Six “truths” all parents know about dance recitals

1. The idea of a recital is better than the reality.

Don’t get me wrong, it is beyond fantastic to watch your little tyke in the spotlight, wearing an enchanting costume and appearing more groomed that you’ve ever seen her (or him) in her (or his) short life.

But your joy will deflate into butt-numbing despair as troop after troop of pint-sized Pavlovas stumbles on to the stage for their turn.

Heading into Hour 3 of this extravaganza, you will die a little inside when yet another class assembles to perform an interpretive dance to the extended version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

2. These things are ridiculously expensive.

On top of the tuition you’ve paid all year, you will be expected to fork over for a costume, and, in some cases, a recital “fee” to cover the cost of a venue.

For my daughter’s show, those charges were $95 and $75 respectively. I paid less than $95 for my prom dress. Some of the older students had three or four different costumes, so I can only imagine what their parents had to pawn to cover the cost.

Add in professional photos and the obligatory bouquet of flowers and you will walk away from the theater feeling like you’ve been mugged.

3. The otherwise normal and lovely staff at you child’s dance school will turn into lunatics.

I can’t even imagined the pressure these people are under to put on the perfect show. In addition to the fact that parents can be over demanding a-holes, the whole event serves a marketing purpose for the school. Personally, I wouldn’t want the fate of my business to rest in the hands of a 3-year-old’s ability to execute the perfect jazz square to “Hakuna Matata,” but that’s just me.

The woman who runs my daughter’s school is lovely and kind and speaks to the children in a calm voice and makes each one feel special.

During the week of rehearsals leading up to the show, it was as if she ate guano for breakfast.

Her staff shrank in her presence. She yelled at a mother because her 4-year-old child’s ballet shoe lace had come undone. She screamed at the narrator, who I believe is her grandson.

The night before the big show she sent out an email at 10 p.m. that was so desperate you could almost smell the gin on her breath through the screen:

Please, please, please, send your child in with CLEAN tights — no rips, holes or stains.

Please make sure your child’s hair is slicked back OFF HER FACE. Stage makeup should be applied in advance.

PLEASE BE ON TIME.

The subject line was “Listen Up, You F—king Idiots: I’m Not Going to Have My Business Ruined Because Your Children Are Borderline Feral.”

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.

4. You will find yourself getting a little offended by something.

Maybe this is just me.

In my daughter’s show, several classes danced to parts of the overture from “The Sound of Music.” Because presumably we wouldn’t get that, even though it was printed in the program and introduced by the narrator, there was a segue number featuring a pack of teenage girls dressed as nuns pas de boureeing across the stage.

I’m not particularly religious, but when I saw this during dress rehearsal, I had to push my mouth shut. It just seemed a little irreverent, even though the nuns were executing lovely adagio moves and not break dancing. All I could wonder is, what’s next, a rabbi kick line? Imams executing the perfect splits?

In addition, at least one number in every dance recital will feature little girls looking really… unlittle girlish.

When a pack of 8-year-olds in harem pants starts twerking, you know that someone’s lost the plot.

5. The best place to be is backstage.

This year I volunteered to supervise my daughter’s class backstage. Was it stressful? A little. Boring? Not at all.

Me and the 14 six-year-olds in my care had a blast, even though it takes a lot to keep kids that age from rioting when they’re hyped up but have to wait two hours for four minutes on stage.

After rousing games of “Simon Says” and “I Spy,” they were edging towards “Lord of the Flies” territory until I remembered my son’s favorite Internet page featuring kid-friendly Christmas jokes.

Or so I thought.

“What’s Santa’s favorite sandwich?” I read from my phone.

“What?”

“Peanut butter and jolly.”

They giggled.

“What does Tarzan sing at Christmas?”

“What?”

“Jungle Bells.”

They guffawed. Shouting to be heard, I called out:

“Who is Santa’s least friendly elf?”

Then I read the answer and my eyes went wide.

“Who?” they all asked.

“Um, Jeff. It’s Jeff,” I lied.

They pretended to get it. I switched off my phone. The real answer was “Gof—kyourself.” Seriously.

6. No matter how broke and exhausted you are by the time it’s over, you will look forward to the next one with great anticipation.

Because parents are suckers.

how-students-can-prepare-for-dance-recitals_1798_40057736_0_14115220_500-640x427

The Kids Are All Write

It’s a given: all parents are inordinately proud of anything their children create. From the first rudimentary crayon etchings to the hand-made popsicle stick picture frames, we simply live to marvel over anything they’ve put their hearts and minds to.

I’ll never forget the absolute thrill I experienced when my son produced his first “drawing.” You see, according to my sleep-deprived, slightly deranged mind, this was the first sign that he was communicating with me. Up until then, I had been doing all the talking, keeping up a non-stop stream of conversation in which I asked and answered all the questions, made all the observations, cracked the best “A priest, a rabbi and a lawyer walked into a bar” jokes.

