I Love Hot Moms

My son and I toured a potential school for him recently. I had been trying to prepare him in the days leading up to the tour and took another swing at it about an hour before we left.

“What questions do you have for the school counselor?”

“None.”

“I don’t think you’ll be able to make a great decision without more information about this school. Let’s think of some questions.”

“Do they have to take showers after PE? Do I have to wear a gym uniform? Can I wear my shorts to PE or do I have to change them? How big is their gym?”

Wow. Bottom line for this kid: All that matters is that he can go to PE year round.

“You know, I’m not sure how much PE will prepare you for a career once you’re done with school.” I was starting to sound like my parents.

“Do they have recess? How long will I get to eat lunch?”

We arrived at the school at our scheduled time and he decided to wear his mask. He really wears it everywhere, even on individual outings with his mentor. Normally it’s fine, except that he already speaks quietly when he’s not in a shouting match with his friends during video games and so the mask makes him impossible to understand.

“Blurgh fum ruf foo worpurun moor?” He asked as we pulled up, driving into the school entrance going the wrong way, per the counselor’s instructions. I turned and glared at him. He pulled down his mask.

“Can we go in another door? There are too many kids at that door.”

Buddy, get used to it. The seventh grade here is about 6 times bigger than your current class. We trudged into the school, announced our arrival, and waited for the counselor. All the staff in the office lobby had little signs on the edge of their desks saying “Yo hablo Espanol.” The woman we checked in with tried to make conversation with Noah.

“What’s your name?”

“Mowah.”

“What grade will you be in next fall?”

“Zebeth.”

She smiled, she was so nice and trying so hard. I really admire school staff everywhere I go these days. They are certainly a lot friendlier and try a lot harder than I remember back when I was in school. The counselor came out and introduced herself to us and we started the tour.

The first thing we passed were lockers. Which I knew was a criteria for Noah. If a school had lockers, he was already partially won over. Lockers and year-round PE pretty much sealed the deal. Jerry Maguire – you had me at hello. Noah had probably already decided he wanted to go to this school less than 60 seconds into the tour. We were both impressed by the size of the school. He was certainly going to get his steps in. The highlights of the tour were the band room and woodshop. The band room was more of a highlight for me.

“Is he interested in band? What instrument does he play?” The counselor and band teacher looked at us, curious. I did the very thing I’ve been trying not to do lately and spoke on Noah’s behalf.

“He has an expensive trumpet at home so he’s interested and he’s going to join band.” Wow. I’m awesome. Noah smiled under his mask. Yup. I just committed 50% of his available electives time. In woodshop they were making miniature pool tables and Noah decided then and there that woodshop was going to be an elective for him. We finally made our way back up to the office where we passed two eighth graders. A cheerful girl in a gym uniform and a boy wearing a black hoodie that read “I love hot moms.” I was already making a list of people in my life that I could get that sweatshirt for as a joke. I laughed out loud. The counselor smiled and gave me a sheepish look. “We have to choose our battles here.”

By the time we left, Noah felt pretty certain that this was his future school. I even felt some peace about it. He even managed to ask his question about showers after gym, to which the counselor responded that the showers are currently storage for tables and they use lots of deodorant there. Sure, it was going to add about half hour to my already long drive time every morning, but it seemed worth it, year-round PE and all. Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well by the end of the tour so we went home and he stayed in his room all day, doing origami. I had a snake in a box, a parrot, and two cell phone holders made by the end of the day. Sweet.

sensitive conversations

If I had a dollar for every time my kids asked me what 69 means over the past year, I would have at least 69 dollars. At least. You would think that they both attend school with several sex-crazed pre-teens. Or perhaps just kids with older siblings who keep them in the loop on such issues. My daughter is the worst because I can always anticipate when these conversations are going to happen: when we are going somewhere in the car alone together. My son just randomly popcorns sex into conversations.

“Momma, do you want to hear a fun fact about penises during puberty?”

He loves the reproductive system. He was his 5th grade classroom’s best pupil and he always wowed other parents with his openness to discuss puberty and reproductive issues while their own children froze with a pleading look in their eyes whenever the topic came up. All I can say is that I’m glad he always initiates these conversations, because I’m not the cool parent I’d thought I would be in conversations about sex. But that’s another post for another day.

My daughter on the other hand – I squirm. Because she doesn’t provide fun facts or tell me why baby boys get boners when they get their diapers changed, she asks tons of questions. For the purposes of this post, I will use the name “Jane” for female classmates and “Fred” for male classmates. I would use Dick (i.e. Dick and Jane? Remember them?), but that might get confused with content somewhere.

