Tag Archives: parenthood

BABIES OR BULLDOGS?

sleeping dogs and baby

When I turned 40, I stood before my husband, a large box under each arm.
“Pampers or Depends, sweetie, you pick. But one way or another we are heading towards diapers.”

A few years earlier, I had lobbied for French bulldogs.  So cute!  But we already had a dog, not to mention my father’s 23-year-old incontinent cat (we get a lot of incontinent animals), and my husband’s response was…not really printable.

So, I moved onto kids.  That day in Wal-Mart when I showed him our diaper options, I think he was leaning toward Depends. We’ll never know; I started gathering information about adoption the next day.
I had always wanted to adopt. I’m not sure why, but for decades the desire played like background music in my brain. I knew my child was coming to me via adoption. Child. Singular.  Tim agreed to ONE CHILD AND ONE CHILD ONLY, either homegrown or adopted.  And then he wheeled and dealt:  “I will say yes to two French bulldogs instead of one child.”  (He was a little nervous about the parenting gig at that point.)  I don’t blame him.

When we were in our twenties, he wanted two children. We were living in apartments (not very nice ones) at the time, eeking out bad livings as actors/couriers/waitstaff/reception/whatever we could get. When he said he wanted two kids by the time he was thirty, I thought, Suuuurrrrre. As if I’d become a mother under these circumstances. There’s plenty of time for that. Career was still far more important to me than motherhood. I was still far more important to me than motherhood.

And then my own parents died. And my uncle. And my aunt. That left me and my brother. Today is, in fact, the 18th anniversary of my beloved mother’s passing, Z”L (may her memory be a blessing).  At that point, Tim had lived through years of cancer and hospitals and my grieving.  He’d been gentle and strong and present for me, but he was tired.  We both were.  We needed a break and to get our happier lives back.  But when my parents were gone, I was thirty-five, and I realized that being a daughter was one of my favorite things ever. No career could come close to that feeling of unconditional love. I wanted it again, this time on the giving end.

We waited and we talked and we wrestled with the idea of a baby (if you read Carolyn’s last post, you know I do not make decisions easily…although not about clothes, Carolyn.  Please.  Look at my wardrobe.)  Nonetheless, at the ripe old age of 42 and 4o, respectively, Tim and I started the adoption journey.  And magic happened.  The kind of magic I think only God can orchestrate.  Carolyn and I got both got babies, and our lives truly began to intertwine.

–to be continued…

–Wendy

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Filed under Adoption, friendship, parenthood

Middle School and Menopause

Whaddya get for Valentine’s Day?  I got a Renuzit Air Freshener, lavender-vanilla scent, from my 12-year-old.

According to Renuzit, “Lavender & Vanilla is the perfect scent to fill your bedroom, or any room in your home that is your tranquil haven.”

Awesome.  Just one problem: There no longer is a room in our house that is a tranquil haven, BECAUSE I HAVE A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD.  The child I have loved, liked, adored beyond all reason is now a middle schooler with this super power:  At one hundred paces, she can make her dad’s and my heads explode with the force of an M67 grenade.  Just by glaring at us.  This child who mere weeks ago prompted me to describe her as a big squishy heart with arms and legs, could now more accurately be likened to Rambo–with permanent PMS.

Yeah, you don’t want to cross her.  If you’re her parent, that is.  Her teachers continue to describe her as “darling…so sweet…what a dolly….”  And her new friends tell me, “We love her.  We LOVE her.  She’s so funny and SWEET.”

‘Kay.

This is what comes of waiting to become a mother:  Instead of the 30-year-old who would be calling right now to see if I’d like to sip a latte while we watch my grand kids make kissy faces at the warty pigs in the zoo, I am living in a zoo.  I can’t tell if I’m having hot flashes or my blood pressure has risen to a stroke-producing high.   Probably both.

I wish I could call my mother and apologize, but she passed away before Karma began to have its way with me.

Ah well, at least daughter No 2 is only six.  By the time she’s going through pre-adolescent psychosis, my husband and I will be too addled to realize it.  That’s one of the bennies of being an older parent–a total break from reality just when you need it (or, the wisdom to fake it).

Good luck to all you menopausal middle-school mamas out there.  Let us know how you’re dealing with it.

–Wendy

 

 

 

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children

Change of Life Baby

Kids, this is where Wendy comes into your Dad’s and my parenting picture. You see, before you were born, Dad and I didn’t think we wanted you. Remember, we were young. And brain-damaged. Anyway, we thought we wanted someone else’s kid. We weren’t sure that bringing someone with our chromosomal predisposition to lunacy into the picture was such a good idea. We thought, why inflict the world with more of…us. Why not give a home to a pre-owned kid? Didn’t that just scream altruism? And if there was one thing we cared about, it was appearing as if we cared about other things.

So, before we birthed you, we collected a ton of adoption data. Keep in mind, this was before the Internet, and we actually had to sit down and write with a pen and paper and use the U.S. Postal service and everything. But, as you know, that dream sort of fizzled when we decided that though the quality might not be there with a homemade kid, the price was right. So there you are. Literally.

One day, I told Wendy about my laundry basket full of adoption materials that we’d never be using. Since she and her husband, Tim, had wanted to adopt forever, I offered it to her. She took it and put it to good use and I got to live vicariously through her thrilling search. After all, I was so done having kids.

Then one day, Wendy called. It seems she’d been offered a baby through a private adoption. Squeee! I was over the moon excited for her.  An infant! A boy! He was so cute!  I’d be the best Auntie ever!

Now kids, this might be a good time to take a rabbit trail and talk about how Wendy and I shop. I am the kind of shopper who sorta knows what I want when I get to the mall. If I see it—or something vaguely similar—at the first store and it fits my body and my budget, I buy it, and take it home. I may look somewhere south of stylish, but at least the tedious search is over.

Wendy on the other hand, will go to all the stores, and when she can’t decide, will visit all the other malls. Usually, in less than a year or so, she will finally select a store, tentatively make her purchase, take it home, try it on, decide it is not right and return it.

Same thing with our writing. I’m a fan of the “lick-and-a-promise” school of editing. Wendy is more the considerate, “anguish-over-each-word” school.

I think that we can thusly surmise: I am an ill-dressed purveyor of schlock and she is a semi-nudist with a shelf full of writing awards.

So, I was not totally surprised when Wendy wasn’t sure if the baby she’d been offered was…hers.

Kids…it turns out the baby was mine. But that story is going to have to wait until next time.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Adoption, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, The Bi-Racial Family, Weight gain

Rosemary’s baby

Linda BlairOkay, kids, where was I? Oh yes. We were the first people to birth the perfect child. Clearly, she was so wonderful because we were the perfect parents. Waiting 16 years to have her had obviously mellowed us into a sweet and creamy perfection and our child could sense our superior harmonic waves and was thriving accordingly. And because she slept through the night right away, hardly ever cried, was endlessly amusing, we decided to give her a sister.

Whoa.

I sensed the difference months before she was born. Where my husband would talk lovingly to my belly with the first kid and she would gently stroke his nose through my uterine wall, the second kid would haul off and slug him.

She came out swinging and screaming and no amount of prayer or exorcism seemed to help. We’d failed. We’d lost our mojo.

The moment she was old enough for a toddler bed, we held a garage sale and sold everything ‘baby’. We were done. No more gambling with our precious sleep. Besides, I was 40. Having a baby after 40 was just plain crazy. I mean, that’s what you call a ‘change-of-life’ baby. A big fat accident.

So…what do you call it when you adopt an infant at age 45?

Kids, we’ll tackle that insanity next time. Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Older writers, romance novels

How Dumpster Kitty Made Me Fall In Love (Again…and again)

On October 29, 2013 our sweet Phoebe passed away…looking at Tim as she fell asleep, just like always.

In her honor, I’m reprising this article.  Thank you, Phoebe.

How Dumpster Kitty Helped Me Fall In Love (Again)

Once a Dumpster Kitty, now a Daddy’s Girl

 

            In a world of cat and dog people, I am both.  Marrying a man who loves animals was a no-brainer (and the inability to become absurdly besotted by four-legged children was a deal-breaker).  When I was twenty-three and met a man who was willing to carry a wounded bird two miles back to our house so we could call a vet and who took it upon himself to drive an especially huge black widow spider twenty miles outside of town so it could live out its life in a field, well…  Yes, Reader, I married him.

And then life happened.

When we were in our thirties, my husband helped me care for my terminally-ill father, three rescue dogs and my father’s twenty-two-year-old cat that regularly awakened us at six a.m. with ear-piercing howls to demand moist food and decided that the stroll to the litter box was too much bother, but that the bathroom cabinets would do nicely when he needed to relieve his pinhead of a bladder.  During a drive to the vet, Snowflake was on my lap, unfortunately facing my husband when he projectile vomited like I have never witnessed before or since.  Poor kitty.  Poor husband.

It’s understandable, I suppose, that Tim decided to take a hiatus from all dependent creatures at that point:  “You can have dogs and cats if you want to, but please do not involve me.  I’m done.  I’m not kidding.”

I was disturbed.  I was disappointed.  I was totally disbelieving that he meant what he said.  On the other hand, I, too, wanted a break from litter boxes and incontinent animals and things that could die and break your heart.

We still had a beloved dog, but decided No More Cats. Seriously. And, since I had adopted the dog, we’d consider her my responsibility.  Tim would be as free as that bird he’d rescued all those years ago.

And then came Dumpster Kitty.

DK lived in the basement apartment of the house next door.  Our neighbors there found her in a trash can and brought her home, but she was frightened of their cat (and of everything else animal, vegetable or mineral), so she spent most of her time alone under the stairs.  She was especially afraid of men.  When the couple who found her split up and the woman moved out, DK relocated herself outside to an area beneath the porch–in November, during a series of thunderstorms.  She emerged only to eat, darting out from her hiding place, her belly so low to the ground that her “run” looked more like a slither.

“I feel terrible for that cat,” my husband said.

“Well,” I offered, “the neighbor doesn’t really want her.  Do you—“

“NO.”

I hear ya.

When our neighbor went away for a few days and asked me to put our food for DK, I tried to befriend her, but she was simply too frightened.  I gave up.

One day, when I pulled up to the house after work, I saw my husband crouched on our front porch in a torrential downpour.  He was wearing a coat and there appeared to be something other than my husband inside it.

“What are you doing out here?” I called above the pounding rain.

“Shh!  You’ll scare her.”

Dumpster Kitty was huddled on his lap, her huge green eyes staring up at his face, one paw extending lovingly toward his chin.

“How long did it take you to get her to come to you?” I asked in amazement.

“Two hours.”

“In this downpour?”

He nodded, gazing as sweetly at the cat as she was gazing at him.  “She’s very gentle,” he murmured.  “We’ll need to take her to the vet.”

Dumpster Kitty was a year old then.  She’s twelve now, renamed “Phoebe.”  Our friends call her “Invisa-cat,” as she still has a tendency to hide and few people outside the family have made her acquaintance.  She is, however, quite the cuddler with us.  And her favorite place is still Tim’s lap.

Gotta love that guy.

Wendy

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Identical Cousins…And Sisters Of The Heart

DSC03559My daughter has lots of cousins.  Because she’s adopted, she’s not related to any of them by blood.  Most of them aren’t related to each other by blood, either.  Blood shmud.  I have girlfriends who are my sisters.  We give each other b-day cards that say so.  I would go to the ends of the earth for them, and they’ve already done the same for me.

Some of the cousins are the children of Tim’s and my blood relations and some are my friends’ kids.  I forget which is which.

When my daughter was five, Carolyn and her kids made a Cousin Adoption Agreement, signed by them all.  They’ve introduced each other as “My cousin” ever since.

…They’re Cousins, Identical Cousins, All The Way…

Recently, my DD (third from the right, above) called in a promise that she could get her ears pierced at age ten.  The night before, she decided to watch a YouTube video of a nine-year-old getting her ears pierced at Claire’s.  Big. Mistake.

