The Twelve Days of Christmas – Mommy Juice Style

Kinko! For God's sake, please don't poop in there! Bad kitty!

Kinko! Bad kitty! Does that look like the litter box?

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave me to me…

  • a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Two Little Loves –  Zaffy and Mgazi, of course, the best daughters a mom could ask for
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Three “Take Ten”s – you know, when you’re feeling a little like you are going to lose it. Like you might snap. Like your head might pop and spray brain tissue across the room (Hey, if it reached the Christmas Tree I wouldn’t have to go digging around for those lost ornaments!) Like you are about to smack someone right then and there even though there are witnesses. Breathe. Take ten.
  • Two Little Loves
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the fourth day of Christmas, my stinkin’ cat whose about to get kicked out of the house gave to me…

  • Four Kitty Turds –  Every morning without fail, I wake up to find my otherwise adorable feline friend, Kinko, has shat somewhere in the house — on the kids’ bathmat, on the kids’ bedroom carpet, on my husband’s pants. (Hey, Russell, it’s not just me that gets annoyed when you leave your clothes on the floor!)
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the fifth day of Christmas, my pawn broker gave to me…

  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings – yeah, money’s a little tight.
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Six Hairs a Graying, Teeth Decaying, Kids Disobeying, Spittle Spraying, Thoughts Betraying – I’ve had a bad day six, just sayin’.
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Seven… seven… damn! What rhymes with “swimming”? Brimming? Skimming?
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Eight Maids a Cleaning – I don’t own cows, what do I need Eight Maids a Milking for? Now, if a cow produced wine… well, then, this would deserve a rethink…
  • Seven Diets a Slimming <– lame
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the ninth day of Christmas, my therapist gave to me…

  • Nine Days Xanaxing – Can you imagine? Nine anxiety-free days. *Blissful Sigh* Thank God for therapists who are willing to treat people who don’t actually have anything wrong with them! Without all my perfectly normal worries and fears, maybe I’ll finally get some sleep!
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven Trees a Trimming <– blech
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the tenth day of Christmas, my children gave to me…

  • Ten Morns to Sleep In – Holy crap! The Xanax is working!
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven… seven…. seven… nothing
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love  gave to me…

  • Eleven Tears a Wiping – I’m not crying because I’m overwhelmed, scared, and feeling as though I’m not good enough. I’m crying because I’m pissed!
  • Ten Morns to Sleep In
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven Periods of Skipping – OMG! It’s Meno Clause!
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my credit card gave to me…

  • Twelve Brookstone Products Humming – What? Did I say something?
  • Eleven Tears a Wiping
  • Ten Morns to Sleep In
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven – why are you even reading seven? There’s nothing to see here!
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free!!!!!!!!!!!!

First image courtesy of m_bartosch /
Last image courtesy of photoexplorer /

Thoughtless Words Get Me Into Trouble (Again)

Families in the LopSo, I was asked to contribute to a Chicago parenting site called Families in the Loop last month. Their tagline is “where parents let loose.” In other words, they say what they actually think, not what they are supposed to think. And they swear a lot. (They’re all kinds of awesome.)

So, I wrote this piece called “All I Want for Christmas is to Knock Out My Kid’s Two Front Teeth.” Zaffy had lost her top front tooth, her third one. And it was upsetting to her, just like losing her first two. She vacillated between exhilaration and terror. Laughing and crying. Poor thing didn’t know what to feel.

I felt sorry for her. But I was also annoyed. That’s what got me into trouble. She turned on me when I helped her with her tooth and then I turned on her in a very un-grown-up like way.

It’s not always funny.



Parenting Fail: Feeling Like a Big Pile of “Sheet”

She had begged me to help her get her tooth out. So I did. And immediately after it came out, the little stinker accused me of some insidious plot to rid her of her teeth, like I could sell them on Craigslist. (Hmmm, note to self …)

It was awful, being 180’d in this way by my seven-year-old after I tried so hard to help her. The first thing that popped into my head was “you little shit.”

I didn’t say it out loud, of course. I just thought it in my head for a second before it disappeared. Not even a second – a nanosecond.

But it didn’t go away. It became a permanent thing the moment I decided to include it in my previous FITL post. I made yet another of my quite frequent dumbass parenting decisions. I let Zaffron read the post before I submitted it.

“Why did you call me little sheet?” Zaffron asked.

