Monthly Archives: January 2018

Ain’t No Nut Like A Donut Nut (By Which I Mean My Children)

I was hit with a memory bomb the other day – randomly I recalled that, when they were available, the cheerleaders at my high school would go cheer the chess team, unironically and with passion (at least that’s how I recall it). I wish things were that lovely all the time for everyone.

I also wish I’d witnessed it in person. I would assume the cheers were pretty witty and the pyramid building mathematically precise.


Apropos of nothing, childhood friendships have changed since I was toodling around in primary colors doing spin outs on my Big Wheel (which should always be ridden with this song in the background). The change is not news. We are wary and worried. We either fear the unknown bad guys lurking about the neighborhood and therefore we keep a close watch on our young ones, or we fear the somewhat-known neighbor who will call the police/child services on us if our child independently goes about the neighborhood.

Enter the playdate: highly scheduled, ritualized, and Instagrammed events wherein children gather and play/craft/go crazy in a rented bouncy house while parents are usually also gathering. “You’re welcome to stay! I bought good coffee.”

I suspect that the playdate is a way for modern parents to combat the difficulties of making friends once we’re out of college. I get that. I really do.

But they are fraught and they can get complicated and carry other social implications for kids and parents. I feel bad about it, and I’m vaguely uncomfortable with the whole concept for reasons I can’t put my finger on…probably that I worry that the child friendship hinges on the parent relationship and vice versa. It seems if Johnny and my kid don’t get along, it’s still ok for me to hang with the parent, but the inverse is not necessarily true.

This is all complicated and new. I never saw this on MadMen, but to be fair, I always felt like someone hacked each episode and I was missing about 15 minutes of material from week to week.

I digress. As usual.

Hubs and I are encouraging the children to stretch the friendship-building muscles, so we try to say yes to as many buddy-related requests as we can.

The boys asked on Monday if they could bring donuts to chess club, which is their Thursday morning activity. I’m not sure why chess clubs and the like tend to be held in the ungodly morning hours before school. But donuts seemed a better call than blood sausage (because cured meats). The boys were stoked because bringing treats makes you king of the hill or whatever the current expression is.

Have I mentioned I’m 97 years old?

I remember the joy of sharing treats at school – usually though it centered around field trips. My friends Stacey and Anne would produce bags of Jolly Ranchers and passed them around the back of our school bus on the way to see Big River on Broadway (an experience we shared with a gazillion other students from the tristate area.) We (ok, just me) would get more excited about the Jolly Ranchers than the show, but to be fair, Big River didn’t have a ton of toe-tappers.

Point being: school event food? The best.

I’m not sure if chess club counts as a school event, mostly because of the aforementioned early hours. However, I like that my kids are in a club and I like chess and the boys don’t ask for too much other than to stay up way past their bedtimes and take what’s left of my sanity, so a box of donut holes seemed reasonable.

Until D-day.

donut holes

On chess days, they have to be at school by 7:30 am. We need to leave here by 7:20 or so to give them time to drag their 8000-pound backpacks out of the car and into school. This means I start getting them ready to go out the door at 7:15, because they are legally obligated to ignore my requests, or “remember” that they forgot to get dressed, or we need to send them back to brush their teeth. (If we’re feeling generous, we say “again” or “better” because they insist they DID brush despite the green stink lines coming out of their mouths.) Add the dramatic trudge from the bedroom, breakfast, chores and complaining about doing the chores and now donut procurement, I had to wake them at 6:00. Considering they were discussing donut options for an hour after their bedtime the night before, they were pretty tired.

I’m not even sure how you can wring an hour’s discussion out of an impending donut run, but there you go.

Their tired state did not thwart the usual AM barrage of questions.

“How many donuts are we getting?” one of them asked.

“I think we should get two donuts per person,” said the other.

“Nope,” said I, Killer of Fun.


“Because it’s a treat, not a meal. We’ll get some Munchkins. I’m sure everyone is having breakfast anyway so they won’t be hungry enough for two donuts.”

