Adventures in speed reading

I read an entire book last week. I know that is not generally cause for celebration unless you are, say, a 5-year-old, but it was a milestone for me. Sadly I can count on one hand the number of books I have finished since my two-year-old was born. Emphasis on finished. I have started many books.

I used breastfeeding as an excuse to leave a room and binge-read the Hunger Games trilogy because nothing helps you lactate like a story about children who murder one another.

I also read Tina Fey’s book because it was Tina Fey.

Other than that my reading habits have spiraled into the abyss of kindergarten tales, board books and the occasional IKEA catalog. For me, reading has become another casualty of parenthood – right up there with getting a full night of sleep, having privacy in the bathroom, and sitting down while I eat. It just doesn’t happen anymore. I try when I finally get a chance at 10:00 pm, but I fall asleep within 5 minutes. Is book-induced narcolepsy a thing? If so, I have it.

But last week I overcame the odds and managed to read Gone Girl. I was racing to finish because I’m going to see the movie with a gal pal (my apologies for using the term ‘gal pal’). Nothing motivates me like the promise of buttery popcorn and time away from my family with a dear friend.

Now I’m hoping to sustain the momentum and get back on the reading train because a) I realized how much I miss it and enjoy it, and b) my 6-year-old has become a voracious reader and she suddenly no longer wants or needs me to read with her.

I’m not so sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I now have the opportunity to read for myself. Last week we sat in bed together each reading our own books. I loved it.

On the other hand, I withstood hours of BOB books, Fancy Nancy and Pete the Cat, only to be cast aside once she finally starts reading the good stuff. If she thinks she can read Harry Potter without me, she is mistaken.

Our neighbor's Little Free Library, which boosted my child's enthusiasm for books

Our neighbor’s Little Free Library, which boosted my child’s enthusiasm for books and turned reading into a competitive sport

Watching my kid learn to read has been one of my favorite milestones. I get giddy when I walk into a room and find her with her nose in a book. Of course at this pace, she will probably be reading more complex novels than I do by the third grade, so that will be fun and embarrassing for both of us.

In the meantime I need to find myself a new book. I don’t want to overreach and pick something too intellectually challenging. I need something easy. Something achievable. Let’s be honest, I need something that would appeal to an angst-ridden pre-teen who likes implausible story lines and then I *might* stand a chance of actually finishing it.

I’m coming for you, Harry.

The incredible disappearing kid

Parenting is hard. But do you know what’s even harder than parenting your own kids? Watching someone else’s.

Last night I took my 6-year-old daughter and one of her friends to soccer practice. For the purpose of this story, let’s call her friend ‘Lil Wayne.’

Note: I spent far too much time debating whether to call him Lil Wayne or Lil Jon. In the process I discovered there is an entire list of “artists” who use the ‘Lil’ prefix with their name, including a cat. A cat! It’s gripping stuff. Feel free to go read it instead of this post.

Lil Wayne is my child’s favorite partner in crime. He is her muse. Her troublemaking twin. The Butch Cassidy to her Sundance Kid (not sure what that means, just trying to sound cool). Basically when the two of them get together, all hell tends to break loose.

I spent the first 20 minutes of soccer practice trying to cajole the two of them to actually get on the field. They were tackling one another, playing chase, and for one frightful moment I lost sight of Lil Wayne until he reappeared out of nowhere. Apparently he had gone AWOL and climbed the fence. I’m just grateful he came back.

Eventually they calmed down enough to engage in practice, so I took the opportunity to check my email – OK FINE I WAS LOOKING AT INSTAGRAM, SHUSH. When I looked up after no more than a minute or two, Lil Wayne had managed to zip himself inside one of the team’s equipment bags. He was writhing around inside the bag like a tragic Houdini-gone-wrong scene.

Lil Wayne

It took me a few seconds to register what was happening. Why is that bag moving? Is there an animal in there? Wait. WHERE IS LIL WAYNE?!

