grocery bag of Valentine bling collected at school. “Look at this. Lollipops and candies. And all I gave the people …

Search is over for an effective alarm clock
Thursday, 12 Feb, 2009 – 12:15 | 2 Comments
Search is over for an effective alarm clock

I finally found a solution to my oversleeping problem: The Ultimate Alarm clock.
The Ultimate Alarm is not cheap: Delivery alone weighs in at thousands of dollars, and ongoing maintenance is pricey, too.
Nor is it compact, …

Big Guy’s hoop dreams, Mommy’s nightmare
Tuesday, 10 Feb, 2009 – 11:41 | Comments Off
Big Guy’s hoop dreams, Mommy’s nightmare

Diminished mental capacity is the only possible explanation for a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old kicking my butt around a basketball court this weekend.
Well, that and the fact that I’m a wretched player. Far worse than …

Nurse Big Guy to the rescue
Thursday, 29 Jan, 2009 – 10:05 | Comments Off
Nurse Big Guy to the rescue

It was a desk chair that did me in.
A friend gave it to me a few weeks ago after I complained that the seat padding on my 10-year-old model was uncomfortably thin. She had an …

Paperwork, karma and patience
Friday, 9 Jan, 2009 – 12:55 | Comments Off
Paperwork, karma and patience

I owe Big Guy’s school nurse a big honking apology.
No, that’s not enough. She deserves down-on-my knees groveling and a box of chocolates, too. Maybe even a dozen roses.
And I owe her a form verifying …

Call me the Queen of It Just Didn’t Get Done
Friday, 26 Dec, 2008 – 12:51 | Comments Off
Call me the Queen of It Just Didn’t Get Done

Feeling myself flailing about a week ago, I sat down and made my anal little lists. Three, which shows exactly how anal I am.

Christmas Day menu
Grocery shopping list
To-do list, with tasks parsed out between Friday …

The perfect presents — the perfect touch
Tuesday, 23 Dec, 2008 – 13:14 | Comments Off
The perfect presents — the perfect touch

When the box arrived yesterday, Dad hustled it into our bedroom, telling the guys it was a “shipment from his new job.” That’s been the standard excuse this holiday season, and the guys aren’t old …

Date night, the grocery store and ghosts
Monday, 22 Dec, 2008 – 13:39 | One Comment
Date night, the grocery store and ghosts

Everything was set.
A baby-sitter had agreed to take on the savage beasts, there were enough snacks to last until at least 8 and I set up the popcorn popper in case they ran out. The …

Noises off — WAY off, please
Saturday, 20 Dec, 2008 – 22:00 | Comments Off
Noises off — WAY off, please

I don’t know if it’s my advancing age or a latent mental defect soon to emerge.
Whatever the reason, I spent three hours yesterday in dead silence, and I couldn’t have been happier.
No TV. No phone. …

A 30 on a near-30-year career
Saturday, 6 Sep, 2008 – 10:04 | Comments Off

I’ve been through five “”last days”" in my professional career. I’ve survived downsizings, and I’ve been downsized. But I’ve never been through anything as wrenching as today.

It was departure day at The Modesto Bee, where I’ve cheered, cried, gloried and groaned as a mid-level editor for a decade. Ten newsroom employees were leaving — I among them.

I was the junior member of the group — one is younger than I, but she had more years at The Bee. She and I have spent much time since having kids hiding out in locker rooms and restrooms, gnashing our teeth at the frustration of being a working parent in a tough, tough business.

The wake was Thursday, when I went to lunch with two people I’ve worked with from the beginning.

We’ve spent hours querying databases for illegal campaign contributions –

Giving up the fantasy for the greater good
Tuesday, 10 Jun, 2008 – 6:05 | Comments Off

Working moms have strange fantasies. My most recent: Big Guy’s “dream” fifth birthday party.

Working moms who’ve been at this for a while also learn when it’s time to let go of fantasies that the reality of the 24-hour day render impractical. Times like this, when I have to make these choices, make me a little sad. But I acknowledge what a snappish grump I become when I’m overstressed and overscheduled, and I swore long ago to quit doing that to the guys and myself.

The party was to have been a Batman theme, of course. The gala would have opened with me as Poison Ivy welcoming the guests, then playing a DVD in which “”Batman”" asked Big Guy and his friends to help save him from my evil clutches.


From toddlers to teens, times for letting go
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 6:14 | Comments Off

Seems I have something in common with Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.

We’re both journalists — never mind that he has a Pulitzer and I don’t. Who needs it? It’s just more junk to gunk up the house.

We’ve both owned Nerf guns — except I aim mine at co-workers and he used his to chase monsters from underneath his daughter’s bed.

We’re both parents — except my oldest is on the cusp of kindergarten, while his is ready to leave for college.

Which brings me to the real connection between us — letting go.

He of a young woman. And me of my last baby.

