Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Baby Borrowers is on TONIGHT

Just thought I'd send out that reminder. In light of last week's news of a rumored "pregnancy pact" in a Gloucester Mass high school I am even more convinced that The Baby Borrowers, with it's subtitle "It's not entertainment, it's birth control," should be on everyone's must see, must DVR/TIVO and show to all teens repeatedly until they stop thinking babies are a cool source of unconditional love and instant emancipation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LOVE(ing) Story

"I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

~Mildred Loving June 15, 2007

On June 16th, 2008, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martinthese, two women who have been in a committed relationship for fifty-five years, were able to become legally married in San Fransisco.

"When we first got together, we were not really thinking about getting married, we were thinking about getting together,' Lyon said to laughter, standing behind Martin's wheelchair. 'I think it's a wonderful day. We are very happy.'

'Ditto,' said Martin." (Yahoo News)

Why-oh why-does anyone question the validity of this union? These women have been together longer than most couples of the opposite sex that I know. I just wish everyone would get over it already, and see that love knows no boundaries of race or gender. As I ask all people deeply concerned about same sex marriage as the downfall of mankind, really...

Can you please explain to me how this affects you personally?

A few weeks ago I watched as a teary eyed Ellen gave the news that she would be marrying long time partner Portia DeRossi. I found myself teary-eyed for them. To tell the truth, Ellen is so damn funny and sorta cute and that Portia is such an incredibly beautiful woman, if I weren't such a flaming heterosexual I'd want to date either one of them myself. Sorry, I digress in attempts to add some humor to honor the great Ms DeGeneres.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine, David, on my front stoop about 15 or so years ago. He stopped by because his partner, who was a special education teacher, was attending a wedding of a co-worker, and couldn't bring David with him for fear of losing his job. I remarked how sad I thought that was, and how I took for granted the fact that my husband and I could go anywhere we wanted, hold hands any time we wanted, and introduce ourselves any way we chose to. We never had to hide we were a couple from anyone. I just never got that conversation out of my mind. I had grown up in the theatre, surrounded by gay couples free to be, well, couples. And because of that I was comfortable with it, and never thought more deeply about it until that night, speaking with my friend. My friend who stopped by because he felt left out, not accepted by his partner's side. Those friends stayed in that relationship for close to 15 years before they parted, much more amicably than any straight married couple I ever met.

I also had a similar conversation a few years ago with a theatre friend who has been involved in a committed relationship with her partner for years. Now in their 40's/50's, one is a teacher, and the other a guidance counselor at the same high school. Most of the students have likely figured out the status of their relationship, but since they are so respected by the kids, none of them make a big deal out of it. However, K, the counselor, shared with me how parents, unaware they are a couple, will call her or come in and tell her, "Put my kid in another teacher's class. I don't want that woman anywhere near my daughter." They are totally oblivious to the fact that they are confiding in the very person "that" woman goes home to every night. As a matter of fact the very woman who "that" woman has gone home to for well over a decade. It's so amazing that, even in 2008, so many Americans, who claim to embrace God given civil rights, demonstrate such a high level of ignorance and complete lack of tact.

It can be no coincidence that this morning Rick, my loving husband of three years, left out an article that he just knew I would be interested in. It was about Loving Vs Virginia, the historic Supreme court case that won the right of inter-racial couples to marry. Last year was it's 40th anniversary.

Meaning in my lifetime (albeit I wasn't actually here yet, but close enough) it was illegal for couples of different races to marry. It was just as passionately debated against as the downfall of the human race, as the fierce protests occurring today about same sex couples marrying. Seems ludicrous now, 40 years later that African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Caucasians, could not legally marry each other in every state, doesn't it?

Well it does to me. I can only hope that forty years from now, when I'm 80, I can hear my grandchildren say the same about the fight to keep same sex couples from marrying. I really am praying for the day that I hear, "Grandma, was it really once illegal for two consenting adults to marry in the United States of America????"

I try to keep in mind that humanity is thousands of years old, and so if inter-racial marriage wasn't legal until 1967, then there's hope for us yet. After all, forty years is only a minuscule blip on the evolutionary screen.

On May 2, 2008 Mildred Loving passed on from this life and was reunited with her late husband Richard, who passed away in 1975. I could post forever on my own thoughts about her case, but of course, no one says it better than she did, in a statement released for the 40th anniversary of the case that "gave" her the "right" to marry the man she loved.

