Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Defense of REMing...

"Honey? It's seven-thirty, time to get up."

"Did you know that Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness?"

"No. You're awfully informed for having just woke up."

"Radio was left on last night, woke up at 2, heard the report. Couldn't sleep so it was interesting."

"Why didn't you just turn it off?"

"It was interesting. It's a nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A. It reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests."

"Really? So are you a well rested monkey?"


"So tell me more about this interesting report."

"Well, I started thinking about the commercials they'd run, inbetween change of possession on ESPN Monday Night Football. A College student wearing a HARVARD sweatshirt looks earnestly at the camera. “I was a party all night kind of guy in high school. Getting a good night’s sleep just wasn’t in the cards and my grades showed it. Now, thanks to Orexin A, I aced my SAT’s and I’m living the IVY LEAGUE life.”

"What are you talking about?..."

"Well, this could really change our society. I've been thinking about the possibilities. Night schools would flourish. Law firms would revamp themselves after hospitals, having clients served by lawyers who worked ten hour shifts managing the same patients, selling their profession with lower salaries and better hours. Early Early shows would become the venue for b-list stars to try and create followings and comebacks."

"Did you get any sleep last night?"

"A little, why do you ask?"

"You're flakier than usual."

"No. I'm informed. I even remember the researcher's name. Hah! Try that gassed monkey. Dr. Michael Twery, he's the director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, said that while research into drugs for sleepiness is "very interesting," he cautioned that the long-term consequences of not sleeping were not well-known."

"Really? I'll phone him now, extreem nuttiness and oddly strong retentive recall powers abound."

"Thanks. But this medication worries me. As a devout wearer of bunny slippers, I want my bedtime! I need my winding down time to read a book, take a bath and brush my teeth. I need to stretch out on the mattress and say, “Yes…no more work for today.” And I don’t want that time to become an indulgence rather than a necessity."

"You don't own bunny slippers."

"Figure of speech love. If this medication becomes as ubiquitous as caffeine and chocolate and Viagra and allergen meds, society will expect us to put in 20 hour days. No thank you. Being able to excuse the fact that I haven’t written the Christmas cards yet or folded all the clothing on the fact that even I, need at least six to eight hours of down time to function, will become unreasonable. I don’t want another 56 hours in the week when I could be doing something."

"Me neither."

"As the medication becomes more popular, not taking it will be viewed as a form of sloth."

"Like not having a cell phone is considered being unprofessional?"

"Exactly. No one used to expect that people would be 100% reachable after hours or on vacation but now, everyone gets annoyed if you don't return an email after two hours."

"Bet it's unhealthy."

"It may not cause mood swings or have unpleasant side effects, but purposeful stillness absent being dead is something this society is rapidly losing as an experience. It’s odd, we go to work at jobs where we scarcely move, to earn money we seldom physically touch, to the gym to walk without getting anywhere, and with this new technological advance, perhaps to a bed but not perchance to sleep or dream. Not counting the time we spend stuck in traffic, where we wait to move, our lives are becoming one long sisyphian pursuit of the unreal. How much more of our lives can we find a way to render superfluous to working?"

"One would imagine that the refined versions of these same medications will eventually reach a point of being able to make sleep utterly unnecessary."

"Being on call 24-7 is one thing. Being awake 24-7 is another. I’m tired just considering the possibility."

"Me too. Are you getting up now?"

"No! In fact, in civic protest and in case this ever comes to pass, I am sleeping in today, while it's still socially acceptable. Carpe REM!"

"Alright. Alright, I'll get up and turn off the alarm."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Growing up a kid in the 21th Century

Inspired by an email from a friend...

Gizmo's, Electronics, Gadgets......

The unreal world has become more and more what we live in than the actual. We have virtual selves, virtual profiles, virtual friends, virtual lives that are oddly not without actual consequences. Where is the Virtue in that kind of living?

"Son, I know it's vacation and all, but it's been four days and you haven't left the house. I'm taking you outside."


"Here, put these on." Gives kid sunglasses.

"Cool, Virtual world huh? Awesome."

"No, we're just going outside."

"Woah, the graphics are intense. And the sensory imputs, I'm feeling heat on my arms."

Present kid with a stick.

"Is this the controller? Or a wand? Where are the buttons?"

"There are no buttons."

"Nothing is happening? Maybe it needs batteries or the blue tooth wireless network is down."

"There are no batteries."

"By the way, cool graphics, three dimentional, very fine, wonder how many pixels resolution this is."

"There are no pixels....You're outside..."

"No pixels huh? So this is new technology, wireless light resolution based rather than computer generated pictures? Awesome."

"Put your hand in this sandbox."

"It feels so real."

"It IS Real."

"You know Dad, I would have been happy with an Xbox 360 but this Virtual world room rocks! Where are the walls and the remote? I want to dial up a beach scene."

"Glad you like it. Now son, in this game, there are no resets. Everything is realtime. There are no savespots either."

"Wow. That's a tough game. So when you lose, you lose huh?"

"Yes son. So play well."


"Yes son?"

"I don't think I'm ready yet for this intense a gaming experience. What do I do with the stick?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

T'was the Day After Christmas

T’was the day after Christmas
The whole house was a mess
From the overabundance
Celebrating great blessedness.

The Children were scattered,
At peace with their toys
While the mother wandered aimlessly
The House had been destroyed.

With ribbons on the sink
And the wrappers flung everywhere
She reached for the chocolate
She wasn’t going to share.

The tree it still sparkled
The open piles of loot still loomed.
And today was trash day
Her oldest son groaned.

When what to her trained suburban eyes should appear
The Garbage trucks’ early,
it’s practically here!

Come William, Come Bonnie
Come Marta, Come Pete
Grab a bag and make a sweep
Get your shoes on your feet!

To the end of the driveway
They flew like a flash,
Pulling the cans
Overpiled with trash.

It was touch and go there
For a moment but then,
The garbage truck stopped.
He said, “Merry Christmas My friends.”

And he pushed a button
And those great metal doors
Crushed the bags and the boxes.
My toddlers were floored.

They each wanted a try
And the man he obliged
And a line formed behind us
Of the neighborhoodside.

For Fifteen minutes,
People brought out their stuff.
And had fun pushing buttons
Then I said, “That’s enough.”

I wrote him a check
And he got a few tips
For being kind on a day
Famous for hangovers and sales slips.

The Merry Garbage man
Continued his route
Then I remembered,
“It’s recycling day too. Shoot!”

Happy Boxing Day! Many Happy Returns...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Letter From Santa

My dearest children,

The question arises from age to age as to my actual existence. There comes a time in each person’s life when they must decide if they wish only to be governed by rationality, or if faith plays a role in their everyday being. I am part of that transition, true. I represent the joy and glory and bliss and innocence of childhood at Christmas.

Though I never knelt before the Christ child, I make to Him a present each year, of one day and one night, honoring his birth. I provide an opportunity for people, when more than most pause to consider the past year of blessings, when more than most pine to reconcile with their family and friends, and more than most open their hearts to their neighbors, their spouses, their children, and even to total strangers. Some people even find the most beautiful of presents by opening themselves to God on this day. I travel the world in one night, bringing hope and whimsy and the wish of true peace on Earth, the type of peace the World has never known but secretly pines for at its core.

My story gets told and retold and revisited and reinvented with the nuance and creativity of every age, and each year I do it again and again, willingly and happily, because it brings people to Christ. It brings people together to celebrate. “And wherever two or more are gathered in His name….” I am called Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus and Father Christmas, I have thousands of names beyond Kris Kringle. I am the great facilitator of Christ. People complain that Christmas has become secularized, but more accurately, the secularized world becomes more Christmas’ed each year, as more people celebrate it, even if only with the tree and the dinner and the presents.

I won’t say that Christmas is simply about Love because that’s inaccurate. Christmas is about Christ and Christ IS Love. Christ is MORE LOVE than the world can often tolerate. Yet we desperately need to keep Christmas every day, to welcome Christ into the world via our hearts, our homes and our everyday lives. Welcome to Christmas Day my Children and know that I never stop believing in you.

Merry Christmas

Love, Santa

Extreeme Home Makeover Blowout Party

Two days before Christmas, I impulsively picked up a Gingerbread House at our favorite bakery. It was gorgeous and filled with candy. I knew I'd be UBER Aunt if I showed up at my brother's house with this beauty in tow.

It seemed like the perfect plan. I'd load the Truck with all the kiddos, my husband would shop and finish up Christmas and we'd get in a visit and all would be happy and right with the world. I called my brother and set the plan in motion.

A brief hic-up in the plan, my toddler was sleeping. We elected to put our oldest son in charge as a babysitter at home. He could use the computer as long as she slept. Blitzkrieg or Civilizations IV heaven awaited. He was thrilled.

We get ten miles and I notice, the Suburban needed gas. No problem, we stopped to fill it up.

We get ten more miles. The kids want food.

I decide to splurge and get them the happy meals they clamored for, if only to make the hour drive to Uncle J's a bit more peaceful.

Alas, I considered running in to the bathroom, but denied myself for fear others would immediately decide they needed to go.

Christmas carols on the radio and spirits high, we were off.

Forty five minutes later, we're about a turn and an exit from my brother's when suddenly the car feels like it's dragging its chasse. It felt like we had hit a deer and were dragging the body, even though I have never hit a deer and wouldn't know what dragging a body of a large mammal under the car would feel like. I knew it wasn't good.

Pulling over as quickly as possible and as far off the road as possible, I briefed the kids. I'm going to check the car. "I don't care if I get hit, DON'T GET OUT OF THE CAR!"

"What do we do if you get hit?" My oldest asked. I handed her the cell phone, suddenly, she was fine with the world. "Call 911." I explained. The rear tire was not just flat, it was shredded. These were only one year old. Still, looking at the tire remains, I was grateful it was the rear that had blown and not the front or this could have been a very unhappy story. Calling Triple A, Calling Uncle J, Calling husband, we now could only wait for the cavalry to come. I began to regret not stopping in the McDonalds and wishing I hadn't ordered such a large Diet Coke.

