Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Friday, March 30, 2007


The definition of insanity

"I'm fucking Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life."

-a quote from a scene in the movie "The Departed"

I expend by tenfold, the energy it would take to just suck it up and make major changes, by continuing to turn myself inside out and right side in again waiting for change to just happen. Wishing that it would.

Is it stubborn determination? Fear of change? Ambivalence? Low self –esteem?

Or is it just because I'm Irish?

Monday, March 19, 2007


Twice the Sucker

Young Madge should be able to add “Big Sister” to her title sometime in late September.

This is not exactly breaking news, as I have had this little secret ferreted away since mid-January. I’m out of the gestational closet, so to say. I will be all about publicly harboring the fetal stowaway until said stowaway decides to meet the world, which includes a big sister, who has plans to name them “Beets”.

Speaking of Madge, she is two and a half in every way. Which means she is so exasperating I break into a sweat just thinking about trying to get BOOTS on her flailing feet, and alternately so unabashedly sweet and full of wonder, that I want to scoop her up plant thirty kisses on her cheeks twelve times a day.

We walk out the door in the mornings and she peers up into the giant maple tree in our front yard and exclaims “Look at the Bugs [buds] on the trees! They’re going to turn into leaves!” which makes my heart swell with love. Then she does something infuriating, like throwing a basketball down the driveway and subsequently, down the hill sending me chasing after it in my high heeled boots, swearing under my breath.

By the time I get her dropped off and on my way to the meeting I am late for, I am a sweaty jangled mess. The added bonus being that I also feel like the world’s meanest and most impatient mother, because I forgot to blow her a kiss from outside the window when I left (my in-laws later told me she cried because of this, and I wanted to impale myself on a rusty sword).

She pulls up a stool to “help” me in the kitchen. Help being a decidedly relative term. She helps me by dragging a chair directly in front of me, popping her small head between my arms from underneath, and obscuring whatever I may be trying to chop or stir. In turn, I help her by doing my best to prevent her from maiming herself with sharp objects and hot things. It seems to work for us, although it takes a long time to cook dinner.

She can identify approximately four thousand different types of animals in her giant animal encyclopedia (thanks Tiffany). She can identify everything from a pygmy marmoset to a spectacled bear to an okapi. It’s frightening, her talent.

While being admittedly impressed by her talents in animal identification, we are quite properly under-whelmed by her potty training Chutzpah. She has had one successful mission, which occurred immediately upon returning from Target with a bag full of chocolate chickies and lambs. I told her she could have one if she used the potty, and the second we got home she was all down to business, and we were all jumping and screaming and calling Grandma. And she proudly sat like a tiny queen, unwrapped her prize of high quality foil-wrapped chocolate and ate it, bit by bit.

Since then, she has shown no interest whatsoever. Apparently one trip to the mountaintop is enough for her. And I KNOW now, that she is capable because I saw it with my own two eyes. I suspect that she knows how much we want it, and this is why she’s holding out on us. She is drunk with power, and enjoying every minute of the irony her toddler table turning has to offer. We are slaves to her pottying whims and she knows it.

And yet, she is a sensitive soul who desperately wants her parents to be pleased with her. When we give her time-outs for explicitly stinky behavior for which she has been explicitly warned several times, she wails in despair and sobs “make me feel better?” And I count the seconds until I can free her from her self-imposed prison in the hallway, plant kisses on her tear-streaked cheeks, and wrap her up in a hug.

She is likely to spontaneously exclaim “I love you mommy. You’re my BEST Friend” at any given moment. And then I say “as long as you’re potty trained by the time you go to College, it’s fine by me. Want a chocolate chickie hunbun?”

Adding another child to this mix is an exciting and terrifying prospect. Keeping TWO kids in diapers ‘til they’re twenty is going to send us straight to the poor-house. What if I lose my mind and become crazy mom who can’t complete sentences and screams things like “OUT! NOW! YOU! SIT! EAT!”?

The thought of dressing two children and lugging them to the car and into their carseats every morning just makes me tired. But there will be twice the good things too. And I miss things like chubby baby thighs, and toothless grins, and holding a child that sits still for stretches of time extending beyond two nanoseconds. So here we go again.

