Along for the ride

It doesn't take much for a parent to get thrown off an airplane these days. Just recently, an Atlanta mom and tot got booted from an Oklahoma bound flight because her three-year-old son insisted on repeating "Bye-bye plane!" before take off. He wasn’t having a meltdown or anything, he just wouldn’t stop talking. Is it her fault the kid is precocious? You’d think there’d be a warning on the
Brainy Baby DVDs.

Whatever the case, if that's how airlines roll (fly?) these days, I’m definitely in trouble. Each of my kids has the gift of gab and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. My oldest came out of the womb reciting Langston Hughes poetry. Her younger siblings, while currently only fluent in toddlerspeak (or pigeon English, Farsi or Mandarin, depending on the day) are quickly working their way up the precocious scale as well. I’ll admit it’s (mostly) adorable, but I can totally see how someone sitting near us on a plane might be tempted to reach for their stun gun.

My kids aren’t the only little ones that won’t stop talking, Manhattan’s got thousands just like them (they’re thick on the Upper West Side but you really can find them all over). So maybe it's time that airlines try and make flights more kid friendly (not banning sippy cups might be a start ) and begin thinking of ways to keep every passenger — including parents — sane.

Instead of glaring at children while the plane taxis before takeoff, flight attendants could give out crayons. And would it kill them to provide some stickers? At the very least, the latest B-movie — that no one under seventy is interested in seeing anyway — could be replaced by pixar hits that both parents and their offspring can enjoy (there’s only so much Sandra Bullock one can take).

In my mythical friendly skies, there'd be a "kiddie class"— sectioned off by a curtain (that’s preferably sound proof). Nursing moms could feed without wondering if Barbara Walters is going to lean over and say something she could have saved for The View. Chatty toddlers could chat, fussy babies could fuss and whiny children whine while we enjoy some chardonnay. All moms would get complimentary neck and shoulder massages as the kids watch Dan Zanes videos. And let’s not forget the free juice boxes.

But alas, genteel breeders, the entire world does not cater to the needs of the sophisticated, young family . We should probably just shut up and be thankful for Baby Loves Disco and Ikea. Of course we could complain, but it would be pointless (and besides, if everything was designed for the 21st century family…what would be left to complain about?). By the time the airlines give us a break, our kids will be way past the pull-up stage, anyway. At that point, we’ll be back to our old jet-setting ways, skipping off to the south of France while the tweens are off at summer camp.

Yeah, as it turns out there’s not only life before the kids, but after them, too. Unfortunately, we can’t get there with frequent flier miles…but I’ve heard it’s worth the trip.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column is called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Keep on moving

Sorry for the scanty blog posts - we're in the process of moving to Houston. Parting is such sweet sorrow - it hit me when we had our farewell party last night with about thirty of the friends we've made in the past four years here. It's the people that really make a place special, you know? But it's time to go. The cost of real estate in Texas is reason enough! And Mr. J's new job, which is actually pretty exciting and will free up a lot more of his time for writing.

So anyway...a short detour in Philly to see family will happen before we finally arrive in the bayou (All they've had is rain lately! Hope that stops). Please bear with me, I'll be back in full effect within weeks. So will Mr. J, for those of you who visit his online lounge.

A side note, my regular Time Out Kids essay will be posted on Monday. The theme: Do toddlers really need pilates?

Thanks for your support, your input and bearing with me. Talk to you soon.


Content of their character

Now that Tiger Woods is a dad, golf aficionados might wonder what princess Sam’s arrival might do to her old man’s game. Baby-boomers might wonder why the couple chose to name their daughter the tomboy-chic “Sam” instead of the time-tested “Samantha”. Others may wonder if Tiger’s wife Elin’s credentials as a former nanny means she’ll still need one of her own. But as a mom who’s doing her best to raise kids who take pride in their heritage, I’m wondering how the PGA champ plans to approach his daughter when it comes to the matter of race.

My query is far from unfounded. It’s no secret that Tiger Woods has a history of dodging phone calls from the NAACP requesting his support, of laughing off fried chicken jokes made by other golfers at his expense and publicly admitting to Oprah Winfrey that he’s not black or Asian, but ”Cablinasian”, meaning Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian, (despite the fact that neither of his parents were white). By this point, his publicists know better than to return phone calls asking the American Express spokesman to speak at Black History Month events.

Either way, I hope Tiger will prepare his daughter for the fact that despite however famous a person is or how wealthy they are, race still matters in America. I hope he’ll brace Sam Alexis for the fact that there may come a time when she hears a racially tainted joke uttered at the lunch table of whatever prestigious private school he and Elin choose to send her to. Or better yet, that there may come a time when she has an experience similar to my own, some twenty-odd years ago on the schoolyard:

"Come to me, blackie!"

I was mortified as I stood there in pigtails, watching Doug Cohn beckon me with his chubby little finger. My only comeback was to tell Lise Toplin, the safety guard (oooh, a big fifth grader!), who whinily told him to "Stop being mean."

Later, Doug ended up in my eleventh grade Sociology class. Regularly, as the teacher was explaining things like propaganda and the media. I felt Doug’s eyes on me. He wasn't waiting for the right time to ask me to shine his shoes, he clearly wanted more than that. By then there’d been plenty of time for new stereotypes about black females to plant themselves I his brain. It was the good thing that sociology class was at the end of the day. That way, if I felt the urge to run right home and take a shower, I could.

I think the best way to teach children about racism is to approach it in a similar manner to how one might begin talking to one’s child about other things that may (or may not) make a parent feel a little uncomfortable to discuss, like sex and death. Both topics are big issues, but also ones that will come up in a child's life whether we want them to or not. Like the birds and the bees, I think there are some things that kids should learn from their parents before they get misinformation from somewhere else.

Not unlike the facts of life, my husband and I take each of our daughter's questions about racism as they come. Then we try to break it down to a level she can relate to, given her age (five). A preschooler might want to know things like why MLK had to fight for freedom in the first place, but the answer doesn't need to be a lecture on the atrocities of slavery or a detailed account of lynchings in the Jim Crow south. That will come later. For now, we talk about how black people weren't allowed to eat in the same restaurants as white people or drink from the same fountains. How that would make a person feel (if they weren't white)? Is that fair? Preschoolers love to talk about what is and isn't fair, so at this point, discussing race has basically been a piece of cake.

We’re also careful not to dwell on the fact that in America, our ethnic group has been considered inferior, because we don't want them to become so self-conscious of others biases that it limits their ability, as evidenced by "The Stereotype Threat". Instead, we choose to focus less on racism and more on the accomplishments of African Americans and the aspects of our culture that have been written out of standard education. We know that racism will eventually rear its ugly head; we try our best to give them the ammunition to confront it head on when it does.

Yet people of color aren't the only ones who need to understand prejudice. White children should be taught about it too, so that by the time it comes up in school, they are sensitized to the issue, not dismissive of it. And like sex, if a child has reached 9 or 10 without ever asking about it, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and have "the big talk". At that age, a fifteen-minute history lesson should do the trick (I wish Doug's parent's had done that). The last thing a parent should want is to find out that their kid was off at college participating in a (insert favorite minority group here)"costume party". Much like catching one’s daughter on a commercial for "Girls Gone Wild", that would be proof that someone dropped the ball.