The phone rings. Is it Triple A, my husband, my brother? No. It's my son.
"Rita needs a change."
"Ohhhhhh." I hang up.

Now today was also my daughter's 10th birthday and she had received a Nintendo GS. The entire episode had virtually escaped her notice until the battery started to falter. "Can't I charge it on your car?" She asked."No. I need to keep the phone charged.""Why?""Have you not noticed that we're not moving?""Why aren't we moving?"She was spared the rant that would have followed by the timely rescue of my brother in his van. He took four of the six I had with me, leaving the baby and my oldest as an assistant.

She was outraged. "I wanted to go with Uncle J. He has an X-Box 360. She sulked the rest of the time until Dad showed up. At this point, the rain began falling practically sideways. The tow truck man arrived. I get a text message from my son. "YOU OWE ME BIG."

The tow truck guy and my husband spent the better part of an hour thumbing through the car manual to locate the tool kit necessary to release the spare. Finally, the tire replaced, my husband heads back home to relieve our son of his duties.

Finally, we arrived to present the gorgeous cake. On their table was a home made gingerbread house the kids had decorated themselves. I suddenly feel like the worst Aunt in history for presenting a perfect Martha Stewart cake to usurp the homespun pride that the kids had over their creation. However, kids are great at not noticing when adults have their egos punctured. "Hey Aunt Sherry, can I have some?" My nephew set about picking at the chocolate door. He's my kind of kid.

I should point out that once we arrived at my brother's, we all jammed on the X-Box 360 rock star and got booed off the stage twice. My older girl forgave me but the birthday girl was miffed, as she still couldn't charge her Nintendo GS, she seemed to take it personally that Uncle J didn't have an adapter for her needs. He's in computers after all. Still, I told her, it was a blow out party. She didn't appreciate the humor.

Driving home to serve birthday cake, it felt like everything had happened perfectly anyway to me. I'd seen my brother and his family, the house was a hit, we made it back safely and I found out I can jam with the Pretenders as long as I do vocals and not guitar. Now I just have to let my husband know, I want an Xbox 360 for Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Karaoke Caroling and the Socratic Method of Blog Writing

You know the old canard about law and sausage, well it’s nothing compared to creating these shorts.

First, one needs an artificial deadline.

Holy Cats! I promised to update the blog three times a week. I need something seasonal and I’m just tapped out. Quick kids, do something funny! The kids aren’t doing something funny. What do I do? I know, I’ll clean.

Yeah, cleaning the house for the holidays is hilarious. I can sound as amusing as 1.17 million other Erma Bombeck wannabes stuck in the harried housewife shtick with a blog.

Next, one needs to be really, really desperate such that all critical judgment is temporarily suspended.

Cleaning out the car I found enough rejected and forgotten misfit toys to take care of all the stocking stuffers! Hah! I even found candy and $3.28 in loose change. Maybe I could do a “T’was the Night before Christmas” bit…

T’was three days before Christmas when I cleaned out the car,
the children went scurrying but they couldn’t get far.
The happy meal toys were piled two stories high,
followed by eight gloves, a few socks and 1000 French fries.

"Stop." I said "Stop!"

“This just cannot be.”

I’m writing a blog and it’s bad poetry.

Multiple valiant efforts must fail.

I could do a Christmas song…yeah, about the candidates, “To the top of the polls, climb the Great DNC, and take all of Iowa, or not, said Hillary.”


Okay, how about Christopher Hitchens singing “I’m getting Nothing for Christmas!” with backup vocals by the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.

Not really the tone I’ve set for this place.

I know! I know! Al Gore singing!

“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones we’ll now never know…”

Again, this is a friendly blog and we want to keep people coming back, we need to hit the Republicans too.

“Grandpa got shot up by old Dick Cheney….walking on a hunt on private land….You can say We’re losing the 2nd amendment, but maybe now I think I’d understand…”


That reminds me! This one’s to Silver Bells…
Putin’s the man for Time magazine.
It’s like the USSR
And he’s the Czar
Except he’s the Prime Minister.”

Have you been sneaking bourbon balls?

Hang on…hang on…I’ll think of something. Here we go…”You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…”

Where are you going with this?

Well, I have eight children so I thought I’d figure out which reindeer each one was…sort of a Christmas Rosharch test.

Do you feel inspired?

No. Not particularly.

Followed by a heavy dose of pity and prayer to skid by on.

Blog transmission suspended due to creative differences with brain, hope the writing synapses end their strike before Christmas.

Have a blessed Advent!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How To Completely Stress Out This Christmas

How to Completely Stress Out This Christmas…

November 29, 2007: We just had Thanksgiving! I’m not in the Christmas spirit yet. Procrastinate. As the song goes, there are twelve days, I’ve still got time. Week one passes, and I pat myself on the back for breaking out the lights and putting up three Christmas displays.

December 8, 2007: Felt Virtuous. Bought Christmas Cards today! However, I also was wanting to be frugal so I only bought two boxes. Our Christmas card list easily tops four boxes…oh well, I’ll get them later. Looking at the cards that have already come in, impulsively, I decide I want a picture this year. Assemble everyone. We can’t find good Christmas pj’s because I haven’t hit the mall for fear it would hit back. Oldest is in Dad’s robe, middle one is wearing pink, youngest is hidden in a Christmas blanket because she spit up before we finished setting up. Say Cheese. Three year old son doesn’t look so good. Six shots into the Christmas shoot, he throws up.

Decide we’ll finish the roll with the season and get them developed then, but two weeks pass and we keep forgetting to bring the camera.

December 15, 2007: Panic sets in, impulsively surf the net and ring up a tidy sum online. Feeling subsides although there is still a lot to do, and I only got a few things….

December 18, 2007: Husband’s panic attack takes place, credit card is warm to the touch.

December 20, 2007: Still have not sent card one. We haven’t taken pictures at the Christmas Concert, Christmas Party or the Cub Scouts’ Christmas award ceremony. Couldn’t find the camera. In a random search for a box of diaper wipes, I find the camera under a National’s baseball cap, under the bed. There are still fifteen shots left. In desperation, I grab the thing and shoot random shots of everyone to finish the 36 exposure film. Take the next day for double prints. Every shot has werewolf eyes on someone, except the one where my son is turning a funny shade of green.

December 21, 2007: Go to Christmas program for end of school. Missed first half because of triple diaper change in the car. Very bad. Make it to wave at kindergartener, so I’m thinking “That counts!” until my oldest daughter gives a bracing hug and says, “Did you see me?” “I made it.” I say with a smile. She reads through it and slumps away. “I stink.” I think. She is now happily chattering with friends. “Maybe not.” I think hopefully. She gives me a “I forgive you but you’re in the doghouse look.” I’ll make it up to her when we go shopping for teacher gifts that afternoon.

My toddler is trying to drink the Mississippi’s worth of water out of the fountain. As I remove her from the fountain, she fights, she screams, she drops. She hurts her hand. Bad. I take her to the school nurse.

“It’s either a sprain or a broken wrist.” She explains.
Four hours at the emergency room later, I joyfully call my husband and fork over the $75 co pay for an emergency visit, “It’s only a sprain.” We get home, it’s eight o’clock, they haven’t done homework, they haven’t eaten. We finally get the last one to bed and realize…

The Kids get out of school tomorrow and I don’t have teacher gifts! Husband obliges by producing chocolates originally intended for me. Feeling deep resentment. Not in the right mood, can’t wrap the boxes that have come, going to bed.

December 22, 2007: What do you mean we're hosting Christmas Dinner? No one briefed me on this…Call Crisis Cleaners and beg to get on the schedule…eat chocolate preallocated for teacher gifts out of stress. Swing through the Starbucks to purchase gift cards for six teachers. They only have five. Decide the one I know the least will get a different certificate. Guilt manages to nag me into stopping at a second Starbucks and getting a better bigger gift certificate for her.

December 23, 2007: I have the cards. I have the stamps. I have the pictures. I never bought the second two sets. Just as that starts to melt me down, something else does. What’s Christmas without an appliance breakdown? The Dryer is on fire. I call 911. I throw the three diaper sets in jackets and lock them in the car in their car seats. The Fire department comes and declares the infernal contraption dead. Appliance man can come in January. Using a different man would invalidate Home Warranty plan. Too stressed to write cards. We’re doing Epiphany Cards this year. Husband agrees and produces Christmas wine, also originally intended for me. There won’t be much under the tree…he starts to explain. “Yes there will, I’m getting a new Dryer.” We drink the wine. "We’ll wrap things up tomorrow night."

December 25, 5:30 a.m. Time for bed.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why We have an Artificial Tree

I got tagged for a blog chain, which means I write about something that has something to do with what the last person wrote about in her blog (Thanks Ello!), she wrote about Christmas shopping and it's traditional insanity. I decided to go with the insanity that comes from getting the Tree...

When we first got married, we lived in New York City and had a dinky little cute live tree for our first Christmas. When we lived in a bigger apartment in Houston, we decorated the live ficus tree. When we moved to Maryland, we finally decided, we’d get a real Christmas tree. It was a very snowy winter and my husband had found a “Cut Your Own Tree” place, meaning we’d pay for the privilege of doing all the work.

It was a crystal clear star filled evening as my husband, young son and I marched through the rows of carefully tended evergreens to find “Our tree.”
Finally, the right amount of bushiness, greenness and tallness had been agreed upon, and the fun of welding an ax began.

For the first five minutes that one holds an ax, there are simultaneous sensations in the experience. There is the thrill of having a very sharp weapon (I can take on a bear!) and terror that somehow, someone is going to get hurt and you’re holding the ax. (Oh look, a bear!)