“Mommy. Fred moans in class all the time and the teacher tells him it’s inappropriate. Why does she say that?”

Me: “Well, what kind of moan is it?”

“I don’t know.”

I run through a handful of different moans. None of them are exactly quite right.

Me: “Well, I’m not sure then. But if your teacher thinks it’s inappropriate, then he shouldn’t be doing it.”

“Fred and his friends always asks me if I have any cookies. Jane tells me I should tell him no, otherwise he is going to bug me all day. I don’t like it when they do that. It’s annoying. What are cookies?”

I’m really not sure about this one. I’m assuming it’s inappropriate since it’s coming on the heels of 69 and moaning and that these boys are not looking for baked goods.

Me: “Are you friends with these boys? Maybe you should stop hanging around them unless they behave more appropriately and you feel comfortable. I don’t think a friend would ask you those questions.”

(Well, I might not have been that objective and articulate. I’m sure I wasn’t. Probably more along the lines of “I don’t know what they mean but they are gross. Stop hanging around them.”)

There were other words, slang terms, that came up. Ones that I’m even too modest to utter publicly, and having been based for several years in a police department for work, I can say a lot of things without shame.

Soon, I’m going to resort to some sort of question box like my son had in his classroom, and both me and my daughter can write our questions on pieces of paper, fold them up, and stick them in the box and my son can answer the questions once a week.

it’s exactly 4 o’clock!

My daughter has developed this habit lately of randomly announcing the time. In the car, at home, at night when she’s in bed, while she’s watching TV, playing a game on her tablet or in class. It’s a compulsion. She used to only announce the time on the hour. Now she announces any time that pops up when she has eyes on a digital clock of any kind. She also spouts out random math problems related to the time; it’s a bonus when two of the 3 or 4 digits are factors of the third or if the time has just changed and there are no seconds into the hour yet.

“It’s exactly 12:34! 3 times 4 is 12! 12 divided by 3 is 4!”

“It’s exactly 4 o’clock no seconds! The time just changed and no seconds! Exactly 4 o’clock! 4 times 0 is 0! 4 plus 0 is 4!

It’s mind boggling. She thinks so quickly. We’ve teased her and tried to mimic her, but we are too slow, as if we can’t really transition to do simple math that quickly. She yells at us and tells us we have to find our own “thing.” The other day she told my son he has to keep track of license plates or cars when we are driving, but he can’t yell out the time. A friend of mine likes to yell out the time on the hour and stretch the word seconds about 3 seconds so we’ve officially moved into the next hour. “It’s exactly 7 o’clock no secooonnnnnndddsss!” It drives her crazy.

The other day when we were driving, she asked me to put my hand over the clock at 4:58 to block it because she “couldn’t help herself.” As we were coming up on the hour, she pushed my hand away and yelled “It’s exactly 5 o’clock! No seconds! The time just changed!” I just shook my head.

I asked her a couple of months ago if she does it at school. She says she has and sometimes she gets in trouble. I told her that maybe she is disrupting the class and that’s why she gets in trouble. She told me that she has done it when other students are talking. She said that one time a boy was sharing a sad story about his grandfather dying and she interrupted, yelling “It’s exactly 2 o’clock!”

“I just can’t help it, Mommy.”

It might be that upon reading this, one of you messages me and tells me she has some rare disorder that involves yelling out the time, and that other people do it too. Maybe it’s a quirk that she will grow out of. But for now, I will just have to get used to that random outburst that comes out of the darkness after she has gone to bed and I’m assuming, has fallen fast asleep – “It’s exactly 11 o’clock!”

Grilled Cheese Is Out

Can anyone relate to the madness of a 9-year old girl and her eating habits?

Store-bought chicken nuggets are out (McDonald’s #6 meal = IN). Macaroni and cheese is out (cilantro on plain noodles = IN). Hot dogs are out (grassfed free-range -no nitrates or nitrites- hardwood smoked sausage at $6.99 per four pieces=IN). Peanut butter and jelly is out (nothing remotely related = IN). Grilled cheese is out because momma can’t achieve the right shade of brown on toasted bread. Club crackers are out (gluten-free cheddar cheese nut thins = IN). Sliced cheese is out (grated cheese = IN). Red apples are out (green apples = IN). Lemonade Capri Suns are IN, Lemonade in an economy-size bottle is OUT.

Pho is IN. Every night. Until it’s out. $20 for a week’s supply from a local Vietnamese restaurant. Saving a ton on useless meal items from the grocery store.