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving*

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

"When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn't get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn't allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn't have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," a "basic civil right."

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

The State of Woman

I was on another site today, with my fellow step moms, and the discussion of "unwed" mothers came up. I was so struck by the phrase, and all it has encompassed throughout recent history, that I just had to put my thoughts into words.

I just keep thinking about the way the term "unwed mothers" has been used to put women down. They are statistics, or spoken of in hushed tones. When my mother was a girl, they went off to homes in the middle of the night, until their babies were born. Now there are daycares in high schools. It's old fashioned to focus on a mother's marital status, because so many women are choosing not to wed if they are pregnant. Or, if they reach a certain age and have no committed relationship in site, and they want to have a baby, they have one anyway. I must say that I have always thought and continue to think that is an admirable journey. That is empowerment. However, with every positive there seems to be a price. And now that I am a little older, wiser, and the parent of teenagers, I am starting to see it more clearly.

I saw one woman on Oprah a while back who went a little too far and had embryos implanted when she couldn't conceive. Guess what? She had four babies. Her family is very upset with her because she can't take care of all of them by herself and they have had to help her substantially, both with time and money since she can't work anymore. That was quite an interesting show, as I never thought about that particular outcome happening before.

In high school, we had to carry an egg around for a week. We had to keep an hourly journal for activities for our egg, and who was watching it when we were busy. If we didn't break it we passed as parents. If we did we failed. It was an interesting experiment. However with an egg you can leave it in your room and barring a sibling trying to sabotage you, it will be fine when you return hours or days later.

Not so with a real kid.

There's a new show coming on this summer called The Baby Borrowers, where the producers have given teens and young adults a few toddlers and infants to care for during a certain period of time. From what I've seen in the previews, the kids are very confidant in their ability to "parent." And, according to the commercials I've seen, the kids are very disillusioned by the end of the show. I am watching this with my kids. Hell, I might even sign them up to be on it! I think perhaps community centers and high schools should have this as a mandatory class.

I have seen so many young women try this experiment for real, meeting men, getting pregnant, over and over. Never marrying at all, let alone first, a sort of serial maternity. I believe that sadly, many young women are insecure and see babies as a source of unconditional love, or an instant emancipation into adulthood. I don't believe those who do so understand their motives because I'm not sure they give pregnancy or parenting very much rational thought. Both on television and in conversations with my kids' friends, I have at times heard teens talk about having babies as "sounding like fun." It sends shivers up my spine. Fun? They have no idea.

Now that I am a stepmom of a 13 year old, I am I suppose paying more attention than I was a few years ago. I now am privy to conversations and observations of 13 year old girls, that I wasn't before. I am alarmed with all the self-objectifying behavior, focusing so heavily on name brands, hairstyles, make-up, tight clothes, push-up bras, all to attract young boys or young men. Ironically, in our youth based society there is an obsession among young girls to look older, a preoccupation on how, when and with whom they will lose their virginity, as though it's something to check off a list. There is something sad about adolescent and young women these days. They appear to be lost.

For some reason, women in their 30's and older seem to be the last generation that as a whole tend to think through life's lessons, making changes in behavior after successfully navigating difficult challenges. I think it's no coincidence that we are the last who remember a time before MTV, internet, unlimited credit, and 24 hour cable. Many of us also recall the ERA campaign, burning bras, and Charlie commercials.

Now, I have to say that for most of my 40 years on earth, I never considered myself a feminist. I was a child of the seventies and I understood and witnessed some of the issues the feminists fought for. However, as a young woman I felt overwhelmed with the concept that we were not only allowed to seek degrees and careers, but were expected to. The problem was that many of us had mothers who stayed home, and therefore we had no real role model for the "new and improved standard" of of superwomanhood. On top of which we were also expected to be supermoms, able to leap to the top of tall corporate buildings while giving birth and returning to the boardrooms in a single bound. Oh- and we were never to use our sexuality as a method of achieving anything, though we had to be prepared for the inevitable accusation of it when we reached success.

