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Everything I Know About Marriage I Learned From Two First Graders

I learn a lot from my gifted students.  For example, according to my Kindergartners, the participants on Toddlers and Tiaras are way different on stage than off.  And, according to my third graders, Ellen DeGeneres is a girl, not a boy, and her deal with J.C. Penney caused a “thing” much debated on Facebook.

It’s almost the end of the year, but it’s never too late to get educated.  So, I should not have been surprised by the edification I received from my first graders today on the topic of marriage.

As some of you know, I will be teaching Gifted and Talented students at a new school next year.  So, today, I introduced my current students to the woman who will be teaching them next year instead of me.  She is:  very nice, very pretty, one of my best friends, and just happens to be married to my current principal who, for the purpose of this blog, we shall call POTUS (Principal of The Unbelievablyawesomest School).

I took Mrs. POTUS to the classroom of three of my 1st grade students.  As soon as we opened the door, one of them shouted, “Hello, Mrs. POTUS!”

When the three came out into the hall, Mrs. POTUS, smiling, said, “How did you know that I am married to Mr. POTUS?”

And my student, obviously using the powers of deduction that he learned from me, said, “Because you kind of look like him!”

Well, this was funny to me for several reasons – the obvious one being, of course, that people look like their pets, not their spouses – but the main one being that Mrs. POTUS, other than sharing the attributes of most humans, looks absolutely nothing like Mr. POTUS.

The same student, a few minutes later (after we explained that Mr. and Mrs. POTUS were not blood relatives and that, other than in the Appalachian Mountains, married people do not necessarily resemble each other) started to ask Mrs. POTUS a question, and then immediately forgot it.

Mrs. POTUS said, “That’s okay.  If you think of it later, you can just tell Mr. POTUS, and he can tell me.”

To which another one of my logical students said, “Do you and Mr. POTUS talk sometimes?” in apparent wonderment at such a concept.  I’m not sure if this was more along the lines of the “Do you and Justin Bieber talk sometimes?” kind of astonishment, or the “Are a husband and wife allowed to talk to each other?” confusion that often happens when children watch too many episodes of Wife Swappers.

So, from these two students, I now know:  that married people should look alike (which makes me better suited to enter a union with my wrinkled bulldog than with my dear husband, Cap’n Firepants), that married people only talk on rare occasions – and that it’s good I am moving to a new school next year because I’ve certainly accomplished a heckuva lot at this one.


The Science-is-not Fair

Whoever named the annual gathering of project boards advertising uninspired experiments a Science “Fair” must not have gotten out much. There is absolutely nothing festive about getting together a Science Fair project – particularly when you are the parent, not the student. This is definitely one of those homework assignments that can rip families apart. Before I taught Gifted and Talented students, I was a 5th grade Science teacher.  After 3 years of Science Fairs, I realized that the only people who seemed to learn anything from these events were the parents – and the primary topic they learned was the number of cuss words that are applicable to lengthy mandatory projects assigned to students to complete at home.

Of course, it is only karma that, years later, my own daughter should bring home a Science Fair packet accompanied by her own surly attitude.  I did my best to disguise my loathing for such projects, but her eye-rolling ensued before we could even start brainstorming possible topics.  I tried my “go to” teacherly advice, which is to find a way to make it relevant, and suggested that she somehow incorporate her love of all products Bath and Bodyworks into her experiment.  This resulted in more eye-rolling, but I allowed it to percolate for a few days.  When the deadline for a topic loomed, Dimples finally decided that my idea was, indeed, usable, if not an excellent one.  She chose to investigate the use of hand sanitizer in the prevention of bread mold.

Every other day, Dimples diligently (with my nagging) took pictures of her three pieces of bread – one in a ziploc bag, one exposed and treated with hand sanitizer, and one control.  After two weeks, the only thing that had happened was the two outside the plastic had gotten hard as a rock.  Since then – and it has been 36 days – there has been absolutely no change, including zero mold growth.

