Coco is Dead. Long Live Coco.

I had been out of town for several days. My phone rang. It was Zaffron. She was crying.

“Coco is dead, Mommy! Coco is dead!”

“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. Who’s Coco?”

“He’s one of the fish we bought for the new aquarium. There’s Zippity, and Sucker and Coco and… ”

She broke off into sobs. I waited, knowing the story would continue when she was ready.

“We found him this morning. He wasn’t moving so Daddy took him out and shook him. He still didn’t move. He’s dead, Mommy. Really really dead.”

Her wailing continued. When it turned to sniffles I said, “Oh baby. I’m so sorry. You know when I was a little girl I had a goldfish named Sprite. When he died, I got a new fish and named him Sprite Two. Maybe we could get a Coco Two.”

Silence. You know the kind. Stunned silence. The kind where you can tell the other person is actually stunned that you could say such a thing. It was only punctuated by a single hiccup. And then this:

“Mommy! How could you? Nobody can replace Coco!”

“Oh! Of course not, honey. I just meant –.”

“What? What did you say, Daddy?”

She paused and I heard my husband’s muffled voice in the background.

“Daddy says to tell you that I have only known Coco for less than 24 hours.”

“Ah, I see. But that doesn’t really help much, I guess.”

“No,” she said. “No, it certainly doesn’t.”

Mgazi Uses Her Connections

In the car:

Zaffron: Mommy, Mgazi is in the kissing family.

Mgazi: Be quiet! I am not!

Zaffron: She is too. It’s gross.

Mgazi: Ok. I’m in the kissing family. But only a little.

Me: I don’t get it. What’s the kissing family?

Mgazi: It’s a club where you have to kiss Vincent to get in.

Zaffron: Vincent created it.

Me: No kidding.

Mgazi: I didn’t have to kiss him though.

Me: Why not?

Mgazi: Because I’m friends with Sarah.

Zaffron: Oh, that makes sense.

Me: Really, Zaff? That makes sense to you? This whole conversation makes sense to you?

Zaffron: Of course. Why wouldn’t it?

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!”


Maya’s Mom is Going to get Sex

In the car:

Mgazi: Maya’s mom is going to get sex.

Me: Um what?

Mgazi: Maya’s mom. She told me she’s going to get sex.

Me: Honey, I don’t think that can be what she said.

Mgazi: Mommy! Listen to what I’m saying! She’s going to get bert! It’s going to be a boy.

Me: Oh! She’s going to give birth. Maya’s mom had sex and now she’s going to give birth to a baby boy!

Mgazi: That’s what I’ve been saying! Her tummy is this big!

Me: I can’t see you, honey, I’m driving the car.


Me: Mgazi! I’m driving the car! I can’t look at you right now.

Zaffy: Mom, Mgazi is saying that Maya’s mommy’s tummy is like three inches bigger than usual.

Mgazi: Yeah, she got a lot of sex.

Outwitted by Kiddie Logic No More

I routinely find myself on the losing end when a conversation includes my children. I’ll be trying to impart some teeny bit of parental wisdom and they’ll turn it on its head by applying their own warped child-logic. It’s maddening.   Like when Mgazi asked me, “If you know the answer, why are you asking the question?” Or there was that time where I couldn’t talk her out of holding a kids-only wedding. And of course, that dreaded conversation in the car about why (oh why) did I slam her fingers in the car door?

If my children decide that they don’t agree with me, I simply will not win the argument. Because they sneak in this kiddie-verision of logic that I simply can’t outsmart. It’s become a real problem, constantly being outwitted by my children.

I described my challenge to my friend, Keely Flynn Schoeny who writes Lollygag Blog. She understood immediately.

It’s “brationale” she said.

She’s brilliant, that Keely.  I had identified the problem, but she named it. Suddenly, I felt like it wasn’t so unbeatable after all. It only took a day or two before I got my chance to see.

I was picking the kids up from school. A classmate of Mgazi’s had celebrated her birthday and passed out goodie bags.

