This Kickass Old Mom

A Stain is Vanquished

Today I am basking in my new (undoubtedly short-lived) status as Domestic Goddess. After spending the entirety of my Sunday cleaning and organizing—including going through all the little guy’s clothes and sorting it into stuff he can wear, stuff he’ll grow into (by season), stuff to put away for next winter, stuff to give to friends, and stuff to donate—I was monumentally exhausted. How, I asked myself, as I have so many times before, do moms with more than one child manage to get these things done? It might help, of course, if I were better at involving my child in these tasks, but merely getting him to try on a pair of pants to see if they fit requires patience, skill, and loads of coaxing.

laundryOne pair of his pants had been set aside some time ago after he managed to cover one of the legs with a perplexing amount of glue. Said glue was thick and plastic-y and clung to the fabric tenaciously; spray stain remover was wholly ineffective. The pants are from Gap Kids, where I rarely shop because of its priciness, and I wasn’t keen to relegate them to the rag pile. So this morning I searched for tips on removing glue from clothing.

An amalgam of online advice worked: I used a cheap serrated knife to scrape away as much glue as possible, figuring the teeth would help dig into and under the glue. I then stuck the offending pants leg in the bathroom sink and soaked it in warm water. The plan was to let it soak for 15 minutes or so and then apply rubbing alcohol, but I saw immediately that the glue was softening. So I grabbed my knife, scraped away, and—holy sheet!—the glue peeled right off. Los pantalones are now in the washer and soon will be ready, once again, for the child to destroy them.

Yeeha! It doesn’t take much for me to feel useful and effective.

Fuck Mindfulness

Chill, readers. I am all for awareness, when appropriate. It’s a good thing to, say, be mindful while eating in order to wholly enjoy your food, be thankful for it, and get the sense that you’re full before you eat six portions. My child, incidentally, has this appalling habit of drinking so much milk with his meal that he becomes uncomfortably full. He then groans miserably about it while others are still eating. Not a fun time. I’m trying to get across the idea of self-regulation, e.g., being aware as you’re becoming full so you don’t overeat (or overdrink) and end up with a horrible stomach ache.

stuffSo anyway, mindfulness is a good thing under many circumstances. When a friend is confiding in you, for instance, it’s nice to actually listen, rather than make a mental list of chores you need to do when you get home. When doing yoga, it’s recommended to put aside all the ills of the world that normally plague you and focus on your body and what you’re doing with it. You get my drift. Yet there are times when I’m actually grateful for the human ability to mentally transcend everyday experiences. Yesterday, for instance, during my frenzied cleaning/organizing spree, I completely emptied and cleaned the cat box, something I try to do semi-regularly. It occurred to me, while scraping cat shit from the bottom of the pan, how nice it was, this human ability to focus on things other than the task at hand. Sure, I could be mindful of the smells emanating from the levered-off poo, the particular grating sound the sifter makes against the smooth plastic of the kitty pan, but strangely enough, I didn’t want to. Call me crazy, but it was far more pleasant to contemplate other things, and my methods of self-distraction seemed to make the task go faster.

This is also why I put on music while cleaning. It takes my mind off sweeping up tracked litter, picking the nasties out of the kitchen drain filter, or scrubbing the toilet. I suppose I’d get higher and better Zen credentials if I were mindful of everything I did at each moment of every day, but by drawing a distinction between things to be conscious of and those from which I’d prefer to distract myself, I believe I’ve come closer to the true meaning of what it is to be human.

Admit it: This old mom seriously kicks ass.

How I (Don’t) Cope with Aging

One thing I hate with a passion is seeing myself on my laptop camera. Does anyone else have this issue? What is there about looking at yourself in a mirror that allows you to deceive yourself as to your wrinkly-ness and imperfections, while a laptop camera depicts you in all your aging glory?

Or is it just me?

Photo on 3-2-15 at 11.00 AMI’ve been fortunate in appearing younger than my age for much of my life. I like to tell the story (because it’s true) that when I started working at the University of California at Davis, at the age of 31, people took me for an undergraduate. Even other undergraduates did. But now, at 50, I’m thinking my age has maybe caught up with me, because much of the time, when I tell people I’m 50, they often just nod or carry on the conversation, rather than stopping and saying, “Fifty? Seriously? I thought you were [insert way lower number here]. You look great.” (Occasionally something like this does happen, but because of its infrequency, I figure the person is either very kind hearted or legally blind.)