“Mom, I’m dizzy,” she said.  The child turned whiter than I am, no joke.  “I can’t do it,” she cried.  “I wanna do it.  I wanna do it sooo bad, but I can’t do it.”

I told Carolyn, and the next day she and all her children were at Claire’s, holding my DD’s hands as she got her ears pierced…and learned that love lends courage.

DSC03563My “sister” Judy just sent beautiful earrings–and these days stays on the phone longer with my daughter than she does with me.

My “sisters” Su and Darla were the first people to greet us–at ten-thirty p.m. in a winter storm–when Tim and I got off the plane from Guatemala with our new baby.  Neither of them lives anywhere near the airport.

“Aunt Terry” and “Aunt Micki” are beloved in our home, their visits eagerly anticipated by all.

Sisters…Cousins…they come in all different colors, from lots of different places.

And thank you, God, for them all.

Who are the sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles of your heart?

Wendy

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I’d Love to Cook Something, but I’m COOKING

My family wants sweet and sour chicken, black bean baos, stir-fried veggies and fried rice for dinner.  Yuh, right.

It’s ninety degrees today.  They’ll be lucky if I unwrap the popsicles before I hand them out.

I used to revel in cooking elaborate meals from scratch.  Now I have menopausal ADD.  Midway through the Sweet and Sour Chicken, I will notice my Vegan Crockpot Cooking book and switch to vegetarian chili.  Or, I’ll do a load of laundry and forget that I was supposed to cook dinner altogether.

Pioneer Woman is not menopausal.  It couldn’t be any more clear.  She and all those other over-achieving bloggers who have made posting pictures gorgeous pictures–de rigueur  with their recipes, are just baffling.  IF I made a gorgeous meal, I would not be able to snap a photo before my family stuck a fork into the Four-cheese Porcini Mushroom and Smoked Sausage Fettucine.   C’mon.

Are these women really cooking for their families, or are they making beeeauutiful blog food, setting up lights and hiring professional photographers while their families eat Cap’N Crunch with Crunch Berries? … Hey, that sounds good.  Maybe I’ll slice a banana on top if the weather cools off.

ADD Moment:  Just checked my e-mails.  Carolyn is still in Uganda.  She says the food is great and that everything is mashed.  Mashed beans, mashed nuts, mashed bananas over brown rice.   Now that’s the kind of cooking I can get behind.  Maybe I’ll mash the popsicles and say it’s sorbet.

And photograph it, too.  Maayyyybe,

–Wendy

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I Can’t Find Carolyn

Carolyn has been gone over a week, and despite the laundry list of possibilities that could befall a post-menopausal woman in Uganda without a Starbucks, she seems to be doing fine. 

Better than fine.  I’ve received several e-mailed updates, and, in fact, there are baristas in Uganda, and they make outstanding lattes.  More importantly, Carolyn says that her work with Kuza has been life altering.  Her descriptions of Uganda are riveting.  To learn more about what she’s doing, I decided to Google KUZA.  Here’s what I found:

Apparently, the gentleman above is a musician named Mike Kuza, and I’m pretty sure Carolyn is not with him.  I don’t think we’ll know for sure, however, until she gets home and we check her for new piercings. 

Next, I found KUZA Beauty products.  They have 100% Indian hemp oil and Apricot Body Scrub.  Sounds good, figured I’d buy some, but I still don’t feel closer to Carolyn.  So, I Googled again and found

post4

THAT’S CAROLYN IN THE BLUE SCARF ON THE FAR RIGHT!!!!  Her daughter Maddie is in front of her.

If you want to learn more about this KUZA and what Carolyn and Maddie are doing in Uganda, go here:

http://kuzaprogram.org

What a beautiful, inspiring organization.  I’m sure Carolyn will tell us all about it when she returns. 

She said she feels like a changed woman.  I wonder if she’ll still want to write books?  I wonder if she’ll still be menopausal?

In the meantime, I’m home, cleaning my house, buying school supplies and thinking about adopting from China.

What are you doing with the rest of your summer?

Wendy

 

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Change A Life–Yours

For several months, I’ve been mentoring a young boy who is in relative foster care.  More on that in a future blog, but for now, I want to say simply that working with an “older” kiddo has been one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life.  He understands exactly how precious a family and/or mentor relationship can be and his gratitude for the time we spend together is matched only by mine.

If you want to grow your heart and spirit in ways you may never have imagined, MENTOR a youth in foster care.  It may take as little as four hours a month or as much time as you and your mentee choose to spend together.  There are some wonderful organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters to guide you.

Here in Oregon, we have Christian Family Adoptions and A Family For Every Child–both these adoption agencies have mentor programs and are eager to hear from adults who want to learn more about mentoring.

Most of you probably already know that Carolyn and I are adoptive mothers, so I want to touch a bit on adoption today, too.  Every now again, we’re going to start featuring on the blog kids who might age out of the system with no family unless someone steps forward to make a connection.  More details and statistics, too, in a future post regarding what happens when kids age out without a stable adult in their lives (unfortunately, it won’t be funny).

For now, there is a young man in China, who is about to age out of the  system there, which allows for adoption only until the age of 14.   He is blessed with a great foster mother.  He needs a permanent one.  

“Jordan’s” video grabbed my heart.  Take a look and see if he grabs yours, too:   http://coleman-bunkbeds.blogspot.com

Do you know anyone who might want a fantastic son?  If so, share the link.

Lot of love,

–Wendy

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This Is What 57 Looks Like–Sometimes

Would I let you people down?

Nick the stud

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In Whose Image?

Recently, my husband told me he is proud of his body, because he is made in God’s image.

God has man boobs?

Kidding, sweetie.  But we aren’t aging quite as well as some others.  Currently, we have house guests.  One of them is a 57-year-old man who looks like he is maaaybe 40.  If you cut off his head (but no one would, because it’s too cute), he looks twenty-two.

 For his 57th b-day, which was this past week, he swam 57 lengths of a pool, biked 57 miles, ran 5.7 miles (wimp), and did 57 crunches, chin-ups and other stuff.   ALL IN A SINGLE DAY.

I think he’s afraid of aging.  Obviously, I am not.  But I think that for my 52nd birthday, I will do 52 minutes of exercise a day all year.  Or bake 52 cupcakes all at once.  I have a couple of months to decide.

In the meantime, I am going to try to take a photo of our house guest as he gets in the shower.  I know that’s not polite, but for you, dear readers, I am willing to violate the Hostess Code.  Hopefully I’ll be posting his pic tomorrow.

–Wendy

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“I am so, too, old enough to date.”

So.  After my ten-year-old daughter announced to her friends that she was going to go on a date (“Dating in Low Heels”), she set about convincing her father and me.  We were a tougher sell.

“But every single girl my age has gone on a date already,” she argued.

“In Barbie Fairytopia, yeah.  You are not going on a ‘date.'”

“You guys are crushing my spirit.”

Woah.  First time we’d heard that one.  Had to give her props for outstanding achievement in manipulative skills.

“Define ‘date,'” I said.

“Well…we’re not going to kiss, if that’s what you mean.  I can’t even stand to watch you two do that.”  She shuddered.

After a great deal of discussion and assurance that the parents of her main squeeze were on board with a brief and thoroughly public rendezvous, we agreed that they could arrange a meeting.  The happy couple decided on the bench near the play structure at their school.  Recess, high noon.

The morning of the big day, she argued less than usual about brushing her hair.  Her socks almost matched.  And she chose a tee shirt with only one hole.

“How did it go?” I asked as soon as I picked her up from school.

“Okay.”  She shrugged.

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

“Uh huh, and what did you talk about?”

She frowned.  “Talk?  We didn’t do that.”

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

Time to put on the reporter’s hat, obviously.  “While you were sitting, did you hold hands?”

She wrinkled her nose.  “No.  Mom, c’mon, he’s a guy.”

“So, you think you want to date again?”

“I guess.  But this time, we want to invite more people.”

“Ah, a double date.”

“What’s that?”  I explained that she would have two more people on her date.  “Oh.  No, we want more people than that.  Like, enough for kickball.”

“Ah.  Good thinking.”

“Yeah.  So, see, Mom, I am old enough to date.”

Absolutely.  Last night, though, two months apres The Date, she told me she is through with men until she is at least fifteen.  “They’re too complicated.”

Indeed.

–Wendy

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Culture Club

My daughter and husband can entertain themselves and each other for hours playing “Snakebite!”  It goes like this: With their arms raised, hands curved like the heads of a King Cobra, they circle each other in search of a vulnerable spot to attack.  Head, ribs, stomach–when they find an opening, they strike, hollering, “Snakebite!  Poisonous forever!”  Good times.

We used to watch the History Channel.  Lately Wipe Out has become the TV show of choice.  And, yes, occasionally I pull The Bachelorette up on Hulu when no one is around.  (But only because I’m a romance novelist and I have to research.)

Thinking we could elevate our entertainment tastes just a tad, I got us tickets to a piano concert.  It was inspired.  What a fabulous event!  There was singing, too.  Glorious singing by celestial children with voices that made me weep.  As the show ended and the crowd filed out, the three of us–husband, daughter and I–sat, staring at the now empty stage.  On either side of me, they were silent, their jaws slack.

It worked, I realized.  We’re reborn.  Today piano concerts, tomorrow the ballet! 

Turning first to my daughter, I kissed her temple.  “How you doing, dolly?”

“I think I had a seizure,” she said, shaking her head as if she had water in her ear.  “I totally zoned out.  What just happened?  How much time passed?  Can we go?”

She’s ten, I told myself.  Ten.  She may not be conscious of the enrichment she has just experienced, but it will linger.  It will feed her for the future.

I looked at my husband.  He’s the kind of guy who likes to move.  All the time.  Yet there he was, sitting, still staring at the stage that had just held such beauty.  And he didn’t look like he’d had a seizure.  I took his hand and squeezed. He squeezed back, an excellent sign.

“What are you thinking?” I whispered, remembering the old days when we’d attend the theater and talk for hours afterward.  “Your first thought.”

“I’m trying to decide between hamburgers or Mexican food.  We’re going to stay downtown for lunch, right?”

I’m not kidding.  That’s what he said.

“Mexican,” I responded flatly, hoping we could discuss Dia de los Muertos or something cultural over Super Burritos.

I tried.  But I tried to instill us with table manners, too, and that got me nowhere.  Last night, they used their forks to tap out “Yankee Doodle” on their dinner plates.  At least it was musical.

Wendy

 

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Stayin’ Alive, part III of Krav Maga

When last we left Too Hot Mamas, they were in their free trial Krav Maga class, learning that, in fact, nothing in life is free.  Carolyn was bleeding happily and Wendy was preparing to kick the stuffing out of the senior lady who had been whomping her butt for the past hour and fifteen minutes.  Now you’re up to speed….

So, Ma Barker invited me to hit her first, instructing me to aim for the pad she was holding up by the side of her face and I who cannot squash an ant, I who have held funerals for birds I had no part in killing, I who am incapable of purchasing a pound of ground round without envisioning a cow mooing mournfully for her lost calf, I, dear reader, did not aim for the pad.  Oh, no.  After being sent flying by Ma’s skinny wrist more times than I could count that day, I discovered the true power of Krav Maga.

See, I think Israeli Street Fighting is designed to get you so pissed off you’d hit your own Bubbie while she was handing you a honey cake.

BAM!  I let Ma have it, right between the eyes.  She blocked (I knew she would…honest), but she wasn’t happy.

“We hit past each other,” she admonished.

“Really?  Sorry.”  WHOOSH!  I let one fly, right toward her shnoz.  “Sorry again!” I lied cheerfully after she slapped me away.  “I was trying to find my power as a woman and slipped.”

“That’s not how we do it.  Let me show you—“

“We’re almost out of time,” Mini Krav called from the front of the room.  Proof of a loving God.  “Line up,” Mini Krav instructed, “in the middle of the room.”