“But we told them we’re bringing donuts and not to eat breakfast.”

Oof. Ok…but like…why would they say that? I hoped the parents weren’t banking on that and saving the Boo Berries for another morning because of some random promise my boys made.

I told them to call me if any kid remembers that (I think mine are the only ones who would because they are donut-obsessed) and I will bring that kid a protein bar.

The boys then began doing random calculations of how many Munchkins equals one donut and asked us to get, like, 3000 of them.

“Nope. We’ll get enough for each kid to have 2 or 3,” said my husband, who actually had to go on the donut run, so his vote counted more than the rest of us.

The boys pivoted to worrying about what would happen if someone took more than three.

“Don’t do that. Don’t be that guy. Don’t monitor. Don’t plan. Just bring the treats and go about your day.”

It’s hard for them to handle sometimes that we cannot grip the world and squeeze it to our needs. And I get that it’s especially hard for them because they feel gripped and squeezed. Because they’re kids.

They left at 7:00 and I didn’t give it another thought (mostly because there were no calls for emergency protein bar deliveries) until they came home, threw down their backpacks and said, “Some people took FOUR donut holes.”

“That’s ok,” I said. “Not a big deal.” Ugh. I hoped they hadn’t been Donut Hole Distribution Micromanagers (which is totally the name of my new band, guys.)

“It’s a big deal. We wanted to give the last ones to our teacher.”

And I realized that maybe they’re doing something right. They were focused on the right thing, just, you know, a little sideways.

That night, during a round of HQ trivia, which is something we like to all do because it gives us a reason to shout at each other in a positive way, there was a question about cronuts. Which I, and I alone, knew the answer to.

And I realized that maybe I’m doing something right, too.

Someone bring in the cheerleaders.

Fairies, Bees, and Hearing Crickets

Some things that drove me a little buggy this week.

I won’t go into how we found camel crickets in my office, and I am not the type of person who will show pictures of them for shock value, but rest assured they are ugly and the size of a small European automobile. Fortunately, I have both a husband and one child up for the tasks of insect removal and abatement.

Beyond that, bugs of a different sort entered our lives recently.

Fairies. Whatever spectrum fairies are on, my daughter is right there while I’m light years away. My daughter floats about in whimsy while I practice the darker arts of humor and eating kale for my health.

“I lost a bet today, Mama.”

I ran right to my shelf of parenting books and looked in all the tables of contents. Nothing. Not even in What to Expect When Your Chidren Come Home From School and Make Open-Ended Declarations That Give You Ulcers.

I was forced to wing it. “What bet was that?” I asked while thinking Please don’t involve poop, underpants, sassing staff, eating scabs, Texas Holdem, or Bitcoin.

“Well, this girl in my class, F*,  wrote a message to a fairy. We made a bet that if the fairy responded, I would believe in fairies. If there was no response, F. had to stop believing in them.”

Are not most deeply-held belief systems easily tossed aside if wagers are lost?

Lo and behold, F’s fairy DID respond in some fashion. I’m not exactly sure how. I wasn’t paying very close attention. In my defense, it takes my daughter hours to get to the point of a story. Also, I was focused on choking down some kale.

But she did say, eventually, “Now I believe in fairies.”

And I thought that was it. You know, cute story.

But, no, there was an epilogue:

“And now I want to contact a fairy and have them come and visit.”

Look, I’m not one who will yuck someone else’s yum. You wanna wear butterfly wings and sparkly shoes and build gauzy forts for tea parties? Go nuts. But this? An ongoing pen-pal relationship where I’m essentially stomping around in a gleaming world of marshmallows and unfettered joy? This is like the tooth fairy on steroids – and I’m the parent who, when one of my boys lost his second or third tooth (again, I wasn’t paying close attention), I completely forgot until three seconds before he woke up. I had no cash, so I scribbled “Way to lose a tooth! – T.F.” on a Post-it and stuck it on a can of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, which I put on the kitchen counter because I knew that shoving that under his pillow would completely ruin whatever magic was left in this dismal exchange.