Oops. I had forgotten I included that part.

“Actually, honey, if you read carefully, you’ll see that Mommy didn’t call you a little sheet. I called you a little … Sweetie, if you read extra carefully. you’ll see I didn’t call you anything at all. I only thought it in my head.”

“But you typed it down.”

My five-year-old piped in. “You typed it down, Mom.”

“Mgazi, this isn’t your conversation.” I pulled Zaffron close to me. “Zaffy, I didn’t actually think that.” Eek! My first lie (of the day). “I just wrote that I thought that.”

“But you always say that you write what actually happens in our family.”

“Well, that’s not exactly true, honey.” Damn. Did it again. A full 96% of what I chronicle is spot on. “Sometimes I exaggerate. Remember we talked about the word ‘exaggerate?’”

“Oooh, Zaffy, I think Mommy is lying to you.”

“Mgazi! This is none of your business!”

“But you are zaggerating to Zaffy!”

I shot back my standard response for when my children are right and I am wrong. “Go clean your room!”

“Mommy,” Zaffy asked, “What exactly is a sheet?”

And so I told her, being sure to demonstrate the proper pronunciation. Then I gave her permission to use the word, so long as she wasn’t at school and she used it appropriately.

“Were you using it appropriately when you told the public you think I’m a little poop?”


I had actually hurt my daughter.

This was not my regular parenting fail, which could be smoothed over with jokes and a few kisses. As Zaffron pulled away from me, her face displayed the confusion, sadness, and disbelief that her mother would turn on her in this way.

I felt like a big pile of sheet.


This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, an amazing blog run by some incredible women in Chicago. I’m grateful for their support.

[photo credit: photostock/]


Zaffron’s in Love… Again

Zaffron’s in love. The boy is in 5th grade. Much too old for her, if you ask me. This is what it’s like when your second-grader is in love.

On the school grounds:

Mom! There he is! No, don’t look! Mom, I said don’t look. He’s right there! WHY DO YOU KEEP LOOKING?

In the car:

I’m not using his sister to meet him. I liked her before I ever knew she had a brother. I just want to hang out with her even more now!

In bed:

Mom, my tummy has been feeling funny for days. I think it has to do with you know…you-know-who.

In the car:

Well, maybe I’m using his sister a little bit, but I really think she would understand. She gets this kind of thing.

In the kitchen:

Dad, he ran past me today and I felt the wind blow through my hair.

All I Want for Christmas Is to Knock Out My Kid’s Two Front Teeth

Wow. That title sounds bad.

Would it be better if I told you that she asked me to do it?

My daughter had thrown herself face-down on my bed and I heard a muffled, “Please, I just want this over with.”

“What’s that?” I was barely paying attention, absorbed as I was in making a mental list of the presents I needed to buy so my husband would have something to give me on Christmas morning.

“Just get it out of me. I don’t want to do this anymore.” My 7-year-old flipped over, flailing her arms and legs. “PULEEEEZ! Please, please, please! I want it out!”

Since I was pretty sure she wasn’t giving birth, I decided that she must be talking about her loose tooth. A top front tooth had been loose for months. During the last few days, it had been aggravating her to no end.

“Okay,” I said, “Let’s see what we can do.” We sat facing each other on my bed and recreated a scene we had acted out twice before with her bottom teeth. “First, I’m going to twist it to the right.”

I began turning her tooth slowly until she pulled back with a gasp. “Ahhh!”

“Eeew!” I answered with a shudder. “Okay, again, but the other way this time.” I gingerly twisted her tooth to the left.

“Ow, ow, ow!” Zaffy pulled away, covering her mouth with her palm.

“Eeew!” I flapped my hands at my sides. “Ick!”

“Mommy! Why are you saying ‘ick?’”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that wiggling her tooth out of its socket gave me the heebie jeebies, so I semi-lied.

“It’s just that I hate hurting you, honey. It goes against a mother’s nature.”

This wasn’t a lie per se; it just didn’t apply to this particular situation. I couldn’t have cared less about what she was feeling. I was more concerned with not puking on my candy cane-striped sheets because I found the whole endeavor so gross.

My daughter patted me on the shoulder and shook her head, saying, “Mom, it’s just part of the job. Sometimes a mother has to hurt her child. Please get this tooth out of my mouth.” She looked me in the eyes. “I’m begging you.”