10:15 on a Monday Night

Day 5,468,901 of the pandemic…my kids are in bed early (10:10 pm – I know the doctor has repeatedly told me that a 9- and 10-year old need more sleep) and I am sitting here wondering if I should a) do early Christmas shopping (is the end of November early? My definition of “early” is pretty loose re: kids’ bedtime), b) continue watching “Away,” my current Netflix favorite about a mission to Mars starring Hilary Swank or c) keep reading a mystery series I’ve been into lately, where most of the scenes are set in a cozy house in a Quebecois village and always involve warm croissants, homemade jam and a Scotch. Decadent. I’m reading mystery novels for the food and drink escape. Or I could just keep sitting here listening to my kids through the wall talk about how they would spend Robux if they had it – this is a currency in their favorite video game. My son has fallen asleep mid-sentence and my daughter continues to talk…they remind me of an old married couple. My daughter sings random songs from TikTok while my son sleeps. There is no such thing as going to bed early for my daughter.

How are we holding up after the first week of remote learning? Not sure. I’ve never spent so much time at home in my life and I’m one of those people who gets out quite a bit still. Now the kids are locked at home with me and each day is a blur – I’m typically tied up with work all day long and they are back and forth grabbing really crappy snacks that I leave in a basket on the stove (fire hazard). I really feel for everyone out there these days. I probably have it pretty decent given the circumstances, and every day it can be challenging to keep my head straight and remain optimistic. I’m determined not to have the shittiest holiday season ever – I don’t like this time of year and each day I wake up, I start with my pro-holiday mantra of “this is going to be the best holiday season ever!” and “at the end of this week, it will be one down, one to go.” Yay!

If you are reading this, I hope you are hanging in there too. I am available to listen, change your flat tire, bake you some cookies, or buy you a coffee. Just reach out. 🙂

Solo Mama Re: My daughter with brown skin, the police are not our biggest enemies, and racism does exist. There is probably something in this post to piss you off besides having the longest title ever

I really appreciate the responses and thoughtful comments and reachouts from several people who read my last post. My only concern is that I’m not quite sure my message came across.

My message, which was probably tampered in my usual gentle way on these matters, was fueled by outrage. I asked a trusted friend to go back and read it and she said she only saw some anger come through once.

It’s outrage about children growing up in our society that think the color of their skin is less than, embarassing, not beautiful, not celebrated, not valued. Truthfully, long before I had children, I didn’t even dream that I would have a child who was ashamed of their own skin. It wasn’t even on my radar that a child would feel less than beautiful about being brown or black.

The second layer of outrage that was even more well hidden…two things – I am terrified that people will not see that the police are not the biggest issue here AND I’m even more terrified that thousands of people will go back in their houses, close their doors and say “racism doesn’t exist.” THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE REAL CHANGE if we can see through the media and our own biases.

Recent (and past which in a maddening way didn’t seem to blip on mainstream radar-especially where women of color are concerned) events involving some members of law enforcement and people of color are horrific and outraging and we need to take drastic and thoughtful measures for change. But my facebook feed and the media tell me to beg for your careful thought around the idea that the police are the biggest enemies of black and brown people.

The police did not look after my child and prefer little white girls to her when she was little and make her feel alienated. The police do not misdiagnose black people in some healthcare facilities because they are looking at symptoms through the lens of certain health conditions that are more prevalent in Black people. The police are just a fraction of employers who may be looking at resumes and curriculum vitae and setting those aside with “ethnic” sounding names. The police are not making the laws of our land that disenfranchise people based on privilege, money and power. The police are not responsible for the unbalanced tax bases that support community schools that allow some communities to flourish educationally and others (like my neighborhood school) to barely scrape by with poor attendance rates and poor test scores. The police do not prescribe lower doses of or different kinds of medicine based on some notion that people of color don’t feel as much pain as white people (this is a real thing with research behind it). The police do not open up liquor stores, check cashing stores, convenience stores, pawn shops and other “fabulous” businesses in lower income communities to leech off of these communities, which often impact communities of color. My community was really lucky to see a Dunkin Donuts go in. It’s like a little orange and pink slice of heaven sandwiched between 3 knockoffs of Payday Loans, about 5 drive-up liquor stores, 3 tire shops and the local post office.

Racism is a SYSTEMIC, deeply rooted SOCIETAL issue that goes so far beyond where we are resting our attention at the moment.

Oh. Keep reading. Here goes part 2.