When he finally put Crayola to paper and left a permanent imprint, I felt like, for the first time, I was privy to what was going on in that sweet little head:

 

Crayon

I know, I know: he’s a friggin’ GENIUS, right?

When he started preschool it became my daily thrill to dig through his Thomas the Train backpack and pull out his drawings, his paintings and his collages.

The excitement only grew when his sister started school. Now that they’re old enough to write, opening their backpacks every day has become even more interesting.

My son has become a particularly prolific author, although his earlier work tended to get bogged down with details:

Ages

Chapter One spring break   

It was spring break and Alice was going to Ashley’s house. I can’t wait to be there Alice exclaimed.
All right calm down said her father. She was 9 1/2 years old and Ashley appeared to be 10 or 11 years old. But Ashley’s half birthday was tomorrow. She’ll be 10 1/2 tomorrow her father exclaimed. 
Her father was 47 3/4.

 

It evolved as he discovered new elements of punctuation:

Exclamation

Chapter 2 It Begins to Snow
Let’s read books said Ashley! Okay said Alice! You read! said Alice!
Chapter 1 Piano Lessons!
Ohhh! said Ashley! one day Lily was going to get piano lessons. She was 10 years old. Ohh! just like you exclaimed Alice! Then Mr. Handmachine stepped up to Lily!

(He also obviously had issues with chronology. And I don’t even want to know who Mr. Handmachine is.)

After reading six pages of the following, I had a talk with him about pacing:

Wahahaha

 

For a while, many of his stories focused on super heroes, such as the high-concept character known as:

Super Naked Hero

 

And the dignified:

Captain bottom
Finally, a hero we can all get behind. (Get it???)

When he began reading ghost stories his own writing focused more on the macabre. Let me tell you, as a parent nothing makes you prouder than to know your 8-year-old produced the following:

Razor blade

“Thooommmassss and Crrrissss haavvveee a nice triiipp, moaned the ghost. And the ghost got out a razor blade and it cut out Thomas and Cris’s stomach and blood was everywhere. The End!”

So stinkin’ cute.

The real hero in this situation, though, is his teacher. Not once has this lovely man suggested professional help or called my son a psycho. Instead, he writes the sweetest, most encouraging notes in the margins.

Considering the following passage:

Parents on wall

“It was a dark and stormy night and Thomas and Chris were heading back to their house. And when they opened the door and their parents were hanging on the wall.”

If you squint you can see that his teacher wrote the following:

“I bet they were surprised!”

Of course, my son isn’t the only talented author in the class. Two of his friends have written a series of novellas dedicated to my son recounting the adventures of a hamburger named Sesome (deliberately spelled incorrectly, they assured me). I must say, Sesome is one of the most three-dimensional characters I’ve come across in recent memory.

Consider this passage:

Sesame Frenchie

“One day Sesome could not get out of bed. He could not stop thinking about Mrs. Frenchie. She was hot, well, at least to him.”

They are truly masterful authors to let the reader decide whether Mrs. Frenchie was, indeed, “hot” by objective standards, or attractive only to Sesome because of some detected spark between the two.

Nearly as impressive is their ability to weave modern American slang into their prose. Consider this passage, after Sesome successfully thwarts a bank robbery:

Sesame Popo

“…Sesome grabbed the bag and ran. He gave it to the PoPo (police).”

Aren’t kids awesome???

This isn’t to say that they limit themselves to the short story genre. Here is a poem my son wrote and then tried to charge me for:

My mom

My mom’s poem
My mom is cool because she is really nice. She let’s Stella the cat in. She is 40 years old. She is very nice to us. She cooke’s dinner. She stays healthy and calm!
The End!

You know what? I am cool. And nice. And I do spend all day letting the cat in and cooking dinner.

But he didn’t get a dime.

Then there was this public service announcement masquerading as fiction:

Ugly Lady

Chapter Two
The Very Ughly Lady
Once upon a time there (three) sister’s. Two sister’s were good. But the third was smoking. She was super ughly!!! The End

I could be wrong here, but I think he is trying to say that smoking is bad and anyone who does it is not only bad but ugly. Not just regular ugly either but UGHLY, with an “h.”

Of course, I don’t always understand everything I pull from his bag. Since I’ve never played dodge ball (let alone “doogeball”) in full protective gear against an angry village mob, this threw me for a loop:

Doogeball

And I’m beyond curious as to what is happening to the unfortunate creature on the right:

Tinker Bell

This is not to say that my son is the only one who makes my heart burst with maternal pride. The following missive recounting our cat’s hygiene practices was penned by my daughter and shall remain in my possession for eternity:

Stelle butt licker

Just. So. Proud.

