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Reel Mama: September 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When supermom loses her superpowers

I admit it.  As the mother of an almost 2-year-old, there are days when I feel like anything but a superwoman.  Capeless. No invisible armor to shield me from the trials and tribulations of potty training and temper tantrums.  Some days I just feel like I’ve lost my mommy mojo, and it ain't easy.  Some days I feel like putting out the white flag.  
It's painful to admit.  We supermoms feel super guilty when we have to admit to ourselves, in secret, that we really can’t do it all.
When thinking about supermom, I always envision that magical turn Wonder Woman takes when she needs to turn herself into Wonder Woman.  I find that I need to take that symbolic turn a lot, discovering within myself the strength I didn’t know I had in order to become supermom, and there are days when I take the turn, and nothing happens. I don't turn into supermom.  What would Wonder Woman do if that happened, and the sexy bustier, bullet-proof bracelets, and magic lasso didn't magically appear when she needed them, and she was just...herself?  And she had to figure out how to conquer the world with no superpowers?
In other words, supermom isn’t supermom all the time. Sometimes she just has to be herself, and she’s only human.
Parents today take on the world, and we want to offer our children the world.  Every day moms don’t just want to, but actually do, live up to Chaka Kahn’s anthem: we ARE every woman.  You better believe it!  But there are days when it’s very hard to be all things to all people.
Last night my daughter Leilani climbed out of her crib for the first time, nearly causing serious injury to herself, and causing me to panic with worry.  We are about to undertake a momentous new challenge tonight, when she starts sleeping in a toddler bed.  And today, as if sensing my concern and anxiety, Leilani smiled at me and said, "No problem!" as if to say, “Don't worry, Mommy, everything's going to be okay!”  And she's right: everything will be okay.  She’ll master this new skill, just like she has everything else.  This too shall pass, probably too quickly.  Pretty soon, she'll be like the four year old in her tutu on her way to her first ballet recital, then like the eight year old riding her bike down the street without training wheels, then the 16 year old learning how to drive in the stadium parking lot.
I have a keen awareness that this time is going by faster than Superman reverses the direction of the earth’s orbit in order to turn back time and save Lois Lane’s life.  But there is no way we moms, even when we are super, can turn back time.
As for supermoms, I meet them every day.  In my daily life I come across so many amazing moms, and I stand in awe of them.  They come from every walk of life: those going back to school, the moms with the double strollers, the moms with the triple strollers, the moms who work the graveyard shift so that they can spend more time with their families, and the moms who hold down two jobs to support their kids and still don’t have health insurance.  You truly are today's superheroes, and you’re truly beautiful.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wildly Inappropriate Parenting: Toddlers and Tiaras

Sometimes you just have to ask, what are these parents thinking?  Moms who take their daughters to pole dancing lessons so they can feel more sexy?  Or the dad who whizzed across Centinela, one of the busiest streets in LA, on a scooter, the kind you stand up on and push, with his little (helmet-less) son holding on for dear life as I careened toward them in my car.  Their “jay-scooting” escapade took reckless endangerment to a new level and almost got us all killed.

But some of the pageant moms featured in Toddlers and Tiaras take the prize.  Or should I say, in pageant-appropriate lingo, the “Grand Supreme,” in the category of wildly inappropriate parenting.  We the “normal” parents don’t do pageants with our kids, and obviously the producers of this show are preying upon our sense of outrage (and superiority) and milking it for all it’s worth.  Indeed they are counting on it for ratings.  It’s working!  I’m cringing as I watch, and it almost made me lose my lunch.  This show nauseates me, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep watching.

I’ve produced some reality TV myself (not pageant-related), and I know that to a certain extent some scenes can be scripted, or at least directed.  A close friend of mine who edits reality shows (not pageant-related) has actually been instructed to include shots that make a subject look like a bad mom, because that’s how the producers wanted her to be portrayed…as unlikeable to the viewers.

Nevertheless, the producers only manipulate the footage so much.  Ultimately, whether it’s of his own volition or he’s taking direction, it really is that dad giving his 2-year-old daughter a spray tan in the bathtub.

Here are just a few of the gems, taken verbatim, from a rerun of the show I recorded yesterday:

A pageant mom: “When it comes to winning, money is no option [sic]…Brystol’s beauty dress cost us right around $4000…Basically I work four days a week to support our pageant habit….If I had to take out a second mortgage on my house to make sure that she wins, then that’s what it would take.  Am I crazy?  No.  I’m just doing what it takes for us to win.”