Dutifully, because it was part of my job, I knocked my knuckle against Zaffy’s front tooth, putting a little bit more force behind each try until I felt the crunchy, wet crackle of the tooth’s connective ligaments snap and give way. I suppressed a gag.

Zaffy threw both hands over her mouth and her eyes widened in surprise. “What have you done?”

“What do you mean?” Was she turning on me?

“What did you do? Why did you do this? I never wanted this!” She started to cry.

“Are you kidding me, you little … ?” I stopped. To finish the sentence wouldn’t have been very merry, and I’d been trying awfully hard to have the holiday spirit.


“Are you kidding me, Zaffron?” I asked. “You begged me to do this. You actually used the word!”

“I did not. You made me do this. I want the tooth back! PUT … IT … BACK!”

“Zaffy, remember when we talked about the word ‘ambivalent’?”

“Mommy! Pay attention!”

I stared at her.

“I’m not going to look cute for Christmas!”

“Oh for God’s sake, is that what you are worried about?”

Zaffron gave me a look that only a daughter can give a mother, the one that communicates her deep desire to never have emerged from the likes of you, and ran out of the room.

I walked to the kitchen, where my husband was making eggs for the kids.

“Zaffy lost her tooth,” I said.

I heard a distant yell from another room. “I didn’t lose it! Mommy knocked it out!”

I sighed and returned to my bedroom, defeated by my latest parenting fail.

When it was time to get into the car and drive to school, Zaffron sidled up to me and slid her arms around my neck. “You helped me lose my tooth,” she whispered in my ear and gave me a hug.

“Is that your way of saying you’re sorry?” I asked, hugging her back.

She squeezed tighter. “I’m really not sure.”


This post was originally published on Families in the Loop, I’m very grateful for their support.

[Photo credit: westy48 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA]


I Know a Sucker When I See One… in the Mirror

So, I’m at the store waiting in line to buy my stuff, chatting on the phone with my friend, Toni. (How about that for a shout-out, Toni? You do still read this blog, right?)

So, I’m waiting my turn, minding my own business, regaling Toni with the latest hilarity in my life when a quick movement behind me catches my attention. Something has changed but I’m not sure what. I scan the items on the conveyor belt.

  • Motor oil
  • Batman costume
  • Glass bottles
  • Rags
  • Hubba Bubba gum
  • Nail polish remover

I quickly come to two disturbing conclusions:

  1. I could create a bomb with these items and wreak some serious vigilante justice; and
  2. that Hubba Bubba ain’t mine.

“Will you buy this gum for me?”

I turn around to find an old woman standing behind me. And by old, I mean batshit crazy. I can tell because her skirt is hiked up to within an inch of her crotch and tucked into her underwear (but only on one side), her blouse is mis-buttoned, and she’s wearing a maroon crocheted beret at a cocky tilt that tells me she meant to put it there. To round out her ensemble she’s chosen to don royal blue koozies on her feet. Last but not least, she has no teeth with which to chew this Hubba Bubba she’s hoping I’ll purchase for her.

The only thing appropriate about her is the fact that the undergarments, which are cinching her skirt at an uncomfortably revealing angle, are in fact, pale green granny panties.

But who am I to judge?

“Just a minute, Toni.” I place my hand over the phone and smile at the woman. “Sure,” I say. “Why not?”

I resume my conversation with Toni and mime with the cashier, who could care less what I’m buying or for whom, and pay for my purchases. The woman behind me scoops up her gum and is out the front door before I’ve even begun my usual apology for “forgetting” my reusable shopping bag.

As I leave the store, I see batshit crazy lady wandering in the parking lot. I begin my standard post-purchase routine of trying to locate my keys in my purse, when they are actually in my jeans pocket when again, my peripheral vision warns me that’s something’s up.

“Hang on a sec, Toni. I think she’s back.”

Clutching her Hubba Bubba in her left hand, batshit crazy lady mimics smoking a cigarette with her right. “You don’t happen to have any chips, do ya?”

Zombies vs. Birth Control

I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a professional. I have interests and hobbies. I work out sometimes. I cook at least once a week. Sorry, meant to say I cook at most once a week. But when I do, I cook multiple meals. And I don’t do white starches… bonus point!

I say all this to communicate the fact that I am a busy woman. I barely have time to floss my own teeth, but I do. Because it’s important. Unless I forget. Which I do. A lot.

