Monthly Archives: January 2012

Weight A Minute


It doesn’t take long to realize that whatever we blow the most air into pretty much floats to the top. Buoys up with eventual force to pop through the surface. Make no mistake about it. I am learning very quickly that this applies to the airtime that we give to topics in front of our children. This can be a good thing. This can also flip an asset right on its head and make it an enormous liability. To get to the point, I saw a blurb somewhere recently that said something to the effect of:

People think women dream of a perfect man. Bullshit. Women dream of eating without getting fat.

Oh, do I get that to a certain vain and ridiculous extent. That must be why it made me giggle. And I’ll be damned, there’s more than a pound of truth to it. I cannot tell you how many times I have whined more than audibly in front of my daughter about not being able to button my jeans. I have allowed myself to be reduced to tears behind closed doors as naked as I came into this world atop of a scale- trying to pass the puffy red eyes off as seasonal allergies when she asks what it wrong. 

The long, short, fat, skinny and stout of it: I have body image issues and am terrified that I have unknowingly passed some of this destructive thinking onto my 8-year-old daughter. I really thought that she was too young to actually catch onto this vicious cycle of self-loathing and loving that moms everywhere succumb to on any given bloated or emotional day.

It isn’t really much fun to blog about such a Debbie Downer of a topic. Sometimes, you just gotta suck it up and air the dirty laundry even if it is a size to which you don’t want to own up. This is an important topic. Not fun but important. Women gain weight when they have kids. This no-duh unrevelation frequently leads us to tip the post-partum scales at a number that we do not like. I admit it. I am a work in progress on this issue. But I will tell you where I have made immediate changes that have absolutely nothing to do with counting carbs or calories burned. I have stopped talking about it in front of my kids. Both of them. Period.

Don’t get me wrong. We still stress nutrition and try to migrate towards the Kashi over the Cocoa Puffs on the cereal aisle. Now though, I refrain from saying things like I can’t have that on an offer from the kid to share the Friday afternoon ice cream scoop. The unwelcome epiphany came one day when I saw Olivia scowling at the side of the box of Cheez-Its in the kitchen. She acted appalled at the calorie count. On another occasion, she chastised me for getting 2% milk rather than skim. On another occasion, I caught her sucking her already tiny stomach in at her reflection in the mirror until her ribs showed.

It is the kind of moment that a mother experiences when they notice that the latch to the poisonous kitchen products has been loosened. There is a moment of sickening uncertainty about whether or not any poison has been consumed by a child. Gut. Wrenching. No other way to describe it.

I could probably take a minute or two to go and google some startling statistics about the rise in eating disorders among pre-adolescents. Instead, I will tell you a story about a neighbor and dear friend who still wears the scars of this type of upbringing to this day. She just turned 40 last June. Growing up, her mother was very weight conscious and frequently made snide remarks about size and the way clothing fit. I would like to believe that it was meant as some form of constructive criticism but I am here to tell you that it just has not played out that way. My neighbor admittedly has body image issues to this day. She blames her mother. It has permanently affected the quality of their relationship. At this point, the damage to that relationship seems somewhat irreversible. I hope not but evidence seems to point that way.

Folks say that the statute of limitations expires on most childhood traumas. This is simply not one that I care to have on my record with my kid. This is simply not one that I care to blow any more air into because really, the only thing that needs to float to the surface around here are things which help us have fun and enjoy this maniacal ride called childhood and parenting. I may continue to grow on that horizontal plane but, in the meantime, I think that I will enjoy a minute of growing as a parent. Thanks for listening. Bottoms up.








If you are a parent and have a history of obsessive compulsive tendencies, you may have caught yourself in the following scenario a time or two:

Staring at the waxy, drippy handprints on a pristine glass window armed with a wad of papertowels and your white-knuckled finger on the Windex trigger. Should I, shouldn’t I. Should I, shouldnt I. My mom loves me. She loves me not.

Lately, I have been able to will myself to leave the prints awhile longer (like months, people. That is huge for me). I lower the cleaning products and back away slowly because, well, in all triteness- those handprints are getting less frequent by the day and have come to represent some of the same glory as a Picasso up-close to me. Note to old friends: yes, I am still completely neurotic about the wire hanger thing in closets. Mommy Dearest to the nth degree.