This woman’s daughter is 18 months old!  What is the little girl getting out of it?  Think of what that money could do in a 529 savings plan for college.  Honestly, what is this little girl going to do with these crowns when she’s 30 or 40 (except, god forbid, subject her own child to this nonsense), and what is it going to prove in the long run?  How is this investing in your child?

A pageant coach: “Now that you’re over one years [sic, again!] you get to wear makeup in pageants.”

There is so much wrong with that statement. WHERE DO I START??  Lipstick and a hairpiece on an 18 month old?  Mascara??  I’m apoplectic. I just have to ask, can this be real?

I’m quoting a pageant mom again here: “Chloe’s very tired, so her daddy made her some special ‘juice’ that’s just energy drink, apple juice, and cola.” 

And then this mom gives it to her in a bottle.  You drink it, lady, and then let’s try to peel you off the ceiling.  Or better yet, let’s subject this mom to a spray-tanning, hairpiece-flaunting, corset-tightening, Red Bull-chugging regimen, and let’s find out how much she likes it.  This woman is drugging her child with stimulants, and it could have serious medical consequences. Will someone please call Child Protective Services?  These people aren’t fit to be parents.

Again, my heart is in my throat witnessing the hyper-sexualization of these girls.  A local “glitz” pageant was profiled in the episode I watched, and in that one competition was featured a three-year-old dressed like a Vegas showgirl, and another dressed like Marilyn Monroe.  But these were tame compared to the girls who won.  The “Beauty Supreme” winner looked like she was wearing a miniature stripper costume.  And the “Grand Supreme” winner?  She takes the prize for working it in Julia Roberts’ costume from Pretty Woman, compete with blond wig and thigh-high black leather boots.

These girls are babies, just three years old and under.  When did sugar and spice become leather and lace?  This is deeply disturbing on many levels.  Child exploitation is a very real, and something that all parents need to be vigilant about.  Perhaps TLC should rethink giving these misguided pageant parents a platform in the first place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Do Gen X Women Choose Work Over Kids?” A Gen X mom responds

In Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog entry from this past summer, entitled “Do Gen X Women Choose Work Over Kids?,” Belkin reports that 43% of college-educated Gen X women are childless today. Belkin’s blog beautifully goes into detail about why Gen X women are choosing not to have kids. I meet the criteria of the group that was studied.  I’m a member of Generation X, and I’m college educated, in other words, what one of Belkin’s blog commentators describes as “the over-educated achiever group.”  I thought it would be interesting here to look at the other side of the coin, and examine why some of us are choosing kids, or, as the blog does mention, who may still, in addition to exploring further the reasons why some aren’t.

The study was conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy, and the women being studied are now between 33 and 46, the youngest being born in 1978, and the oldest being born in 1965.  I tend to categorize Gen X as being born in the 1970s, but this is splitting hairs because generally I believe that women born within this 13-year period probably shared enough formative, influential generational experiences, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the bursting of the tech bubble, to understand each other and where we are coming from on a deep level. 

We were raised with a certain worldview about feminism, work, and motherhood.  What is it?  If I had to posit the first thing that comes to mind, I’d say we were raised to believe that we can have it all.  Significantly, we aren’t the first generation of women to believe this, because our moms, the Baby Boomers, those young pioneers of the feminist movement, were the first to prove that it could be done in a big way.  My mom is a case in point.  She was an outstanding high school art teacher for twenty-five years and an amazing and inspiring parent who pursued her art and absolute devotion to her students while at the same time always being available to take me to the numerous activities in which I was involved, from ballet to theater to art.  Looking back on all this, I remain in awe, and I do wonder how she did it.

I wasn’t just raised with the expectation that I could have it all, but that this was an immutable reality, and I witnessed it daily through my mom.  I would definitely have it all.  I would be a total success, a world-famous fashion designer, anthropologist, and prima ballerina.  I would manage to fit “fabulous wife and mother” somewhere into the equation too.  That went without saying. 

Interestingly, throughout my upbringing, my becoming a mom never came up.  The emphasis was always on excelling in academics and extracurricular activities.  These were my interests, and I was not only too young but much too busy to think about having a family and the responsibilities that would bring.  To a certain extent I lived that success story, or some version of it, going on to Yale, falling in love and getting married, then a Master’s degree, making films and traveling the country for screenings, teaching.  During all this I was in my twenties and still much too busy to think about having a family. 