Lately, I’ve been forgetting quite a few things — important things. Like packing the kids their lunches or my husband’s first name.

But last Friday was the kicker. I forgot to take my pill. You know the one. THE pill.

There are times when I could forget to take the pill every freakin’ day and it wouldn’t make a difference. There are other times, though, when it MATTERS VERY MUCH. This was one of those times.  I was in a semi-state of panic for 5 whole days.

And then I wasn’t.

I decided I needed some help.

Me: Hey you! Husband! Is it Russell? Yeah, Russell. I think you need to get snipped.

Russell: Okay.

Me: Really? You don’t mind.

Russell: Nope. I’m good.

Me: Wait. I’m serious here. You act like it’s no big deal. Like you don’t care one way or the other.

Russell: Of course, I care! This is a big decision. I mean, think about it. I am eliminating my ability to procreate and replenish the Earth should the need arise due to a zombie apocalypse.

Glass of white wineRecommended wine: If you or a loved one are planning on getting snipped, I suggest you give it serious consideration over a glass of wine. Try Zombie Zinfandel. It’s blood-red in color (of course) and horridly rich in concentrated fruit flavors with a finish that never dies!


100 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

I read somewhere that on your 100th blog post you should write 100 things about yourself. So, in honor of my 100th post, I present to you…

100 Things that You Probably Don’t Know About Me

  1. I am embroiled in an unhealthy and one-sided love affair with cheap wine.
  2. A colleague and I were once driving in South Africa when we were pulled over by men carrying big guns. When I tell the story now, I say we were pulled over “at gunpoint.” The guns were pointing somewhere… just not at us.
  3. When I was a kid, I wanted to name my future daughter Phronsie Brett, after a character in The Five Little Peppers.
  4. The first time I cried from joy was when my parents told my sister and I that they were going to have a baby. I was ten years old. It was Christmas morning, 1980.
  5. I resent getting old.
  6. The happiest hour of my life was the hour after my husband proposed to me.
  7. I can flip a quarter off my elbow and catch it in my palm.
  8. I learned to drive on a stick shift.
  9. The only time I ever heard my father swear was when he was teaching me to drive.
  10. During the summer between fifth and sixth grade I read 52 books. I thought I was a shoe-in for the Summer Reading Contest. Turns out I was wrong. Another girl won. She read 53 books. Her name was Sally Sokolowski.
  11. Some of my favorite family memories consist of holding séances with my cousins at my grandparents’ house.
  12. The last time I cried from happiness was when I received a 21-seond personal video message from Sean Stephenson.

  13. I once broke up with a boyfriend the day before my birthday. That night a girlfriend took me out to get drunk. Then we decided to dye my hair. It didn’t turn out well.
  14. The hardest I’ve ever laughed was the afternoon that my sister, Angela, and I decided to wax our underarms. I lost my nerve and couldn’t pull off the wax. We spent over two hours trying to melt it off my right armpit using matches.
  15. I am an expert in absolutely nothing.
  16. When my sister, Cori, was a baby, I used to take toys away from her before she was done playing with them. I then handed her something else that I thought was more interesting. When I was in college I was an intern for a PhD student doing a research study on this exact behavior. Turns out mothers who do not allow their children to naturally choose which toys to play with do serious damage to their kids. Sorry, Cor.
  17. I was once slapped by an old woman in the streets of Nepal.
  18. When I was a teenager I would regularly fantasize about going to a pep rally before the “big game.” In my fantasy I would be overcome by the heat of the bonfire and faint into the arms of a cute boy who would instantly fall in love with me.
  19. I’m judgmental and petty. Not all the time. But more often that I like.
  20. I have epilepsy. Several times I’ve lost consciousness and was caught by a cute boy. It sucks.
  21. I am terrified of screwing up my children.
  22. I broke my nose in high school when I was playing right field in a softball game. Pop fly. I lowered my glove for some reason, which allowed my face to catch the ball. When I tell the story, I played shortstop and the batter hit a line drive.
  23. The six weeks I spent in Africa were simultaneously the best and worst six weeks of my life.
  24. I’ve walked barefoot over hot coals three times, walked barefoot over broken glass twice, and broken an arrow with my throat.