I shrugged at Ma and moved to the center of the room.

Cool.  This must be like in my daughter’s gymnastics class when the girls get stickers and a small snack after a job well done.

“Close your eyes,” Mini Krav instructed.  I thought that was cute.  They were going to surprise us. After the single-minded focus on maiming each other, I must admit this bit of after-class whimsy was most welcome.

Eyes closed, I waited, smiling, for my reward.  I could sense someone approaching very softly and held out my hand.  Ten very strong, very insistent, steel-like fingers curled around my throat.  Yeah, that’s right: my throat.  And they weren’t exactly massaging.

My eyes shot open.  Krav Maga Man, the surly one, the one who beamed at Carolyn once she started bleeding, was “pretending” to be an attacker.

“Break my hold!” he commanded, his dark eyes boring into my by this time bulging blue ones.

“What?”

“Do what you were shown.  Break my hold!”

Were we shown that?  Uhhhm…oh yeah.  Pulling back the hand I’d been holding out for candy, I grabbed his wrists and twisted.  Nothing.  Diving both hands in between his arms, I executed a quick hacking maneuver.  Nada.  I think his hold on my neck tightened.  I tried looking around for Carolyn, but couldn’t turn my head.  It was getting a little hard to breathe, too, so I rasped out, “I can’t.”

This seemed to disgust him.  “Use your strength and punch through my arms from up above!” he shouted like a good drill sergeant.

I did as instructed, wrenching his arms as hard as I possibly could.  He did not budge.

“I’m just here for the free trial class,” I gurgled in a high, alien-like voice, the only one I could squeeze out.  “I can’t break your hold.  Please let go.”

KMM rolled his eyes, but he released me.  It was a pity release, I get that.  Still, I was free and ready to collect Carolyn and her son and get out oft here.

KMM wasn’t done yet.  “Kick me between the legs!”

“What?”

Standing in attack mode, flashing irritation and challenge in equal measure, he growled,  “I let you go, now kick me to make sure I’m incapacitated.”

I shrugged.  “Sure.”  Balancing on my left foot (I’m really very good at that, thanks to yoga), I kicked toward his chest with my right.

He flicked my foot away like it was a fly.  “Not at my chest.”

“Well, where do you–  Oh!”  I giggled. “I couldn’t possibly.  I don’t know you well enough.  Shouldn’t you at least buy me dinner first?”  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

I won’t bother describing his expression; I’d rather not relive it.

I raised my knee and performed the maneuver, adding a hearty “MUH!” for good measure.   I’m sure he’s still having nightmares about meeting me in a dark alley somewhere.

Carolyn, her son and I left with sweat rolling down our faces and backs.  There wasn’t much talking in the car on the way home.   We agreed to try aikido next.  I agreed only to get them to go home so I could slather my body in Tiger Balm, slap a few Salon Pas on my lower back, and crawl into bed.

For the record, I would like to reply in advance and in public to my dear friend Carolyn’s next suggestion for a great adventure:

“Nothing doing, Lucy!”

–Wendy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Exercise, Health, Humor, Krav Maga

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

What do

 BILLY THE KID

SADDAM HUSSEIN

SIRHAN SIRHAN

ADOLPH HITLER

ROBERT GRAYSMITH (ZODIAC SERIAL KILLER)

MARC LEPINE(MASS MURDERER OF 14)

JACK THE RIPPER

LEE HARVEY OSWALD

JOHN WILKES BOOTH

JEFFREY DAHMER

CHARLES MANSON (CULT LEADER)

“MONSTER” CODY (L.A. CRIPS GANGLORD)

HAVE IN COMMON?

They did not have a father!  Here, at TooHotMamas, we salute:

OUR FATHERS (for keeping us out of prison)

OUR HUSBANDS (for keeping our kids out of prison)

And every involved father, grandfather, mentor, big brother, uncle who is making a difference in the life of a child.  Because, without your time, energy and love, this is what we are seeing:

Sad Statistics

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

Here’s to you, Dad!  Thank you and we love you,

Toohotmamas


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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Adoption, Dads, Fathers

HOW TO PICK YOUR HUSBAND

STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of late, my 8-year-old has been giving a lot of thought to marriage—and more specifically, to finding a husband. To wit: When her friend turned down several snack options in a row, El sought me out.

“Mom, she is a PICKY eater.  She’s going to have trouble getting a husband if she eats like that.”

And later:  “I think it would be good to know geometry before you try to get a husband, because…” She pondered.  “Because then you’d both know it.”

Right-o.  I mean, I’m not sure that both people knowing the difference between an acute and an obtuse triangle would qualify as being “equally yoked,” but it couldn’t hurt.

El’s musings got me thinking.  I watch The Bachelor, I admit it.  And, yes, I disrespect myself in the morning, but I am fascinated by what young women and men assume will make a relationship work.  Two minutes into meeting the prize—AKA, the bachelor—beautiful, seemingly bright women are passionately kissing this virtual stranger and claiming they’re sure he’s the one.  By the end of the evening, these same girls are sobbing inconsolably, because the bachelor has given their coveted rose to somebody else

Well, duh.

To all past, current, and future ABC bachelorettes:  I’m going to give you a little advice, and you should take it, because I’m a romance novelist, and I know about happily ever afters.

When you meet someone you consider forever-after material, keep your lips clamped unless you are opening your mouth to talk.  To talk, ladies.  You will not know he’s the one for you simply because you feel goose-pimply after he kisses you and fifteen other girls at an alcohol-soaked cocktail party.  (I’d feel goose pimply, too.  Eew.)  This is romance 101: Save your kisses for someone who’s kissing only you.

From now on, I want you to heed the wisdom of my 8-year-old:  At the very least, find out if you both like geometry before you begin doodling your name together with his on a cocktail napkin.

I tell my daughter all the time, “Marry your best friend.”  At the moment she’s taking me literally and is considering walking down the aisle with one of her girlfriends.  “’Cause we talk about everything, and we could share the same wedding dress, and wedding dresses are very expensive, Mom.’”

I question the practicality of two women and one dress in the same wedding, but I appreciate that she’s budget-minded and, for the moment at least, wise enough to want to spend her life with someone she knows, likes and respects.

As for The Bachelor/ette, Too Hot Mamas must send the show to the front of its Doody Head line asap.  Of course, I suppose I have to walk it there myself.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Marriage

Doody Heads

I have been hearing about Voodoo Donuts now, for several years as it is one of Portland’s weirder tourist attractions. Because we had a fieldtrip to go downtown to Powells Bookstore, my kids talked me into a sugar fest, first. After all, we needed the energy to prowl Powell, as it takes up an entire city block. When we got to Voodoo Donuts, there in showcase was a giant, chocolate covered, cream filled…phallus. And, of course, my 13-year-old son wanted that. It was huge and he’s in a growth spurt. Luckily, he’s still relatively innocent as to the crudities of the world and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible. So, when, eyes shining, he pointed to the confection, I had to intervene, sotto voce, and ask the girl behind the counter if there were any non-penis shaped donuts that still offered the same ingredients.

HOW SICK IS THAT?

Wendy, I feel for you with the whole Ben and Jerry’s Shweddy Ball ice cream outing you wrote about in your last post. And now, Cock ‘n Ball Donuts from Voodoo Donuts? Is this advertising tactic supposed to tempt me? Aside from sounding vaguely diseased, odorous and bug infested, I ask you, what is the world coming to? Have we become a society that cannot consume our food and entertainment without referencing our crotches? Wendy and I have been talking, and are starting a list of Doody Heads who feel that the only way they can make money is to drag our kids into the sewer. And, before you call me a prude, just know, I’ve been to the sewer. Used to live there. It made me, and those around me miserable. I’m a reformed sewer rat and trust me when I tell you, life is better without all the sleaze.

I’m mad as heck and I’m not gonna take it anymore. Ben and Jerry’s? DOODY HEADS! Voodoo Donuts, DOODY HEADS! Somebody out there, offer me a Hero sandwich with a side of Good ‘n Plenty.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Writing

DUDE, THAT’S RUDE!

In an ongoing effort to transform our dinner table from a trough to a haven of grace and civilization, I recently purchased the books DUDE, THAT’S RUDE and TABLE MANNERS FOR KIDS (of all ages).

When gas is released during the meal and elicits cackles of hyena-like laughter from all present (except me, and kindly do not refer me to Walter, The Farting Dog; I’m not gonna laugh at flatulence when I have slaved over lasagna Florentine)…well, that’s when I think we’ve gone too far.

I decided to read aloud from DUDE over a dinner of spaghetti marinara.  I chose that entrée deliberately as our spaghetti feeds typically resemble the Brown Derby scene in I Love Lucy, wherein Lucy tries to manage giant balls of pasta or endeavors to suck up endless strands, and Ethel resorts to snipping the noodles with a pair of scissors.

With the book as a guide, I modeled twirling a manageable forkful lightly against my spoon.  Twirling—that’s fun for kids, right?

Apparently not.

“I can’t do it,” my daughter complained, letting her fork clatter to her plate.  “Not to be rude, but I don’t like spaghetti anyway.  May I be excused?”

“Of course not!  We just started eating.”

Tim patted her on the arm.  “Mom doesn’t want you to take a huge mouthful, that’s all.  Here, try this.”  He forked up a couple of strands, puckered and inhaled—with agonizingly slow glee—so that the spaghetti looked like live worms, attempting to wriggle away and splattering marinara along the way.  Now our daughter liked spaghetti.

I kicked him under the table.  “Let’s work on our napkins.  They should be placed on our laps–”

“I don’t have a napkin,” dear child pointed out, searching around her placemat.  “You never give us any.”

“All right.”  I got up, scrounged in a drawer and slapped a few wrinkled napkins on the table.  “From now on we’re using napkins, and they should be placed on our laps.”

My husband wiped his mouth delicately then tucked his napkin under his plate.

“Your lap,” I reiterated.

“It’s easier to get to this way.  You don’t have to reach below the table.”  He demonstrated.  “Besides, did you notice how I raised my pinkie when I wiped my mouth?”

He and our daughter proceeded to entertain each other by seeing who could keep their pinkies raised longest while performing various tasks, most of them not dinner related.  I felt a different finger trying to rise, but that would have been rude, so I practiced not speaking with my mouth full.

Flatulence and cackles followed.

It may look like I’m defeated, but I’m not giving up on those books or on us.  And if you think I’m being a stickler, invite my family to dinner sometime.  You’ll thank me.

Wendy

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Filed under Bathroom Humor, Children, Humor, Marriage, Motherhood, parenthood

A Fish Tale. The End.

You learn a lot about people when they are grieving for a fish.

After one-and-a-half years, at least nine lives and more medicine than I have ingested in fifty years on this planet, our betta, Bluestar, has gone to his reward.

When I say “our betta,” I mean, of course, the bowl-housed betta for which my daughter begged and pleaded and, not unpredictably, swiftly pronounced “kinda boring,” thereby bequeathing his care to my husband and me.  We thought he was neat-o.

Bluestar’s passing was not unexpected.  We had anticipated this moment for six months, which was when Bluey began to perfect his dead fish float.  Tim or I would wake up and shuffle to his bowl to feed him, only to find our blue-finned friend lying motionless on his side near his heater.  We’d gather the family around the bowl, say a prayer and plan the funeral.  Before we could decide which spot in the yard was most suitable for his final resting place, however, Blue would leap from his coma, take a crazed victory lap around the bowl and come to stare at us, his fins fluttering in what appeared to be piscine glee.

“Hey, lookit me!  Didn’t I look like a dead fish? Didn’t  I? Hahahaha!  So what’s a guy got to do to get a meal around here?”

As the months went on and Blue’s impersonation of Dead Mr. Limpet began to last longer and longer, he was less able to wring sympathy from his mourners.  Some of them, anyway.  Tim decided to hold his tears until we figured out a way to take a fish’s vitals, though he must be credited for continuing to search for new and better fish medications.