Before I knew it, I was in my thirties, and my priorities had shifted.  Now I was thinking about having a family, and now, watching my ticking biological clock, I was hoping that it wasn’t too late.  What had changed?  Why did I suddenly want a child, whereas before I hadn’t, had felt satisfied and whole in my professional and married life and didn’t need anything more?  There are the obvious biological reasons.  It was a longing deep within me, and a beautiful dream that as time passed I wanted to live more and more.  A child was what I needed to make my life complete, and that was my (and my husband’s!) choice and my dream.  This is my personal journey.  I was and still am in a happy marriage and the moment felt right.

My husband and I waited a very long time to have our daughter.  Again, Gen Xers are raised with that enormous emphasis on career.  In our twenties, my husband and I were in graduate school, completing the studies we needed to make our careers happen, getting things launched.  We didn’t have the financial means for a family, and we felt immortal.  Then we turned thirty, and suddenly we started feeling just a little bit less immortal, and as 35 approached, even less so.  We began taking stock of our lives on a deep level, and thinking about what would really make us happy, not just in the present, which is all we had been living for, but in the decades to come.  This led us to the path that we are on today as parents.

In her blog Belkin poses the question, “Why is it that women still feel forced to choose between kids and career– today, in 2011?”  For starters, there are many deterrents to having kids today: the financial commitment for having a child is staggering, and the economy is terrible. People don’t want to lose their jobs, and many workplaces are still very unsympathetic to parents even today.  There’s also a new attitude going around in the workplace (as mentioned in the blog): now that women have been invited to join the “boy’s club” in the upper management of many professions, women must contribute just as much overtime as men for any given position, whether they are moms or not.  The prospect of the crushing guilt, or the prospect of having to walk away from that hard-earned career, are just too much to convince many Gen X women to have kids.

I think there are many who don’t feel the pressure to have kids at all, and are enjoying full, successful lives with the choice they have made not to be parents, and who may or may not be married.

One of my closest friends, a former classmate who is my same age, also with a Master’s, and who is now expecting, was surprised when I told her that most of my friends don’t have kids.  That is why the study’s findings didn’t surprise me all that much.  It was a shock to my system when my daughter was born.  I’d had wonderful support from friends, but I didn’t have many new moms telling me what it would be like, and I certainly hadn’t been exposed to many children, let alone infants.  Many of my former classmates and friends are still planning on having a family.  But many won’t and they are very happy with this choice, and I couldn’t be happier for them. 

I am intrigued to find out what the long-term impact of our nation’s most educated having far fewer children will be.  Certainly it means that more is invested in each child, emotionally and certainly financially.  Children are our most precious resource.

As for my decision to stay home with my daughter, and just temporarily put on hold my certain path to greatness as an anthropologist fashion designer sure to make her starring debut at the Met in Swan Lake, I would say that there are many factors driving it.  But to put it simply, it hasn’t made economic sense for me to work up until now, and, far more importantly, I love being able to give my little girl hugs all day, any time I want.  That’s really special to me in this moment, and I have the rest of my life to take the world by storm in my career.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is your child “facially gifted”?

Most parents are concerned for their children’s success in life, and most hope that their child is “gifted,” shining with an ability to excel creatively and academically, indicating a potential for great success later in life.  But there is another category of “gifted” that for most parents is an afterthought: for parents entering their children in child pageants, the child being “facially gifted” is the single most important factor for success.  At least according to Dena Jackson, Director of the International Fresh Faces pageant as seen on last night’s TLC broadcast of the fascinating reality series Toddlers and Tiaras. 

“Facially gifted” is the pageant’s politically correct term for beautiful, but Jackson was remarkably straightforward in the second half of the program that her pageant is judged exclusively on “facial beauty and personality.”  Interesting that they don’t want to use the word "beautiful" when it’s clearly what they are looking for.  Unlike “grownup” pageants that have adamantly laid claim to the title “scholarship competition” (Miss America) and shun the title “beauty contest,” the child pageant judges unapologetically insist that the girls must be beautiful, or they don’t stand a chance in hell of winning.

