All I Really Need to Know About Relationships I Learned in Kindergarten

“I bwaked up with Sawah,” the Wee Man announced with appropriate drama.

“What?! Why?!” I could not imagine what a darling 5-year-old could’ve done to deserve dumping.

“She picked her nose in the hall,” he told me.

“Are you sure? Honey, I just don’t think she’s that kind of girl.”

But he was adamant. And he’s got a real prejudice against nose-pickers. He recently declared a favorite playmate “obviously evil” because of the friend’s compunction to pick his nose and eat the findings. So I know this is a relationship deal breaker.

More questions: Does he feel sad? Are they still friends? How did she react?

His answers: No, he’s not sad. Nose-picking is “gwoss.” Of course they’re still friends, he just doesn’t like her as a girlfriend now. And she didn’t react at all because he didn’t actually tell her.

Turns out she doesn’t know she’s his girlfriend.

So my son has spun up a fake romance, a perceived fatal flaw, a damning judgment and a stormy end to the fake romance. All this about a sweet little playmate who’s so shy her mom had to help her recite her nursery rhyme on Mother Goose Day. It’s a kindergarten version of what too often happens in my adult relationships.

How often do we make snap judgments based on limited information and write a whole crazy drama in our minds about the whats, hows and whys? I see it all the time with people I love — myself included. One person says or does something that strikes someone else as rude (or funny, sweet, pathetic — fill in the reaction), and it’s completely opposite of the intended effect. Person B then has a strong reaction, Person A is confused or oblivious and miscommunication/angst/hilarity/whatever ensues.

For some reason, we seem to prefer to make up stories rather than ask for clarification. Why are we so quick to over-react or get emotional? Maybe that person who just cut you off in traffic is rushing to save someone’s life. Maybe he really has to pee. Odds are, what he did has absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person or a desire to adversely affect your life.

So if you’re going to make up stories, make up happy ones. You mom didn’t love your sister more than you. She just appreciated your independence and trusted you to make good decisions without her input. Your husband didn’t leave his dirty clothes piled up on the floor to give you more crap to pick up. He’s just preparing a nest for the winter.

So I advised Wee Man to reconsider. Was he really sure Sarah picked her nose? Could he possibly be mistaken?

Thankfully, he came up with a new story. In this one, she didn’t pick her nose, so he can like her again. It gets better: He made her a very sweet card asking her for a (play) date. He hopes she’ll want to be his girlfriend in real life now.


I’m so proud he’s not too proud to change his mind. I keep telling my kids they get to decide how they feel and what they think, so if they don’t like how they’re feeling they should change their thoughts.

It’s sound advice. I hope I follow it, too.


Cuckoos and Flu-ids Still Flying

Yesterday, I fell for it. Wee Man was so much better — happy, making fart jokes, picking fights with his sister — things were back to normal but for the occasional hack.

These two and I were all smiles yesterday for Wee Man's followup after a night of albuterol and very little sleep. But then darkness fell...

These two and I were all smiles yesterday for Wee Man’s followup after a night of Albuterol and very little sleep. But then darkness fell…

This was after a night of breathing treatments every two hours, which was after a night of many trips up and down the stairs as he was getting sick. And this was after two nights of the same with his sister.

My cognitive functions were well below their usual below average on that first trip to the doc Thursday. Usually when a doctor tells me my child needs a medicine he or she has never had before, I do a little research. My smart phone has Google on speed dial. But I was short-circuited. When I was told my son needed Tamiflu to cover all our bases, I should’ve let my fingers do the walking. But I could barely lift my head at that point, much less use it.

And following two extremely painful, simultaneous shots of powerful antibiotic, Wee Man made a dramatic recovery in 24 hours. No more sneezing. No complaints of nausea. Nary a hint of barf. Breathing treatments were suddenly few and far between.

So when Dr. Igettogohomewherenoonewillspewonmeallnight told me Tamiflu “won’t hurt him,” I should’ve realized he was talking about himself in the third person. He suffered no damage whatsoever last night, as far as I know. Dillon was the one up from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. barfing, and I was up catching it. We did manage almost three hours of sleep before the explosive diarrhea kicked in around 5 a.m.

Dare I type it? That may have stopped in the last five minutes.

But the Tamiflu is definitely on the way out. Turns out vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects, which I would’ve appreciated knowing and typically would’ve asked about had all the cylinders been firing. One study showed more than half the kids taking the drug suffered from nasty digestive distress.

I guess it’s unfair to blame Tamiflu for Dillon now being almost as miserable as when he was diagnosed with pneumonia/possible flu two days ago. He did start Zithromax last night. But he’s taken that before with no such gastrointestinal terror.

Oh, wait. Dillon’s back in the bathroom again. Scratch that line two graphs up. Back shortly.