 

If you enjoyed this, feel free to share it. If you want to receive blog updates, please click here.

llll

The very real emotional void filled by my cat, who is a major a–hole

 

My family doesn’t have a great track record with pets. Until recently, our one and only foray into animal ownership was with neon colored fish who kept dying at the worst possible times.

While everyone kept telling us a dog would be therapeutic for the children, I was concerned it would be less-than-therapeutic for me, since I would no doubt bear the brunt of feeding, walking and cleaning up after the thing.

I’ve wanted a cat for years, but my husband is “allergic” to them in that he hates them.

He managed to get over his “allergies” when the children and I fell in love with a sweet white cat with dazzling green eyes who began lolling about in our garden shortly after we moved into our new house.

“Can we keep her?” my kids asked.

I desperately wanted to say yes, but didn’t want to “take” her if she belonged to someone. We put up posters around the neighborhood and tucked hand made fliers in people’s mailboxes. I joined the neighborhood Facebook page and posted her photo but heard nothing.

So, one day I scooped her into a cat carrier and took her to the vet. It turns out she was microchipped and did belong to someone, who didn’t seem at all surprised to hear she was out making eyes at another family.

“She just never bonded with us,” her owner explained, when I called her from the vet’s office. “She comes in at night when we are asleep to eat but otherwise she avoids us.”

I realized I was holding my breath. My children were crazy about this sweet cat, especially Jack, who would spend hours sitting by her side and talking to her.

I was hugely relieved when the woman said we could keep the cat, who my children had named Stella.

To say Stella has brought joy into our house is an understatement. The children adore her. They argue over who gets to feed her, they are thrilled when she chooses to sleep next to them.

As a mother, anything that makes your children happy that isn’t bad for them has a special place in your heart.

But I’ll admit that I have selfish and slightly unhealthy reasons for loving this cat. She is, after all, the baby who will never grow up.

My children are still at the age where they like me. I know that will all change. As part of their growth and development they will need to break away from me, and nature’s preferred method seems to be a spontaneous and organic lobotomy that convinces adolescents their parents are lame idiots who exist merely to embarrass them.

Oh sure, they’ll pass through this phase. (I hope.) But it will never be the same as it is now, when they throw their little arms around me and tell me I’m the best mommy ever, or fall asleep cuddled up next to me, or run to me in excitement to show off the drawings they’ve made or read me the stories they’ve written.

I get that it’s all a part of a healthy emotional development, that without this rebellion they could end up living in my basement as adults, making suits from the skin of slaughtered invalids.

I get it. It doesn’t mean I like it.

Raising children is like being madly in love with someone you know will some day break up with you. You just hope that, in the aftermath, they’ll still want to be friends.

But pets? Pets are different.

As long as I keep the Meow Mix coming, Stella will like me.

With Stella, my kisses won’t suddenly become “lame.” I won’t embarrass her for reasons unknown. I won’t be pinpointed as the cause of her irrational fear of clowns, just because I happened to jump out of the closet in a Bozo suit dripping fake blood and screaming her name as a prank those five nights in a row back in kindergarten.

Of course, because cats are part angel, part a—hole, there are times when I wish we could rethink this unhealthy relationship. While all cats chase and kill small animals, Stella is somewhat of an overachiever in this regard.

Not a day goes by when the carcass of a bird, mouse, rat, lizard or squirrel doesn’t turn up by the back door. Unless I bury their corpses incredibly well, she will DIG THEM BACK UP and play with their rotten, maggot-infested bodies. And then come inside for kisses smelling like death.

One day I discovered she had tucked a couple of lizard corpses under the front door welcome mat and so I tried, unsuccessfully, to sweep them into the bushes. Because their lower halves had been flattened into the front step, their heads flopped back and forth like windshield wipers. I finally managed to scrape them off with a trowel.

It almost made me reconsider the wisdom of making her my emotional crutch.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll forever be a sucker for that adorable, contempt-filled face and sociopathic spirit.

 

20160803_090114
The little lady who’s going to help me deal with my children growing up. Here she is striking the classic feline pose known as “Get that effing thing out of my face.”

 

My new favorite kind of birthday party for kids: The “Parents, GTFO” kind

 

As any parent will tell you, March and April are brutal months when it comes to kids’  birthday parties. Starting around February your inbox will be flooded with eVites so numerous you’d almost welcome a plea for help from a member of Nigeria’s royal family.

The past few weekends my husband and I have hardly seen each other in our quest to get both kids to their designated party points. I spent spare moments wrapping gifts. Our bank called and asked if we wanted to do a direct deposit every month to Toys R Us.

In some ways, these parties are great because they give your kids something to do, neatly killing a little bit of dead time with minimal effort on your part as a parent.