Child pageants have endured a great deal of flack since our nation turned its eye to them after the Jonbenet Ramsey tragedy.  A lot of the criticism is justified, but they do have some redeeming qualities.  After watching Toddlers and Tiaras, I can see that some of the contestants genuinely love to do the pageants with their moms.  For them it is quality mother-daughter bonding time, albeit one that costs a fortune.  They seem to have fun with it, while learning poise and the importance of discipline when practicing to reach a goal.  The experience can be confidence building, but all too often this confidence can be shattered when the girl fails to bring home the coveted monstrosity of a crown representing the top, supreme, and ultimate prize.

Sadly, other girls are forced into it by psycho stage moms bullying their daughters to “win, win, win!”  I can hardly wait until next week’s episode, when one such mom decrees that she’s taking her daughter to a fast food restaurant to get her child a Mountain Dew (loaded with sugar and caffeine) so that her little girl can step up her game.  This is scary parenting.  I realize it’s going too far to say that we need to put Child Protective Services on speed dial for such parents, but when some moms take it to such extremes, forcing the children to perform very much against their will, and pressuring a win by any means necessary, it can verge on abuse.

A lot bothers me about the child pageants.  I am very disturbed first and foremost by the contestants’ heavy makeup.  With a few exceptions (i.e., ballet recitals or the occasional dress-up game), I feel that makeup on any pre-adolescent girl is inappropriate.  The child pageant contestants are required to wear inch-thick makeup much more suited to an aging silent film star grieving over lost youth, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.  The moms seem to pile it on with a spatula.  Secondly, if again there is poor judgment in parenting, the girls are taught to act like little adults, with provocative dance moves, even costumes, sexualizing these children well before their time.  (Apparently last week there was a Pretty Woman number—yikes).

But my greatest problem with the child pageants is the message they send that facial giftedness is the single determining factor for success in life.  “When I take off my glasses, I turn into a beauty queen!” gushed an enthusiastic competitor.  Unlike academics and other life skills and lessons, where we can positively influence our children, invest in them, and help shape their minds by teaching them and helping them develop a love of learning, looks are just something that our children are born with.

True, appearance can be tweaked or even radically altered later in life, but right now our children are and will continue to be judged by looks in the crazy pageant we call life.  It’s important to impart the life skills necessary for our children to cope with this reality, helping to instill in them the confidence to navigate the treacherous waters of the terribly subjective “facial giftedness,” emerging into adulthood recognizing the tremendous importance (which sometimes gets lost in our image-conscious world) of inner beauty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I still get carded but my biological clock couldn't care less

On occasion, up until recently, I have gotten carded. Maybe it was a ploy to boost liquor sales.  Maybe it was an overly friendly cashier’s way of flirting to pass the time.  Or maybe it was just an act of sheer kindness (or worse, pity!). I have to accept the reality that it may never happen again, considering that I am over 21.  Just slightly.    Nevertheless, it’s happened enough that I’ve come to the conclusion that I look younger than my age, and that puts me in a unique category shared by a lot of women.

The New York Times recently ran an article called “Are You as Fertile as You Look?”  It turns out that no matter how young I look and feel, my internal organs are aging at the normal pace and my fertility is decreasing drastically with each passing year.  Women all over the nation are turning back the clock when it comes to appearance, physical wellbeing, attitudes, dating preferences, seemingly every aspect of our lives, but we can’t turn back the biological clock.  We seem to have discovered something of a fountain of youth in the form of diet, exercise, skin regimens, plastic surgery, and new attitudes, and we are drinking from it by the gallon, but, in some cases heartbreakingly, our fertility is immune.  And it’s not fair.

Everybody says that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40, etc.  But my grandfather had it right when it comes to this: 30 is still 30, 40 is still 40, etc.  It’s your real age, and you have to live with it. I know I feel my age after a long day of parenting a toddler. 

Maybe you remember the show Ally McBeal and the little dancing baby representing her biological clock.  The baby has a glazed look and generic appearance, because I think it represents the biological clock of all women, and the pressure we feel to get married (or not!) and have that baby before time runs out and the dance (or chance) is over.  It’s a desire from deep within, and sometimes it’s a pressure that we women and society place on ourselves.

A new book recently came out by Sonia Arrison: 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith.  I can’t wait to read it, and I’m eager to know if the author addresses issues of fertility in the book.  Arrison was recently interviewed on NPR, and her assessment is that, thanks to scientific advances in health and medicine, the future life expectancy we have to look forward to is 150 (!)  For Arrison, this isn’t adding decades to our life in which we would be in decline.  Her belief is that, thanks to these advances, we would enjoy excellent health and independence well beyond 100.

