Cowed by the Dog Days of Summer

Ah, summer!  Pool time, board games, leisurely walks and family meals.  It’s all part of our wondrous academic calendar that allows us to slowly tease the pleasure out of each day, one by one, during the hottest season.

summer dinner

But nothing is as wonderful as eating around the table with your children.  Oh, to break bread with the fruit of your loin!  The bickering, the dissatisfaction with the chef-parent, the utter senselessness of trying to converse with people who don’t even listen to NPR… yes, the endlessness of that doggone meal!

Not to mention the withering stare from your vegetarian child as you enjoy a wee bit of meat.  A look so direct that it would shame an expert surveyor, as she delineates the area of shame beginning at my mouth,  back to the plate with its victim-burger, and then to the blasted marsupial pouch I can’t seem to unload.

“Nice cow lunch, Mom.”

My son looks startled all of a sudden.  “Wait, burgers do come from cows?  Mom, you said that burgers were like tofu or something!”

“Hey, settle down.  I must have misunderstood your question….  And you, remember!  You have chosen not to eat meat.  That is your choice.  Our choice is to be omnivores.  So, cool it with the mean looks.”

“Right.  Your choice, my choice but who cared about the COW’s choice, Mom?”

“Maybe it was a volunteer?  OK, listen, it’s not my fault most animals are cute and delicious!”

“There is no excuse in today’s society to continue harming animals just because humans are greedy pigs, Mom!  Why do you eat the poor things?!  How do you explain yourself?!”

I use an extended pause for effect.  “Funny how you use ‘pig’ as an insult… and I love your leather bracelet.”

She delivers an epic eye roll, averts her gaze entirely, and adopts the ‘I’m going to ignore you for the rest of the day” stance.  Success!

All right, so the lie about the cow meat ferreted its way out into the light, making me look like an idiot.  I was only trying to allow my son to enjoy his food guilt-free.  Good intentions all the way!   But when confronted by a kid who wants answers- especially incriminating ones- what to do?  Well, as a card carrying member of the Spanish-speaking tribe, I say “no way, José!”  Build that wall around the truth- it’s all the rage!

Vegetarian skeleton




When Children “Alternate Facts”

Yes, I have spent a lot of time encouraging us to lie responsibly to spare our children the many ugly truths out there.  And yet, I have not broached the topic of when they lie to us… and it’s never to protect poor maw and paw!  They’re out to save their own hides- every time.  And my demi-Hellenic children seem to be particularly crafty.  Such weavers of tales, they are truly descendants of the likes of Homer and Euripides!

Of course, some lyin’ in the old apple is likely the tree’s fault… but you cannot allow your kids to pull the wool over your eyes.  A ten year old who can successfully bamboozle his parents today, will at fifteen be cruising around in a Trojan horse while you sit there smiling like an idiot, thinking the Greeks should start an online gift registry.

So, take this innocent little fib one of my children tried to pull on me.

“Hey- what does homework look like for you tonight?”

“Oh… homework?” His hesitation is a dead give away.  The game is afoot.trojan-horse

“Yeah- you know, that exciting ritual we participate in every weeknight as a family?  Lots of screaming and tears involved-sometimes some learning?”

“Right, right!  Weird.  Don’t have any.” He shrugs innocently and continues to rub his thumbs all over his damnable smart machine, avoiding eye contact.

“Huh.  That’s weird because Mrs. Harpy always assigns homework.  The woman is relentless!  Ruins most happy hours around this place….”

“Mom, you know her name is ‘Harper!’ Sheesh!”

“Sure, whatever you say.  So let’s see that assignment pad.”

“That won’t help because I have already completed everything that’s on the list.”

“Show  it to me anyway, along with the ‘completed’ homework as evidence.” He shifts uncomfortably.

“Oh, thaaat homework!  Yeah, I’ll get it out.  I haven’t finished it yet.”

He hadn’t finished it yet.

You have to kick the Trojan horse’s tires a bit to see if it’s hollow.  Last thing you want is a houseful of Greeks.  And I oughta know.  My house is chock full o’nuts!

Happy, merry Noëlf!

Never is the desire to pop the Noël bubble stronger than at 3:32 a.m., when you awaken in a cold sweat because you have once again forgotten to move the bloody Xmas elf that your sweet son depends upon for his childhood’s survival.   Apparently, nothing is more devastating than waking up to that slovenly creature sitting in the same spot, unmoved, and unwilling to show signs of life.