My conclusion from this experiment is that, from now on, upon purchasing a new bag of bread, I will immediately remove it from its manufacturer’s bag (which apparently promotes mold growth at the record speed of three days) and dispense the pieces of bread throughout the household to be collected whenever it is time to make a sandwich.  They might collect a bit of dust, but at least they will be mold-free.  And, although I like my bread to smell nice, I will probably not be adding drops of hand sanitizer to each slice because I think that mustard might taste a tad better.

If I had to do my own project board on this whole experience, here is how it would look:

Topic:  What is the Fastest Way to Drive a Parent Crazy?

Hypothesis:  If a teacher assigns my daughter a Science Fair Project and I attempt to help her complete it because she has no idea what to do, then I will end up in a rubber room within 24 hours of her having completed the project.

Materials:  A mandatory Science Fair project, a 9 year old daughter, a frenzied mother who once taught science, a supportive but inexperienced father

Procedure: 1.  Teacher assigns project.  2.  Daughter says she does not understand what to do.  3.  Mother tries to help with project.  4.  Daughter says mother does not know what the heck she is doing.  5.  Mother says, “Fine.  Do it yourself.”  6.  Daughter wails.  7.  Mother caves, and helps, attempting to be cheerful while sullen daughter deftly pushes mother to the brink of insanity.

Results:  Project gets completed, and mother is checked into an institution.

Conclusion:  My hypothesis was correct, as supported by the data, and the fact that I am currently typing this on a rubber keyboard at the Home for Mothers Driven Insane by Their Children.

Probably the most unexciting Science Fair project results EVER.

Shut the Door!

Yesterday, I picked up Dimples from her after-school care, which happens to take place in her school cafeteria, and drove the ten blocks home.

When I stopped the car in the driveway, Dimples said, “I have a Safety Patrol meeting at 5.”  In the school cafeteria.  It was 4:40.

After we spent a couple of minutes arguing in the car about whether she had ever mentioned this meeting to me (she says she did, and I forgot – which I’m pretty sure is true), and why she could not have reminded me this morning or, at the very least, before we pulled out of her school parking lot, we went inside the house.

Wonderbutt was, as usual, quite enthusiastic about our arrival.  He had managed to pull two cushions off the couch, and was proud to show off his accomplishment.

After I made a hasty bathroom visit to “freshen up” and Dimples gobbled down a quick snack, we did a u-turn out the door – leaving behind a completely befuddled bulldog.

When we arrived at the meeting, I sidled up to the Patrol sponsor to find out how long we would be there.  I knew Wonderbutt was not going to be pleased with our sudden entrance and exit, and I was pretty sure that leaving him alone for an hour would have disastrous results.  The sponsor assured me that it would be 20 minutes.

It was 15.  Feeling slightly encouraged by this unusually short meeting, and only somewhat put-out that I had wasted my time over-transporting Dimples, I drove us both quickly home.

“He’s not barking at us!” Dimples said, happily, when our feet hit the porch.  To her, this was a good sign.  To me, this meant he was far too busy doing dastardly deeds.

Sure enough, we entered the house to find shredded newspaper in every nook and cranny.

Ironically, the primary object of Wonderbutt's wrath was the Food section of the newspaper.

“Where did it come from?” Dimples asked in astonishment.

I walked into the kitchen.  The pantry door was wide open.  Inside our pantry are the recycling bins.  Mystery solved.

Except – who had left the pantry door open?  Surely not the person who, months ago, firmly taped this sign on the door…

We also keep plastic grocery store (H.E.B.) bags in the pantry. Wonderbutt loves to eat those.

Oh, and we keep snacks in the pantry.  Like the one Dimples ate right before we left for the Patrol meeting.

“Oops,” said Dimples.  Without a word, she began to pick up the mess.

Today’s score:  Dimples- 1, Mom – 1 (thanks to Wonderbutt )

Are You There, God? It’s Me, the Mom Who Doesn’t Know Anything

My 9 year old daughter has discovered  the secret to dealing with the opposite sex.  Actually, she did not make the initial discovery.  Author Leslie Margolis’ character, Annabelle, in the book Boys are Dogs appears to be the first, though fictional, person to chance upon the bag-a-boy bible of the century.  Dimples’ friend read the book first, and deemed the wisdom imparted therein to be of such great importance that she loaned the book to Dimples.  I picked up Dimples from school and she could not stop talking about  the book.

