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Jacksonfish is dead


Well, it’s one step forward and three steps back for lamemom, as I just continue to exhibit how effing stupid I really am.  The other evening, I decided to mention to Jake that Jacksonfish, his blue beta fish (irresponsibly given to him for his 4th birthday by a friend who should have known better) had died. Between you and me, the dumb fish had died about a year ago but we all kind of pretended that Jacksonfish, (not to be confused with Jackson, the best dog in the world), was on a stay-cation in Queens with their babysitter (the mother they should have had) and her family.

The husband and I were going away for the weekend and the kids were off to Queens to stay with the babysitter so I had to tell Jake about the fish before he got there and expected to have a reunion. Predictably, his face squinched up within seconds and he started sobbing so hard that he got red dots all over his forehead. Of course, I think I have raised them to love their animals that much so I’m a little puzzled that I expected him to take it cavalierly. But I did. I was absolutely surprised that he was so upset, I think because I couldn’t imagine he had believed our story about why the fish hadn’t been at home in almost a year. He cried and cried and we cuddled and he pleaded for his fish back.

Fortunately my stupid had stopped, for I knew not to tell him that Jacksonfish had gone the way of many pet fish — an accidental bowl-cleaning-swim down the drain. I said that fish don’t generally live for very long as pets and that Jacksonfish had enjoyed a happy life full of love and family, and so on. Then Jake asked for a new fish and I kind of ignored him because there is no way we are getting another fish, even when my son is crying so hard he has dots all over his face.  (Curious that I prefer picking up dog poop two or three times a day to a weekly fish bowl cleaning.)

But I will definitely keep this episode with me: he is five and a half years old and he totally believes me. I know at some point, this will change, but now, I am his authority. Whether it is about his fish on a holiday to learn Spanish in Queens or the sugar bugs that will eat his teeth if they’re not brushed well or that being kind to our animals and little sisters is the most important thing we do each day, my son believes me. As always, I am astounded and terrified by the responsibility.



May 9, 2011

When is a white lie okay?


“Remember,” I often say to my daughter, “saying something you know isn’t true is lying.” And she nods and looks solemnly at me and eventually repeats the same lie she said to spur my little lesson.  Sometimes, she says, “ I’m not lying. I’m tricking you. “  How to explain the difference between a lie and a trick to a three-year old?  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that kids of a certain age (which I can’t remember) don’t actually know “truth” (or lying) per se, as they actually believe that whatever they say might have actually happened.  They are in the bathroom with the toothbrush and toothpaste and then get distracted and head out to the kitchen and they actually believe they did brush their teeth because they were this close to getting the task done.  (Of course, I wish I remembered the age at which they should recognize the difference between actually did and intended to do, as my husband sometimes seems to exhibit the same dilemma:  “Yes, I did put the milk back in the fridge/put the seat down/read the 3-page email you sent me about your parents’ visit…”)

Slipperier slopes, however, present themselves with my 5-year old.  He’s pretty good on the difference between lying and tricking, but I would like to broach the subject with him on the beautiful possibilities that a white lie offers. Of course, I’m sure such a subtle concept will never work with him but sometimes his capabilities surprise me. (If you’re one who thinks white lies are just as bad as “real” lies, we’ll have to agree to disagree. OR you can just click away!)

Sometimes, I believe a white lie simply moves the conversation along in a much nicer way.  For example, if you said, “I look so haggard. I should get Botox but I can’t afford it.” And I said, “I think the lines between your eyes are actually very dignified,”  I don’t think you are harmed because you can’t get the little plump-up shot anyway, and maybe you feel a little better about your haggard-ness.

