My Kids Said “Mom” 159 Times in 6 Hours and I Nearly Lost It…Until I Made a List

At the end of the day, let’s face it – kids and their questions are frustrating, maddening, and hilarious.

Let me start by saying that I love my children. More than anything in this world. More than the nirvana of shopping alone at Target, more than Ben & Jerry’s Truffle Kerfuffle. Even more than Maggie Smith on “Downton Abbey”.
BUT. If I hear the word “Mom” just one more time today, I am going to lose my shit.
In fact, I just googled “how many questions do kids ask in a day” because I know I’m not alone here. Are you ready for this? According to a UK study, moms field nearly 300 questions a day from their offspring, making them the most quizzed people around, above even teachers, doctors, and nurses.
Fun fact: Girls aged four are the most curious, averaging a question every one minute, 56 seconds of their waking day.
No wonder emails go unanswered, laundry piles up, library books expire before they are read, we scramble at the last minute for that birthday gift (please don’t ever leave me, Amazon Prime). We are constantly interrupted during any given task.
As an experiment, I decided to make a list of all the times I heard the word “Mom” followed by a question or comment for the rest of the day. I grabbed a small notebook like Harriet the Spy and lasted six hours before my hand cramped from all the writing. In those six hours, I was beckoned ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE times.
While I won’t torture you with reading all 159 questions and comments posed to me, here’s a small sampling below:

Nine-year-old daughter

“Mom, come look at this picture of Miley Cyrus.” (Please let it be the Hannah Montana version of her.)
“Mom, guess how many butt cheeks are in our house?” (Um…does the dog count?)
“Mom, who are you?” (Like, in an existential way?)
“Mom, this kid at school said that one middle finger equals 20 bad words. How is that possible?” (Oh, it’s possible.)
“Mom, I just found a HUMONGOUS house in California and it only costs $14 million dollars.” (Okay, I’ll get right on that purchase, sweetie.)
“Mom, can I put a ghost detector app on your phone?” (I’d kind of rather not know when there’s a ghost near me sooo…no.)
“Mom, I have a super duper secret.” (There should be no secrets from your mother. Ever.)
“Mom, do you want to play catch with me?” (Can’t, because I need a free hand to write down the 29 questions you will ask me while playing.)
“Mom, can I have a timer?”
“Mom, I can run down the hall and back 10 times in 37 seconds. Do you want to try?” (I’m good, thanks.)
“Mom, do I have to get the flu shot tomorrow? Because I’d like another few days to rest in peace before they poke a hole in my arm.”
“Mom, I got hurt.” (x3)
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Mom, can I invite a friend over?”
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Mom, can I have candy?”
“Mom, do you think my Halloween costume will be good?”
“Mom, can you tell the dog to move so I don’t hurt him?”
“Mom, is today October 15th?”
“Mom, what’s a compass?”
“Mom (watching me type), why are you doing that?”

15-year-old son

“Mom, can you tell Ava to leave? I’m trying to watch a show.”
“Mom, have you seen my phone?” (x3)
“Mom, I can’t find my phone.”
“Mom, can I borrow your phone?”
“Mom, she’s bothering me again.”
“Mom, what are you writing?”
“An article.”
“On what?”
“How many questions I’m asked in a day.”
“Why, is it a lot?”
“Seriously? I’m adding that one.”

18-year-old daughter (away at college)


Mind you, I did this experiment on a Sunday, and my husband was home the whole time. He is a great, very involved, hands-on dad. But do you know how many questions I heard them ask him during that time?
ONE.
When I said no to playing catch with my daughter, she asked him to play. He immediately said yes, probably because he wasn’t exhausted from 158 prior questions.
When I sat down to write this, I only had to glance at the kids’ lists to realize something significant. The older they get, the less questions they ask. The less they share. The less they actually talk. They have their friends and their smarter-than-a-mom phones.
I mean, my older kids would never ask me what the population of China is, they would simply google it. To my little one, I’m still the go-to, the one with all the answers. And I guess that’s a pretty great thing to be.
It’s hard to face the fact that, though my older kids still need me, it’s just not in the same way my younger child does. Someday all too soon my nine-year-old will be my 18-year-old. One morning, I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone left to pepper me with questions all day long. And the thought of that makes me sad.
Sad enough to try harder not to lose my shit when I hear the word “Mom” one too many times in an hour. Because, at the end of the day, let’s face it – kids and their questions are frustrating, maddening, and hilarious.
Feel free to comment with some of your kids’ best questions. I’ve only heard upwards of 159 today. I think I can handle a few more.
This post was previously published on the author’s blog.