The toughest part is, most parents have the birds and the bees all figured out (or let’s hope so), but many adults, of all persuasions, are ignorant about the history of race in America and how it plays into our everyday lives...from where a person decides to sit in a doctor's waiting room, to the friends they choose, to who they elect for president. Knowing that racism will affect their children at some point in life (whether it's through white privilege or bearing the brunt of direct bigotry) should encourage any parent—including those who are famous golfers—to learn as much about it as they can. So when it’s finally time for “the big talk”, they’re prepared.

This essay is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, the late William Howard May (June 17, 1911 — June 4, 2007), who taught me to be proud of who I am and took pride in the groundbreaking success of Tiger Woods as if he’d been a grandchild of his very own.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column is called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Baby in the air

All knocked up with no place to go. That basically sums up my general disposition during the last trimester of both pregnancies. As much as I wanted to set foot on a plane and see the world, I was on house arrest by doctor’s orders, stuck at home, staring at my belly, guessing who’s coming to dinner.

It wasn’t anything serious, but both times, my OB suggested I think twice before traveling anywhere. My first pregnancy was perfect with the exception of a benign, but excruciating condition that prevented me from being in a close friend's island wedding (to this day, five years later, I still don't think the bride has forgiven me). The second, a twin pregnancy that left me looking full-term somewhere around month five, I was too huge to even take my two-year-old on a merry-go-round without the operator grilling me about my due date. A week later, when I asked my doctor what he thought of my bright idea to jet off and meet my husband who was teaching at a summer writer’s workshop, he just looked at my belly and laughed.

The only thing worse than being extremely pregnant is being extremely pregnant and exceptionally bored. Even if the nursery's not finished, there's only but so much nesting a gestating woman is capable of before losing her hormone-marinated mind. That’s why I refuse to badmouth the woman who recently boarded a Delta airplane pregnant and ended up giving birth before landing. Many criticized her for setting foot on the plane in the first place, but honestly, who can blame her? Life must go on, whether one already has kids with or just happens to be “with child”. In fact, as a parent of small children who’s terrified of flying (with them), I’m almost willing to pay someone to have a baby while my family takes our first flight as a fivesome this summer.

I actually think a parent flying with small kids would be crazy not to welcome a (non-terrorism related) mid-flight commotion that isn’t caused by their own offspring. Please, somebody distract the entire plane from listening to my youngest daughter squeal because she wants the Pirates Booty that I forgot to pack. Save the woman behind us from being distracted from her knitting because my preverbal son keeps flirting with her. Prevent the entire economy class from listening to my oldest serenade them because she's decided she's the newest member of the Cheetah Girls. Keep me from wanting to hit my husband over the head with my Skip Hop bag because he’s listening to his ipod and reading a comic book through all of this, pretending he doesn’t even know us. I'm not adverse to anyone who wants to help make sure my kids don't get our entire family thrown off the plane. To jet-setting parents of half-pints, a laboring mother on board is like a get out of jail free card.

So bring me your tired, your poor pregnant women who can’t stand the idea of putting their lives on hold while waiting for their special deliveries to arrive. We’ll make a seat for you in first class. Don’t even worry about the other passengers. In the rare event you’re your water breaks somewhere between the plastic cups being taken away and Zoolander being shown, your dignity will fly right out the passenger seat window anyway. You’ll care less about the nauseous businessman two rows in front of you, the flight attendant who’s too freaked out to serve pretzels because she’s hiding in the bathroom, or the baby boomer shouting “that’s not how I did it!” from the back.

Just know that no matter how stir-crazy you happen to be right now, or how gargantuan you insist you are, making the decision to fly in the third trimester isn’t anything to take lightly. It’s a lot different than wondering if a glass of merlot has a higher alcohol content than a glass of shiraz and if just one teeny glass of either of the two could cause fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s not like questioning the health risk of cooked sushi or wondering if the steaming hot bath you took the other night could mean your unborn child is destined to a life of pity. But if you have the nerve, I applaud you and any woman with enough gumption to laugh in the face of her OB, Mother Nature and of course her own mother to climb aboard with an almost baked bun in the oven. Let's just hope there's a doctor in the house.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Is there a problem?

Racism is often treated as a "black subject", but we know it's everybody's issue. Being white shouldn't make a person exempt from having to consider race and racism in their everyday lives. Any a parent who want to raise well-adjusted children should probably be thinking about these kind of things. I was reminded of this as I was going through some of J-Jo's papers from nursery school. So much of it brought back certain memories, like:

...the day I brought J-Jo to school a few minutes late and Headteacher beckoned (only) to J-Jo and chimed: "Hurry up, we're taking about Africa!" (emphasis on the word "Africa!")

...or the day that we told Headteacher we were keeping J-Jo out of school one afternoon to take her to see a replica of the Amistad, which was temporarily docked at a harbor nearby.

Mrs. Headteacher: "Do you feel she's ready for the subject of slavery?"

Mrs. J: "She's known about slavery since she was two." In a general sense, but it's true.

Mrs. Headteacher: "Let us know if there's anything we can do here to help her with that."

Mrs. J: Uh, thanks.

What I wanted to say: "You all pretend like the holidays aren't even happening because you're afraid of offending people. Do you really think I expect you to teach my child about slavery? Do ya really think I'd TRUST you to?"

Oh well. It's over now. J-Jo graduated two weeks ago (in the form of a picnic, no cap and gowns up here). Next year, she'll be at a progressive charter school in Houston that's a lot more diverse. I know J-Jo will miss the friends she's made here, though. I will too. They're all sweet kids who I've watched grow from babies to toddlers to sassy-mouthed little kids right along with my own (not too thrilled about that sassy part). And I know she'll miss the little white schoolhouse and its intimate little yard. But I gotta admit, I'm still reeling from this upstate nursery school experience. While it was great in certain ways — the healthy snacks, organic "birthday muffins" instead of cupcakes, the fact that their learning was play-based — I can't say I'll actually miss it.


And just where do you think you're going?

Ever been to a graduation where somebody's family acted a fool? I have. Thank God it wasn't my own.

Anybody who's witnessed what I reference knows the cringe factor here. Overzealous whooping and hollering is just not cute in certain settings. Those with home training (and you know who you are) know full well that at certain dignified, stoic events...weddings, baptisms, graduations there's a certain amount of decorum expected, no? Naturally heads are going to turn when all of the sudden, a name of a graduating senior is announced and an entire section — Uncle Jimmie, cousin Skeeter, Big Momma and ten more — decide to stand up and raise the roof. Almost as if they earned the diploma themselves, just for showing up.

But should that mean that the graduating senior should be penalized by
not receiving their diplomas, based on the reaction of their family members? According to the officials of Galesburg High School, the answer is yes. And as if that isn't punishment enough, the seniors — including those with honors — are expected to do several hours of "community service" (ie. filing, answering phones, and other menial tasks for the School Board) before they get their actual diploma.

From AP:

The principal, Principal Tom Chiles, said administrators who monitored the more than 2,000-seat auditorium reported only disruptions they considered "significant," and all turned in the same five names.

"Race had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever," Chiles said. "It is the amount of disruption at the time of the incident."

I would buy that if four out of the five students punished weren't black, and the other wasn't hispanic. And if I was certain there had been equal repercussions for other seniors, and their shenanigans.