Carolyn, to whom I have turned for consolation and advice innumerable times in our long and enduring friendship is, I am sorry to say, crap at comforting the bereaved when they are grieving a fish.  Oh, yes you are, Carolyn.

Her kids had fish for years, and she gave Bluestar two of his favorite toys, so naturally I would appeal to her in times of concern:  “I think Bluestar is sick.  He’s growing white fuzz balls on his fins!  What do I do?”

“Take him to the vet at Wal-Mart.  Hahahaha.”

“I didn’t know there were vets at Wal-Mart.”

“Oh, sure.  You take in the sick fish, and they give him back–better than ever. Hahahahaha!”

“Where are the vets?  In back of the pet section?  I’m not sure our Wal-Mart has a veterinarian.”

“Wendy, just take the fish to Wal-Mart.  Your betta will live for years.  Hahahahahaha!”

“Carolyn, honestly, I don’t think our Wal-Mart—“

She made the sound of a toilet flushing.

Oh.  My.  God.  Without even a proper burial!

When Bluestar’s eyesight began to wane and he regularly over- or undershot his food, I bought a hand feeder.  Nifty little gadget, but it takes time and a lot of patience to get the hang of it, and Blue, as it turned out, didn’t have enough left of either.

Ironically, Carolyn was with me when I discovered, for the last time, Bluestar on his side.

Carolyn peered into the bowl.  “He’s faking.”

“He is not, not this time.”  I felt my nose begin to tickle.  “This is different.  This time he’s at the bottom of the bowl.”

“Wendy,” Carolyn’s lovely eldest daughter pointed out quite gently, “fish float to the top when they’re dead.  He’s probably just sleeping again.”  She said nothing about Wal-Mart, for which I bless her.

“Thank you, honey.”  I nodded.  “But Bluestar always did things his own way.  I’m sure he’s passed on this time.”  And he had.

After we buried the little guy, disinfected his bowl, toys and heater and packed up his belongings and meds up to give to some other family embarking on fish ownership, I began to contemplate our various responses to Blue’s brief-ish life.  I wonder if the way we each reacted reflects the fact that lately we’ve all given some thought to dying?  Maybe this is how we’re going to treat our own elder years, particularly when we come to the point where our mortality seems more imminent than philosophical.

Tim will be proactive but stoic.  Carolyn will request that her children set her off on an ice float like an ancient Eskimo, and you will hear the sound of her laughter echoing on the air.  I will be propped up with pillows, surrounded by costly supplements, squinting at my laptop and dangerously raising my cortisol levels as I Google alternative treatments.

It bears some thought.  Watching Bluestar live taught me how to enjoy life even when my bowl is smaller than I would like it to be.  Now his death is pretty instructive.

Our daughter, by the way, did tear up when she realized that her pet, the one she had chosen so painstakingly from all the many containers of bettas at the pet store, was gone for good.  “Is he really dead this time?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Do we have to get rid of his body?”

“Yes.”

“Is it gonna stink?”

“Not if we do it soon.”

“Can we have a funeral?”

“Absolutely.”

“And then get pizza?”

“You bet.”

“Goody!”

 

R.I.P. Bluestar

 

 

–Wendy

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Filed under Death, Humor, Pet fish

Boys are from Mars

Where is my nose?

     My 8-year-old son allowed his 13-year-old sister to paint his nails.  Why?  Wondered what they’d look like with red/brown polish.

Unfortunately, we have no polish remover.

Now, he has a sleepover date with the kids next door and no way to get the polish off his nails.  So, never one to be daunted by life’s inconveniences, he invents a story that will explain the rogue color on his fingertips and retain his masculinity.

“I’ll just tell ‘em that it’s blood.  You know, from picking my nose.”

I’m just so proud.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, The Bad and the Ugly

Teen Slanguage

Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck Dictionary offers a crash course in southern slang.  Here are a few of his examples that got me to thinking about writing a book of my own:

bay • ou (bi´-ü), v. and n. to purchase for another. “I just walked right up to her and said, ‘Hey darlin’, lemme bayou a drink.’
doo • dle (düd´-el), n. and v. a male person and his predicted actions. “Don’t even look at him, ’cuz that doodle kill you.”
tor • toise (tort´-es), v. and n. to have imparted knowledge or wisdom to a group. “That stupid teacher never tortoise nothin’.

As handy as this book no doubt is, a conversation I overheard in my car the other day has me guessing more American households could use a Teen Slang Dictionary

I thought I’d begin with two phrases that initially had me stumped:

1.  Annie Slike and 2.  iMall Ike.

Translated:

1.  “And, he said.”  (Literally, “And he is like.”)

2.  “I said.”  (Literally, “I am all like.”)

Used in conversation:

iMall Ike “Where?”

Annie Slike  “There?”

iMall Ike “Okay.”

Annie Slike  “See ya.”

We welcome your additions to Toohotmama’s Teen Slang Dictionary,  cuz iMall Ike excited about this project, no waddam een?

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

Pregnant with number 20

I know a lot of people think Michelle Duggar is a tad over the top by having baby number 20 at age 45.  But, as an older mother of only 5 children, I have to say I stand in awe.  I, too, had an infant when I was 45.  I gained 35 pounds with him, and he was adopted.  After the first week, I crawled out of the house and bought the book, What to Expect the First Year.  I was in peri-menopause and couldn’t remember what I was supposed to expect.  The book said, “Should be able to hold head up by week three.”   Uh…no.  I couldn’t do that until he was six weeks, and even then I needed help.  At week five, it stated, “Should be able to focus on, and pick up a raisin.”  Still working on that one, and it’s been 8 years, although I have mastered mini-Snickers.

After he was born, I decided to skip the whole infant thing altogether with my next bundles of joy, figuring I’d just go out and get a couple of darlings that were already able to fix their own breakfast, so we adopted through foster care.  Michelle, seriously, give it a shot.  It’s super rewarding and much easier on the body.

I look at Michelle and Jim Bob’s family and wish I had heard of them back when I was first starting my family.  First of all, they name all their kids with names beginning with the letter “J”.  As an older mom, I think this is brilliant.  I can’t even remember my name on most days so when my little darling holds up a drawing of a blob, I can boldly say, “Why J.J.! That’s an amazing…thing you drew there!”  Secondly, from experience, I can tell you that simply getting my hair combed on any given soccer or piano day is a major accomplishment and Michelle looks awesome.  If I’d birthed 20 kids, I’d look like Jaba the Hut’s ugly step-sister.  Thirdly, the fact that she has any kind of libido left at all is a testament to her supreme dedication to grow her family.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar take a lot of flack for raising and taking care of and an interest in every single one of their beautiful children.  I know a lot of parents who only have one kid who couldn’t tell you where they were or what they have written on their Facebook pages.  Would I recommend giving birth to 20 children?  Heck no!  But would I want to be a part of their family?  I’m waiting for them to discover adoption.  And, when they do, I want to be first in line.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Weight gain

BIG, BAD DOG. The End.

When last we parted, Buster the Giant Foster Dog had made clear that he didn’t like the new human mommy the shelter had chosen for him.  The day before I was supposed to wrestle him into the car to go home with said mom, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning certain that I was participating in a crime against the big, sweet, lovable  lug. Kinda like giving Orphan Annie to Miss Hannigan.

Unable to sleep, I prayed, turned on my computer and, voila–an email whose subject line read, “Do you still have the dog?” I didn’t know the sender, but several days earlier, I had sent an e-mail describing Buster to a dog-loving friend of mine.  Apparently, a gentleman who was fixing her computer “accidentally” read the e-mail and felt a months-long depression lift.  Get this:  He’d had a 100 lb pooch who had sat faithfully with him while he underwent chemotherapy.  Man and dog had adored each other and when the dog developed cancer and died the following year, the man was devastated.  Nothing seemed to cheer him up…until he saw the e-mail.

Well.

I phoned them first thing the next morning.  Certain this was Buster’s true family, I raced to the shelter, where the woman interested in adopting our  convalescent pal was supposed to be filling out her paperwork.  Ticking off the shelter and the woman more and more with every word I spoke, I nonetheless convinced them to give other Buster to the other family. Then I filled out the paperwork on the new family’s behalf (they lived five hours away), phoned them with the great news that Buster was officially theirs, and we had a tearful celebration on the phone.

All this took one and a half hours, during which Buster had been home alone.  He’d been home alone before.  This time he must have sensed something, because…

Oh, holy God in heaven.

In that exciting, celebratory hour-and-a-half, Buster, who had been resting in his usual tongue-protruding stupor when I left, had managed to rouse himself and rip my house to shreds.  Literally shreds.  Shredded curtains in the kitchen, living and dining rooms. (I hated those curtains, anyway.)  Shredded giant picnic basket containing my shredded knitting.  At some point he had climbed onto the kitchen counter and tore the café curtains, rod and all, down from the above-the-window sink.  Cushions had been removed from chairs.  A baby gate was thrashed.  Buster had been busy.  On the bright side, he was obviously feeling more energetic.

On the down side, I had to phone his new family to apprise them of this behavior, plus face my husband whose trust and faith in my judgment I had begged (yes, I’d actually said “have faith in my judgment”) prior to bringing Buster home in the first place.

Buster’s new family was easy:  “Oh-ho, our Bob did the same when he first arrived.  Managed to chew an entire 6 foot fence.  It’s to be expected.  Then they settle right in.”  (And do what?  Eat the drywall?)  Whatever, they wanted Buster just as soon as they could get them.  My friend Su and I loaded Buster (along with about half a pound of bacon as a bribe) into the back of my Outback and off we went. Busty didn’t make a sound.  With the exception of a brief round of projectile drooling (I hope it was drool), he behaved like a perfect gentleman.  If the drive went well, the hand-off to the new family was a moment of true heart, warmth and inspiration.  Hallmark for canines.  I left feeling mighty grateful to have been part of the moment.

My husband kissed me when I got home.  “You did a good thing.  I’m proud of you.  It would be nice to take a break now from fostering dogs.  For a while.  Okay?  I know you still miss Chauncie terribly, but–”

“Sure, honey, sure.  You’ve been so understanding and so tolerant of all the dogs coming in and out of here.”

“Well, it’s all over now.  We’re done fostering?”

“All done.”

He hugged me.  “I’m not going to miss the dog hair.”

“Me either.  I am finished with shedders.”    Buster’s hair had blown out in black tufts that clung like webbing.

So, we returned to our peaceful, dog-less lives.  I stared at photos of my dear Collie girl, the one whose passing had kicked off the round of foster dogs so I wouldn’t have time to cry.  I cried a lot that afternoon, though, missing her gentle licks, the way she cocked her head as she tried to understand her people’s silly babble, the charming way she protected babies.  There would never be another being as kind and sweet and easy. …

So why wait?  I had agreed not to get another foster dog.

Within a week, I had Autumn , who came to us from the Humane Society.  There was a sign on her cage that said, VERY NERVOUS LITTLE DOG.  Little?  Her paws were enormous, with extra toes.  Nervous was correct, though:  She was so scared in the shelter that she wouldn’t stand up in the run.  As for cars?  Pooor baaaaaby.   Such a shy, needy dog.

Who knew she’d hate cats?  Or weigh 65 pounds so quickly?  and no one mentioned that she’d blow her coat twice a year and shed continuously.  I didn’t know.  Honest.

“I’m not walking her,” Tim said when I brought Autumn home.  “I’m not  feeding her or buying Frontline or sweeping four times a day.  This is all yours.”

I agreed, hugging my new bff.

That was five years ago.  Tim has never fed her (anything but leftover roasted chicken, meatloaf and spaghetti…).  He doesn’t buy Frontline; it’s true.  When he sweeps, he just happens to get some of her hair along with the other stuff into the dustpan, and he only walks her because I look like I could use a break.  As for playing with her, I wish he’d rein it in; he keeps her up way too late.

Husbands, wives and pets…gotta love us.

Wendy

P.S.  Buster and his family are still doing great!