But unfortunately, these days it is assumed that you will stick around to keep an eye on your kid and make awkward conversation with relative strangers. (Kind of like modern play dates.)

By now, I’ve watched countless magicians — or “illusionists,” as they prefer to be called — ply their trade, wondering if they date much. I’ve seen scores of little girls lose their minds when they come face to face with teenage girls in Elsa costumes. I’ve enjoyed the banter of pint-sized athletes as they go face-to-knee with the refs at basketball games. (“I guess we’re not calling traveling?” a 6-year-old asked the teenage boy overseeing the game at a party last weekend. I looked into adopting him but his parents didn’t go for it.)

It can be fun if you know the other parents but that’s pretty rare. It can get uncomfortable if alcohol is served and a parent overindulges and acts weird, such as the dad at a party last year who kept bugging me to admit I was Jewish. (I’m not, he was. I took his assumption as a compliment, although it got old the fifth time he slurred, “Are you sure you’re not Jewish?” “Pretty sure I’d remember being one of God’s Chosen People,” I replied.)

But lately, a new kind of party invitation has been coming through my inbox. Among the details of date, time and location, parents have been adding a note along the lines of, “Please leave your child here and pick him/her up when the party finishes.” You know, the way birthday parties used to be.

The first time I received such an invitation, I almost wept with joy. It was a double score because I didn’t know the hosts well and the party was near a superb shopping center I don’t go to much because it’s so far away.

I was so excited to have an hour and a half to myself I considered slowing down and pushing my daughter out of the car when we arrived at the birthday girl’s house just to save time. In the end, I walked her to the front door, rang the door bell and jogged backward down the driveway blowing kisses. (“Have fun! Be good! Love you!”)

For the next 90 minutes I lived like a rock star. That’s right: I went to a Marshalls Homegoods store. It. Was. Awesome.

When I’d had enough of that I sat in a coffee shop and read a book. It was one of the most relaxing Saturday mornings in recent memory.

Coming up this weekend I have another “drop off only” party and I can’t wait. This one is for three hours so you can only imagine the shenanigans I’ll be getting into. That’s right, Burlington Coat Factory, prepare to be DOMINATED.

images
Thanks for coming! Don’t let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya.

 

 

Dear Family: You hereby have my permission to flush

 

To my lovely family,

It has come to my attention that you all have a major concern about drought in the area. Or that you all suffer swift and devastating short-term memory loss immediately after having evacuated your bladders and/or bowels. Or worse, that you believe the horrible Toilet Monster — a Kindestod-type character that could have come straight out of the Grimm brothers had indoor plumbing been their contemporary — will rear up and visit havoc upon our household should you part with your bodily waste.

Well, as a representative of the management in this establishment, I am here to confidently assure you that you can rejoice and rest easy: Nothing bad will happen should you choose to flush the toilet after using it.

Seriously, trust me on this.

I know, I know: It can be a bit intimidating to push that handle, what with the barely audible noise it makes as it performs its essential function. It can be difficult to say good-bye to a substance to which you have absolutely no emotional attachment.

But believe me, it’s better in the long run.

And despite what you seem to think, I will NOT be angry at you if you flush. Let’s just clarify that right now. Nothing would delight me more than to use a toilet that hasn’t already been “marked,” or to live in a house that doesn’t have the vague and constant whiff of a port-a-potty.

While we’re on the topic of actions that would not make me angry, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing your used dishes to the sink. It’s crazy but true. The kitchen table will not suddenly collapse should it be freed of its burden. After all, it’s the legs that keep it standing, not the peanut butter smeared, crumb littered plates resting on its surface.

The sink will not open up and swallow you whole should you choose to place your dirty dishes therein. The sink LOVES dirty dishes. In fact, you can hear it sobbing gently every night after I have whisked the dirty dishes from its maw and deposited them in the dishwasher to be rocked and scrubbed to sleep.

It misses those dishes. Don’t make it sadder than it needs to be.

Also, every time you grab my shirt and use it as a handkerchief and/or hand towel, my soul dies a little bit. Just so you know.

If we’re out of something that you use but I don’t — shredded wheat, blue cheese, chia seeds — it is perfectly acceptable to tell me. It would not make me feel inadequate to find out I didn’t guess this. In fact, I would prefer to know you need more of a certain item BEFORE I go to the store than to hear you ask if I picked up said item AFTER I get home. As efficient as it would be for me to perform a complete inventory of the fridge, freezer and cupboard every single time I go to the grocery store, I don’t. Instead I rely on the GROCERY LIST I place IN PLAIN SIGHT on the KITCHEN COUNTER to determine what we need. No special password is required to make entries on this list. Simply pick up the giant novelty pen with feathers on top for easy location and jot away.