18 Tattoos That are Perfect for Your Midlife Crisis

It may be the sign of a crisis, but at least it’s not a misrepresentation of the facts.

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A bottle of sunscreen with an SPF number matching your age

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Midlife crisis tattoo low carb skull and crossbones

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A skull and crossbones with “LOW CARB”

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a wilted rose tattoo mid life crisis tattoo

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A rose that needs watering, but who has the time?

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Midlife crisis tattoo self help on knuckles

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The letters S E L F H E L P across the knuckles

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midlife crisis tattoo anchor and demanding kids

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An anchor with a bunch of kids clinging to it and demanding juice

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Midlife crisis tattoo a damaged butterfly
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A butterfly whose wings could use a little work

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Midlife crisis tattoo, mom do you need glasses

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“Mom? Can you see this or do you need your reading glasses?” in a heart

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mid life tattoo tired tiger
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A tiger who’s fallen asleep at 9 p.m.

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Midlife crisis tattoo dandelion devil

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A dandelion labeled “Suburban devil”

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Midlife crisis tattoo graduate school gamble

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A pair of dice with a scroll that says “Graduate School”

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Midlife crisis tattoo pinup girl with cellulite

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A pinup girl with visible cellulite

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A single drop of urine

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Midlife crisis tattoo live for today but save 401k

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“Live for today; but don’t touch your 401k” on a decorative scroll

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Midlife crisis tattoo dream catcher with ambien

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A dreamcatcher with Ambien dangling from the feathers

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Midlife crisis tattoo large font name

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Your spouse’s name in 100-point Garamond font

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Midlife crisis tattoo get up early but skip gym

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An inspirational quote: “Still I rise at 5 a.m., why don’t I go to the gym?”

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Midlife crisis tattoo high taxes great schools

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A house with the words “High Taxes But Great School”

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Midlife crisis tattoo ship in antacids

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A ship in a bottle of antacids

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middle age mothers with multiple tattoos

Avoid Saying These Two Words When Arguing With Your Spouse

Changing your outlook to one of partnership as opposed to two people against one another could lessen the heat of your arguments.

An argument with our significant other can turn into a lot of unnecessary finger pointing, and let’s be honest, these arguments are sometimes so trivial. When you’ve been married to someone for 10 plus years, even a wrong look can cause a fight.

I’m all about being honest with myself and I know it’s impossible to never have these fights. My goodness, you are with the same person day in and day out. Remember in high school when you would need a “break” from your best friends? Too much is too much. Marriage is that on steroids.

We are blessed to marry our best friends, we are lucky to have someone waiting for us at home every night, and life is simply sweeter when you share it with another. It can also get dirty, messy, and down right rude at times.

I was watching a movie starring the great Jennifer Anniston as her character was in a marriage counseling session. (Yes, I do take notes from movies). What the therapist said to her hit me like a brick.

The therapist counseled not to say the words “you” or “I” when arguing with your spouse.

What? Seriously? That’s the base of all arguments! On the other hand, what she was saying made so much sense.

It’s wildly easy to say, “I feel like you get so defensive!” or “You’re just so tense!”

By doing this, you are automatically pointing a finger at your spouse and, in some ways, putting them down. You’re attacking their person and suffocating their pride.

That is not your job.

Marriage is a union, it’s the binding and blending of two souls. You become one person. There is no longer a “you” or an “I,” it’s “we.”

Changing your outlook to one of partnership as opposed to two people against one another could lessen the heat of your arguments.

Let’s say you’re arguing over your spouse constantly arriving home from work late. Instead of saying, “You arriving late is putting a lot of pressure on me. I always have to feed the kids dinner and put them to bed.”

Try this:

“In our house, there is a lot of pressure at night time. We need to get the kids fed, bathed, and into bed. The evenings will be a lot easier if we can both tackle these chores.”

Do you see how much nicer that sounds? All of a sudden, you guys are a team, both when you’re getting along and when you’re arguing. Your “fights” have changed from straight-up fighting to a conversation. Your spouse won’t feel attacked and you have been able to express your stress and worries.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter who’s really to blame. You’re married, honey. Your spouse’s faults are your faults.

