I’ve dropped CB off at her mother’s house, and taken little Lily back home. Lily has taken her first few steps this week and has about 100 words that she knows.  We walk in the door and I set her down to bring things in. She starts to cry. I sit on the couch, pick her up, and put her on my lap. She stops.

Lily: “Mommy? Mommy?” She makes this little shrug with her hands in the air that her sister and mother taught her. She shakes her shoulders back and forth while she does it in a little dance. She’s looking around the room.

Dad: “Mommy’s not here, boo, she’ll be back in a little while.”

Lily continues to scan the house, sizing up the situation.

Dad: “What do you think? Are you ready for a Bath? Bath?”

Lily turns and meets my eye.

Lily: “Cookie.”

Dad: “You silly goose. How about a bath?”

Lily: “Cookie.” She looks serious.

Dad *raising eyebrow*: “Uh huh. You’re sister’s been teaching you, I can tell. You guys just think I’m a softie. You just had ice cream. No. Way. Bath.”

Lily: “Cookie.”

I stare at Lily for a moment. She’s looking down at her fingers now, playing with them quietly, a slight smile on her face. I clear my throat.

Dad: “Yogurt.”

Lily: “Cookie.”

Dad: “Yogurt.”

Lily stares at me, her eyes narrowing just the slightest. She’s silent for a brief moment.

Lily: “Yo-gut.”

Dad: “Done.”  I shake her little hand, scoop her up, and head to the kitchen.IMG_0813


The Owl House

CB and Dad have finished evening books and are discussing additional lodgers at Newland-Neidell Manor. CB had gone to a recent pumpkin patch where they had a barn owl as part of a live animal presentation. The owl made a big impression and CB has been talking about it for days.

CB:”Daddy, I think we should build a barn owl house.”

Dad: “A barn owl house? You think? In the back yard?”

CB: “Yeah, in the tree.”

Dad: “Well, we could… You know, Tashi and Shiva are big cats, too big for a barn owl, but if the owl was big enough, it could eat Little Minxie…”

CB: “Maybe it could eat that old opossum…”

Dad: “That opossum is way too fat for an owl to eat. A baby opossum maybe, but that big guy weighs more than the owl would. Owls like mice and rats, they want stuff that’s smaller…

CB: “I know! We need to have an owl feeder.”

Dad: *nearly blows water out his nose while taking vitamin* “A barn owl feeder? So, like, it’d be filled with dead rats and mice? What, would the tails just be sticking out for the owl to grab?”

CB: “No, the heads. We could hang it next to the hummingbird feeder.”

Dad: “The owl would be like, dude, what’s the story with this free dead rat?”

CB: “Free dead rat– what’s up with that?”


A New Form of Hell

I recently opened my web browser to find the headline stating that obese women spend only one hour a year doing vigorous exercise. The study, by Nutrition Obesity Research Center, also concluded that obese men don’t get more than 4 hours a year. While these findings were alarming, what took me off guard was the photo the article used.
The picture was of two women, walking outside, shot from a low angle. They were headless, presumably protecting their identity. It doesn’t matter whether these women were obese or not–these two headless women have been called obese by this article and have been accused of only exercising one hour a year.

The AP photo was dated 2009. Assuming that these women were paid to pose for a stock photo and that it would be used to illustrate obesity in women, would they have still agreed to it, knowing that, five years later, their faceless forms would continue to be used in this manner?

I posted the photo online and asked friends what they thought. They responded with additional articles. From the Baltimore Sun: “Obesity Epidemic Could Be Stabilizing”. From the Toronto Star: “Canadians Fatter, Less Attractive than Ever.” From the Huffington Post: “Number of Diabetic Americans Could Triple by 2050.” All of these, and more, using this same photo, these same two women, to illustrate how unhealthy, how ugly, and how common obesity has become, appearing in news feeds worldwide, not just once, but over and over again.

We can now be publically humiliated on a global scale for anything—not the right clothes, not the right body, not the right attractiveness. We pay a lot of attention to the online shaming that teenagers do to each other, and it is indeed horrible, but we also must recognize that the media does the same thing, on a daily basis, to innocent people. I love how the internet can share information, but we should recognize that we have just invented a new form of Hell, one where our faults and flaws are on display now, forever, for the entertainment of others.