According to Dimples,”This girls gets a dog, and then she gets a manual for training the dog.  And she realizes that all of the advice for training her dog also works on the boys at her school.”

These are middle school boys, if that shines any light on the topic.

One example from the book:  “The fun is in the chase, so don’t do it.”  This is advice that Annabelle reads after her dog steals her favorite stuffed animal and Annabelle chases the dog, grabs the toy, and ends up with a half-decapitated hippo.  As soon as Dimples read the line of advice out loud to me, I said,  “Remember when I told you the exact same thing?”

Dimples stared at me.

“Remember?” I prompted.  “I told you that the more you act like you like a boy the sooner they will stop liking you?”

“Uh, yeah, Mom.”  It was clear that Dimples either did not remember this sage advice or that she saw absolutely no connection to the Dog/Boy Training Advice in her book.  I flipped through the book, and realized that most of its wisdom had been imparted by me at some point or another.  Not as effectively, apparently.

What was even more interesting was when Dimples decided to try some of the advice on our bulldog, Wonderbutt.  She informed me that we needed to reward him for recognizing his name.  I’m not exactly sure where that falls in the boy-training continuum, but since we have had Wonderbutt for a year and a half, I am pretty certain he knows his name.  Whether or not he chooses to respond favorably to someone calling it changes by the second.

And then she started to give me advice, which I found even more amusing.  After years of attending dog obedience classes and memorizing “positive reinforcement” techniques, I think I have a pretty good handle on all of the acceptable dog-training rules.  It’s not my fault Wonderbutt defies the wisdom of the Dog Whisperer.

When Dimples starts telling me that I need to give my husband, the Esteemed Cap’n Firepants, a biscuit whenever he puts the toilet seat down, we may need to have a little talk.

Around 10 last night, Dimples finished the book – which she had started after school.  She came running to tell me that she was done.

“So, what did you learn?” I asked, wondering if Annabelle’s method had backfired at some point.

“She realized that it wasn’t the dog book that was changing things.  It was her that was changing.  She was becoming more confident, and that helped her with everything.”

Oh yeah.  That was the advice I’ve been meaning to give her.  Oh well.  Like she would have listened to me anyway…


I Miss The Hairbrush Song

O.K.  Just crossed one more thing off of my list.  Dimples’ Christmas c.d. is finally finished.

Yes, I know it’s the day after Easter.

And, no, I am not starting early on this year’s Christmas list.  Do you not know me at all by now?

Allow me to explain.

Every year, since she turned 1 in 2002, Dimples has received a carefully compiled c.d. of special songs for Christmas.  Each song somehow reminds me of her.  They are generally a mix of “kid” songs and “grownup” songs.  Here is the playlist from the first year:  I Hope You Dance, You Are So Beautiful, Over the Rainbow, Because You Loved Me, You & Me Against the World, Say Goodnight, Tomorrow, Wonderful World.

Pretty sappy, huh?

Over the years, the songs have morphed a bit to try to incorporate Dimples’ actual taste in music.  Miss Independent and The Hairbrush Song (from Veggie Tales) debuted in 2005.  Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield made the 2006 cut.  In 2007, Trans-Siberian orchestra just HAD to be included.

2009 is where things went awry.  First of all, I included Boom Boom Pow by the BlackEyed Peas, not realizing I had downloaded the explicit version.  Dimples informed me that there was a bad word on her Christmas c.d.  We had the talk about how words aren’t bad; it’s just how and where you use them.  Since her name isn’t Fergie or, and she does not often perform on stage in front of millions of people, Dimples seemed to accept that her life does not often provide the appropriate context for that kind of language.

The problem was that Dimples decided that she liked that c.d. so much, she played it for a year. Every day.  And every night.  Because she cannot go to sleep unless her c.d. player is on.  And no other c.d. would do.