Another perfect example presented itself last night, when the kids and I were lucky enough (really) to get to go to a party hosted by Hershey’s Kisses. (Kind of dreamy for this pregnant lady: the room was teaming with Hershey’s Kisses, even a new one that isn’t available yet. I’m still chocolate drunk.)  My kids never get to go anywhere and were particularly excited about going to a “candy party.” They played games (the event’s focus was “Family Game Night,” which seems like a fun way to hang out a little more together), ate pizza and hot dogs and popcorn and we probably ate a hundred pieces of candy.  We were playing the board game Sorry and my son started chatting with a very kind woman from the Hershey’s Corporation. She was not just a brand lady, she was a product lady and I bet she eats, sleeps and breathes Hershey’s Kisses.  I knew where we were headed the second the conversation started…

Kiss lady:  How old are you?

Jake:  Five.

Kiss lady:  Are you having fun?

Jake: Yes.

(here it comes)

Kiss lady:  Have you been eating a lot of candy?

Jake:  No.

Kiss lady: (nodding)

Jake:  No, I haven’t had any because I don’t like them. I hate chocolate.

I’m pretty sure I heard a collective gasp move across the room. Jake had the same conversation four more times with other’s Hershey’s people before we went home. Of course, everybody was lovely and as incredulous as I that someone doesn’t really like chocolate. And I don’t want Jake to lie, but I’m not sure how bad it would have been if he had said, “I haven’t had any candy because I’m not hungry.” Or “I haven’t had any candy because I’m saving it for later.” Just nicer, no? He also suggested to someone that perhaps a chocolate-less Hershey’s Kiss might be a good idea. I’m certain that was sent right to the development folks in Pennsylvania.

We can’t wait for the Twizzler’s party.

May 4, 2011

Too old, too cool


No, not me. Surprising, isn’t it?

No, yesterday my heart broke because my son was too old for a jammie walk.  The husband was taking the kids for a quick jammie walk to buy some (certainly edible but FAR from Jeni’s) ice cream (in an attempt to make up for neglecting my birthday – but that is another post). Since bedtime was looming, my caveat was that the kids had to be ready for bed before they go. Both kids hustled into pajamas and then it dawned on my son that he was expected to be heading out in his pj’s.Which he has done seven thousand times in the last five years. But now, as the end of his kindergarten year looms, he is too cool for a jammie walk.

I heard him discussing it with his father in the other room and they decided that an easy fix would be to pull sweats over the pj’s, so the problem was solved but a bigger problem loomed in my head. Or my heart, to be more apt. My baby is too old to cruise Amsterdam Avenue in his pj’s. Who knows what he’ll be too old for tomorrow. I will try to snag all the hugs I can in the meantime and hope the little sister doesn’t also turn on me before baby #3 arrives.


Apr 26, 2011

Which hand is it in?


Of course the list is long for most parents of things thought they would never say, but today I hit one that really surprised me. (And I’m a bit worried to see the porn spam I get because of this post.)

Jake and I were playing “what hand is the _____ in? ” You know this one — child holds a coin or apple or crayon or, in our case this morning, a golden bead, behind his back in a hand and you, naive as ever, have to figure out if it’s in the left or right hand. Yes, I know the child probably moves it from right to left hand depending on which hand you select. But it seems like good left-right practice and my son was amused by it for a little while this morning.

Jake had the small bead behind his back and, in spite of my best guesses, it was in neither the left nor the right hand. Hmmmm. It had disappeared. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and I knew his jammie bottoms weren’t tight enough to hold the bead up so obviously I was a bit concerned. Of course, we all know where the golden bead was, but still, I said it.

It had better not be in your butt.

Rest assured, we had a very serious discussion once we fished it out. And the the golden bead, fortunately a plastic version, made its way into the garbage. Tomorrow if we need to kill time I might suggest “I Spy.”

Filed under Kindergarten
Apr 22, 2011



That’s what I worry about these days, spit. Because my daughter Jenn has been putting her hands in her mouth at school lately. And while I would rather she not put her fingers in her mouth, I worry that I’m missing something as I wonder if it’s worth the three emails I have received from school about it. She’s not a thumb sucker; she just went to the dentist and had no dental issues, and we don’t really know why she’s doing it but it has only been for a couple weeks so I’m just watching.