Some people might need etiquette lessons, but what's wrong with being happy? And should any of us really be held accountable for our, how do I say, more eccentric family members? As much as I cringe at Al Sharpton jumping into the mix any time anything even remotely racial occurs anywhere in the U.S., I sure hope he's on his way out to Galesburg, Illinois right now.

What do you all think?



Don't ask me who the crazy looking guy on the wall is, just trust me, this place is amazing. I'm still catching my breath after a whirlwind weekend visit to Mass MOCA in North Adams, MA (about two hours and some change from here). I was a studio art major in college and although my medium is now words, I have a sincere passion for high art and an extraordinary amount of respect for those who create it. Walking though contemporary art galleries is one of my favorite things to do in life and just setting foot in the museum's gift shop is damn near transcendental. So needless to say, mommy was one happy camper.

If asked whose work I admire the most, that of Ellen Gallagher and my former classmates (well almost classmates, they went to Morehouse), Kojo Griffin and Sanford Biggers would come to mind most easily, but there are a ton of contemporary artists I jock. I could care less about a painting matching my couch, I'm most impressed by the concept. The artist in the main gallery had an amazing usage of color and exploration of light. But my favorite part was J-Jo standing in front of an installation that was comprised of about 44 fans stacked on top of eachother, blowing at different times: "Fans are not art mommy, they're for blowing air." She was all over the Ugly Dolls, though:

Road trips like this one have me almost wishing we weren't getting ready to leave the northeast at the end of this summer. Yes, you heard me right, the J Family will soon be leaving upstate New York, due to Mr. J's new tenure-track gig. I'm ecstatic for my honey, but hate moving, so I'll leave the details to him (for those of you who haven't already heard).

For now, a few more shots from Mass MOCA, starring the J Trio:

A stranger offered J-Jo the purple balloon (at least it wasn't candy).

Check out the trees hanging from above.

J-Jo reminds me how much creativity I've lost in the third floor art studio dedicated entirely to kids.

Blowing off some steam before the ride home. Better there than in the car, bugging out all the way through the Berkshires!


How to Be a Playa (or just accused of it)

No sooner than Michelle Obama announces that she's leaving her job to hit the ground running on her hubby's campaign trail, she's accused of having a chip on her exfoliated shoulder. A new website, Jezebel (from the good folks who bring you Gawker), speculates that said chip is because old boy "messed up".

Not that they actually know anything. But according to the gals over there, Mrs. O's comments about "he's just a man" and her referring to him as the "the brother" somehow indicate that she got played. They go on to rant about how it was a City Hall aide and how "he's supposed to be all fresh and clean". No proof or anything, just a silly, speculative, rant passed off as snarky humor. For the record, even if it makes white people uncomfortable, calling someone "the brother" (even if it is one's husband) is not a diss. Especially when, in context, it is to say "The brother is smart", as Mrs.O actually did recently (to an all black crowd).

If the jezebels at Jezebel would slow their roll a minute — and put down their assumptions that all black men are dogs...no comment on politicians in general — before jumping to conclusions, they'd have realized that Michelle Obama is 100% behind her honey. And for better or for worse, that's really all that matters. This is a serious presidential candidate we're talking about, ladies, not you're effing ex-boyfriend. Save the cheap shots for someone else.


Sparkling Wiggle (say that ten times fast)

Nice try, racist morons, but black people are pretty used to this kind of thing by now. That's not to say it's okay for parents to make fools out of their children by "innocently" taping them making unintentional racist slurs and broadcasting it on YouTube for the world to see. I'm just not worried about your kid sitting next to mine in AP classes, spewing racial epithets at her or anything. At the rate you all are going, she'll be lucky if she makes it past fifth grade.

So I'm just going to go about my life as you all go about yours. Where do you live, Anchorage? If you ever make it back to civilization, say in your retirement or something, maybe I'll run into you when we're taking our black grandkids to the park. Don't worry, I might be a little bitter in my old age, but I won't bite.

In Excess

I can’t imagine my life without children. That said, there are certain things about having them I could easily live without. At the top of the list: toys. The ones I trip over constantly, that get played with for five—make that two—minutes before being discarded like last week's Times. Toys that make repetitive, annoying noises. Toys that do nothing to enhance the visual appeal of a room. That’s mean, right? Where do I get off being so superficial, selecting their diversions based on looks or their sound? Isn’t it more important that the children are happy, stimulated and fulfilled, regardless of the packaging the aforementioned entertainment comes in? I don’t think so.

The worst part about it is that my children barely even notice when plush animals and plastic playthings disappear because they’re bored with the toys they have anyway. Within what seems like a matter of days, they outgrow and abandon them faster than the small town girl who gets dumped by her high school sweetheart after putting his butt through med school.

Provided they even want to play with toys at all. My oldest would much rather play games on the computer, my younger daughter would much rather get her cute, chubby fingers on some crayons and proceed to add her personal touch to anything within arm’s length (except paper). And my son just wants to eat. So when I finally realized that collectively, my kids’ M.O. involved dumping their toys out of the various baskets that pepper their playroom and our home before abandoning them, something clicked. Loud. I could very well maximize my time and productivity—rather greatly, I might add—by eliminating at least half of the random things that piss me off.

I began with the Happy Meal toys because these weren’t even supposed to be here in the first place. My kids practically live on Yo Baby yogurt and Annie’s Mac and Cheese, not Chicken McNuggets and fries. But on certain occasions, I backslide. I’m not proud of it; it’s just the truth. It’s way too easy to give into the Golden Arches when daddy’s working late, my back is killing me and just the idea of slaving over a hot stove would be the final, rusty nail in my coffin. That said, I hate Happy Meals and the associated accoutrements. I resent the fact that they linger around the house, in all of their tacky, plastic glory, evoking my guilty feelings for even going there. So into the trash they go.

Next up, the noisemakers. I swear the people who design them hate their parents, but is that really our fault? Rowdy toys are not my friends. I don’t really care if their intention is to “teach” something. They make computers for that. And that Fisher Price tea set, the one whose little teapot makes muzak every time you touch it can go, too. Along with the toys that player-hate me for having an adult life. The ones that, without any prompting at all, decide to pipe in with their two cents after hours, once the kids are asleep and I’ve wound down with a glass of merlot and my husband’s putting on the Barry White. Noisy toys are just evil.

Maybe if the majority of the toys we had actually got any play, I’d feel differently. But it took me three kids and (at least) thirty trips to the Salvation Army to realize that when it comes to toys, most kids are cads. To this day, my five-year-old only consistently only “plays” with one thing, and that’s Zozo, a stuffed bunny she named at age two that my dad’s friend picked up for her at Harrod’s when she was born. Sure, Zozo’s fur is matted, his (her?) green, grosgrain ribbon is missing from around the neck and it smells a little funny. But that bunny s a survivor. Zozo’s seen many a plaything disappear from this house. He (she?) has also seen many toys get used and abused, loved and left in this house. Zozo’s also seen mommy send many a stuffed animal down the river to Goodwill—faster than an antebellum slave master. Zozo ain’t going nowhere. The rest of them better watch their backs.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Meet Teddy P. Brains

After fussing with the remote for a while, J-Jo flung it down on the couch, obviously demoralized. "Whatever happened to Little Bill? I always look for it, but it's never on."