Chopping Wood looks like clean organized manly work. There is a rhythm to splitting wood, to chopping trees, and all the movies and fairy tales indicate that this is something men do with aplomb when not rescuing women from prisons or wizards or castles or something. My husband swung the ax. It hit the tree.

A little physics lesson here. Force must be distributed. Hitting a tree is like having a car accident with a tree. The force travels up the ax, into your hands and wrists and even jars your teeth if your feet are not set. Okay. We set the feet. We swing like a baseball player. Chop. Chop. Chop.

See, it’s easy. Well, it’s easy to watch. Then we watch. Watching someone chop down a tree is…dull. “It’s cold.” My son whines (He’s three). He’s right but I’m trying to stay with the mood here. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. It is taking a very long time. The wind blows. Chop. Chop. “Can I have a go?”

“Sure.” I should have recognized the eagerness in his voice as a trigger. He picked up our son. “I’m going to go see the man about the rope. “

“You’re not going to watch?” I mean, I’m sure watching me chop wood is riveting viewing. Isn’t it?

“Well, we don’t want to be here all night.” He explained diplomatically.

“Point taken.”

I line up my feet. I square my shoulders. Chop. I missed the spot. Chop. Chop. I almost got it. Chop. This hurts. Chop. Chop. My feet are cold. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. I’m stuck. The ax is stuck. I’m stuck. It’s really stuck. I’m afraid to pull it out. I’m stuck here in the snow waiting. Now the tree seems less perfect to me.

I stare at it hard. Something stares back. There are spiders. Christmas spiders in my tree. We’re done. I’m done. I follow the snow prints. “Pay the man to cut down the tree.” I bark when I get back to the stand.

My husband is one step ahead, he’s already paid them and of course, the guy goes out there with a chain saw. “Where is the ambience in that?” I ask you?

Telling my husband about the spiders, he assures me that the spiders will be driven out of the tree by the drive on the freeway. I admittedly didn’t inspect but prayed he was right.

The tree wouldn’t fit in our front door so I ruined a good electric carving knife cutting it down to size. I mean it’s kind of like a chain saw and I didn’t own an ax. I freaked when one of the tree’s eight legged citizens came onto my hand as I cut. “You told me they’d be blown away.” We spent a few nervous minutes –all either of us could tolerate, searching for more arachnids. I issued a proclamation to any remaining squatters. “Attention spiders! No mercy unless you can spell in your web: Peace on Earth!”

Finally, it was up, watered, decorated to within an inch of its life and glistening. I breathed a sigh of Christmas contentment. The tree listed. Then it fell. We picked it up, swept the floor of broken glass ornaments, redecorated and reattached the tree to the stand. It fell again.

My husband drove to a local store that was open late while I put our son to bed. He returned with a larger stand and we rerepotted the tree in the stand and screwed in the sides tight. He put a brick inside the stand to give the stand a fighting chance against the tree. It fell a third time. It was Christmas and our tree was imitating the Stations of the Cross.

And so we had our first REAL Christmas, like so many families before us, where the tree was propped by fishing line at the top to ensure that Old Tanembaum with it’s lovely branches wouldn’t crush our son as he admired the remaining ornaments. I told him the spider webs were just an organic form of tinsel.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chocolate Spam

I have an ethical issue. I got an email. It wasn’t intended for me but I desperately want to take advantage of its exciting offer. Sure, it’s probably spam. Sure, I’m being silly but they hit me where I live.

Here is the letter.

Good Morning Julie! (I’m sure Julie is just a typo, after all, Sherry sounds similar…sorta)..

As you are a well-know blogger in the gourmet food world, we would be glad to keep you aware of events and news in the chocolate world! (I’m well known…Think…Rudoloph…She said I’m cute!)

You may have heard about us; Michel Cluizel is a family owned company based in Normandy and we offer only the finest in chocolate. (No, but she has my complete and undivided attention now). We are one of the few companies which are now referred to as cacaofeviers meaning we work from bean to bar.We work with our plantations to select only the finest beans and we use only natural ingredients. Pure cocoa butter, pure vanilla bean and cane sugar. We have no added vegetable fat or flavors and no soy lecithin.

(Okay, she had me at the new funky word cacaofevier).

All our chocolates, completely made in our workshops, meet the "Noble Ingredients" quality commitment that really provides our customers with an exceptional chocolate. (Patrician Chocolate, yes yes yes, I want some)…

We have a great variety of chocolates so if you would be interested in receiving some samples (Wait, someone is getting freebies of this stuff?) please contact us at your earliest convenience. (If she’s too busy to contact you, I volunteer at your earliest convenience).

As a chocolate lover and an amazing food writer, (Aw shucks!) you may also enjoy receiving some recipes as well as regular updates. (Sure!)

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. (No no, thank You.)
Please contact us if you would prefer to be removed from our mailing list.


Customer Service Representative

My response


Thank you so much for your interest in introducing me to the fine confections offered by Michel Cluizel. As you are no doubt aware, Chocolate For Your Brain! is a blog by Sherry Antonetti, known for her restless desire to find the very best manifestation of heaven on earth as encapsulated in chocolate form. Please feel free to send samples for consideration in a future blog entry that will discuss the level of rapture achieved by consumption of exclusively “Noble Chocolate.”

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.


Oddly enough, I haven’t heard back.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spin Doctor Cycle

My children’s memories of their childhood reality won’t be helped by these blog stories. I used to worry about the mythic nature of these tales. Then I remembered, my own kids’s stories about their family life are often mythic and don’t help matters. I’m just hoping that in the end, what they remember is they laughed a lot, Mom was nuts and that they were always loved and never lonely. Reading their memoirs when they grow up should be entertaining at least.

The First Spin…damage control

In front of the inlaws, our oldest, who had suffered a broken arm when he was two, asked, “Hey Mom! Do you remember that time when I was hit by the car?” My head wheeled around so fast, I hurt my neck. “NO!” I said. “That never happened!”

“Yes it did.” He remained convinced. The grandparents were eyeing me with some concern. “It happened at a McDonald’s near our home. You were walking with me.” In his defense, he was five at the time.

“You must have dreamed it sweetie.” I explained.

Everyone relaxed when he thought about it and said “Oh yeah.”

The Second Spin…Marketing is Everything

It happened again with my daughter turned nine and her father took her out on a date. They went to that famous toy store with the giraffe and had dessert out. She came home with a stuffed collie named Luke. She thanked her father and trotted upstairs to bed with the fluffy black dog in her arms.

The next morning, her grandparents called to wish her a happy birthday and to ask if she had done anything special. “Yeah.” She said flatly. “But I didn’t get to stay up till midnight.”

“Oh? What did you do?”

“Got some food. And then we went to the store.”


“And I got a stuffed dog.”

“I see.”

Prompting kids to give more details over the phone sounds desperate but I did it anyway. I wanted her grandparents to know what a good birthday she’d had. “Tell her what you named it.” I suggested.

“I found the dog and it was a stray. It wasn’t where it belonged so it was probably old. I named it Luke.”

As embarrassing and frustrating as both of those situations were, the children have now learned that Spin works both ways…

The Third Spin…A spoon full of Sugar or in this case, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Ten days before Christmas, I summoned the children to the living room. “Presents for you.” I said and turned on the “Presentation of the Children” from the King and I. “Line up.” My oldest clapped his hands a la Yule Brenner. They obliged.
I left the room and waited for the musical cue.

Returning to the first child, I bowed and handed him his laundry. He played along. He bowed, took the basket and marched up in tune to the music. The musical selection was sufficiently long enough to allow six baskets to be delivered in grand fashion. There were two baskets left but since it wasn’t like the two babies were going to put away their stuff anyway, I got the point across. They laughed in good spirits but I overheard my second son saying to his sister as he carried his basket up.

“For Christmas, I’m going to give her some folded socks.”

This is how great memoirs aren’t written.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two Diet Cokes and a ride on the Potty Train….

Having already used my children’s proclivities towards lavatory use for two occasions of quick laughs, perhaps I am in danger of becoming precious and a broken record. After 14 years in the diaper trenches, one develops a sense of entitlement to broach the subject yet again.

Consider my own experience the equivalent of Wikipedia on parenting skills: lots of info, none of it necessarily relevant or accurate or the result of applied working knowledge.
We have two that are of age for this change in the diapering regimen. The older one has staunchly refused to even consider the matter, the younger thought she’d be experimental.

“HEY! That’s MY POTTY.” The older one said with his not so inside voice.

“I’m going potty.” She responded, making “Shssss.” Noises as she sat.

“That’s MY potty. My DADDY GAVE IT TO ME.” A fight was brewing.

“Then why don’t you use it?” I intervened.

“Then I’d get it all dirty.” He explained simply.

Sigh. No promise from on high has been able to move him off this sincerely held conviction that using said potty chair for its created purposes would destroy the essence, the beauty of the potty itself.

On the first day of Christmas there was a two hour delay which turned into a secret snow day because I lost my keys! I begged for their help in finding the things that make the car go.

Being sensible children, they went outside to play in the snow.

Four hours later and still no luck, I summoned the children again. “Think like Mom. Think like a tired Mom, because that’s when I lost them.” I suggested.

My daughters saw the opportunity and ran with it. Putting their arms out like zombies, they said, “NEED...DIET...COKE!” A parade of zombies crying out for chocolate and diet soda fanned out searching for my lost keys. The parody got more zombie like a'la Scoobie doo monster type as more children joined in the general mocking of Mom.

“It is unwise to mock your mother.” Still, for all the times I'd been the finder of others things, I took the deserved abuse in good humor and sipped a cold dc.

That afternoon I found my keys and where were they? Next to an abandoned now luke warm half drunk diet caffeinated beverage.