I often dreamed of a balance, where femininity could be celebrated as well as intelligence and drive. I was a little put off by feminists, most recently when "Mommy Wars" were proclaimed. I posted on this very blog my angry response to feminist authors declaring that I shouldn't have been "given" a degree if I then planned to stay home and raise children. If I did this I was slapping my feminist foresisters in the proverbial face. While in my senior year of college, I wrote a provocative essay about how I hesitated to align myself with a group who would label me, or corner me in any way. After all, what good was a feminist movement that told me that I owed them for my freedom to choose my vocation and the pay back was I could choose any vocation save staying at home to raise my children? What was the point of fighting for us if women went from no choices, to all choices, and back to no choices again?

Well...then I became a mother of a 13 year old girl. I now find myself understanding why the feminists are upset with us, as well as why we need to have a feminist renaissance. We have had our needs met. We can own property and vote. We can buy whatever we want and live wherever we wish. We can go to any college in the US, and pursue any degree our hearts desire. In essence, we now have it so good we have become smug. Each generation removed from the fight has, through our own apathy for the cause, taught our own daughters to trample on the freedoms that prior generations of women fought so hard for. The youngest generations are turning their noses up at the very rights that were won. They think that sex is empowering- a tool to get where you want to go. Materialistic bliss in an entitlement, and they may do as they please, consequences be damned.

Recently, my personal concerns for Adrienne's attitudes toward life led me to search for an advocacy group to get each of my kids involved with, but her in particular. I discovered there's a group of young feminists in Cincinnati. "Perfect!" I thought. However, it's a bit of a commute, and unfortunately, nothing like it exists within a reasonable distance of home. But I'm not giving up. If I have to start my own chapter and group I will do it. Someone has to. If the current trend continues, we'll be back in the fifties, with our daughters wearing dresses and pearls while ironing or cooking dinner, combing their kids hair and putting ribbons in their own to ready themselves for their husbands return from his rough day at the office.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Z Bucket List

Recently, Tanner, Noah and I started a new Mother/Sons tradition of Monday night double features at the Dollar Movie Theatre. Yes, the seats need some mending, and yes the popcorn is a little stale compared to the $8 a movie theatres, but what can I say? The price is definitely right when you're a family of six on a budget.

We also discovered quite accidentally, that on Monday nights our local Dollar Theatre shows movies for 50¢ a piece, for groups of three or more. Noah just won a $15 gift certificate to this movie theatre and, at the 50¢ a piece night, translates to 10 movies a piece! Which in turn equals five nights of Mother/Sons double features, just enough to go every other Monday, which is when they are at our house, for the rest of the summer!

The last time we went we saw The Bucket List and The Spiderwick Chronicles. These were both Noah's choices because we were there to celebrate his 11th birthday. I chose the order however, because I figured Bucket List would be a little slow and Spiderwick a little more action filled, and it was going to be a long night with two movies.

I chose correctly.

We had fun, though they weren't my favorite movies I have ever seen. The Bucket List didn't get me all sappy and teary eyed as I thought it might. However it did inspire me to do some thinking about a sort of "Bucket List" of my own.

I have been tossing that idea around for a while, ever since seeing Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah discussing her book, Eat, Pray, Love. She was so inspiring that they had her on twice within a few weeks or so, to follow up with audience members who had been inspired to rethink their priorities after hearing her speak or reading her book. In the first appearance, Gilbert suggested making a list of things we really want to try or experience in our lifetime; the kinds of things that we put off in order to do all the "less selfish" things we think we should do. A "things to do before I die" or, per the movie, a "before I kick the bucket" list.

So after hearing about said list from my Eat, Pray, Love Guru, then from the movie with the boys, then again this morning via my Step Mom support group friends, I decided it was time to make up mine.

So far it's up to 50, not the 100 that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman had on their list. But I'm only 40 as opposed to their ripe old ages, and I'm sure by then I could easily think of a hundred or more.


