Smelly Kid

The girl today was stinky. There is just no other word for it.

My kids are often pretty stinky, I must say.  Not when they wake up, but by the end of the day.  I don’t generally  mind because I think it means they’ve had a good day. Whenever my kids are stinky, I think of 2 things. 1) The scene from “Big Daddy” where Adam Sandler realizes that his kid is the smelly kid. and 2) Phoebe Buffay singing “Smelly Cat,” except I substitute “kid” for “cat.” It still works.

When she took a bath tonight, the bathwater was murky.  It was that bad.  I even used my whirligig facial brush thing on her.

Yes, people, I exfoliated my 4 year old.  Her skin is so glowy she looks 3 1/2. In all fairness, I think I just got through a layer of dirt and didn’t remove any skin cells. Stop dialing CPS.

How, you may ask, did she get this way? I’ll let a deeply cleansed girl tell you herself.

Young Love

On the way home from school a few weeks ago:

Me: How was school today?

Boy: Good. Elliott has a girlfriend. (Elliott is 6, fyi.)

Me: Oh…what’s her name?

Boy: Lucy.

Me: Huh. Does anyone else have a girlfriend?

Boy: Aaron. His girlfriend is Ruby.

At this point, a big Price-is-Right-like wheel of possible responses is turning in my head.  The pointer finally stops on:

Me: So, what does it mean to have a girlfriend?

Boy: Well, it means you really really really like a girl and want to marry her when you grow up.

Me: Oh, okay. <beat> Do you have a girlfriend?

Boy (in an exasperated, eye-rolling, i-can’t-believe-you’re-so-dumb voice): Mo-om! Amalia???

Really, I thought I’d be spared that tone of voice for a few years yet. Sigh.

School of Rock

The other day, on a walk, the boy looked up at me and asked, “Hey, Mom, what’s ‘misery’?”

“Well,” I said, “It’s when you’re very, very sad about something. Why do you ask?”

“’Cause it’s in that song, you know,” and here he began to sing, “‘Put me out, put me out, put me out of misery.’

And then today, while having breakfast, another one.

“Hey, Mom, what’s an owner?”

“Well, an owner is when you have something that belongs to you, you are it’s owner. Like you are the owner of your shirt because it’s yours.  Why do you ask?” I’ve learned to ask that as a followup question for basically everything.

“‘Cause it’s in that song.”

“What song?” I asked.

And here he broke into song again, “Jojo was a man, who thought he was an owner.”  After I stopped laughing, I gently corrected his lyrics.

All I know is I can never listen to “Blinded by the Light” with him in the car again.

Hair Salon

The other day, at work, my phone rang. It was the girl’s school calling.

The first thought that ran through my head was hoping that everything was okay–I mean, they usually only call for emergencies.  My second thought was that I hoped it wasn’t some stupid trumped up emergency requiring an immediate pickup, only to find out that she was entirely fine, such as the nonexistent “fever” after playing outside, or the “vomiting” after someone drank too much milk at once.

My daughter’s teacher answered when I picked up. “Okay,” she began, “first of all, the girl is fine, you don’t have to pick her up or anything.”

Glad we got that out of the way.  She continued: “So, something happened that I just thought you should know about. The girl and a friend were playing hair salon with scissors, and each managed to get one good cut in before the teacher saw them and stopped it.”

“Oh,” I said, glad that that was all.  I mean, I don’t really care about that.  I know that something like that happens in an instant and doesn’t mean that they were being neglected. “How bad does it look?”

“Wellll,” her teacher said, “It’s not too bad, really.  There’s just a little hole missing over her left ear.” I thanked her for calling and went about my day.

When I got home that night, I asked the girl about it. You could, by the way, see where the cut had happened but you had to be looking for it.

“So,” I began. “I hear you were playing hair salon with your friend today.”

“Yah! I Weesa!” She said, excitedly. Lisa is the name of the woman who cuts my hair.

“Oh, you were Lisa? Who were you playing with?” I asked.


“Lucy? Did you cut Lucy’s hair, too?” I asked.

She nodded, a big big smile on her face.