I may have to switch to coffee just to throw them off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Worst Christmas Song Ever

Christmas Shoes…

The tortured scenario is quintessentially Dickensian. (I’ve been wanting to say that phrase for years). The only way I can envision this song being made worse frightens me more than the third ghost of Christmas yet to come. It is only a matter of time before some American Idol reject, former child star suffering from anorexia and an inability to get media traction after hitting puberty, or a decrepit past glory celebrity seeks to reinvent themselves and bag a few bucks by doing a remake.

It happens to the very best of songs, why not the worst? Santa Baby never needed a remake, and as for Madonna’s version of Eartha Kitt’s classic, her voice makes me think….she was a beautiful bar fly once.

Part of the reason I get worked up is the sheer volume of music that gets plastered against my ears during this time of year. It used to be a once a year treat, you dug up Dad’s scratchy records and hoped they wouldn’t get stuck during one of the boring songs like “I Wonder as I Wander.”

We had That Christmas Feeling, that old chestnut of a record put out by K-Mart or K-tel Records. I belonged to a dance studio that performed regularly all over town during the Christmas season using its selections. I pined for the day when I would get picked to dance in a red leotard and skirt, trimmed with white fur and wearing a Santa hat. Never happened. I lost out on that Christmas Sorority and so “We Need a Little Christmas” always makes me both neurotically nervous about what I haven’t done and rekindles my feelings of envy at not getting picked to be an elf.

Now Christmas music starts on one station here on November 1st. That’s just wrong. WRONG. I’m waiting for some radio exec to decide they can make more profit by playing all Christmas songs all the time 365 days a year. I also keep vowing to stay up on Christmas Day until December 26 starts to see what the first song is that the DJ’s break loose with when they get to return to their normal format.

I’ve never done it but I do have my personal suggestions, something from Meatloaf, Rush or Bon Jovi. Sort of like a lemon sorbet to cleanse the mental pallet.

But I digress…

The Christmas Shoes song repeats on the all Carols all the time station at least once every three hours, and as such I revisit my irritation. Fortunately, there are others who share my views. I have read the bad reviews. They are entertaining in the same way reading about the next train wreck of a movie provides a bit of schadenfreude. I won’t attempt to outdo the clever bits out there that suggest the whole story was a con, that question why a kid is out buying shoes if his mama is dying and what daddy lets their kid off at Kohl’s en route to the hospital for a bit of last minute shopping?

No. This is supposed to be a clever blog; a kinder gentler blog that does not resort to cheap exploitation of the contrived and the stupid, the saccharine and the maudlin for laughs. I must wrestle with my conscience. Do I want to spend an extra few eons in purgatory for abusing my gifts by piling on what is obviously an imperfect vessel of communication created by a person who thinks Christmas is all about creating Hallmark Moments so sweet they were rejected by Chicken Soup for the Soul?

I answer my concience honestly. Well…maybe a little.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Real Writer's Block

“What are you doing?” my husband asked as he approached the computer desk, sandwich and milk in hand, eager for an hour or two of Civilizations IV.

“Trying to write a column for a contest.” I replied.

“Doing what exactly?”

“Writing about family life. It’s a contest and the winner gets $300 bucks. The entry fee is $11. See?”

He glanced at the screen. “You aren’t going to use our real names are you? You can’t write about our camping trip! We’d look like idiots, setting up tents at 10 o’clock at night, pushing the button on the SUV every two minutes to give us light, the baby crying, the kids howling for food, me throwing pop-tarts and cokes at them for dinner, and the nearest bathroom a 6/10 of a mile away.”

“You left out the giant cricket on the toilet seat.”


“Okay, I’ve got another idea.”

“Like what?”

“How about when Lisa found a snake in the bathroom while she was potty training…”
“You can’t write about that, people will think we live in a vermin infested home!”

“For $300 dollars, we could call Orkin.”

“I caught that snake for you, thank you very much.”

“And I was very grateful. It’s a good story. It has a happy ending.”

“Do you want my mother to read this?”


“Okay. Starting over. How about when David was the solo in the Christmas pageant and knocked over his music stand during the introduction? Or the time the coach threatened to hot glue his shoe laces together if he didn’t tie them?”

“Must all your stories be embarrassing about us?”

“No, I could write about how I totaled the car the day it was paid off. I could also write about the time we took all of them to your brother’s rehearsal dinner and they all threw up…”

“Absolutely not. Look, I’m proud of you and your writing, but I’m just not sure I’m ready for us to look like the Bumpuses from next door to the whole world.”

“We won’t really, we’ll just look like, well, us.”

“That’s what worries me.”

“You know, I might not win.”

“What do you mean you won’t win? We’re not funny enough? I’ll be insulted if we don’t at least place.”

“Why don’t you play CIV IV? I’ll watch.”

Friday, December 7, 2007

As American As...

Baseball, Mom and Apple Pie...

I debated leaving out that phrase to let the reader fill in the blank as part of the conceit.

Everyone and their dog has used this cliché to describe some aspect of life in America, from illegal immigration to massive credit card debt to the latest model SUV with extra cargo space, a DVD player and heated leather seats. Googling the phrase to discover its orgin only muddied the waters of what it means to be “as American as” that game with a stick and nine players, your biological maternal unit and granny smiths chopped and mixed with a good heaping of sugar and tapioca baked to gooey perfection.

The web search for “American as…” lead to Music, Drugs and Movies, a tag for a Flowmaster Exhaust system and a What kind of Chocolate Pudding are You quiz that I refused to investigate. There was an ad for Jim Salestrom, a musician who someone loved as much as…you guessed it. I also found a screed on how politicians HAVE to like baseball, Mom and apple pie, as though those were bad obligations. Though I suppose cherry lobbyists would appreciate slight modifications, not to mention Hockey Players or for that matter, Dads.

Even old Bartlett Quotations let me down as I could not trace the source of this tried and true phrase that has been used to describe so many and so much while revealing so little. These words have been used to justify cookies and milk at snack time for kindergartners from super unctuous nutrition police in Lembke, though I don’t actually think Lembke is in America. Money management used it to describe the need to save for retirement. Five pages back in the Ask Jeeves search, were sites dedicated to both love and hated of all things Walmart, and a promotional page for a Portland Oregon Radio Station. Ten pages deep into Google, there was a scary website I also wouldn’t visit, hotboxingnews. I'm sure it's very heart warming and patriotic though.

I guess the need to equate one thing with another and ascribe virtue and appeal is very American. Think I’ll grab a pizza, watch some football and call my Mom.
What can I say? I’m still something of a traditionalist.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Aren't we all on the B-team Most of the Time?

Growing up attending Catholic elementary school and high school (and college and grad school too, but that’s another matter), there was only one extracurricular activity available for social outlets in the seventies. Sports. This worked well if you were tall, athletic, coordinated, had stamina, strength, popularity or hustle. Nowhere in that list are the qualities, sense of humor or good with words. I dreamed of making the “A team.”

Then eighty’s television sort of hijacked that phrase to connote a black and red van with a Mr. T.

But the status of “B team” has remained unchallenged. Living in a county where birthing is considered a competitive sport, there have been systemic attempts to destroy the very essence of a “B-team.” These parents worry their kids self esteem will be irreparably damaged if they suffer the humiliation of knowing someone else is better at something than they. These attempts have failed even more impressively than the b-teams themselves.

Method #1: Not keeping score. Like that worked. Anyone who has ever been at a pee-wee soccer game where the parents don’t keep score was not paying attention. Just go up to a parent of a kid who does well. “My kid scored six goals!” Just go to a parent of a kid who did poorly. “She tried really hard. That team was tough. “ “She let in six goals!” the dad will whisper with hints of despair while mentally planning on going to the nearest sporting goods store to buy a net and a new soccer ball and spend the rest of the day coaching his offspring on how to be a goalie. The parents can deny the reality on paper by not writing down a score, but they and the kid doing the end zone dance after snack and the one moping in her cupcakes know the truth.

Method #2: A Team by any other name. Team I and Team II, that didn’t work for obvious reasons. Apples and Oranges? Red and Blue? Naming the teams as equals never worked. Why? Because the instant a scrimmage starts up, Everyone knows who the athletic kids are. This is an American oddity, that we fear acknowledging excellence for fear of putting down everyone else. We don’t want a kid to be a ball hog. However, the kids on the team know “He can shoot, he can score.” Guess what they do, feed the ball to the hog.

Method #3: Revisionist Theory in Application. Twenty first century values demand that all heroes be fallen ones, and all lesser or supporting casts be simply as of yet undiscovered vastly underrated prospects. I've seen people on the sideline praise the slightest moment of competence by a poor player stumbling down the court as being "Michael Jordanesque" while the true ace player of the team hustles to capture the bad bounce pass from said teammate. The mental yoga that these adults engage in is amazing. It’s like parents doing a high five with a kid for bringing home a “C.”

Then, reality reasserts itself. With two minutes left in a tight game, the kids on the bench were shouting, “NO, pass it to Her! HER!” Ball sharing was for when you were up by ten or more with no time left.

Method #4: Marxism. Some people at my son’s school tried doing an even exchange, in basketball. Each coach got two prime players, two decent players, two coachable players , one headache and one hopeless. Both teams had losing seasons. Losing seasons are okay. The kids will live. The pizza at the end of the season party still tastes as good. In the adults, however, there is a note of desperation in that creeps into even the most zealous advocate of communism in the sporting world as they stare at the prospects of another 0-8 season.

The problem with "A teams" is they require a High Physical standard. It's intangible but identifable. Today in America, we are discouraged from even acknowledging anything but excellence. Some parents unfortunately swallow this Kool-Aid. Children and their accomplishments have become part of the adult resume. "Hello, my name is ....and my kids are currently learning German, Russian, Sanskrit, making mock replicas of the seven wonders of the world out of toothpicks and training for the Olympics. They performed tap dance at the State House last year for the Easter Egg Roll and are ranked amongst Who's Better than Who in American Parents' Magazine. Want to see my web site? It has a day by day documentary plus commentary on their struggles to write the next great American novel."