Once I figured it out, I raced over to unzip him, terrified that he was having a seizure or was about to suffocate. By the time I got there, the other kids had crowded around him and were laughing hysterically. Turns out Lil Wayne was not actually dying, he was pretending to be a zombie. Of course! Because that makes total sense.

I fully understand the awesomeness of zombies, and I can even appreciate the humor of the bag trick – if you are a licensed magician. But moving forward I’m going to request that Lil Wayne save his death-defying stunts for days when his mother drives the carpool instead of me.

What a difference a year makes

Last year at this time my daughter had just graduated from preschool when she informed me that she knew “all of the bad words.” I was caught off guard and worried about where she might have heard such obscenities. She then shared them with me.

The bad B word was “Butt.” The bad S word was “Stupid.” The bad H word was “Hate.” The bad N word was “Nipple.” And the bad “IHB word” was “I Hate your Butt.”

It was a sweet and funny moment and I was grateful for her innocence. Ahh the naivete of youth.

Fast forward one year as my daughter is about to finish kindergarten. Yesterday she looked at me and asked, “Mama, what’s a motherf*cker?” But she didn’t use the asterisk.

Over the past two weeks my dear sweet child has unleashed a slew of curse words that we had no idea she knew. Sometimes she even uses them correctly.

I’d like to thank the public education system for enlightening my child this year beyond my wildest dreams. Not only did she learn to read and write, but her vocabulary now matches that of a middle-aged truck driver (no offense to truck drivers).

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to the foul-mouthed heathen who shared these delightful terms with my child at the lunch table. May your potty mouth serve you well in the years to come. Like when you’re sitting in detention.

Despite my best efforts to thwart my child’s fascination with these brave new words, I can tell by the twinkle in her eye that she is eager to use them. So now my summer objective is to teach her, earlier than I had planned, one of life’s most important lessons: With great profanity comes great responsibility. Wish me luck. I fucking need it.

How to leave your kids. Not forever – just for a few days.

This week I’m traveling across the country and leaving my kids at home with my husband for the first time ever. Preparing for this adventure has been a learning experience, so I’ll share my top 5 tips for a successful getaway.

1) Have your toddler stage a sleep strike for two consecutive weeks prior to your departure. Make sure she skips naps, and demands that you wake up and rock her for 1-2 hours every night around 3 a.m. This will help get you even more excited to stay in a hotel where you will attend your first sleeping writing conference.

2) Leave your husband a painfully detailed day-by-day, hour-by-hour agenda of household activities he needs to cover in your absence. Consider telling him when he should go to the bathroom each day, but realize that might be overkill (you can text him that info later).

3) Tell your husband that you will prepare a few meals in advance that he can feed the family when you are gone. But then forget to do it.

4) Remind your husband 40-50 times that your toddler has developed a dangerous habit of running into the street to ensure he never leaves her unattended in the yard. Incorporate this reminder into a blog post as a subtle, yet annoying, means of reminding him yet again.

5) Pack only the essentials.


Ok, so perhaps these are more tips to avoid vs. tips to follow. Details, details.

Overthinking it

My 2-year-old has been in love with the pacifier since the moment it touched her newborn lips. It soothes her like nothing else.

Leading up to her 2nd birthday, we reduced her usage (mostly) to naps and bedtime, knowing that we’d want to eventually break the addiction.

Then at her 2-year check-up, her doctor said we missed the window. She felt it would be better to wait until my daughter can understand and communicate more about why we are taking it away. Otherwise she could be scarred for life (not the pediatrician’s exact words, but something like that).

A week later, her dentist disagreed and said we needed to kick the habit ASAP. Otherwise my daughter’s teeth would be damaged for life (not her exact words, but something like that).

Conflicted to the core, I researched successful methods to kick the habit. Staging a visit from “The Binky Fairy” seemed to be a common approach, and was what our dentist recommended.

I also read several in-depth book reviews, and eventually purchased a delightful tale designed to empower and enable my toddler to say Bye-Bye to Binky.

And I sought advice from friends, one of whom explained that her daughter finally ditched her pacifier when they told her it would be given to a horse at a nearby stable. That was two years ago, and they still have to visit the horse regularly to make sure he’s doing OK.

