Category Archives: clementine

Power Grabbing Youth

Sorry, I am obviously addicted to putting up video this week, but this one is priceless.  This is from a trip to Isham Park in Inwood at Christmas with Clementine and her cousin Kendall.  Yes, Clementine is dressed somewhat inappropriately for 20 degree NY winter weather.  Her choice, not mine.  Apparently she knows what evil superheroes wear in NY.


This is actually the end of a much longer conversation that Clementine and Andre enjoyed after skiing yesterday. I remember when Clemmie was really little and said “hai!” instead of yes, and how sad we were when she learned the real word, so I’m secretly glad she’s so stubborn.

Powerlessness and disconnectedness, 4.5 years later

The other day I was thinking idly about the Iraq War and how it’s been going on so long I couldn’t even remember when I started, and I happened to look at my impossibly tall, strong daughter, and I realized that I knew exactly how long it’s been going on: as long as she’s been alive. Actually almost 2 months longer: I was arrested in the protests the day the war started, and I was 7 months pregnant with her. In four and a half years a human being can go from 7 pounds of delicate helplessness to a running, jumping, somersaulting, questioning, back-talking, joke-making, reading (almost!), writing, loving person. And in that same time, your country can start a war which kills 654,965 Iraqis, 3,921 US armed forces, 933 US contractors, 307 armed forces from other countries, 112 journalists, 40 media support workers, and 95 aid workers. (From Wikipedia). The scales are too different to fathom, and yet the impact on me of that one little (big!) life is so much greater than all the deaths, it doesn’t make sense. She is my universe. Iraq is a distant, abstract tragedy. I was tempted to call it a nightmare, but that’s at least something I would experience. It doesn’t touch me.

The mapping of the personal and political milestones is even tighter here: Chris and I moved from our old house on September 11, 2001. It was a big leap for us, moving into a house roughly three times the size of the old one and in need of significant attention. It was the start of our new lives, our marriage (very shortly after we moved in) and our becoming parents. It was, apparently, also the start of a new world. The world would never be the same after 9/11. But I’m hard pressed to say how this new world manifested itself in our lives. I don’t know anyone who’s been deployed to Iraq or died there. Our change of neighborhood, on the other hand, has determined so much of who we are as a family now.

There are giant feet-think panes of semi-liquid plexiglass between us and the world we live in. It seemed at the time I was about to get arrested that I was doing something momentous. Greg was with me and he was flipping out. He was convinced I was being irresponsible to my unborn child, and he was on the phone with Chris who was similarly freaked out. I had to steel my courage to get rounded up by the San Francisco police in an intersection on Market Street. Drums were beating, people were shouting. It was loud and chaotic. I was in a brown striped dress with black books; I didn’t look like a hippie, and I thought it would be good for an “older” (oy, that’s me) more conservative person to get rounded up. I wasn’t the only professional in the crowd by a long shot, but we were the minority. I hoped to make at least some small statement, but when I was released (incredibly quickly, due to my gigantic belly and all the liability and PR issues I represented) I realized there had really been no point to anyone but maybe me, and even that was a big maybe. I had cost the good city of San Francisco so many dollars in police and civil servant overtime, and I had made a lot of people very late for work. And my best friend and husband kind of pissed at me. End of story. You can scratch at the plexiglass, but it somehow heals itself right back up. Not that we are willing to sacrifice what it might take to break it.

Corey and Katya and I talked about this the other night at the new wine bar on Lakeshore (review to come – don’t worry; I’ll lighten up soon). What if the next election is stolen too? What if we can no longer deny that the election system is rigged and the will of the people is a joke? What will we do? March? With our kids? Would we risk our precious time, much less our lives? Not likely, because who believes it would make any difference? We need a new form of protest. Maybe it’s just economic. If a quarter of American moms completely ceased all discretionary spending, would it matter? Do we have any power? Or do we need to put on our marching shoes? There are so many hopes pinned on Obama now. He’d better fucking win.

I’d like to post the story of my being arrested here, since I never shared it with anyone after it happened. I can’t find it at the moment, but I think it’s on the hard drive at home, and if I do find it, I’ll add it to the bottom of this post after the jump. Or I’ll post it on March 20, which will be the 5th anniversary of the war.