  25. I got caught shoplifting from Wegmans grocery store when I was in middle school. Turns out that eating from the bulk food bins with no intent of paying for what you’ve eaten is considered stealing.
  26. I make killer ice cream.
  27. Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me. What? You didn’t know?
  28. I fish for compliments.
  29. The most emotional years of my life were in 1984, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2009, and 2012.
  30. I accidentally flooded my class toilet in Kindergarten because the bathroom was out of toilet paper. I used paper towels instead. The teacher was pissed. She made all the students in class put their heads down on their desks in silence. The intent was that we stay that way until the culprit confessed. I never did.
  31. I care terribly what you think. (It doesn’t even matter if I like or respect you.)
  32. I became engaged to be married at 5 years old. My marriage proposal came from a boy of the same age. He sent it by mail. It was written in white chalk on black construction paper.
  33. My first concert ever was Captain and Tenille.
  34. When Zaffron was born I was terrified of her. Russell took care of her almost exclusively for the first three days.
  35. When I was a kid I had a huge thing for men with mustaches. HUGE.
  36. I had a very happy childhood.
  37. I idolize Harry Chapin.
  38. I won “Most Original Costume” in my elementary school’s costume contest. I was a McDonald’s French Fry Guy. When the local newspaper lined up the various winners on stage to take a photo, my ping pong ball eyeball fell off and bounced off the stage.
  39. I’ve travelled to thirteen countries: Canada, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Swaziland, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Australia, Belize, France, and South Korea.
  40. I’ve fallen in love exactly three times. I’ve never fallen out.
  41. When I was a kid the worst punishment I could receive was being grounded from the family typewriter.
  42. I was a horrible mother to Mgazi for the first 6 months.
  43. I do a mean imitation of a horse.
  44. Last August, I climbed the Waimea Bay rock with the intent of jumping off into the ocean. I lost my nerve. I’ve been marinating in self-imposed humiliation ever since.
  45. I once told a joke to a captivated crowd of family friends that lasted over twenty minutes. The joke was about a giant pink gorilla. I killed it. (The joke, not the gorilla.)
  46. Sometimes I think that Post-Paris Kristine is just a figment of my imagination.
  47. When I was in high school I had a pin on my denim jacket that read, “Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.” I thought it was original.
  48. My sixth grade class had an ornament-making contest. I made a balsa wood Christmas tree hanging in a balsa wood oval frame. I got disqualified because the teachers thought I didn’t do the work myself. The winner was Sally Sokolowski. She made a God’s eye. Have you ever seen a God’s eye? I could have made a stupid God’s eye in my sleep.
  49. In high school I had a pen name. Myrtle T. Clearwater.
  50. My favorite vacation with my husband was on a Disney Cruise. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
  51. I cried during the last chapter of the last book of Harry Potter.
  52. I have a horrible memory. I don’t know how old I was when I lost my first tooth or got my period.
  53. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.
  54. I was 26 years old before I realized that things don’t always turn out “okay.”
  55. I sucked my thumb until I was in sixth grade. The only reason I stopped was because I picked up a fan (while it was plugged in and turned on) and sliced all the skin off my thumb.
  56. I’m not one of those people who have no regrets.
  57. I have seen the Monkees in concert six times. No, this is not one of my regrets.
  58. I’m sometimes embarrassed to say I’m a blogger.
  59. My mom worked for NutraSweet when I was a teenager. Several types of candy used it as an ingredient at the time and they used to send her logoware. I used to walk around wearing a t-shirt that had “WHOPPERS — The Original Malted Milk Balls” printed across the chest.
  60. I think my first memory is of falling down the basement stairs.
  61. A 911 operator once hung up on me during an actual emergency. (Well, it was my friend, Sam, that they hung up on. But the story flows better if I substitute myself for my friend.)
  62. In sixth grade I auditioned for the lead in the Christmas play. When I sang “O Holy Night” for my teacher, she stopped me short and remarked, “Boy, you sure do sing with your mouth wide open, don’t you?” I didn’t get the part. Guess who did? Sally Sokolowski.
  63. I once had a “run-in” with Owen Wilson in a bar in Waikiki.
  64. My favorite joke of all time is The Pig with the Wooden Leg.
  65. If I knew any famous people, I would definitely name drop.
  66. I think I’m funnier than I actually am.
  67. I have a horrible memory. I have no idea how old I was when I experienced my first kiss or what I said in my wedding vows.
  68. In sixth grade I had the best friend in the world. Sally Sokolowski.
  69. My dad taught me that you never boo at a hockey game. And you always clap for a player who makes a good play. It doesn’t matter which team that player is on.
  70. In high school biology class I dissected a grasshopper and wore his leg on my yellow sweater the rest of the day — like a gruesome corsage.
  71. My favorite and boldest Halloween costume was a short dress accompanied by a a bow with a simple gift tag tied around my neck that read, “To: Men. From: God.”
  72. I adore hyperbole.
  73. My favorite books of all time are: A Prayer for Owen Meany, Life with Father, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Straight Man.
  74. I value honesty more than almost any trait. Honesty made more attractive by decorative details is even better.
  75. When I was a kid, I memorized the Announcer’s Test. My dad taught it to me and my sister during long drives. If we made a mistake, he’d stop and we’d have to wait until the next long drive to try again. My dad memorized it by listening to Jerry Lewis say it, just one time, on the radio. I can still repeat it to this day.
    • One hen.
    • One hen. Two ducks.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises.