Speaking of food, if you are standing in front of the fridge, door open, head inserted, looking for something, and I am engaged in an activity in a different room or on a different floor of the house, you will probably have better luck locating said item than I will. Contrary to popular belief, being born without man junk does not give one a photographic memory or the ability to recall at will the location of every item in the fridge, freezer, pantry or someone else’s sock drawer with pinpoint accuracy.

At the very least, try moving some items around and looking for longer than 10 seconds before asking me to solve the Mystery of the Missing Mustard while I am upstairs attempting to unclog a toilet that hasn’t been flushed in 24 hours.

And so help me, if you use the last of the mustard, don’t put “Mustard” on the list and then ask if we are out of mustard, I will cut you.

Don’t get me wrong family, I love you. Usually. It is only by having frank discussions about these things that we will keep our sanity. Or what passes for it.

Taking your children to the theater: a 28-step guide for parents

  1. Notice an ad for a live theater production aimed at children.
  2. Feel immediate guilt. You don’t do cultural stuff like this nearly as much as you should and your children need to, like, get intellectualized and stuff. Also, what else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.?
  3. Visit the show’s website. Read testimonials from parents about how amaze balls the production was. Doubt that little Connor instantly became a math prodigy after watching dinosaur puppets, but still reckon the show might kill a few hours.
  4. Click on the “Buy Tickets” button.
  5. Recover from aneurysm induced by ticket prices and scroll down, looking for seats that won’t cost the equivalent of a new set of tires.
  6. Discover that the only somewhat affordable seats will place you in the back of the highest balcony or so far to the left or right of the stage you will have an obstructed view. Ponder if your children will even notice.
  7. Feel immediate guilt and scroll back up until you find a happy medium. Back row of the orchestra section is perfectly acceptable.
  8. Click on tickets. When the computer asks if you want to donate money so an underprivileged child can go see the production automatically click on “Yes.” Wonder if there’s any way you could actually take the underprivileged child yourself, since you can already tell by the fact you are spending so much money that your children will hate the show.
  9. Recover from second aneurysm induced by final total. Taxes and “occupancy fees” — whatever the hell those are — have added an extra $50. Wonder if it’s worth it.
  10. Feel immediate guilt. You caught your youngest trying to stick a pencil in the cat’s ear the other day. You need to get these kids some culture, stat.
  11. Buy the tickets.
  12. Feel immediate guilt for spending so much money.
  13. Tell your spouse about the event but do it in code so the children don’t pick up on it. Children are programmed to think everything is about to start five minutes after they learn about it, so if you mention it now they will lose their s—t and ask you every hour when the show starts. Even if you say “Next April,” they will persist.
  14. The day of the event, 10 minutes before you are scheduled to leave, tell your children about the show. Your children will announce they don’t want to go, no matter how well you play up the event in question. (“It features live dinosaurs!” “I hate dinosaurs.” “You love them.” “I’d rather just stay here.” “And do what?” “Roll around on this exercise ball.” “It’s LIVE motherf—king dinosaurs!”)
  15. Force march everyone to the car and then into the theater.
  16. Look around the audience and wonder where the underprivileged kids are. These children all look distinctly privileged (yours included). Note that some of the little girls are wearing outfits that cost more than your monthly car payment.
  17. Explain to the children why you aren’t sitting closer to the stage.
  18. Enjoy the first 10 minutes of the show, when the puppeteers bring out baby dinosaurs. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
  19. Explain to your children that, even though they have raised their hands whenever the narrator asks for volunteers, it doesn’t mean they will get the chance to go onstage.
  20. Comfort your children when a giant prehistoric dragonfly puppet gets too close to them.
  21. Point out the legs of the puppeteer moving the triceratops that just lumbered onstage, because it is kinda big and your kids are starting to lose their s—t.
  22. Clutch your screaming, sobbing children and escort them to the exit when the giant T-Rex puppet crashes through the scenery and roars at the crowd, prompting roughly half of the audience to erupt in terrified tears and more than a few patrons to soil themselves.
  23. Wonder how the show’s producers sleep at night knowing that they have literally scared the crap out of a bunch of toddlers.
  24. Vow not to try another trip to the theater for a long time.
  25. Smack your forehead when your son spies a poster in the lobby for the theater’s upcoming double bill Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci and asks, “Can we go see this?”
  26. Remind him that he called your Gilbert and Sullivan CDs “garbage” and explain that real opera is a million times worse.
  27. Feel immediate guilt for dissing opera.
  28. Go home and let your children roll around on an exercise ball.

That mom in the viral BBC interview video? That mom is all of us.

By now you’ve probably seen the clip shared ‘round the world of Professor Robert Kelly being interrupted mid-Skype interview with the BBC by his two adorable children:

Kelly, an associate professor of international relations at South Korea’s Pusan National University, has been commended for keeping his cool during the whole affair. He neither broke contact with the camera nor smacked the child with a brick, as some might have done. The children have been praised for being so darn freaking cute.