There aren’t any horses in my neighborhood, but so help me, if that method works I considered driving 30 miles to find a farm.

Then two weeks ago a speech therapist gave me her recommendation. The conversation went something like this:

Speech therapist: “Cut the binky in half. When she asks you about it, play dumb and say you don’t know what happened.”

Me: “That’s it? Just cut it?”

ST: “Yes. Cut it.”

Me: “Should I stage some sort of elaborate scene to make it look like her toys did it? Maybe our Elf on the Shelf could be the perp?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

Me: “Should I also damage something her sister loves so neither of them feels it is unfair and resents me for it later?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

Me: “To help ensure she will always see the glass as half-full vs. half-empty, should I tell her that a giant buzzsaw ripped through the city, but luckily, the only thing it managed to hit in our house was her binky?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

Me: “Should I cry when I show it to her so she sees that I am empathetic and wants to confide in me when she is a teen?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

Me: “Should I start to breastfeed her again as a means to compensate for her loss?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

Me: “Should I use organic scissors?”

ST: “No, just cut it.”

So I cut it. And that was the end of it. No tears. No drama. No interest in using a binky ever again.


So simple, and yet so painstakingly researched. Well played, parenthood.

Sorry for wearing my shoes in your dojo

First, I apologize for another sports-related post. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Blame the Olympics.

The other day I took my 5-year-old to watch a kid’s Aikido class to see if she might want to join. I admittedly don’t know much about Aikido except that it’s a form of martial arts, and supposedly less of the hit-kick-whack variety, and more of the Namaste variety. Or something like that.

I’m window shopping for a new activity for my daughter. She’s tried soccer, gymnastics and dance in the past with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Here she is enjoying one of her soccer lessons two summers ago. She’s the one on the right taking a nap.


I fully acknowledge that those soccer lessons were premature and a waste of money. On the upside, it made me realize how much I hate wasting money.

I find it sort of stressful to pick an activity for my kid. I realize she doesn’t need to do anything. She’s only 5. But she is a child who does better when she has a couple balls in the air. Otherwise she gets bored and starts throwing those balls through my windows.

But at this age, when they change their mind every 5 minutes and don’t necessarily always know what they want, you are inevitably projecting your own interests onto them at times. I mean, would Tiger Woods ever have played golf if it weren’t for his dad’s love of the sport? Would I have taken my kid to a martial arts class if I didn’t still lust after Danny LaRusso?

Danny LaRusso

So much hotness right there. SWEEP THE LEG.

So instead of just signing my kid up for the Aikido class because I think it sounds cool, I opted to bring her to one to watch and let her decide. I felt like this was a wise move. I am learning!

As usual, on the day of the class I was running late, it was pouring rain, and I was a wee bit frazzled. Long story short – on my way into the building, I somehow failed to see the 15 signs that said “NO SHOES IN THE DOJO,” “LEAVE SHOES BY THE DOOR,” and “NO SHOES BEYOND THIS POINT.”

So we traipsed right in like a bunch of ogres wearing our sloppy dirty sneakers, leaving a trail of crud behind us. Fast forward 7 minutes – the head of the dojo, Mr. Dojo, sees our offensive feet and walks over to my daughter, leans over her shoulder and into her face, and instructs her to “REMOVE YOUR SHOES.”

He wasn’t a jerk about it, but a) he was a big intimidating dude, and b) he was speaking in a stern whisper. It’s remarkable how frightening a whisper can be sometimes.

This in-your-face moment with the Dojo Whisperer scares the ever-loving-bejeezus out of her, she tears up, wants to leave, decides she hates Aikido, and says she will never ever ever return.

Well done, Amy. Well done. Golf, anyone?

Home for the holidaze

I have been heads down hammering away at my Christmas shopping for the past two weeks. I told myself it would all be done by December 4th, so naturally here we are on December 14th and I am not yet finished. But I intend to complete the Purchasing Phase of my shopping this weekend so I can then move on to the Disappointment Phase.