If we do live 150 years, how would that impact fertility?  We would enjoy a great quality of life for longer, adding an even greater number of years to the time in which we can remain active and continue working well past 100.  We would appear deceptively youthful.  But something tells me that the stubborn biological clock wouldn’t budge. It’s unjust that men could conceivably conceive families until 150, while women would experience more or less 100 years of infertility.  Right now women live longer, yet the idea of being pregnant at 70 is still radical and makes some uneasy because it flies in the face of biology and biological clocks.

The most beautiful thing my doctor told me when he listened to my daughter’s heartbeat in the womb was this: “This heart will be beating for the next hundred years.”  When I had Leilani I was more than 10 years older than my parents were when they had me.  The prospect of living 150 years, if my lifestyle could be healthy and independent, is very enticing to me, because it would enable me to see Leilani grow up and have a family of her own and beyond. 

But thinking of my biological clock, I may already have lost much of my fertility despite the fact that some (underscore “some”!) people think I look like I’m in my twenties.  It’s a reminder that, even if I have my face sandblasted, I won’t live forever.

It remains to be seen if science can keep up with women’s desire to have children in their forties and beyond.  Some remarkable advances have been made on this front, but will science be able to reset those biological clocks, so that our bodies can’t tell what time it is?

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Airheads.  The name of this piece might be a bit deceiving, but I had to come up with a name for those of us who fly frequently.  Especially those of us who fly frequently with toddlers.  Because I have to ask: what are we thinking?? 

Today was a perfect example.  We began the trip to the airport auspiciously enough.  My husband dropped Leilani and me off, our bags surrounding us.  The only snag seemed to be that my daughter was in an umbrella stroller that seemed to be caving in with her in it.  That problem solved, goodbyes were said, kisses were exchanged.  My husband pulled away and I raced in to the checkout counter.  No line at all to check in—it seemed to be a miracle.  Come to think of it, I don’t think they checked my ID (perhaps a sympathy concession for those of us traveling with toddlers?)  Boarding pass in hand, I turned my back to the check-in counter and it hit me like an errant piece of spaghetti sometimes hits my face when Leilani is eating—we had forgotten the car seat. 

I had intended to check it in with my bag.  Now there was nothing for Leilani to sit in when we were picked up at the airport at our destination.  This was a disaster.  The bag checker informed me that I still had a few minutes before boarding.  But the seconds were ticking by.  I frantically called my husband.  No answer.  Finally he picked up, upset to be driving distracted, and I broke the bad news. No questions asked, I knew that he was on his way.  I was then calling him every other minute: “Are you almost here?”  “Yes, I’m not at terminal A, but there is a speed limit here.”  A ticket was the last thing we needed.  Finally in the distance, I spotted our car.  I was able to check the car seat in just five minutes before my boarding time.  The lady at check-in didn’t even bat an eyelash at the ridiculous pile of Goldfish and yogurt chips that poured out as she wrapped up my car seat. 

But there was one gigantic hurdle remaining: the security line.  Most parents would rather be locked in a room full of people running fingernails on chalkboards for 24 hours than to have to go through security with a toddler.  It’s just that painful.  This time proved no different. Immediately, in the rush to load my things onto the conveyer built, I tore a nail right into the quick.  French manicure ruined? Check.  Severe pain and bleeding as every single item is placed into those freakin’ plastic bins?  Double check.   Leilani, to her credit, was a doll as I dutifully got out my laptop and took off my shoes.  But what happened next just kills me: I started to walk through the metal detector carrying my daughter, and the guard actually asked me to take off HER shoes (my daughter’s, that is). Really?  Let’s rethink airport security, people.  So it was back to the conveyer belt with the tiny pink maryjane shoes, and a kind stranger (or perhaps one silently just bemoaning her luck to be behind me) offered to put them in her bin.

Finally to the gate, where boarding had not yet started.  Another miracle!  When boarding finally started a woman eyeballed all the stuff I was carrying and said, “You are a world class Sherpa—congratulations!”  Sherpas are a Himalayan people known for their mountaineering skills (I looked it up!)  Apparently to the outside world I looked like a heavily laden mountaineer, or perhaps even a pack mule, ready to ascend Mount Everest.  However, I only received a flash of disapproval on the face of the stewardess before she smiled and waved me through, I having clearly exceeded the carry-on limit, even permitting the inclusion of a diaper bag.  I’m glad she didn’t ask me to try to fit my wrecking ball of a purse into my slim laptop bag (that’s happened before and it wasn’t pretty).

