babies · daughters · education · marriage · motherhood · preschoolers · sexuality

Nothing a Little Lube Can’t Fix! (from the Momplex Blog archive)

Even the happiest and best-paired of husbands and wives sometimes have drastic disconnects. My husband and I are generally two peas in a pod. We’re a nice mix of similarity and complement, and this generally keeps our boat floating, even in the worst of circumstances — like when he was deployed to the Middle East while our daughter was a toddler. Sometimes, though, like with any other marriage, we can have the most ridiculous disconnects. Case in point:

Our daughter is set to be the Child of the Week this week at her preschool. This dubious honor roughly translates into Make More Work for Mom Week. While our daughter gets to revel in such rapturous treats as being at the front of the line all week, having control over the classroom light switch during recess, and sitting up front with the teachers during circle time, for me, it means making a “special snack” for the whole class, orchestrating a surprise drop-in from a “special visitor” for her before the week’s end, and helping her create a “special poster” to share with the class that tells them more about her life. Aside from their obvious abuse of the word “special,” the preschool really can’t be held responsible for the grief this event is causing my family. How were they to know that it would coincide with our 11-week-old getting a ruptured eardrum?

After many days of crying, difficult bedtimes, fussy daytimes, and bobbing on and off the breast, my son managed to get through to the mother intuition that I didn’t even think I possessed. (Who can blame me? Our firstborn was an equal-opportunity crybaby, with a scream as shrill for I Don’t Like the View from this Carseat as it was for I Just Rolled Off the Bed and Onto My Face on the Wood Floor.) At any rate, I just got to thinking yesterday that the baby might be coming down with something. My husband confirmed my hunch with his otoscope, glimpsing blood and what appeared to be a rupture in my son’s right eardrum. Probably from our airplane descent last week.

As I was trying to deal with the fussy baby yesterday, I was also trying to help our four-year-old create her “special poster” for school. Being the Child of the Week is an event that comes only once a year for each student, so it’s a big deal. But I had no intention of trying to best any of the other mom’s gratuitious attempts to make their children look like professional archivers with an uncanny mastery of calligraphy. Seriously, I had the notion to just plop our daughter down with some paper, glue, pictures, and crayons, and let her have at it. But I knew it was important to her that I help, and the kid can’t exactly choose pictures off our computer to print, so she and I sat down together for an hour yesterday and carefully went through our digital photos. She meticulously picked which ones she wanted to include — a photo of her first day holding her brother, one of her cat that died this past summer, one of her climbing a tree with her Grandma, etc. Every picture had a “special” story to tell. When all was said and done, she had about 35 pictures selected. I hit print, and then learned that our printer was out of red ink.

At this point, the baby was crying for the umpteenth time, and because I’d been up much of the prior night nursing and comforting him, my energy was wearing out. But my husband had done all the holding that could help, so I had to take back the baby while my husband ran out to Walgreen’s to buy an ink cartridge. He took our memory stick with him, loading onto it the pictures we needed, just in case the store didn’t have the cartridge.

While he was out, my daughter went to a cookie-decorating party next door. She returned from the party high — absolutely HIGH — on sugar cookies with icing and M&Ms and candy corn. She was the epitome of a whirling dervish. I tried to settle her into working on her poster as her dad began whipping together dinner for us all. The baby was crying again, and I tried to nurse him in a sling as I pulled together the art supplies. “Just have to make it to the end of the day,” I told my heavy eyelids and tired arms, as I opened the Walgreen’s bag and discovered that my husband had printed only about 10 photos.

“Where are the rest of the pictures?” I asked.

“It seemed like too many,” he said, “So, I just printed some of them.”

I think fire shot out of my eyes. It was not that big of a deal, but it was, for some reason, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“You mean we spent ALL that time this afternoon going through those photos for no reason!?” I snarled. “I could kill you!”

Yes, I am that ridiculous right now.

I stomped upstairs and downstairs and through hallways, collecting up the goods for the poster and then remembering that he’d also stopped to buy an ink cartridge somewhere else after all. I went to the bag where I thought the ink cartridge would be, and found instead a shiny new bottle of AstroGlide. Um, yeah. Snowball’s chance in hell.

“You gotta be kidding me,” I said. “You’re out of your mind.”

My husband looked up and saw me holding the bottle, that precious little bottle of hope, and said with a smirk, “What?”

“Do you know what I’m thinking when I see this?” I asked.

“I think so,” he said. “You want to tell me I can go f— myself with it?”

I laughed. That wasn’t what I was thinking at all. I was thinking how much that bottle shouted about the disconnect men and women often experience when a new baby arrives. No, I think it says a lot about the disconnect between men and women, period. Her very sanity is hanging by a thread, and he’s stopping off to buy lube? Did he really think that whole business about breastfeeding drying up cervical mucous was all that stood between us and a night of great sex?