Aging is tough, but being a woman and aging is tougher. Tougher than that is being a woman who was once pretty and aging. I count my lucky stars that I wasn’t super-model gorgeous—I’d probably be close to suicidal at this stage.

Years ago, when I was in graduate school, a friend suggested we make a promise to talk each other out of facelifts when we got older. I had no idea how to respond to that, so I said nothing, and I wonder now how much my expression revealed of my thoughts. She was from Southern California and her grandmother was a wealthy Beverly Hills lady who was on maybe her fourth marriage, had skin stretched as tight as Saran wrap over a bowl of leftover tuna salad, and likely had a tab at her plastic surgeon’s. I knew that no one was going to have to talk me out of a facelift because it wasn’t ever going to be on my agenda. It’s the sort of thing that’s simply outside my scope of possibilities, for a whole host of reasons.

Photo on 3-2-15 at 11.06 AM #3Before I clumsily segue into my next point, I want to make something clear: I am not someone who revels in schadenfreude over celebrity plastic surgery gone wrong. I’ve seen links to those articles when I’ve succumbed to click bait on Facebook and the accompanying (Photoshopped, distorted) photos make me cringe. I do admit, however, to being a bit disconcerted by Renée Zellweger’s transformation, and I found the online discussion of it to be revealing of attitudes toward women.

First off, I know there are differing takes on this (it’s kind of like #TheDress), but I’m adamant: Renée Zellweger now looks like an entirely different person. If I had run into Renée Zellweger before her surgery, I would have recognized her as Renée Zellweger. Now, she looks vaguely like someone I might have gone to high school with. When I wrote in response to a friend’s Facebook post that Ms. Zellweger looked like someone else, I was told (not by her, but by a Facebook friend of hers), “You wish you looked half as good!” Really, friend’s friend on Facebook? Do I know you? Um, maybe I do look half as good. Or maybe I look even worse: like a sea lamprey, even, and yet still don’t give a flying rat’s ass. Methinks you’re missing the point.

Photo on 3-2-15 at 11.06 AM #2But that’s just it, isn’t it? As a woman in our mind-numbing, beauty-obsessed culture, you can’t even say you’re sad that Renée Zellweger no longer looks like Renée Zellweger without being attacked on your own appearance. Because obviously, if you’re a little disturbed about movie stars going to such extremes to “fix” their looks that they end up looking vaguely like that girl you think you went to high school with, it’s because you’re jealous and bitter and your life sucks. And of course it sucks: you’re not drop-dead gorgeous.

Don’t forget that no matter what your age, if you’re not movie-star beautiful, it’s your own damn fault. After all, there’s liposuction, botox, plastic surgery, laser surgery, electrolysis, eyelash and eyebrow tinting, and shall I go on for another hour or so? Sure, these things cost money, lots of money, but we already know that if you don’t have money, that’s your own damn fault, too. After all, you’re worth it. So if you don’t go into extreme debt making yourself look as good as possible, aren’t you simply saying you’re not worth it? Talk about low self-esteem!

So what am I saying? Well, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care at all about our appearance. But I do suspect that focusing too much time and energy on the superficial makes us pretty… well… superficial. So, once again, I guess balance is the key, as it seems to be to pretty much everything. I’m working on it and, in the meanwhile, trying my best not to turn on my laptop camera.

Photos taken on my laptop camera, sans makeup, with/without Thing Two, on 3.2.15.


Snow Envy

Having lived in Northern California for twelve pretty awesome years, I do understand the lure of living largely without snow and frigid temperatures. And I’ll admit that, during the time I lived there, when friends and family would suggest “going to the snow” as an ostensibly brilliant idea for an outing, I would nearly always decline. “I grew up around snow,” I’d say. “It’s not exotic for me. It’s not fun. It’s something to be avoided. No freakin’ thanks.”

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Yet now that I am older and sager, I realize how sadly I was in denial. How much, deep down, I missed the plummet-ing temps, the bitter wind brutalizing my skin, the nagging sting of toes in need of an extra layer of sock. The weight of a shovel piled high with snow and nowhere to put it because the piles surrounding you are so tall and so steep that your dump will merely slide down again, burying your boots and necessitating another useless haul. Your growing antipathy for that shovel: the sturdier and more reliable, the heavier.