Now this story, relayed to me at dinner last night by a friend with a 5-year old son, is WAY better than Jenn’s but it got not one email home. My friend got to learn the story at the “family conference” (Not parent-teacher, because at this school the kids are invited! Yikes. How could I badmouth my kid if he were in the conference with me?) The family conference unfolds and teacher says something about the “incident yesterday.” Of course, my friend knows nothing about said incident. Eventually it comes out that yesterday at nap time, the son busied himself not with resting but with “saliva wiping.”

My friend, to her son:  What happened? Why were you wiping saliva on him?  Was he mean to you?

Son:  Yes.

My friend:  Well what did he do?

Son:  He was bothering me.

Teacher:  Actually, he was sleeping.

I’m not sure where the story went from there because there was so much laughter at our table I couldn’t hear.

Like everything, I think it all comes down to degree. Yes I want to know if my 3.5-yo has developed a habit of putting her fingers in her mouth. And if I were being honest, I would probably admit that I still want to know every single thing that happens in her day and if I could peek in the window from 9a – 12p to watch her at preschool, I would. But I know that doesn’t do me any good (I’m already crazy enough) and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t do her any good and ultimately, I give the school a bucket of money because I trust them so I don’t have to peek through the windows. (And that’s probably why I get three emails about fingers in her mouth.)

On the other side, my friend heard nothing about the saliva wiping – (Now that’s just fun to type – who really talks like that? It’s spit!) – and she believes she should have heard about it, maybe because it involved another kid, (the wipee). Or because it’s just a little bit grosser, a little bit more germy, and WAY funnier. I would have loved to have seen that email from the teacher.

Filed under Kindergarten, Preschool
Apr 4, 2011

Don’t run with sticks. Unless you’re also carrying a really hard ball that you intend to whip at me.

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We were barely out of the car and Jake was running with a giant stick through our rock garden, which is full of sharp twigs sticking out of the ground, last year’s plant remnants. (Note to friends who have been to our cottage and are wondering what the hell I’m talking about:  rock garden. The rocky, weedy stuff next to the steps that looks dangerous for children – that’s what I call the rock garden. Easier than typing “rocky, weedy stuff next to the steps.”)  So the stick he was carrying was 5 feet long and pretty thick – more walking stick than marshmallow roasting stick. Of course, he fell and nearly impaled himself and I could not actually be that helpful initially because the little sister and I were in the middle of a need-to-poop emergency. I eventually turned my attention to my son sprawled across the rock garden, still clinging to his stick. He looked up at me and we had the stare-down to determine if this fall was going to be a big deal or not.

Somehow, I won and he calmly got up, with nary a tear or raised voice. Because I’m his very own lamemom, I said something unhelpful.

Well, I’m glad you’re not hurt,  but you know, that’s why we say not to run with sticks. There’s a tiny little lesson in this…

We all returned to the yard and Jake and I started kicking around the soccer ball, which was pretty ambitious considering I have an ankle that still doesn’t bend and am pregnant-big enough that people think I’m due in the next few weeks.  Jake soon decided he would like to play lacrosse, so we pulled the tag-sale (that’s east coast for a garage sale) lacrosse sticks and a tennis ball from the garage and started to play. I know next to nothing about lacrosse but it was fun and he was teaching me what he knew, (which is not much).

I passed the ball to him (I don’t even know if pass is the right word; lacrosse for dummies is my next web search) and he started running to catch it. He was running fast while looking for the ball, holding the stick, somehow avoiding mud, snow and and the occasional dog piles in our yard, and I was cheering for  him. He missed catching the ball by a mile but we were both proud. And glad my don’t-run-with-sticks lesson had been disregarded.

Mar 25, 2011

Game day is life without us.