Eager to transition to a new c.d. that played anything, ANYTHING, other than Boom Boom Pow, I quickly burned a new c.d. for Christmas 2010.  It included what I thought were some great hits in the 8th year of Dimples – Movie Loves a Screen, Human, You Found Me, …

Dimples tried it for one night, and declared that there was NO WAY she was going to sleep with that c.d. on.  There were too many slow songs, for one thing (according to her), and I forget what her other equally unreasonable reasons were.

It is amazing, after two years of listening to the same ten songs every day and every night, how it finally becomes white noise in your environment.  Either that, or I went insane and I haven’t figured it out yet.  Now that I think about it, that could explain why we got Wonderbutt, the bulldog puppy, in December 0f 2010…

Anyway, this past Christmas, I was in no rush to carry on the c.d. tradition based on the lack of customer appreciation the preceding year.

About the end of January, Dimples said, “Hey!  Where’s my Christmas c.d.?”

I gave her what I imagine to be my You’re Kidding look.

Fergie learned the You've Got to Be Kidding Look from me. photo credit: nicogenin via photopin cc

Every month since then, about once a week, Dimples has asked where her c.d. is.  Since it is now April, I’m thinking she might actually be serious.  So, I made her a new c.d. on Easter Day.  It still had the title, “Merry Christmas!”, and the year, 2011.  She deemed the song choices, “very good”.

Last night, as I was reading to her before bed, Dimples interrupted to say, “I’m going to listen to the old c.d. one last time.”

Boom Boom Pow right to the kisser.

I Think Your Trick-or-Treat Bag Would Work Just Fine

1.  Every year, Dimples has to design a NEW, elaborate box for her Valentines from school.

2.  Every year, she brings the box to school on the appointed day, brings it home at the end of the day, and we get to look at the assortment of cards therein – most of which no one even troubled to write her name on.

3.  Every year, we argue over what to do with the box.

I mean, really, why do you need a big box covered with red hearts sitting in the middle of your closet taking up valuable space, particularly when you are never going to use it again?  Because – see #1

Once more, I am proven wrong.

Dimples has been sick since last Thursday, some sort of virus the doctor is certain she will eventually kick, but seems to have developed a liking for the Firepants household and does not feel compelled to move on.

Last night, convinced for some reason that she was going to experience a miraculous recovery in 8 hours, Dimples nearly had a panic attack because she had not yet decorated a Valentine box for school.

“Geez, you can just bring any old box.  No one is going to care if you have a box with hearts on it or one that’s au natural and says Tampax all over it.”  (O.K.  I didn’t say the last part, but you have to admit, it would be interesting to see the teacher’s face if she brought that box to school.)

“Mom, it’s for an Art grade!” Dimples admonished me.

Out of respect for her somewhat frail condition, I set aside my lecture on the disappearance of proper Art in the schools and my absolute, positive, without a doubt knowledge that a shoe box covered with scrapbook paper and glitter glue did not constitute Art.

A glimmer of an inkling of a possibility of a memory entered my brain.

“Didn’t you save your box from last year?”

Reflexively, Dimples dismissed my suggestion, as she does all others that I have not cleverly disguised as her own thoughts.

However, when I settled her down for the night, there was her last-year-somewhat-dented-Valentine Box, sitting on her duct tape school bag (which qualifies more as Art, I think, than the box) in preparation for the next day.

I think we’re even on this one.  She knowingly used an idea that came out of my brain, and I implicitly admitted that her decision to store last year’s box was not completely wrong.

It’s Win-Win.

If Dimples Wasn't Sick, She Probably Would Have Made a Duct Tape Box This Year

Update to “They Probably Would Have Kicked Us Out of Austria”

This is not my actual post for today, but I thought those of you who read yesterday’s post might be interested in the Epilogue.  I picked Dimples up from her first day back to school today, and she nearly ran me over in her excitement.  She had choir practice after school, and the music teacher announced that they would be singing songs from Broadway shows for the Spring Concert, including songs from – you guessed it – The Sound of Music.  Perfect Friend, who slept over this weekend and was subjected to a showing of the movie (once I figured out how to download it from iTunes), is also in choir, and was apparently equally thrilled.  Dimples has assured me that she will be informing her music teacher at the next available opportunity of my song revision on my blog.