But I think we are missing the true hero of this entire episode and that is the frantic mother who comes slamming into the room and hustles the kids out with the speed and dexterity of a special ops commando.

This moment, now forever cemented into our hearts and YouTube viewing histories, is pure gold because it perfectly and silently sums up parenthood.

While the rest of the world is busy being articulate, well-groomed and capable of discussing weighty matters such as the geopolitical ramifications of leadership change in South Korea, parents are a bunch of lumbering, frantic maniacs scrambling about on what amounts to a never-ending suicide watch over creatures who have the speed and determination of pumas but the common sense of dog turds.

(At least one commentator has already described the scene as the “patriarchy in a nutshell,” but honestly, I can just as easily see a mother in the interview seat while a beleaguered dad scampers after the tiny offenders in the background.)

Any parent watching that scene can hear her inner monologue:

“S—t, s—t, s—t! I turn my back for one minute to clean up the cat barf the toddler was using to finger paint the baby and she runs in and interrupts what was probably the most important analysis to take place of Park Geunhye’s ousting EVER. Crap, crap. Am I still in the shot? I’m still in the f—king shot. Just. Gotta. Get. This. Door. Shut.”

This woman is a maternal goddess in my book. Some might deduct points for the fact she “let” the kids slip past her to get into Dad’s interview den, but in my opinion those people are heartless douche bags who can go eff themselves.

Kids are slippery, stealthy, crafty little Houdinis at that age. For all we know that adorable toddler hamming it up over Dad’s left shoulder just undid five “child-proof” locks and drugged the dog before creeping into that room.

The fact that Mom caught them in the act at all makes her a g-dd—n hero, in my opinion. My kids would have managed to pop the top on a value-sized bottle of aspirin and waggle their naked butts at the camera before I caught on that they weren’t, in fact, watching Backyardigans in the living room like I thought.

Hell, even her form is impressive. The speed that sends her practically sliding across the floor, the skill that allows her to corral the toddler and yank the baby’s walker out of the shot, the physical strength that allows her to crawl practically combat style back to the door to yank it shut?

If retrieving interview-destroying little people from Dad’s study were an Olympic sport, this woman would win mad gold, y’all.

What is even more impressive is that she accomplished it on four hours sleep, tops. She has the deadly toddler-baby combo on her hands, which means she is on call round-the-clock, dealing with the demands of two insatiable — but adorable — little maniacs.

Pair that with the fact that Dad was probably sweating bullets over his appearance on the BBC, she’d probably been on high alert all morning. No doubt she helped him pick out his suit, gave him a pep talk, tidied the bed and neatly stacked the books in the background — all without having showered or eaten — before assuming kid duty so Dad could get his brain on in a live international broadcast.

Even if she is, as some have suggested, a nanny, she is AWESOME. I adore her. If I ever get to meet her I’m buying her the biggest box of Chardonnay Rite Aid sells.

How my ‘career’ prepared me for motherhood

The other day, my son threw open the door to his room and called out, “Shop! Shop! The shop is open!”

I took my cue and went in to browse. My son pointed me toward the bed, which was strewn with an array of random objects.

“The stuff in the way back is all clearance,” he explained. “But those items are final sale.”

“Good to know.”

I left the “shop” with a snow globe, a teddy bear, a single sock, two pencils, a cat toy, three books, a pillow and an earring I had lost months before, apparently behind his bed. Apart from the pillow, everything had been packed into two carrier bags.

The total had come to $5,000.

“Where are we? Venezuela?” I had asked.

He nodded seriously.

“Yes. Yes, we are.”

While swiping my imaginary credit card (he wouldn’t accept imaginary cash) he asked me to put my name and email down on his mailing list for special offers.

What can I say? The kid knows his retail.

When his dad arrived home from work, Jack scurried back up to his room.

“Shop! Shop! The shop is open!”

My husband, good sport that he is,  went to have a look.

“Sorry, sir, that’s the wrong door,” my son said.

My husband stood looking confused.

“You have to climb over that barrier first,” my son said, pointing to absolutely nothing.

“I climb over the barrier,” my husband said. “Okay.”

“Now you have to duck under the other barrier.”

He ducked.

“Now you go down the slide.”

He slid. Or pretended to.

“Am I in the shop yet?” he asked and my son nodded.

“The items in the back row are clearance. They are final sale.”

My husband’s haul came to $10,000.

“That’s outrageous!” he cried.

“It’s a game, dear,” I reminded him.

He shook his head and paid, although I could tell his Scottish sensibilities were gravely offended.

“You know, your business model could use a little work,” he said, eyeing the store hours sign that read “Open: 10-11, 4-5.”

“And the entrance doesn’t make it easy for your customers to get in.”

