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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Dear Prison Slang Mommyblogger

Dear Prison Slang Mommyblogger,

We have hit the terrible twos and I need help! Our two-year old daughter recently learned how to climb out of her crib. When I try to place her back in for her nap, she hits me. Hard. I tell her “No!” in a firm voice, and she just laughs at me. How should I handle the situation so she stops hitting me and stays in her crib? Please help!

Frustrated in Poughkeepsie

Dear Frustrated in Poughkeepsie,

So your little jitterbug has the rabbit in her, and thinks it’s funny to split your wig. That’s off the hook, but you can handle it with the help of Prison Slang Mommyblogger!

Dig this out: when dealing with toddlers, you can’t be flipping the script. You have to be consistent, and stick to your guns.

If your little cell warrior continues to bug out, tell her in a firm voice that she needs to stay dead mouthed until she gives you a dime of flat time.

If she makes jackrabbit parole and gets on the bricks again, calmly place her back in her crib and explain that she needs to max out in the big house until you tell her she’s done with her flat time. Otherwise the bling bling will be rolling right back in to give her an LWOP. If she treats you like a lop and tries to sleep you, Give her one warning, and calmly place her back in the bling. You can give her a binky through the bean slot if you need to.

She might cry and say you crossed her out, but like I said, don’t be copping deuces. Consistency is key with toddlers. Put her back in the can until she stops buggin’ out.

If she calms down, you can let her walk down her paper with some cho cho in front of Sesame Street

That should get things stitched up for you.

Good luck,

Prison Slang Mommyblogger


So your child climbs out of her crib, and thinks it’s funny to hit Mommy.. That’s a tough situation, but you can handle it with the help of Prison Slang Mommyblogger!

Thy this: when dealing with toddlers, you can’t cave in. You have to be consistent, and stick to your guns.

If your little napper continues to throw a tantrum, tell her in a firm voice that she needs to stay quiet until her two minutes of time-out are over.

If she climbs out again, calmly place her back in her crib and explain that she needs to stay put until her time out is over. Otherwise Mommy will march right back in, and then she will be in time-out again. If she continues to disrespect you and tries to hit, Give her one warning, and calmly place her back in the crib. You can give her a pacifier in her crib if you want to.

She might cry and say it’s unfair, but again, it’s important to remain consistent. Put her back in her crib until she calms down.

If she calms down, you can let her finish her nap with some ice cream in front of Sesame Street as a reward for good behavior.

That should take care of it.

Good Luck,

Prison Slang Mommyblogger

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Santiago and his chicken

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher called my parents in for a conference.

She was concerned. I couldn’t count, she told them. Not even to ten. I was falling behind the other students, and perhaps I lacked the aptitude for kindergarten. I was the youngest student in my kindergarten class, after all, and maybe I just wasn’t ready.

My parents informed my teacher that I could count just fine. In fact, I could count all the way to one hundred. This confused everyone.

Why did I flat out refuse to count for my teacher, at the risk of looking like I was incapable?

I didn’t like her.

In my young mind, why in the world would I jump through hoops for someone I didn’t even LIKE? Who the Hell did they think I was anyways? Some kind of teacher-monkey trick pony?

I don’t remember WHY I didn’t like her. I have a vague recollection of feelings of residual bitterness over the fact that I didn’t get the pretty teacher who wore her long brown hair in a bun. My teacher had short gray hair. I was already predisposed to prejudice based on appearance. I admit it. I was barely 5 years old. Sue me.

Throughout my elementary school academic career, I flip-flopped between good years and bad years based on whether or not I liked my teacher.

In the first grade, I had a great teacher, Miss Kreevey, and I did well. In the second grade, I had an okay teacher, Miss Archibald (we called her Miss Itchy-boobs). My year can be summed up by one word: “meh”. In the third grade, I cried all the way home from the first day of school. I had been assigned the “mean teacher” Miss. Hanson. I was inconsolable. This proved to be my first lesson in forming my own educated opinions about people. Miss Hanson ended up somehow communicating to me that I was definitely not stupid, I just needed to TRY. And I blossomed that year into the avid reader I am today. That was a great year, because Miss Hanson was a great teacher, even if she did talk incessantly about her childhood dog, whose name escapes me now, which is driving me batty.