“And how did Lucy’s hair look after  you cut it?” I asked.

With that, the girl puffed up her chest, got a big, proud smile on her face, and said on an exhale, “Byooful, Mommy. Woosey’s hair wooked byooful.”


What’s on first

The boy and I, in the car to the store. We pass by a wooded bike trail.

“Hey,” I say, “we should come here for a bike ride! Would that be fun or what?!”

“What what?” he asks.

“What are you talking about?”

“What? You said ‘what.’ What is the what?”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand!” I’m getting a bit frustrated. “What what are you talking about?”

Exasperated, he spits out, “You said, “fun or what.” What is that what?”

“Ohhhhhh,” I say, finally understanding. Smiling, I reply, “It’s an expression, kid. It just means that it would be really fun.”

“Oh, but why do you say ‘or what?’ ”

“I don’t know. You just do.” I’m also a bit tired of relentless questions all morning long.

“Okay. Well, can you say it again?” he asks.

“Sure. Let’s go biking! Would that be fun or what?”

“What,” he deadpans.

Wabi Sabi

In the children’s section of the library the other day, I spied a book titled “Wabi Sabi.”  I’ve been hearing a lot about wabi sabi these days because it’s all over  modern home design blogs (another obsession of mine). The idea, as it relates to home design, is that not everything in a modern home needs to be sleek, metallic, completely finished. Something simple, quiet, old, comfortable is also beautiful. I checked out the book without reading it and brought it home.

Later that afternoon, sitting on our decidedly non-wabi sabi couch, I read the book to the boy.

It begins with a zen proverb: “An old pine tree can teach you the sacred truths.”

“But,” the boy began, “what does it mean? How can an old pine tree teach you?”

“Just let it roll around your head for a while, kiddo.”

So we went on–the book is about a Japanese cat named Wabi Sabi who sets out to learn the meaning of her name. Along the way she meets various creatures who give her hints and finally (*spoiler alert*) a wise monkey who teaches her what it means to be wabi sabi. The illustrations are torn-paper collages and quite beautiful. Each page also has a haiku on it, which the boy is familiar with from the Jon Muth books I mentioned earlier.

One of these haikus starts by talking about something being alive and dying at the same time. “How can that be?” he asked.  I love moments like this, when you can see the little gears in his head turning.  When he hears a new idea and tries to process and make sense of it in a way that he can understand. It’s almost as if you get a window into the elasticity of a child’s brain. The page has an illustration of fallen autumn leaves. “Well, I said, it’s like those leaves that have just fallen.  They’re still a bit alive, but they’re dying also.” “Oh,” he said, not entirely getting it. Still, he loved the book.

A few days later, while walking to the bus stop, he spied a dried out yarrow bush. “Too bad that plant died, Mama,” he said.

“Not entirely, kiddo, look–there’s green leaves at the bottom. This plant comes back every springtime.” I said.

He gasped, “It’s alive and dying at the same time!! Mom! This is Wabi Sabi!”

And so it was. Since then he points out everything that is wabi sabi, sometimes a bit incorrectly, but so happy to have learned for himself just what it is.

Gender Identity

Last night, the family was in a odd configuration in which the boy was in the bathroom, on the toilet, with the door closed and the rest of us were sitting outside. You know that seems to happen sometimes?  Anyway, a conversation ensued which went like this:

Girl: I girl, you (pointing to Eric) boy, mommy girl!

Eric: What about your brother?

Girl: Ummm…boy!

Me: What makes someone a boy or a girl?

Girl: ‘Cause! Just ’cause!

Boy (from inside the bathroom): Hey, girl, let me tell you.  I’m a boy because I have a penis and you’re a girl because you don’t.

Girl: I have penis, too!

Me (yelling through the door): She says she has a penis, too.

Boy (not missing a beat): Well, then, she’s a boy.

Glad that’s been cleared up.

If Only We All…

Trying out my technique on the boy again:

Me: “Tell me something happy that happened to you at school today.”

Boy (completely serious): “Ummm, being a Zen Buddhist.”