My son shrugged and skipped down the stairs to play something else.

“Actually, I know a few stores that operate like this,” I said. “They’ve stayed in business for years.”

And herein lies the difference between my husband and me. Since finishing university he has always worked in the corporate world, where things are (for the most part) practical and make sense.

My background is in journalism. Did I wield my Fourth Estate powers as a hard-hitting correspondent for a major news network, uncovering corruption at the highest levels of government?

Let’s just say that no one got the results from the 4-H show unless I got to work on time.

As a small-town newspaper reporter I got to see it all. In some cases, twice.

Name a strange situation and I’ve been there. Think of the most outrageous lie someone could tell and I’ve heard it.

I once interviewed a woman who hoped her vast collection of Strawberry Shortcake memorabilia — rumored to be the largest in the world — would be enough to draw customers to the bed and breakfast she’d spent her life savings opening.

I spent several freezing hours making conversation with a cop next to the body of a man who had committed suicide by jumping from the highest building in town, a 6-story parking garage.

I nodded knowingly when an elderly woman hooked up to an oxygen tank and sucking back a beer at 2 p.m. informed me that the crappy post-industrial town she lived in was “God’s country.”

I’ve been cursed at by an Episcopalian priest, hugged by a prison warden and informed by a Somali refugee that I needed to gain weight. (Lovely woman, she was.)

It’s quite a job, one many ambitious young reporters use as a stepping stone to the big city dailies. That was a transition I would never make as I had little aptitude for the profession, in part because I have the world’s least developed news sense.

Here’s an approximation of the sort of conversation I had several times a week with my editor:

Me (hanging up the phone): “Gotta run! Someone’s found a frost heave in their driveway that resembles Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine. Should I bring a photographer?”

Editor: “We just got a tip that one the selectmen in [name of a town I covered, usually ending in -burg, -boro, -bury, -ford or -ton] has been arrested for embezzling municipal funds. He planned on using the money to run away with the police chief’s wife.”

Me: “Hmmm, tough call.”

Editor: “Not really. Cover the selectman story.”

Me (shrugging): “Okay but what’s my angle?”

So when my son pretended to open a store with crappy hours, inflationary prices and an impenetrable entrance, it all felt familiar. I was immediately transported back to one of countless “Make Downtown Relevant Again” meetings I used to sit through in any number of towns that ended in -burg, -boro, -bury, -ford or -ton.

The objective of each meeting was to draw visitors to the long neglected main retail drags people were bypassing to shop at the big box complexes opening up everywhere in small-town USA.

I distinctly remember the owner of a shop selling things no working class family needed or wanted — hand-thrown coffee mugs for $25 and monstrous-looking wire lawn ornaments hand-twisted in India for $75 to name two — lamenting she couldn’t compete with large retailers.

Because a journalist is never supposed to “get involved” in the story, I refrained from suggesting she’d have better luck selling things that more than five people in town could afford to buy. Or that her restricted hours 11-4, NO JOKE, might make it difficult for prospective customers who worked 9-5 to avail themselves of her pricey goods.

So I sat through meeting after meeting while artist coops and fair trade jewelers scratched their heads and fumed about losing customers to Walmart.

This resistance to logic was in no way limited to retailers. The upside of encountering these attitudes is that I never need to negate things when it comes to imaginary play. (I mean, not that I would.)

Your shop is at the end of a water slide? Cool!

You are a ballerina zombie who was brought back from the dead to fight evil? Rock on.

You made that pie out of dog s—t and rocks and you want me to have a slice? Ha-ha! Nice try. Put it down and wash your hands.

thomas-sign-e1488378491338.jpg
The sign my son made after I tried to shop with imaginary cash.

Five products that fail to deliver on their promise to parents

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
-The Princess Bride

Parents need to print out the above quotation and staple it to their foreheads. Because we repeatedly fall for marketing pitches that convince us certain products will make our existence as parents easier. They never do.

Here are five that have earned my seal of disapproval:

1. Nighttime diapers claiming not to resemble diapers

Produced for older children who are still having trouble mastering overnight bladder control — and there’s no shame in that — nearly every brand on the market claims to “look and feel like real underwear!” This is presumably so kids can go to sleepovers and not feel embarrassed.

It would work but for one simple reason: the second urine hits this diaper-in-disguise, it swells up like a marshmallow in a microwave. Unless your kid can convince his pals he has a ripcord in his drawers that he pulled in the middle of the night (“Got ‘em on Amazon”), everyone’s going to know he or she wet the bed.

2. Any lotion/cream/oil/belly balm that guarantees it can “reduce the appearance of stretch marks.”

Unless you’ve won the genetic lottery, your postpartum stomach will forever resemble the jowls of a depressed geriatric.

You want to know what reduces the appearance of stretch marks? Clothes.

