Category Archives: humor

Ben and the Lifeguard

Ben may have a new fear of lifeguards. Oops.

I took the boys to the town beach today, also known as Wright’s Pond, which is actually a small lake or gigantic pond (what is the difference??). It’s a clean, fresh lake only open to town residents. It’s a short drive away (or bike ride, but it’s up a hill, and pulling both kids in the trailer uphill these days is no walk in the park, so to speak). It boasts a big sandy beach, lifeguards, concession stand, changing rooms, outdoor showers, restrooms, a playground (two, actually), trails in the woods….a pretty excellent “summer playground,” quite honestly.

We all swam for a while, me and the boys: this means Max is swimming along in his mask and snorkel, gathering crowds of older boys who are only wearing swim goggles and are clearly fascinated with his gear…

…and Ben, wanting me to hold his body as he practices swimming, or else asking me to “throw me up in the air and catch me where I’m going to land” (or sometimes “don’t catch me” but I always do, to some degree). They love being in the water.

Eventually Ben wanted to dig in the sand instead. Max wanted me to stay in the water with him until an older kid asked him to help dig a huge hole in the sand. Max agreed immediately, and I got to sit on the blanket and read, glancing up often to make sure they were still on the sand.

Then the screaming. Ben came running up the beach, bee-lining right at me, emitting an earsplitting, nonstop shriek. I put down my New Yorker and watched him approach. He stopped short in front of me and quieted when I put my finger to my lips.

“Are you OK, honey?” I asked, knowing he was. It was one of his screaming-to-make-noise screams, not a scream of fear or pain.

He nodded.

“Ben, you can’t scream like that. If you scream when you’re not hurt or not in danger, the lifeguard–” I jerked my thumb to the right, to indicate the lifeguard stand we were near– “will blow his whistle at you. And he will say, ‘Hey, you! You need to be quiet! You can’t scream unless you are having a problem! Be quiet, please!’ So please keep it down, okay?”

Ben glanced furtively at the lifeguard, then back at me, his eyes wide.

“Now,” I continued. “Are you hungry, sweety? Do you want a plum?”

He nodded. I held out a plum to him. He pulled my hand to his mouth to eat the plum, glancing at the lifeguard between bites. He didn’t make a sound.

The lifeguard, when I glanced over, was watching Ben and smiling big, like he was trying not to laugh.

Then Ben indicated he was done, and with a last glance at the lifeguard, he turned and ran back to his digging work.

Some time later, he came up to me, shivering.He wanted to sit for a while, but only if I rinsed his feet off first (he told me very quietly), so I carried him to the water, swished his feet, carried him back up to the blanket, and wrapped him in a towel. I positioned his drink so he could just lean over and sip from the straw; then I went to join Max in his “work.”

Ben, wrapped in his towel, watched us solemnly…and kept turning his head to look at the lifeguard. I think he was still expecting to get whistled at if he let out so much as a peep.


Hopefully next time we go he’ll be more relaxed about the lifeguard and not be in fear that the lifeguard will target him for noise violations.

On the bright side…quiet’s not so bad!


Discipline, According to Ben

This evening, after a lovely day together — which included Ben staying home with me this morning, even though he insisted all week he wanted to go to preschool, so this morning I gave it a go, since he was so keen on it and I had a meeting, anyway…

but he didn’t want to stay and I handed him over finally and watched from the window in tears as he lay face-down on the preschool couch, inert, while the kind teacher rubbed his back and sang to him and finally I went back in to get him, and he did that heaving catch-your-breath thing into my neck and said, “I want to go home with you” —

so he quite happily came home with me again, just in time for my meeting…

which got postponed as I hadn’t been given all the information I needed for it, so the client gave me the info and postponed the meeting for an hour.

Ben ate his lunch (yes, at 10 in the morning) and watched “Sesame Street” and then played with my iPad while I had my actual meeting. And yes, I know about kids and screen time and such, but really, sometimes you do what you have to do. And he was learning about school buses, OK?

The meeting, which was on Google+ Hangout (as in, a video meeting) went fine until Ben photobombed it at the end. Climbing into my lap wasn’t enough, no. He had to face-dive toward the camera. Then he lifted his foot and pushed that toward my laptop camera…while he was wearing no pants.