On the upside, the new washer/dryer set that arrived yesterday got a helluva workout. The fourth load since midnight is in the dryer now, and everything’s coming out looking nice. Plus, it has this cute little chime that sounds like Willy Wonka summoning the Oompa Loompas. It was mildly soothing as Dillon and I raced back and forth to the toilet all night.

Loco is playing the part of a therapy cat this morning. If Dillon drifts off, I'm hauling that cat to the couch and handing him a notebook and pen for my session.

Loco is playing the part of a therapy cat this morning. He looks more than a little concerned about what may come shooting out of Wee Man from one end or the other. If Dillon drifts off, I’m hauling that cat to the couch and handing him a notebook and pen for my session.

So this morning we’ve got cartoons cranked and Pediapops slowly melting their way into the Wee Man’s tortured tummy. I’m trying to maintain my caffeine-free lifestyle and half-marathon delusions, but I think both will have to stay on hold one more day.

But that’s OK. The runs to the bathrooms must end at some point. That will be a sweet, sweet victory indeed. Wish us luck.

One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

It’s been a rough week in McGinleyville. Thing 1 missed two days of school before rallying Wednesday, which of course was the day Thing 2 started to spew snot. By yesterday, Wee Man was miserable and we were in the doctor’s office.

I gave the rundown of symptoms plus the sick sister background. Congestion, complaints of nausea, breathing treatments — fairly standard stuff for my boy who should’ve spent his early years in a plastic bubble. This is the kid who arrived early and kept us in the clinic drive-through for the first three years of his life.

Yes, I know we’ve got a flu epidemic rocking the country. But after my trip to the doc’s, I can’t help but wonder how accurate all those numbers are. Especially because even though no one in my family has any of the major flu symptoms, Wee Man was diagnosed with a possible case because “not everyone presents all the symptoms.”

OK, fair enough. But our patient has a history of allergies, asthma and pneumonia. The doc didn’t swab anything or draw anything, but he used the f-word based on the fact that there’s a nationwide epidemic and our man’s symptoms include snot, sneezing and difficulty breathing (which he can have after walking through a barn or when the temps drop).

Strikes me as a little crazy. Yes, I have killer aim with my rock arm off the balcony of my glass house.

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the internet. I’ve also watched a lot of “House.” So like the team at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, my initial diagnosis was sarcoidosis. And like my TV dream team, my first diagnosis is always wrong. But then I found this handy list of symptoms, which further convinces me none of us has the flu.

We’re all praying this epidemic passes. I pulled in the big guns. Love this shot by Mike Licht.

I also know what goes into nationwide fear-mongering. I’ve been on that side of the news desk. I’ve covered scary stories about missing bubonic plague, home invasions involving hookers and sex toys, fake penises used to circumvent pesky drug tests (OK, probably more funny than scary. But I love to share that link.) and more.

So I know fear drives both media producers and consumers, and I have a very high resistance to the mind viruses we can pick up through what we read or see on the news.

If only our healthcare professionals were similarly immune.

I know each of us is doing the best with what we know at all points of the day. And that I’m not really a doctor. But I just wish we could all let go of a little bit of fear and focus more on what’s going right.

photo credit: <a href=””>Mike Licht,</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

As If

A lovely bunch of fat flakes had just started to fall yesterday afternoon. For the Wee Man, that meant the start of winter Olympics.

He dressed himself to sled: ski jacket, dinosaur skull cap, helmet, goggles and sandals. I pointed out that there was not actually any snow on the ground, so it was not yet prime sledding time.

Here’s what the ‘hood looked like yesterday when Wee Man first tried to sled. He’s not one to be deterred by a minor detail like a complete lack of snow.

He didn’t care. He marched out there with his bright green slider and slowly scratched down the driveway twice. Then he came back in.

“You were wight, Mom.”

I thought that was a pretty impressive admission, especially from a male member of my family. I told him it was supposed to snow more tonight. Maybe he’d have better luck tomorrow.

It did snow, just enough to leave a crystalline dusting and a narrow, millimeter-thin track of snow on the driveway. So this morning, Sled Boy was back in action.

He was so proud — utterly delighted with his sledding. I was so proud to see him living the “Act As If” principle I’ve been reading about in my latest Wayne Dyer book, “Wishes Fulfilled.” Dyer says one of the keys to creating the life you want is to act as if you already have it. When he’s writing, Dyer has a copy of the cover for the book in progress to reinforce the concept.

So Wee Man — ever proof that reality is relative — happily skidded down the driveway this morning acting as if he were on the tubing hill at Beaver Creek. I captured the magic moment on video  with my iPhone, because I was acting as if his moment of glory would last forever and he won’t be grown all too soon.

Pr0n-igal Son

It’s what parents says in every news story where they screw up and something horrible happens to a child:

“I just turned my back for five minutes.”