In the Dumps

It finally happened. I thought Susan (Andre’s mom) was picking up Clementine and she thought I was. I was at the Presidio at a conference and in a meeting with an advisor for another conference, and my phone was off from having been in sessions. Half way through a meeting I looked at my phone to check the time and saw that I had two text messages from Chris: one telling me she was stranded at school, the next telling me Susan was getting her. I felt myself start to cry.

I knew it would happen eventually, and I’d even thought about it that morning: some day, we will get our signals crossed and Clem will be left at school, the kid who is still there after all the parents have come and gotten their kids. I’m sure it’s not the first time it’s happened at the school. Apparently the teachers were very nice and said it was no big deal. I’m sure it’s not that big a deal. Feels horrible though.

When I got home, I saw the branch we had selected for Clem to bring for Sound of the Week (it was “B”day, and our Beautiful Branch also had a Birds nest in it for extra credit) was sitting there by the door, where we’d left it on Sunday when we picked it out, in an attempt to avoid running around frantically the day of, as we did all last year. Clem tells me she was the ONLY kid there without something for Sound of the Week.

I stopped myself from crying in my meeting at the Presidio, and I stopped myself from crying when I came home and saw the branch by the door. I have not taken my anti-depressants for three days; I ran out and each day have not figured out how to get to the pharmacy while it’s open. Must explain also why I started to cry in the conference yesterday when the speaker from Ogilvy showed this ad from Dove about girls’ self-esteem (on this one I don’t think I was alone; lots of other women were tearing up).

But then I was feeling shaky and unsettled and couldn’t figure out how to get grounded after having prevented myself from crying three times that day. So I sat down and watched the Dove ad again. Actually, I started crying before I even turned it on, but it still helped. Then I watched all the banned ads on YouTube for a while; some of them were funny and cheered me up, like this one.

I would like to not feel like I am either shortchanging my job, my daughter, or myself at any given time. Mostly I don’t feel that way, and I feel lucky that I don’t, and lucky that my job is flexible and interesting and my daughter is tough, smart, expressive, and an enormous amount of fun. I suppose there will be times like this.


This weekend in Mineral Point, WI with her cousins, Clementine started dancing a little bit. And she looked EXACTLY like Elaine in Seinfeld, but not quite as violent (George: “It’s like a full body dry heave set to music.”) The thumbs were up, the elbows in motion, it was all there in minature.

Great weekend at Maplewood Lodge. In attendance: 2 grandparents, 3 uncles, 1 aunt, 2 (step)parents, 1 niece, 1 nephew, 3 cousins, and 3 girlfriends of cousins (all really nice, smart, and cute…go cousins!.) And one Elaine clone slash daughter. Said daughter was in absolute heaven. Campfire, attention, nature, chaos, snakes, drums, gifts everywhere, boys to throw her around, swimming, hugs…it doesn’t get better than that. No wonder she couldn’t sleep the night before. So excited. I think she’ll look forward to the Maplewood Lodge every year until she’s a sullen teenager.

Thanks, Coleman and John!

Trendoid Mom Thing

Okay, not sure I want to be “that guy” but I saw this suitcase in the in-flight magazine on my way back from Berlin and I think I will actually buy it. I can see it now, other moms stopping me in the airport asking where I got it. It’s not available in the US for another couple of weeks. Soon I Will Be Invincibly Cool.

Clemmie turns 4

Clem was a real star for her birthday. Owen from the Vivarium came and did an amazing show with his snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, and a tarantula. Clem was completely unafraid and loved being the kid who got to hold all the animals.


We are amazed and grateful for such a cool kid.

The Internet Knows

Driving to school this morning: “Mommy, does the Internet know everything?”

“Um, well…”

“How did the Internet know what sound is Sound of the Week at my school?”


Resisting my not-so-good instincts

I am so sad that John Paczkowski is leaving my favorite daily reading on the tech industry: Good Morning Silicon Valley. The man makes me laugh out loud with headlines like
“Oh geez! Has this brie been in Carly’s desk since she left?”
One of the things I like best is his “Off Topic” section at the end where I’ve found some of my favorite YouTube clips. Today, he links to an episode of The Muppet Show guest starring Peter Sellers. Just the opening sequence where the muppets come out dancing made me all sorts of nostalgic. It made me want to throw out all of Clementine’s videos and outlaw Clifford and Dragon Tales and limit her media consumption to only shows I liked as a kid. Then I thought about the kind of mom that would make me, and I decided not to.