In the fourth grade, my happy school days and the learning that went along with them, came to a screeching halt. You know how Jerry Seinfeld can only speak Newman’s name with utter disdain? That is the only way I can even utter the name of my fourth grade teacher. “Miss Wenger” (hiss). The fourth grade brought with it the pinnacle of my academic trauma in the form of a year-long stand-off with the worst, meanest, nastiest teacher I ever had. She didn’t like me, and I knew it. Miss Wenger (hiss) SUCKED. She only liked girls like Jessica Rose, who had long hair, and perfect freckles, and wore pure white pleated skirts and new shoes, and probably bathed with regularity. If you could conjure up the image of a girl exactly the opposite of that, you would have me, in the fourth grade.

The fourth grade was the year of “Santiago”. “Santiago” was a story in our class reader, about a boy and his chicken. I spent the majority of my fourth grade year on the story on Santiago and his fucking chicken. I started out the year in the highest reading group. By the time I finished that goddamned story, I had fallen back two groups. Miss Wenger (hiss) would not let me move on to the next reader until the stapled packet of goldenrod paper with questions about Santiago and his fucking chicken was completed with no errors whatsoever. It will suffice to say that I was not the worlds most detail oriented child. She refused to educate me further until I had every comma and period in the right place. Reading comprehension, and the big picture, meant nothing to this woman. She was all about the details.

I turned the packet in, Miss Wenger (hiss) marked it up with her red pen and gave it back to me, and I erased my errors and started over. Repeat this scenario approximately 47 times over the course of 6 months for which I was kept inside for recess. When I had erased my wrong answers so many times that I created HOLES in the goldenrod packet for the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, I was given a new packet with which to start over. This was the only act remotely resembling generosity I ever witnessed from Miss Wenger (hiss).

I would like to say that I carry no hate in my heart, but I HATE Miss Wenger (hiss). She is dead. And I still hate her. THAT’S one for the confessional.

My mother, who is and was a teacher, had to request a meeting with this horrible woman to insist that I move past the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, thus releasing me from Santiago and his fucking chicken purgatory, to read a new story for the love of God. The reading packet for the subsequent story was mercifully NOT goldenrod.

The evil in this woman only found a new host in the form of our winter poem packet. Miss Wenger (hiss) assigned us the task of writing an entire book of thoughts, feelings and poems about winter. My first poems were written in neat letters, and went something like this:

“I like snow. Snow is nice. When it’s snowing, I eat rice.”

Towards the end, after I was forced to stay inside for recess for 2 months straight, the poems took on a darker tone:

“I hate snow. Snow is yucky and dirty. And I hate it”

This was scrawled, nearly illegibly, by a pencil in the hand of a very angry and frustrated fourth grader.

And that is all I have to say about Miss Wenger (hiss).

In a lovely bit of merciful luck, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Bevans, was truly amazing. She raised my broken self-esteem up about 25 levels and I will always love her for it. She reminded me that I was bright and creative and worth getting to know. God bless that woman. She was a gifted teacher.

This story comes to mind this week for a reason.

It’s time to leave the Hellish purgatory of Miss Wenger’s fourth grade class and the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken.

I am disappointed in myself for not finding a way to get past this habit I have of not performing to my full potential for people like Miss Wenger. I cut off my nose to spite my face, it seems, when dealing with the Miss Wengers of the world. But I have spent a long long time on the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, and it’s time to move on to happier classrooms. Because I know I can do better. And I don’t care to impress Miss Wenger, because I can’t stand her.

It’s time I moved on to a classroom more like Mrs. Bevans’.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Letting the cat out of the bag

I disclosed something very personal and very frightening to two mothers in two separate conversations this last weekend at the BlogHer Conference. I admitted what it has taken nearly two years for me to muster the courage to share.

Well that’s not really true. I made the same admission to a good friend of mine once, while we were walking, about a year ago. She had just had a baby, and because of that, I thought she would understand. I blurted it out, and my words were met with a look of sheer horror. My friend’s mouth gaped open, and she promptly slapped a hand over it. I quickly brushed it off with a “But I’m fine now”, and kept right on walking. I decided then and there, that this was something I was better off keeping to myself.

This weekend, for some reason, I shared the same admission with two women in two separate conversations. Neither one of them looked one bit horrified. In fact, both of them nodded in recognition, and shared their own frightening and personal experiences with me in turn.