Jesus is watching (and plotting his revenge for all those jokes I make about him), so I’ll fess up that it was actually more like 15 or 20. I was in the next room on a phone interview for Thursday’s deadline. I was doing that thing I do where I suck as a mother so I can rub a couple of  coins together. To give myself credit, I’m not nearly as nuts with the freelance as I was when The Roo was a baby. At one point in her infancy, I found myself talking on a headset (another phone interview) and typing on the laptop as I bounced on an exercise ball to keep her quiet while I nursed her in a sling.

True story.

Yes, my very next call was to a therapist. Thanks.

But yesterday’s Joan Crawford Award moment resulted in a 4-year-old downloading an adult movie because Mom wasn’t there to get another on-demand Dora rolling. I’d asked him to not interrupt me while I was talking to my “work friend,” so he did his best to figure out the remote on his own to comply with my request.

But I hadn’t considered how hard that can be when you can’t read. And he just assumes that if you push enough buttons, Nick Jr. comes back.

But what he got was more along the lines of “Dora Does Dallas.” Thankfully, I got there at the beginning and it wasn’t anything too creepy, but it was yet another wakeup call that I need to focus more on him and less on deadlines.

And call the cable company to ask them to credit us that $9.99.

When Dear John got home, he asked the important questions:

“Is it still there, and can I still watch it?”

Time for me to turn my back for another five minutes.


In honor of Labor Day, my small people are working hard at one of those priorities that make sense only to people under 48 inches tall. They’re tag-teaming to build the perfect cat trap out of laundry baskets and beads.

Today’s cat trap, complete with doll blanket and kitchen towel.

“Put him in the wound pen!” the Wee Man just yelled.

Clearly the kitten needs more ground work. He’s only 3 months old, so he isn’t fully trained. Plus, he’s a Bengal cat, so he’ll never be fully trained. But I think Vetericyn, Ritchie Waterers and the whole Downunder Horsemanship gang would be proud that my 4-year-old wants to get the cat’s feet moving to engage his brain. He never even watches Clinton Anderson’s horse training videos with me (his sister does) so he’s clearly picking up THE METHOD by osmosis. If only he’d apply it to horses.

But for now, it’s all about cat-astrophes. Since this kitten came home last week, he’s been swaddled in blankets and deposited in various American Girl Doll accessories, added to Bat Cave adventures (luckily he seems to like lattes), nearly refrigerated, pillow-trapped into toy cubbies, pulled into the bathtub, and latched into plastic tool boxes. (That last one prompted an informative and overdue lesson on carbon-based life forms and their need for oxygen.)

But he’s also been cuddled, kissed, hugged, cradled, sweet-talked and universally adored.

This kitten is clearly a masochist. Here he is cuddled up in the arm of his oppressor. He was purring when I took this photo.

And now that Wee Man has taken a cat-catching break to tan under a reading light (That’s his story. I’ve mentioned before he’s weird.), Loco is watching with great interest from his perch just inches out of the range of the fluorescent light bulb.

There are many great things about our new kitten, but the best is he seems to love every minute of the constant and bizarre ways my kids try to show him the love.

There’s got to be a pithy parenting lesson in there. I guess I need to be more like the cat. I need to look past the discomfort of laundry bag traps and doll clothes and appreciate the fact that there are two hysterical kids sharing their love in crazy ways that makes perfect sense to them and no one else.

It’s enough to make me purr.

Holy Half-Caff Skim Cinna-Mochaccino Hold the Whip, Batman!

My son’s weirdness is hardly a new topic. The Wee Man’s bizarro take on life and the universe he lives in give me more fodder for writing, discussion and therapy than just about anything else I’ve got going on.

His favorite toy these days is an elaborate bat cave my mom got him for Christmas. He fills it with super heroes, Littlest Pet Shop creatures he steals from his sister, the occasional Breyer horse and a scattering of utensils that I’ve obviously been looking for in all the wrong places. Much like I once did for love.

This boy is batty for the cave.

He frequently asks me to come play Bat Cave with him. This means I join him on the basement floor and under his careful direction, our various “players” have strange adventures.

They teach dogs how to fly. They go on hay rides. They remind The Joker that he shouldn’t rob banks. And they go out for lattes.

For real. I had to ask him to repeat that one a couple of times, because he’s still got that adorable 4-year-old lisp and slurred rs.

He didn’t specify that they go to Starbucks, which is of some comfort to me. But I’m quite puzzled over how he entered the coffee bar scene. It’s hardly a family ritual. I’ve been caffeine-free for months, but even before that, I was too cheap to pay for unhealthy and overpriced coffee drinks.

Not that it matters. There’s really not a logic train to follow on this one. It’s what I’ve come to expect and cherish about this magical little man who keeps me scratching my head, laughing my ass off and counting my blessings.