Just the other day, I also noticed that it is nothing but delusional wishful thinking that those stepstools in the bathroom are still used for teethbrushing. My kids haven’t needed that extra boost in inches to the sink for months and yet I can’t find a way to Goodwill them just yet so they gather a fine film of dust in the spare bedroom for now.

Usually, this is when a mom of a 6 and 8-year-old gets the inevitable baby itch, has some form of a mid-life crisis, and (oops) procreates again. Fortunately, I have a level-headed husband who knows that we have everything we ever wanted in the form of children- and perhaps, some days, more than we need. 

This whole parenting process reminds me very much of the beginning phases of dating the one (or if you are a Newt Gingrich-type, the three). Remember those days and weeks when you couldn’t fall asleep unless you were literally spooning your significant other? You practically had your toes laced together in embrace? And now? Now, spoons are for cereal. The parenting and marriage novelty waxes and wanes as assuredly as the tides. You may spoon (the verb usage) on anniversaries. You may not. Generally speaking, at some point after kids, adults come to crave their space between the sheets. Sleep in some ways becomes the opiate of choice. It is what we often dream of when we are, in fact, given enough consecutive hours of REM sleep to actually concoct a dream.

A lesson in bed geography often includes stiffarming the ones we love if they dare to infringe on our sleep territory. My husband frequently guards his turf with a ridge of Mt. Down Pillows. Dare to cross that boundary and you may walk away with a bloody nose. He tends to startle in a hostile manner out of sleep. Any hint of spousal spooning instigated on the heels of a hella round of witching hours (see previous blog post titled Jekyll), even a good wife is prone to give the universal sign for back-the-truck-up….it sometimes comes in the form of feigned snoring or flatulence, whatever it takes. Parents of newborns, close your ears here. Sleep is still a sought-after commodity during the elementary years.

Just last night, my son parked himself in our bed and had a revelation that if we held hands or touched toes, that we could slip into the same dream together (thereby, I suppose chasing away the bad ones he has had of late?). It was so endearing that I conceded to give it a go before remembering what this would truly entail. It would entail sharing my bed and spooning the fella until he was good and asleep which could be anywhere from 5 -50 minutes from start to finish. It would entail me sweating because I swear the kid’s body heat bumps up the bed temperature more successfully than a microwave- at around 10 extra degrees per minute. This metaphorical putting-the-windex-down move would entail ignoring the fact that I was just about to finish one of the best books that I have read this decade. By myself. For an hour or so. It would mean handing over the golden hour of solitude to this sweaty little gremlin. See the dating analogy beginning to form? Oh, and let’s not forget… It also could quite possibly entail that I will wake up in the ‘h’ is for hell position (see below) in just about 3 hours from now.

I went with it anyway. Climb in little dude. Spoon it up.

One day soon in the blink of an eye, the pinata shreds won’t be caught in the dust bunnies in the far reaches of the house. One day, my alone time will actually be the very bane of my existence. One day, and let’s not get too Oedipal about this, another gal will be spooning my little guy instead of me. (I better like her, that’s all I have to say about that).

As for the dream theory, I think that it worked. Silver spoons not needed around here. Just a good old-fashioned spoonfed, sweaty soul.






Strange Case, That Jekyll


Parenting has proven to be an endeavor that works best while keeping the inner Jekyll and Hyde in balance…BUT, balance, you elude me more than the Holy Grail somedays. In fact, balance (at least 24 consecutive hours of it) seems to elude me on nearly all days that end in the letter ‘y’.

Example:  As I type these very words, my daughter rehearses for her school’s Jump Rope For Heart debut while just 26 inches from my head (mind you, there’s a whole house available for her manic LOUDness). It is 6:45 pm. The stretch of hours between school dismissal and bedtime are sometimes referred to by mothers of the world as the witching hours. Let not the irony of the voodooish word choice be lost on you.

At this point, I’m thinking of banging my own head against the wall to the same beat with which her jumping shakes the whole house. She is trying to nail the criss-cross rope trick. I guess that’s how to impress the cute boys these days? Beats the hell out of some daisy dukes up to you-know-where but, still, I start to feel that stiffness in my neck … it signals that I am perhaps about to lose my head to which previously mentioned neck is attached. I can actually hear the hanging wine glasses clinking together across the room in the kitchen as if to say fill me up, buttercup. They clink in the milleseconds following every single foot crashing of the jumprope extravaganza like a battle hymn or funeral dirge- take your pick.