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Filed under Dogs, Humor, Marriage, Writing

PREGNANT AT FIFTY

Too Hot Mamas has an announcement:  One of us is pregnant.

I looked that word up, and the dictionary definition is:  Heavy with child, significant, expectant.  I, Wendy, am all those things.  At fifty-two and fifty, respectively, my husband and I are in the process of adopting from U.S. Foster Care.  Our daughter is delighted and very ready to share her life with a sibling.  My husband is as scared as he was the first time around, I am cleaning out the basement (nesting), and our friends are, variously–supportive, excited, confused and aghast.

I understand the aghast part; I really do.  Our daughter is pretty darn easy, a delightful child with whom we share a terrific relationship.  Our careers are in flux—not easy, not secure, not gifting us with financial resources to spare.  And, WE ARE IN OUR FIFTIES.  So what are we thinking’?

I have many responses, but it all boils down to this:  It’s important to have parents acknowledge your birthday with joy.  To know you can go “home” for Thanksgiving and every other holiday.  To know that unconditionally loving parents accompany your walk through this beautiful, complex, wonderful, treacherous world.  And, far more selfishly:  Becoming adoptive parents is the best thing that ever happened to my husband and me or ever will.

It boils down to the article below.  I invite you to read  about Steven K. Walker.  Whether you’ve ever considered adoption or not, or are a parent or not, his story is a wonderful reminder that the greatest “success” in life is loving someone.

Wendy

From Summer 2011 Adoptalk

by Steven K. Walker

Steven was adopted from foster care at ten. Below he tells of the events that transformed him from an abused child to a national adoption advocate. Follow Steven on Facebook at the official page of Steven K. Walker, Adoption Advocate.

“He’ll never amount to anything.”

Would those words destroy or motivate you? For me, the words simply seemed true; I should be a failure. Statistics would predict that I’m in prison, but that wasn’t my destiny, was it? Who can know for certain if I will amount to anything, and why would they say that?

My story started in August 1987 when Alice, a mentally challenged alcoholic, gave birth to an undersized baby boy (me) in Niagara Falls, New York. There was no father listed on my birth certificate; it could have been any of the men she brought home from the bar most nights.

From the hospital, my mother brought me to a filthy four-room apartment that had only one outside window. There was no crib or baby formula, so Alice fed me whatever she ate. I often slept on a makeshift bed on the kitchen floor while strange men came over to abuse and take advantage of my poor drunk mother.

In November 1988, Alice gave birth to another boy, David. He and I shared everything and it was great because David gave me the attention my mother gave to strangers. Soon, however, life turned into a nightmare.

Alice kept bringing home men and some of them abused David and me physically, sexually, and emotionally. I tried to protect David by hiding us under the kitchen table, me covering him, and a blanket over us both.

If we refused to get out from under the table, the men would swear, rip me off of David, and beat him. When I tried to defend David and fight back, they beat me even more severely. Though I don’t remember specific men, all the abuse is like a vivid Van Gogh painting in my memory that can’t be forgotten or erased. Inevitably it defines, in part, who I am.

Memories ate at me and made me second-guess everything. Was the abuse my fault? What about my mother-why didn’t she defend me against abuse that left me with a dent in the back of my head and hand tremors? Alice never abused us, but she did not keep us out of harm’s way. Later, I came to realize that it wasn’t her fault, and believe now that she tried the hardest she could to keep David and me safe.

Through all the abuse, I cared for David as best I could. I always made sure he was fed before I was. I made certain he had a coat to keep him warm during the cold winters. Soon I became malnourished.

David and I moved into foster care when I was four years old. With our things in black trash bags, we were shoved into the back of county cars, and said goodbye to our mother. It was confusing. I felt like a prisoner, but prisoners know where they’re going and we didn’t. What if we obeyed instead of fighting and hiding?

David and I ended up at a farm, with a mother and father who seemed nice. It was a hardworking Christian family who prayed with us before bed and got us up early to work in the barn. David and I did as they asked.

One morning, the foster mom assigned us to milk the goats. We didn’t understand why this needed to be done and were struggling to comply. The foster mom tried to make it fun by squirting us with milk from the goat’s udder. Unfortunately, the raw milk hit me in the eye. Six years and several surgeries later, I became legally blind in that eye.

With my belongings in another trash bag, I went to the next foster home. My third foster home was supposed to be therapeutic. The mother had a Ph.D. in psychology and was a special education teacher. She claimed she knew how to care for David and me, but also told us that she really wanted a baby girl, not boys.

Just when I started to get close to the father, they pulled the rug out from under me. They claimed that I was a bad influence on David and sent me away. David stayed behind.

From this home I moved to a Pennsylvania group home. At age six, I was the youngest kid there. We had to complete chores to earn rewards but no one taught me how so I often had to do chores over when I messed up the first time. The head of the facility told me I should never have been placed in the group setting.

Imagine my mindset. I was separated from my brother, lied to, and kept in the dark about my future. When I asked where I was going, the response was often, “Do you like ice cream?” People were saying they loved me, but then giving up on me in less than six months.

Next, I moved in with an older couple in Buffalo, New York. They made it clear they didn’t intend to adopt me; they were only fostering to get money for the husband’s heart surgery. I was eight, but was treated worse than the couple’s five-year-old granddaughter because I was “not blood.” This saying irks me. When humans get cut, don’t we all bleed the same color?

On weekends, I visited potential adoptive families-too many to count. They all gave up on me, even the three families who signed the adoption papers. My feelings of hurt and distrust grew.

Just before my ninth birthday, I moved in with a family in North Tonawanda, New York. I knew them a little from having been in respite care with them a few times, including a time when David was there because his family went to Florida. Before I moved in, the family sent me a letter with pictures of the family, house, and school. The letter ended with a question: Did I want to adopt them as parents?

I was hesitant to fall in love, but this family reached out to me. They wore patches to see what it is like to be blind in one eye. They put ice on their hands to simulate tremors. Still, I could not give in. I hit, kicked, spit, bit, and swore. I told the mother that I didn’t have to follow her rules because she was not my real mother.

Her response was always, “I love you no matter what.” She got to know me and saw my broken heart. She learned that I loved sports and invested in hockey goalie equipment so I could take shots at her whenever I was angry. Afterward, she would rock me in her arms, give me a freezer pop, and tell me she loved me.

The mother was always open and honest with me. She and the father tried to answer my questions as best they could without lying. Around the time of Halloween, after I turned ten, they told me that they would only answer my questions if I called them Mom and Dad.

On New Year’s Eve, Mom and Dad took me to Niagara Falls to see the ball drop. At the time, they said, “How great it is to be celebrating both our anniversary and our son.” The words caught me. I chose to be adopted. I got to pick a court date and even change my name. To honor my dad, I took Kevin as my middle name.

On Tuesday, April 1, 1997, I went into the Niagara County Court House as a foster child and came out as Steven Kevin Walker, son of Kevin and Jody Walker. It was a relief, though I still wish I could have been adopted with my brother.

Since my adoption, my family has grown to include another boy and six girls. I graduated from high school at the top of my class, was Student Council president, captain of the football team, and a three-sport athlete. At community college, I was in more than 20 clubs, served as an officer in the student government, and earned my associates degree.

Today I am an adoption advocate. I share my story in the U.S. and Canada, have been published widely, and have appeared on television and in videos. A man in Florida who heard my story donated more than 400,000 suitcases for youth in care so they can move with some dignity instead of having their things stuffed in garbage bags. In 2001, I helped write legislation to keep siblings together in foster care in New York State. In 2006, I got to share my story with then-Senator Hillary Clinton and leave copies of my speech with all 100 senators (including Barack Obama).

The message I hope to convey is: Don’t give up on us. You never know who we can become. Accept each of us as your child; I am simply your son, not your adopted son, or foster son. All of the adoptive families who stick with the children they adopted from foster care are my heroes! Walk in our shoes and you will understand; our love is deep and the best place we have ever lived is the place with the family who keeps us forever.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Motherhood, parenthood

Bad Dog!

All right, so where was I?  When last we left my story about Husbands, Wives and the Pets They Divorce Over, I had just brought home Rusty, the impossibly tall shepherd/giraffe mix who loved me to distraction.

Remember, now, he was a foster dog only, on leave from his stay at a no-kill shelter due to a leg injury and the fact that the other big doggies  were being unkind to him.

So, even though my husband had requested (picture a 5-foot 11-inch male walking toward me on his knees with his hands in prayer position) that I wait one year after the passing of my beloved collie girl before I grace our home with another canine, I figured a foster dog in need would be okay.

I introduced my husband to Rusty.

“What is that?” he asked.

“It’s Rusty.  He’s sweet and injured and in need.”

“Where is he injured?”

“His left front leg.”

“He’s not limping.”

“I know.  He masks his pain.”

My husband invoked the name of the Lord several times.

“How is Rusty with cats?” Tim asked, though, honestly, I have no idea how he got any sound out with his jaw so tight.

I recalled what the gal at the shelter had told me:  Dunno.

“Honey, look at him,” I said.  “You can tell he’s a gentle being.  A gentlemanly dog.  He’s innately calm.  And our cat is used to dogs.  Besides, he’s injured.  He’ll be resting a lot.”

“He doesn’t look injured.”

“That’s because he—“

Tim waved his arms, and I took this as a signal to quit while I was ahead.

So.  Rusty and cats.  Well, we’ll never know for sure how he would have behaved as our cat took one look—way up—at him and decided that summer was a fine time to camp outside.

My daughter and I (Rusty loved her, too) got the dog settled in, and everything seemed to be going quite well until Tim went down to the basement.  He was only down there about fifteen minutes, but that was enough time for Rusty to display his short-term memory disorder.  Rusty and I were in the kitchen when Tim started up the stairs.  I was facing away from the basement, but a sudden and intense growling made me whip around.

Tim was frozen on the staircase, stopped by Rusty whose every hair seemed to be standing on end, his impressive teeth bared and his growl most sincere.  The dog meant business.  No one was getting up those stairs.

“I think he doesn’t recognize you,” I explained above the snarls.  “Try to look more like yourself.”

“Are you out of your mind?”  Tim looked from me to the dog.  “That dog goes back to the shelter tonight.”

“But the other dogs intimidate him.”

I wish I could describe Tim’s face when I said that.

Anyway, Rusty was returned to the no-kill shelter where he quickly found a permanent home with someone who appreciated his body-guarding skills.

“No more foster dogs,” I swore/lied when I told Tim I was still going to volunteer.  “I’ll just walk the dogs.  Little ones.  With no teeth.”

And I did.  I walked a schizophrenic Jack Russell terrier, a one-eyed obese beagle cross whose head was bandaged from the fight he’d started with another inmate (probably Rusty), and a sweet elderly mutt that liked to stop every few feet and look at me as if to say, “Who are you?  How did we get here?  What are we doing?  Are we walking?”

And then came Buster.  Oh, Buster.  Buster was a BIG DOG.  In fact, he had the biggest canine head I’ve ever seen.  And big…something else, too.  I mean, really impressive.  He’d been recently neutered, but instead of deflating as expected, his…um…area formerly known as testicles had actually increased.  Lest you think I exaggerate, on one of our walks (he walked just fine, thanks) a car stopped a few yards ahead of us.  The driver turned around, pulled up alongside and exclaimed, “Are those real?!”

Please.  Assuming I knew where to get fake canine ones, why would I?  And yet this was not the only time the question was posed.  Buster started conversations.

It turned out that Buster was in need of a temporary medical foster home.  Honest.

To be continued…

Wendy

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The Food Network at Home

My family and I have become addicted to the Food Network.  Episodes of Sweet Genius and Halloween Wars find my husband and daughter glued to the set.  I simply cannot miss Chopped.

On Friday, I had the following conversation with my daughter as I set her dinner in front of her, or attempted to.

“Mom, serve it to me the way they do on Iron Chef.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tell me about the food when you put the plate down.”