My friends, it may seem like a quaint idea, but in truth, the elf turns December into a daily cat and mouse game in which your child runs down the stairs to see what new, inventive position the damnable homunculus will present… while you sweat it out at the top of the stairs hoping your spouse moved the slippery sprite because you sure as hell didn’t!  Will he be dangling from the chandelier in a jaunty stance?  Maybe the little coquette is peeking out from between the Christmas tree branches?  Oh, no, wait, he’s in the same flippin’ place as yesterday!  What was once cute and amusing a mere 24 hours before, now only serves to disappoint the expectant pixie-acolyte.

“Why didn’t he move, Mommy?”

“Because he’s a lazy, vindictive SOB, kid.”  OK, I have never said that, but I’ve wanted to.

“Mommy isn’t sure.” One remembers the drunken Saturday night haze with some level of remorse.  “Sometimes they are so tired from watching and reporting back telepathically to Santa that they lose the strength to move.  Plus he loves watching you at that angle, where he celf-2an see you all stretched out in your pajamas.  I guess?”  Gotta dial back the perv.

“Oh, well I love him watching me, too!”  The mind reels- hopefully not a sign of things to come.  “But if he doesn’t move again, do you think it means he’s lost his magic?”

“Impossible with your level of belief in him!  I mean our level of belief, ours!”

“OK, I just hope no one has touched him.  One wrong touch and it instantly makes him lose his magic.”  Yeah, I’ve had dates like that.  I get it, Elfie.

“No, certainly not!  He’ll move tonight.  I can feel it!”  Note to self….

Listen, I’m a Santa-and-all-things-enchanted advocate, but let me tell, you, that freakin’ elf blows.  He’s a high maintenance, all-take-and-no give sort of guy.  Avoid him like the plague!  Of course, if your kid asks for one, it’s tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet.  Plainly put: you’re screwed.  Off to the impromptu Christmas store set up in your local strip mall sometime in August to make sure you were good and sick and tired of the holidays by mid September.

Yes, it’s truly exhausting to come up with daily never-before-seen places and stances for this poorly articulated imp.  But we do it for the children!  We do it for love!  It adds to the mystery that is Christmas- or so I keep telling myself.  Anywho, I’m so well-versed at this point that I am currently writing a “kama sutra for dummies” on elf positions.  Relax, people, it’s clean!

Sheesh- and bah, humbug!





Lie to me, baby.

I know from my fan correspondence that there is some cockamamie concern that lying to your child will lead them to lie as well.  My first response is “duh- don’t get caught.”  Here is the good news: children have faith in their parents- they believe in us blindly!  So, how hard is it to exploit that?   Come on, now!  In matters of faith, truth is irrelevant.  Hell, it can be downright dangerous!  Adult up, stick to your guns and outsmart your children.

Anyway, lying can be a vague concept.  In the case of lying to our children to protect them from the unsavory, it’s more like a postponement of the truth.  By the time your children figure out what sex is, for example, they will be too horrified to talk to you about it.  And the potential element of pity is worth capitalizing upon- poor mom and dad!  They could have been spared the cost of in vitro if they had only known about s-e-x!   And it does explain mommy’s divorce from her first husband….

But seriously, you can deflect your way out of any potentially incriminating conversation.  Take the example below where I was able to slither easily out of a perilous exchange.  I was in the midst of my first encounter with a new doctor and he was reviewing my health history.

“So, Elsa, do we drink too much?

“I don’t know doctor.  I mean, I just met you- do you?”

“I meant you.”

“Ah!  You had me worried there.  I don’t do well with stranger’s confessions.  I’m still reeling from having to read St. Augustine in grad school- quite the windbag.”wine

“Right… so- do you drink too much?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I see.  A good gauge is if people around you think  you drink too much.”

“Wow- I would never hang around those kind of people!”

“OK, my point is, do you have one drink per day?  Two?  A dozen?”

“Sure!  But wait- what kind of glass am I using in this scenario?  Are we talking a full up red wine glass or those puny little sherry glasses?  Because that could entirely alter my response.”

“You know, let’s skip this and go straight to your family history.”

“Really?  Because I thought this was going quite well.”


See?  You can squelch anyone’s attempt to worm any sort of supposed “truth” out of you.  For God’s sake, if I can deflect a highly educated adult who’s made it through med school, plus a strenuous, never-ending residency, surely we can pull the wool over our children’s eyes with ease!

Also, we eventually want them to learn to lie to our grandchildren. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end a fun weekend at Gam-gams with an overexposed six year old grandchild wildly describing the birds and the bees, while I’m spooning out Metamucil realizing that the most exciting movement in my life is now intricately associated with my bowel.  I don’t think so!

Keep lying.  Can’t stop.  Won’t stop.

Stop Lame Ducking It!