I'd noticed that too...but did my best not to shatter her image of a pollyanna world by telling her what I really thought. I hesitated for a minute, kind of hard pressed to find an answer, but she quickly summed it up for me: "Oh, I know mommy. Maybe it comes on while we're sleeping."

"Maybe". Riiight. Just like "Perspectives" featuring Tim Meadows on the old Saturday Night Live episodes. And every other black talk show on public access tv.

Good thing for Teddy P. Brains. He and Little Bill might look similar on paper, but J-Jo's decided that Teddy's actually the better catch.

In the new 3-D animated children's program, Teddy P. Brains, his cousin Tempest and his dog Dartagnan seek knowledge on their missions back in time, through space and around the world. It begins with Teddy getting a very special present for his kindergarten graduation: a magic diploma that summons a rocket capable of traveling through time and space. Must be nice.

You know something's working when your child and her playdate (who looks just like a character from a Hans Christian Andersen tale) ask to watch a character (who isn't played out on backpacks) over, and over. And over. Again. The animated series targeting 3 to 8 year olds does an incredible job helping kids learn about history and natural science while letting them live vicariously through its protagonists. Smart.


Why God Made Moms

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


The Little Things

My firstborn forced me to wonder what I did with all of the hours in a day before giving birth. Once my husband and I got her home from the hospital (elated that they didn't expect us to bring her back) I soon learned that things like taking a five-minute shower was no longer a basic right, it was a privilege. Activities once taken for granted, like spending an entire Saturday morning in bed before heading to brunch by three pm, devoting an entire Sunday to laying on the couch reading the Times or taking my sweet old time in Sephora quickly became things of the past. All indulgences that used to be routine, like shaving my legs, for instance, suddenly felt slightly naughty. Slipping out to the mall child-free evoked even more guilt. A regular trip to the hair salon felt like a full-blown affair.

Yet just when it seemed as if those days were here to stay, somehow - almost as if by magic, I swear - they faded into the ether faster than acid washed jeans. I got over feeling guilty about pampering myself and remembered that it was something I not only needed, but also actually deserved. And now that all my children are far past the infancy stage, I can actually leave them with daddy for a few hours while I jet off to loll around in a white robe. I love the idea of a day when all I have to think about is me. What I wouldn’t give to have a hot stone massage, facial and pedicure before rolling out of heaven, I mean, Haven, feeling like whole wheat fettuccini. After taking my sweet old time waiting for the toenail polish to dry, I’d drive home barefoot, climb into bed and doze off for as long as I pleased.

Sounds like the perfect Mothers Day, doesn’t it? Of course it does, unless you’re me. Because, believe it or not, all I really want to do this Sunday is hang out with husband and kids.

I'm no masochist, really I'm not, but aside from a homemade card, I don’t even want gifts. I’d much rather spend time remembering the real meaning of the Hallmark co-opted holiday through the words that the activist poet Julia Ward Howe penned so long ago about all of the mothers of the world rising up in the name of peace. I want to call my mom, and then my ninety-one year old grandmom to thank them. I want to think about the day my kids were born and then I just want to enjoy them.

And then we'll pack up the car and head for the hills for some fun. Up here in the Mid Hudson, there will be plenty of mom-friendly things to get into that are all within a days drive. For one, there are at least a dozen historic mansions all along the Hudson River. Unless you're into antiques it sounds kind of boring...until you actually set foot in one. And there are day trips a plenty: in the time it takes for Dora to come on, followed by Diego we could drive to Dia:Beacon or Great Barrington. And if we're really feeling adventurous (and nobody's too cranky) we could hightail it to North Adams, MA to check out MASS MOCA. And last but not least, thanks to the CIA, there are a myriad of fine places to absolve me of dinner duty.

That would really be enough, because as much as I adore Red Envelope, there's nothing that can replace the fact that I already have my gift. I might not be able to go to the bathroom without a small army standing in front of the door as if I’m plotting to escape through the commode, but my children are more than enough (in a good way). Their laughter sounds better than anything I could download onto my ipod. Their eyes sparkle far brighter than any token I could receive in a little blue box. And although I can often feel them peeling years off my life with their unwarranted whining, there’s really no place else I’d rather be, nothing else I’d rather be doing and nobody else I’d rather be but their mom.

I say all of this knowing full well that one day down the line, at least one of them will wonder what I once asked my own mom out loud: “Hey wait a minute, how come there’s a Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Grandparents Day…but no Kids Day? And I’ll patiently respond with the patented answer: “Because every day is Kids Day”. I'll leave it at that because hopefully, one day in the distant future, they’ll realize what it took me until now to understand: every day is Mother's Day, too. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go treat myself to a massage (my mother didn’t raise a fool).

Old School Thursday (courtesy of J-Jo)

She almost picked ABC, but this one wins this week.

I Want You Back, Jackson Five
(the year was somewhere around the time I was born!)


No Comment

Sorry about the lack of a comment button on Friday's post (you know I love to hear what y'all think!). For some reason, there was no no way for anyone to leave the comments I look forward to reading over the weekend. I even cut and pasted into a different document (so now it technically says last Thursday), but that didn't help. Anyway, so sorry about that. Hmm, Wordpress is looking more and more appealing to me these days...

The Apology

Little Marvin: 3

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This Little Marvin vignette is the funniest comeback to the Imus controversy I've ever seen (thanks for finding it, honey!).


The Immunity Challenge

While I can admit I've finally grown accustomed to country living, there are still certain things I miss about city life. Mostly the cliches that people who live as far as Idaho have heard of, like being able to get a gallon of milk at three am, the first-rate culture and the world class cuisine. You know the rest. But as a parent, I have to come clean about something: I don't miss the germs. I don't long for the days that a trip to my Manhattan cubicle meant being exposed to the virus of the week, the one that even folks in Queens were catching. I couldn't afford it then, but I definitely can't afford it now. Holding on to the lukewarm metal pole on the D train takes on a whole new meaning when you're chiefly responsible for keeping a family of five alive.

For some reason, I thought that moving to a rural area would somehow grant our kids instant immunity from a multitude of contagious diseases. But just because the sweetly-scented, mountain air we've got up here could put Glade out of business doesn't mean there's nothing floating in it. It's gorgeous country, but we're not exempt from the less idyllic aspects of everyday life. I guess that explains why the coxsackie virus, also known as the lovely hand-foot-mouth disease, is also the name of a real town just several miles up the road. I'm not even going there.

And I'm not sure what the city preschoolers are into, but amongst the preschool set up here, sickness is tres chic. My almost kindergartner is quick to let me know this through her regular updates: "Ella has an ear infection! She has this fabulous pink medicine for it that she gets to bring to school." Even if I remind her that ear infections aren't fun, she persists, starry-eyed: "Okay. Can we paint my room that pink medicine color?" With her pointed, red carpet-style reportage of the pint-sized, A-List infirmed, my girl's well on her way to becoming the next Tanika Ray. She even has the nerve to get upset when she's not invited to the hottest chicken-pox party (I'm not offended in the least).