Parents, being obsessive in their love for their children, often fail to recognize that a C is not an A, no matter how much you love them. Someone who can't shoot, can't dribble and can't pass should not be on the A team any more than someone who spells "towards" twoard should be given full points on a spelling test. We can't helicopter/spell check our children out of all their faults and weaknesses. If we do, we'll fail them morally and academically, as surely as "The Dairy of Anne Frank" can slip by Microsoft Word's spell check in a book report.

Fortunately, reality has a way of correcting these issues, even if it takes a season to do so.

No one wanted another perfect losing season. After that year, the coaches reasserted themselves in the draft picks, calling them A and B teams and everyone was clear on the matter.

Some parents were fuming mad that their kids weren’t on the A teams.

Intervention Time Out

The head coach/director however was having none of it. Rather than talk to irrational people rationally about being reasonable, he tacked up a picture of “Mr. T” with the caption, “I pity the fool who argues with me. You’re on the team, be it A or B! Anyone who argues will take the blame. He or she will be banned from the game. “

Both teams had winning seasons. Eating pizza in celebration, I swore I heard the coach/cyo director say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

EDITOR'S NOTE and LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Please remember this is a humor blog. Any resemblance to reality is unintentional except to the extent it makes you laugh.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sauce for the Goose...

For all the pieces out there about men being similar to trees when it comes to gift giving, the unspoken super criminal of gift giving is “us.”


We’ve all flunked at least one Christmas where the poor husband got socks. Socks! If we got socks for Christmas, we’d stew for months. It would be the stuff of legend. There would be flaming emails and calls so prolific as to melt the entire eastern seaboard’s communication grid. All males in the family would have to go into witness protection program or engage in a self flogging reeducation camp on proper presents just to insure such an experience would never happen again...ever.

Part of the problem is Men’s stores; you go in there and see what...drab clothing. Golf clubs, the smell of wallets. Fun times. These uninspired shops continue to exist because we’ve allowed it. We've enabled them to continue. We go to the mall with the best of intentions…we know our guy. So we think, we’ve got time and ooh look, there’s a sale on capes. I need a new cloak. Okay, now to business! Look at that, I’ve been needing some new gold hoops and maybe some make up since it’s bonus time. Hey, the salon isn’t crowded. I’ll just squeeze in a haircut.

Oh geez! I haven’t shopped for my love and I’m running out of time, I’ll just duck into the department store and…What did I buy him?

That year, I was in rare form. He got a red sweater, new socks, The A team third year complete season and a gourmet Chocolate bar (and one for me). Not my finest moment as a wife.

It is testimony to his great love that I still get presents.

I wish to sever this disfunctional relationship with the Men's store, to stop being co-dependent with those indifferent purveyors of "Y" chromosone geared presents.

Having racked my brains for an appropriate way to categorize Male gifts that are Gift Worthy, that knock their not so new socks off, I decided to consult an expert.


After he recovered from the shock, here are the secret top ten gift giving ideas with helpful tips on the side for Men.

10) Clothing that looks like what we already wear –We do not accessorize and we hate to shop, so if you get us a nice shirt or a jersey from our favorite team, this is cool. Note: Other than for sporting teams, we don’t wear red. Don’t buy red. Don’t expect us to wear red if you do. It will be regifted to a younger brother as soon as we reach the post office or we’ll mumble gratefully “thanks” and then said sweater will always be at the dry cleaners or in storage somewhere.

9) Electronic gadgets –oddly enough, this is not as big a hit as you might think. Unless it is compatible with what already exists or we’re proficient with technology and some of us aren’t, these gifts are a source of frustration. We don’t want things that require reading directions. We don’t like directions. We don’t ask for them and we don’t like having to use them to operate a television.

On the flip side, brainless technology is also a bad call. Robo dogs that need walking? Talk about fuzzy logic! Look, it’s not real but you still have to devote time and energy to it; no thank you. Stores pimp gadgets with batteries included for men. Real men see through this as a blatant appeal to women, buy this and you’re done! Look Honey, I bought you a laser pointer. Isn’t it neat? Um…I think the robo dog needs to go for a walk.

8) Tickets. Like you, we’re busy. We don’t want to have to plan things. Buy two for a concert or a play or a show you KNOW we’d like or a game and set up the date. It will impress us you gave so much time to our relationship. If it’s a sporting event, make sure you’re mentally psyched for going because having an indulgence for a present isn’t fun. (A fun way for YOU to get us a planner we won’t buy, is to get the tickets and put the date with the tickets in the planner. But let us know to look, because otherwise, getting a planner for us is the equivalent of getting an ironing board. Whee.)

7) If we need a new watch, you can buy this. Otherwise, steer clear of men’s jewelry. We don’t accessorize. Even if we’re vegetarians, we still dress and focus on life in a meat and potatoes kind of way. One watch. Works for Day. Works for Night. Works for Dress and Casual. No rings. No necklaces. Nada. We’re men for crying out loud!

6) On the subject of needs: If our brief case, jacket or wallet looks drab or worn, this is an okay place to splurge and get us an upgrade, just make sure we won’t feel silly with it. As stated above, we don’t like shopping, even for us.

5) Channel your hunter gatherer skills for shopping. Watch and learn, track your subject and then move in for the kill. For example, books: We don’t’ want to know how we communicate. We don’t like having to work at just talking. Humor books also strike a false note, even if written by guys we like, as those get dated fast, one read and they’re done. Magazines? Be careful. Most guys don’t subscribe to GQ or Men’s Day type magazines. We do subscribe to SI and Time and Newsweek and National Geographic. Want us to read more? Go to a book store and watch to see what men pick up, peek at the selections and see if you’ve got a fit, then pounce!

4) No guy says they have a hobby. We have collections and obsessions, not hobbies –stamps, baseball cards, coins, model trains, fantasy football, movies and star trek. If we like golfing, we like golfing, it’s not a hobby. Got that? Good. Now, if we like doing something, get something for us we like doing. Just don’t write “For your hobby, hubby” on the card.

3) Homemade gifts…unless you’re really good at it, and even then it’s dicey. It’s not like we collect or appreciate quilts and as good as your pumpkin bread may be…well, we’ll appreciate the time and effort…but homemade promises…those work better. For example: a scrap book works! A sappy poem does not. We begin to cringe with the opening line, “My heart’s song transcends the stars…” A coupon for a one hour foot rub from you works! From the spa…well, most guys I know aren’t signing up on Saturday for a pedicure.

2) Food. There is no love so sincere. However, chocolate is not our go to of choice, it’s yours. Besides, we KNOW if we get chocolate, we’re going to have to share. Fruit of the month, well, it’s nice and we might be surprised by how much we like it…Wine of the month –better. A smoked turkey. Excellent. Imported stuff, Prime Steaks. Now You’re talking! Dessert of the Month –okay, you got us there. (Gift cards to restaurants however, do NOT work. They feel like a prepaid nag to go out). Take us to a place you discovered you know we’d love, that’s a date!

Food related items should be 1) high quality, 2) functional 3) not require additional high quality functional items. A Barbeque Grill tool set does not work well without the Barbeque grill. It’s like an empty jewelry box.

1) Affection and Attention. We like back rubs and unexpected kisses. We like a peaceful home. We want to come home to a woman that is delighted to see us not because of what we can do as relief pitchers with the kids or the chores, but because we are simply there. Forgive us our foolishness and abandon some of your frustration, we don’t want you to swallow it because then it’s still inside. We want your enthusiastic presence for us more than anything.

Look, we brought flowers, silver and chocolate!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gift Giving Primer

Illuminations of the Heart A Gift Giving Primer…

A certain young man whose name is lost to the ages drove five hours to spend a day over Christmas vacation with his girlfriend. It was a very heady thing for the family. They had spent the day ensuring the home sparkled and the meal would be perfect. He arrived, red faced from the cold as it was in the upper North East, bearing a beautifully wrapped small box.

Her face was breathless with anticipation as she opened her gift.

It was an antler candle.

Literally, a candle sculpted to look like the four pronged accessory of one of Santa’s eight.

Never has the soft falling of snow outside sounded louder than in the moments that followed.

In the interest of all young and not so young men out there who need to get something special for a female they treasure or hope to impress, the following is offered as a public service to givers of gifts everywhere, to promote relationship harmony whatever the reason or the season.

Women like things that are silver, red, sparkling, soft, chocolate, elegant and indicate the shopper spent some time reflecting on her specific personality. Please note men, buying one thing that is silver, red, sparkling, soft, chocolate and elegant is not physically possible, and even if it were, this is a present not a combo meal. Bad plan.

Top Ten Gift Giving Guide for Men Needing to Shop for Women as translated into sports metaphors wherever possible.

10) Fake Kicks seldom work.
Translation: Don’t give jewelry boxes unless there is something in them.

9) Look at the lady in question or visualize her and ask yourself, when would she read/use/wear this. If the image takes more than five seconds to conjure, put…the…present BACK.

If you buy it anyway, the kick is up and it’s no good!

8) You know how you’ve spent hours pouring over a fantasy football magazine to determine the best picks for the draft? We deserve as much time as the Tom Brady wantabes that come in the third and fourth round. This is not a fifteen minute stop off at the mall. Put together a sustained drive, spend the time on the clock and come up with a surefire winner.

7) Chocolates always work but not excessively or exclusively. A three pound jar of rasinettes does not qualify as a thoughtful present. Quoting Madden out of context: “The coach has to do a better job of mixing up the plays, otherwise the defense can just sit there and pounce pounce pounce and they’ won’t get anywhere.”