Racism exists. If I earned a dollar every time I heard a person (who is not Black) say “racism doesn’t exist,” “I didn’t own slaves, don’t blame me” “(Black) people (of color) need to get over this,” “Well, I experience reverse racism (ie Black people being “racist” against Whites),” or “everyone experiences that, not just Black people,” etc., then I wouldn’t be working because I would be a millionaire. And for every time I hear one of these statements, I also hear explicitly racist comments made: “you’re not like other Black people I know,” “you act whiter than me,” “you don’t like rap music?” “how do you get your hair like that?” or making assumptions that everyone with a Hispanic surname is from Mexico and undocumented or that everyone who has an accent from anywhere doesn’t speak good English.

I’m mad, and I’m sorry, my anger extends far beyond the police. And yours should too.

Solo Mama: My Daughter Doesn’t Like Her Brown Skin

This is not an easy read, nor was it easy to write. I debated about posting it because it’s really not my story to tell. The only way I can share it with peace of mind is to purely tell it from a mother’s point of view, what I observe and experience. It seems like the right time to share it.

My daughter has disliked her brown skin and her black hair since about the time she could start talking. The light-skinned blond haired girls in her class got more attention. When she came home from daycare and told me she wanted “lello hair” and “white skin.” I would observe her following her white girls around in class and wanting to be friends with them, dismissing little girls with brown skin. My beautiful tiny little daughter.

My daughter is half Vietnamese, but no one places her as that. She doesn’t want to know anything about Vietnamese culture, I’ve tried. The closest she gets to Vietnamese culture is loving pho.

She asked me one time why I had to pick a dad for her that has brown skin.

Before my daughter was born, an Indian woman I worked shared a card with me that her young daughter had given her a card on Mother’s Day. Inside, her little daughter had written “Why do you have to be brown? I don’t want to be brown” in her childlike awkward handwriting. Imagine getting that message in your Mother’s Day card. I couldn’t at the time.

It was hard going places with my daughter when she was younger. She would pull close to me when we were around brown and black people and she would whisper “I don’t like their color.” Anger would bubble up inside of me. How could someone I was raising not like brown people? How could she not like her brown skin? Where did she learn that? They say racism is learned. Who taught her to not like her own brown skin?

She doesn’t seem to be so focused these days on her skin color but she still says she is ugly and she hates it when I tell her she’s beautiful. I realize lots of girls might say this no matter how much you tell them different but I can’t shake the fact that this all started with her skin color. I show her pictures of friends with brown skin and say “isn’t she beautiful? Look at how beautiful her black hair is!” and she agrees now when I ask her and it seems genuine.

My daughter never talked about how she wishes her eyes were different, or her smile, or her body. She always wished for different skin. Some children with brown skin wish their skin was white and think they are not beautiful or handsome because of their color.

Reflecting on this story and sharing it is hard because it is deeply personal. I know I’m not the only mother who has a child with brown skin who can tell this story. It’s important to make our stories more widely known, and to repeat them until we find it in ourselves to create and live by a new narrative.

Solo Mama: If You Have Recently Awoken, Please Stay Awake

I’ve been writing posts in advance so I have content to publish regularly. My post for this week was supposed to be about mental health and pandemic environments, but it felt weird to let it post this week.

Everything that has happened over the past couple of weeks, the awakening that started when George Floyd was killed…so many people finally tuning in suddenly realizing how out of whack things are, even though they’ve been out of whack long before any of our lives began. People wearing t-shirts saying “Black Lives Matter” and studying up on white privilege. I’ve been waiting for these past couple of weeks for most of my life. For all this to matter and to finally hit peoples’ radars on a large scale.

I hope this lasts. Personally. Please see the depths of this. It’s not about police brutality. It is about a very broken way of life and a broken society. There are at least two reasons we should not place policing at the focus of all this.

First, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame so we don’t have to look at ourselves and take accountability for how we have contributed to the issue – oppression, racism, privilege, opportunity (or lack of), etc., and what we can do differently at the most basic level as an individual.

The second reason, from a justice perspective, is that if we only pay attention to the front of the system, then we miss the accumulation of disparity – like a giant snowball of injustice – that occurs once people get past that first gate. Did you know that there are 5 black people for every 1 white person under some type of supervision in our justice system? There are 3 Latinx/Hispanic people for every 1 white person (and that is severely undercounted due to our poor ethnicity data capture in our justice system). People of color are less likely to make bail during the pretrial period. They are less likely to retain adequate defense. More likely to take poor plea deals. More likely to be sentenced more severely than white people accused of the same crime with the same criminal history (sometimes even less of a criminal history than their white counterparts). They are less likely to be diverted to programs the prevent further involvement in the system. Less likely to be sentenced to a treatment court that focus more on treatment of substances or mental health rather than incarceration. More likely to have their probation or parole revoked due to technical violations (as opposed to new crimes).

