Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

It has been a rough Saturday morning — full of children bickering, children complaining, and children generally pissing me off.

Mgazi and Zaffron were downstairs, supposedly watching tv, when I heard a thud, what I swear was a battle cry, then a crash.

I hit my limit.

Me: GIRLS! <– yelling

the Girls:  Yes, Mommy? <– sweetly, in unison

Me: Get upstairs! Now!

I’d like to say that they came upstairs, hanging their heads, abashed and guilty in the knowledge that had once again driven their mother to the brink of a breakdown. But no, they came up reluctantly, and loudly protesting the interruption of their television time with stomping feet and exaggerated sighs.

They stood in front of me as I ticked off the reasons I had had enough.

Me: I have had enough. I’m done with all the name-calling. I’m done with all the whining. With the yelling and arguing. I’ve had enough of all the hitting and all the biting and –

Zaffron: But, Mom! I only bit Mgazi one time! You can’t have had enough with all the biting if I only bit her once!

Glass of white wineRecommended wine: Did you know that wine may rot your teeth? I guess whites do more damage than reds because of acidity. Riesling is the worst offender. Lucky for me, I think Rieslings suck. So, I’m going to recommend a red today. Something very un-Riesling. I love love love Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir. Yum.


Liar, Liar, Does Anyone Smell Smoke?

Yesterday, Mgazi’s kindergarten teacher sent a note home in her book bag. “Please return Mgazi’s library book. It was due yesterday.”

Me: Mgazi, did you return your library book yesterday?

Mgazi: Uh huh.

Me: I got a note from your teacher that says you didn’t.

Mgazi: Well, I put it in my backpack and then suddenly it wasn’t there. It went away somewhere.

Me: Mgazi… where is the book?

Mgazi: What book?

Me: Gazi! The library book that you were supposed to return yesterday. Where is it?

Magzi: Well, I put it on the table and then when I looked for it, it was gone. And that made it so it didn’t get back to the library.

Me: Do you know where your book is?

Mgazi: Umm, at the library?

Me: Mommy thinks that maybe you are lying to me. Is that possible?

Mgazi: Uh huh.

Conversations like the one above occur frequently. She’s a talented liar. Her face can produce a look of bafflement so pure it would fool even the expertiest of behavioral scientists. But her real gift is her ability to sniff out the lies of others. Lies to Mgazi are like truffles to a dog or a pig or the Suillia fly (google it, don’t just sit there wondering).

Remember when that concrete wall abruptly (and without warning) hit my husband’s brand new electric verhicle while I was innocently driving it? She accused her father of lying when he said he wasn’t mad and her sister of lying when she said the damage didn’t seem that bad. She was right, of course, on both counts. For some reason she readily accepted my twisted version of events and to this day believes that the wall defied physics and rudely slammed itself into my husband’s car.

Or that time when I accidentally (no lie) stepped on a snail? When I tried to cover up the murder, Mgazi was on me like… well, like the gooey body of  a squished snail on the bottom of a sneaker. She caught me lying to Zaffron and had no problem saying so. “Oh no, Zaffy. She is lying to you. Mommy killed a snail.”

And then there was that horrible time when I blogged that Zaffy was a “little shit.”  For some inexplicable reason I let Zaffron read the post and, of course, it hurt her feelings terribly. When I tried to backpedal and soften the blow, telling Zaffron that I had not in fact believed that she was a little shit when I wrote that she was a little shit, Mgazi piped up without hesitation. “Oooh, Zaffy, I think Mommy is lying to you.”

And then there was that time… hmmm. Suffice it to say that approximately 10% of my posts on this blog have the tag, “lying just a little bit.”

When Mgazi joined our family at 2 1/2 years old, she knew exactly three words in English. Jesus, hallelujah, and banana. Now, at 5 years old, I hear the word “lying” every single day.

“Ooh, Mommy, I think my Daddy is lying to you.”

“Ooh Daddy, I think Zaffy is lying to you.”

“Ooh Zaffy, I think our Mommy is lying to you… just like yesterday… you know, when she was lying to you.”

I knew she was obsessed with lying on Election Day 2012 when I overheard the following conversation between her and an adult friend of mine.

Mgazi: Yay! Oback Obama is going to win the election!

Friend: How do you know that Barack Obama is going to win the election?

Mgazi: Cuz my mommy voted for him.

Friend: Why did your mommy vote for Barrack Obama?

Mgazi: Because he lies less than Mitt Romney!


It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I get Published in a National Blog!

Families in the LopOkay, okay, so the nature of the web means that all blogs are national… or worldwide, for that matter… let’s not get technical and suck the joy out of this very cool moment.

An excellent website out of Chicago, called Families in the Loop, asked me to write a little something. And I couldn’t be more honored. This is just as exciting as walking on fire or seeing the Dalai Lama pretend to poop!

FITL (I can call them that, we’re tight) encourages their parent bloggers to “let loose” so I took them at their word and wrote about Zaffy losing her tooth and the extreme heebie jeebies that resulted.


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.

Mommy, Why Did You Crush My Fingers in the Car Door?

This photo has nothing to do with this post

So, I accidentally shut the car door on Mgazi’s fingers the other day. I am POSITIVE that she was more scared than hurt. Regardless, there was a lot of crying, comforting, and apologizing. She was crying. I was apologizing. She finally calmed down and said, “Mommy, I just don’t understand WHY you would do that to me.”

