All Signs Point To Old

I had lunch with a dynamo of a woman recently. She’s 89 years old. Sharp, witty, and fantabulous. Everything I want to be at her age. Any age, really.

As we were leaving the restaurant she said to me, “Kristine, you are obviously in your late forties. I want to tell you, you look great. There’s not a wrinkle on you!”


I am not in my late forties. And I knew the polite thing to do was to accept the compliment with grace and thank the woman. But I couldn’t do it.

“Actually, I’m forty-two. But I appreciate the compliment very much.”

“Forty-two,” she said. “Well, you’re a young one then!”

Holy shit! Wait a second! That means that an eighty-nine year old woman’s gut instinct was to categorize me as NOT YOUNG?

I felt sick. A burst of heat emanated from the center of my body. There’s no doubt. It was my very first hot flash.


The Unraveling of Me

I asked the child to do a simple thing. That right there was my first mistake.

“Mgazi, please get your shoes on. We don’t want to be late for school.”

Mgazi spends the next two minutes dawdling outside her bedroom door playing what she thinks is music on a hot pink harmonica.

“Honey, go get your shoes. Put them on.”

Another two minutes go by. I find Mgazi hunched over the cat bowl, sorting the food into pyramid shaped piles on the floor.

“Mgazi! Put on your shoes!”

Two freakin’ minutes… during which she decides to change from a perfectly sensible dress to a bikini top and pink tutu skirt with a cowboy hat garnish.

“Child, you better put those shoes on! Wait, what the heck are you wearing?”

I start muttering under my breath, realizing that if I don’t leave the house in exactly three minutes I’ll have missed the traffic window. You know the one. If you leave during a 10 minute window of time, you’ll get to your destination right on time, no hassle, no traffic. If, however, you leave a mere 30 seconds after that window of time,  you’ll arrive at your destination 45 minutes late and the entire ride will have sucked because you spent it sitting in traffic, giving stinkeye through the rearview mirror to your kid who is still, miraculously, not wearing any shoes.


She blinks at me. Unclear as to what it is exactly that I’m asking her to do.


“Fine!” She stomps off in her socks, “All you had to do was say so!”


One Minute of Peace — That’s All I Ask

Mgazi was eating breakfast at the island in the kitchen. I could dangle a hundred dollar bill in front of her face. She wouldn’t bother to look up from her plate. Nothing gets between Mgazi and her food.

Zaffron was watching Saturday morning cartoons in the family room. Zaffron turns into a zombie in front of the TV. I can wave my hand between her face and the screen and she won’t flinch.  I know this because I videotaped myself doing it once. She didn’t even blink. I’m not positive she even knew I was there. Very little gets between my daughter and her television.

I went into my bedroom. I quietly shut the door and locked it. I walked over to my bed, sat down and pulled out my iPhone. Swiped until I found what I was looking for — a stopwatch app.

How long would it be until one of my children knocked on my door?

I pressed start on the stopwatch. And I waited…

53 seconds.


Don’t You Hate it When You Pee on Your Hand?

Don’t look at me like that!

You know what I’m talking about. All of us girls have done it. We’ve just gone to the bathroom, we’re wrapping things up, and something happens. Something startles us and suddenly we realize that we weren’t quite done with the job we set out to do. There’s no shame.

This exact thing happened to me a few days ago. I was in my bathroom, finishing my business when I heard Zaffron scream. The kind of scream that makes a mother freeze, just for a moment, because the quality of the scream has an edge that puts it past typical (the shriek of a child discovering that the cat pooped in her bed AGAIN) and more toward terrible (the wail of a child that’s been hurt).

This scream was smack dab in the middle of the two and my body clenched and I peed on my hand. Then she started yelling for me and I could hear her running toward the bathroom. I  did my best to tidy up and rushed out to meet her. She was sobbing and I scooped her into my arms and pushed her face into my neck.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I… I… I fell and I hit my head on the closet door.” She was sobbing.

“Oh, sweetie, show me where it hurts.”

“It… it… it… hurts here,” she said, pointing to a spot on the side of her head. Her sniveling broke my heart and I hugged her close.

I felt her head. It was it’s regular shape. No bump, no swelling.

I tried to make her smile. “Oh baby, Mommy was in the bathroom when I heard you scream. I got so scared I peed on myself! I think you’re going to be okay. Should we get you some ice just in case?”

“Yes, please. I think that ice is a good… wait!” She pushed away from me and looked me straight in the eye. Her sniffles vanished. “Did you wash your hands?”


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.


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/]


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]


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.


That’s Right! I am the Bossity Boss.

Me: Zaffy, go do that incredibly boring thing I told you to do five minutes ago. You know, the same thing you neglected to do ten minutes ago, the first time I asked.

Zaffron: Fine…. bossity boss.

Me: Hey Zaff. For that you get to go to your bed.

Zaffron huffs and stomps off to her bedroom. I can’t remember what it is that I asked her to do. But I do remember it being the third time I asked. She was pissing me off. (Usually, something like calling me “bossity boss” wouldn’t have been a “go to your bed” offense. It would have been a “excuse me? try again” offense.)

I waited a few minutes before going in to talk to her. She wasn’t in her bed, like I instructed. Instead, she was in her sister’s bed, fooling around under the covers.

Me: Zaffron! Where did I tell you to go?

Zaffron: My bed.

Me: Then why aren’t you in it?

Zaffron: I’m sorry, Mommy.

Me: Happy to hear it.  Now get into your own bed, like I told you.

As she climbed up the ladder to her bunk bed, I heard her muttering to herself.

Zaffron: You don’t look happy to hear it.