Mgazi: Mommy, Mommy! Look! I got a giant pencil!

She pulled it out of the bag and shoved it in my face. It was indeed giant.

Zaffy: That sure looks like a nice pencil.

Mgazi: Here, Zaffy. (She ruffled through the bag.) You can have the Strawberry Shortcake coloring book.

Zaffy: Strawberry Shortcake is for babies. (She shoved the coloring book back at her sister.) It’s not fair.

Me: What’s not fair?

Zaffy: Mgazi gets these presents and all she does is give me something that’s for babies. It’s not even what I want. It’s so not fair.

Oh my God!! It’s brationale! I can see it heading straight for me. I have to come out swinging.

Me: Zaffy, let me get this straight. Mgazi has been given a present. It’s hers. Not yours. And you think that you have a right to demand she turn over part of said present to you, her sister. Simply because you want it.

Zaffy: uhhh….

Me: Zaffron, is that what you are saying? Mgazi is supposed to give you her things just because you want them?

Zaffy: uhhh….

Me: Is that what you’re saying?

Zaffy: Well… no. Not anymore.


 Zaffy: Mommy, what are you doing?

Me: Just a little dance, baby. Just a little dance.



Zaffron Levies a Bathroom Tax

In the kitchen:

Zaffy: Mom, you owe me 25 cents.

Me: What for?

Zaffy: You used the kids’ bathroom.

Me: You’re charging me for using your bathroom?

Zaffy: Yes! You said this was the kids’ bathroom when we moved here and you are not a kid. Plus, you owe me another quarter.

Me: What? For What?

Zaffy: You didn’t flush.

Me: Zaffron, first, I didn’t use your bathroom. Second, if I had I certainly would have flushed.

Zaffy: Mom, it had to be you. It wasn’t me and Mgazi pinky-promises it wasn’t her. You’re  all that’s left. But don’t feel bad, sometimes I have to pay myself a quarter too.

Later that day, in the car:

Zaffy: So, when am I getting my 50 cents?

Me: Zaffy, how about you owe me a quarter for being annoying?

Zaffy: Mom, the rules are the rules, even if you don’t like them.

Me: Well, I’m not going to pay.

Zaffy: Then I’ll just have to charge you another quarter.

Me: Are you kidding me?

Zaffy: No. If you don’t pay me my 50 cents in five weeks, I’m going to charge you another quarter.

Mgazi: Zaffy, you mean five days.

Zaffy: No, I mean five weeks.

Mgazi: Mommy, Zaffy doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She means she wants the money in five days, not five weeks.

Zaffy: I know exactly what I’m talking about. Mommy, just pay me and everything will be fine.

Mgazi Requests Her Privacy… in Writing

My husband and I just bought a new house. Our number one reason? So we could have our own bathroom. We bought a WHOLE ENTIRE HOUSE so we could pee in private.

Turns out, I have my own bathroom  but I never seem to have it to myself. And I’ve been quite vocal about it to my girls, Mgazi and Zaffron. If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times (<– Oh my God, how did my mother get here?)…

“Mommy uses her bathroom. You guys use yours.”

Last night, Mgazi was sitting on the pot (her own pot) and the bathroom door was wide open. I walked in and asked if she needed help. After all, she’s only five and any responsible parent conducts random inspections.

Me: Hey Gaz. You need any help wiping or anything?

Mgazi: Mommy! Get out! Can’t you read?

Me: Get out? What are you talking about?

Mgazi: I made a private sign. Daddy helped me write it.

Me: What’s a private sign?

Mgazi: It’s a sign that gives me privacy! I want to be in the bathroom all by myself.

I looked around the bathroom and behind the door that had been wide open!

Me: Honey, I don’t see a sign.

Mgazi [rolling her eyes and exhaling a sigh that indicates she'd just about run out of patience with her dimwitted mother]: It’s right there, Mom, on the kitchen table!


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.


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]