When my daughter was tiny and helpless and newborn, I was afraid to walk by the butcher block on the kitchen counter while I was holding her. I was afraid that my body would involuntarily pull a knife from the butcher block and use it to hurt her. And I was terrified. I didn’t know at the time where these wild thoughts came from, but I know now. I was suffering from postpartum depression.

PPD is terrifying. I don’t think I have ever been as afraid of my own mind as I was in the first few months of motherhood. All my life, I knew I wanted to have children. When I was pregnant, I fantasized about what my daughter would look like, and how I would talk to her and hold her, and how I would do everything in my power to keep her safe and help her grow. I loved her long before she was even born. With all my heart, I wanted to adapt to my new role as mother with aplomb and ease. I wanted to feel a connection with her, and I wanted to do right by her, because she deserved all the love the world could ever offer up in a million years. I wanted to be a good mother.

But my mind was uncooperative and stubborn. It just wouldn’t work right. I didn’t feel connected to my baby, or to anything for that matter.

I dreaded the sunset every night. The impending darkness stirred up the very worst of my anxiety and panic. Every night at dusk, claws of terror gripped me until I was nauseated and shivering with cold. I sat on the couch next to my husband and sobbed. I sputtered things through my tears like “she deserves a better mother than me! What if she gets cancer? What if she gets hurt and I can’t help her?” And I would look at my tiny baby girl and just cry. I was inconsolable.

The thought that anything bad might happen to my daughter shook me to the core. Yet there I was, afraid to walk by a maple butcher block full of the gourmet knives I loved to cook with. It was not the knives that scared me. It was ME that scared me. I felt crazy and disgraceful and ashamed for even conjuring up such a horrible image. I didn’t trust myself, and wondered “What kind of mother THINKS these things?”

My worst fear was confirmed. I was a horrible mother. I had no business caring for an infant, and I was mortified by my inadequacy. I sank deeper into isolation. I was afraid of being judged an unfit mother. Instead of seeking out help, I dug my heels in, and attempted to muddle through. I refused to fail.

I didn’t seek out medical help because deep down in my soul, I knew I was not capable of hurting her. Looking back, I think it was very unwise of me to ignore those frightening symptoms of post partum depression. But I did ignore them, because I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t want to be weird.

At the time I really could not recognize what was happening. I thought that even if I had to fake it forever, she would at least have a decent parent in her father.

Depression is funny in that it’s very difficult to recognize when you are smack-dab in the midst of it. Two years distance has me looking back thinking to myself “knock-knock puddinghead! That was a CLASSIC case of Postpartum Depression, and you were taking an enormous risk, tackling that on your own.” But at the time it was terribly confusing and I kept thinking I just needed to walk it off.

It wasn’t until I started feeling better that I considered admitting there might be a problem. I have always been frighteningly good at faking it. Eventually, during a phone conversation with my mother, I managed to squeak out “I think I’m having a little bit of a hard time.” That statement alone seemed to set off a few alarm bells, and I started receiving daily phone calls from my mother and sisters just to check in to see how I was doing. As someone who has never liked giving any impression of weakness or neediness, it was really hard to accept that kindness and concern, but I will be eternally grateful for it.

I told my husband, about six weeks into it “If I don’t feel better in two weeks, I am going in to talk to the doctor”. Then it was one week. Then it was two days. By then I felt like maybe, just maybe, I was beginning to hit my stride and the oppressive force field I was trapped under was beginning to let up.

Things did get better. I gained confidence, and eventually I got to a point where I felt right, being her mother. One day I just knew with all my being that there was no one else in the world who was better equipped to take care of her than me. The love I have for that child knows no boundaries. It has seeped into every corner of my life. It has made me a more compassionate person. It has taught me to slow down and pay attention. It has helped me to be more forgiving, even to myself.

I am a great mother. I can acknowledge that now, with confidence. I didn’t always feel that way. I did not have a white-light moment in the delivery room. It took a little time for me to get to know my daughter, and to get my footing in my role as her mother. I know now what I didn’t know then. Once you fall in love with your own child, it’s impossible to un-do the power of that connection.

This is what babycenter says about post-partum depression:

Our society also makes it difficult to admit to having negative feelings about motherhood or the baby. When mothers do express feelings such as ambivalence, fear, or rage, they can frighten themselves and those close to them.