Name-calling is another no-no, even if you’re calling your spouse “defensive” or “uptight.” These terms are very hurtful when directed right to your spouse. Instead, try expressing them this way:

“The mood in our house feels uptight and stuffy. Let’s find a way to make our days a little more care-free and happy.”

Wow. The whole dynamic has changed.

When you said your vows, you promised to protect and honor each other. Name-calling is not protecting, pointing a finger and placing blame is not honoring.

Give it a shot, removing “I” and “you” may save hours of arguing. The two of you may even come to a reasonable and friendly resolution.

One Day, Your Kid is Going to Make You Sorry You Defended Them

It’s a parent’s nature to defend their kid through and through. But the truth is, sometimes we’re going to regret going to bat for them.

Maddie was a tiny, adorable Rottweiler puppy when she came into our home. She didn’t stay that way for long.
By the time Maddie hit two, she was a 120-pound shitting machine. That detail is important. See, in order for Maddie to remain in our home, my sister and I had to promise to clean up after her.
For my sister and I, cleaning up meant allowing Maddie’s elephant-sized dumps to accumulate in our backyard until our parents threatened to “get rid of the dog,” and then spending a few hours on a Saturday uncovering the green grass those dumps covered.
We cleaned up after Maddie like this for a few years, and then my sister discovered a better way.
“The people who live behind us have a dog, right?” she asked me one Saturday.
“Yeah…” I said.
“Listen, let’s just toss all of Maddie’s poops into their yard. They’ll never know,” my sister said.
And so it was decided.
From that moment forward, my sister and I would never go through the hassle of putting our Rottweiler’s mess into a Hefty bag – a long, tedious, and smelly process that took at least two full hours on a good day. Instead, we used snow shovels (greater coverage than a standard shovel) and catapulted Maddie’s excrement over our five-foot wooden fence and into the neighbor’s yard.
My sister and I thought it was a brilliant plan. Had we thought it out a bit more, we might have seen the many flaws.
Most people clean up after their dog on a regular basis. But we let the yard get so bad that the ratio of dog shit to the clear grass was nearly one to one. Unless our neighbors were as lax in their responsibilities as my sister and me, they’d likely notice – or at least smell – an extra 20 to 30 dog shits in the vicinity.
Then there was the nature of the shits themselves. Our neighbors had a Toy Poodle. A full-grown Rottweiler dump is about as far from a Toy Poodle’s as a newborn baby’s bowel movement is from a full-grown adult’s. Again, had we done just a little bit of research, we would’ve known this.
Despite everything, we got away with it. At least, for a while, we got away it.
Then one day my mom opened the door to find a woman she’d never seen before standing there. The woman introduced herself as a neighbor and, once the formal introductions were complete, got right down to the reason for her visit.
The woman had reason to believe that someone from our house had been throwing dog shit into her yard, that she had been picking up poop that clearly didn’t belong to her dog, and that she knew we had a dog, too.
My mom didn’t hesitate in her response: a complete and utter denial of the woman’s claims.
“My children clean up after the dog and, well, if you’re accusing my children of, of, throwing our dog’s poop into your yard, then you’re being ridiculous. My children would never do such a thing,” our mom said.
The neighbor was ready for that dismissal, however. In response, she put a pair of rubber gloves on and pulled two very different stool samples out of a rolled-up bag she’d been holding.
“This one here is from my dog, and this one here, well, you can see for yourself – this couldn’t possibly come from my dog.” Or so said the Perry Mason of dog shit crimes to my mom.
An argument ensued, and my mom never wavered in her defense of her children. She might have, though, if the angry neighbor had demanded a sample of our dog’s poo to cross-reference with her own evidence.
After awhile, the argument ended, and the two women went their separate ways, each believing the other was a complete and utter asshole. When my mom recounted the details of the encounter with the woman, she was livid.
“Can you believe that woman?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t even have to ask if you two actually did that, do I?”
It wasn’t an inquiry, but we could tell she wouldn’t mind a forceful denial from us.
We gave her the denial and then some. My sister even called the lady an alcoholic and said she sometimes strolled around the neighborhood in her house dress.
But deep down, we felt bad. Our mom had gone out of her way to defend us, and we’d lied right to her face. But what choice did we have? Had we come clean, we’d no doubt have been grounded and may have even lost our Rottweiler – capital shitter that he was.
Eventually, we told my mom the truth, and for a few seconds, we saw genuine hurt on her face. How could we do something like that? Do I even know my own children at all? the look said.
Of course, when I imitated the neighbor presenting my mother with the shit she believed was the smoking gun, it didn’t take long for that look to give way to fits of uncontrollable laughter.
Now that I’m a parent, I think about the dog shit incident a lot. I look at my wild, strong-willed toddler daughter and my sweet, smiley four-month-old son and wonder when I’m going to go bat for them only to wind up looking like an asshole.
It’s the natural order of things, and it’s only a matter of time before an obscure shit incident comes back to haunt me. When that happens, I hope my mom is still alive to enjoy just how complete the circle of life can be.