I will be twice the sucker with twice the love and twice the exhaustion. And again, twice the love. Bring it on.

I think?

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A Tender moment

Last night, while preparing the evening meal of coarse brown bread and Johnnycakes (okay… it was quiche, really), the Handsome Dutchman came up behind me to place his hands on my waist in a loving gesture, a’la Charles and Caroline Ingalls wood burning stove foreplay.

However, because I didn’t hear his silent and stealth approach, my response was not a warm smile and a giddy “Oh, Charles!”

My response was more like this:



The Handsome Dutchman's eyes opened wide, and he slowly backed out of the room.

These are the moments we cherish.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Before morning's first light.

"Maggie has started getting up at the crack of dawn (6:00 a.m. in the pitch dark), dragging a stepstool into our bedroom and setting it up on my side of the bed to stand on, so she can stare directly into my face until I wake up. Sometimes I know she's there, staring, but I pretend I am still sleeping. Is that bad?"

A direct quote from an e mail to my friend Brooke today.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


When Good Praise Goes Bad

So THIS is what’s wrong with our kids today.

Alice, of Finslippy and wonderland recently posted an entry regarding a news item that reported an increase in “problem children” for which many sociological and economical forces were considered as primary sources of influence. The usual suspects are rounded up and blamed: Kids from dual income homes and the resulting lack of supervision, the media, and even feminism.

The real source of the problem might be parents tell who their kids how smart they are.

Is it possible that the real cause of this increase in “problem children” is too much praise?

Sounds suspect right? Well, I majored in Child Psychology, and after reading this article ( http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/index.html ) in New York Magazine, written by Po Bronson, I have to say, my opinions about self-esteem and praise of children completely turned around.

Thanks to a couple of commenters over at Mandajuice for publishing the link.

It turns out that telling your kid how smart they are can actually be bad for them.

Praise isn’t necessarily BAD. But giving your child general praise about their intelligence (for example: “You are so smart Timmy!”) may not be good for them. At all.

If you frequently tell your child they are a genius, they learn to rely purely on organic talent and just give up in the face of difficulty. In their minds, struggling equates to ignorance. They become fearful of losing the label of “Smart”, and in order to save face, they just refuse to try. Interesting.

Scientific evidence reveals physiological effects on the brains of children who learn to struggle to find solutions versus children who give up in the face of a challenge.

I recommend you read the entire article, but here are a few teasers:

“praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy.”

“The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.”

“image maintenance becomes their primary concern—they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.”

“without regard for effort or the impact of skill development based on a good workout of the old brain….The key is intermittent reinforcement,” says Cloninger. The brain has to learn that frustrating spells can be worked through. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear…..Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself.”

The Socioeconomic factors that lead many parents to charter dual-income territory does play a role in all of this. What I find the most interesting, is that the problem behaviors exhibited by children of dual income households don’t necessarily stem from hours of unsupervised delinquency. What seems to matter most is how PARENTS adapt their parenting styles to compensate for perceived shortcomings based on their time constraints which reduce the amount of face time parents get with their kids:

“Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.

Working parents may lay it on a little thick in the praise department in an effort to compensate for the lack of time they are able to spend with their kids. Apparently parents who go this route aren’t doing their kids any favors.

So, is all of the lingo about encouraging self-esteem a bunch of hooey? Yes, if you over-simplify (You’re a genius, Mary!) and leave out the parts about hard work and stick-to-it-iveness. A more effective approach is to praise them for the process (You really stuck with it! Way to pay attention to directions!).

The conclusion: Don’t tell little Sally and Timmy how smart they are unless you want them to end up as lazy ninnies who don’t even want to try unless they’re immediately deemed “the best” at something. Get specific about behaviors. Teach them that intelligence isn’t chiseled in stone, and can be developed by challenging ones brain. When they are old enough, a good study of dendrite connections and how they are made might come in handy.

Praise them for gutting it out, and show them that the difference between potential and success is often just a little bit of elbow grease.

And for the love of God, stop telling them how smart they are. If you really thought they were that smart, they’d already know it themselves. Right?