“Ookay.  Well, this is a tortilla—that I got from a package—and I filled it with chili.”

“What’s in the chili?”

“Ground turkey, beans, tomatoes and a rich assortment of seasonings…I’d have to check the can to be sure.”

“What else?”

Seriously?  Generally if food is not televised, the child can hardly be bothered with it.

“Well, thinking the chili might be too highly seasoned for a young palate—“ I started getting into it, encouraged by her nodding  “—I added a dollop of sour cream to tone it down and stirred in a sprinkle of grated cheddar.  I warmed the mixture to blend all the flavors and then stuffed the tortilla.  On the side you will find small red chili beans, again mildly spiced for your pleasure, and brown rice with olive oil and salsa.  Please enjoy.”

I bowed.

“Thank you.”  But instead of digging in, she folded her hands on her lap and studied the plate.  “What I see is that you have a lot of brown on this plate.  It would have been better to use more color.  Red or green or orange.  A vegetable, perhaps?”

Get real!  When was the last time the child ate “a vegetable perhaps” without threat of losing Moshi Monster privileges for a week?

“And,” she continued, delicately tasting a corner of her Mexi-melt, “while the taste is quite nice, the presentation will count as fifty percent of your score.”

“Well, I’ll keep that in mind when I present your oatmeal to you tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, Chef.”

“Thank you, Judge.”

Thank you, Food Network.

Wendy

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The Girl With The Cat-In-The-Hat Tights

You know the ditty about wearing purple when you’re an old woman?  I don’t think we should wait.  I think we should chop up our Nordstrom’s cards (all right, full disclosure: My “Nordstrom’s” card says, “Marshall’s,” but you get my drift) and start shopping anyplace that sells white tights with bold red stripes in Queen Size.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life attempting to be appropriate.  If you are a parent, you surely recognize that word.

“Sweetie, it’s not appropriate to cartwheel during communion.”    (Or maybe it is?)

“Darling, it is not appropriate to see if a person can drink orange juice through a straw stuck up her nose….   I don’t care if your if your father is doing it, it’s not appropriate in a restaurant.   Tim, stop encouraging her.”

Of course I think it’s important for parents to provide a bumper, of sorts, along the road to their kid’s maturity, bouncing them back onto the path when they stray too far, but now that my daughter is growing up, I’m already missing her little girl ways.  A recent example:

She grew a few inches this summer, so I asked her to sort through her clothes and set aside the items she could no longer wear.  She came out of her room dressed in white tights with fat red stripes.  I hadn’t seen those in a couple of years.

“From now on, Mom, I want solid colors, not stripes or flowers.  It’s more grown up.”

“Okay.”  I sighed, thinking she looked so dang cute in her Cat-In-The-Hat tights.  “We’ll get solid colors.”

“Hose, not tights.”

“Ah.  Hose.”  I nodded, the sadness undeniable.

“Yeah.”  She looked down.  Gave her striped legs an affectionate stroke.   “I could still wear these sometimes, though,” she ventured.  “But just to special occasions.  Like weddings.”

“Yes, that would be awesome.”

Do you know of any weddings we could crash?  ‘Cause I really want her to wear those tights again before it’s too late.  I’ll be wearing a pair, too, beneath my uber-appropriate wedding attire.  I may have to paint the stripes on a pair of opaque white pantyhose, but I am determined to have Cat-In-The-Hat shins.  Now that I’m forty-nine with a bullet, maybe I can let go of the correctness of my youth.  Express myself more.  Fit in less.

Sign me,

The Broad With The Cat In The Hat Tights

Wendy

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Humor, manners, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, politeness, Writing

12 steps for menopausal motherhood

Wendy and I are starting a support group for menopausal mothers.  This was overheard at our first meeting:
“Hey, Wendy! How are you doing today?”

“Yes!  It is windy today!”

“No.  It’s Thursday!”

“Me, too.  When are those cheap hotmamas gonna serve the coffee?”

I think we’re making great headway.

Car0lyn

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Moms Say The Darnedest Things

Heard this week from my mom friends:

“If I see you trying to drown your brother one more time…”

“Don’t hit your sister with that lizard.  That is not nice.  That poor lizard.”

“Well, how did you get bird poop in your cereal?  You’ve been inside all morning.”

“Buddy, please don’t rinse your mouth again with that water.  That’s where the geese go poo.”

Your turn!  Share some crazy mom talk!

Wendy

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HE LIVES! The fish, I mean.

Okay, for you, Carolyn, grinding little guppies in your Insinkerator.   But our fish, Bluestar, has been SAVED!  His pretty blue fins are unclamped, his I’d-as-soon-kill-you-as-look-at-you personality is back in full force, his appetite…

Oops.

As you all know, the family and I were prepared to go to extreme lengths to help our little Betta friend heal from the multiple fungal, bacterial and depression issues he appeared to be having.  (We change his water regularly, use water conditioner, warm his bowl to the appropriate-for-Bettas temperature, etc., I swear.)  Well, after many a run to pet stores and calls to ichthyologists, we found the right combo of treatments.  And Bluestar, bless his fishy heart, responded.  He even turned to stare at us with what we all agreed was gratitude.

Tim and I high-fived, wiped our tired brows, kissed our relieved and teary daughter, promised not make any more tuna melts lest we inadvertently ingest Bluestar’s cousin (whatever, she’s eight) and got some sleep.  And, uh, you know, forgot to feed the little guy.

For a couple of days.

Maybe that wasn’t a look of gratitude. 

We finally remembered the meal issue after he began ramming his nose into the glass.  This time he looked like he wanted to phone PETA, pronto.

Listen, Mr. Fish, I am menopausal and you are soooo lucky I was able to focus long enough to medicate you.  You are not the first family member whose dinner has been a day or two late.  Just grab a Snickers like the others and chill.

I just gave him a few Top Fin pellets and am now off to find dried worm things or some other Betta delicacy to express my apologies properly.  My husband says we’re too old for any more live things and has asked me to let everything not on two legs die out without seeking its immediate replacement.

We’ll see.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Wendy

 

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Filed under Children, Death, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

Fish tragedy, a three hanky tale

Don’t they look like angels when they sleep?…wait…they ARE angels!

Luckily, my mother does not read this blog so I can add my fish tale to Wendy’s aquarium misery.  Plus, it’s been two years and we’ve managed to recover nicely.

Number One Son really, really, really, really wanted a pet fish.

I said, “But honey, you know you are only ten-years-old and won’t take care of it and the poor little fishy will die of starvation.”

“No way, Mom!!  I’ll feed it and change its water and play with it and everything.”

“If I let you have a fish, you must realize that I don’t want it, and its life will be in your hands, got that?”

After he pledged allegiance to the fish, we went to Wal-mart.  Price of fish?  10 cents.  Price of bowl, rocks, food, fish net, special chemistry set to keep the bowl from rotting, exotic housing units and plastic trees and kelp in unnatural neon colors?  $89.50.

Day one was glorious:  Son diligently set up bowl, named fish Alice, fed Alice 3 squares, checked chemical balance, dragged family and friends in to admire how clever Alice was whenever she swam through neon cave and, before bed that night, told Alice bedtime story.

Day two:  Son invited to sleepover at neighbor’s house.  Forgot Alice existed.

Day five: Alice failing.

Day eight:  Alice, near death, discovered by eldest teenage daughter.  “Mom, I’m going to take over Alice’s health care.  Brother is going to be my
co-owner.”

A shame-faced brother agreed to the arrangement and within days, Alice was her spunky old self.  Daughter taught brother that the best way to clean Alice’s bowl was to transfer Alice to a salad bowl and run her regular stuff through the dishwasher to sterilize it from time to time.

Unfortunately, daughter and son neglected to tell Grandma their bowl cleaning method.  And—because my mother is one of those people who cannot stop cleaning for 5 minutes—when she came over for dinner, Alice was inadvertently tossed into the garbage disposal and whirled into the great beyond as my mother hummed Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

We all stared at each other in horror, as Alice had become a rather cherished member of the family.  However, we also knew that Grandma would never forgive herself and would inundate us with replacement fish for the rest of our lives and so, choked back the tears.  Needless to say, dinner was a tad subdued that night.  Now and then, a family member would pause at the disposal and murmur their respects down the drain.

Wendy, hurry.  Invite my mother over for dinner next time you clean Bluestar’s bowl.  Grandma, without fail, will leap up from the dinner table and begin tackling the dishes.  Rest in peace, Bluestar.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Anxiety, Children, cleaning, Cooking, Cussing, Death, Health, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…HELP.

I love rain in summer.  The rhythmic tapping on the roof and rain gutters, the glassy droplets bouncing off bright pink rose petals.  The four kids who don’t know what to do in my 1100 square foot house–

AHHHGGGHHHH.  When I said yes to the sleep-over, I was counting on sunshine, the yard, a sprinkler, the banana chocolate chip bread I stayed up till midnight baking last night…and which my husband ate when he came home from work.  How can one thin man eat half a loaf of banana bread?

I was going to deep clean the house today.  Catch up on work.  Bwah-hah-hah-hah.  Obviously God wants me to get to know these kids.  Real well.  In an enclosed space.

Quick!    I need ideas that DO NOT involve the Disney Channel.  (Don’t get me started on Selena Gomez and the pre-sexualization of ‘tween girls.)

I found this on line:

JUST FOR KIDS: PEANUT BUTTER PLAYDOUGH
Read more about it at http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,199,149163-237203,00.html
Content Copyright © 2011 Cooks.com – All rights reserved.
1 c. peanut butter
2/3-1 c. nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. honey
Mix ingredients. Add enough powdered milk to make playdough dry enough to handle. Shape into balls. Add raisins to make a face. Or stir in chow mein noodles and make a bird’s nest. Or stir in Cheerios or chocolate chips for fun. Eat and enjoy!

Too little-kid for the nine-year-old crowd?  What if I tell them it’s Peanut Butter Clay?  We could study the world’s great sculptors and turn it into a learning experience.   They’d love that.  (NOT.)  I could have them pretend they’re potters and then fill the “pots” with strawberries or chocolate chips or dollar bills.

It was so easy when they were really little and thought finding shiny wet rocks was as exciting as a trip to The Magic Kingdom.

Hurry with your ideas.  They are waking up now.  My house is shrinking….

Wendy

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George Clooney is single!!

If I could only decide between the too hot mamas. Eenie, Meanie, Miney...

I know, I know, I promised that Wendy and I would be updating you
all from the Big Apple. But, we didn’t have time. As we were leaving for the
airport, the news broke that George Clooney was newly single, possibly in Manhattan… and the race was on.

It’s obvious that the boy is barking up the wrong tree with these super-skinny, super-attractive, super-young, super-models.   And, now that he’s 50, we’re guessing he’s
going to realize the error of his ways and start looking for a well-seasoned,
less-than-perfect woman to provide arm candy.
We think a little cellulite and some wrinkles are fine, because hey, we’re
not perfect, either.

So now, the question is, me or Wendy?  We asked our husbands and since neither of them seemed threatened in the least, it’s a horse race.

When we weren’t stalking Georgie Porgie Puddin’ Pie, we took a ton of pictures, visited 5 states, actually DROVE IN MANHATTAN (thank you, Darla, you rock), met with agents and editors, talked book deals, ate waaaaay too much, walked barefoot in Times Square at midnight and laughed ourselves half silly.  We came home speaking with distinct New York accents and are energized and ready to write.

Wishing you all a fab 4th!

Carolyn Clooney

Sounds good, huh, Wendy?

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Children, Geroge Clooney, Marriage, Menopause, New York, parenthood, Travel, Weight gain, wrinkles, Writing

ROAD TRIP

Start spreading the news...I'm leavin' today...