The Tooth Fairy Needs a Loan

Expendable income is nonexistent these days. Even for tooth-loss.

The other day, I had to borrow three bucks from my fourth grader. “I’ll pay you right back,” I promised, fishing desperately through the coin tray for quarters and only finding two.
He looked at me with a combination of amusement and pity.
“I know you’re saving up for that Lego City Fire Boat set,” I continued, “but we also really need eggs, and they only take cash at the barn.”
Without a word, he reached into his backpack, pulled out his bulging little wallet with the soccer ball insignia, selected three ones in a distinctly bankerly manner, and handed them up to the front seat.
“Thanks, bud. I owe you.”
That same son, in a chatty mood a few nights later, wanted to talk about the following:
1 | Why do kids lose a bunch of teeth when they’re six or seven, then don’t lose any for a while, and then lose a bunch more around 11 or 12?
2 | When can we finish building the tree house? Will it have outlets? How about furniture?
3 | How come we can’t get one of those huge TVs that covers the wall? Because you need one of those for the PlayStation we also don’t have.
4 | When can we go to Jamaica again? I really liked Jamaica.
5 | Here are the pets I would like, please, in this order, from most favorite to least favorite: a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy that I would call Bernie (Feel the Bern!), a turtle named Todd, a chameleon or gecko or some lizard sort of thing, and lastly, chickens, plus the coop they’d live in, “because then we’d have eggs, Mom, and you wouldn’t need to borrow my money.”
This all made me chuckle acerbically since every one of these conversation topics required sums I don’t have, and won’t for the foreseeable future given that expendable income is nonexistent these days.
Even for tooth-loss.
Because everyone knows lost teeth require quarters from the Tooth Fairy, and I just spent my last two on eggs. (Why didn’t we just start with a few shiny pennies? He wouldn’t have known the difference! Plus, it would have allowed for inflation.)
My son is nine, thankfully, so we’ve got a couple years to rebuild the Tooth Fairy stash, and we better, because his younger brother is going on six and will start looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame before you can whistle “she sells seashells by the seashore” five times fast between your tooth gaps.
This all comes after shifting little brother out of Preschool into Kindergarten (cash savings!), which was promptly usurped by an “Escrow Shortage Remittance Form,” indicating that our monthly mortgage payment has been euphemistically “adjusted” due to a property reassessment in our town (audible swearing followed by nail-biting and consecutive nights of sleep loss).
Then comes the super enriching and also expensive suite of afterschool activities. I mean, our children’s minds and bodies are being molded as we sit here and breathe so we’d better get them horseback riding and playing piano and joining the Chess Club and studying Shaolin Kung Fu before they’re past the point of absorbing new information. In fact, it might already be too late!!
This’ll all work out, though, because I’m a night owl who loves burning it at both ends, and the hubs has landed some good gigs just in time for the cold months when the higher utility bills and fire wood expenditures and projected snow removal costs kick in. (“Winter is coming.”)
I will scrimp and save like a Spartan this stick season, because that’s the kind of behavior a shriveling landscape inspires – an old Puritan habit that gets swiftly nullified by an egregious show of Roman opulence over the holidays because I’m an American and I’ll be damned if I fail to keep the magic alive for my children!
In the spring, we’ll hire ourselves to finish off pressing house projects (so resourceful and handy!), but the money we save will be lost in the time taken away from the work we do to get paid. Which makes me wonder about full-on homesteading and whether I could begin to enjoy the ever-present smell of animal dung.
Also, after two decades of reporting to someone else’s offices, I have taken a flying leap into doing what I love for a living. Even though that elusive book deal is a slippery fish, and I’m starting to feel a little less like a writer and more like a used car salesman what with all the pitching and slinging, but at least I am whole and my soul is not dead.
And today, after depositing a few checks (feelin’ flush!) then spending $200 of it at the grocery store without even trying (oof), I will now transport my darlings 30 minutes out of the way to get their hair cut at an adult salon just in time for picture day because it’s the only establishment I can find in this state that doesn’t leave them looking like the psychiatrically dubious love children of Justin Bieber and Sid Vicious.
If I diagrammed the fiscal see-saw affect described here, you’d feel nauseous just looking at it. Best to assume we’re back to square…zero. It’s a familiar and strangely reliable state of affairs, actually – for its indisputability if nothing else.
So, boys, do your old mom a solid and brush extra well tonight and every night hereafter. We’re going to need those teeth to stay in your head for as long as possible, because this Tooth Fairy needs a loan.