Perhaps the marketing folks could start exploiting that. Cotton could go from being “The fabric of our lives” to “The fabric that lets you forget you can grasp a section of your stomach in your hands and pull six inches in any direction.”

3. “No more tears” shampoo

F—k you, Johnson and Johnson. Just. F—k. You.

4. Training pants that claim to make potty training easy.

You know what makes potty training easy? Having a kid who wants to be potty trained. All training pants do is make it easier for your child to pull down her pants and pee on the sofa while you’re in the other room.

5. Thermometers that claim to work.

Thermometers, whether of the forehead-swiping, ear-sticking, or tongue-tucking variety are presumably meant to give us a reliable approximation of our child’s temperature EVERY TIME WE USE THEM. This way we know whether to hit the “Oh crap!” panic button and call the doctor.

But unless you buy the $700 hospital-grade version, every parent will at one point be awake in the middle of the night with a feverish, sweating child and a thermometer that gives the repeated and cheerful reading of “97.5!”

 

If manufacturers really wanted to do parents a favor, they would mass-market the following products:

-A mute button. I’m kidding. Unless the technology already exists.

-A gage that shows how full your children’s bladders are since they can’t be trusted to relate these things reliably themselves.

-Five extra arms. One with a kung fu grip.

-A device that delivers controlled doses of chardonnay into your blood stream with the push of a button.

-A pill that immediately erases whatever dumb kids’ song that gets stuck in your head. (Get bent, Fresh Beat Band.)

Look back and laugh

You know when you’re going through a tough time and people say, “You’ll laugh about this one day”?

I’m kinda having one of those moments right now.

My last post here was about my daughter undergoing invasive scans to check the size of her cancerous tumors. Implied in that was all the pain this child has suffered since she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma as a baby, from the surgeries to the debilitating rounds of chemotherapy, the nights in the ER with sudden fevers to the non-stop vomiting and diarrhea.

So you can imagine something minor would leave her primary caregiver, me, completely unfazed.

Not even close.

Yesterday afternoon, when the same surviving cancer rock star daughter was closing the car door, she managed to trap her pinky in it.  As in, the door was ALL THE WAY SHUT, and she was shrieking and trying to pull her hand out.

And what did I, mother of a cancer patient, veteran of some seriously scary s—t do? I freaked the f—k out.

“NO!!!!!” I screamed, rushing to her and yanking the door open. Her pinky was slightly bent. And purple. Not good signs, but nothing major, at least compared to the botched biopsy they did on her skull five years ago.

“My baby! My baby!” I wailed, completely out of proportion to the situation at hand, hugging her tight.

“Jack!” I yelled to my son. “Get in the car, we’re going to the hospital.”

A skilled bystander in many a medical crisis, my son said, “Yay! Can I bring my iPad?”

Let me tell you I drove like I was heading to the Hazzard County line, Roscoe P. Coltrane in hot pursuit.

“Move! Please, move!” I called out to absolutely no one who could hear me. “This is an emergency.”

“Mom, you forgot the radio,” my son reminded me.

I punched the dial distractedly.

“No, not this song.”

In a Linda Blair voice I shouted, “I can’t change it, I’m driving! Your sister is in terrible pain!”

He glanced over at her.

“She looks fine to me.”

In truth she did. She had calmed down a lot and just sat sobbing quietly.

This didn’t stop me from screeching into the emergency room parking lot practically on two wheels, scooping my daughter up and running for the entrance.

“Mom! Wait for me!” my son called.

As always, the ER receptionists were calm and collected, which always drives me crazy. My daughter was quickly triaged and brought back for an X-ray.

“No shots?” my daughter asked everyone we encountered, from the receptionist to the janitor to a woman sitting with her sick baby in the waiting room.

“Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” the X-ray technician asked me as she draped a lead apron over my daughter.

“I would kick my husband’s a—,” I replied.

“I’ll take that as a ‘No,’” she said.

Back in the waiting room, my daughter asked if she would need a shot and then demanded to know where the gift shop was and if they sold stuffed animals. This kid knows her hospitals.

In next to no time, she was seen by a doctor, who, after assuring my daughter she wouldn’t need a shot, declared the pinky not broken, just swollen and tender. She wrapped it in a splint and told me to take her to an orthopedic surgeon in a week’s time to check for permanent damage.

My daughter was disappointed she didn’t get a cast, and downright aghast that she didn’t get to ride out on a wheelchair, which is how she usually exits the hospital.

“At least you don’t have to get any shots,” I reminded her.

All told, we were home in time for dinner, bath and bed.

And when the house was finally quiet, I had to laugh. Not because my daughter had been hurt, but because it was such a minor incident compared to everything she has gone through. If this is as bad as it gets from now on out, we’re going to be fine.

At least, we will be if I can learn to CALM THE EFF DOWN.