It’s at times like these that my sister- and brother-in-law, who live in Northern California, delight in sharing tales about their wandering outside in t-shirts and shorts. But although they certainly seem to be bragging—even attempting provoke me, teasing out feelings of jealousy, of regret at ever having left that “golden state”—I see right through their sad little charade. I do. I hear the strain in their voices, the deeply buried but clearly discernible envy. It’s so obvious to me now that what they desire deep down is to be here on the east coast, wondering whether the latest dire weather report is accurate or ignore-able; whether a rush to the grocery store is really worth fighting all the other panicking people making their way there; whether your child’s school will be closed yet again and how you’re going to make that work; whether this time you’ll be snowed in for days and will the power go out?, will you set fire to your abode with a candle?, will you run out of food? Let’s be real: this is adventure. In this “information age,” which gives us the false sense that everything is know-able before it happens and that we have the power to control the uncontrollable, it’s exciting to wonder what’s coming around the corner… or whether your roof can withstand yet another massive snow dump.

IMG_0137Oh, sure—California gets earthquakes. Listen, in my twelve years of living there I only ever felt one. Admittedly, it was the 1989 Loma Prieta biggie, but despite what many east-coasters think, these things just don’t happen all the time. There were others during the time I lived there, sure, but they were relatively small and for one reason or another, I never actually felt them.

Anyway, the point isn’t that California is without environmental or natural issues (take, for instance, the drought it’s experiencing, one of the worst on record). The point is snow envy… and the fact that while most warm-climate dwellers may be unlikely to admit it, they most certainly have it.

Four season dwellers, we are rugged. We are freakin’ tough. We understand the back-breaking exhilaration of shoveling mounds of snow… and we get that it’s an incomparably awesome workout. We may gripe and whine throughout the long-ass winter, but let’s acknowledge that we also appreciate it, not only for its pristine, sparkling beauty, but for the undeniable and unparalleled appreciation it gives us for all the other seasons. We earn that beautiful weather, people, and that’s just one aspect of the awesomeness (and righteousness) of living somewhere with four real seasons.

So let’s not continue to buy into those tired old fantasies about escaping to warmer climes. Instead, it’s time to embrace and celebrate the sturdy stuff we’re made of. Working toward something—even if it’s an inevitable something like warm weather—makes it sweeter once it comes.

Photos: Top: Urban Snow © Jorgeantonio |; Bottom: New Haven Street @ Aviva Luria


Peace Out

You may have heard about an incident that occurred on the Yale University campus last weekend: After a robbery was reported in a dorm, a campus police officer pointed his gun at a student—who was on his way home from the library—and ordered him to the ground. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I encourage you to read this column by Charles M. Blow in the New York Times. Mr. Blow happens to be the father of that student.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????If you’re a parent, surely you can relate to Mr. Blow’s distress. Imagine sending your kid to college—any college, but especially one that’s widely considered one of the world’s most prestigious—and discovering that he was not merely stopped by the police as he left the library, but ordered to the ground at gunpoint. What parent wouldn’t be outraged? Aren’t the campus police there to protect my child? How is this going to affect his feelings about the rest of his time there as a student? His feelings of belonging? His trust of campus authorities?

The response to Mr. Blow’s column is nearly as distressing as the fact that this happened in the first place. First, the public outrage, all revolving around this one sentence in Mr. Blow’s article:

In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Blow and his son, the young Mr. Blow, are African American.

Omigod! Is Charles Blow actually accusing the Yale Police Department—and thus Yale University—of racial profiling?

Cue the storm of indignation from those who defend police no matter what, tromping out old, moldy tropes on their heroism, the risks of their jobs, and the myriad justifications for holding undergraduates at gunpoint. Anyone who expresses concern is berated for “jumping to conclusions.” There are calls for restraint before “lynching” the African American officer who pulled his gun on the student.

Because this can’t possibly be racially motivated if the police officer is black. Um, right?