It was shame that kept me from seeking out help. Postpartum Depression is a physiological and psychological condition that deserves medical attention. I hope that sharing my story helps remove that shame from the equation for someone else. It was the courage of the two women who shared their stories with me that helped me muster up the courage to write about my own experience.

Postpartum depression can happen to anyone. Even the best mother in the Universe.

I would not allow things to get so bad a second time around. If I have another child, I will be much more aware, and much more careful. If that scenario plays itself out again, I will be on the phone to my doctor faster than you can say “anti-depressant” to get some help.

For anyone out there who might be struggling with Postpartum Depression, here are some links, and here are the symptoms, according to wellmother.com:

• Feelings of sadness or "down"-ness that don’t go away
• Inability to sleep, even when the baby is sleeping
• Changes in appetite – eating much more or much less
• Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
• Inability to concentrate or make decisions
• Inability to enjoy things you used to; lack of interest in the baby; lack of interest in family
• Exhaustion; feeling "heavy"
• Uncontrollable crying
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Feelings of hopelessness or despair
• Fear of being a "bad" mother, or that others will think you are
• Fear that harm will come to the baby
• Thoughts of harming the baby or harming yourself
• Thoughts of death or suicide

Please don't let fear or shame prevent you from recongnizing and treating a very serious medical condition. Postpartum depression can and should be treated.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The fourth of July week in numbers

I am taking off in my minivan with my sister Betsy, and my 22 month old daughter for a journey through Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

You think that’s crazy? OH I haven’t even STARTED with the crazy.

Behold the crazy:

Number of estimated hours in car with 22 month old: 5.5 hours each way

The year the cabin was built by my great grandfather: 1914

Amenities offered at the cabin: plumbing: 0, electricity: 0, phone:0. The cabin does offer 1 roof, 1 3-seater outhouse (also built in 1913, and yes, this is still the one we use), a wood burning stove, approximately 12 kerosene lanterns, and 1 propane powered refrigerator that works 42% of the time.

Things on which Miss Madge may maim herself: 11

These include, but are not limited to the following:
A wood-burning stove
A lake
An exposed fireplace
Kerosene lanterns
Mosquitoes large enough to carry her off
Long wooden stairway (christened by my cousin Kerry who tumbled down them bum-over-head as a tot)
A two-lane highway within wandering-off distance (just ask my sister Betsy, who was once toddled off when my [ahem] father was supposed to be watching her. She was returned by a nice man on a motorcycle shortly thereafter).

Number of bedrooms: 1 large dorm like area on the second floor.

Number of relatives sharing the two room cabin: 15

Number of said relatives who snore: 10 (myself included)

Number of dogs: 2 (we are leaving good dog and bad dog home)

Number of potential outfits required for a week in a place where the weather can range from 39 degrees to 104 degrees: 273

Number of hours of sleep I am likely to average per night: 1.2

Percentage of my being willing the weather Gods to smile upon us: 100

Entertainment options on a rainy day at the cabin: 1.
This options goes as follows: Crowd 15 people in the cabin to stare at one another. Follow Maggie from hazard to hazard in an effort to prevent her from burning her hands down to stumps and / or burning the cabin down with all 15 inhabitants trapped inside, while tripping over the feet of said 15 inhabitants.

Number of birthdays taking place up at the cabin: 1 (mine. July 1. Same as Princess Diana)

Number of years that makes me: 34

Ratio of women to men at the cabin (our people kill off Y sperm): 87% women, 13% men.

Number of times the screen door will slam shut LOUDLY: 4,392

Average temperature of the water in Lake Gogebic: 59 degrees

Decibel level of shrieks emitted after submerging onesself in lake Gogebic: HIGH

Amount of sheer joy created by the simple act of taking a hot shower, watching television, and sleeping in my own bed upon my return home: infinite and priceless.

I will post pictures when I return. Wish me luck. I think I am going to need it

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Pearls of wisdom

I promised a few weeks back to share with you the story of the godforsaken pearls.

As you may or may not know, I have three sisters. In an uncanny twist of blessed coincidence, we also have four cousins who are all girls as well. Our years of birth are proportionately staggered so that each cousin has a doppelganger cousin about the same age, except for the oldest and the youngest, who don’t have cousin-twins. But we still let them hang out with us.