6) Don’t buy jackets for women –it’s the same principle that works for men –they have to fit and no two women are the same, so not every jacket hangs correctly. Think football. Shoulder pads have to fit. Ditto for hats, dresses and shoes. Getting the wrong size because it’s too big means you think we’re fat. Getting the wrong size because it’s too small means we are fat. Either way you lose. This is Sudden Death…Good luck.

5) Coupons for facials, hair cuts and manicures/pedicures are great. Gift certificates for electrolysis or waxings are dangerous even for seasoned veterans. Quote the Madden once more, “Hail Mary Passes work some of the times, but you’re always better off being able to put together a sustained drive, rather than hoping you can pull it out in the end. It’s a dangerous way to try to win the game.”

4) Guys, gift giving isn’t hard if you think of it as being like running the option play! Go to a Department store –and think inversely. The sections that one feels the least comfortable in are the sections probably most likely to elicit a favorable response from the female in question. (Crystal, Silver, Jewelry –good), (Sports goods, Bedding, Towels -not so much).

3) Appliances. Flag on the play! Even if you splurge and get them in red. Buying a spouse an iron for a gift is legal grounds for divorce in at least four states. You’ll be lucky if you get to repeat the down. Severe Holding penalties are more likely. Remember, they can almost always be called on every play.

2) Avoid stores that try to cater to pampering women with overly smelly salts and soaps. They also might signal to the thin skinned female, “You smell bad.” Consider this an offensive pass interference.

1) If all else fails, bring a related female, ask the related female. “Would you be excited if you received this as a gift?” Count the seconds to the response. If a lightning bolt would be more than five miles away… Penalty, too much time on the play, loss of down.

Next Episode, Shopping for Men, a translation for Women...

Friday, November 30, 2007

In the interest of serving the general public as cold and flu season kicks into high gear...

The following chart of frequent phrases has been created for your convenience. Should a sore throat render your voice inadequate to the daily demands of parenting, simply print this simple list and post it on the refrigerator. Point to the appropriate number.

AutoMomic Responses

10) Get in the car!

9) Stop Fighting!

8) Pick it up.

7) Go to bed!

6) Just eat it.

5) Because I said so.

4) Get dressed Now!

3) Turn it off!

2) 5…4…3…2…1



This is a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy.
We serve no whines of minors.
We love you.


It's not going well.

Indisposed, daughter who is two knocks. "Don't come in!" I urge. She opens the door and very gently puts down a box of baby wipes. "Here you go Mom." She says and walks away.

It's really not going well.

You should use the potty J.

"No Mom."

Why not?

"Then I'll get my beautiful potty all dirty."

It's not going well at all.

At the grocery store, "We need diapers Mom! Don't forget diapers Mom."

Nice lady listening: "Don't you want to be a big boy and use underwear and go to school?" I nod my head eagerly in agreement.

"NO. Then I'd have to leave Mom alone with the baby!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peanut Gallery Therapy

My brothers and I fought with each other for recreational purposes.

This was pre-game boy cable 24-7 TV stone age time. Instead of phoning other parents to schedule play dates or hyper structuring activities such that we had nothing to do with each other, our parents would throw all three of us sans protective sunscreen or excessive padding outside to entertain ourselves. Trolling the neighborhood for other similarly displaced youths, we’d organize a game of hide and seek or freeze tag or kick the can if there was even one other non related person involved.


If there were no additional people to play with, the dynamics of our group became unhealthy. Two younger boys against a bully big sister who idolized Lucy Van Pelt did not stand much of a chance, especially since they had not ever considered colluding against me. “Let’s play circus!” Guess who got to be the Lion Tamer. “Let’s put on a show.” Guess who got to be the star. “Let’s play story!” Guess who WANTED to be the big bad wolf. Guess what happened in my story until Mom would intervene to make me “play fair.”

I never wanted to play fair. I wanted life unfair in my favor of course!

Then one day it was raining and we couldn’t go outside. There was nothing on television and we’d eaten and Mom had to pay some bills so she sent us to our rooms to play. After a few minutes in my own room, I wandered down the hall looking for something to do.

I saw my two brothers setting up a hot wheel set in their room. They had a charger and it was really cool the way they could get those cars to fly around the track. It was beautiful and huge and they were lining up and dividing cars for a big race. I asked if I could play.

It would make a good story if they had said No and why. Alternatively, if they had said Yes and I had had a moment of epiphany, it would have made good copy. I could have recognized I wanted to be part of their lives and a friend, not just a sister, but this was pre even Phil Donahue or Dr. Phil or Oprah.

They said yes and I immediately plunged into trying to redistribute the cars to get the ones I wanted, muscling the younger one out of a few choice racers, leaving him the scratched police car, white convertible and the green van with yellow seats and orange stripes. When he complained, I relented a bit and gave him all the fire trucks.

Oddly enough, he was not moved by my generosity. I wound up giving him the black car. Of course it was the best one to hug the track and I made several offers to get it back but he wasn’t interested, even when I offered everything else.
We did however spend an afternoon racing cars and I remember my brothers saying “Let’s do that again.” I agreed, and we did, and it was fun.

“Why did you tell us that story?” My son demanded, looking as annoyed as if I had assigned six extra pages of reading for homework or asked him to vacuum his room.

“Because I want you to play with your sister.”

“But she doesn’t like cars.”

“I don’t mean it has to be cars. It can be dinosaurs.”

“But I don’t want to share dinosaurs with a girl, it’s a dumb idea. Dinosaurs aren’t for girls. Everyone knows this.” He protested.

“Look. I want you and your sister to learn to play now so you become more than brothers and sisters, you become friends, like I am with my brothers and sister now.”

“But you’re grownups.”

“But it started then.”

“I don’t want to.” He humped.

I was tired. I was tired of talking. “Do it because I said so or the dinosaurs go away.” I growled.

“Come on F. Let’s play dinosaur.” He said in his most beckoning voice. It may have started because of a threat but within minutes, he and she were deep in a storyline about the T-rex that could fly and the brave stegosaurus that stopped the flying dino from eating her friends by offering a sacrificial PB&J and ice cream instead.

Lucy Van Pelt flexed her muscles. “It’s good to be back.”

Friday, November 23, 2007


Today's offering is verbal stuffing, bits of this and that, mixed to make something really excellent to eat, but not often.

On Thanksgiving morning at six o'clock, the alarm went off.
"Come on Love, we have to dress and stuff the turkeys."
"Feed and clothe the kids, right." he smiled as he hit the alarm.

First a serving of Turkey...

Friday, emerging from the food comas, I happened to smirk at a bag of pecans that warned, "Processed on machines that may have processed nuts from trees." It reminded me of the recall in New Hampsire of Eggnog, where the feds insisted the products be removed from shelves as they lacked sufficient warning...MAY CONTAIN EGGS. Somebody must have egged the government on to do this, or else someone isn't using their noggin.

Mashed Potatoes for Brains...

Pulling out the hotdogs to make lunch, I observed the following label. "Child Safety: When serving hot dogs to young children, cut hot dogs lengthwise, then into small, easy to swallow pieces. Children should eat while seated and be under adult supervision. Please contact us at 1-866...for more information." I called the number to ask whether they could send someone over to supervise. They haven't gotten back to me.


This year, retailers have recognized that "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" aren't cutting it with the vast shopping public that may actually be purchasing things to celebrate a religious observance. "Winter trees" flopped big time last year. Determined not to offend, some not so bright bulbs have opted for "Yuletide Season." Guess it's okay to acknowledge pagan religions, after all, there are so many druids running around.


Cutting cake to celebrate my husband's birthday caused our three year old to come a running. "Who's the cake for?" he asked. Our other children cued up for servings. "My favorite child first." their father replied and added with a wink, "Who's my favorite child?" The older four began to smile and one of them volunteered "All of us." but John grabbed the slice and said "ME. I'm your favorite." and hunkered down on the slice.


On the issue of favorites, a favorite story of my dad's. When asked by one of his sons, which of his nine children did he love the most, my grandfather told the story of how he couldn't be a priest because he had lost part of his thumb. He held up his hands. "You see I have nine fingers." he said. "I love and need them all."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Consuming Passion

Being something of a foodie, I get catalogues for all the high brow uber expensive special gourmet treats. Some of the offers available transcend even American standards for wretchedly indulgent excess. These glossy brochures wax rhapsodic about the food with such transparent joy as to promise a pre “the fall” experience of eating. Catching my beef eater son drooling over a Wagyu Kobe beef offer heartened me about his spiritual innocence, but also stiffened my resolve to recycle the catalogs as quickly as they came in the door. I didn’t want to hear the cacophony of “I want this…” that would come with allowing Wireless, William Somoma, Lillian Vernon, Brookstone, L.L. Bean and Leaps and Bounds Toys catalogues into my home on a perpetual basis.

This policy was strictly enforced until there came one devoted purely to chocolate. I had seen beauty before, but here was the brochure detailing a myriad of choices evoking my deepest passions. There were no sojourns by the purveyors of this most sacred of foods into the disappointing venue of baked goods or ice creams. This catalogue knew its audience and was singled minded in its pursuit of chocolate perfection. There were no cute shaped dinosaurs or Christmas trees; there were fillings of hazelnut, cherry cordial and fondant. Appreciating the priority of substance over form, I spirited the contraband brochure to my room for further study.

That night, I began to educate myself on the varieties of pure indulgence available. I even gave my husband a good back rub to lull him to sleep before sneaking a peak at my beloved. The buyers had scoured the globe for the best chocolate truffles (Teuschers), nibby bars (Scharffen Berger), fudge sauce(Elmer’s Fudge Sauce), hot chocolate shavings (Shokinag), not to mention standby’s like Lindt semi-sweet bars, Hershey’s syrup, and Recchiuti hand rolled truffles and hand cut chocolate. I could feel my mouth watering. I would say I was like a kid in a candy store, but that seems rather obvious.

I had a lap top. I had a catalog. I had a credit card.