This did not bode well for a penpal relationship. I hoped that she would forget. She often does because she is five and fives can lose interest in things.

Most fives, that is.

Yesterday, she was pretty mopey in the morning, which is unlike her.

“What’s up, Boo?”

“I’ve been waiting for three days for the fairy to show up.”

“Did you leave her a note?” I asked.

“I left her something in a box on my dresser.”

Now, again in my defense, this child is constantly crafting stuff out of things she pulls from the recycling and putting it on her dresser, so I had no idea this was something different. I went to look. There was a Post-It(!) on a bedazzled Band-Aid box that read “To fairy.”

Inside was a cherry tomato.

“She didn’t take the tomato!” My daughter was as dismayed as one can be.

“Well, some fairies prefer sweets, especially with first contact. Let’s try that. And give her a few days. Maybe she’s busy. It’s fairy tax season.”

Parenting achievement level: Three’s Company.

So my daughter unwrapped a mini-Snickers – ok, where did that come from? – and put it in the box/portal to the fairy world.

Like any fair-to-middling mother, I ate the chocolate after she went to school and wrote back, grateful that she has not yet figured out how to do handwriting comparisons.

Not sure what the yellow blobs are there – I’m guessing she was doing some CSI-level work on this.

She was thrilled and wrote back immediately.

Can you guess which line she asked me to write because she was eating cherry tomatoes and didn’t want to mess up the paper.?


I’m afraid this will continue for a while. Wish me luck in this strange new territory for me.

On to bees. This past week, my boys participated in the National Geographic Bee, a great activity for these two, the factoid version of hoarders. They really only learned about the competition a few weeks ago, and from what I can tell spent most of their time prepping by memorizing the Yakko’s World song and singing it in slo-mo. For hours on end.

But apparently they’ve been actually prepping and got fairly far along in the school-wide competition, with one making it to the final round. Not bad for some fourth-grade first-timers.

We had the privilege of watching, and I have to say that if their nerves were half as racked as mine, they didn’t show it. They were poised and present. We were proud parents.

They comported themselves with dignity, managed their disappointment, and said their only anger was that they have to wait a year to compete again.

And while I was more than expecting that they would go on to another activity, the very next night they were quizzing each other on world geography facts.

Talk about a bee in your bonnet!

I wish you well and I wish you a dearth of camel crickets.


* not her real initial


It’s a Pot Roast, Bobby Flay

Before we start, yes, I know that I should appreciate that the kids want to spend time with me because they won’t always.

And no, I’m not fun at parties.

Shall we begin?

We don’t have a lot of activities that all five of us enjoy. It’s damned near impossible to find a movie we all like. Board games rarely straddle the age gap between the kids, never mind interest both me and my husband. I tolerate am happy sitting and watching them play, but that’s not as interesting (or as good parenting) as actually participating.

Incidentally, they feel this way about swimming, too. I like swimming. I do not like swimming with them. “Swimming” with them means watching them do handstands and/or goofy jumps off the diving board, or getting splashed, or being pulled into never-ending races across the pool. Most often, though, swimming with them means being used as a flotation device. In the base case, swimming is not so much a group activity as it is an unwieldy location in which to perform Stupid Human Tricks while surreptitiously picking bathing suits out of our various crevices. (Each picking one’s own suit out of one’s own crevices, pleaseandthankyou.)

But we do occasionally find ways to spend time together that don’t involve me forcing everyone to do their chores.

Because I’ve announced my impending spontaneous combustion if I had to listen to one more kid show, we’ve all bonded over mini-marathons of various Food Network shows.

Sometimes it’s Chopped. We try to predict who will be victorious while simultaneously trying to determine what we’d do with that accursed mystery basket. (My typical answer: throw it out and order a pizza.)

Sometimes it’s Bobby Flay in some competition or another. That’s pretty much what he does. The man has racked up thousands of hours of competition experience. It’s a real edge.

We talk about that

“He loves competing that much,” my husband said. “Wouldn’t you?”