Like last year, when my daughter asked Santa for a princess castle. Just a castle! So of course Santa researched the options for days and got her a lovely wooden castle with matching dolls.

She played with it once. ONCE.

The most action that castle has seen was the day I used as a background for a Creepy Baby photo shoot:


I think we can all agree that alone was worth the investment.

I’m also trying to keep up with holiday festivities. We tried to see Santa last weekend but the wait was two hours. Wha?! I do not have the patience for that action. Apparently the neighbor kid Skype’d with Santa. Initially I thought it sounded stale and dumb, but now I think her parents might be brilliant.

We are not wedded to many holiday traditions, but I’ll admit we have an Elf on the Shelf. Please don’t stone me. I didn’t realize what I was signing up for when I bought it two years ago. I do not have the memory or commitment to be a successful Elf parent, as evidenced by the fact that our Elf didn’t arrive until December 10th, and I think I gave her a concussion this morning when I threw her across the room in a last minute attempt to move her before my daughter turned the corner. “Look Mom, she’s sleeping!” Yes, dear. She is.

We also have an advent calendar. The other day we noticed my daughter has already opened nearly every candy cane in it. How odd! Then when she thought no one was watching, we saw her lick her fingers, wipe them on several candy canes, and stick her fingers back in her mouth to savor the sticky goodness. Ahh kids. Nothing is sacred when sugar is involved.

Other than that it’s just the usual miscellaneous December activities – toy drive, food drive, stocking drive, school fundraiser, preschool fundraiser, preschool party, Girl Scouts, two kindergarten field trips. WHY DOES IT ALL HAVE TO HAPPEN THIS MONTH? Can’t we space this stuff out throughout the other 11 months?

But I do love watching my kids experience the holidays. The other day my husband was explaining to my daughter that different people have different traditions.

“What’s a tradition?” she asked.

“It’s something people do every year as part of their celebration. Like how Mommy’s family eats lefse at the holidays.”

“Oh. Like shaving your eyebrows. Is that a tradition?”

My husband doesn’t shave his eyebrows and we have no idea where it came from, but I liked it so much we might need to start doing it every year. It would make our holiday cards way more interesting.

A tinkling tower of terror

I told my parents this story at lunch today, and it reminded me how much I like it. Hello, NaBloPoMo post #23.

Last summer my family attended a going away party for my former boss at a local park. As we were preparing to leave, my 5-year-old had an urgent need to pee. So my husband raced her up to the restrooms while I got the car and drove to meet them.

The toilets in the men’s room at this busy urban park, at the end of a weekend without being cleaned, were beyond disgusting. So my husband decided that instead of letting my daughter sit on one, he would hold her over it while she went – sort of like a urinating hovercraft. She climbed up onto his knees, hung her bum over the toilet, and let loose. I was not there to witness it, but I am told the bathroom gymnastics looked something like this:

tinkle tower

Unfortunately the angle was not quite right, and instead of peeing into the toilet, my daughter proceeded to urinate all over my husband. And once the flood waters were underway, there was really no way to stop her. So he had no choice but to stand there and get peed on for what was probably the longest 45 seconds of his life.

In an even more delightful twist, my daughter managed to pee squarely onto the crotch of my husband’s pants. I believe the science community calls this phenomenon “urinary transference.” I’m not a scientist and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of this statement.

By the time my daughter was done relieving herself, it looked, and smelled, like my husband had just had an epic potty accident.

Adding insult to injury, my boss came walking into the bathroom just as my husband was rushing to get the hell out. My husband used my daughter as a shield to hide his man-sized potty stain, abruptly said “Hi, Bye,” and jumped into my waiting getaway car, leaving my daughter on the curb to fend for herself.

By the time I got the full story out of both of them, I was in tears. To this day, my daughter thinks it is one of the funniest experiences of her life. My husband is still recovering.

Moral of the story: Female urination is all about angles and math and that’s why we sit down when we go. I am not a mathematician or a urologist and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of this statement.