All eight of us grew up in the same neighborhood and saw each-other often. The gaggle, in its entirety adds up to a total of eight grand-daughters bestowed upon the Grand lady herself, my grandmother, Margaret. In chronological order we go as follows: Julie, Meghan, Tiffany, Kerry, Molly, Shanna, Betsy, and Colleen. Let me emphasize that I am the SECOND OLDEST GRANDDAUGHTER.

Being the second granddaughter, one would assume that any coming-of-age gifts bestowed upon all eight granddaughters would come to me second. It is only right and just that it be so.

In the 1980’s, my grandmother Margaret went to China. When she returned she told us that she had picked up eight strings of pearls on her journey, and that in due time, we would each receive of one of them.

My sister Julie, the oldest granddaughter, received her pearls on her 16th Birthday. In fact, she was also taken to an extravagant lunch at the Woman’s Club (which was essentially a fancy sorority for old ladies who lunch). It was a big deal, apparently, to turn sixteen. I looked forward to my turn.

Two and a half years went by, and I eagerly awaited my sweet sixteen and the special days subsequent bestowal of the great and mysterious coming-of-age jewelry. My sixteenth birthday came and went with no mention of the pearls. I failed my drivers test. I had cake. We went up to the cabin. I was a bit disappointed, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, Grandma had a plan. I knew after all, that she had a necklace with my name on it. I was next in line. It was only a matter of time.

Or so I thought. Next came high school graduation. No Pearls. Not even a mention of them. I began to wonder if I had done something to offend Grandma.

I knew my parents had expressed concern on occasion, that they were raising a lost cause partying underachiever. I was pigeonholed as the family troublemaker at a very young age. My mother once asked me, point blank, if I did cocaine. COCAINE. I may have been a mainstay at our high school keggers, but a coke-head I was not. In fact, my friends would pass the little one-ie dugout pot smoking contraption right over me in the back seat when we drove around, skipping classes. I was sufficiently righteously indignant of the accusation.

Then I got to thinking. Had my parents misled Grandma into thinking I was some kind of a coke-snorting tramp? A coke-snorting tramp who didn’t deserve to have real pearls from China? I tried not to take the oversight personally, but try as I did, I couldn’t help but feel marginalized and judged unworthy. I plodded on into the college years. Pearl-less.

Time went by, and I grew to believe that my grandmother really did like me. In fact, she often seemed to like me a lot. Wasn’t I the one she jiggled her empty wine glass at? I can still hear her charm bracelet and silver bangles clanging as she wiggled her glass above her head, indicating it was time for me to fetch her a refill of white.

When we were on the dock, up at the cabin, wasn’t I the one she would prompt to go make her a sandwich? She sat on the end of the dock with her short legs swinging. Her small feet dangled just above the water, pants rolled up, and she would say: “Meggity. How would you like to go up and make me a nice roast beef sandwich on some of that good bread”. This was always issued as a statement, without the slightest lilt of a question at the end. The woman knew how to get things done, or rather, to get them done for her by peons.

I knew in my heart my grandmother Margaret liked me. She would say things like: “Meggity. You and I majored in the same thing in college: Having a good time.” Grandma knew how to have a good time. And being the kind of person who knew how to have a good time, she was good at recognizing the same quality in others. Grandma was also good at recognizing not only who made a good sandwich, but who was sucker enough to drop what they were doing and hop to it ASAP at her beck and call.

So my grandmother liked me. Yet, I was necklace-less.

Time rambled on, my younger cousin Kerry got her pearls for some milestone or another. And after that was Shanna. Then I think Molly got them on her 18th birthday. I can’t remember specifically how each presentation of the pearls went down, but I recall a Christmas incident in which the youngest grandkids got their pearls.

That left me. I had been overlooked, bypassed and snubbed.

I finally mustered up the nerve to ask what the frigging deal with the pearls was. It was at this point that I was given an ultimatum. You graduate from college, and you will get your pearls.


Let me get this straight. Every other granddaughter in the family had to do nothing but either turn sixteen or graduate from high school (which, by this time, I had done 6 years prior). What was with the strings attached?

And then it occurred to me. No one thought I was going to graduate from college. Insult, meet injury. Get to know one another, because you are going to be spending lots of time together.