I guess it doesn't help that my husband's career requires regular exposure to coughing college students who survive on Lucky Charms cereal and cigarettes (Dear student: Being nineteen and having your own apartment does not mean you have common sense). Last week, when he was forced to cancel class because he was laid up with strep throat, tonsils the size of red globe grapes, I ran around like a nut, trying to figure out how I could possibly prevent the rest of the house from coming down with it too. And how I could possibly even know if the twins had sore throats when the only language they're fluent in is Toddlerese? Somehow, my honey's illness passed and the remaining eight tonsils in the house were left unscathed. But soon everyone except mommy had a runny nose and our youngest daughter had some suspicious looking goop coming out of her bloodshot eyes. Great.

One of the realities of being a mom of three kids is accepting the fact that quite often, for months at a time, somebody is always going to sick. The only upside to this phemonena is that I've developed an accute awareness as to which symptoms to ignore and which are actually worth interrupting our pediatrician for while he's at home on the couch, watching Lost. On the pediatric terror alert scale, I decided the pink eye was probably somewhere around yellow. I knew that meant a trip to the doctor was required. While coercing my baby girl to stay in my lap as her twin brother pointed and cracked up at the doctor's Disney tie (what can I say, the boy's got good taste), we learned that not only did she in fact have pinkeye, but she also had her first ear infection.

Even though I wasn't glad to hear it, I was rather impressed that it took almost two years for the first ear infection to catch up with her. Still, I left that office feeling somewhat defeated, convinced that even if I spent the next sixteen plus years wiping down counters with tea tree oil and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day (the harsher stuff scares me), someone in our house would always be ill. All the echinacea in the world couldn't help us.

Sure, it's great to live like Swiss Family Robinson (minus the actual Swiss part of course), but that doesn't mean we upstate people are immune from real life. I don't miss packing into suffocating elevators and and impromptu trips to ebola-ridden public bathrooms, but my family still gets sick. I won't give up though. I'm not about to stop making sure they get their fresh air, their 5 a Day and whatever else seems to work (plus, I love the fact that the staff at our small town health food store treats me like Norm from Cheers and provides first rate customer service, so I'll keep going back for more home remedies). I'm determined to conquer each ailment as it comes and hopefully the warmer months will provide a nice respite from the nasty winter and colds we endure. I'll just keep a travel-sized version of hand sanitizer in the cup holder on the jogger stroller (and in the diaper bag and the glove compartment). That should do it.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


The Me Nobody Knows

It's almost been four years since Mr. J and I packed up our belongings and J-Jo (who was, at that time, the same age as the twins are now) and headed north to our current home in the Hudson Valley.

When we first got here, I was very conscious of the fact that I was the only black woman up here. For miles. You'd be more likely to see a wild turkey crossing the street than a sister at the supermarket (yes, we really do have wild turkeys up here).

It was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. Even in the 'burbs I grew up in, there were other black people. But with time I learned to stop worrying about people's stares and just go about my business. Instead of worrying about how the lady at H & R Block began filing out as single (never mind the ring or the fact that I was seven months pregnant at the time), I got the terrific accountant we have now and never looked back. I ignored the stares at the supermarket. I even stopped caring if the old lady at the pump across from me just jumped in her car and locked the doors after seeing me get out of my Honda Odyssey (yeah, they say most muggers drive those).

I got over standing out. Or at least I thought I did.

Until yesterday, when I took a huge bag of clothes to donate to a local charity-based thrift store. For some reason, I felt the (odd) need to apologize while handing the bag to the lady over the counter, because nothing was ironed or on hangers or anything. She took one look at me and replied:

"As long as everything's clean."


I tried to recall what I looked like when I left the house that morning. My hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail, I had on a black peasant top and jeans. And my favorite chandalier earrings (they weren't these or anything, but so what?). Sure, I'd been running around with the kids all morning, but we weren't rolling in the dirt. Of course my clothes were clean. Of course the huge bag of used clothes were clean, too. So why'd she have to go there?

I felt the sudden urge to write Barack Obama, something tells me he'd understand.

One of the biggest things that annoys me about race in this country is that just when you're going about your business just thinking you're a person, somebody has to point the finger at you and shout: "No! You're not a person, you're a BLACK (or whatever else that's not white) person!" As if that's all that matters. As if there's nothing else. As if I owe anybody an explanation, just for being me.

At least she didn't call me "inarticulate".


He Knows He Loves His Wife

In case you haven't heard already, Chris Rock is about to take a DNA test to prove (hopefully) that the adoescent child of a 36-year-old Atlanta journalist isn't his.

Recently, Rock and his lovely wife, Malaak, went public, disputing gossip that their marriage is headed for splitsville:

"It is extremely hurtful to us, our children, and our extended family. We remain, as always, very happy and committed to our marriage and the beautiful family that we have built."

I have to be honest, I've heard quite a bit over the years about things not going so well for them, tales of his infidelity and her planning to leave, but that doesn't mean they were true. And even if there was a bit of truth to it (or a whole lot of it) here and there, the bottom line is that they are clearly trying to make it work. Clearly, they're still in love and value what they have.

And we all know that for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, the only people who reeeally know what is going on in anybody's marriage are the two people in it. It they're alright, shouldn't everyone else be, too?

But that said, (cough) I really hope the kid isn't his.

I just couldn't help but doing the math to figure out if Chris and Malaak were together at the time the child in question was conceived. Regardless, I applaud Rock for doing the right thing by agreeing to take responsibility if he's the real dad. Truth be told, the baby mama seems kinda off (and why is it that it's always those types who pop up screaming "love child!"). But either way, something tells me the family will be alright no matter what.

Wish I could say the same for Eddie Murphy. That paternity situation of his is looking quite scary these days.


Speak for Yourself

For years, I was pretty much indifferent towards The Baldwin Brothers. I'd have been hard pressed to tell Alec, William, Daniel and Stephen apart, even for a million bucks. I had no idea there was also a fifth Baldwin, cousin Joseph. But that was before I met Jack Donaghy, the character Alec Baldwin plays on NBC's "30 Rock".

And fell in love.

With the character, mind you, Alec Baldwin's not even my type. Come to think of it, neither is Tracy Jordan, I mean, Morgan, but I depend on the comic relief they give me to pave the occasionally bumpy road of motherhood. Race, age, body type is unimportant: men who make me laugh just have me open. My surprisingly unjealous (and quite hilarious) husband is aware of this, so it's all good. He knows his wife has needs: I have to laugh. Often. I depend on comedy the way some women crave chocolate. And we know what they say about chocolate.

So naturally, I was stunned upon hearing the verbally abusive voice mail message Baldwin left for his eleven-year-old daughter, Ireland, last week. Once I got over my initial embarrassment that I, along with the rest of America, was eavesdropping on a message that really wasn't meant for my ears or anyone else’s (except his ex-wife Kim Basinger’s, apparently), I was shocked. It was hard to believe that such words could come out of the smiling-eyed actor’s mouth while he wasn’t even in character for anything. Towards his child.

And then I got mad. But not for the reason one might think.

I was miffed because anyone who’s ever been a parent (or has ever had one) knows full well how unperfect we are. Half the time, we’re winging it. Hopefully, we do our best to stay calm under pressure, remaining conscious of the words we use. We do this because we love our children, not because we don't want them to write a tell-all about us one day. Or maybe for some people it's a little of both. Either way, I don’t condone using harsh language with children. I hate hearing teenage mothers threaten to beat their babies with Snapple bottles as much as the next person does. But what prompts strangers to program C.P.S. into their cell phones, threatening to push the button at a parent’s first false move?