But wait, maybe these words were just words. After all, being a writer myself, I understood the glory and the emotional power of good descriptions. Was this pure marketing? To be on the safe side, I googled each item individually to ascertain the truth. I didn’t want to fall for any expensive pretenders. Alas for me, each of them proved to have many a glowing testimony to their positions as certifiable wonders of the chocolate world.

This knowledge brought a whole new set of questions for me. Were these various treats experiences worth not simply buying, but saving for? Were these chocolates such that they might even be worth abstaining from all other chocolate to allow for a greater taste experience? Would ordering too many at once rob me of the true nature of their individual chocolate essences, deprive me of the transcendent nature of unique fine chocolates? Would multiple experiences cheapen my appreciation of them? Worse, what if they disappointed? I felt oddly guilty as I lingered over the order form, like I was acquiring not simply one but multiple mail order brides, preparing to purchase blindly, illicit things I already wanted to love.

After wrestling with my conscious and my budget, and for brief moments, my diet, I decided it was better to play the field. I’m still young I reasoned. I’d have a blind date a month and who knows, maybe one of the gourmet chocolates and I would hit it off fabulously and I’d agree to a second or third date, perhaps be ready for a more permanent commitment. I ennie meenie miney moed my choice and put the catalogue lovingly into my night stand dresser drawer.

The next day, a Lego’s, American girl, National Geographic, Signals and Back to Basic Toys catalogue arrived in the mail. I recognized my own hypocrisy and called the children to hand them out. It can’t hurt to look I reasoned. Besides, I could artfully leave the chocolate catalogue out on the piano in case the kids or their dad needs any hints this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Adventures of Contrary Boy and She Who Would Be Two

Warning: I have been toddlerized.

I have come to accept the inherent cereal and milk encrusted feeling of all my door knobs and the fact that no wall escapes a Zorro like calling card.

One can only hope to contain a toddler, not control. They have to consent to any ideas or activities. The moment one says something in imperative voice to a two year old, the answer is already decided. “We need to go.” “You need a diaper change.” “It’s time to play, eat ice cream and ride flying pink ponies while watching TV and jumping off the furniture.” The reflexive response to all three of these commands is NO! Not only no but hell no!

Time to get dressed.

Now usually I bring the clothes down when I get them up and tackle that task while they’re still groggy enough not to reflexively resist. Today I was slumming and it was ten o’clock when I attempted this feat. Going through the laundry to find fresh outfits, my children sensed what was coming and scattered.

I do have a trick or two though. I have found that if I practice the piano, even so much as a single plink on those ivories brings them to practice with me. This secret summoning spell remains 100% effective as long as they are unaware that I am manipulating them.

Plink! Plink! Plink! I want to be sure they come so I play a winner, “The Spinning Song.”

Up they run, my son shouting “I want to play. I want to play!” “Play!” my daughter who turns two in a week calls. She gets to me first.
I take the first comer and wrestle her to the ground to get dressed. “Now you can play the piano.” I explain. She happily plinks.

Now my son isn’t willing to get dressed and stays out of arm’s reach. “Can we go to the fitness center today?” he asks. (They have better toys I’m told at the gym).
“Fitness Center.” My daughter repeats.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. If people get dressed.” I say, acting casual, as though going to work out would be a major effort and inconvenience to me. He picks out his clothing and hands it to me in a flash.

“Thanks Contrary Boy.” I say as I help him into his shirt.

Make no mistake, toddlers do have super powers; they get sane educated adults to comply with an endless array of tasks through erosion of will.

Yesterday, I needed to make an appointment. The receptionist put me on hold. I witnessed Contrary boy, complete with blanket cape, amble through the kitchen. He found a magnet, a marble, the back of one of my earrings, a cell phone I had given up for dead and a lost bag of chips ahoy to share with his sister. When I cried “Wait!” He bolted out of the room. In the meantime, She Who Would be Two came in, found one shoe, put it on her foot and walked off. She took a marker with her. Returning five minutes later with an entirely purple arm, I hung up. I’d call from my cell with them in their car seats.

Both she and her brother asked for a second round of breakfast.

What did they want?

“Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches.”

We were out of bread.

“Could I make it on hot dog buns?”

They thought this was funny and I pointed out it looked like a mouth. Impulsively, I added blue berries on top as eyes. My son wanted his to have a mustache. That took some doing but after two minutes of discussion and a smear of peanut butter, I served Groucho Marx PB&J on a bun.

I thought I might squeeze back in the call. The Receptionist put me on hold before I could tell her not to.

“Mom. You didn’t give us napkins.”
“Napkins.” She Who Would be Two repeats.

I find a roll of paper towels and pull off two. Still holding.

“Mom, you didn’t give us drinks.”
“Drinks.” She Who Would be Two repeats again.

“I know.” I responded. “Mommy’s on the phone. The service here is terrible.”

“Terrible.” He repeated.

I started making sippy cups of milk before She Who Would be Two could repeat Terrible as well.

Happiness lasted as long as the sandwiches. She Who Would be Two shredded her bun and got her hair covered in peanut butter and jelly.

“My hands are sticky.” He explained, visibly distressed.
“sticky.” She starts to say.
I grab a towel and sponge off her hands and face first.

As I turn to wipe his hands, Contrary boy frowns. “Mom, We haven’t had lunch.”

I hung up again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ordering Out

Going through a drive thru is rather like taking a leap of faith with my brood. Or at least, it used to be. I'd write the order as follows:

W: Big Mac, root beer
B: Ten Piece, Chocolate Shake
M: Mighty Kids Double Cheese, Chocolate Shake BOY Toy (even though she's a girl)
P: Mighty Kids Chicken Nug/BOY TOY ONLY, Chocolate Shake
F: Happy Meal Hamburger/GIRL TOY ONLY, Sprite
J: Happy Meal Cheeseburger/BOY TOY, Chocolate Milk, Apples
R: Happy Meal Hamburger, GIRL TOY, Chocolate Milk, Apples
Me: Diet Coke, resign self to eating whatever order got messed up.
Order four more hamburgers and two four pieces to cover the bases and sigh as oldest produces three dollars to buy six pies.

After writing things down and having errors, writing things down and handing it in and having errors, writing things down and having the kids change their minds, I placed an ultimatum, either cope with what comes or no more golden arches.

This quelled internal dissent at least publically, but getting people to hear the order took time. I considered running through the drive thru twice, as five seems to be the cut off at which the cashier assumes you're done. Instead, I've channeled my inner Julie Andrews.

It is fortunate for me that blogs have not yet progressed that you would hear my words in my own voice. Imagine I'm in tune and very musical.

"A flat please maestro."

They laugh and then they listen. And, I almost never get any mistakes anymore.

(Sung to the tune of twelve days of Christmas)

"For our drive up order please listen to me please

Three happy meals, 2 with hamburgers and one with just cheese.

We'd also like two chocolate milks and an apple juice for drink

and six apple pies!

One big mac meal. A ten piece too

And two Mighty Kids Meals.

One is Cheeseburger, the other chicken!

Three Medium Chocolate Shakes and One Root Beer

And for me a diet coke!

and four hamburgers and 2 chicken four piece

from the dollar menu.

And two girl and Three Boy Toys....."

My only issue is if the kids change the order.

Goodnight Everybody!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Joining the Gamers' Club

What we don’t know innately, we marry.

For example, my husband has a built in GPS in his head. He can tell North on a starless night without a compass or those pesky Auroras Borealis. On the other hand, I still navigate the town that has been our home for thirteen years with mild trepidation. There is a Bermuda Triangle within its radius that plagues me still to this day. The directions for getting to the Victory Center where our daughters play basketball have imprinted on my brain such that I cannot get there….without getting lost first. I have come to terms with my faulty brain. I don’t take them to games anymore.

I dance, love musical theatre and enjoy reading the classics. He reads history for pleasure and can remember it without a test the next day. In other words, ask me if you’re playing Trivial Pursuit for the brown or the pink slice of pie, ask him if you need the history one. I don’t even remember what color that pie piece is.

Where are my…?

During our dating years, I marveled at how organized and put together my future spouse was. He never lost anything. I lost my purse and found it later the second night we met. My I.D. card fell out of my pocket in December. When the snow finally melted that semester in April, I found it again.

I have learned to look in the place where things ought to be first when beginning a mission to retrieve lost objects. Cue Mission Impossible music here. I am now the GPS for all items within the household.

"I can't find my music stand."

"It's next to the computer in the study."

"We don't have lunch boxes!"

"They're still out in the car where you left them."

“Where are my papers from yesterday?”

“They’re on the table under the lunchbox in the kitchen.”

Actually, I’m more like the brown paper envelope in the middle of the Clue Game. I have the answers, I just need the right question.

Scrabble, Upwards and On Words…

We play cards and strategy computer games and every board game there is in our house. My husband is the master of the set battle plan, thus he usually wins at hearts and always at “Go.” My method of play is more on the fly, I school him at chess and occasionally have a run of victories at cards. Where we both are evenly matched is Scrabble. He can plink down amazing words.

Because I’m a non-speller, my victories have been mostly moral ones, but there was one where I put down the “J” on a triple letter score to catapult to the lead, forming the word “Jo.” “That’s not a word. I challenge.” It was a bluff, but I lucked out. It means sweetheart. I tried calling him that for a time, it didn’t stick. It’s a stupid word and even I concede, I won, but with dishonor. (You have to say that last part with a Klingon accent).

Speaking of Klingons,

If anyone in cyber space has Quest for the Throne, the Klingon version of Star Fleet Battles (STB), I’ll buy it from you. Back in my sophomore year of college, he bought the game to teach me about STB quickly and I was undefeated in seven tries despite being an absolute rookie. Then the game vanished mysteriously. He promises he didn’t throw it away.