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This week was a big week for us as far as kindergarten is concerned. We went to Jake’s parent-teacher conference.

Apparently, our son is age-appropriate in all of his school work. But he is apparently an angel. Here are some highlights, and as much as I like some good exaggeration, these are near-quotes from his teacher:

He is friends with everybody and everybody likes him. He plays nicely. He is kind and gentle. He knows and does what is expected of him. He (- and this is rich – ) really LOVES his little sister. Blahblahblah.

You get the drift. It went on and on and I wanted to throw up in my mouth a little bit because that certainly did not sound like my son. He has been outright mean with his sister lately and his surly behavior at dinner time each night has been making me want to put him in the corner forever or shake him silly, (but I know that’s not an option). So I mentioned this recent behavior to the teacher. (Yes, I totally sold out my son. Whoops.) She smiled and said something along the lines of, “At home, they’re trying things out. It’s practice.”

That made me feel better than anything else she could have said. I understand it: I have some horrible runs (or swims or bike rides), but I try to pull it together for race day. And so it is with the kids. I guess we just have to work on his practice methods, because his game-day methods seem to be working. And I think that’s the idea. Because we can’t always be there to monitor (or judge or guide) them and it all comes down to whether they’re ready for the game or not.

Mar 17, 2011

It’s not about the ice cream.


Monday afternoon, my son Jake (5) wanted something else to drink at the cafe. We’re neither fancy nor French but my son LOVES “cafes,” and I can turn any local coffee shop into a cafe by simply calling it a cafe. He wanted more to drink so I handed him three dollars (I knew it was only two but I hated the idea of him not having enough — nothing more embarrassing than that, as far as I’m concerned.) and pointed him in the direction of the front counter, maybe 100 feet from where we were sitting.

He insisted that I go up to get it for him and I insisted that he go. Eventually he realized that I wasn’t going to bend. For him to obtain another lemonade he needed to put on his big-boy pants and march bravely forth:  stand in a line of strangers (grown-ups), order, pay and return to the safety our table. He thought for a while and eventually he mustered up his courage and set off.  Of course, I watched him the whole way and felt a surge of relief when he actually had his drink in hand and was headed back to me.  He was proud (and no longer thirsty) and I was proud, too. Of both of us.

This cafe day, coupled with a great post by Jenny Heitz this week at A Child Grows in Brooklyn called Parenting in the Age of Fear, has me wondering when it’s okay for us to start encouraging (or pushing?) them to be more independent? Of course, I don’t let the 5-year old walk the dog by himself but he gets to hold the leash and and “be in charge” while I bite my tongue (almost off) as I try not to micromanage leash length, treat allocation, etc. (Yes, I’m a pleasure to live with. Shame my husband doesn’t have a blog.)

I don’t know how old I was when I got to start doing things on my own but I know I was probably allowed to ride bikes with my friend Tricia to Gebos for penny candy when we were 8-ish. Or maybe we weren’t allowed, but we were out riding our bikes so we just ended up there. Lots of freedom comes from having wheels, and as a city kid, my son will probably not ride anywhere on his bike for a long time. (That he is barely done with his training wheels is another whole story.) And of course, along with my desire that my kids are capable, independent people comes the desire that they don’t become those people too quickly.

I often imagine letting Jake go to our corner deli alone. He would have to ride the elevator to the lobby of our building (the elevator has an attendant), walk 8 or 10 steps to the corner, turn the corner and enter our deli, where the guys know us. No streets to be crossed, but a corner when he would leave my sight if I were to follow him as a spy. (And of course, I plan to follow him for a long time.) I envision him selecting whatever his $5 can buy him. I wonder if he would be safer if I sent his little sister along as a back-up and made them hold hands? (Because a snatcher might successfully snatch my sweet son but wouldn’t have a chance if he tried to snatch the crazy little sister.) And though I know he can order my coffee (he even knows my order at Starbucks, which is different than my deli coffee order; his father, sadly, choses to know neither), he doesn’t read yet so what if he grabs me a pint of chocolate chocolate chip instead of the vanilla heath bar crunch I really want?