Such was the case one chilly Mid Hudson morning I took all three children out for a walk on the college campus where my husband teaches (and where, coincidentally, we reside), only to discover it was actually effing freezing. We weren't even a stone's throw from the house before I decided to corral the kids and turn around to head back. But my oldest had other plans, which included romping in the grass like she was the missing half-sister from The Sound of Music. After six pleads to coax her indoors, I lost it: "Come on. Now. Come. ON!". And then, as if they'd been hiding behind bushes or something, two undergrads appeared out of nowhere, glaring at me like I was Joan Crawford . I swore I saw the shorter of the two with one finger on her cell phone, daring me to make her press send.

To this day, I still wish I'd told them to mind their own business, but it's okay. They'll get it eventually.

I guess that's what irritated me about all of the heated, passionate responses to Alec Baldwin's hissy fit. Most people without children have no idea how emotionally taxing parenting can be. And most people of the parental persuasion can admit that they’ve lost their temper at least once. Or twice. Or more. I've never used scathing, diminishing language with my kids (and don't ever plan to), just as I'm sure that most people reading this haven't either. But I can remember times when, to put it gently, I could have said things a little differently. Most parents can.

Don't just sit there and act like you can't hear me.

I have no idea what prompts a dad to sound like he wants to jump through the phone and strangle his daughter. It's terribly sad that young Ireland has to be stuck between her parent's bitter divorce. One minute, her dad's playing "This Little Piggy" with her, the next thing she knows, he's calling her one. Nothing good can come out of that. Eleven is a tender age: hopefully she won’t end up on a the couch of a Beverly Hills therapist for the next twenty years, too weak from anorexia to get off of it. And hopefully, her dad will realize that she’s the one who deserves the apology, not us; we'll be fine.

But until then, I refuse to join the ranks of people who are insisting that Alec Baldwin does community service or pledges $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club to make amends. I refuse to contact whomever the attachment parenting version of Al Sharpton is to organize a march. I refuse to applaud Baldwin for threatening to quit "30 Rock" in order to become the poster boy for "parental alienation issues" (come on, Tina, can't you talk some sense into him?).

Most importantly, I refuse to stop watching my favorite sitcom just because one daddy had a bad day; it brings me too much joy. As the old adage says: when mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy. And we wouldn't want that now, would we?

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Word to the Mother

Just when I thought it would never happen, Big L uttered his first sentence this morning:

"What's THAT?!?"

Not about anything specific, just a general question. So while the girls were still asleep, I sneaked him into our bedroom to see if I really heard what I thought I did (or if it was just some early morning dementia). Turns out, I was right: Prince Charming proceeded to run around the room pointing at things, repeating his new sentence over and over again. I spent the next twenty minutes answering him: "That's the bed, that's a lamp, that's a shoe, don't eat that! That's a book, that's the nightstand, that's...uh, gimme that!"

Even Mr. J, strep throat and all, woke up laughing his behind off, because for months now, our boy's been making absolutely no sense. Maybe to his twin, but not to us. And there was little to no effort made. He seemed to think that the "I cry, you get me what I want" method was working for everybody (namely himself). Not so. Sooo not so. I guess that's why Toddlerspeak: The Toddler Lexicon, the blog that lists every unimaginable toddlerism was created. I added a preverbal term of Coco's there a few weeks ago.

And as much as I try not to get caught up in comparing them, the fact that J-Jo was practically reciting monologues by their age doesn't help (the thought that she might have been somewhat atypical never crossed my mind once). So needless to say, I was elated. When the clock struck a more Godly hour, I called my dad to tell him that the mystery words Big L kept saying to him during our visit last weekend as he pointed at a picture on the wall actually meant something:

"e-TAA?" = "What's that?"

Who knew?

Of course in another six months I'll probably be dying for him to zip it. All of them, for that matter. But right now, for the two weeks it'll probably last, it's the cutest thing in my world.


Umm, okay...

I'm not really into personality quizzes and generally assume they're kinda cheesy. But I thought this one was fun (and strangely accurate!).

You Are a Cappuccino

You're fun, outgoing, and you love to try anything new.
However, you tend to have strong opinions on what you like.
You are a total girly girly at heart - and prefer your coffee with good conversation.
You're the type that seems complex to outsiders, but in reality, you are easy to please

Each One, Teach One

I wish I could report that the J family spent the insanely beautiful weekend picnicking and frolicking in grassy knolls of the Hudson Valley, but alas. We were homebound and didn't stray much further from the backyard, due to the fact that Mr. J was under the 80 degree weather. So while he mustered the energy to watch the kids as they played out back, my time was spent preparing for our upcoming move (more on that later).

I began by packing up books to get rid of, mostly:

1) books that have anything to do with birthing babies . J-Jo's five-and-a-half now. The twins are almost two. Life is just starting to feel "normal" again; we don't plan to follow up with a remix.

2) books that were advance copies of novels that Mr. J's publisher and/or agent sends him that he hasn't even breathed on in seven years because he's usually working on one of his own.

3) sewing books that I bought hoping they'd inspire me to learn how. Same goes for cookbooks with recipes that include the kitchen sink amongst their ingredients.

4) kids books that bore me (I'm fine with reading to them fifteen minutes a day, but I'm sorry: if mommy's going to read it, SHE has to like it too. At least a little bit).

5) college textbooks that haven't been cracked since the day before finals, nearly fifteen years ago (Just plain embarrassing).

So, what to do with these dusty old tomes?

At first, I thought I might look into selling the books online to one of those online book resellers, but had to rethink things after learning that out of the one hundred or so books I have waiting in boxes by the back door to go, I could only get $1.55. Those used book sellers have veeery specific ideas about what they want.

After boxing the books up, I had half a mind to cart them over to the local hospital thrift store. Then I recalled how rude those ladies were to me the last time I tried to donate something. Excuse me, Miss America 1948, if I'm bringing you over $500 of clothing that is perfectly good, perfectly stylish, but just not perfect on my post-partum body (that will never, ever be the same again), please don't act like I'm trying to steal from YOU. Parting with my hot pants is painful enough.

And don't bark at me that you "can't give me a tax receipt", like I've got plans to cash it in for crack.

So after recalling the unfortunate incident, I decided that I should look into sending the books someplace where people will actually appreciate them. Here's what I found:

The Camel Book Drive brings books (literally by camel, see the picture on the left) to the children of Kenya. Many published authors are donating their books to the effort. Hat tip to Lori for telling me about it.

Housing Works, the well-known NYC thrift store and outreach organization,dedicated to improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. They used to have free-shipping, but will still accept donations by mail.

In China alone, more than 1,000 university libraries and 3,000 reference rooms need collections of English language teaching and research materials. Bridge to Asia seeks to rectify this situation by accepting tax-deductible donations of used books.

Adopt a Library is a great site that provides resources to promote world literacy and help encourage donations to libraries and schools in the U.S. and around the world.

Okay, I'm off to ship the boxes. There's a certain type of comfort I take knowing that they'll find a home on the other side of the world, gracing the shelves of someone who really wants them. And while I wish that I didn't have to pay for shipping, it feels so much better than taking the chance that these books will end up in a landfill somewhere.

Now, if I can only figure out what to do about the ridiculous collection of CDs. Especially the ones we haven't listened to since '93, when were so cool like that, the contents of our entire lives could fit into our backpacks.