Two feet beyond daughter, my son is still pissed that his latest cardboard box project didn’t turn out to be the turtle shell that he envisioned. This happens with nearly every box that is delivered to our front doorstep. I have a shopping problem with Amazon books so we can factor in a cardboard box debacle on a near-weekly basis. Seriously, the kid is the type of project manager that would make working for Steve Jobs seem like being crowned cherry-placer on the sundaes at Maggie Moo’s. He is hardcore. His expectations far exceed his outcomes 95 % of the time even when his assistant (yours truly) shows him fingers bleeding from multiple papercuts. The kid hovers over me as if to say, that all you got?, while dangling the duct tape from his index finger. Hardcore.

These are really darn good kids too, I tell ya. But once you’ve spelled the 508th word letter-by-letter of the afternoon, cried over spilled milk (literally), and realized that the trash you so haphazardly tossed in the backyard last night instead of walking it the extra 15 feet to the garbage cans has now fed 18 feral cats who treated your backyard like a feline rave venue, you can go straight up Jekyll for NO REASON this. very. second.

The act of losing your mind isn’t so bad. They’re all used to it by now. They sometimes even take cover (in their rooms) when the tremors or stiff neck begin to show. I have literally seen them back away slowly when I place my palm around the back of head like I am checking both earlobes for temperature. It is that stupid thick, tingly guilt after that really causes the problem….it ripples in outward circles for hours after the Jekyll episode. Or is it Hyde? See what I mean? They are so intertwined that I’ll need to consult Wikipedia after the internet blackout to confirm.

I apologize to all affected in the wake of my moment or shall we say, meltdown (which is actually plural for moments). Apologies are genuinely and usually accepted. I hang my head for a little bit but then realize that I am really not supposed to carry on with this tail-between-the-legs act for very long.

I am, after all, showing my kids the art of imperfection. To teach them that perfection is attainable in this life would be a grave disservice. Instead, I am modeling what it looks like to better ourselves at being imperfect. What it looks like to be…human? Modeling what a crash in perfection looks like and how to make a smooth landing that everyone can walk or crawl away from. I am showing them what a real person looks like on a real good day and on a real bad day too. I am showing them that conflict resolution is important and possible in every household- especially theirs.

And here is the twist…Here is where Hyde spins me right on my head stiff neck and all. Tomorrow, when these kids are at school and there is no sound in this house- save the Grateful Dead playlist barely audible in the serene background, I will miss them. I will miss every single sound, thump, smell and crumb of them here. 

Strangest thing. Imperfectly perfect. I’ll take it. sb

Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end. -Robert Louis Stevenson-


What’s In A Name



I have been thinking a lot about names lately. For starters, a professional dancer just asked me this weekend what I would like for my NEW name to be. Her name is Twyla Tharp and she is a wonderwoman choreographer of the New York Ballet caliber. This is one uber creative chick. I am reading her book (yes, I have begrudgingly delved into the self-help genre). It is about the importance of feeding our creative habits. One of the exercises is to consider your name….does it drive you to fulfill some sort of ambition or does it limit you by virtue of your less than stellar dna (think Bin Laden or Hitler)?

Ms. Tharp gives examples like Mozart, Joseph Conrad and other obvious success stories whose real names are hidden on their birth certificates because they a) wanted a pen name to empower them or b) as in Mozart’s case, the name was just too darn long to remember. Well, I do not want to change my name. I already did that once when I got married and it was a painful process. My maiden name somewhat ends with me….there are no boys in my family. 

But let’s think for a minute about other kids whose parents may or may not have been of sound mind post-delivery in the maternity ward. Some might argue that their epidurals were hijacked with a dose of mescaline or some other mind-warping substance. The truth is that here in America, we have lots of freedoms. Thankfully. Very thankfully. We even have the right to name your child Prom Date or Past Curfew for that matter. In fact, our neighborhood school has some of its own divinely creative children with the following names:

  • Gift
  • Lieutenant
  • Diamond
  • Omigale (Pron. Oh Muh Golly)
  • Starshai

That’s really just the tip of the name iceberg at our school. Here is what I KNOW to be true about every single one of these kids. They are ALL bright. They are ALL kind. They all have ridiculous amounts of potential to be superb citizens of this crazy world that they have inherited. Here is what I also know to be true. The cards are already stacked against them before their resume even gets the 30 second glance over, assuming they each obtain a diploma indicative of higher education. And the reason? Not their GPA. Surely not their spot on the Debate Team. But quite possibly, their name. You may be thinking what I was thinking a few years ago. Surely the world- even as it spins slightly off of its axis (literally) these days- would not discriminate based solely on a name. Yes, it would. Yes, it does. Yes, it will. Not fair? Yeah, no duh. But life never is according to even the most optimistic of the cup-half-fullers. I sometimes think that perhaps we ought to consider naming our kids in a manner that renders them untouchable by this phantom prejudice that exists, well, pretty much everywhere- even in the most progressive metropolis.