Times I Refrained From Telling My Tween Tough Sh*t

Being a tween is more about the attitude – the attitude your child cops when they think they are a teenager but their birth certificate says otherwise.

I used to laugh when people referred to kids as “tweens.” I figured a kid was either a teenager or a child. There wasn’t some middle ground. Until my daughter turned 10, that is.
Some people say 10 is too young to be a tween. Some say their child became a tween even younger. But being a tween is more about the attitude – the attitude your child cops when they think they are a teenager but their birth certificate says otherwise.
“Mom, I need a cellphone. Lots of kids in my class have them, you know?”
Of course, I wanted to say “tough shit” to this one, but I refrained.
“If you really, truly, think you need a phone, maybe we could look at getting you one for Christmas. We can get a flip phone at a decent price, and then you’ll be able to call me if, for some insane, unknown reason, the adult you are always with doesn’t have a phone available.”
“Ew, a flip phone? I don’t want one then.”
Well, that ended quickly. I knew she only wanted a phone to play on apps all day, and she has a tablet for that. A monitored tablet with restricted time. Obviously, that’s not good enough for her, but it’s perfect for me.
“Did you just have kids to do all your chores for you? I don’t want to unload the dishwasher again. I just did that the other day.”
This one took a minute to respond. Because, of course, I only had kids to do chores for me.
“You know, if you have too many chores, we’ll just trade for the day. I’ll feed the cat and unload the dishwasher. You make dinner, clear the table, load the dishwasher, take out the trash, do the last two loads of laundry, fold and put them away, mow the backyard, pull the weeds in the flower bed, give your little sister a bath…”
I’m not sure where she quit listening, but she had by then. I could feel her eyes rolling as she angrily stacked plates on the counter. I walked away, victorious again.
“I don’t want to go to school today. It’s so boring!”
Yes, I’m sure it is!
Okay no, I can’t say that. I just reminded her for the 87th time that school is important to get where she wants to go in life, that it’s a great opportunity to better herself – one not given to everyone.
“At least you still get recess. I don’t get one of those.”
Then there are times where I’m just not witty enough, and I just tell her she can’t because I said so.
“Why can’t I stay up later?”
“Why can’t I wear makeup?”
“Why can’t I dye my hair pink?”
“Why can’t I get my own dog?”
I know I’m going to have to work a little harder. If it’s hard to reason with her as a tween, her teenage years are going to be difficult. She’s going to want a late curfew, a brand-new car, piercings or tattoos, the freedom to date, and more things I may not even be able to imagine yet.
I’ve obviously got a smart girl on my hands. At least for now, while she may roll her eyes at me 20 times a day, she still listens to reason and trusts her mom’s instincts.
Hopefully, as a teenager she’ll do the same.
When she’s older, I think it’ll be more than acceptable to explain to her that life doesn’t always work out the way you want and things don’t always go your way. In other words, it’s just tough shit.

Bram Stoker’s Back-to-School Shopping

I know in my heart I must help these teachers, yet this list is a behemoth. Nevertheless, I continue my quest.

August 24th

Dread. It’s a feeling that creeps into your soul, born from the thought that planted it there. Dread. The breeder of anxiety, the eater of dreams, the pestilence in your heart.
Curse you, woman! I said to myself, the thought having manifested from waiting until the last minute to buy back-to-school supplies for my children. I have two of them, and I live in the suburbs, so there’s a lot of competition for supplies.
There will be nothing left! Your latent financial anxiety has made it so this process will become the monstrous beast to end your summer. Curse you!
I am resolved to combat this inner dread by going to Target and finding all I need. Go find them, I say to myself, Go find them, and the creeping voice in your head with desist, and be utterly defeated.

