Glad I’m Paying for those Karate Lessons


Mgazi: AAAAAAARRRGGGGGAAAAAAH! <– That’s supposed to be a scream

Zaffy: I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Mgazi: You punched me!

Zaffy: I did not!

Mgazi: You did!

Zaffy: I smacked you with the back of my hand. It’s totally different!

Where was I during all of this? At my desk. Pretending it all wasn’t happening.

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.


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.


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.

Will Love Myself for Food

So, I’ve been pretty good with doing my mirror affirmations lately. On Saturday morning, I decided to ask the girls if they wanted to join me. Simple request, right? Great way to bond with my girls, right? Excellent tool to provide them as a mother who cares about raising self-confident, fulfilled little kids, right?

Me: Hey girls. Mommy’s going to do some mirror affirmations. Want to do them with me?

Zaffron: What are they?

Me: They are an exercise that you do to fill your heart with love. You look into a mirror for three minutes and tell yourself that you love yourself.

Zaffron looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. I’m inexplicably compelled to keep talking.

Me: No, it’s good stuff. Really! You’ll feel great afterwards.

Mgazi looks at her sister and then back at me, a matching expression now on her face.

Mgazi:  I think Zaffron thinks that what you are saying is boring.

Me: It’s not boring! (I say this strongly). It’s good for you. (I say this kinda weakly, baffled at the unexpected turn the conversation has taken.)

Mgazi: I think Zaffron is right that it sounds boring. But I’ll do it with you. If you give me something.

Me: What? Okay, first of all, Zaffy hasn’t said ANYTHING is boring. She hasn’t said anything at all! Second of all, I am not giving you money to do mirror affirmations, Mgazi.

Mgazi: I don’t want money. I want cereal.

Zaffron: I am kinda hungry, Mommy.

Me: I am not going to bribe my children so that they’ll love themselves. Forget it.

I leave the room defeated by yet another one of my hair-brained parenting ideas. Mgazi calls out after me.

Mgazi: Are you saying “no” to the cereal?

True Blood vs. American Idol Part 3: DAWG! There’s a Vampire in the House!

American Idol Top 3

American Idol Top 3

The American Idol winner was announced a month or two ago. The children still talk about it constantly, like every other day. Mostly when we’re in the car.

The week leading up to the finale, I’d tried to prep the kids for the disappointment that would inevitably follow, especially Zaffy.

“Jessica might get voted off on American Idol. Or it might be Phillip Phillip or Joshua. Too close to tell what the American public is going to decide. But SOMEONE is going to NOT WIN. It might make you sad.

“No, I’ll be okay. Everyone I care about is gone already.” That’s what my oldest, Zaffron, told me. My youngest, Mgazi, had stopped caring.

“But you realize, they are going to be ELIMINATED.  No longer on the show. You’re okay with that?

“Yes, Mother. I’m okay. I’m not going to cry this time.”

What’s crazy is that I was tempted to believe her.

When Joshua got voted off, she cried.

“Let’s face it,” she said. “I’m going to cry no matter what happens.”


The black and most likely gay kid got voted off. Just sayin'.

The black (and most likely gay) kid got voted off. I’m not implyin’ —  I’m just sayin’.

I’m the one who needs to “face it.” I let my kids watch American Idol because I, myself, want to watch American Idol. I suspect this is true for the gentleman I greatly admire as well. He let his children watch True Blood because he wanted to watch True Blood. Maybe he wanted something to share with them that was interesting to him. I know that I can only talk about My Little Pony and princesses for so long before I want to stab myself with a spork… in the eye.

We had some in-depth conversations about the show, the kids and I. We talked about the contestants’ feelings, their families, their future careers, how the competition worked. They both looked forward to watching the show each week.

But was it worth Zaffron’s heart breaking each and every week?

On one hand, no way. She’s simply too young to not take it all to heart. On the other hand, how is she going to learn not to react so strongly to upsetting events unless she has the opportunity? Isn’t American Idol a pretty innocuous way for her to practice reigning in her emotions a bit? An event where I can be there for her, comfort her, talk it out with her? Or… am I making more excuses?

Once again, I find myself having no clue what I’m doing when it comes to parenting my kids. I suck, just like a vampire.

(Lucky for me that Californication comes on after they’ve already gone to bed!)

True Blood vs. American Idol Part 2: Which is More Damaging to Children?

So, I’ve been thinking about American Idol and True Blood lately. You might remember that I recently told a gentleman that I greatly admire that he was off his rocker for allowing his young daughter to watch True Blood.

But was he?

I allow my children to watch American Idol. Which of these television shows, truly, is more damaging to the young impressionable mind?

American Idol is a realty-television singing competition where the winner (a solo artist) is chosen by viewer vote.  A panel of judges critiques the singers. In the beginning rounds, when young wannabes are auditioning, the judges alternate between teasing, encouraging, laughing (at, not with, the singer), and applauding. Constructive criticism is offered almost as often as thinly veiled mockery.  Several episodes feature teens and young adults presumably putting their heart and soul on stage only to be ridiculed by the judges.

True BloodTrue Blood is a cable television series based in Louisiana. It follows the adventures of a telepathic waitress who finds herself co-existing among humans, vampires, werewolves, and a host of otherworldly creatures. Episodes are swamped by sex, violence, religion, and the un-dead.

I had been comfortable with my choice to allow my children to watch American Idol. But the discussion in New York introduced something I can only describe as “nagging doubt.” So, I did what I always do in situations like these. I chose to stop thinking about it.


Darn it all anyway! I was thwarted by the “until” last time we talked about this stuff!

Holly from American Idol

Holly from American Idol. She has a funny accent. I’m not making fun of her, she’d agree with me!