OK, thanks! Gotta go! Will get back to you with any questions! OK bye!!

Then we played, picked up Max, and I took the kids to get haircuts. We came home and did a craft together (an actual crafty project! Yes, us! At the kitchen table! All thanks to a BabbaBox….stay tuned for more on that!!) and I made dinner.

Adding to A Really Nice Day, C came home in time for dinner.

Then after dinner the kids were really revved up and Max started acting up.

“Max,” warned C, “if you don’t stop that, you will get a time out.”

All day Max had been clamoring to watch some bear video the sitter found at the library.

“In fact,” I added, “if you do that again, you will not be allowed to watch that video tonight.”

Ben, who was sitting on the sofa, chimed in, “And then punch him in the face! And make him watch boring grown-up stuff!”

Wow. Yes. That’s right, Max, if you do that again, we’re going to make you watch “Parks and Rec” with us. Or maybe “Modern Family.”

What the —-, Ben?

Doesn't he look so sweet, but yet he thinks such thoughts?

Doesn’t he look so sweet, but yet he thinks such thoughts?


Just to be absolutely clear, there is no punching in the face around here. Or any punching at all. Maybe some yelling, sometimes, and sometimes the kids whack each other. But that’s it. And we would never, ever, ever make them watch boring grown-up stuff. Honest.


Why I May Seem Crazy

Scene: Me driving car, babysitter in passenger seat, both kids in the back seat holding snack containers–plastic boxes with lids.

Ben (holding his empty snack container): Mom! What’s this?

Me (glancing back to see what he has): A container!

Him: What container?

Me: The one you’re holding!

Him: What? Why did you say that?

Babysitter: *snorting with laughter*

Me: What? What are we talking about?


Babysitter: *snorting with laughter*

Me: Ben! You asked me what this is. I looked back and you were holding a container. I said, “A container!” You said, “What container?” So I explained it’s the one you’re holding!

Him: What?

Me: I don’t even know what we’re talking about!

Babysitter: *guffaw*

Me (to her, quietly): Do you understand now why I seem crazy?

Thank Heavens for My Healthy Self-Esteem: The Dignity Issue

You know when you carry more keys than the average apartment complex superintendent and you’re in line at the store, toying with the keys, and your thumb gets stuck in one of the key rings just as it is time to pay? And there are people in line behind you and you try calmly, coolly, and desperately to get your thumb free but somehow it’s really quite stuck?

Bloggers–they’re just like regular people!

Let’s move on.

Ben likes my breasts. They’re nothing spectacular, but he’s a really big fan. Sometimes when I’m holding him—or even if I’m not—he reaches out to touch both of them (always both, never just one) and just smile at them. Or he’ll grab my nipples (always both, never just one). But for that he looks up at me, because he knows I don’t like it, and he smiles sweetly as I say, “No, honey, that hurts!”

Some mornings he still crawls into bed next to me and instead of going right back to sleep, my arms wrapped around him, he looks into my face and says, “I want booby!” And I say, “No, but I can get you some chocolate milk!” and he will finally agree that that would be fine.

Yesterday he was sitting on my lap, me still in my pajamas (read: No Bra). He reached out for my breasts and held one in each hand. Then he frowned.

“Mommy, why they not up here? They’re supposed to be up here!” He pointed higher on my chest, closer to my shoulders.

Not even on my second cup of coffee of the day and already my breast sag is a topic of discussion.

Like many parents, I try not to blame my kids, at least not to their faces. So I bit back some explanation that involved breastfeeding my children for the past five years and the fact that he still doesn’t quite want to let go of nursing and a resigned telling of how the saggy breasts are just a tiny part of the collateral damage of motherhood, thank you very much…

…and instead I smiled back at him and explained that up by my shoulders was way too high and in fact they should be here and pointed to where on my chest my ideal breasts would be if I were young and firm again, or if I splurged for a breast lift for my saggy sorry little breasts.

And then he pinched my nipple (just one, not both, despite my claims above) and I kissed his nose and I told him to go get dressed.