Allow me to get realpolitik on you here: I hate talking politics.  That being said, I really hate talking politics- even with like-minded friends!  What could possibly be worse than having a disagreeable conversation with an adult?  Having said discussion with a child.  Let us adults please assert ourselves, and stop allowing the silent majority to make family meals into their own, private rubber chicken circuit.

Ah, the child with a political opinion is akin to a chimpanzee with a cigarette.*  Sure it’s kinda funny at first, but you just wait till that chimpanzee gets out of its depth with that tabackey and starts flinging excrement in a fit electoral-college-winner-button of nicotine-induced rage, and I tell you what!  Cute turns ugly right quick.

Nothing is more horrible than having to engage a child, who is not even aware of our tangled electoral college , blithering on and on about wall-building and leaked emails.  Those earnest wide-eyed ten year olds cannot put the “pun” in pundit for love nor money.   So, parents, please do not instruct your children in your cockamamie political ideas!  I don’t want to hear them from you, and especially not from your poorly informed, amygdala-happy spawn.   I had my kids convinced that if Trump won, we would have to climb over walls just to access our favorite Mexican restaurants.   People that gullible have no business discussing politics.  Mercifully they cannot vote!

baby-politicssSo, tonight, as the debate between Hilarity and Rump rages, keep your kids far from the idiot box.  Let them dream of sugarplums and baby bunnies, and not Benghazi and rampant misogyny .  There is no bleeding heart that will tolerate some child on the bully pulpit tomorrow filibustering the hell out of their morning.

I, for one, plan to avoid anyone under the age of 16 tomorrow to lower my chances of being trapped by some lunatic ‘tween on a whistle stop tour.  If I don’t, I  may have to go all ad hominem on someone’s @$$….


*I’m harkening back to my childhood memories in my beloved, suffering Venezuela.

Till Death Do Us Part: Pledge or Fervent Wish?

Ah, yes.  Why do mommy and daddy fight?  Why do birds fly south in the winter and why does spring cover the leaves with trees?  Marital feuding is not only natural, it’s a good example for children on how to deal with disagreements in a way that is respectful and dignified- or at least learn some good, solid passive-aggressive strategies.  But really, this notion of getting divorced once you have children is nonsense.  After procreating, you will never get rid of your spouse- never, ever, ever.  So, you might as well spare yourselves the expense and suck it up, stay married, and indulge in the occasional spousal homicide daydream- hey, it’s free and extremely satisfying!  Anyway, who gets married for happiness?  Amateurs!

As you can see, I am a very old-fashioned gal.  Plus, I do not want to be a two-time loser!  So now that I have already been conveniently divorced, I no longer believe in divorce.  See how that works?  Frankly, there are two main reasons I would never get divorced… again.   Nope, make that three: 1) my children, 2) my body, and 3) my body.  It has taken me almost twenty years to train my husband to accept its many flaws (after the bait and marrriage invitationswitch routine of getting together when I was thin and in shape).  I’m too embarrassed to put this thing back on the market and frankly, it wouldn’t sell.  I don’t suppose I could give it away, come to think of it.

So, when having a heated discussion with your spouse, remember to repeatedly state
positive mantras like “OK, you know I love you…” to be followed by the real point, “but you really have to curb your mother!”  Never use hateful language, and it is a good idea to come up with code language, or a “safe” word, during an argument that will alert your spouse that this tragic, marital mutation of foreplay has gone too far.  If you need to swear in exasperation, perhaps go for a made-up cuss word that both satisfies, like “geegernbuggle,” and also sends a message that you are at your wit’s end.  Nothing brings more pleasure than a fricative, by the by, and German is full of silly fricatives.  A well timed “Fahrvergnügen fliegen scheisse!” goes a long way.  Just never, ever leave your kids thinking that they need to fear for the union of the core family.  They can rest assured that their parents are shackled together in matrimony no matter how much they hate each other!  Hopefully you will find the exchange below edifying.

“Have you seen my car keys, honey?”

“Not after I found them for you last week, nope.”

“Thanks for the sarcasm, but I am already late for a meeting and need all the help I can get, sweetie.”

“But I’m in the bathroom.  And I hate it when you talk to me while I’m in the durn tootin’, flick flocking bathroom.  You know that!”

“Little ears, little ears….”

“But you know I love you!”

“Me, too!  OK, the kids’re in the kitchen now.  So… any thoughts on those keys?”

“Maybe they’re up your….”

“Ears, ears are back!”

“Up your ears, darling cakes!  That’s where the kinkerlinking keys must be!”

“Oops, wait!  They’re in my pocket.  Sorry, my bad!”