I have it easier than he does right now, because I have a few more good years with the guys, when they still think Mom has at least some of the answers

Random thoughts at 44
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:30 | Comments Off

I had a birthday recently. No. 44, which also is roughly how many people asked me if I was turning 29 again.

Nope. Forty-four. Don’t you dare take away a single year. I earned them all, and I wouldn’t go back to 29 for anything.

I hated 29. No one believes you’re 29 anyway, probably because everyone walks around asking 44-year-olds if they’re 29. And your professional credibility grows exponentially in those 12 tiny months twixt 29 and 30. The “aw, you’re just a kid” remarks immediately cease.

I am 44. I am no longer a kid.

I still act like one at times. I eat ice cream for dinner on Fridays and know most of the songs from “Lion King.” I get to play with Play-Doh and color. For my money, “Max and Ruby” is the funniest show on television.

My body reminds me constantly, though, that youth has passed. A knee destroyed in a teen-age car wreck screams a little louder every day. The fine print is harder to read without arm extenders.

I am 44, and I am not their grandmother.

Boredom, take me away!
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:16 | Comments Off

It practically smacked me in the face last week at the gas station – no, not the sign that says, “please leave your first born as a deposit before filling up.”

I mean the monitor right above the pumps that loops commercials nonstop. Maybe it’s to distract you from the grand larceny you’re willingly submitting to. Or maybe it’s because we have grown so accustomed to being wired, connected, in touch and hooked up that the simple act of fueling your vehicle requires supplemental entertainment.

Blessed boredom, you are a lost art.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boredom lately, since reading a story about how afraid we are these days to be alone with our thoughts.

I couldn’t relate at all. You’re bored? You’re lucky.

Phoning in an end to an alarming problem
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:49 | Comments Off

I woke up this morning.

That in and of itself is nothing new – I try to wake up most mornings. It’s cause for celebration, though, because I actually woke up on time, after two solid weeks of oversleeping 10 to 30 minutes. Two weeks of rushing the guys through breakfast, teeth-brushing (sometimes) and out the door, pleading “hurry like you’re furry.”

The problem was so obvious, the guys had even started to harass me about it.

“You gonna set the alarm, Mommy?” Big Guy asked every night as I put him to bed.

“Yes, I am.”

“Set it for real early, like 1. And wake up”

“Set malarm, Mommy” Little Guy added.

“Don’t forget,” Big Guy warned as I closed their door.

Last night, I not only didn’t forget. I also added

The line between freedom and fear
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:53 | Comments Off

The story that made me want to throw up this morning:

In Vernona Beach, N.Y., 6-year-old Kayleigh Cochis died after she fell off a chair while trying to reach scissors on top of a refrigerator. The blades stabbed her in the neck. Her father was home, but didn’t see her fall.

Two things are certain about this stomach-turning tragedy.

One, the father will second-guess himself until the day he dies.

Two, a substantial portion of the rest of the world will blame him for the death.

That’s usually the case these days. Somewhere along the line, we stopped believing in accidents. Everything has to be someone’s fault, and it’s usually the parents’, even if the kid’s not a kid anymore.

I plead guilty, your honor
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:23 | Comments Off

Mornings are the worst for mommy guilt.

I tiptoe into Little Guy’s room and see his round rump up in the air – he sleeps on his knees, El wrapped around him, the stuffed elephant head and the curly blond one side by side. He’s so throat-catchingly beautiful that it causes the first knot of the day to clump up in my stomach. He’s just a baby. Babies deserve to sleep.

It’s dark, except for the nightlight, so I grope for his clothes, dreading the moment. No puttering left to do, I go to his bed and caress his back. “Hey, babes, it’s good morning time,” I whisper. He snuggles into my shoulder as I pick him up. No sign of smile until he’s diapered and dressed.

We head down the hall to Big Guy’s room, where the scene is similar. Except Big Guy knows enough words to protest. “No, Mommy, don’t wanna get up. Wanna stay home.” “Yes, love, so do I, but I have to go to work today.”

Big Guy can pretty much clothe and shod himself, but how quickly it happens and how snappish I get depends on how many times he stops to stare off into space. “Get your shoes on NOW or your feet are going to get mighty cold walking to the car,” I growl.

The cookie conundrum
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:07 | Comments Off

It was 10 p.m. Valentine’s Day eve, and I was having a stare-down with 48 naked heart-shaped cookies. They needed icing – pink icing to be exact, with pink and purple sprinkles, as per Big Guy’s request – for a preschool party the next day. But the question was, how?

I did some quick calculations. It takes two minutes per cookie to spread frosting with a knife. With a decorating bag, though, I could do five cookies in two minutes. Finish in an hour and a half, or take less than 20 minutes and get an extra hour’s sleep? Not a tough call – I was near brain-dead, but not totally gone. I hunted my kitchen stool (where DID I hide it from the kids?)