Sadly, the job of attacking Mr. Blow has not been left solely to the Fox News devotees: Yale officials have allowed their responses to devolve into an argument between themselves and the student’s father. This, from the message sent by Yale President Peter Salovey to the “Yale community,” would have been better left unsaid:

What happened on Cross Campus on Saturday is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States. The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress.

It is not helpful—it does not ameliorate anger, hurt, and distress—to imply that, because the young man at the other end of that gun was not killed, and because the officer was not white, this cannot be a case of racial profiling, so please stop implying as such, Dad.

I call that a fail, Yale.

Perhaps worse—and less nuanced—was the assertion by Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway (who was otherwise sensitive and thoughtful in his public response) that (as told to the Yale Daily News) “Charles Blow’s statement that his son was ‘accosted’ was ‘deeply inaccurate.'”

This is odd coming from an academic, as the Merriam-Webster definition of “accost” is “to approach and speak to someone… in an angry, aggressive, or unwanted way.” If pointing a gun at an innocent student on his way home from the library is not angry, aggressive, and unwanted, then I confess I misunderstand the term just as egregiously as did Mr. Blow.

Here’s a reminder: Charles Blow is not the issue. Charles Blow called attention to the issue.

This is your deal, Yale. Let’s hope, for the sake of all your students, you leave the defensiveness behind and address this in a meaningful and effective way.

Photo © Nikitu |


Just a Little Advice for the Kids

We all know that moms, especially, are regularly subjected to a deluge of parenting advice, pretty much all conflicting, and much of it—can we be honest?—downright impossible. Here’s just one example: When my son was in pre-school, a friend with three grown kids offered me this sage advice: “Don’t ever yell.” Um, what? I’m not a huge yeller; I don’t like to yell; I try mostly to refrain from yelling. But every now and then, after saying the same thing twelve times in eight and a half different ways and getting absolutely no reaction, no look of acknowledgment, not even the subtlest responsive motion out of my kid, I bellow something to the effect of “If I have to say it one more time, I am going to lose it!” And I stand by the necessity of doing that, because if I didn’t, my head would have exploded long, long ago.

Let’s face it: placing these kinds of inhumane expectations on moms, who are dealing with pressure from all sides to be perfect in every sphere of our lives and to never, ever allow our work performance, housekeeping, homework monitoring, bedtime routines, and personal appearance to slip one iota, is just freakin’… well… inhumane. So let’s let up on moms, why don’t we? Instead, I’d like to see some advice directed toward a different demographic entirely: kids.

Yes, kids. Wouldn’t it be great if children, just once in a great while, were held accountable for their own role in the parent-child relationship? There are so many things that seem so common-sensical and yet elude the attention and understanding of so many of our offspring, and I’d like to address some of those right now.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????1. Wee Ones, you see Mom buckling under the weight of a huge basket of laundry as she carts it down to the basement, grimacing with disgust as she uses her chin to keep your not-so-charming socks and underwear from slipping off the teeming, stinking pile of nastiness… Or perhaps she’s on her knees, reaching into the cabinet under the sink to tighten a leaking pipe and in the process jabs her elbow on a stray screw or cuts her arm on a shard of glass that missed the garbage bin….Why at this particular moment do you ask for a glass of milk? And after asking her for milk at such a time and having her grit her teeth and tell you, with most impressive restraint, “You are going to have to wait just one minute,” why does it not occur to you the next time to wait uno momento until Mom is no longer occupied to make your request?

I mean, I’m just sayin’.

2. Young and Diminutive Persons, you do understand, don’t you, that when folks are driving they mostly have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of and around them, so as not to miss the changing of lights from green to red, or fail to notice the car in front suddenly stopping? You do comprehend, don’t you, that not getting into an accident is a good idea when it comes to your own personal safety? So why is it that you insist on parents looking at you just as they’re changing lanes or avoiding a freakin’ dipshit who’s in the process of dangerously cutting them off?

“This is the face that Stevie makes whenever he’s called on in class, Mommy. It’s so funny. Look!” 

Please just stop it.

Kiddos, you know we love you so, so much. But we are not perfect. In fact, we’re really just kids like you who have lived long enough to be considered “grown up.” At times we’re confused, overwhelmed, tired, or stressed out and we admit that we can and do get it wrong. But we try to do the best we can for you because you are so important to us and we’re committed to you.