I said, “I didn’t do it on purpose, Gaz. It was an accident. I’m sorry.”

She replied, “It’s okay. I just wish I knew why you did that thing.”

“Mgazi, I just told you. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to shut the door on your hand. I am very very sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mommy. I love you.” She paused. “Can you just tell me why?”

I pretended not to hear her, turned up the car radio. Why wouldn’t she just let it go? Did she want a bigger/better apology? Was she angling for a “Mommy-is-feeling-guilty” ice cream cone? Or did she truly want to know WHY I slammed her fingers in the car door?

Hey Gaz, pick the answer that best fits the question.

A) Because Mommy is rushed and not paying attention.

B) Because you didn’t move your fingers fast enough.

C) Because Mommy has a little pent-up aggression quietly bubbling under her seemingly smooth surface… kidding!

The answer is actually D.

D) Because she did. She did and she’s really sorry.


I Kill Innocent Creatures — And Then They Cry.

The 53 stairs leading up to my house are a minefield of slimy, disgusting slugs. Every morning, without fail, I have to dodge, hop, skip, and weave my way down the stairs in an attempt to not step on one of the suckers. I always make sure I have some extra change on hand, though, just in case.  If I squish a slug, I can assure you I will not be the one who scrapes it off the bottom of my Cole Haan’s. Mgazi will do it. She’ll do almost anything for a quarter.

So far, in the ten years that I have lived in this house, in the thousands of times I have trekked up and down those incredibly annoying stairs, I have never ever stepped on a slug.

I did, however, manage to step on a snail.

Damn! Did I just make it down to the bottom of the stairs, all FIFTY-THREE stairs, violence-free, only to hear (and feel) the dainty shell of a snail crunch under my sneaker?

Please say it isn’t so.

Oh, it’s so. The children saw it all and they made sure I understood the full impact of my actions.

Zaffron: Mommy! What did you do?

Me: What? Nothing! Get in the car.

Mgazi [bending at the waist, inspecting the sidewalk]: Oh no, Zaffy. She is lying to you. Mommy killed a snail.

Tears immediately spring into Zaffy’s eyes. She’s by the car, with me. She can’t even see what Mgazi is looking at.

Zaffron: Mommy! How could you do that? He was just a baby!

Me: Oh for heaven’s sake… I just –I didn’t — for God’s sake, just get in the car. The snail is fine. He’s going to have to crawl away and find a new shell.

Mgazi [still peering at the glob on the concrete]: Nuh uh, Mommy. He’s killed. You killed him.

Me: Gazi, get in the car. Zaffy, you too.

Everyone climbs into the car and I think the episode is over because there is a short stretch of silence (if you don’t count Zaffy’s whimpering.) What was I thinking? There are never stretches of silence in my car. Short or otherwise.

Mgazi: Zaffy, you know that snail that Mommy killed? (Like Zaffy could have forgotten in the last two minutes.) He was crying too.

Zaffy [now wailing]: What? What?? Why? WHYYYYYY MOMMMMMMMMMMY?

Me: I’m sorry! I am so sorry. It was a total accident. I feel awful, Zaffy. Mgazi, you didn’t see the snail crying. Stop trying to rile your sister.

Mgazi: I did. I saw his eyes. And there were tears coming out of them.


Me: Mgazi, seriously. You need to stop talking. I’m not joking. Not another word.

And we returned to silence… except, of course, for the sound of my oldest child’s sniffling  grief.

Glass of white wineRecommended wine: Do you know what goes great with snails? A chablis — chalky, crisp, and flinty, with a hint of earthiness. Try the 2007 Christian Moreau Chablis. You should be able to get it for around $30.

Snail photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

The Old People Mafia is After My Husband

My husband, Russell, is 44 years old. Not that old, really, for a guy. (I’m 42 which is ancient, but that’s a different story.) Forty-four years old and the AARP will not stop hounding him. Every six months or so he gets another letter in the mail inviting him to “join” their little club.

First, they offered to “fight for his American dream” if only he would sign up for a six-month trial membership. Russell is a full-time executive with two demanding and adorable children, one talented and humble wife, two grossly overweight cats, a lawn that is in constant need of mowing, and a house falling apart at the seams. He simply doesn’t have time for a dream… American, Italian, Vulcan, or otherwise. He threw the letter away.

Then, they offered to send him a free magazine. Russell’s loves free magazines. Russell loves free anything. Luckily this particular magazine is already delivered to his office. Again, he threw the letter away. But I detected a hint of reluctance.

Last year, the AARP continued its relentless attempt to woo my husband into their fold. They offered a one-year membership in exchange for which he would receive hotel, flight, and car rental discounts. They hit the sweet spot. I caught him filling out the application.

“Hey, Russ, you can’t join the AARP,” I said.

“I can,” he said. “I’ve been invited.”

“You are only forty-three years old,” I said.

“They obviously don’t know that.”

“Drop the pen, Russell, and put your hands above your head where I can see them.”

He complied. But I could tell he wasn’t happy about it.

Ultimately, it’s a fight I can’t win. Russell’s latest invitation to join the AARP ranks arrived a week ago. I’ve been seeing the letter and it’s accompanying pre-printed membership card floating around various parts of the house. He’s obviously carrying it around with him as he contemplates what to do.

I know why he’s struggling too. They’re offering a bonus gift. A FREE INSULATED TRAVEL BAG.

He doesn’t stand a chance.