    And on and one until number 10…

    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises. Six pairs of Don Alverzo’s tweezers. Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array. Eight brass monkeys from the ancient, sacred crypts of Egypt. Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth. Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who haul stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.

  76. When Russell and I were dating, I accidentally backed my car into his ex-girlfriend’s car in a parking lot. It was a total accident. I swear.
  77. I have an intense dislike for the aloha shirt.
  78. I scored in the 97th percentile on the verbal portion of my GMAT. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
  79. I once had a fist-fight with a neighbor boy on my front lawn. I was protecting my sister’s honor. In my version of the story, I won.
  80. During my sophomore year of college I owned and operated a singing telegram company.
  81. I was baptized when I was thirteen years old. It was a full-on dunking.
  82. The first time I got drunk was in eighth grade. Gin.
  83. My mother used to say I was never happy unless I was complaining. Thirty-five years later, I think I finally agree with her.
  84. In sixth grade my friends and I put a girl on trial for stealing my Rubik’s Cube. We appointed her a lawyer and rigged the jury. The verdict came back guilty. We also planted the Rubik’s Cube in her locker. I’ve always wanted to apologize but I can’t remember who we did it to.
  85. My first job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  86. I breast-fed Zaffy until she was 22 months old. By that time she could ask for it by name. (It got a little freaky.)
  87. I believed in Santa Claus until I was in sixth grade. When my parents finally told me the truth I locked myself in the bathroom and alternately sobbed and shouted “YOU LIED TO ME” through the door.
  88. I fervently defend my right to tell my children that there is indeed a Santa Claus.
  89. In seventh grade I started drinking Diet Coke. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
  90. At the age of forty-two I started drinking coffee. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
  91. As a kid, I loved to play the 1980 Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders. I even remember flipping the game. (When you reach 10,000 and the score flips back to zero.)
  92. Once I was trick-or-treating at a neighbor’s house and I stood on the wrong side (the hinge side) of the screen door. I could barely see out of my costume and when the lady in the house opened her screen door I didn’t move out of the way. The door knocked me off the porch and into the bushes. My arms were pinned to my sides and I couldn’t move so there I stayed, wedged between the house and her bushes until my sister grabbed my dad from the bottom of the driveway, and he came and pulled me out. The lady was mortified so I got extra candy. Such is the life of a french fry guy.
  93. I’ve gone to a nude beach. I even took off my clothes.
  94. Until recently, I believed that pride was a sin.
  95.  I have never had a cavity.
  96. The best I ever felt about my body was when I was pregnant with Zaffron.
  97. I’m a piss-poor long-distance friend.
  98. Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I had a very sheltered childhood. Everybody I knew was white. There were a couple of black kids in school and one Chinese boy in church. (Where’d you disappear to, Peter Ho?) Except for the congregation at my church, everyone I knew was Catholic. 90% of the kids at my high school were Polish. Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered that the Italian boy I had been dating for three weeks was actually from India.
  99. Five days ago I dyed my hair blue.
  100. I love myself.

You Gotta Respect the Whiners

This is my mom. Posing with Russell (on the left) and my brother-in-law, Leo. She raised a complainer (and two other daughters). I’m raising whiners.

My mother used to say that I was never happy unless I was complaining.  As a kid, I never understood what she was talking about. How could anyone think that my astute commentary on the current state of affairs, delivered with just the right dramatic effect for optimal communication, was complaining?

Flash forward 35 years later. With two daughters of my own, ages five and seven, I get it.