The Seal

Lauri and Lily are away, it’s just CB and I for a couple of days. I’m in the kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher, listening to the radio.   CB is dancing around the kitchen, we’ve just shared a rib-eye, and red meat puts her in a feral mood. She has a piece of french bread and butter in her mouth that she is shaking around like a white shark slings a seal while she dances.
The radio newscast arrives at a story about a Syrian girl, caught in the blast of a bombed-out building. The explosion left her beheaded. There’s a young woman shouting in Arabic, crying to a man with a microphone. CB stops and asks “Why is that woman saying Daddy Daddy Daddy Daddy?” I stop to look at CB, the tail of bread hanging from her mouth, and turn off the radio.IMG00222-20110623-1755

Lying vs. Being Wrong

CB is stalling. It’s time for bed, past time, way past time. Water, snacks, brushing teeth, books, we’ve run the gamut. Now she’s got to go the bathroom. I tell her that I’m going to have to get up early the next morning but that she’ll see me before we go.
CB: “Are you sure? Last time you said that you’d see me but you lied.”
Dad: “ I didn’t lie, hon, I was wrong. There’s a difference. I ran out of time and you weren’t up yet so I had to go. I thought I was going to have time but didn’t.”
She’s chewing on her lip.
Dad: “Ok, hold on, I’ll show you what I mean.”
I go and get a nickel off of the desk in the front room.
Dad: “You know what the heads-or-tails game is?”
CB shakes her head.
Dad: “Ok, on this side, there’s, like always a picture of some famous person, usually a president or something. This guy’s name is Jefferson. That’s the head, you can see his head. On the other side is the tail, could be anything on that side.”
I put the coin on my thumb.
Dad:” Ok, now I guess that it’s going to be heads.”
I flip the coin, it lands. We look. Tails.
Dad: “Ok, tails. Now, was I lying, or was I just wrong?”
She thinks a second.
CB: “You were wrong!”
Dad: “That’s right. Now you try.”
I flip the coin, it lands, I cover it.
Dad: “Heads or tails?”
CB: “Heads!”
Dad: *checks* You’re right! See?”
CB verifies it, has dad flip the coin a couple of more times to watch the flipping and catching process.
She’s ready for bed now.
CB: “Can we play the flipping game a couple more times tomorrow?”
Dad: “Sure hon, we can do that…”
CB: “And maybe it will land on the LYING side!”

Toddler Delinquency



Children’s humor astounds me. From the earliest age, they smile and laugh. Adults so often focus on the tickling, or the funny faces, but half the time, it’s word play, and specifically, it’s saying things that either shouldn’t be said, or are said in a way that the child knows is wrong. I’d be curious to see if, in other primates, the young ones experiment with giving calls to each other that are deliberately incorrect, simply for entertainment and shock value. And the shock component cannot be understated—as the straight man to the verbal gags of my two daughters, it is clearly far more hilarious to the two of them if I feign that some sort of social taboo has been breached, my sensibilities offended, if they tell me my name is Booty.
Adults aren’t any better, they just have a few rules about that word play. If you are going to say something ridiculous, or move some letters around so that one word becomes another, that new word has to have meaning, and to be funny, it either needs to be scatological, risqué, or, best yet, put a spin on the topic discussed. This latter word-play is usually pun and double-entendre, and it is pervasive in our culture, one would be hard pressed to open a magazine or watch more than a few minutes of TV without one of these two being used to sell something or make a snarky point in an article. We, as a species, love it.
But there’s something more pure about the love of simply breaking the rules of speech that children seem to be born with. And, at least with my children, there is a joy in breaking rules in general. It seems to me to be more than just testing boundaries, there’s good sport to be had sneaking sips of my coffee or burgling my socks. I wonder about the evolutionary advantages of this, if children everywhere inherently take pleasure from rascalliness. If this in indeed hardwired into us, then I take comfort from it. If a child’s first form of entertainment is to take the humdrum conversation of parenting and diaper changing and distort it into absurdity and laughter, then they have mastered art and social criticism by age 3.2013-12-21 09.26.36


My children are going stir crazy. My partner, Lauri, has gone to meet a friend for two hours, and it is pouring rain out. The first hour of her absence was spent by my attempting to persuade my eldest, CB, to get clothes on. The whole hour. I am getting ready to go to the Tool Store, it being Sunday and this being, generally, my place of worship. Having been to said store on Saturday, and its allure having worn off by the end of that visit, there was no incentive on the part of the two youngest mammals in my house. CB and LA are defiant, they shall have None of It, this leaving the house and riding in wet carts. After this hour of combat, I decide to shift gears and work with what I have.

Which is, namely, puddles.

It takes all of about two minutes for them to change into clothes and rain gear.

The youngest mammal in our house, LA, turns her head towards the sky to take in the rain.


At 3 now, she starts to feel into that connection between sky and earth. When her sister was just a baby, I would take her out with me for walks, in my arms, and she would tilt her head and close her eyes when the wind blew past us, the neighborhood palms and privets swaying, her listening, and I think, perhaps, understanding the conversation. LB does the same today.

It starts off well enough–

The splashing, the running of leaf boats in the water. It’s the first time they’ve been outside today, and they are excited.

First, CB


Then LA joins in


Then things begin to degrade. The boots come off.


The boots get used as buckets to splash each other. The interior of the raincoats, the pants, the socks, all wet. They might as well have gone outside wearing the pajamas. Then they scoop up road dirt with the boots and fling that too. Caitie’s hair is filled with grit.


There’s only one option left. My partner will be home in moments. What started out as a fun adventure has turned into a grubby free-for-all. Even though it is only noon, I throw a Hail Mary to not seem completely irresponsible…