In our current system, this means that even if a populationally proportionate amount of people of color to white people enter our justice system, they still will experience disparate treatment at every stage of the process.

That’s just one aspect of our society. Looks for stats in every segment of our society, private or public sectors. Look for underrepresentation of people of color in our corporate executive leadership, the number of people who fall out of hiring pools because they have “black” sounding names, look at health indicators (look at who COVID 19 is hitting in disproportionate numbers), morbidity and mortality rates, high school graduation rates…

Oh – there is also intersectionality to consider. What is intersectionality? Think of these as layers of a person’s characteristics that either cause them to be more or less advantaged in society. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression are all examples of characteristics that, when layered on top of each other, can make life easier or harder for an individual in certain circles. Google Kimberlé Crenshaw to learn more about intersectionality. She coined the term more than 30 years ago.

Finishing with my beginning thought. I hope Black Lives Matter is not a trend. I hope people stay grounded and don’t fall into an “us versus them” mentality in regards to any group of people (which seems to be the trend on all issues over the past couple of years).

Finally, I hope people stay awake, stay curious and stay introspective.

Throwback Thursday: Swimming: “F*cking Sh*t” Momma

Here is another oldie but goodie to kick off the summer of 2020 – although we might not see in the inside of a public pool for awhile yet…

I came up out of the water and wiped my eyes off so I could scan the pool. Treading water in the deep end of the rec center pool, I tried to locate my daughter as the waves grew larger. Kids on inner tubes bounced above increasingly larger mountains of water created by the pool’s wave system. It took me a minute to locate her in the shallow end of the pool, bobbing crazily in a red life jacket, her head poking out above a clear, over-inflated inner tube. Our eyes met.

“Fucking shit,” her sweet little mouth formed the words as she glared at me.

Not the last time I would hear those words over the course of the two hours we were at the pool. They have become my daughter’s new favorite way to irk me when I’m not doing what she wants me to do. I’ve discovered that the only ways to reduce her use of these new words is to surprise her with random outbursts of the words in conversation and ignore her when she uses the words. Slowly, their attractiveness as one more way of naughty-making is becoming less appealing.

“Hey Momma! If you don’t come over here and carry me, I’m going to say F-u-c-k,” she announced from the pool stairs.

I swam small laps, as some strange little 6-year old sat on the pool stairs repeating “fuck” over and over. Whose child was that? What a weirdo.

Eventually, the cursing died down and I swam over to her. She hopped on my back and we floated around together. “Momma, I love you more than anything in the world,” she whispered in my ear.

Sigh…

Quarantine is a Great Time to Start Budgeting

I can’t find a lot to laugh about when it comes to personal finances, so you may find this post lacking a little in humor. I am very thankful to be working and I realize not everyone can say that. I will say that budgeting has been at the forefront of my mind now more than ever.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I have found some extra cash in the following areas these days: gas expenses, car maintenance, eating out, fancy coffees, clothing, personal care, and childcare. The only category I’ve seen skyrocket is my grocery expenses, but if I factor in all the eating out and fancy coffees and just shift this over to grocery expenses, it evens out. Here are a few things I’ve done to manage money over the last few months:

  1. Use a budgeting app. I actually started this last fall and it has literally become one of the most important things I do every week. I enter all my expenses for the week into my budgeting app (I was doing it more often when life was normal and I was shopping more) and keep track of what I have left to spend for the month. I also listen regularly to personal finance podcasts.
  2. Pay minimum payments. My job isn’t at risk at the moment but anything seems possible these days. Therefore, I am saving whatever I can (not much), and just paying mimimum payments on debt I have.
  3. Indulge once in awhile, because what else will help me keep my peace? My indulgences over the past few weeks have included good shampoo, a Netflix subscription, gas for long drives, tequila, and coconut protein powder. That last one is weird, I know.

I’ve never been a huge debt person. The first time I experienced really bad debt was when my dog died a few years ago. Her kidneys were failing and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t save her. I visited the vet at $3,000 per visit to help ease her pain and to prolong the inevitable failure of her kidneys. I was ready to spend anything to save her and kept throwing these visits on my credit card because I didn’t have $9,000 in savings. Looking back, I will never regret trying to help her, but being almost $10,000 in credit card debt was pretty devastating to come back from with all my other expenses.

It took me a LONG time before I realized that sticking to a budget was going to be the only thing that would help me improve my financial future. Having a budget has been less restrictive than I thought, and I can’t believe it took me 48 years to follow one…