Here’s what’s getting to me lately: Whining.

Dramatic whining. Whining that covers multiple octaves and decibels. It’s maddening. It makes me want to pull my hair out. And it has my utmost respect.

These are my whiners. Mgazi and Zaffron. Of course, they are not whining at this particular moment, but just give it a minute.

Before I had children of my own, I used to watch my friends crumble under the pressure brought on by their own whining children. Normally intelligent, sophisticated people, crushed under the weight of another day of the repeated moans and groans of their children, were reduced to whining themselves in a pitiful attempt at discipline.  I’ll never forget the high-pitched, drawn-out cry of my girlfriend, Elizabeth, as she tried in vain to scold her daughter, Sienna, after a prolonged bout of whining. “Sienna, would you pleeee-eeee-eeee-se, just SHUT UP?”

Elizabeth was whining. And I tsk tsked at her weakness.

But, seven years later, I find myself shamefully doing the same damn thing.  In top whining form, my girls can have me shakily reaching for a bottle of merlot by 8:30 a.m. on any given Saturday. Whining leads to wining.

Which is why whining has my respect. It’s a powerful tool, Wielded correctly, it can bring an otherwise strong, self-assured adult to their knees. Pit a small scrawny four-year old against a six-foot tall, confident dad… no competition is most areas of conflict. Dad can and should win every time. But if that four-year old has a strong desire for what he or she wants, and an iota of sense, he or she will start whining. Game over.  If dad has had a long day, or maybe is lacking sleep, so sad — poor dad. He never stood a chance.

I think it’s called the Mother’s Curse. When your mother wishes upon you a child that is exactly like you, so that you may suffer as she did. Well, I’ve been cursed. I’m guessing many of us have. But I will never admit that to my mother. I won’t give her the satisfaction.

Strategically Ignoring My Children Since 2005…

It occurs to me that both of my girls, Mgazi, age 5 and Zaffron, age 7, ask me “why” multiple times a day. What I want to know is this:

Do I really have to answer?

I’ve been giving the whole matter some thought and I realize that my children’s questions usually fall under one of three categories.

Category 1: Technical questions. These are the ones that often stump me. “Why does ice melt?” Usually these questions are asked in the car, thereby thwarting a quick Google search. So, I answer the technical questions the same way each and every time without fail. “You know what, honey, that is a great question for your father.” Done.

Category 2: Abstract questions. “Why is the color orange called the color orange?” I answer abstract questions by throwing the question back at the inquiring child as though I think it’s important for her to come up with the answer on her own. “Hmmm… why do YOU think the color orange is called the color orange?” Of course, I’ve done this so many times that the children see through my ruse. After a typical toss-back, the child will reply, “I have no idea, Mom. That’s why I asked YOU!” There is a sigh and then a grumpy and defeated, “forget it.” The child is frustrated and I do feel a little guilty… for about 15 seconds.

Category 3: Must-Know questions. I look at questions from categories 1 and 2 as questions born from curiosity. If the child doesn’t get an answer, and let’s face it, she usually doesn’t if the question is posed to me, life will go on. Her education or mood may be slightly impacted but I’m pretty confident that there is no lasting damage. But Must-Know questions are a different matter altogether. These are the questions that just might play a role in helping my child “figure out” life. The ones where my answers or lack-thereof could influence how my kid views the world. I struggle to answer these questions. Mightily.

“Why does that little girl on the street not have a house?” or “Why does that person’s face not look pretty?” or “Why can’t you sing in a band if you’re dead?” The Must-Know questions always make me a little sad. Because I know that hard as I try, I won’t be able to give an adequate enough answer. “The little girl on the street doesn’t live in a house because her parents cannot afford to pay rent,” I’ll say. A second “why?” invariably comes back to me. “Well, it’s expensive to have a home, and some people don’t have jobs that pay enough to cover the costs of everything they need.” Pause. “Why?” It goes on and on. It’s heartbreaking. I can explain the simple economics or science but I don’t have a complete understanding of why the world is the way it is. It just is.

So, back to my original question. Do I have to answer each and every time my kid asks a question? Heck no. Depending on the circumstances, I’m perfectly happy to ignore, pass off, or half-answer a curiosity question. It’s a survival technique.

But the Must-Knows… yes. I have to do my best to answer those — especially when they center on values or ethics. Because if I don’t take the time to guide my children on the things that matter, I risk that they might ask someone else.