I went to get dressed, too (for some reason choosing my very perkiest push-up bra), and when I was naked my husband came in and looked at me and said, “I feel sorry for you.” He claims it was in reference to my having to get our children (now locked in a screaming tangled fight about socks or something) dressed and dropped off for school. I’m sure he was telling the truth, but PEOPLE: Do not EVER tell your partner or lover or sex-friend or whatever, “I feel sorry for you” while that person is STARK NAKED. OK?

How’s your Thursday going?


A Glimpse into Our Morning

C leans over me, where I’m working at my laptop. “You know the lab is closed Monday, right?” he says.

I’ve been up early with the children, as usual. I’ve cleaned the kitchen, made waffles, made a cinnamon molasses syrup because we’re nearly out of maple, and have smiled hard the whole time. Now I’m itching to get away, have a little alone time, run errands with just one child. It seems impossible.

I look up at C. “Wonderful. So that means an extra day of family-togetherness time?” I am not thrilled.

“I just thought maybe we could all get away and go enjoy the snow somewhere else, go skiing or something” he said, just as Ben raced by and tripped and fell flat on his face at our feet. He lay there for a moment, saying, “Oh. I fell.” Oh, yes, I thought, let’s hurry up and get this kid on skis. C and I started laughing. I laughed so hard a little fart squeaked out.

Ben got up and kept running into the living room. Then he turned around to face us. He put his hand back around by his butt. “Was that me?” he asked.

“No, honey, I think that was me,” I told him.

“No,” he said. “I think that was me.”

“No, Ben. I’m the one who—you know, I’m not going to argue with you about who farted.”

“It was me,” he insisted.

“It wasn’t me!” C said.


I let him have this one.

I may be old. But I’m still your mommy.

The other day, Ben (age 2) pointed to the big line between my eyes. I’ve had it forever. I think it’s partly due to my crappy left eye; I squint a lot, so I have this big valley of a wrinkle. I have considered, lately, Botoxing it so I stop squinting. (I mean, yeah, better glasses might work, too, but I think that muscle is permanently squinty).

“You look like Afi!” he said with glee. “Afi” is what the kids call my father–who this year turns 80, mind you. “Afi” is the Icelandic word for “grandfather.”

“I do?” I asked.

“Yeah! Because you have wrinkles!”

Thank you, my sweet child.

Tonight, I was telling him that though our usual Thursday morning sitter (let’s call her “Q”) is out of town this week, I have  a replacement sitter for him. Or, I said, he could spend the morning with Mommy.

“I want the sitter,” he said. Didn’t even need to think about it.

“Really, honey? We don’t know her. “It’s one of Q’s friends. Maybe you and I could have a Mommy-and-Ben adventure!” I don’t normally give him a choice. I have to work on Thursday. I really do. But I also found a sitter for all afternoon, so I could probably spare a few morning hours to have some adventure with Ben.

“Not Mommy,” he insisted. “I want the sitter.”

I felt terrible. Is it because I yell too much? Because I’m cranky a lot? Because sometimes I have really smelly farts?

“But why, honey? Why the sitter instead of Mommy?” I asked, knowing I shouldn’t.

He stared at me. “Because you’re old,” he said, pointing at my face.

It’s true. I am. He’s totally right. I’m old. And I’m not nearly as laughing or pretty or stylish or fun or cheerful as his college-aged sitters.

But I’m Mommy. And I’ll always be here. And one day he’ll forget about the young pretty girls, who’ll be long gone, and he’ll know that I’ve been here all along. Wrinkled, haggard, cranky, farty, and even older. And older. And older.

Ageist little cutie.


Our Fun Day at Trader Joe’s: The Butt Dance and So Much More

Why hello, fellow Trader Joe’s shoppers! Wasn’t that fun today–me with my kids in the crowded store, you apparently never having seen a child before?

I know I had a blast. Taking two kids to a crowded grocery store at naptime–a grocery store seemingly filled with single, childless people of all ages (childless grandparents, even) was an adventure for me.

The adventure started outside the store, when the two-year-old kept trying to ride on the side of the small, urban-grocery-store sized cart, which naturally kept tipping. The more responsible four-year-old wanted to drive the cart. I hope you all noticed that I pulled all of us (it felt like I was shepherding a small baseball team at that point) aside to let you through the entrance while we sorted out the rules about who does what with the cart (Mommy, and only Mommy).