When all was said and done, we had a good laugh about it. My daughter’s poster got finished and had her beaming with pride. My son eventually went to sleep. And my husband and I ended up with a little extra oil to burn. I intend to put it right in the kitchen next to our olive and canola oils, where it has a better chance of being put to some use.

advice · education · husbands · motherhood · preschoolers · schools · speed-posts · transplant

School Matters: Who Knew the Earth Had a Foreskin? (from the Momplex Blog archives)

I am a writer, so people are often surprised to learn I skipped a grade in math. Maybe it’s not because I’m a writer that they’re surprised. Maybe it’s because I seem kind of dumb with numbers. In truth, I sort of am. It’s not so much that I’m naturally, intrinsically dumb with them. It’s just that muscles atrophy when you don’t use them. (I know my brain isn’t a muscle, but just go with it.) After two decades of me writing and editing for a living, the math part of my brain looks like this:


Just for reference, here is the writer side of my brain:


So, just to be clear, here is the whole thing:


(Guess where the art center in my brain is located?)

I have not needed my full gamut of math education nearly as much as my math teachers threatened I would—until now. But because of recent experiences in my life, I just want to warn all the little kids out there:  YOUR MATH TEACHER IS NOT LYING. YOU REALLY DO NEED TO PAY ATTENTION IN MATH CLASS, BECAUSE YOU REALLY ARE GOING TO NEED IT ALL.

The most important reason to retain it–the teachers don’t tell you this–is so that you will not look stupid when, later in life, your child asks you for homework help. I mean, what are you going to do when your fourth-grader is coming at you with questions like, “Which one of these is a rhombus?” and “Did I get the area of this triangle right?” And there you’ll be, hanging onto your shred of dignity, squinting over a Stove Top Stuffing box as you and your grade-skipping self struggle with mental math to make one-and-a-half times the suggested amount.  What? You’re going to sneak over to the iPad and whisper, “OK, Google…how to calculate the area of a triangle” right in front of her? No! You’ve got to prove your salt by knowing as much as she thinks you do. Don’t you know a 10-year-old girl is just one hormone-surge shy of deciding you’re the world’s biggest idiot?

If the math doesn’t kill you, the science will. Because someday, as God is my witness, your 5-year-old is going to demand answers. Like, is Pluto a planet or isn’t it? WELL, IS IT? And when you answer incorrectly, your daughter’s friend from the fourth grade is going to survey you with shriveled brow and an Elvis lip and say, “Um, Pluto used to be a planet.” (I wasn’t sure if she was correcting me or wiping me off her shoe.) God, I actually knew that one! I did! But she caught me off-guard!

But therein lies my point: As a parent, you’ve got to be ready to do things like name the planets, spell Potomac, and define a hypotenuse off the top of your head and even while cleaning pee off the base of the toilet. (Which is what I was doing during the Pluto debacle.) Your teachers are telling you that you need to remember this stuff because you DO. Total recall, people, or you’re going to screw up your children.

Which one is Tattooine?
Which one is Tattooine?

Tonight as I was getting my daughter ready for bed, I told her how embarrassed I was at her younger brother’s parent-teacher conference this morning:

“Out of the blue, do you know what he blurted? He said, ‘Someone in my family—I think my mom—said you were wrong about something even though you think you’re right.’”

I told her how I’d explained that he must have overheard a conversation about my daughter’s teacher. I mean, that teacher is the one who changed my daughter’s spelling of blond to blonde, which technically wasn’t correct, given the context and this one weird spelling rule that most people don’t know.

“But, geez, I just sounded ridiculous,” I told my daughter. “Because your brother then pointed at his teacher and said, ‘No, Mom, someone in our family said that about HER.'”

Turns out, it was my daughter. “Sorry, Mom,” she said, “but his teacher had taught him that at the end of the earth there’s something like lava.”

“Honey, she must have meant the center of the earth, which is pretty much like lava,” I said.

“I know, Mom, but she said end of the earth, and anyway, it’s not lava.”

Do you know what I said? I said, “Well, that’s just an easier way for a preschool teacher to explain that stuff to little kids. And I know it’s not lava, but it’s similar. It’s smegma.”

Yes, I seriously said smegma, as if the Earth is one big foreskin. No, I did not realize my mistake right away, not even within a minute. My excuse? This:


On a more serious note: Remember that I’m donating 80 percent of the profits from March sales of my book to the Restoring Hope Transplant House–a home away from home for transplant recipients and their families. Already own one? Recommend it to a friend, or better yet, buy some copies as gifts.