Monday, March 03, 2008

A Fellow Mom on the Financial Needs Spectrum

My writer-friend Michelle O'Neill keeps a fabulous blog, where she beautifully mixes stories about her life as a writer and as a mother of a child with autism, sans saccharine.

I usually don't pass along fund-raising requests on my blog. But today I have to.

Please stop over at Michelle's blog, where today she is spearheading an effort to ease some severe financial burdens for another Mother-Writer-Advocate, Kim Stagliano, who is a leader in communicating the realities of raising children with autism, and an advocate for research and services. Her three daughters are all autistic; an expensive proposition even when times are good. Kim's blog on the Huffington Post, and her other writing projects are all forthright, bold and carry truth without wrapping it in sentimental ribbons.

And now she needs help. If you can send any amount (via an email gift card), then check in over at Michelle's blog for details and the rest of the story.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mom on Hiatus

Still mothering, but these days, most of my blog energies are spent over here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Love (Accept? Like?) the Body You Have

According to my writing comrade and a leader in the fight against women hating their bodies, Harriet Brown, today is National Love Your Body day. Check out her site and take the Love Your Body pledge.

One of my longish poems, about the role in my life of eating, food, binges and self-love/hate, is currently part of the Love Your Body art exhibition at Salem College Fine Arts Center, in North Carolina. This, plus Harriet's well-timed reminder, and Diane Morrow's Year of Love and Healing project, got me thinking about how mothers so easily discount and verbally disrespect our own bodies.

Since becoming a mother, I try to keep reminding myself that no matter what physical/visual shape my body has been in (and believe me, the scale has ricocheted like a roller coaster stuck between gears for years), that my body continues to serve me well.

My body, I must remember, has carried me through the pregnancies and deliveries of my two sons, and nursed them for months. My body provides me with enjoyment -- bicycling, long walks, the odd tennis game, swimming, hugs, and yes, even sex!

My body can lift and carry things -- sometimes quiet heavy things indeed (think exhausted seven year old in soccer gear and cleats, or grocery/baby seat with baby in it/purse/diaper bag/keys).

My body has been resilient and resourceful, healing after broken bones, a major cut, surgeries, and other traumas.

My body gets me where I need to go, protects and comforts my children, is there for a friend to lean on, and is the best reminder system on the planet, never failing to let me know when I need sleep, nourishment, mental stimulation, a good laugh or a cleansing cry.

Sure, my body continues to vex me, but it's the only one I will ever have. I have decided to at least appreciate it?

I'm working on the love part.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Boys to (Young / Very Young) Men

Recently a friend with much younger sons – hers are two and four – asked me how motherhood looked from where I sit not, with kids aged 9 and 13.

Not quite knowing where to begin, I simply told her about my week: On Saturday, my 9-year-old and I slogged our way through the “Choose to Refuse” booklet about – you guessed it – drugs, tobacco and alcohol and I learned that ‘Special K’ is more than a breakfast cereal….We spent the better part of last Sunday afternoon and Thursday evening attending open houses at two private high schools with the 8th grader and learning to stay more or less in the background (not that we can afford private high school without forgoing groceries for four years, mind you, but one can browse)….Fall season baseball started and one of my kids (I promised not to say which) took three days to work up the courage to tell me he needed a bigger size athletic cup….my 13-year-old came scouting for new books to read (sorry, novels) on the shelves of my writing office…the 4th grader has started to hand-in-hand with me on the two blocks from where we park our car only until we get to the corner where he turns to the school, then abruptly yanks his hand out -- and is that a bit of a strut I detect in his stride as he waves `bye?...

All of which is just fine, expected and very normal.

But the thing that made me cry – most recently, that is – was when I was heading out the other day for the annual community pumpkin sale and I asked who was coming along – more as a formality, because after all, wasn’t everyone? – and not a single male in the household spoke up.

And while this meant I could pick out any pumpkin I wanted without anyone arguing that it was too lopsided, too round, too square, too big, too large, too orange, not orange enough… hit me: I don’t have “little” children anymore.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We Go Together

This was the summer my husband and I decided that we were not going to spend hundreds (thousands!) of dollars signing up our kids up for summer "camp" programs to keep them busy a few hours a day. Since I work at home, we reasoned, and we have a semi-large house, and since our boys are not little kids anymore in need of constant entertainment, and since we have a fenced backyard and more toys, games and sports equipment than Target, it would be a good thing, a very good thing, for the boys to learn to keep themselves occupied on their own wits.

Besides, I was determined not to sacrifice this precious gift of 10 weeks of unscheduled unhurried free time. I just didn't want to forsake the kids' and my own delicious right to sleep in, and I liked the idea of not resorting to a no-frills, shortened summer vacation at a relative's house because most of the disposable bucks will have been sucked up for "camp."

Besides, neither boy was clamoring to play supervised basketball for two weeks or rehearse for a goofy musical in a hot church basement or even shoot off hand-made rockets in a field behind the swanky private school where, for a few years previously, each had been enrolled in something speciously called Talent Explosions.

And so, we settled in for languorous weeks of....nothing. Well, I had work to do, but hours spent working when one hears one's children downstairs and in the yard, inevitably squabbling instead of daydreaming, quickly collapsed into two hours a day. Who wants to work when one can play with the kids? So nothing soon turned into daily trips to Grandpa's pool two miles down the road, afternoons of watching vapid videos on our air conditioned house, and mid-morning trips Dunkin Donuts. We were all happy.

For a while. We slept in. We played cards together. We all read exactly what we felt like reading, in the living room, together. We even played board games. Together. We took bike rides, all together. We went grocery shopping, school supply shopping, and shopping for new DVDS, board games and other entertainment we could do together. Can you see where this is heading?

Today, T-minus 16 days until school starts again, we have had enTirely Too much of the T words: too much Togetherness.

The boys want to scalp each other. And who knows what they want to do to me. I of course am the perfect mother - calm, full of fun ideas, unflappable. Neither mutiny nor humidity upset me.

And that bundle of unused camp cash, which we were going to use on a pull-the-stops family vacation next week? Gone, mostly - spent. On DVDs, miniature golf, matinees, bowling, bookstores, lattes, remote-controlled NASCAR vehicles, gel-cushioned bike seat covers, carnivals, IMAX, museums, and the military history boat tour of New York Harbor.

Yes, we're still going on that vacation. We will travel the highway all together in our SUV (but with headphones and DVDs for the boys!), stay in a mini-suite (separate bedroom for the boys!), and attend a family party (where there may even be a kids table). We might have enough left for a boat tour of Boston Harbor, too, when we do some sight-seeing with my sister and her fiance. All Together.

I love my boys.

But I also love that word that ends in -er, the one which signals the perfect balance between how much time a mother and her two kids should spend with one another: September.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Own Mothers Day Gift -- to Myself !

An essay of mine, "When a Child Outgrows the Safety Net," will be published in the New York Times on Sunday, May 13 (tomorrow!).
Am I ever proud of my brave son Sean, who allowed me to share this very personal journey we made together, from the land of special needs to a brand new place.

Read all about it over at my other blog, which is all about writing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thanks, Maggie

In one gulp, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has done more for mothers who nurse than 25 years of earnest blathering about nature and nutrition. Isn’t it incredibly stupid that in this country, women who bare their breasts to feed their babies are a source of controversy, but those who barely cover their nipples for the sake of publicity, commerce, or titillation, run no such risk? Maybe if more and more women breastfed in public, children of both sexes would grow up with a far healthier understanding of what those mammaries are there for in the first place.