I have a chronic history of disorganization. I have left many a task unfinished. Several of my teachers had my hearing tested in elementary school because they suspected I was deaf. My hearing was, and is, perfect. I just tune out a lot, and to this day, I spend lots of quality time knocking around in my own head and staring off into space. You might say I have a touch of the ADD. I have always earned high test score, but I was chronically inconsistent when it came to assignments and papers. These qualities made my schooling a bit of a challenge, as did my waitressing job and the hours I spent at the bars with my friends.

Apparently my parents and my grandmother felt that if I couldn’t muster up the chutzpah to finish those pesky last few classes at the “U” myself, that the string of pearls already bequeathed to every sister and cousin on the planet might be just the carrot I needed to get my bachelors degree.

They thought wrong.

I did, eventually obtain my degree. A Bachelors of Science in Child Psychology and Business and Industry Education, in fact.

Contrary to the opinions of several family members, I did not complete my coursework so that I could finally get the godforsaken pearl necklace. By the time I finally finished college, I wanted to take that stupid freaking necklace my entire family seemed to be flinging around like some masochistic version of “pickle in the middle” and stomp on it with all my might. I completed my coursework because I wanted to a piece of paper to show for the 6 years I spent in college. I wanted my bachelor’s degree because I worked hard. I wanted something to show for it.

I did not tell anyone I had finished school for a long time. I did not walk through the graduation ceremony. I stewed in silence for a month or two, and cursed the pearl necklace and all it represented.

My grandmother, who I loved dearly despite the pearl debacle, got wind somehow that I had gotten my degree. She gave me the pearls, and I have since blocked from memory the likely awkward manner in which I received them. It’s difficult to feel gracious when receiving a gift that is tarnished with disappointment and misjudgment. I am certain I faked it pretty politely. And I was always crazy about her regardless.

Am I still bitter? Moi? Umm, yes….er….No…Okay, yes. I am bitter.

The only moral I can see in my sad story, is that if you want something, go out and get it for yourself. This is good advice, which I exercise often. A person can waste a lot of time waiting around for things to happen for them. In this case waiting = bitter, and bitter = BAD. Very Bad.

Life is short, and nothing sucks the joy out of receiving a gift more than waiting around too long for it. So go out and buy that pair of shoes. Hell, get the handbag too. You deserve it. Tell the sales clerk Margaret sent you. And while you’re up, think about gettingsomeone to make a sandwich for you on some of that good bread.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


A long overdue letter to Miss Madge.

Dear Maggie,

In lieu of a second birthday letter, I am writing you a 22 months and 15 days letter. Because I am a non-conformist conformist who read Mary’s article, and decided it was high time I wrote about you for a change, because I really need to do more documenting of what the heck you are up to.

I often wonder if it’s normal to feel as separate from your own child as I do from you. I mean that in a good way. You are not an extension of me or your father. You are your entire own little person. You came into this world as your own Maggie, and every day I learn more and more about what you are all about. This is by far, the best adventure I have ever been on. You are proving to be a better child than I ever dreamed of. You are better because you are real, and you are you, and you are full of surprises and sweetness and wailing willfulness and cranky toddler irrationality. I am certain that I ended up with the best kid in the whole entire world.

Maggie, you have single-handedly taught me that life is best when you slow down and just enjoy the regular old pedestrian moments. Like when we wiggle under the sprinkler and shout “It’s WAINING!”, and sing songs, and get silly and goofy and dirty, and play “heart and soul” on the piano with your feet. Like this morning when I strapped you into your car-seat and you beamed and shouted “YAY! BUCKLES”! These are all moments well-spent. These are the scenes I will look back on when I am old, and on death’s doorstep, and wondering if I really lived my life well. I am storing these freeze-frames away in my mind so that I can play them over at the end of my life and remind myself that Hell yes, I really did live right. Thank you for setting me straight, Miss Madge.

Being your Mom is so much more than the picture I carried around in my head all those years before we finally became a team. It’s better because it’s real. On one hand it is flat-out hard work. Some days I admit that I feel isolated, and I want some time for me, with grown-ups, and that I need some peace and quiet, and perhaps a little more sleep. On the other hand, when I do get away, I end up missing you. When I walk through the door at home, I just want to see your sweet brown eyes and apple-juice cheeks and your exuberant welcome-wagon greeting followed by your signature abrupt rejection. You are all “YAY! MOMMY’S HOME! Okay that’s great, would let me get back to playing already? It’s not all about YOU, lady. Sheesh.” You literally push my face away from you with your hand. But I will not be deterred, little lady. No Sir-ee.