All went relatively well on the flight, except that Leilani kept getting antsier as time went on.  By the end she was bouncing off the ceiling and trying to close the window belonging to the passenger in front of us.  All I needed to make the experience complete was to see a Sasquatch leering at me on the wing of the plane.

Finally we touched down, and inexplicably, people started disembarking from the rear of the plane.  We were going to get to walk down airstairs (yes this is the proper term—I checked) onto the tarmac.  Yippee.  Who gets out of a plane this way anymore?  In the past, when I got out of a plane this way, I felt like a movie star, something akin to the Beatles arriving for the first time in America to legions of screaming fans.  No, I wobbled down those stairs, a decidedly unglamorous Sherpa with a flailing toddler.  Thank god there were no paparazzi.  Leilani’s umbrella stroller was waiting for us on the tarmac, a speck in the distance.  When I finally reached it, I realized it had somehow gotten bent out of shape. And that’s how I felt at that moment, bent out of shape. 

I may be an airhead, but I know this won’t be the last time I travel with my toddler in coach.  The Cowardly Lion can come to me any time looking for what he ain’t got: courage.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tornado Chasers

My heart goes out to all who have suffered losses due to Hurricane Irene.  One of my favorite songs says, “Smile, though your heart is aching.”  It is in this spirit that I hope what I’m going to write will bring a smile to your face. 

I wanted to share the amusing nickname my husband came up with for ourselves in light of the workout our toddler has been giving us lately: “tornado chasers.”  At my organizational low points, I am sometimes affectionately known as “Hurricane Lauren.”  It seems my daughter comes by it honestly.  I never know where she is going to touch down and make a little mess, or perhaps if it’s one of her real twister days, to turn the place upside down.  Anything could be lurking in that knee-high pandemomium of construction paper; dolls whose faces have been “improved” with black crayon scribbles, Lady Gaga style; books chewed on as a baby, and now lovingly torn because that ripping sound is so exciting, and god knows what else.  It could be alive.  One misstep, and you might twist an ankle.  You might totter, then fall on your face like a felled mighty oak, brought down by the worthless toy cast aside from the MacDonald’s Happy Meal.

All this makes it very difficult to chase after a “bolter.” The term left me a little cold the first time I heard it, because it nailed so perfectly my daughter’s behavior.  She is a bolter, and we, the parents who chase after her, are too by necessity.

Unlike my grandmother, whom I’m told had two speeds: slow and off.  If I were my grandmother, I would not be running after my daughter.  It’s just not ladylike and it musses the hairdo you just had fixed at the beauty parlor.  I would be strolling at a leisurely and respectable pace, one appropriate in front of the company that might arrive at any moment.   And while I would be strolling, my daughter could be doing anything, such as rewiring the mass of cables behind my desk. Perhaps eating cat food.  But that would only be discovered upon my leisurely, and somewhat dramatic, entrance, when Leilani would be caught in the act.

On one occasion last spring I was chasing my daughter around a wooden play structure.  I leaned forward to pursue her and…CRACK! My skull hit an unseen beam.  I saw stars.  In the meantime, Leilani had disappeared. I ran around to the other side of the structure.  She was gone.  I finally found her hiding in one of the extensive nooks and crannies of the giant structure. 

The experience stopped my heart and, fearing for my child’s safety, caused me to run out and buy the thing my mom had been begging me to buy for weeks, but that every mom in LA shuns like a Japanese restaurant with an American name.  It’s a leash.  Well, it’s called a safety harness.  Ours has Elmo, Leilani’s favorite character. I’ve used it approximately twice, and at the farmer’s market, when I was dreading reactions, I was instead quite pleased to hear people say, “What a great idea!”  And, “How cute!”  The second time I got at least one notable piercing glare.  Now Elmo is lying somewhere on the floorboard of my car, probably crushed and forgotten under a pile of yogurt chips my daughter flung in one of her tornado moods.  I’m not ashamed of the leash.  It’s just so hard for me to remember to bring it along because I’m so tired.  Maybe I need a safety harness to keep from falling over from exhaustion.

So all you tornado chasers, all you parents of bolters, I hope you find the eye of the storm, that little moment of tranquility, that reminds us of why we do this.  I wasn’t born a thrill seeker, but chasing my little tornado is the thrill of a lifetime.