Here's Z's Bucket List- Fifty Things I would like to do in my 40's

1. Say no when I need to and yes when I want to

2. Create Space for meditation

3. Make my health a priority

4. Learn to love my body in its current state

5. Call my family and friends more often to tell them I love them

6. Send a real card in the real mail to a different friend once a week

7. Find more women friends my age

8. Go and sit alone for an afternoon in my late grandparents home in the country

9. Form a Step Mom Retreat

10. Finish writing my play, my novel, start my memoir

11. Forgive and let go of past hurts

12. Spend less time recording my life and more time living it

13. Visit my 93 year old grandmother, even though we’ve never been close

14. Visit my disabled brother and heal our relationship

15. Consume less (unhealthy foods, unnecessary goods, and energy resources)

16. Get a dog

17. Go for more walks

18. Go to lunch with my mom once a month

19. Audition for a play again for the first time in years

20. Go to matinées of foreign films alone

21. Read more fiction ( put down the self improvement books)

22. Take a writing class

23. Take a photography class

24. Learn to play my Seagull (acoustic guitar)

25. Take a tap dancing class again

26. Restart Voice lessons

27. Learn to belly dance

28. Take a cooking class

29. Start a garden- LEARN to garden!

30. Find a sitter two Sat nights a month for a date with my husband

31. Take ballroom dancing lessons with my Husband

32. Read a novel to my sons

33. Volunteer for a good cause

34. Volunteer for a good cause with each of my kids

35. Do a play with my kids

36. Start a young girls writing retreat with my SD

37. Do an artistic project with each of my kids

38. Teach my kids to each cook one meal from scratch

39. Take my kids to the drive in movies

40. Take my kids camping

41. Initiate steps to becoming a lay leader

42. Establish a budget for family fiscal health

43. Apply for my Masters in Religion at Meadville

44. Go to the ocean

45. Visit nearby summer festivals

46. Host a dinner party

47. Have a tea party

48. Have a cocktail party

49. Watch less TV

50. Reduce clutter in my life

Monday, June 09, 2008

Utter Disgust (TPing isn't funny it's VANDALISM)

We have a thirteen year old in the house who has, for some unknown reason, created an enemy in the neighborhood- a set of fourteen year old girls, who's parents evidently think that's well above the age of responsible parenting because their teens are running around unsupervised at one o'clock in the morning. As my husband and I were just discussing yesterday regarding curfews and teens, nothing good happens after midnight.

This morning Rick woke me up with, "Tell Adri to clean the yard when she gets home."

I groaned in utter disgust.

This TPing has happened to us 5 times in the past several months, and each and every time the offenders become more brave and the TPing gets worse. This time is was accompanied by vomit and rotten eggs (fortunately the ingredients were mutually exclusive as the eggs were raw, but still a lovely vision for me before breakfast.) I'm sure that even by 6 AM when I went out to clean it up, the eggs would have successfully cooked into my paint if they had made it to my car. Luckily they must have been interrupted, perhaps when the alcohol poisoned teen let loose under one of my trees.

I know I should have left it for Adri to clean, however, I went ahead and took care of it. For one, I have questioned her about it in the past, and she is very upset. I - ninja Zen- can tell easily when she's telling me a tall tale, and when she's hiding something. Can't always tell what that something is, but just that it is amiss. Plus the TP-ers always seem to manage to do the task when she's not home anyway so I would have to look at it, blood pressure boiling, all morning. I worked too hard on my front yard, wind chimes, flowering plants, shrubs trimmed and flower bed mulched, to let these ignorant, arrogant, self-entitled, disrespectful children ruin all my hard work.

I also didn't want to give them the opportunity for pictures/bragging rights of their work.

I was pretty sure they wouldn't be awake at 6am like I was, since the crime must have been committed after midnight (when I went to bed) and I'm sure they were hung over nicely as well, per their evidence of drinking in the form of vomit in my front yard.

So there I was, at 6am, in the already 90 degree/ 80 percent humidity weather, climbing up a ladder a couple dozen times, pulling down all but one roll and a few straggles of toilet paper that I could not safely reach from atop my precarious perch.

God help me if I ever fall cleaning this up.

On second thought, God help them.

Beacause I am so very angry.

I know this isn't a typical post for me, but I just am so tired of this.

as in the entitled, materialistic "Generation Me" that my generation of parents seem so bent on rearing.

Now when we hear "But all the COOL parents let their kids-"

Have a cell phone and Xbox, with an uncensored side order of IPOD.

Every other kid at their school seems to also have but are not limited to -

Any and all use of the computers, internet and TVs in their bedrooms allowing for complete privacy, and absent of any hint of parental controls.

These "friends" have complete purchase power of their clothes, no budget, wear whatever they want including short shorts, push-up bras, low riding/underwear showing pants.

They always go to the mall/movies/sporting events alone, and are never questioned as to whether or not parental supervision is taking place wherever they are headed off to.