Gifts and Gift Giving

November 15, 1992 A day that remains pivotal in my spousal relationship. No, it’s not our anniversary or the anniversary of an anniversary or anyone’s birthday. It’s the day we stopped being newlyweds and became a “settled” couple. My husband came home and saw me putting away some shirts from the drycleaners. After dinner, he gave me a pensive gaze and said with recognition in his voice, “You don’t iron for me anymore.” I laughed.

December 20, 1997 We were wrapping up the last of the loot when it occurred to me I hadn’t bought my beloved a present. Expecting a baby, I could have punted and just allotted the oversight to pregnancy hormones. My admittedly feeble attempt to rectify the situation was worthy of spousal scorn, but he’s a very gallant man. My folks were in town for the holidays and I had purchased several books. Having overheard my mom talk about having read one of the books I had bought for her, I regifted on the spot. The problem was, he knew about that book in particular and the fact that it was originally intended for my mom. The inscription on the inside says it all. “I was thinking of you as I wrapped this book, Love S.”

The other day, my husband called me about a sign he saw talking about giving your wife a rock to remember. “How about some quartz?” he offered. “Wow. That would be great!” He showed up with what I estimate to be a 90 lb. boulder that looks very nice in our back yard. The sparkly earrings came later. I countered by getting him something I swore when we dated I’d never do, some practical gifts, fresh pants and socks. Then, feeling bad, I impulsively bought him a beautiful red blanket, and “The Man of LaMancha.”

Romance may be about getting hearts and flowers but love isn’t about getting what you want. It’s getting what you most profoundly need, even if it’s to be told to shape up. We’ve both demanded that the other become more of the person God intended us to be over the years. We diet and budget and struggle with organizational systems to manage our many charges together. He’s learned to bring chocolate on any occasion and how to dance, and I’ve discovered the History section at the book store under his tutelage. I’ve introduced him to musicals and classic film and he’s taken us to civil war battle grounds and explained the campaigns. He’s even navigated me over the phone to the basketball center. And together, we’re a tough match in cards or Trivial Pursuit.

Think I may buy an ironing board, just to surprise him.

Hillary's Family Tree

*This piece was inspired by a puff article on Hillary's relatives, it is a departure from my normal home spun stuff --think of it as dark chocolate instead of your standard every day Hershey's. As Always, I hope it makes you laugh. --Sherry

Who would have thought we could learn something new about Hillary Clinton?

How is it that Hillary's genetic magnificence did not come out when she was campaigning for Bill the first two times around, or when she ran for Senate? The Hillary Camp must have been holding this card for some time now. Imagine, being able to Google HRC and get Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Her Royal Clintoness even has ties to actual royalty, with Camilla Parker Bowles finally married to Prince Charles.

These shocking new details about the history of Hillary come courtesy of Washington genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner and the Washington Post: Reliable Source. (Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, C3) Reitwiesner is a Library of Congress employee. His research also revealed Hillary's musical roots transcended genres, as she is also linked to Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette (tenth cousins once removed). The Washington Post, being the Washington Post, rushed to break the news.

Having done my own research into her genealogical lineage, there are even more startling details that Hillary doesn't want made public.

Indeed, she managed to bury her family ties to eighth cousin twice removed, Margaret Hamilton; you know, the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Hillary Camp, aware that this connection would be unpleasant as it might scare small children, commissioned a revisionary tale of this character. It can be seen on Broadway today as the Tony Award winning show: Wicked.

Harder to conceal was the relationship with her French great, great, great uncle Nap--Napoleon Bonaparte to the rest of the world. Although now largely forgotten by the mainstream media, Old Bonie was undone in his first go 'round as Emperor with his preoccupation with the Health Care Reform Act of 1812, his implementation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy just prior to the invasion of Russia, his obsession with a vast right wing conspiracy orchestrated by religious conservatives to bring back the monarchy, and his penchant for Lithuanian interns. Oh wait...that last part was from Bill's family tree.

Even though Sandy Berger was able to secret out the records from the Library of Congress in his pants before Reitwiesner could find them, I managed to procure a copy from the recesses of a secret vault in the Clinton Presidential Library.

Forget Albus Dumbledore, the real bombshell in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series was the identity of Tom Marvlo Riddle's love child fathered in his sixth year at Hogwarts in the days before free distribution of birth control in high schools. You guessed it, Hillary can trace her true origin to none other, Lord Voldemort.

When confronted about the connection, the Dark Lord shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, you know, there's no accounting for family."

When confronted about her alleged father while autographing pictures for an adoring crowd of progressives, Clinton responded in typically cryptic Clintonian fashion, "What is a Rose Law Firm by any other name?"

To my horror when I looked down at the autograph she put on my program, instead of seeing Hillary Rodham Clinton I read,

I looked up as she walked down the receiving line. She turned and with her smile said—“You and your little blog too.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why Can't the Parents Teach Their Children How to Speak?

I finally cracked the code.

I can speak my five year old daughter’s language.

Oh, I know we taught her English, but communication has always been an issue with her. I assumed it was part and parcel of being the fifth child out of eight. I thought she ignored directives on the theory that I wasn’t talking to her. I thought she pouted to be sure she got attention. Now I know better.

My daughter uses purple prose expressions. She likes sugar frosted cereals and pink fairy princesses and over the top sentiment. Moreover, she can be persuaded by use of the same exuberant broad brush painting with words.

How did I discover her dialect?

It was 32 degrees outside.
“Put on your coat. It’s cold.” I said.

“NO!” She crossed her arms and rolled her tongue, making her “ugly face” in response.

Normally I would simply assert my authority and the coat would be on her body. Today, in a moment of maternal weakness, I try to address her actual needs writ large in her defiance. “Look outside. See the frost? I’ve been outside, it’s very cold. Put your coat on.” I thrust the coat in her hands.

“NO!” she repeats and throws the coat on the floor and stomps off.

Torn between, “Oh yes you will wear this coat and I’m putting it on your stomping self right now!” and “Something must be wrong, this makes no sense!” I stall for time and my temper by asking “Why?”

“I don’t want to wear a coat on the playground.” She sobs. She repeats it three times, each subsequent statement becoming more sorrowful and full of deep breaths.

“I’m wearing my coat. It’s cold outside and I want to stay healthy.” My son volunteers, adopting his “virtue boy” voice.

“Thank you son.” I smile and wave him off to the car.

Recognizing he’s not going to get the additional credit at her expense he’d hoped, he sulks off to the car, taking off his coat as he does and pausing by the window to be sure I see him. I rap on the window. “I thought you wanted to stay healthy!” His own words force the coat back on, the cold helps too.
“I don’t want to…”she’s still sobbing.

“Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.” I rub her arms gently to calm her down and try to make eye contact. “I want you to wear your coat so you can be all toasty warm during play time at kindergarten.” She gives me a small smile. I push my apparent advantage.

“I love my daughter and I don’t want her arms cold or for her to not be able to play because she feels uncomfortable. That would be terrible. I want her warm, toasty, ready to go…” The coat goes on in a flash, as do the mittens and the hat, though an older one marches in to switch hats since this daughter is accidentally wearing hers. I wait for the melt down that doesn’t happen and we get in the car.

Something just happened. I asked her to do something and she agreed. Can I do it again? I wonder.

“Hey Precious. Would you do me a great favor to help take care of your brother and sister? It’s a pretty big job…”

“What what what?” She’s all in. I feel vague guilt asking except she’d have to do these things anyway, so I’m just manipulating the mood in which she receives these tasks, I tell myself. “Can you sit in the far back and give the baby her juice? She’s too little.”


Now my brain is abuz with other prospects –doing homework, chores…the whole world suddenly seems open to me via talking to my dauther.

I start looking at the whole incident for what it truly reveals. Each of my kids speaks English, just with a different dialect. Mulling the whole thing over, the next day I try to say the same command to each child. The following are field tested results from a confirmed child whisperer.

Oldest comes down in short sleeved shirt. He’s fourteen so telling him what to wear other than to say “You’re out of uniform, or that doesn’t fit or is dirty,” is out of bounds. I ask him to take out the garbage. He goes to do the job and immediately comes back in for a coat, hat and mittens.

The next comes in to the kitchen. I’m ready for her. “I stuck your coat and hat and mittens In the dryer…” is all I get out. She’s gone to fetch them in a flash.

My middle girl is a bit of a mystery, compliant in many things but always for her own reasons. She loves cold, so the indirect way won’t work. “Which coat are you wearing today? I don’t want a note from the nurse about not wearing proper attire for playground.” She goes to get her stuff.

Virtue boy sees everyone else and tests me. “I don’t want to wear a coat!” “Fine, then you have to wear a sweater. I hold up the sweater.” He hates sweaters. Batting 1000! I think.

Purple prose still works today and I begin thinking I’ve got it down when it all crashes.

Contrary boy has dressed himself. He is wearing shorts. It is 32 degrees outside and he is wearing shorts. He is bragging about dressing himself. We have to get in the car.

I punt. I dress the baby and load her in the car with the others.

She who would be two loves her coat and willingly complies. Still wondering how I’ll do the last one, I'm considering using parental fiat power but don’t want to ruin my average. I’m in the zone, I think, there has to be another way. I get his socks and shoes on and he is singing about superheroes he’d like to be.

“Thank you Son!” I kiss his forehead and run to the linen closet.
Wrapping him in a polar fleece blanket won’t allow me to go anywhere but back home, but it does get us out the door. Super son and I get in the car. Twenty minutes ‘till school. Buckled and bundled, we’re gonna make it. I feel high on parenting…

The urgency in her voice tells me I’m about to crash.

I’m in freefall.

“You forgot to make us lunches!” There are universal cries of pure despair.
“I’ll bring your food before lunch.”
“Before snack?”
Roll, tumble, hit a tree and flip into a ditch and crash again.
“Before snack.”
Mollified, we set out onto the road.

Well, I may have learned the dialect but the universal language is still food.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!