Tuesday morning pj shoot

I am a big fan of Ilana at the blog Mommy Shorts, including a recent photo series she kicked off which is designed to show the beauty in every mother’s morning, even if we can’t see it ourselves. You can see her latest installment here.

About the same time I read Ilana’s first post on this topic, my own photographer friend Erika was going to be in town (do I sound sophisticated when I say I have a ‘photographer friend’?). She is actually a lawyer too, but she is doing more and more photography and I am so happy for her that she is pursuing this passion.

I was excited to see her for more than just an hour or two. She spent the night and we had time to catch up and laugh and have meaningful conversations the way you can do with an old cherished friend. She also took photos of my kids – nothing fancy, just pictures of them romping around in their pj’s and our normal Tuesday morning routine.

I do not have any professional photos of my family since my second daughter was born. I have a million cell phone photos, but they are often blurry and random. I feel a bit guilty about that, because I had nice photos of my first kid taken at least twice. So I knew I would appreciate even just one or two good shots of my daughters.

I had no idea how they would turn out – in part because I was busy stressing about what the hell to put in my daughter’s lunchbox for most of it – but I love the photos more than I expected. My house is messy, my furniture is mismatched, and I spent about 5 minutes grooming all 3 of us. After Erika left I was actually sort of annoyed with myself for not putting more thought or effort into the whole thing, seeing as it was an opportunity for free nice photos and I didn’t even wear clean pants or brush my daughter’s hair. I did, however, shower – so that’s something.

But that’s part of why I love them. Because they look like what I will remember from these crazy, exhausting mornings that are so full of life and chaos – days when my oldest child tapes paper all over my living room floor to make a ‘cake walk’ and then rubs her spit on the windows, while my youngest crawls into a box, wears her sister’s shoes, and drops bits of her beloved play-doh everywhere she goes.

I feel grateful that I have such a talented friend who was able to make lasting memories out of an otherwise ho-hum Tuesday. But I’m also sharing the photos here because I think it’s a worthwhile reminder for any mother – similar to the purpose of the Mommy Shorts series – that the everyday moments can be beautiful too (especially when you have someone talented behind the camera).


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Spit-shining the windows, as one does.

Spit-shining the windows, as one does.


You can see the rest of Erika’s photo shoot and give her mad props for her skills here. (seriously check out the amazing pregnant lady yoga photos in the post before mine. WUT is happening there. Not possible.)

Nachos 101

I asked my husband to help me brainstorm post ideas tonight and he suggested I write something about our new printer. I would like to state for the record that I will never again solicit his advice for a blog post idea.

Instead I flipped through photos on my phone for inspiration and found this one:


A couple weeks ago I asked my daughter if she wanted me to make her some nachos and in response she asked me, “What are nachos?” I felt like I had failed her.

Needless to say I took the opportunity to give her a critical life lesson in the art of nacho-making and nacho-eating – two very different but equally important skill sets.

After a lengthy discussion about the meat vs. no meat options, I explained that you can add things like black olives (duh), onions (meh), jalapenos (no), tomatoes (yes) and of course the dipping/sauce trifecta of salsa, sour cream and guacamole. I try to pretend like I’m healthy sometimes and abstain from the sour cream, but every now and then you just need to indulge in that fatty goodness. I mean – you’re already eating NACHOS. Who are you trying to fool?

My daughter opted to play it safe and just went with cheese for her inaugural nacho session. While her limited topping choices gave the appearance of a novice, I have to say the girl had the nacho noshing skills of a pro. She instinctively knew how to maneuver around that plate to find only the cheesiest chips, leaving the naked crusty dry chips for me. Mama was so proud.

Lately I have had a ton of life lesson conversations with my kid – where babies come from, how to deal with being teased, the importance of being kind, the words to that annoying Taylor Swift song…no, the other one – kindergarten is bringing out eeeevery topic and question for discussion.

So I was delighted to tackle an easy one for a change. It’s going to take multiple nacho lessons to make sure she has it down, but fortunately I have the experience, drive and appetite to coach her through it.