I Hate Sara Lee

It is the morning and I am looking at this hot dog bun and feeling dread. I am sending rays of hate towards Sara Lee, imagining she is a real person and is responsible for what’s about to happen. I don’t even know why we have a Sara Lee product in our refrigerator, but Clem wants a hot dog for breakfast (turkey dog, don’t think too ill of me) and we have just returned from vacation and there is precious little else in there. So I concede to this, just this once.

But I can tell the bun is stale and fragile (and crappily made to begin with) and it’s going to fall apart when we put the dog in it. And Clem is going to freak out. She is going to scream and cry as if rats were eating her toes. It is January 2nd, and I need to go to work after having been gone for two whole weeks. Really gone. Checked out. Did nothing. Stuff is piled up. We have a major launch event in three months and basically everything left to do on it. I need to get to work.

I give her the hot dog and the bun, in that way that you do something you know is stupid, but you don’t know what else to do (I had told her she could have it) and you think maybe this time it will not have the consequences that it usually has. But it does, of course, and then you realize you knew it would and you wonder if you are an actor in some boring movie and not an actual thinking human being of your own. So your toddler is crying uncontrollably about the broken mess on her plate and isn’t remotely ready to go to school and it is 8:30.

So you non-parents are mostly thinking “Why do you put up with that kind of behavior?” And I think the same thing, often. And the alternative? Please come over here and show me how not to put up with that. She is crying, loudly, so I can take her upstairs and put her in her room and let her cry louder. I will need to lock her in her room, since she will just run out if I try to leave her there. I could lock her in there and go get myself ready in the meantime and then decide what to do. I could, and frankly I have done that, but I don’t like to lock a child in a room alone. I could say to her “I can help you if you can stop crying and talk to me.” I do this. Yes, well. I believe in my heart of hearts that this will work one day. It does not work now. I can say it a few more times, but it is more ritual than anything. Does she hear me?

It is five days later and I don’t even remember now how we got her to calm down. I think Chris did it. We made it to school, late, to work, late, but the sky did not fall. There is not enough room in memory to store all of these moments. I remember the bun. I threw the rest of them out that afternoon. They tasted like paper anyway. I don’t know if I’m a good parent. I know I’m a loving parent, but I might be way too lenient. I might be raising a total brat. I do not want Super Nanny to come to my house, but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind a visit from Mary Poppins. Or just magical powers. But I believe the idea was that Mary Poppins only visited houses where the kids were neglected and under-loved. This is not our problem.

I have come to the conclusion that we do put up with our kids. At school, the teachers don’t tolerate meltdowns, I know that, and I’m glad of it. She knows how to keep herself together when she has to. Apparently when she is with Mommy is not when she has to. I know I am supposed to teach her to get a grip, helping her channel her emotions while validating them. I have read books, some of them very good and very helpful. I have the best intentions. But sometimes I want to slap her. Sometimes I wonder if that in fact would be helpful. I decide it probably would not, but the thought comes back from time to time.

We tried something today that worked so well and was so cute I think Miss Poppins would be proud. After an unfortunately pretty typical after school hour of what the books say is her letting out all the stress of her school day on me (she is after all, only 3 ½ and was in school for 9 hours today! Ugh. I was held up at the office.) I suggested that when she feels like crying or whining about something, she should instead say “Mom, I need a hug.” Miraculously, this worked. She needed a hug about every 25 seconds in frequent spurts throughout the evening, which made cooking dinner difficult, but she gives fantastic hugs. Her giant round cheeks are so soft and they squish up against your cheek or your neck and she wraps her legs around your waist and squeezes. It’s pretty damn awesome. The anti-matter to a whine. Some of the hugs were just for fun but several times throughout the evening I saw her start to freak and instead ask for or just take a hug and actually calm down. Magic! And magical.

I know from experience that this will probably not work tomorrow. At the most it’ll work for a week or two. Then we will have to find something else, and in the meantime there’ll be dozens of meltdowns. And maybe one of my friends or family will nominate us for a visit from Super Nanny. Does she scare me because she looks mean or does she scare me because I’m raising a brat and I don’t want to face it?