Happy Halloween from the designated witch

Mia drew this picture for of me. As a witch. Then she made me sign it, Witch.

But then she made this, The Daddy List.

If for some reason you can’t decipher her excellent penmanship, allow me to translate:

1. Cook dinner (*Zach’s our resident chef)

2. Give wine Mommy (*this implies that I drink a lot of wine, which I most certainly do not, but I’m not going to turn down a glass either.)

3. Give dinner boy (*it’s unclear which boy gets fed while the other goes hungry)

4. Don’t forget TV  (*I can’t tell you what this means)

5. Wash dishes (*amen!)

Man, I love this girl.




When the unthinkable happens: the Krim murders

It started when Mia was born. I would sink my head into the pillow after getting her to sleep, barely able to keep my own eyes open, only to toss and turn, unable to silence the thoughts. I have never had a panic attack but I think sometimes, when my mind travels to those places in the dark, I’ve come close — my breath tripping to catch up with the palpitations of my heart trembling careless and clumsy.

The things I let myself imagine — horrible, cruel, nightmarish things. In a way, I reason that by imagining them, they couldn’t actually happen. What are the chances that the nightmare becomes the reality?

I saw the headlines on my computer last week and refused to click on them, but then later my mom started to tell me the story, and like a traffic accident, it was hard to turn the other way. I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, the two small children in NYC murdered by their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega. How the mom, Marina Krim, took her three-year-old daughter to a class and returned home to find her other two children in the bathtub, stabbed to death, and the nanny turning the knife on herself when she walked in. How this mother ran down to the lobby of her building, clutching her three-year-old to her and screamed. And screamed.

Lucia (“Lulu”) was six. Leo was two. Just hours before, Mrs. Krim had written a post on her blog about how “Leo speaks in the most adorable way”. (The blog has since been taken down.) The latest revelation is that Lulu tried to defend herself. This shakes me to my bones and makes me sick, the lump in my throat something hard and cold, because I can’t fathom anything more difficult to live with than the knowledge that your child tried to defend herself against her killer and lost. The grief I feel for this mother is but a slice of the grief I would feel if they were my own, but it is genuine all the same.

This is what keeps me up at night, the things that go bump in the night inside my head.

Mia is afraid to sleep alone. Every night she clambers into our bed at some point, something Zach hates and I love. (Admittedly, he gets the “butt” end of her — the jerky kicks and errant farts — while I get her arm flung across my neck, her sleepy breath warm on my skin.) I used to tell her there was nothing to be afraid of, that she’s safe in her warm bed and we’re just down the hall and nothing will hurt her, but at five, she’s catching on to that hollow promise. So I’ve started to acknowledge her fears, to talk about why we lock our doors and don’t talk to strangers and what to do if she’s ever in danger, or feels like she could be in danger, or doesn’t feel comfortable in a certain setting. She’s trusting by nature and makes friends in record time, so it’s a difficult concept for her to grasp, that the world is not all good.

But how do we explain something as senseless as the Krim murders when we can’t even make sense of it ourselves? Isn’t this part of the reason why this story has captured the nation’s attention? Because of its sheer shock? Because as mothers with small children, we recognize our worst nightmares being played out in Marina Krim’s reality? Because we all have people in our lives who we trust with our children? And though we barely take the time to acknowledge it, every time we leave our children, we leave them with our hearts.

The French approach to childproofing

I’ve heard it said that the French don’t childproof; they just use common sense, which is all very sophisticated and ooh la la until you try to actually implement this idea into your (my) own home.

I would like to ask the French what they do about sharp corners, kitchen pantries and doors that lead to unfinished basements. Because I like my home best without outlet covers and special locks on door handles and baby gates that Mia can’t open, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to a) keep them safe and b) keep from losing my sanity without the aforementioned paraphernalia.

Unless I’m taking the French approach too literally. Am I taking it too literally?


Will the real Elmo please stand up?

We recently took a toy Elmo out of storage for the boys. I don’t remember which Elmo it is — one that tells jokes, and sings and dances (and never shuts up). It was one of the “hottest” toys for Christmas a few years ago and Zach insisted on getting it for Mia who, at two years old, had very little interest in it. But at 5 years old, things have changed. Mia and Elmo are suddenly BFFs. Make that were. Mia and Elmo were BFFs for a few days until I dampened her imagination and crushed her spirit. *Go me!*

Short story short: The boys had ear infections last week. Wyatt had a double ear infection and was visibly in more pain, but so as not to be upstaged by his brother, Luke went on a vomiting rampage. They refused to eat and didn’t want to be held or rocked or carried. They cried constantly, day and night, and fun was had by all. The end.

So I took the singing/dancing/joking Elmo down from a high shelf in their closet in a last ditch effort to distract them and hopefully get them to stop crying for a few peaceful minutes. Mia immediately took to Elmo like he was her long lost lovey. She carried him everywhere with her for a couple days. Her love for Elmo started innocently enough, but soon she was conversing with him as though he were the real Elmo (and yes, I realize there is no “real” Elmo, per se).

“Mommy,” she said one evening as the boys were screaming and the house was a disaster and everything smelled like vomit and medicine. “Elmo isn’t answering me.” And then, “Elll-mooo? Ell-mooo? Why aren’t you talking to me?” she whined.

I thought about telling her to push his foot or his stomach or his head (all of which prompt Elmo to do something), but then I dismissed it. She knows how he works. Or does she? I mean, she’s five. Surely she knows the difference between a toy and something that is real.

“Mommmmy.” Again with the whining.

And for whatever reason, that was the moment that the stress of of the week got to me. That was the moment I chose to unleash.

“You know Elmo’s not real, right?” I hissed, mean.

“Yes,” she nodded.

It was a sad “yes”. More of a question than a definitive answer. She stared at me for a minute then as I went about doing whatever it was I was doing at the time. When I glanced at her, I saw the face of a child who’s just realized Santa Claus isn’t real.


She went back to playing with Elmo but with less enthusiasm than before. Now he lays untouched on the floor of our sunroom, where she left him that night.

As I wrote this I had an epiphany. I get it now. All of it – the obsession with Elmo, the whining, asking me why he wasn’t talking to her — It was all a bid to get my attention. Because my attention had been elsewhere for days.

Mother of the year, people. Mother. of. the. year.

Ramble On

I don’t remember how the conversation started or who started it or how it became about Zach and his childhood dream of playing basketball crushed on the court in 7th grade (or was it 6th?), but suddenly there he was in a heart-to-heart with Mia. He was laying it all open, how he hit every free throw during try-outs and how his friends all told him he would make the team, but he didn’t and instead became the water boy — ahem, team manager. I believe there was some moral to the story and then that was that. Mia and I moved on to something else because basketball can hold a girl’s attention for only so long.

But not Zach. On and on he went, trying to draw us back into his middle school reality. Blah, blah, blah.

“Okay, Daddy, now you’re just letting the words fall out of your brain.”

And he totally was.