That conversation, albeit tinged with bitterness and resentment, is pretty tame.  Bottom line, you must always be aware of your children’s whereabouts, particularly when involved in a confrontation.  Yes, the fact that my husband has lost pretty much everything he has ever owned at least once, including one of our children at a museum, does drive me to distraction.  And it is true that there is no activity more violating than the interruption of one’s bathroom time.  Nonetheless, we must retain our dignity even when we lose our shnorfinkle cool a bit.

Anyhoo, pfyrshleeng marriage!  Am I right?

I Think, Therefore I Am- No Batteries or Sex Required

The great thinker, Rene Descartes himself, gave us the foundation upon which to deny s-e-x: thought alone- no base act- produces existence!  Granted, it takes some convincing for kids to accept this, but you have to stick to your guns.  Throughout my years as an educator and a parent, I have imagined people asking me “How should children learn about sex?”  My response never varies.  “Please, let them learn about sex the way the rest of us did- from our friends.”   If I had learned about sex from my parents, I might have never had sex or even gotten married… either time!  Sorting out the inaccuracies she hears about sex on the playground will help my daughter distinguish bad from good information later on- like when she is writing an English paper at the eleventh hour and is having to sift through and judge which internet sources are reliable.  Is sex really the way Lucy described it or was cooty-laden Ralph more accurate?  Lucy is a friend but has been known to buy that nonsense about garden gnomes coming to life after dark.  Ralph on the other hand, although unappealing, did explain with great accuracy how to burp the alphabet- a real guy-in-the-know, if you will.  Which source is trustworthy and which one is not?  Aha!  That is where the real analysis takes place.  Now she will be prepared for the future!  She will already have had the benefit of confronting a tough dilemma and seeing if her educated guess turned out to be right or not.  Think of it like this: just as Latin class helps with the SAT vocabulary section, sifting through erroneous information develops critical thinking skills.   So, don’t feel bad about this particular set of lies.  You’re actually helping your kid!  It’s called problem solving and resourcefulness.  It’s all the rage.  Really.  Look it up!

So, continue to deny any knowledge of sex.  For us visual learners, here is a handy-dandy flow chart to tackle the potential, pesky ramifications for children ranging from “easy to please” to the tenacious.   The chart shows how a child can escalate the situation by rejecting a perfectly good deflection.  Remember: you have to stay ahead of them and be able to predict their next move.  Let us not forget that children are like terriers; they are cunning and do not use their intelligence for good.  They want their curious minds satisfied but they are not prepared for the awful truth.  These series of parental responses are very helpful.  You can fill in the blank for the child’s question- it can come in many forms.  That is not important- just focus on the parent’s ability to squeeze through some pretty narrow spaces!

Running in the Aisles….

Shopping with children has long been a unique form of torture.  “I want that, I’m tired, I have to pee, why can’t we go home…” and the list goes on and on.   As if that weren’t bad enough, once children learn how to read, you really have to pick your aisles carefully.  Danger lurks everywhere: feminine hygiene, hemorrhoid creams, lubricants, and let us not forget, the ever present condom- so many fun family topics!supermarket

Oh, my friends, beware the condom aisle.  My advice?  If you suddenly find yourself there, run and run fast!  If you cannot run fast enough, think even faster.  Take a recent experience I had with my own spawn.  (Note: the name of the guilty condom has been changed in order to avoid a lawsuit, but the experience is depicted accurately.)

We were in a particular pharmacy for the first time and I did not know the lay of the land.  All I wanted was to purchase sunscreen when we mistakenly walked by a section of condoms.  I ushered my children through as quickly as possible but one of the boxes caught my son’s eye and he started repeatedly asking “what’s that?  what’s that?” as I dragged him down the aisle.

“Nothing, dear, nothing at all!” I sang as we made it out of the danger zone.

“But it said ‘surprise’ on it.  I want to be surprised….”  Damned advanced kindergarten class!  And no, son, no you don’t want to be ‘Sir-prized!’  Trust mommy.

I clearly had no choice but to face his repeated questions head-on.  “Well, you know how we always have piñatas at your birthday parties, full of goodies?”

“Yippee, I love my Spongebob piñata!  But we had to tape him back together because cousin Iain beat him really hard.  Almost killed poor Spongey!”

“Yes, I remember, dear.  OK, sometimes adults have a party that requires a kind of piñata.  So, that ‘Sir-prize!’ is for adults when they beat their-um- ‘piñata.’”

“Oh- so that’s an adult goodie that goes inside your piñata?”

“Don’t go messing with metaphors, kid.  Let’s just focus on the fact that it’s not for you to worry about; it’s for adults- adults!”