So help us out once in a while by remembering that we’re human, just like you. A little forgiveness and assistance goes a long way in this mutual journey we call “parenting” and “growing up.”

Photo: © Merkushev |


Think, Thank, Thunk

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This has been a wonderful winter break; I have felt fortunate to have so much time off over “the holidays” and have relished the opportunity to think, read, sleep in lazily, get some exercise, spend time with my boys, binge-listen to Serial, walk our friends’ dog (they’re traveling), and weigh what’s important to me and what isn’t, what I can and should leave behind and what ought to be salvaged. So here I am, because I’ve come to realize that I do want to continue this blog. I do. I do. I reallyreally do!

I was visiting with a (wonderful) friend lately and mentioned that my ambivalence about the blog has much to do with struggles I’m facing and my reluctance to write about them. I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to determine what should be kept private and what can be shared. And no, I am not trying to make the case that there are clearcut lines that apply to every blog; each writer has to draw that line herself. But when the issues that most heavily loom are ones you don’t feel comfortable sharing with just anyone who stumbles upon your blog, you can find yourself facing a serious case of writer’s block.

Last night, at a small, informal, perfectly ad hoc and fun New Year’s Eve gathering, someone said she had attended a talk by a rabbi, who asked, “Why is it a good thing that Jews tend to blame ourselves for everything?” As a Jew with something of a self-blaming habit, I’m sure I would have been stumped by that question.

The rabbi’s answer: Blaming yourself is a form of taking control of a situation. If you are to blame for something going wrong, you can change it or do things differently next time. And that’s not at all the case if you are wholly a victim.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Ultimately, I’m of the belief that most situations entail a combination of factors. Things I don’t like about my life are partly my doing; the situation is also the product of a confluence of things. Often we choose what seems to be the best possible solution, and rarely are those choices ideal. It can happen that the situation turns out better than we feared, or things improve over time. It can also happen that whatever benefits promised by the situation fade over time, or that the benefits we imagined aren’t very beneficial after all. Making a change entails a whole new set of risks and sacrifices, so maybe we put that decision off, try to make the current situation work, hope for things to get better.

It helps immensely when we have the time to step away and examine the complex knot of our lives, spotting the thread we’ve woven in ourselves. Is it worth pulling on that thread? If the entire ball unravels, what will I be left with? Will the sacrifices be worthwhile?

2015 looks as though it might be the year I find out.

Thanks to all who have read and are reading Old Mom, Young Child. I am grateful to every last one of you and truly wish you the happiest of new years.

Images: Top: © Smiltena; Bottom: © Dimitris Kolyris. Both from


Old Mom & Jonah Share a Post!

Inchoate Virtuoso

Noah drawing on 11-26-14 at 7.42 PM #2Jonah is a wee artistic virtuoso in training. He zips through his comic creations, pressing down hard on his pencil, hand desperate to keep up with his racing brain. He uses his pictures to tell the stories he imagines with great exuberance and his mind is likely already on the next cel before the one he’s working on is finished.

Today he was working on puppets  and background images for a puppet show he was planning to film. He wanted me to help him and I said I would, but I asked for guidance. It’s incredible, and somewhat daunting, to see his individual style emerge in his drawings. They are full of character and humor. I can occasionally re-create something simple but that’s about all I’m capable of. It amazes me when he draws something from memory. “Draw some ribs,” he says. “Here’s how you do it.” And he proceeds to draw some ribs (human ones) and explain to me how it’s done. “It’s a series of half moons. And then it comes to a point.” Oh, yeah, I think. How does he see that in his brain? It’s a talent I don’t possess in the slightest and it floors me.

Here Jonah answers the question from his last post and introduces you to a friend.

Meet Jonah’s Little Friend

Hi, it’s Jonah again. Do you remember last time? You know, with the question? Here’s the answer.

Well, if you guessed Harry failed—sorry mate, try again. Harry does make it through. But (if you were wondering) the death eaters don’t make it.

So all’s well that ends well. Right?

MAD - mini assistance droid

To change the subject, MAY I INTRODUCE THE ONE AND ONLY M.A.D.?! The M.A.D. (mini-assistant-droid) is gonna be a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG breakthrough (if I ever invent it).  Sounds  great right?

Well, it’s time for…

Jonah’s Question Time!

How many Lego bricks  is the model above made of?