She is currently wandering around the house singing Jingle Bell Rock.  Go figure.

They Probably Would Have Kicked Us Out of Austria

Me and Cap'n Firepants

What is the Sound of Music, really?

Is it a song on the radio that skips over half the words because they are “inappropriate”, or your dog barking in his pen outside nonstop because he knows you are in the bathroom at the back of the house and he wants your attention NOW, or your daughter belting out “Do Re Mi”  100 times an hour?

Our daughter, Dimples, has moved from her Mary Poppins obsession to a Sound of Music one.  She has gone from singing a declaration of women’s rights with “Sister Suffragette” to begging a boy to take care of her in “I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”

Her voice is not bad, so I don’t mind the singing.  But the repetition may kill me.  Although I was able to giggle a little when she loudly sang, as part of Edelweiss, “Bless my hometown forever” instead of “Bless my homeland forever.”  Something about singing an homage to San Antonio, Texas, makes the whole song a lot less poignant.

Our entire family has taken to humming random pieces of the score as we wander around the house.  Sometimes, we run into each other in the kitchen or hallway and happen to be humming the same tune, so we break out into song together.  O.K. Maybe that’s just Dimples and me.

We are such dorks.

I was like Dimples as a child, discovering new music that I would then wear out by replaying and singing along to until I found a replacement. I used to get angry with my father who, when I started singing in the back of the car, would turn the radio volume up to drown me out.

The other day, Dimples started singing along in the back of car as I drove, and I reflexively leaned over to turn the radio volume up.  I froze.  What the heck was I doing?  And then I realized, I wasn’t trying to drown her out.  I wanted her to be a part of the song as though it were a duet.  And I even joined as a backup singer in the parts that I knew.  That made me feel better about my dad’s radio blaring commentaries.

Until I remembered that when I was a kid, I was never singing the songs that were playing on the radio at the moment.  Just my own repertoire of “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” and “Que Sera, Sera?”   So, I’m pretty sure my dad was trying to send a not-so-subtle message about my repetitive serenades from the back seat whenever he cranked that dial to the right.

It’s clear to me that Dimples and I were meant to be born to the Von Trapp family, to live out lyrical lives of harmony and happy endings.

My dear husband, Cap’n Firepants, is our own Captain Von Trapp,  slightly charmed by our impromptu concerts in the kitchen, but mortified at the thought of us performing in public.  I can’t imagine what he’s so worried about.  I was in the All State choir back in the day.

Dimples is alive with the sound of music

With songs she has sung for a thousand hours

Dimples fills my heart with the sound of music

Even when she’s not taking showers.


My heart wants to dance when she plays Kinect

On a gloomy winter day.

My heart wants to sigh when she has to correct

Every word that I say,


To laugh like a girl when she trips

And falls over dogs on the floor

Who bark through the night

Or knock down the walls with a snore.


I live in our house, and I’m never lonely

I know I will hear what I heard before

Again and again and again there’s the sound of music

And we’ll sing once more.



Who Do You Think Pulls the Sleigh?

My sister, Crash, is on the left. When I became Santa (years later), the hardest part of Santa Boot Camp was learning how to descend cardboard chimneys. I learned not to wear such short skirts.

Sometimes my daughter can be extremely smart and devastatingly dense at the same time.  Her Santa Claus reveal is a perfect example.

A few years ago, when Dimples was 6, she started making little comments that hinted at her suspicions of Santa’s true identity.  One night close to Christmas, Cap’n Firepants had to work late.  Dimples and I were eating dinner, and she suddenly blurted out, “Mom, are you Santa Claus?”

Dimples has always been a pretty logical person.  I could have dodged the question, feeling quite comfortable in saying “no” because I actually am not Santa Claus.  I’m Mrs. Cap’n Firepants, and that’s burden enough.  But I knew what she was asking, and I decided to honor the spirit of her question.

“Do you really want to know?” I asked.  Because there is no going back once that question gets an honest answer.  Step over that line and part of your childhood is gone and, quite frankly, part of the parents’ childhood is gone, too.  Because we all live vicariously through the innocent joy and anticipation of our children during the Christmas season.