That joyride past the avocado display while I was looking at flowers? Priceless, right? Sure, maybe I took my eyes off of them for a second, but did you see the pure glee on their faces?

As for the butt dance, well, I don’t know what that was about. I’m glad some of you found it entertaining. As I swore to at least a few of you today, I’ve never seen them do that before, honest. It was surprising and cute by the cereal aisle, until it got embarrassing (“Stop patting your brother’s butt! And stop doing the butt dance! We don’t even do a butt dance!! Stop the butt dance!”).

I admit I didn’t try to stop them when they repeated the butt dance near the coffee and tea, because I was busy grinding $15 worth of decaf French Roast, and it was a heck of a lot better than trying to keep the two-year-old from eating coffee grounds from the other grinder (don’t worry; although he did swipe his hand over the grounds, lick his hand, and repeat the gesture, he’s been over the flu for at least two weeks now).

And though one or two store employees seemed startled by the butt dance, they looked less alarmed than they did when the four-year-old picked up a chocolate cake with one hand and said, “Look, Mommy, it’s a chocolate cake like you wanted for your birthday! We should get it for you!” Sweet–almost poignant, right? Admit it; you just felt downright sorry for me at that point…

…though just moments before you were probably confused and/or amused when I frog-marched my small brood down the Danger Aisle of Tempting Glass Jars at Kid Level, singing, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!” the whole way so that the two-year-old would keep his hands to himself (well, on himself, actually). The four-year-old ignored me, so excited was he by the bag of orecchiette he found (he loves the little-ear pasta). So sure, having the little guy frequently stopping to touch his knees or toes probably slowed you down a bit, but a big mess of broken olive jars would have stalled you for a lot longer!

Considering that even you single childless people were crashing into each other and constantly saying, “Excuse me,” I think I did pretty well managing one very full cart and two small participatory children who were excited by all the shiny tasty goodness that Trader Joe’s stocks…not to mention all the samples. (What was up with all the samples today? Playoffs?)

For those of you who found surprise items in your cart when you checked out–or, worse, once you got home–sorry. I did pull Apple-Carrot Squishables (or whatever they’re called) out of one cart and kept the kids from dropping sliced turkey and string cheese into another, but I can’t guarantee that was the end of it.

I also may have come home with extra items myself, as whenever I assigned one child to grab something and put it into the cart, the other wanted the same privilege. But hey, I will eventually use up all 200 #4 coffee filters, right? Especially with that huge amount of decaf I bought?

I also didn’t really want to buy the Multi-Grain Puffins or the Italian Blood Orange Soda or those damn squisher things, but I was trying to get our shopping trip over with as peacefully as possible.

And I think, all in all, I succeeded.

Are you kidding me? Do you really think I had a chance to take any pictures while at the store?? Here is part of our haul.

Are you kidding me? Do you really think I had a chance to take any pictures while at the store?? Here is part of our haul. One woman, four very full and heavy grocery bags, one six-pack of beer, two children, second-floor apartment. NO PROBLEM.

ben floor

Two-year-old playing with bubble wrap after our shopping trip. I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE IT CAME FROM. If you lost some bubble wrap at Trader Joe’s today, sorry. Call me.

Postscript: After we loaded everything into the car, I brought the children to the beer store so I could buy, obviously, beer. The three punk guys running the place stared at us as we walked in: me carrying Ben, with Max by my side.

“Remember, we don’t touch anything,” I said as we walked in, past precarious pyramids of wine bottles. Max is actually pretty good about such things. One punk clerk said, “Let me know if you need anything.”

“I need beer,” I said. He laughed. After my grocery shopping experience, I probably looked like I needed several beers and a couple of Ativan.

Ben looked the guy right in the eye, his most serious expression on his baby face. “I going to poop on the beer,” Ben told him.

The guy nearly fell off his stool laughing.

And that, dear readers, is how you run errands with children.

Apples: A Story of Weaning My Two-Year-Old

He’s more fragile this weekend, more likely to cry in that hard, unreachable way he does when he’s hurt or scared, fingers in his mouth, tears and snot and drool, and I take him in my arms and rock him and shush him and sooth him until he quiets, finally.