Me (trying to keep the smile out of my voice): “How do you be a Zen Buddhist?”

Boy: “Well, I try to be like Stillwater and am just very peaceful and quiet.”

*As a side note, I highly recommend all the Jon Muth books. “Zen Shorts” is a good place to start.  Great stories that introduce Zen principles and approaches to life problems in a way that kids understand, all illustrated with beautiful watercolor paintings.

The Hills are Alive…with Bandits

I recently got the Sound of Music, now restored to a very nice high-def.  Now you can really see just how ugly the children’s curtain playclothes are and realize that Captain von Trapp had every reason to be horrified.   I remember when it was broadcast on network TV once a year and the whole family would gather around to watch.  I’d always take a break right at “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Blech.  I still can’t stand that song.

The boy and I watched the first half the other night.  It is long.  Really, really long and you see how much they cut out of the movie for the TV version, which I’d never known.

What was kind of funny, though, was the questions that the boy asked while we were watching it.

“What’s a telegram?” he asked after Rolf delivered the first one. I suppose there’s no reason he’d EVER know what that was!

“Well,” I began, “It’s sort of like an email, but they didn’t have computers so they had to deliver it by hand.” I figured I’d leave the whole lesson on Morse Code for another time.

The next one came shortly after that, when Liesl and Rolf are frolicking before the impending thunderstorm.  “What’s going to happen?! Are they going to be okay?!” He was genuinely terrified for them.  I think this is sort of interesting, but I wasn’t sure where it came from.  I wonder if it’s because many kids’ movies nowadays have their characters in almost constant peril.  Think of the latest Toy Story movie–I mean, the characters are rarely just enjoying a free moment.  Some of it might be that thunderstorms are just scarier to little kids than they are to adults.

My favorite, though, was during “Do Re Mi” when Maria and the children begin to sing at their picnic and then all get up and dance away across the hills. He asked, “Why are they leaving all their stuff there?”

“Well, kiddo, they’re just having fun and singing. Why do you ask?”

“Because a thief might come and take all their stuff!” cried my little city kid.

I’m so delighted that my child can watch the first, non-scary half of the Sound of Music and still find a way to find danger lurking in every scene.  I wonder how the second half is going to go when the actual bad guys appear.

Conversation Starters

Ever try to talk to a 5 year old about how his day was?

The typical exchange goes something like this:

“How was your day?”


“What happened at school today?”

“Ummmmmmmm……I don’t remember.”

I thought I had at LEAST another 7 years before I got that response, which is essentially a more polite version of “nothing.”

So I’ve been trying something different lately, which has worked well. Try it yourself and see how it works.  Instead of asking how his day was, I say, “Tell me something happy that happened today.” Then I go on to ask about something sad, surprising, funny, and something that made him mad.  I usually get an actual story from his day with these questions.

Today’s responses–

Happy: Playing with my friend N.

Sad: When my sister was mean to me.

Surprising: Nothing today.

Mad: When C was mean to me at school.

That led to the follow up question of what exactly it is that C does, which seems to be looking at the boy’s private stuff in his cubby, which he only allows other kindergartners to do.  Eyeroll.

Then I ask, “Is there anyone else at school who is mean to you?”

“Well, H and E are sometimes.”

“What do they do?”

“They make fun of my name.”

Now this I was NOT expecting.

“What did they say?”

“They keep making fun of my name ’cause it has the word ‘kiss’ in it and they keep saying it over and over  again. And I don’t like that and it makes me sad.”

“So what do you do?”

“Well, I use my words and I tell them to stop and if that doesn’t work I tell the teacher.”

He looked so sad talking about this.  I gathered him in my arms for a hug.

“You know, ” I whispered in his ear, “I think you have the best name in the world.  I love your name.”

“Yeah,” he said, smiling, “me too.”

“Don’t you ever let anyone make you feel bad about your name, okay kiddo?”

“Okay.” I guess the talk was over then, because he moved onto “can you help me build this Star Wars rocket?”

I wonder what tomorrow’s conversations will bring.

(If any of you try this, I’m curious to see if you have any interesting chats from it–let me know!)