“Yes,” Dimples responded without hesitation.  Remembering how bummed I was when my mother finally gave me the affirmative answer to my own Santa question, and the betrayal I’ve felt ever since whenever someone insists on giving me T.M.I. on something I preferred to believe was magical, I was still reluctant to eradicate the entire North Pole franchise over a meal of fish sticks and macaroni.  But, unless I was imagining things, Dimples seemed almost hopeful that I would debunk this myth she had barely believed all along.

“I am,” I said.

Her eyes widened, and a big smile slowly widened across her face.

“I knew it!” she said. She wasn’t bragging about solving the mystery. Instead, she acted like I had just confirmed that I had my own super powers.  Like I was the one hopping into a souped up air-surfing vehicle every Christmas Eve with the intention of criminally trespassing a billion times in one night so I could leave behind a few gifts the elves had bought online from Walmart.

“This is so cool!” she exclaimed.

She couldn’t contain herself, leaping off her chair and giving me a hug (a rare demonstration from Dimples, who usually offers her back to you when you try to show too much affection) – apparently noticing that I was taking this news a whole lot harder than she was.

After a few minutes of one-sided celebration, she suddenly stopped, and looked up at me with a very earnest expression on her sweet face.

“Does Daddy know?”

Wonderbutt Takes After Me

I recently read a very funny post by Not Quite Old regarding the decisions her computer likes to make about what e-mail she should read.  Her computer is The Decider.

My daughter is The UNDecider.  I swear, the kid refuses to commit to anything except my committal to an institution.

Here are a few of the quandaries she has had recently:

1.)   whether or not to wear long or short pajamas (it has been in 30’s for the last three nights)

b.)  what shoes to wear to her choir concert (flip-flops were part of this multiple-choice – see #1)

III.)  whether or not to wear a light jacket or a coat (see #1)

Four.)  whether we should buy Wonderbutt the rope toy attached to the ball or the ball toy attached to the rope – 10 more minutes of my life that I will never get back

Cinco.)whether or not to continue to use her princess nightlight

Experienced parents will nod their heads and tell me that I should enjoy the fact that my daughter still wants my opinion because, as soon as puberty hits, the child will be full of her own opinions and never ask my advice again until she is 40.

I say that you are wrong.

First of all, Dimples has always been like this.  And she doesn’t actually want my advice.  She wants to drive me crazy.  If I ever do offer my advice, she proffers the opposite.  If I agree with the opposite, she throws in another, completely off-the-grid, solution.  It is a no-win situation.  So, there is nothing to enjoy here.  And, clever People, if I try the Make Your Own Decision tact, it is equally excruciating.  She will do her thinking out loud as close as possible to my ears, procrastinating the choice until the reason for making the choice is long over.

Secondly, she will never change.  I know this because I know at least two other adults to which she is related, one of whom I am married to, who do the same thing.  Being in a car with the three of them is EXASPERATING.  Imagine agonizing over which fast food restaurant you will stop at WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR TEN MILES THAT YOU DON’T CARE – AND YOU REALLY, SERIOUSLY DON’T CARE – BUT THEY APPARENTLY DO BECAUSE THEY SHOOT DOWN EVERY NAME YOU PUT OUT THERE.  And – hey, look at that roadside stand selling watermelon over there!  Uh, what were we talking about – well, should we eat lunch now, or just stop at a rest area for a bathroom break?

If I finally decide to name a place with a very decisive tone that notifies everyone that this is the last word, no arguing, and everyone agrees, we will get into the parking lot, and one of them will, I swear, say, “Maybe we should try McDonalds instead.”  Which was never one of the choices we discussed to begin with.

I love Dimples.  She has a lot of things going for her, and I’m sure she will be a success in life.  Doing what she decides to do.  For the sake of our country’s future, I will do my best to discourage her from pursuing law or medicine.  However, I’m not sure I can keep her out of politics.  Sadly, I think she would fit right in.

Wonderbutt is very Decisive


Especially When it Comes to Things He Believes Need to Be Destroyed - Just a Bit like Hitler

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