It could be that he’s just tired and coming down with a cold and doesn’t nap on weekends. But I don’t think that’s it entirely.


Last August, I had him down to only nursing once a day, at night. And then I went away for four days and thought it would be over when I returned.

He’d been fine while I was gone, but when I got back, he was soon nursing four times a day, somehow. I marveled at his ability to pick it back up again, take what he wanted, and my body’s ability to respond, making more milk when I’d thought I was done.

We’re down to twice a day, again, but I’m ready to be done with the mornings. He pads into my room in the dark: “Mommeeeeee!”

And every night I wake, immediately, and it’s always around 2:20 a.m. but sometimes it’s not until 5, and I say, “Right here, Sweety; Mommy’s right here” and he finds his way to my side of the bed and I help him up and he says, “Nurse booby,” and I tuck him against me and cover us with blankets and lift my shirt.

He knows to switch sides after a few minutes, and he insists on pulling down my shirt himself: “No, I cover booby!” On the second side, always the left side, always his favorite, he’s reluctant to let go, even after I give several one-minute warnings. Lately I have to pry his mouth off, while he protests and clamps down harder, and I think it might hurt him as much as me.

I rub his back and he falls asleep sprawled next to me.

It’s the prying-off that did me in, finally. Neither of us is ready for him to give up nursing entirely, but the predawn sessions aren’t nice at all anymore. They’re a fight, and they hurt in the end.

I began to warn him, a few days ago, that soon booby would only be for bedtime. We’d nurse two more mornings and then be done. I’d get him a pacifier. Does he know what a pacifier is?

He stared at me blankly.

“Binky, then. Do you know what a binky is?’

His face cleared with recognition. “Yes! Binky!” His daycare friends use them, some of them. He hasn’t used once since he was less than a year old, but I thought it might be nice comfort object for him to suck on while we cuddle, instead of my breast.


He sat on the potty. I crouched on the floor in front of him, waiting for him to finish.

“Ben,” I said, “I’m going to buy you a binky today. Remember, this morning was the last morning for booby. From now on, booby is only for bedtime. You can cuddle with me in my bed and have a binky instead of booby, OK? Boobies are for babies, and you’re a big boy now.”

This is hard for me. He’s my baby, probably my last. I don’t want to let go of him anymore than he does of me right now.

He looked at me. Then he reached out his arm and wrapped it around my neck, drawing me close. I nuzzled his cheek. “Oh, Ben,” I whispered, “I love you.”

He held me tight and murmured into my ear. “I wanna apple.”

This kid is a lot of things. Sentimental is not one of them. I promised him an apple as soon as he was off the toilet.


At first he thought the binky was a toy, and his older brother wanted one, too. I refused that request and let Ben do what he wanted with his.

By the second morning, today, he’d climb into my bed and ask for booby and cry and protest when I refused.

“Ben! Where’s your binky? Go get your binky. You can stay in my bed and snuggle and I’ll rub your back and you can have your binky.”

“No,” he said. “I want binky and booby.”

“Oh, honey.” I hugged him. “You don’t get both. Just binky.”

I think we were awake, mostly, from 2 a.m. until 5 a.m. the past two mornings. That could be why he’s more fragile, right? Not just the weaning?


He puts his hand down my shirt more, of course, and he’s crying more easily. But that’s during the day.

At bedtime, when I let him nurse, he is quick on the right side. Before I can suggest that it’s time to switch sides, he pulls down my shirt on that side and rolls over me to my left side. He lifts my shirt…and settles in. When I finally say first, “Ben, honey, one more minute” and then, “Ben, sweety, it’s time to be done. We’re done with booby now,” he pulls away quickly and tugs my shirt down to cover me.

Then he says, “Get out of here now! Get out of my bed”, waving me away. Two nights in and I still think it’s a joke, but it is not. He is serious.

Tonight, though, I was more prepared. I agreed to go but asked if we could have a hug and kiss goodnight first. He kissed me lightly on the mouth and pulled me close for a hug, and I breathed him in fast before he pushed me away again.

Then I went to snuggle my older boy goodnight, my older boy who would love it if I slept curled around him and who loves to kiss me on the mouth and who tells me all the time how much he loves me. That boy, after months of resistance, weaned easily as soon as Ben was born.