Wendy and I are hitting the road.  It’s Manhattan or bust, baby.  We’ll be updating you all from the Big Apple, God willing, oy.  We’re taking the red-eye and should be boarding in a matter of hours.  Since both of us have a bit of anxiety when it comes to flying, we will be medicating, hence drooling on each other and snoring in each other’s ears.  I only hope we wake up in time to get off the plane and don’t end up in, you know, Aruba… or…

I’d better pack a swim suit.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Fifteen Minutes of Fame, friendship, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, New York, Outdoor school, Writing

Furious R-rated Don’t Read, Pt. 2.

"Make my day, doo-doo head!" This bad boy don't need to cuss.

   Why is it, when you make a decision to rumble with someone, to knock heads (I’m talking Bill Murray’s Ghostbuster rant about “disaster of biblical proportions, old testament, real wrath of God type stuff, fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria”–okay maybe not that bad), that you end up having to like, I don’t know, sit next to them on a plane, or be their lab partner or neighbor or something? 

Well, that just happened to me.  Remember the kid I was so hot under the collar over several blogs ago entitled Don’t Read, Rated R?  Yup.  Ended up spending a week with him at outdoor school.  (This year, we took on rocks and planets out in Eastern Oregon).

Yes.  I was scared.  I’m guessin’ he was too.

You know that theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly that always plays when outlaws are in the middle of a shootout at the O.K. corral?  The one where they squint at each other just before they draw their guns?  Here.  I’ll try a few bars for you:  Doo-doo-doo-doloo, Bah Wah, Wah. Doo-doo-doo-doloo, Bah Wah, WAH!  A big old ball of sage brush rolls by?  Yeah.  That song. 

It’s playing as I get on the bus, where I had to spend the next four solid hours.  And just who do you suppose is the first person I see?  The cussing eighth-grade rap-artist!  He was already seated.  The last empty seat was within spitting distance.  We eyeballed each other, brows a’see-sawin’.  Who was gonna draw first?  As I strolled down the aisle, we never broke eye-contact.  Didn’t smile.  Didn’t speak.  Slid into my seat.  Pulled down the brim of my hat.

Days passed.  Bumped into him every time I turned around.  I didn’t mention the obscene ballad to his mother he posted on Facebook.  He didn’t mention my vitriolic response.

I carry candy.  Lots of candy.  Especially when I’m forced into confined spaces with hormone-crazed middle-schoolers.  One blazing hot afternoon, he was hungry.  I had candy.  He wanted some.  I gave him some.  He said, “I love you!”  I said, “I love you, too.”

I think I got my point across.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Clint Eastwood, Cussing, friendship, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Outdoor school, parenthood, please and thank you, politeness, The Bad and the Ugly, Travel, Young Love

Life Is Hard. Now Go Play.

Here at Too Hot Mamas, Carolyn and I have ever-so-humbly dubbed ourselves the Lucy and Ethel of Menopausal Motherhood.  (If you had any idea how many whacked-out schemes for one thing or another my blog mate comes up with on a near daily basis, you, too, would suspect Lucille Ball of staging a walk-in.)

But Carolyn is in Central Oregon roughing it with her kids’ school, and I…well, dear reader, I am not feeling funny today.  Hey, I can laugh at a toothache, but as my hilarious Great Uncle Henry used to say, “Some things ain’t funny, Magee.”

My last blog touched on the extraordinary grace under fire of one of our neighbors.  Since then the nasty stuff hit the fan in another neighbor’s life when she awoke to an intruder who assaulted her, brutally, in her home.  The police caught the guy, but will the judicial system keep him off the streets?  Will she find the peace that defies understanding and feel safe in her home again, or out of it?  Will the children who usually run up and down our block as if it’s Mayberry be allowed to play as freely this summer?

And then, on Tuesday, I went to juvenile court to support a friend who has raised her granddaughter since the child was born while her parents struggled with meth, domestic violence and parole violations.  For five years, this grandmother’s refrain regarding her granddaughter has been, “If I do my job well, she won’t realize [how much chaos and fighting surrounds her].”  Being the eye in the storm can’t have been easy, but the five-year-old is a happy, stable child, as innocent as she should be at her age.

Juvenile court—whew.  Stay out of there, if you can.  For what was probably no more than thirty or forty minutes (but seemed like hours)—we watched this lovely five-year-old’s fate be tossed about by a bunch of lawyers whose chief agenda appeared to be Don’t Bother-Me-With-The-Facts-I-Have-A-Case-To-Win.  I watched my friend attacked as the wicked interloper instead of thanked for her love and devotion.  Yeah, so much for that pesky commandment about honoring our parents.

My Uncle Henry had a tough life.  Thirty-five major operations beginning at age three, cancer more times than I can count, heart disease, went blind for a time, broke his back, yadda yadda.  None of his siblings made it much past sixty.  When Uncle Henry was ninety, a waitress (he loved to eat out) asked him if he’d lived in Los Angeles all his life.  “Not yet,” he deadpanned.

Uncle Henry was the happiest person I’ve ever known.  Like any Jewish fellow worth his salt, he knew how to grieve heartily, how to bemoan the fact that bad things happened to good people.  He was not shy about asking, “Why?”  But he had a philosophy of life that was as much a part of him as his brown eyes, and he taught it to us in everything he said and everything he did:  Life is hard, kinderle.  Now go play. 

A mother dies, leaving three young children….  A woman is attacked in her home in the quiet area she trusted….  A little girl may lose the only stability she has ever known and face an uncertain future….

Life is hard.  Sometimes it’s bitterly hard.  But in the midst of it all, there are people willing to be God’s hands here on earth.  On Sunday night, eighty people gathered around the home of the young mother who lay dying on her forty-third birthday.  With candles lit and their voices raised so she, her husband and children would hear them inside the house, they sang Happy Birthday.

Life is hard.  Now go play.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Death, friendship, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Writing

Cupcake Wars

One of my daughter’s early teachers was called “Cupcake” (not to her face) by the parents, because of her penchant for celebrating every birthday, half-birthday, and holiday, including obscure-in-America British holidays, by serving fluffy cakes with gobs of frosting.  She considered sugar to be, in part, a learning tool.  It was quite effective.  My daughter does not remember the storyline to The Lace Snail, which we read a gazillion times (it’s wonderful), but she still speaks fondly of London’s October Plenty.  Attempts to form letters were rewarded with m&m’s or bits of red licorice.

Why am I thinking about this now, a few years after the fact?  Because I just spent two hours learning how to make a radish mouse to entice my daughter to eat her veggies.   Any veggie.  A no-thank-you bite of cherry tomato.  A snippet of gray green bean out of her Alphabet Soup.

For many years I was a sugar-free vegan (this was before Carolyn and I began entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I grant you) and regularly offered collards and kale to my daughter, who ate her greens with gusto.   Oh, yes she did.  In fact, her favorite breakfast was brown rice with butter, tiny minced carrots, nori seaweed and gomasio.  And then…Cupcake.

I love you, Cupcake, I do.  When introducing children to school, it’s a Jewish tradition to dot the pages of a book with honey so the learning will be sweet.   My daughter’s books were smeared with buttercream; I suppose that’s close.  And when she majors in British history I’m quite sure I will remember you fondly.  But I can’t help the pang of regret and frustration I experienced when she saw that adorable mouse staring up from her salad.  Raising it by it’s long radish root tail, she stared ambivalently awhile then asked, “Do I get dessert if I eat this?”

My next attempt will be carrot-cake oatmeal.  I’ll post the recipe if successful.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Cooking, Fitness, Health, Humor, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Pillsbury Bakeoff, Writing

The Pillsbury Fart-off…uh, Bake-Off

As you know, Carolyn and I are addicted to entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Every spring break from school is an opportunity to corral our kids (plus the offspring of anyone cruel enough to drop their progeny off at Carolyn’s place during this time of year) into one room and ply them with experiment after experiment…er, rather, delicacy after delicacy.  On this year’s menu:

Vermont Maple Cupcakes With Georgia Peanut Buttercream (going with a state theme).  This recipe required several attempts and never really came together.  The kids began eating enthusiastically then quite suddenly looked as if they’d been stricken with a deadly disease.  We gave ’em a little bicarbonate of soda and got right back in the saddle with…

Meatball Hoagie Bake.  This was not bad, though it was overly complicated and kinda unattractive.  Took three or four swipes at this one over a two-day period with eight children and four adults taste testing.  Final decision:  Nah.

Next up:  Carolyn’s soon-to-be world-famous Sweet ‘N Smoky Baked Breakfast Pancake.  OMG.  Incredible.  We all thought so.  She made it several times–for breakfast, for dinner, for a snack.  We tried other baked pancake variations, too, plus more sandwiches, a couple of appetizers and an entrée.  All together we made seven trips to the supermarket, spent…well, I can’t say on the chance one of our husbands is reading, and sickened eight otherwise hardy children.  I overheard this comment from one of Carolyn’s daughter’s friends:

“Can we stop eating now?  I’ve been farting all morning.”

“Me, too,” whispered Carolyn’s daughter.  “I think they’re getting tired.  They’ll stop soon.”

That’s what you thought, missy.

We kept at it until there wasn’t a creative thought left in our brains.  We kept at it until the smell of exhaustion overwhelmed the smells of butter, sugar, toffee and cinnamon.  And soon, very soon, we’ll be in Carolyn’s kitchen again, prepping for the next bake-off.  Why?  Because there’s a million bucks, new appliances, a trip to Orlando and the promise of fifteen minutes of Pillsbury fame riding on this one.

And because we came up empty when we Googled “Bake-Offs Anonymous.”

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Cooking, Humor, Marriage, Motherhood, parenthood, Pillsbury Bakeoff

The art of the arm fart

Hi, Everyone!  It’s raining–surprise!–in the Pacific Northwest.  Actually, the warm drizzle and gray sky are upping the cozy factor tremendously.  And, hey, who needs more sun spots?

My daughter is home with a nasty cold, so as we prepare for a cuddly day at home, I thought I’d inaugurate Witty Wednesday–a day to share the wacky, wonderful, witty or just plain weird witticisms of our pwecious wee ones.  I’ll go first; you go next.  Here’s what we heard at our house this week:

Daughter:  “Dad, do you arm fart?”

Dad:  “Not since I married your mother, honey.”

Daughter (looking at me and shaking her head sadly):  “That’s such a shame.”

Okay, share:  What have the little people in your life said?

Wendy…off to watch Dora….

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Filed under Bathroom Humor, Children, Humor, Motherhood, parenthood

Pul-lease

Please:  an adverb, used as a polite addition to requests, commands, etc.

I’m Jewish, but I often attend church with my Christian husband and our daughter, who, although she will gladly participate in Shabbat candle lighting and any holiday involving matzoh balls, has let me know emphatically that her spiritual path is different from mine.

Not a problem.  I believe God speaks to us in different languages and through many different faiths.  In fact, I love our little church with its diverse, devout congregation.  These folks live their lives in wholeness and holiness.  They walk their talk quietly and with enviable grace.

But the Sunday school?  Oy gevalt! 

Young children frequently forget their manners, of course, but what surprises me is the Sunday school teachers’ reluctance to rein in our vilda chaya.  Let me say here and now:  If my child develops a mental block around politeness, go ahead and correct her.

I am sure the disciples used “please” and “thank you” at the Last Supper.   I bet they helped clean up.  And when Jesus spoke, I’m guessing they gave him their attention.  I’m sure no one wants to offend a parent, but better you should offend me than allow my child to offend you.

Yes, “please” and “thank you” are my parenting pet peeves.  Over the years I have doled out a quantity of snacks roughly equivalent to the number of hors d’oeuvres served at Kate and Williams’ wedding.  I’m guessing I’ll double that output in the years to come.  How many thank yous have I heard from the children who are not mine?  Too few, dear reader, too few.

Now, I’m not claiming my precious angel is perfect.  Oh-ho no.  When we’re in Chinese restaurants, she still sucks the filling out of the egg rolls…oh, wait.  That’s me.  Well, her table manners aren’t the best, either.  She learned from her parents, after all, and we’re not on the Queen’s guest list, believe you me.