Barney vs. Hip Hop Harry

Barney V.S. Hip Hop Harry - Funny home videos are a click away

This is an advertisement for their long-overdue Battle Royale.

For the record, I should probably just mention that any one of us would gladly take either one of them, especially if it meant never having to watch the shows again. No offense to dinosaurs with hypoglycemia or retired bear mascots who think they're Fat Joe.

But feel free to go ahead and correct me if I'm wrong...


A Love Supreme

It took me until last year to realize that checking on my then four-year-old five times a night might be getting to be a little much.

Now that I’ve gotten that fear out of the way, I just try really hard not to think about the day when the tiny bed I tuck her into each night will be too small for her. But something tells me I won’t be sleeping any better by then.

The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech has been a somber reminder that a large part of parenting means relinquishing control. In the beginning, we cross our fingers on the sonographer’s table, praying the ultrasounds are okay. Then, once the baby gets here, we anxiously wait to see if they’re meeting all of their developmental milestones on time (“Wait a second Ms. BabyDoc, mine’s not talking yet – is that okay?”). We spend time wringing our hands over organic peanut butter vs. generic and whether play-based preschools are really the best way to go. And before we know it, we’re kissing them goodbye in the residence hall lobby. Unsure if the dorm is also home to a troubled student who might randomly commit the unspeakable.

I guess that’s when it clicks: the first time we realize how much (or how little) power we ever really had to begin with.

Right now, my kids are still small; my husband and I talk about saving for college in the same conversations we have about The Little Gym. We squirrel away money for higher learning and ponder where it should be spent (because of course they’ll have plenty of options!). We compare and contrast the finer points of both Ivy League schools and HBCUs and why we both think they should at least leave the state. But for all the investing we do – both financially and emotionally - there will never be enough in the 529 Plan for me to picture our kids away at college until they actually get there. For some reason, the mental image of us sitting in the audience of their high school and college graduations are easier for me to imagine (even if my hair is grey) than what will take place in between. These days, that thought’s just too scary.

Of course I expect that the four years will be well spent – that they’ll thrive academically and socially – it’s the unknowns that haunt me. The parts that even the most vigilant attachment parenting can’t prevent. And not only the heinous crimes, but also the soul crushing things. Things I can easily imagine like my son’s study partner from, say, biology class – the blonde kid who always insists on hi-fiving him - making fun of black people at a “Ghetto Party” (for MLK Weekend, how thoughtful!). Or how one moment we could be marveling at our daughter's impressive gross motor skills, the next going to away games cheering her on...only to later send her off to college where her entire basketball team's success is marred by some jerk flinging cheap shots at them? (Oh, hell no!)

It’s probably a good thing that kid-sized beds are as small as they are. While we can’t pretend they’ll fit them forever, it’s not the same bed they’ll sleep in until they’re eighteen; it lets me pretend they’ll be little for at least a little while. I can tuck my son into it without imagining his legs eventually dangling from it, because by then it will long be outgrown. I take temporary comfort knowing that it will never be slept in by a person that doesn’t love Goodnight, Moon. Just looking at it lets me conveniently ignore the fact that one day, they won’t want me to read I Love You Forever to them ever again.

Because as much as my husband and I dream of the day when all three of our kids are big enough to drop off at a relative’s while we jet off to Jamaica, as much as we hate picking Cheerios of the floor of the car and who knows where else, every milestone makes me long for the last. Every tiny Zutano hat that gets tossed in a box headed for the Salvation Army reminds me we don’t get these days back. I guess it’s practice for the day this nest is empty, mud no longer tracked through the back door (unless we have a dog). And I'm sure that even then, I'll probably catch myself check on one of them, only to be reminded that they’re off at college and the next time I’ll probably see her is Spring Break. Provided she’s not off getting jiggy in Cancun.

Nobody warned me that 95.5% of my time would be spent pointlessly trying to protect my kids from every paper cut that could possibly happen. And that no amount of reliance on Supernanny or Dr. Sears would prepare me for the parental unknowns. The things – of which there are many – that remain outside of one's control. Because each time any one of them is out of my sight, I’m constantly reminded of those words my Bradley Method instructor gushed on the first day of class. Not about giving birth, but what it actually felt like being somebody's mom:

“It’s like your heart has grown little legs and is running around outside of your body.”

“Um, okay…” I remember looking down at my swollen belly, trying to figure out why the baby preferred to lay on one side instead of the other. Hiccupping. I rubbed the unidentified lump as I crunched on a Luna bar , wondering if everything was okay.

I had no idea that was the safest she’d ever be.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Fries With That?

Interesting news from The Holistic Pediatric Association:

French fries have appeared in the medical research news once again. This time a large study examined the correlation between breast cancer incidence later in life and a list of 30 foods eaten during the preschool years. Interestingly, the food with the highest correlation to breast cancer was French fries.

For one additional serving of French fries per week consumed during ages 3-5 years, the risk of breast cancer increased by 27 percent.

Click here to continue...

Little Richard Sings Rubber Duckie

The classic Little Richard on Sesame Street segment came on this morning and the twins were going crazy! It was an instant flashback to why I was so fascinated with the guy when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the You Tube clip, but here are the lyrics (why they're online, I have no idea). Just a little routine for the routine. My voice is worse than Sanjaya's, so I'll just stick to the spoken word intro, but maybe you guys could try the whole thing.

(signature piano intro)

Well, here I am in my tubby again. And my tubby's all filled up with water and nice fluffy suds, honey. And I've got my soap .... looky here ... and I got my washcloth ... look at this ... and I got my nifty scrub-brush, honey, just scrub, just scrub. And I got my big, BIG, fluffy towel to dry me off when I'm done. And I got my piano. And there's one other thing that makes tubby-time the very best time of the whole day, honey. And you know what that is? A very special friend of mine, my very favorite little old friend .... (music starts)

Rubber duckie, you're the one
You make bathtime lots of fun
Rubber duckie, I'm awfully fond of you
Rubber duckie, joy of joys
When I squeeze you, you make noise
Rubber duckie, you're my very best friend, it's true
(patented-Little Richard-ooooooh!)

Every day when I
Make my way to the tubby
I find a little fella who's
Cute and yellow and chubby
Rubber duckie, you're so fine
And I'm lucky that you're mine
Rubber duckie, I'm awfully fond of you

Oh every day when I
Make my way to the tubby
I find a little fella who is
Cute and yellow and chubby
Rubber duckie, you're so fine
And I'm lucky that you're mine
Rubber duckie, I'd like a whole pond of you
Rubber duckie I'm awfully fond of you!


Flower Child

It's the type of inspiration Hallmark copywriters would kill for. My best friend, the one I've known since we were eight-year-olds teetering across the balance beam in gymnastics class, is getting married. Tomorrow. There aren't many people more excited for her than I am. And nobody's more excited to walk down that aisle than she is.

Except the flower girl, of course.

Which is absolutely adorable, if she weren't my daughter. The one who's decided the world is a stage. Unlike most mothers of the flower girl, I don't worry that she'll hesitate to walk down the aisle, I'm praying she won't decide not to moonwalk down it. We're talking about a child who sings showtunes (in full voice) in the checkout line at Target. The one who, at age two, insisted on singing "The Ants Go Marching One By One" to business men from Philadelphia as they disembarked the Amtrak at Penn Station. The one my husband jokingly refers to as "The Black Ruth Buzzi" and we both swear is the next Maya Rudolph (Should she do Second City or Groundlings? Before or after college?"). I'm speaking of our resident ham, the one that makes Heavenly Ham taste like hell.