I have already wavered on this a few times so I figured I better just blog it out before I wobble back to the other side of the fence. Naming your child is a freedom. It should stay that way, right? In many cases, a name is a choice driven by the desire to honor heritage and ethnicity. Oh, I get that. As the most caucasian of caucasions, I really do get that. I also really wish that there were’nt so many snap judgment-proned folks in positions of power who do not get it. I mean look at the ridiculous amount of negative attention our own President has received based on his name? Noone is exempt. Folks tried to peg Obama as a radical militant in disguise based on his name alone in my zip code (ok, I am in the South which I do love dearly but that’s another blog entirely).

Here is the flip side though. Take Twyla Tharp, dancer extraordinaire, for example. She felt that her name destined her for greatness from the get-go. I am also sure that it made her a target by a bully or two along the way. I was recently at a dinner at which the whiskey served was made by a gentleman by the name of Pappy VanWinkle. Now, if that 23-year-old whiskey wasn’t destined from greatness when it started as mash in a white oak barrel. Would the same have been said of a whiskey project conjured by another name? Use your imagination here. No…it would likely be relegated to the shelf by the Brass Monkey and brown paper sacks. Pappy was destined to be a whiskey magician or something extraordinary from the moment the ink dried on his birth certificate. Hemingway. Same thing. Should be said of anyone whose potential is limitless- no matter their name.

We can try to equip some of these uniquely named kids to overcome or at least sidestep bullies in school but can we save them from the glance-over as they seek greatness but are passed over in the business world as they try to make a living? I admit I rolled my eyes when Gwyneth came up with the Apple moniker and most recently as Jay-Z and Beyonce chose Blue Ivy. Guilty as charged sometimes (and not happy about it). And you?

Keeping my Irish name and proud of it, Shannon



CBSNews article: ‘Black Names A Resume Burden? (Feb. 2009)


Think Outside The X.Box

I work at a Title 1 School. Here is what that means: The kids are poor. The parents are poorer. The school has a large low-income student population that meets the definition and requirements to receive extra funds from the federal government. Free and reduced lunch, extra computers, extra personnel- to name a few.

School just resumed yesterday after a two-week hiatus affectionately called Winter Break. Most teachers use the students’ rejuvenated writing stamina to ask the kids to pen a bit about the holiday. What did you do? What was your favorite part/ Christmas present? Blahblahblah. I just read 25 such informal essays. Out of 25, guess how many mentioned playing video games over the break? That would be 23. Which could (and maybe should) lead me to the next most obvious question? How the hell are parents who cannot afford lunch or breakfast or shampoo, in fact, affording a Playstation, XBox or other such $100-$300 gadget? I have no intention of posing that question. We cannot control parenting methods and choices of others any more than we can help a blind man to see. And since my dad has on several occasions told me that ‘you cannot reason with the unreasonable’ and ‘there are always two ways to skin a cat’ (not that I would ever want to because of being highly allergic to felines)….here is my education reform thought for the day:

If we already have many children’s rapt attention for such endless hours, how can we infuse this bazillion dollar gaming industry with some meaningful educational curriculum? Work with what we have? In some of these children’s homes, the only reading material is the pile of unpaid, mostly ignored bills on the unloved kitchen table….and apparently a perfectly functional video game system. The late great Randy Pausch used what is called a ‘head fake’ on his students to often trick them into learning cumbersome material. At this point, I would be fine with walking into a classroom full of 25 beanbag, supine kiddos as long as they were using the joystick for the joy of learning something other than how to densensitize themselves to violent combat. 


There is a moral panic going on in the world over this video game business. I am not sure that we can do anything to get rid of an industry that poverty-level parents are even finding a way to feed their children. So it’s not healthy cereal that we’re feeding them for hours and hours on end? Let’s find a way to make that happen. Skin the cat. Meet them where they are…..and take them to where they need to be. 