August 25th

I looked at the school supply list posted on the school district website:

  • 47 packages of Crayola crayons
  • 35 glue sticks
  • 20 Play Doh packs (only from a certified play doh provider)
  • 15 Elmer’s school glue bottles (specifically school glue, from the teat of the Elmer cow herself)
  • composition notebooks
  • rulers
  • 100 sharpened pencils
  • 12 baby birds
  • 14 amethyst crystals from a certified witchdoctor
  • 75 phoenix feathers

These poor teachers! I thought. They’re not paid nearly enough for enriching little minds, and they need help with buying supplies!
I know in my heart I must help these teachers, yet this list is a behemoth. It will surely crush me both literally and figuratively, and I know it will cost more than I have budgeted. Nevertheless, I continue my quest.

August 26th

We drove into the parking lot of our local Target, an oppressively large structure, with giant, red, protective orbs near the front door.
We entered the store, children in tow, and encountered Bullseye, the dog-like gatekeeper of the establishment, perched atop a throne of “Back to School” signs and boxes. I dared not meet his stare. Those blood-red eyes see right into the core of your worst fears, made manifest throughout the store.
We walked past and met a cluster of Target-dwellers, creatures who move quicker than is humanly natural and possible, and I knew I must become one of them. I must transform into a shopper until my mission is fulfilled.
I maneuvered to the school supply section, and found many of the necessary items, yet some were what I had most feared: off brand.
My old familiar friend, Dread, came back to whisper in my ear. “You waited too long.”
Hush! I am doing my best!
“Not good enough.”
Curse you, curse youuuu!

August 27th

I must try to find the right brand of crayons and glue. I thought I would be okay with the off-brand items, but my Dread has become an obsessive voice in my head. It’s the day before school, so I went on my own to a craft store to give it one last shot.
As I arrived at the store, to my dismay, the employees were placing giant Halloween decorations on top of the shelves in the silk flower section.
A bit early for that, don’t you think? I will just take a peek at those later, though, I told myself as I searched for the elusive and much coveted Crayola products.
To my amazement, I found 10 24-packs of crayons and knew I would sleep that night. In a bin nearby were some lawn ornaments that you stick in the ground with a long, wooden stake. I felt compelled to take one.
As I walked through the aisle of newly installed decorations on my way out, a worker shouted “Look out! It’s gonna fall!”
Before I could blink, a giant, styrofoam Dracula descended upon me from above. Instinctively, I aimed the lawn ornament’s wooden stake directly at the creature’s heart, impaling it. I fell to the ground, but survived. Dracula did not.
Thankfully, the store did not charge me for the dead decoration, and I got to take my crayons home for free.

Sage Observations on Laughter From a Grandfather of 40

“Hey, Dad, look at me,” my nine-year-old son called in his sweet, innocent voice.
Too sweet! Too innocent!
My common sense shouted, “Don’t look! Do not look under any circumstances!” My internal paternal warning system flashed, “Shut down all eyes! Shut down all eyes!”
When a boy says, “Look, Dad,” he is really saying, “You’ll be sorry if you look, Dad.” (The words, “you’ll be sorry” are just mumbled unintelligibly in an Aztec dialect of Pig Latin.)
I looked.
I am sorry that I looked, very sorry.
Cackles of laughter rippled across the kitchen as brothers and sisters joined hands in a show of unity to laugh at their Dad because he folded and looked at the stunt his son had pulled. Ha ha, very funny. I failed to see the humor in the situation.
What’s so funny about straws sticking out of noses and ears, or the cross-eyed Bugs Bunny look? What’s so funny about a mouth stretched with two index fingers wide enough for a light aircraft to land inside, if only the tongue wasn’t sticking out and getting in the way? What’s so funny about a mouth stuffed with an entire chocolate cake, icing, whipped cream and all?
“Stop being so childish,” I told my son.
I might as well have told a pig to stop snorting.
The kids would now have enough ammunition for years to come. “Remember when I told Dad to look and he looked?” They will then all break into hysterical laughter that will last until they are way into their 20s and have children of their own. Perhaps even longer.
Of course the worst thing a parent can do under such circumstances is to say, “Stop giggling.” You might as well just say, “Please giggle uncontrollably, dearies.”
If you want them to giggle more, just get angry. The redder you get from anger, the redder your children will get from uncontrollable, unstoppable, unrestrainable, irrepressible laughter. You could have a heart attack and die on the spot, and they’d still be giggling at the funeral.
Hopefully, at some point, one child will pinch another and the laughter will be replaced with crying, but there are no guarantees.
As a rule, crying is much easier to control than laughter. Bribery works with crying, never with laughter. “If you stop laughing, I’ll sell the house and take the entire family and all your friends to an amusement park.” It is fairly safe to assume that you will have a place to live for quite some time. Don’t use that strategy on a crying child, though. Before you can say, “Stop crying,” you could be living in the haunted house.
Yes, I used to pull the same stunts when I was a child 100 or so years ago, but things are different nowadays. Nowadays, I am the father. Thenadays, I was the son.
I guess that makes me the one in charge of bedtime, and 7 p.m. sounds pretty good to me.
Now that’s funny. My kids don’t think so.
Ha ha, that is very funny.