And, of course, my daughter has a few other habits we need to break.  Like sitting in lectures and workshops, rudely passing notes with her friends and giggling at things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand–

Oops.  Me again.

Dang.  But the giggling in workshops thing?  Honestly, that is almost always Carolyn’s fault.  She talks to me and obviously I don’t want her to think I’m rude so I answer.  If you read “Girl Fight” and “Cat Fight” then you know a couple of weeks ago we dragged two formerly polite and gracious women down with us.

Honestly, what is wrong with adults these days?

What are your politeness pet peeves?

Wendy…off to learn some manners.  Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Children, Humor, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, please and thank you

Goodbye Teddy Bear…Hello Tiger

I have Carolyn’s youngest son at my place for a sleepover.  He’s one-day younger than my daughter.  Carolyn and I adopted the kids when we were mere seconds from menopause (a great story we’ll have to share sometime).

The two kids adore each other; they get along famously.  Always have.  Like brother and sister without the fights.  So, when they asked if they could sleep in my daughter’s room on the same bed, Carolyn and I decided that would be okey dokey.  They’re a few weeks away from turning eight, and not the most sophisticated flowers in the garden.  Very innocent.  Lucy and Ricky Ricardo are their media marriage role models.

My DD, however, upon hearing that they could indeed share the twin bed and kick each other silly all night long, suddenly turned coy.  “But that’s so romantic,” she giggled.

Romantic?  She just dared him to eat a caterpillar. Continue reading

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Filed under Adoption, aging, Children, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, Young Love

The Bi-Racial Family

This pic is 4 years old.

One of the fun things about having a bi-racial family is listening to the kids talk about their heritage.  My youngest son (now age 7) hails from Guatemalan ancestry.  Tonight at the dinner table he announced that he was born able to understand and speak Guatemalan.

 “Show us,” one of his sisters encouraged.

 “Guackalita causalita Kaleakilauqukita wackima chicho meeko.  Aleeche toto, kay toto,” he said.  “But don’t ask me to spell it.  I can’t even spell in English yet.”

 “Cool,” she said.  “I’m from African/Irish heritage so I’ll demonstrate African first.”  She cleared her throat, thrust her hands into the air (holding an imaginary lion cub, I guess) shouted, “Cowabunga!” and proceeded to sing The Circle of Life.  After some research, I think the actual lyric is “Ingonyama!” but hey, whatever.

I really need to take a pic of ALL the kids together in this lifetime

 

“That’s English,” her Irish/Italian sister said.  “If you really want to sound African, do a bunch of clicking sounds with your tongue.”  They all proceed to click with their mouths full and laugh.  It was nauseating.

Because three (?)–I can’t remember–of the five are adopted, ‘adoption’ is another subject they don’t tiptoe around.  “Hey,” youngest son shouted after being provoked half to death by his brother as we drove down the road one day, “why don’t you go back to the people that borned you?”

Before I could jump in and smooth things over, my older son nearly died laughing and said, “After you go back to the ones that borned you.”  That cracked them both up and they wrestled the rest of the way home.

I love that there is no political incorrectness or fear in the things they can discuss.  They know that they are physically different and not born from my womb, but my heart (which makes them super-cool).  They talk about it, point it out, laugh about it, admire it, but mainly don’t notice/care about it.  They see family. 

So beautiful.  So free.

 

Carolyn

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, The Bi-Racial Family

Like Totally

 

You like want us to clean? What's up with that?

 

I have teenaged girls. I love it, as I am a connoisseur of sarcasm and they just give me so much…fodder.   

Take today for example:   

15 year old:  Mom, when a man has his prostate removed, is he still, like, a man?   

Me:  No, darling.  The moment the prostate is removed, the poor slob becomes a unicorn.   

13 year old:  I would rather die, than eat a fly.   

Me:  You’re telling me that you’d rather light yourself on fire than eat a house fly?  Be torn apart by a grizzly bear?  Eaten by an alligator?  Sit on a stick of dynamite?    

15 year old: Mom!  Look!  The dog is lactating!  Eeew!  Hey…I wonder what it tastes like?   

Me:  Why don’t you hold her over your cereal bowl in the morning and find out?   

I know, I know, I should aim for a more mature, maternal tone.  But come on.  Like, they both totally wanted to throw their stupid printer away.  Until I plugged it in.   

Carolyn

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Filed under Children, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, The Bi-Racial Family

That Pioneering Spirit

"Oh goody. It's raining."

 If you enjoy wearing a pioneer woman costume and sleeping in a damp tent that you set up in the pouring rain while wearing your soggy pioneer bonnet and a soaked pioneer skirt that gets tangled around your legs as you try to pound a tent spike into solid rock while 3 third graders (also in pioneer garb) complain about the inclement weather under your feet…then you’d LOVE the field study I just returned from (see Wagon’s Ho blog entry) with my kid’s Living History charter school.

 We had a fabulous time.

Learned a lot.

Stood at the bottom of the famous Laurel Hill (shoulda been named Laurel Jagged Cliff) on the famous Oregon Trail (shoulda been named Let’s Commit Suicide by Wagon Train) and I thought, “Wow, I wonder if I ‘d have let my husband talk me into hurling our wagon/worldly supplies/children/oxen over the edge like the pioneers did back in the olden days?”  and “What the hell were they thinking?”  and “I wonder how far I am from Starbucks, right now.”

Apparently, one pioneer woman (her name escapes me at the moment), pregnant with her eighth child gave birth three days AFTER getting her family down the hill.  I’m such a loser weenie.  I rode to the historic site in a heated touring bus, ate the 6 thousand calorie meal we’d packed that morning for lunch, and felt sorry for myself because I was probably gaining back all the weight I’d recently lost (see the Gym post).

This trip shattered every illusion I had about being a pioneer in any sense of the word.  I am a wimp-o-neer.  A pio-weenie.

Luckily, the next field study (leaving this Monday with daughter number 2) is being held at the coast.  In a Yurt.  Gonna feel like the Hilton, compared to the tent. 

Carolyn

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Filed under Anxiety, Children, Fitness, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, Weight gain, Writing

Dem Bones

You know the movie An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr?  My mother showed it to me when I was a wee romantic thing, but if you’re not old enough to recall it, perhaps you’ve seen the remake with Annette Bening and Warren Beatty –titled Love Affair. And if you’re not old enough to remember that, then please Google PBS Kids while I take this moment to address my peers.

So, in An Affair to Remember/Love Affair, Deborah Kerr/Annette Bening falls in love with Cary Grant/Warren Beatty.   Alas, Deborah/Annette is already in a relationship, and Cary/Warren has never had a long-term relationship with anyone.  So they get it into their heads that if a suitable period of time goes by and they are still in love, they will meet at the top of the Empire State Building.  But when poor Deborah/Annette leaps from the cab to see if her lover is waiting for her, she runs smack in front of another car and BAM!  She’s paralyzed.  When her true love finds her and realizes she is injured for life, he asks, “What happened?”   She replies, “I was looking up.” (At the Empire State Building.)

Yeah, don’t do that.

Being the 48-year-old mother of a very energetic seven-year-old, I like to attempt to keep up.  I see the mothers of her classmates setting off on their morning bike rides after drop-off (they ride to the athletic club across the river where they work out for an hour or two before riding back home).  So when DD said, “Let’s chase fairies” after school one day, I set off on a jog after the fairies.   Over pavement, over lawns, over tree roots we ran, leaped and frolicked, pointing at the fairies flying over our heads until…BAM!  I fell.

I was looking up.

I broke my wrist and–long story short–it turns out I have osteoporosis.  Apparently, I’ve had it since I was 40, but missed the memo.  (I swear I thought the doctor said osteopoenia 8 years ago.)  Here comes the irony:  I spent most of my adult life trying to fit into a size 6.  For a dozen years (during my thirties and early forties), I was successful.  Apparently that was not such a good thing for my body.  The technician who did my DEXA scan 8 years ago told me, “If you weighed more, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Well, I’ve been through menopause since then.  I weigh more now.  I’m a size ten again, the size I was always trying to whittle down.  I’m getting another DEXA scan in a couple of weeks and if the bone density in my hip has not improved or is worse, I will get to wear hip protectors–AKA, PADDING ON THE HIP–when I do something physical.  That’s right:  All that dieting back in my thirties has brought me back to size ten hips plus EXTRA PADDING.  Oh, the irony!

Please engage in regular weight-bearing exercise, dear readers.  Eliminate sodas and reduce sugar consumption (without dieting).  Eat plenty of greens and whatever else you do, DON’T LOOK UP.

Wendy

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Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Health, Menopause, Motherhood, osteoporosis, Weight gain, Weight Loss, Writing

Bad Hair

Wendy and Carolyn Do Hawaii

 

Carolyn and Wendy Do Hawaii
 
The 35 Symptoms of Menopause: A continuing education.  Today, we explore Symptom #26:

Hair loss or thinning head or pubic hair.  Increase in facial or whole body hair.

So many of our friends complain about this symptom.  The hair falls off the head and seems to just explode out of everywhere else. 
 
So, girls.  How do we get rid of unwanted hair without the hideous pain of waxing / electrolysis and those horrible red bumps that come after shaving?  Well, after a LOT of debate–and experimentation–we’ve come to the conclusion that there is no solution.  Why are we fighting the inevitable, ladies? 
 
Let go of your inhibitions.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it.  Embrace your inner gorilla!  Oh, we’re not saying it will be easy.  The first time we hit the beach sporting our new hirsute look, we were a little bashful.  But as you can see by the video our husband’s shot, (above) after a couple Mai Tai’s we got into the rhythm. 
 
Carolyn and Wendy

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Filed under Anxiety, Children, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, Weight gain, Writing

Kids Don’t Multi-task; Why should I?

Children don’t multi-task.  Unless food is being served, in which case they can throw, jump, dance, spin, talk incessantly and deliver an oral report on worm bins while they are chewing.

Ask a child to clean her room, carry a plate into the kitchen, take shoes to the closet or brush teeth before bedtime, however, and you will find God’s greatest example of living in the moment.

At the start of cleaning the room, there will surely be a rock that needs to be examined with the attention of a geologist.  Should a stray puzzle piece be found, an entire 100-pieces of Cinderella and her prince will be assembled on the spot.

Shepherding shoes from living room floor to closet (our house is tiny; it’s not that far) requires the addition of a dance recital delivered with the single-minded focus of a prima ballerina.

Women are supposed to be great multi-taskers; apparently it doesn’t kick in until adulthood.  It’s helpful for a while.  I can cook a meal, clean the house and pay bills while simultaneously brainstorming plots with a fellow author or getting (or receiving) phone therapy from a womanfriend.  I can pick up shoes AND do a dance recital.  Somebody’s got to.

It’s tiring, though–all that simultaneous activity.  I find I do it in my sleep now.  I think I’m resting, but I’m still plotting the next book, figuring out bills, wondering how to wedge violin lessons in between gymnastics and ice skating, planning a birthday party.  If you’re a woman, you know the drill.

You know how Shakespeare wrote that in old age we turn back into babies?  Well, now that I’m menopausal, I think I’ll sleep while I’m sleeping.  Perchance to dream…of sleeping.

Yes, I like this idea.  I may even try eating while I’m eating.  Talking to a friend while I’m talking to a friend.  Turning off the news while I do yoga.  I may even drop the five pairs of shoes I am lugging to the closet in between typing this, turn on Barbie Swan Lake and dance.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood

Dating at six

About “All dolled up, part deux…”_

I like that my daughter saw your son crap his pants.  I don’t know if you heard, but all through dinner she kept telling him, “You have to find your true love.  She could be in this restaurant.”  Probably she scared the **** out of him.

Anyway, this is good.  This is what marriage is really about.  First you meet your prince in the restaurant.  You go on a honeymoon and have babies.  Then you spend your golden years following him to the bathroom so you can help him wipe.

That is way more reality than The Bachelor will ever show.

Wendy

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Filed under Motherhood