Don't get me wrong, I'm honored that J-Jo's about to be a part of my friend's special day, especially considering that the rest of the bridal party is comprised only of immediate family (and that my dear friend spared me the annoyance of buying a dress I'll wear once). But right now, I'm kinda worried that J-Jo's comedic timing might put a damper on the blessed occasion.

Of course none of this would be a problem if I knew how to give The Look.

I'm sure you've seen it before. It's the facial expression that black mothers who refuse to be publicly embarrassed are famous for. The one that with a slight arch of the brow and purse of the lip simply states: Don't even think about it. The one Claire Huxtable brought into the mainstream. Five years into this parenthood thing and I'm still waiting for my instruction manual to come in the mail.

So in the meantime, I'm going put the Claire Huxtable in me aside and remember that this wedding is much bigger than J-Jo's inner diva. I'm probably overreacting, anyway; everyone says that kids in weddings add levity to a joyful, yet tense, occasion. Maybe I should just focus on the symbolic beauty of the occasion and remember that most people can't actually manage to get hitched without hi jinx of some kind. I'm going to take a deep breath and put this whole flower chile thing into perspective because life is far too short. In a blink of an eye, a grown-up J-Jo could very well likely be walking down the aisle once more (provided Tina Fey isn't keeping her too busy at 30 Rockefeller Center).

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Coffee Break's Over

In the best of times, being black is absolutely beautiful (let the choir say "Amen!"). In the worst of times, it feels something like this:

Three men went to hell.

The devil said to them "You have come to hell, and you must now choose whether to spend eternity in room 1, 2 or 3"

He then opened the doors to the three rooms.

Room 1 was filled with men standing on their heads, on a hard wooden floor.

Room 2 was filled with men standing on the heads, on a cement floor.

Finally, room 3 had just a few men, standing in human feces up to their knees and drinking coffee.

The men thought for a while, and decided to go with room 3, as it was less crowded and they could drink coffee.

They entered the door to room 3 and just as it was closing behind them, the devil said "OK men, coffee break's over. Back on your heads."

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. Because just when it looks like everything's cool, that no public figure has acted out in a while and offended black people, some modern-day Jimmy the Greek has to come out of their face with a racist insult. For no good reason at all (not that there ever is one). By now, just about everybody in the black blogosphere has weighed in on Don Imus' ignorant and offensive remarks about the Rutgers' Women's Baskeball Team. The comment that referred to the impressive athletes as "nappy headed hos" (for those who've been under the mommy - or daddy - rock for the couple of weeks).

I've read countless, incredibly astute reactions to the "shock jock's" remarks, but thought one of the most pointed came from Deborah Dickerson's The Last Plantation: "You never see the racism coming. You're minding your own business, say, playing basketball or buying groceries or eating at Krispy Kreme when an Imus comes along and forces you to be 'black' so he can be 'white'." As a woman who deeply despises misogynistic language and has has proudly worn just about every natural style known to 125th Street, all I could think was, (to quote The Millionaire's Wife from Gilligan's Island): "Well (snif). I've never!"

Oh, wait a minute. Yes I have.

Like my friend Field Negro so eloquently alluded to, this Imus business is par for the course for those of us LWB (Living While Black). I don't like it, I don't condone it, but do I expect it? Sadly, yes. Because, just in case anybody is late coming to the party, there are a lot of ignorant people in the house. To narrow the group even further, there are a lot of ignorant racists dancing poorly, to their own rhythm. And to whittle it down even one degree further, there are a lot of ignorant racists throwing their hands in the air like they just don't care, 'cause they really don't think they're racists. I'm fairly certain Don Imus is one of those clueless types. The type that thinks that having a couple of black drinking buddies gives them free reign to say whatever and end up getting left at the bar (or in the studio) wondering "Hey...where did everybody go??"

I say this for one reason only: the term "hos" is one highly offensive thing, but how many white guys do you know actually even know the word "nappy"...until now? Hugh Grant thinks it means diaper. So does Paul McCartney. Of course they do, they're English. But what about white American guys (the ones that aren't married to black women)? Sure, terms like "diss" began popping up on sitcoms back in the early nineties and "bling" crossed quite seamlessly, thanks to people like Puffy (who I blame for many things). "Hos" I could see (rappers throw that one around all the time which is a seperate post altogether), but "nappy"? Where'd he get that one from, BET's Comicview?

All I can assume is that, much like the old anti-drug commercial, where the hysterical dad confronts his adolescent son when he finds weed in his room ("I learned it from watching you, Dad!"), Don Imus learned the word "nappy" by watching black people (not that I, nor my fellow ethnicists are personally to blame for any of this nonsense). Whether it was through listening to hip hop, watching School Daze, or hanging out with Robin Quivers, somewhere along the way, Imus caught on to another N-word and assumed the word was fair game. Or maybe he caught somebody proudly sporting one of those old school "Happy to Be Nappy" t-shirts I picked up junior year of high school at The Greek Picnic. I don't know.

What I do know is that there are words that are okay for black folks to say in present company that other people just can't use (sorry). Is it a double-standard? Yes. Is it a rusty, jagged, double-edged sword? Sure. Is it fair? Hell, yeah. It's called code-switching people, and it's high time black folks get back to that. If every word that is a part of African American vernacular is pumped into the mainstream, a critical part of the culture will be lost. I'm not saying we should go around speaking Gullah, but I do think there's a certain power to the A-B conversation. If for no other reason, then to prevent racist jerks from appropriating African American terminology and then using it to insult people.

Maybe there should be a Negro Lexicon of sorts, for words that are an historical part of the vernacular, meant only to be used in certain company. That way, they'll never be used incorrectly and nobody's feelings could get hurt. Everybody with some African ancestry would receive the book; it would be sort of like the National Do Not Call Registry. But for black people. I'm not talking about words like "pimps", "playas" or garden tools (which the Rutgers Women's Team is far from by the way, and I resent that, too). I'm talking about the words your Nana used to say when she was doing your hair in the kitchen Saturday night before church. Does Don Imus know what "baby hair" is? What "edges" are? Dear Lord, let's hope not.

It seems like every time I think the coast is clear, somebody has to slip up and say something stupid to inform me that they really think I need to forget the college degree and go scrub dirty toilets for a living. In this particular instance, what we can take from Don Imus' comments is that to some, hardworking, talented and college educated young black women will never be seen as anything more than hypersexual chicken heads. Those young ladies deserve better than that. We all do. Right now, OK Go's "Here It Goes Again" (and that mesmerizing video on the treadmills) is stuck on continuous play in my brain. Here it goes. Again.

Okay black people, coffee break's over. Back on our (nappy?) heads.


Happy Easter & Happy Spring!

It's too cold for an egg hunt right now (did that on Thursday, anyway) so J-Jo and I are spending the afternoon making these:

Aren't these just the lovliest Easter eggs ever?
Courtesy of Design Mom

My peeps.
Courtesy of Kids Craft Weekly

All the best to you and yours!

Mrs. J, Mr. J, J-Jo & The Dynamic Duo