The Day I Told My Daughter Cinderella Was Stupid

What kind of mother tells her precious, princess-loving daughter that princesses are dumb? Well, one who’s finally had it with Cinderella’s ineptitude.

I never thought I’d wake up one morning and want to bury Cinderella.
I was home with my kids, four and two. I had spent the morning meal-prepping, breaking up fights, reading Dr. Seuss, and occasionally ignoring the kids while texting with my mom tribe (hey, it’s better than drinking by noon).
My two-year-old daughter had been exceedingly feisty. She had her war paint on and was ready for battle. She insisted on wearing her own armor – a gymnastics leotard and high-heeled shoes. Again.
The war raged on at breakfast and lunch. I’m not sure when I’ll learn to just let that one go. Her spear must have been sharper than mine that day because she won, at everything.
Finally, it was naptime.
 
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After struggling to get her to change her clothes and sick of her damn dawdling, that very thin wire within my chest snapped in half – right in my daughter’s face. She finally chose a book that we had easily read 100 times: “Cinderella”. I don’t loath all fairytales, but “Cinderella” may just be my nemesis.
Some frightful woman climbed inside of me and said, “Cinderella is stupid and real people don’t live in castles.”
Shit. I wanted to shove those words back down my throat.
My daughter looked up at me. She may as well have reached into her chest and handed me her speared heart. Friends and family know that I am not the evil stepmother. I often have a carefree, amiable spirit. But not that day. Do not mess with me, Cinderella.
I admit, I felt immediate remorse. What kind of mother tells her precious, princess-loving daughter that princesses are dumb?
My next emotion was denial. I rejected the fact that my words were cruel and simply labeled myself as a witty mother.
Then reality set-in. I meant it. I wish Cinderella would just retire already.
Should I have saved this lesson for when she was, say, 10 years old? Absolutely. But either way, the lesson was coming.
I do think fairytales are dumb. Okay, not all of them, but Cinderella needs to get a backbone. She should have rebelled from those nasty step-sisters. She should have thrown away that other glass slipper and marched into a college admissions office to request an application, barefoot. I need to teach my daughter never to wait for a prince to save her life. It’s not happening.
I should tell her that if she marries, either a man or a woman, life will eventually turn mundane. Getting to that place is hard work. Your dad and I broke up more times than fingers – on both hands – until we finally got it right.
There will be no kissing in the rain. Everything will become predictable. She will make the casseroles and fold the laundry. She and her significant other will bicker over emptying the dishwasher.
But that’s okay. This boring, non-princess life can still be exquisite.
Her partner will make the coffee 365 days in a row for her because she’s the first thing he thinks about in the morning. He’ll change all of the bed sheets because he knows she hates it. He’ll empty the trash cans every single time – not because she’s a princess, but because he wants her to feel like one. He’ll do these tedious tasks because their love is the single greatest accomplishment of his life.
When love still radiates through all of this monotony, then it is certainly something worth aspiring for.
I don’t want my daughter to have an unrealistic view of marriage, or life. Unlike Cinderella, you need to dig, acquire your own grit, and make your own beautiful life. A man is not above you, and he will not save you. Grab your own spear and save yourself.
The spicy beginnings will eventually turn bland. That’s what kids do to that once vibrant libido. The true allure comes from maintaining a love even after water has been poured all over that fire, and the smoke is still swirling.
Cinderella, you’re not teaching my daughter a damn thing. That’s my job.

When Babies and Bachelorette Parties Collide, It Doesn’t End Well

Our first attempt at having real grown-up fun with a baby in tow, and it was going perfectly. Until that bus pulled up.