The sad part is...I have talked to some of these parents and .....

it's true.

You know I never really felt the pangs of peer pressure as a teen, because I had my own ideas about what was right and wrong, about what was appropriate behavior, what were "wants" and what were "needs," so I didn't feel pressured to keep up or do what everyone else was doing. I grew up believing in being accountable for my actions. Much as my now 11 year old son Noah does (who, speaking of trees has not fallen far from mine. :)

Whenever his teenage siblings make fun of him for listening and doing the right thing, he proudly tells me "I think for myself Mom. There's nothing wrong with being a good kid and listening to your parents. Why would I want to be grounded all summer?"

God love him. It's nice to know I'm doing something right.

So I didn't deal with or feel pressured by my peers growing up. But now? My parental peers are pressuring ME to keep up with them through their teenagers.

"All the COOL parents are doing it!" has been a battle cry for teens for decades. The difference is, now it somewhat true. Well...the part about all the parents giving in, living vicariously through and purchasing "happiness" for and being buddies to their teenagers, is true. I don't agree on the use of the term "COOL" however. Maybe that's because the term "cool" and "parents" are or should be considered an oxymoron (with emphasis on the second half of that term.)

On a positive note, in my search today to see how to go about catching teen vandals and pressing charges, I found out a lot! And though it's unfair that our kids will have to do without a few more of their current lists of "wants vs needs", we will be purchasing some video surveillance equipment, getting the trees trimmed and thinned out (making it harder for the TP to get caught in them) and motion sensor lights.

In short we are declaring war.

And if their parents don't like it when we grab their "precious children" and drag them by force into our own holding cell (ie my husband's office complete with military swords on the walls) til the cops get here? Then perhaps they will start acting like parents, impose some age appropriate restrictions and consequences, and grow up already themselves.

On a side note I was pleased to also come across a story about a mall in New Orleans, that teens were boycotting in protest (along with some ridiculous "parents") because the mall created a "curfew" for teens under the age of 16. They cannot be in the mall, unless accompanied by an adult over 21, on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 pm until closing. I found several articles about this online, and despite the "teen and tween" protests to boycott sales, the adults were all commenting that they would be returning to shop at the mall to show their support. There's even a my space support group for the mall, including many teens who agree it's out of control.

And these self righteous teens and tweens (some 10 or younger) who chose to boycott to exercise their financial power in protest? Were the same ones not spending money there anyway, who's parents drop them off and go to work or out themselves, using the mall as a babysitter.

The sites were flooded with support for the curfew.

Now if I could figure out how to get one imposed in my neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tales of Denial

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, 37 Days, when I came to a startling revelation. Now I do usually have many have epiphanies while on Patti's blog, but rarely would I classify them as "startling." More like peaceful, spiritual, enlightening, Zen-like epiphanies.

This particular blog was a thank-you from Patti to a reader for giving her food for thought about handing out stickers to cranky toddlers and preschoolers on airplanes. I happen to think this is perfectly acceptable and friendly behavior on such a horrible experience such as air travel (especially for the other passengers listening to a wildly uncomfortable or bored child for several hours.) But it set one mom off just a smidgen.

The rather heated comments that followed Patti's gratitude for another view point, ranged from "how dare someone give stickers to a misbehaving two year old" to "what kind of mother are you that you don't bring your own darn stickers!" I felt so protective of Patti, the "What Would You Do With 37 Days To Live" guru, that my "mother hen" meets "fellow blogger" instincts came out. My hackles, once raised cannot be denied. I just had to put my two cents in as well. I didn't say this much in my comment on Patti's blog, because I try not to wax poetic in someone else's space. But...this is the tale of how I became a legend among tired, single, poor, working mom college students, and infamous among poor, tired, cranky, selfish, tyrannical toddlers.

I spent six years as a full time working, 2/3 time studying/acting, 1/2 time single mother of two sons. That is to say, I did all the above, including being a mom all the time, but only had my sons with me every other week. During that time, I did a financial dance of poverty level income, meets reasonably low mortgage, meets money pit home repairs, including a furnace that was once hit by lightening and ever since was very fickle, especially in the dead of winter. Somewhere around the middle of that time period, I also totaled my (completely mine, no loans) car and had to replace it in a jiffy with a decent used one, adding a previously unnecessary car payment to my already "subsidized by home equity/student loans" income.