But I don’t have a new baby to take Ben’s place at my breast. As far as Ben has ever known, my breasts are only and entirely for him. He has no reason to let go.


We’ll get through this. We’re not weaning completely yet. It’s a big change, though, for both of us. For now, I will hold him close and rub his back and let him sleep sprawled next to me, and I’ll offer him chocolate milk and apple cider and his binky when he wants to nurse.

He will get through this. We will get through this. I don’t expect the fragility and tears to last for long, but this unsentimental child is certainly showing a side I hadn’t expected. I don’t feel I know him as innately as I feel I know my firstborn, but my brown-haired boy and I will get through this together, growing up and letting go.

And eating apples, obviously.

Lego Times

Child [working on Lego project]: Mommy, can you help me? I can’t find where this goes.

Mother [looking at Lego directions]: Where are you?

Child [hand on directions]: Right here.

Mother [unable to tell if his hand is indicating step 4 or step 5]: Where are you?

Child [exasperated, lifting his hand from the directions to point to his own chest]: I’m right here.

Mother: No! Where in the Lego directions are you?

Child: Oh. Right here.

Powder in a Box

Our old dishwasher had not been working well. A fluff of lather glistened in the bottom after every wash, and the dishes weren’t coming out very clean. I usually ran it twice per load, the second run water-only. Wasteful, I know, but it was an old machine. Our plumber had, last year, suggested it was on its last legs.

So it was dying. I didn’t want to call the landlord about it (let’s just say we have something of a low rent/we-don’t-bother-them situation)…until it started leaking.

The landlord took a look and agreed it was finally time to replace the thing.

The new one didn’t leak and worked a lot better….but there was still lather in the bottom sometimes, and the detergent didn’t always dissolve completely. This, I decided, was probably because of the detergent. I’d obviously bought some sub-par brand—some large, economical-looking box from Whole Foods.* Maybe it was time to get something like Cascade.

I thought about this today when I was at Whole Foods with Ben. C had mentioned we needed laundry detergent. I’d intended to go to Costco, but I was short on time and needed some groceries. I decided to pick some up at Whole Foods since I was there anyway.

In the cleaning supplies aisle, I looked at all the options. There was a large box. It looked familiar.  

I know that brand! I thought. Their dishwasher detergent totally sucks; there’s no way I’m going to buy their laundry detergent! I bought a jug of liquid detergent instead and, when we got home, put it by the top of the basement stairs for the next time we headed to the basement to do laundry.

Do you see where this might be going?

We got home from our date night tonight to find that our wonderful sitter, A__ had completely cleaned the kitchen.

“I loaded the dishwasher,” she said. “I was going to run it, but I couldn’t find any dishwasher detergent.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” I said. “We keep it under the sink.”

“All I found was laundry detergent,” she said. “I was on the phone with my mom when I stopped and said, ‘Mom, I need to call you back! I think I just put laundry detergent into their dishwasher!’ My mom said I’d better make sure I got it all out.”

Now do you see where this is going?

“Laundry detergent?” I said.

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

“I thought, ‘Maybe Julia is onto something!’ so I googled ‘laundry detergent in dishwasher,’ but the results were mixed. Something about lots of lather,” said A__.

“So that’s why our dishes haven’t been very clean! And there’s always so much lather at the end!”

Chris gave me a look. A__ and I burst out laughing.

“I looked around and saw a bottle by the basement stairs,” she said. “I was wondering why you’d have both powder and liquid. And why you keep one of them under the kitchen sink.” 

When I stopped laughing, I said, “Please….if you’ve noticed any other anomalies around here, please let me know!”

Seventh Generation, I’m sorry I thought you made a crappy dishwashing detergent. But I will tell you that, in a pinch, your laundry detergent does a good-enough job on our dishes.

*We can discuss the whole economics of Whole Foods thing another time. But listen, it’s a quarter-mile from our house, and since we mostly eat only organic produce and dairy and non-toxic meat, and I hate driving, and I hate making two-three different trips to different stores, it’s where we get most of our food….and occasionally our household stuff, like laundry and dishwasher detergents, in a pinch.