We should’ve left the moment that damn bus pulled up. It’s so easy to see that now.
When what I now know was a Jack and Jill bachelorette/bachelor party, dressed as pirates, exited the bus, walked out into broad daylight, and collectively sounded a drunken war cry (Whoo!), I should’ve sprang into action. I should’ve suggested we round up the group – four adults and three children under the age of five – and split.
But we were having so much fun. At the time, I remember thinking, “Maybe we can co-exist peacefully with the pirates.” Me, my wife, and our five-month-old daughter spent the day with our friends, Jesse and Christine, and their two kids, touring wineries in the Finger Lakes town of Seneca. We drank some great wine, ate some great food. I even pulled off wearing a fedora…or so I thought.
It was our first attempt at having real grown-up fun with a baby in tow, and it was going perfectly. Until that bus pulled up. We may have escaped unscathed if I didn’t have to pee.
 
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My daughter was sleeping soundly in the ErgoBaby360 when my bladder checked in: “Hey dude, you’ve been drinking casually for the past few hours, and if you don’t head to the bathroom right now, I’m going to ruin your jeans, and your day.”
One of the selling points of baby carriers is the freedom they offer. Users can securely transport their little ones from place to place with full access to their upper extremities to do things like empty the dishwasher, heat up a bottle, or aim their package at a lower-than-normal urinal in a Finger Lakes winery bathroom.
That’s what I was doing when a drunken pirate from the Jack and Jill party stumbled in and wobbled over to the urinal right next to me.
These days, most standing urinals in the men’s room have some type of partition between toilets to offer protection from poor-aiming pee-ers. Or maybe it’s for privacy. I’m not entirely sure why the partitions are there. All I know is this particular bathroom didn’t have any. An important detail.
See, when this inebriated pirate started peeing, he began swaying like Stevie Wonder, looking everywhere and not seeing anything. That is, not seeing anything until his gaze focused right on the ErgoBaby360, an accessory that he probably wouldn’t have noticed if a partition had been there.
“Holy shit, dude! You’ve got a baby!” the pirate exclaimed. When he attempted to talk and urinate at the same time, the swaying became more exaggerated. He appeared dangerously close to tipping over.
“Yep,” I responded, rushing to finish, zip up my fly, and make a hasty exit.
“That’s fucking amazing, dude! A baby! A goddamn baby! And you’re still doing it, man. You’re still out here partying. I give you so much credit, dude, so much credit.”
The pirate was beside himself with joy.
“Thanks, man,” I offered, trying to will myself to stop the pee early.
“I just got engaged myself, man,” the pirate confided. “I can’t wait to settle down, start my family, have a bunch of kids, you know what I’m saying?”
Before I had a chance to answer, the pirate did something irreversible. He reached over in my general direction with a sweeping and unsteady gesture to make direct contact.
Looking back on the encounter, I believe the pirate meant to slap me on the back – a good job gesture appropriate in limited situations, like a little league coach pulling his pitcher after a disastrous inning, but certainly not in a urinal-to-urinal conversation where “a goddamn baby” is involved.
Regardless of his intentions, the pirate missed badly. Instead of my back, he accidentally clipped my fedora and sent it to the floor at my feet.
Despite my protests, the pirate got down on his knees in front of me to retrieve the fedora, a task he struggled mightily with. He kept alternating between trying to pick it up without making any contact and turning up toward me to apologize profusely. This created a jerky type of bobbing motion.
At that precise moment, someone entered the men’s room to find a grown man on his knees, bobbing around spastically in front of another grown man – a grown man who happened to have a baby strapped to his chest via the wonders of the ErgoBaby 360.
When the pirate noticed we had a visitor, he said the one thing you should never say in these types of situations: “Wait, it’s not what it looks like.”
The pirate never got a chance to explain what was happening, because the man turned around and walked right out.
Years from now, I hope to return to the small town of Seneca and stumble upon a local retelling the story:
“On my life, Horace, this actually happened. Back in ’16, I walk into the men’s room, and I see fella in front of a urinal, like you do when you pee. This fella is carrying a baby in one of those Ergo baby carriers they used to make, but get this…. On his knees in front of the fella with the baby is another fella, and he’s doing god knows what. I tell ya, people will get it on anywhere these days, Horace.”
Even if that never happens, I learned a valuable lesson that day: You can never get away with wearing a fedora. Sooner or later, in one form or another, the decision comes back to bite you.