Every night when I put you to bed, we have to say goodnight to daddy, and goodnight to the fishies, and goodnight to the doggies, and good night to the ducks. Then I finally get you into bed, and lean in for a kiss and teeter on the edge of your crib with my feet dangling in the air. Next, we start the charade of me leaving your room. As I approach the door, you let out a big “MMMMMM!” which indicates you are ready for another kiss, so I hop like a bunny, back to you, and give you another one. We repeat this three times, with a few different moves tossed in for fun (like pirouetting from the door to your crib… that one is a real crowd pleaser).

I check in on you every night before I go to sleep, and each time I am alarmed by how big you are. It’s as though you grow an inch every time I lay you down to sleep. You are a giant Amazon of a toddler. I worry that you will end up to be 6 foot 5 and have to shop at special big-girl stores, and have size 14 shoes specially cobbled just for you and your giant feet, but then I think it won’t matter. It won’t matter because you are Maggie, and Maggie, you are the funniest, smartest, most beautiful girl I have ever known. Anyone worth their salt will agree with me.

Just last night you approached my open closet door with an eager, wide-eyed “OH WOW!” and proceeded to rummage through my shoes until you found the right pair to place your feet in. Then you clomp-clomped around the house in them, like you had been doing that your whole life. It was the first time I have ever seen you do that, and it struck me as the most quintessential kind of daughter-emulating-mother behavior. It reminds me that I need to be very VERY mindful of what kind of model I am for you.

You are obsessed with your aunts and your grandparents every dog and kitty you have ever laid eyes on.

You are in tireless, relentless pursuit of the contents of the drawer in the bathroom. It is your mission in life to un-cap any liquid-holding container from this drawer, and dump its contents onto the white carpet in your room. The other week, I noticed the house had grown eerily silent. I went room to room, looking for you. Upon my second trip to your bedroom, I discovered you had cunningly hidden yourself from view behind your crib so that you could suck on a tube of aqua-fresh toothpaste. As I approached you, you simply handed me the tube without protest or upward glance, as though in guilty acknowledgement of your busted covert toothpaste-sucking mission. I couldn’t help but laugh.

You also can count up to twenty and you know the entire alphabet, but I don’t want to tell people about that because I don’t want to brag about your accomplishments, because they are your accomplishments, and not mine. That, plus I don’t want anyone worrying that their child is not cutting the mustard in comparison to your obvious intellectual superiority and blinding beauty and charm. Those things will just be our little secret, okay?

Life is so much better with you in it, Maggie. I am so enthralled by the thought of watching you grow up. Thanks for being 22 months old. Thanks for being perfectly imperfectly perfect. Thanks for being Maggie.

Love, Mommy

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Not-quite pearls of wisdom

What’s more controversial than the mommy wars? The mommy wars combined with religious cultural wars and corporal punishment! If the web page you are viewing happens to melt your computer screen, it’s because the exponential synergy of the combined controversies up and fried your computer with the force of two small, but vocal opposing ideologies. If all goes according to my plan, these same opposing forces with also magically create such compression that your computer will turn into a big-ass diamond, and you can all sell it on e-bay and use the proceeds to take time off to finally write that novel that’s been bouncing around in your head.

I know a lot of great parents from all walks of life. These parents have varying beliefs, belong to varying political parties, and practice various non-Christian and Christian religions. Their disciplinary techniques differ as well. Some use time outs, and some spank their children. I consider them all to be good parents, and I respect their choices in how they raise their children. I do not agree with all of their methods, but I can agree to disagree on a lot of parenting topics, as long as there are no severe threats to a child’s physical and emotional well-being.

I can sympathize with parents who spank as a last resort. I know that certain kids are very difficult to get through to, and a swat on the butt sometimes does the trick. I know people who have threatened a spanking and then ended up walking away because they were WAY to angry. Spanking is a far cry from beating your kid with a two by four.

I mean, I was spanked and I turned out all-right! Just as my therapist! She thinks I am fantastic. Really, she just told me that last week.

All this controversy started, oh about the time the Bible was first written.

The article I read that started all this can be found here.This article details one man’s ideology and subsequent publications of said ideology in a book that subsequently created a large source of income for him. His name is Michael Pearl, and he is basically a guy who is a little nutty and a lot religious. He is also likely very rich, having sold a lot of copies of his book to a lot of impressionable parents.