Now my sons were only 2 and 5 when I began my single mom (and all of the above) status. Like all little kids with no understanding of money or lack thereof, they made the usual requests on our trips to Acme/Target/or (God forgive me) Walmart. I'm always reminded of kids in supermarkets when I read the Very Hungary Caterpillar.

You know the part where he eats all the junk food and then gets a stomach ache?

These necessities included but were not limited to-

several different kinds of pop-tarts, cereal, squirt guns, silly putty, coloring books, action figures, Hot Wheels (all in the cereal aisle of course,) potato chips, corn puffs, candy bars, packs of gum, and stuffed toys from crane sporting money eating vending machines.

I said no.

Hard to imagine looking at the angelic picture above that I could, isn't it? Luckily for me I had two things going for me. One could say it was born out of necessity and lack of funding, but as luck would have it they did at times resemble heathen aliens rather than this picture.

Oh and actually, I found I rather liked saying no.

So when stores came out with those "solutions" to keeping kids amused, i.e. carts with huge plastic cars attached (causing the boys to fight over who was "really driving") or instant daycare centers as germ filled as the aforementioned "autocarts" I'm sure) were more trouble than they were worth. So I said no even though it was FREE.

I so much started to enjoy my absolute power, that I became...

The Keeper Of The Fun

Throughout the next several years of my poor, unamused sons' lives I did my best to only reward good behavior with fun. I rationed out financial or material fun, as though they were sugar and cigarettes in war torn Europe. Sometimes if they were really good in the store they got 50-cent toys out of the "gumball" machines , or a ride on the 50 cent jumbo jet/train/dinosaur outside the store. Or they were allowed to pick two or three things (a piece!) from the Dollar Store. Or, on the many occasions where I was too tired (see crazed schedule I was keeping above) to fight one more "Pleeeeeeeze mom! " Too frail to utter one more "Define 'want' vs 'need' for me!" I occasionally gave in, but added such a dose of guilt that any spoils of war were, well...spoiled. My sons still comment on this strategy and it's success, and I'm sure that they will employ the same techniques one day for their own kids.

*(Note to my future grandchildren- Don't worry, I'll spoil you as all grammys and grandmas do, and help to drive your parents crazy with my hypocrisies! It's a payback for their teen years. )

When I met and remarried, my frugality relaxed some, and my kids now have many more wants than they need to. I still share the boys with their father and stepmom, but am also full time mother of one step daughter and our joint project- two and a half year old Anna. When I met Rick he was amazed at my sons' reaction to my first, sometimes second (intonation rising if I had to repeat it) "No" to whatever they asked for. My sons were very interested in their new stepsister's frequently given into requests, as she was an only child of two professional level income parents, and was used to extra money for all those aforementioned "necessities." She came by her shopping savvy by way of material appeasement from two parents who were not on the same page (Rick was on the Wall Street Journal sites while his ex was on the Home Shopping Network.)

During one of our early trips to Target then Kohls, Adri had managed to snag a crossword puzzle book and the boys a gumball out of the machine at the first store. The second one had all the kids eyeing the toy department (right across from the shoes, God love 'em.) Adri started begging and Rick became agitated. Then the boys said, "Mom, can we get?" And I said, "Nope-we're here for shoes." And that was that.

And "that's all she wrote" for Rick. I think he may have fallen in love with me that day. I know he fell in love with my mean old mom techniques at least. He told me so later. And I'm afraid that it didn't take long for my "No means no" to material bliss attitude to rub off on Rick , much I'm sure to Adri's chagrin.

I have continued what is now our family tradition with Anna, in that she doesn't get to buy something very often either. Though my future grandma hypocrisy does shine through with her being my "late life" baby and my first baby girl to boot.

Therefore I have indulged myself on several occasions on her behalf, most recently on a leotard, tutu, tights and ballet slippers-

Oh yeah- and the Princess Play tent to go with it that I couldn't resist at Pat Catans. So in addition to not being in the running for "Mother of the Year," I am only human after all.

In my defense, I don't give into her demands for a toy at the grocery store, just because they're right there in the cereal aisle, or impulse candy purchases at the cash register.

No small feat now that even places like Home Depot sport a full service cash "Candy Bar" at each checkout. (When will the madness end????)