“Cool!  But do you ever have a piñata party?”

“No, mommy normally has a headache.”

“Poor mommy!”

“Yep, poor, poor mommy!”  See how easy that was?  It’s very important to create an understanding in your kids’ minds that there is an adult world that they have no business in, and that we as parents are protecting them from this world.  Once they can wrap their pretty little heads around that fact, you can easily push them away from an unpleasant topic.   Remember, items such as condoms are gateway drugs to all sorts of peril.

And by the by, the only thing that should  be ribbed is your sweater.

Leprechauns- less likely than a tooth fairy?

Last week my son’s class had an activity which consisted in building a leprechaun trap.  Of course, the next day came and went with no catch whatsoever- only the telltale green sparkle that is apparently the hallmark of the leprechaun.  I can only imagine what a Dyson vacuum cleaner goes for in Tipperary.leprechaun

Of course, one of my sons’s peers (let’s call him “Sean”) felt the need to pull him aside and point out that this was all a sham put on by the teacher, and Sean was too damned smart to fall for such shenanigans.  Well, top o’ the mornin’ to ya!  Thanks for that bundle of confusion you sent my way, Sean!  I’d like to Blarney your stones….

The evening of the big reveal, my son told me about Sean’s pearls of wisdom and asked me teary-eyed if I believed in leprechauns.  I truthfully said that I believed that there were many mysterious and strange phenomena that I could not begin to understand, much less explain.  I was primarily thinking of the aurora borealis and Spanx.  Definitely Spanx.

I reminded him about the tooth fairy and Santa, and that just because the poor leprechaun was not well-heeled enough to leave a token, he should not be thought less of.  This seemed to have comforted him tremendously and we had our usual talk whenever confronted with doubt.  I explained yet again that “not believing” was not a sign of intelligence or maturity.  It was just plain stubbornness- and more importantly, it was sad for whatever was being rejected by the jaded unbeliever.  Poor little leprechaun and his humble green sparkle!  This tugged at his empathy strings and within minutes my little boy was smiling peacefully.

A child’s imagination is stoked and his heart is filled with joy when leprechaun traps are built.  And potential engineering careers are encouraged.  And all is well with the world.

Oh, but Sean is banned from all future play dates.  He can pogue mahone any time.  Éirinn go Brách!

Which Came First…?

Remember to always be alert and never let down your guard.  This morning our sweet son asked for a boiled egg for breakfast.   Seemed innocent enough!  Since he wantedegg to help with the cooking, he got the egg out of the refrigerator and jokingly said that if he dropped it, it would be “chicken murder.”

After we all had a good laugh- or not (the kid is seriously morbid)- I could see the little wheels turning in his head.  He was up to one of the most treacherous of juvenile activities: thinking.  Nothing more dangerous than a little information with no great smarts to back it up!

“Wait, is there a chick in the egg, Mommy?”

“No, son, of course not.  You have seen plenty of cracked eggs and you know that there is nothing there but yolk and egg white.”  I knew where this was going….

“So, why isn’t there a chick in the eggshell?”  Like I am about to explain fertilization to the kid.  You introduce sex into the infantile world and childhood is over.  I know.  We have already discussed this, but I feel the need to reiterate.  No more tooth fairy.  No more Easter Bunny.  No more Santa.  Would Santa do that to Mrs. Claus?  I don’t think so!

“Well, son, there are two kinds of eggs.  Some eggs become chicks and the others  become breakfast.  Two kinds, see?”

“Oh!  I get it!  How do the eggs know which kind they are, Mommy?”

“How do you know what you are, kid?”

“Hmm.  OK, but how do the eggs know?”  Push-back.  Expect it.  Go monotone and glassy eyed.

“Really, son, I am no expert in the chicken industry and my advice is not to look into it too much.  You’ll never eat fowl again.  That’s a homonym to remember.”

“Sounds boring.  Hey, I’m hungry.  Can we make the egg now?”  There we go.  Start sounding like a teacher and anyone will tune you out.  I know.  Because I am a teacher.

Kids don’t want the real answers to these sorts of questions.  No one does!  Plus, chicken sex- what’s that about?  Gives a whole new meaning to “gamecock.”  Not a visual I need any time soon.

Children are exploring the world at large and it is our responsibility to keep them safe.  It’s the same logic as why you would never let your kid cross a street alone just because he wants to go to the playground around the block.  You certainly don’t want them wandering around out there considering the insemination of chickens in tacky, poorly lit hen houses with some pimp farmer barking out orders to an oversexed rooster nicknamed “Max the Roto Rooter. ”  No, you really don’t.