Mar 2, 2011

Feeling small again


We all stood there in a little bit of awe and disbelief and maybe a tiny bit of horror as we watched the small child read (from notebook paper, not a giant cue card) in Spanish to a group of 75 adults. We were at a family event at the Spanish preschool where our kids go.

We had watched the class of 2-year olds act out a book-related skit for (what felt like) an hour; we had watched the class of 3-year olds sing a (perfectly timed) 1-minute song and then our socks were knocked off with the class of 4-year olds’ skit, including an adorable little boy reading to the room. In Spanish. And then he read in the dark. He was not reading simple phrases like, “Hola. Comment estas?” He was reading sentences and sentences BEAUTIFULLY.  The cranky Spaniard next to me commented that the kid’s Spanish was great and another friend wryly noted that he read better than she could, and she’s 42.

Of course, I couldn’t have been the only one in the room wondering, “What kind of genius is he?” And if I’m being honest, my next thought was, “How’d I get such a dummy?” Because my 5-year old could more likely vomit on command than speak in front of a room of strangers, much less READ in front of a room.

“I’m sure it’s like those little boys in the Little League World Series with questionable birth certificates,” I joked to the parents we were standing with. “He’s probably ten years old – they put in a ringer to help lure prospective students…” See, I was testing the waters.  I sought a sign from them that THEIR kids weren’t brainiac early readers because mine isn’t either. Isn’t that sad? He’s five and I was instantly worried about him keeping up with everybody.

I take spin class at the gym.  I am more competitive than I like to admit and spinning is a perfect outlet for that. The tan, skinny lady on the bike next to me might look better in low-slung jeans but I can chase her down and beat her on whatever imaginary hill I am riding. And no one ever has to know we’re racing.

I think I might need to add more spinning to my week –certainly, to keep me out of mom jeans, but more importantly, to keep me from adding competition to my kids’ lives. They’ll add that soon enough on their own.

(Incidentally, I did a little research:  kids begin reading at all different ages, with the range being 3 – 7, for the most part. Yes, 3 or 4 is early.  But as we know, all kids are different.)

Filed under Kindergarten, Parenting
Jan 31, 2011

May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?


I have heard about it for years, but until last night I had never even seen the Steve Martin bit referenced in today’s post title. In the bit, Martin suggests people teach kids how to talk “wrong” at home  so they might get to school and ask the teacher if they can go to the bathroom, only they would ask, innocently, “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?” Funny, right? Yes, until you live it.

Last night after dinner, son Jake proudly read to me the cover of his maze book, “Your Book of Mazes – Animals.” (He’s an almost-reader so any words he can “read” are huge victories and I find the process extraordinarily painful.) At the end of the table, Jake’s sister protested because she couldn’t see the book cover. She asked him to “read” it again and show her which words were which. I sighed with relief, thinking,  “Phew, at least she’ll read early.”

Not so fast. Jake leaned in and conspiratorially whispered, “Let’s show her the wrong words.” Then before I could stop him, he pointed to the book’s author’s names and the publisher, telling her it said My Book of Mazes. The poor girl (now definitely not destined to be my early reader) followed along as he “taught” her to read.

Looking to the positive, she was as proud of herself as he had been a minute earlier when he was “reading.” And fortunately, the “lesson” was brief and in English. And there was no reference to dogface or banana patch, because I can’t hear banana patch and not laugh (maybe a male Speedo swimsuit reference, I’m not sure).  But still,  Jake will not be doing much reading to his sister for a little while. I decided he has either seen the skit (doubtful for a 5-year old, even one in public kindergarten), is wildly clever or just plain mean. I’m pulling for the middle option.

Filed under Kindergarten
Jan 19, 2011

What you’ve missed