Lose Yourself

At the gym today with all of the other gung-ho, potbellied New Year resolutioners like myself, my overstimulated brain tried in vain to take in the dozen or so television screens arranged in a perfect grid for cardio entertainment. Much like the endless variety of robot-armed machines, there’s a TV program to harness everyone’s poison. If Judge Judy or Jerry Springer can’t sufficiently float your boat, then you can plug into a bowl game ripe with skinny, spray-tanned cheerleaders or watch a whale give birth on Nat Geo (that’ll make you appreciate your own real labors of love). Through my sweaty, gnarly breathing, the Iowa GOP race locked into my periphery and that was the last excuse that I needed to crank the volume up on my ipod….Kid Cudi. Kid Rock, you say? No, I said Kid Cudi.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a slew of fair-skinned Gen X’ers  and boatloads of milleniels right here in the Bible Belt- not just Brooklyn and LA- who have hopped on the hip hop bandwagon (or the pimped out El Camino, whichever you envision). I, much to my grandmother’s chagrin, am one of these dedicated aficionados. It’s not like this endorsement has rendered me ghettofied either. In fact, one can trace the history of rap back to the West African professional singers/storytellers known as Griots. And long before hiphop came along, I tried to be cool with a K and failed. It was so high school. Literally. Hiphop is not what prompted me to hold a cig between my lips in the mirror and try to casually take multiple drags without using my hands. I retched on a Burberry scarf long before plaid or parachute pants ever considered a comeback. It was a gradual climb on the rap bandwagon and did not happen overnight. I may be one of the only people around here with Rascal Flatts on the shuffle next to Tupac. I knew that I was not alone in my fandom on a date to an Outkast concert in Denver, Colorado circa 2001 with my now spouse. Look around at these shows…it is a colorfully cool experience. My otherwise preppy, law-schooled husband is actually the one who turned me onto the rap genre over a decade ago at a time when Master P. spouted the Fbomb more than I use the articles, a, an, and the.

At first, I, too, didn’t grasp the appeal. Never one to endorse life as a spectatator sport for too long, I was shuffling off beat and bobbing my head before I realized I was even doing it. Listen to even the g-rated Cha Cha Slide and I promise you will be too. I know what you’re thinking. Kanye West is a total jackass. He makes off the cuff comments about racism that perpetuate the problem itself. Yes, Kanye has the capacity to act like a buffoon- I’ll give you that. Most passionate artists always do find a way to show their derriere- it’s part of their mojo dispersement. BUT, Suffice it to say that if Kanye West didn’t have a little something profound to say, there is NO way that he would find himself with multiple Grammy noms this year in the wake of his Crown Royal-fueled, trophy-grabbing Taylor Swift debacle. No way. The American public is just not that forgiving so if you will listen closely occasionally, you will notice that the guy is a actually a poet laureate with a precisely-placed chip on his shoulder. There’s  narrative about the human condition going on here. It is raw in places…the same way a Hemingway novel or deKooning exhibit can be.

Recently, I took my daughter on her first trip to NYC to visit my best friend since the 7th grade who has made a name for herself by working her tail feather off in the music industry. This lifelong pal also keeps me in the know the about the worthwhile new music acts. If not for her, I am afraid I’d be sitting at home burning my thumb on a skyward lighter singing Freebird. The three of us were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge blaring one of hip hop’s newest, a Kanye & Jay-Z project called Watch The Throne. As we pulled up next to cab drivers and pedestrians, we got THE LOOK. Same look you get in that dream where you forget to get dressed. Well, not quite but almost. It is a double take- sometimes triple. These onlookers did not expect 30-something white girls to be jamming to this so… intentionally. That is, at a volume level that sends ripples through your Starbucks coffee in the Audi cupholder.

It’s not like I’m peering out through some fuzzy dice on my foggy windshield at the red light. If I were though, so what? I like rap. The same way I dig a caramel machiatto or a snow day. If it’s laughable to watch some random member of Irish descent get jiggy with it, let it be another one of the things that brings us all kicks and giggles. Life is short on reasons to laugh for most of us anyway. Let it be known though, lovers of Hova, Jay-Z or whomever, rap fans aren’t listening because it’s cool. It’s not a black n’ white issue at hand. We’re listening because music and the stories inside it unite us. Anyone who says otherwise is ludicrous. Or Ludacris. 

P.S.Say hello to Mr. Bevins (aka Fross.T) ?

Peace. sb