And so I am determined to "mean" the materialism out of her just like I did her older brothers.

One mother on Patti's blog discussed the unfairness to children who are dragged along on errands and proudly claimed super mom status because her purse is a virtual arsenal of candy, gum, stickers and...

A harmonica.


I'm not sure who the harmonica is for, the child? Or is mom going to whip it out and entertain the kid? Either way, I'm not sure I want to hear the toddler version of the blues while I'm in line with Anna.

I don't battle carry boredom ammo (Rick likes how his military influence makes it into my blog posts, so there's one for you honey. ;)

My purse contains (if I'm lucky) my gum, my wallet, and if Anna hasn't pulled them out to play with and misplaced them, my list, a pen to cross things off it, and my ever growing key chain of store id/discount cards.

No stickers...just the boring store. No food for her (I don't even go for the free kid's cookie-now there's a bad habit to start.) Not even the cool kids car/cart mutation, no matter what other nicer mom passes us trying to fit everything in the tiny top compartment, and manage steering it with her toddler/preschoolers weighing it down. Thank God those steering wheels don't work on those things. I tried it once in a moment of weakness with a cranky nap deprived Anna, and nearly crashed into another harried mom with a toddler driving underneath her. I don't think my USAA auto covers grocery store aisles. mean anti-material momness goes further than the store.

I possess no in car DVD players (not even on long trips) because the thought of my two and a half year spending any more time watching DVD's or TV than she already does now (say, when I'm blogging for instance) makes me cringe. My older kids have Gameboys and I did break down for a Leapster (no games just drawing) for Anna for when we are desperate to quiet her on a 6 hour drive to see her Grammy and Pops. And for the older ones, they may bring along their Ipods if I'm really nice, (purchased by other parents) which Rick and I take away at the slightest sign of ungrateful behavior.

You know? I used to LOVE long trips in the car to my grandparents. I would lean back and look out the window and imagine tons of things. Create whole tales for people walking along side of the country roads, or watch the moon follow us home. Before we all had to "Buckle Up-It's the Law" I laid down in the back seat if I was the only passenger. Sometimes it was to try and keep from breathing in the fragrant countryside, or gravel road dust storm on our short jaunt over to my Aunt Kathy's house. On longer car trips,which were few and far between when I was growing up, I laid in the back of our station wagon and daydreamed with my friend, or read a book, maybe took a nap. At night I loved to lay back there and watch the patterns of light dance across the window.

Kids may be bored. It is through boredom that true creativity is born. I am not an entertainer of my kids, they must fend for themselves a little.

And yes, I might be annoyed if a stranger gave my children anything when they are throwing fits. But, I can be graciously subtle, and will never curse the kindness of strangers, no matter if they offer Anna stickers when she's screaming in the checkout line about wanting "animal crackers now first!" She might not even accept them herself (she's quite shy about strangers.) As a matter of fact, the other day a nice old lady (probably a Grandma) gave me some tissues when Anna was coughing and crying because she was afraid her cough would make her throw up. I said a tired, "Thank you, but I'm not sure they will help," because she had been sick and coughing herself into throwing up all that week. However, the tissues helped her calm down. Thanks Somebody's Grandma. You definitely have the credentials, patience, and a purse to make Magyver's Granny proud.

Now before I get all kinds of defensive Mommy comments about my soapbox I want to let you all know that I do say, to each their own. However, as the mother of two thirteen year olds, I have to warn you. The male version is not so bad about name brands and buying things, but the female of the species went from "Why do I have to comb my hair in the morning?" to "Why do I have to use cheap Suave Shampoo instead of 4 dollar a bottle Herbal Essence " in one short year. I have seen the future of your indulgence, and though as I said I can be guilty of it myself, it's never by way of giving into a child's impulse (oh- and yes those teenagers are still children, not your buddies, your pal, your peer. But that's another blog for another day.) So mother's of toddlers, if you aren't careful now, they will have an insatiable drive for material bliss when they reach adolescence. And believe you me, you will want to have the "No means NO policy in place well before then.

Oh- and one last thing to ponder.

I may not be up for mother of the year any time soon, but I am proud to know I have successfully given (at least some of ) my children enough material for their future best selling memoir called,

My Mom Ruined My Life and Other Sad Tales of Denial