I would not. That’s why I’m not an Iron Chef. That and I can’t cook geoduck 10 ways.

Heh. Geoduck.

We noted Flay’s ubiquitous presence on Food Network, his confidence, his ability to truly respect his opponents without knocking them down (unless they trashed talked him excessively, in which case he was more sensei than anything else.) It was fun to see how he put his “spin” on things and how he would take a mistake or a miscalculation and make it work.

We turned that into various life lessons, which, as I’m sure you can guess, went over with the kids like a big ol’ plate of geoduck.

But some of the Lessons from Food Network stuck – mostly newly acquired vocabulary. My kids now critique their dinners. Terms like “Flavor profile” and “Balance” and “Presentation” and “Not enough acidity” all bandied about over their plates of chicken nuggets.

But. BUT – the other day, we went out for dinner, and the Son who never met a plate of macaroni he didn’t choose over all other options –

ordered a burger…with a fried egg on top.

Then. THEN, guys…

When we got home, he asked to cook with me – this is tenuous, of course, because when kids ask to “help” that usually means “do something for 3 seconds, make a mess, then leave and take credit.”

He wanted to make pot roast. Pot. Roast.

I purchased the meat. He seasoned it (“More salt!” I insisted. He was stunned, but listened.) He watched me brown the meat. He prepped the vegetables. I taught him how to dice them (“evenly”) using a sharp knife (“carefully!”)

He sautéed the carrots and celery and potatoes. He added the tomatoes.

We didn’t have a dutch oven, so we used our crock pot. I worried about the timing so I gave it an extra 30 minutes which was, it turns out, was 30 minutes too long. I didn’t say anything about how overdone the center was (I swear to God, I am the only person alive who can overcook something in the crockpot.) However, my husband, i.e., Sir Meats-a-Lot, mentioned gave a nice Ted Talk on the proper cooking time and temperature of all meats ever.

As one does.

To celebrate Son’s first real culinary achievement, he asked if we can eat while watching a movie, so we dined a la tv tray.

Arguments about the movie started. Their vocabulary for that is almost as sophisticated as their newly acquired Words That Express How Gross My Cooking Is. “I don’t want to watch that. It’s stupid,” met “I don’t want to watch that, it’s boring.”

It’s like the jury panel for Cannes, n’est-ce pas?

We decided on – wait for it –

The Food Network.

The pot roast was good. Not in the “oh, my child, Precious Be He, made this,” but good on its own. For purposes of humor, it would be funnier if it had been better than anything I cooked. Even funnier if it were awful. It was neither. It was solid. Which means praise had to be carefully meted out because this child is convinced the world blows smoke up kids’ asses. Which it does, right or wrong, all too often. (See: participation trophy.)

He was quiet.  If a person could lurk from a couch behind a tv tray, he would have been. Watching. Tracking how many times we went back for reloads. (A lot, as it were. We like to eat and it was better than a lot of the crap I’d been making the last few weeks because I’m too tired to do much beyond unwrapping things.)

He didn’t look happy.

“You ok?” I asked. That’s my “What’s Wrong” 2.0.  The old version too often glitched and got an automated “Nothing” response no matter how often or gently I input it.

“Yeah.” He always says yeah. It takes a parent of unusual skill to determine the underlying meaning. In this case, his eye roll, sigh, and angry voice were subtle clues that actually was not ok.

I obviously have a participation trophy in parenting.

I waited. I’ve learned any noise from me will startle the confession back into its hidey-hole.

He spoke. “I didn’t do much.”

Sweet boy has been equating cooking, “real” cooking, with panicky, fast-paced, intense, beat-the-clock, chop-til-you-drop movements and unusual ingredients and stress.

He wanted to cook until he was exhausted and sweaty, then have us be his panel of judges.

If only the Food Network had a show “Clean My Room with Bobby Flay!”

I’m putting this here because I did not take a photo of the pot roast, or of us swimming. Or Bobby Flay. I suppose I should call this “food for thought.” No?