"To Train Up a Child," was written in 1994 by Michael Pearl, who is a Tenessee Pastor. In his book, Mr. Pearl encourages parents to use physical punishment to discipline their children. He uses a lot of biblical references. I question whether hitting a child with a twig is really what Jesus would do. I do not recall any biblical stories involving the son of God, a child, and PVC pipe (or a sapling switch, mind you). But then again, I was typically daydreaming about cookies and M&Ms during biblical discussions in my religious classes as a child (CCD for those of you with a little Catholic wherewithal). I could have missed the part about Jesus beatin’ on children.

Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Pearl’s book, "To Train Up a Child":

Mr. Pearl says his ideas: "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children."

Sounds great! Here is my conversion plan: I will shriek “GEE!” and “HAW!” at my child and then whack her with the branch of a birch tree instead of offering a measly firm but gentle “No”. A firm but gentle “No” is for pussies. I will refer to my daughter from now on, not as Maggie, but as “Number 7”. I can do that. Good heavens, this is going to be so easy! And my kid will do everything I say all the time!

“Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Okay, so, if I have this right, if you teach your kids that the biggest bully wins, then when they are older, they will be successful in bullying anyone who is smaller than them, and whose parents read and followed the same book. Cool. As long as your kid is bigger than most, this will work for them. The problem is, there is usually someone bigger. This creates a conundrum for parents who wish to raise a “winner” of small stature. If yer kid can’t put up their dukes, the future does not bode well for them. Okay. There’s a wrinkle. But my husband and I are tall, large-footed people, so Maggie….um…. I mean number 7, will be high up on the food chain. I’ll take it (insert Randy Newman’s song “Short People” here).

In his book, Mr. Pearl also recommends:

"Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, 'No.'"They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence."

Here’s my two cents: Shout “LIFE IS HARD AND PAINFUL AND YOU WILL COMPLY WITH IT’S DEMANDS!!!” at your child thrice daily. That oughta do it.. Consider it extra-credit towards becoming an ultimate corporal punishment parenting champion. The parenting anti-pussy.

On a more serious note, one of this guys groupies took things Tragically too far:

“While the Pearls are well known in fundamentalist Christian circles, they were largely unknown to the secular world until March, when their discipline methods were tied to the death of a North Carolina boy and the alleged abuse of two of his siblings. The children's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, 45, a devotee of the Pearls' teachings, is currently behind bars. She is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 4-year-old Sean, who suffocated when wrapped tightly in blankets”
“ She is also charged with felony child abuse in connection with welts found on two of Sean's other five siblings. Nowhere in the Pearls' book do they advocate restraining with blankets; however, Sean's siblings had apparently been struck with a particular type of "rod" recommended by the Pearls: a length of quarter-inch plumbing supply line. “

All joking aside, this is getting pretty serious. An occasional and rare spanking is a far cry from serious bodily injury and death. It’s that fine line that gets pretty tricky to walk. The danger in publishing a book that suggests that God wants you to beat your children, is that if a parent is abusive and depraved to begin with, you are essentially validating their sickness by writing such a book. You just gave a sicko a green-light, from God no less, to inflict irreparable damage upon a child. Quite simply, it is wrong.

If my husband whipped me with PVC pipe, I would call the police, and they would haul him off in a cruiser with the lights flashing. I would probably flip him the bird as he was being taken away to the can. I would then take out a restraining order and get a good lawyer. A child is totally dependent upon their parents. What options does a child have when their parents whip them with a PVC pipe and tell them it’s because of God? In most cases, their option is to stay put and to get beaten. To suggest that such a thing is not only acceptable, but optimal, is unforgivable and sickening. My question is: Where is the outrage?

At the risk of offending any followers of Mr. Pearl, I conclude this:

I respect people of all religions. I know and love a lot of people who follow conservative Christian Ideologies. I bet a lot of them would agree with my next statement: Writing a book promoting violence to children in the name of God is pretty well fucked up. I chalk part of it up to laziness. It takes less time to smack a kid than it does to explain that they can’t have a cookie until after dinner, and then explain it again when the screaming and fit-pitching commences. But lazy doesn't begin cover it when a child ends up dead because your writings potentially encouraged a sick adult to inflict severe physcial harm onto an innocent child. Mr. Pearl your terds of wisdom are not so wise.