My predisposition to lazy parenting was trumping the nagging doubt until the night that Holly Cavanagh was voted off American Idol and Zaffron completely lost it. She began to sob at the unfairness of it all.“Holly was my favorite. She must be so sad!”

“But she’s going to have a great career, Zaffy.”

“I know. That’s what you said last week when Skylar got voted off. She was my fav-fav-favorite.” She had started to hiccup.

“And both Holly and Skylar are going to sing on the nationwide American Idol tour, Zaff. They are both going to get to do lots of exciting things because of their time on American Idol.”

“I—I—I know! That-that-that’s what you said last time when Elise and Colton g-g-got voted off.” She caught her breath. “They were my favorites.”

Zaffron truly cares about the kids on that stage and she wants the best for each and every one of them. She feels for them. I put my poor child to bed a sniveling, hiccupping, hot mess.

And I found myself writing the following Facebook message to the gentleman that I greatly admire.

Dear gentleman that I greatly admire,

It’s 8:14pm in Hawaii. I just put my kid to bed… crying. Crying because Holly Cavanagh got voted off American Idol. Last week at about this time I put her to bed. Crying. That time because Skylar Something-or-other got voted off American Idol. Tonight was the fifth week in a row I put my kid to bed crying. 

I’m sorry that I ever gave you crap about letting your kids watch True Blood on television.

I went on to explain that I now believed that children could be more damaged by watching a season of American Idol than by a few Sunday nights of True Blood. After all, violent vampire sex only happens every two or three episodes; someone gets voted off American Idol every single week.

I offered my deepest apologies and aloha from Hawaii.

He wrote back. Something lovely and insightful about television being a way to escape the lives we have, to break free from the handcuffs. He also admitted that he wasn’t old enough to handle watching Mad Men. Each time he did, he said, he went to bed crying.

True Blood vs. American Idol Part I: Backpedaling to Protect my Cover

A couple of months ago I met someone that I admire greatly. A mutual friend introduced me to him. The three of us were in New York making small talk over coffee. I was doing my best to seem intelligent. I had been feeling a little all over the place and I wanted to come across as someone who was “put together”– which meant that I didn’t talk a whole heck of a lot lest the gentleman I greatly admire see through my ruse. (My friend already knew the truth.)

One of the few things that this gentleman I admire and I have in common is that we both have two children. Two girls.  And he happened to mention, off-hand, that he allowed his daughters to watch the television show, TRUE BLOOD. (Note, his kids are much older than mine.)

Well! My “put together” self simply could not remain quiet about that.

After I climbed back into my overstuffed chair and popped my eyeballs back into their sockets, I dared to speak and risk shattering the illusion of stability and rock-solid intellect that I had so carefully built by remaining absolutely silent.

“ARE YOU CRAZY?” I asked. “REALLY? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, MAN?” (Nice way to show the respect, right?) “There’s violence… and sex!” I was sputtering. “And sex… and very violent violence! What’s a young girl going to think?”

“I thought,” he said calmly, “that the sex and the violence would go over her head but that she would be fascinated by the mythology of vampires, werewolves, angels, and fairies.”

Oh my God, I thought, the gentleman I greatly admire is deluded.

“No, no, no. You have it all wrong!” And I went from sputtering to spouting – sex-is-bad, violence-is-bad. I may have thrown in drugs-are-bad for good measure.

I was on a spouting roll, until…

Sigh. I am constantly being screwed by the “until.”

American IdolThis guy that I greatly respect and admire asked me if I allowed my children to watch adult television shows.

“Heck no!” I said, with righteous indignation. My friend, who knows the truth, raised his eyebrows but remained silent.

Unless you count American Idol.

Damn. This might be a problem.

My “put together” self began to unravel like a sweater with a loose thread in the hands of a toddler (or spastic working mom). I just kept pulling on it and tugging on it. I couldn’t stop.

It’s imperative that you choose the right song!

I proceeded to offer a litany of defenses of my decision to allow my 4 and 6-year olds to watch American Idol, which is, at best, idiotic, and at worst, damaging to young impressionable psyches. I cited such reasons as, “it teaches the nature of competition” and “they learn that you don’t always get what you want but it’s important to try” and most importantly, “my children now understand just how important it is to choose the right song!” I ended my argument with the conclusion that American Idol provided my girls a proper appreciation of the power of the vote.

The gentleman I greatly admire sat across from me, silently nodding. Not in agreement, but because he needed something to do while I went on my tirade.  My friend? The one who knows the truth? I think he was trying to decide if he could slip out back.

It’s Vodka Not Vodika

This conversation took place in the car. Of course.

Girls in car

Look! I can drive, say cheese, and take a photo of all three of us at the same time! *Smile* Actually, we haven't even pulled away from the house yet.

Mgazi: How old do I have to be to chew gum?

Me: Thirteen

Mgazi: Awwwww. Why thirteen?

Me: Because I said thirteen and it sounds like a nice number. Would you prefer fourteen?

Zaffy: I want fifteen!

Me: Deal.

Mgazi: Yay! We can chew gum when we’re fifteen!

[48 seconds of silence. I know this because silence is such a precious commodity in our car that I have taken to subconsciously tracking how much of it I experience during any given ride. Let me tell you, it's not much.]

Mgazi: How old do I have to be to drink wine?

Me: Twenty-one.

Mgazi: Why twenty-one?

Me: Because twenty-one is the legal drinking age. If you drink any kind of alcohol before you are twenty-one, you are breaking the law. This will make the police officers mad. This will make your mommy mad.

Mgazi: How old do I have to be to drink soda?

Me: Twenty-one.

Mgazi: Why twenty-one?

Me: Because soda is bad for you. It’s only good when mixed with alcohol.