A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

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Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

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9to5to9: The perils of the potty at school
Friday, 25 Jul, 2008 – 7:54 | Comments Off

“We hadn’t been in the car five minutes this evening when Big Guy made a pained pronouncement: “”Mommy, I gotta go!”"

Aw dang it, I responded, more sharply than I should have. In my defense, it was the end of a long day — at least, the end of the office portion of it. Plus, he’d made the same plea roughly 15 minutes earlier, as we were leaving day care.

No matter. When you gotta go, you gotta go. I pulled off at a McDonald’s where the restrooms usually are clean, put on my Stern Mommy face and lectured. “”Guys, we’re not getting food.”"

It took 15 minutes to get back on the road. He really did have to go.

And that’s been a pattern with Big Guy this week. Every day, during our noontime kindergarten-to-day-care shuttle, he’s started moaning. “”Mommy, I gotta go!”

I didn’t think much of it — eating lunch can sometimes, well, force these issues — until I mentioned what I thought was just an odd coincidence to a teacher at day care.

Happens all the time, she said.

Avoiding a ride on the homework helicopter
Friday, 18 Jul, 2008 – 6:52 | Comments Off
Avoiding a ride on the homework helicopter

I seized up in sickened horror the second I saw the sweetie in the flowery pink dress holding a mom’s hand outside Big Guy’s classroom. The gold sequins on her frock mocked me as they flashed in the morning sun, her bright smile taunting.

Dear God, it’s only Tuesday. How could that kid have finished the week’s homework assignment already? It’s not even due until Friday.

A cacophony of guilt roared in my head. Slacker mom! Why didn’t you jump on it the first night? How could you even think of letting Big Guy color his own manilla folder gingerbread man when this mom had lovingly cut a fabric triangle to fashion a dress? Don’t you love your kids? Don’t you want his first homework assignment to look as cool as his classmate’s.


Financial literacy not part of the curriculum here
Thursday, 17 Jul, 2008 – 7:31 | Comments Off

It’s not often I get to play the sage parent. The chance arose today, though, when a co-worker mentioned his 5-year-old’s obsession with his credit card.

“”You think that’s bad, wait until he goes to school,”" I said. “”They pay for their lunches with debit cards.”"

“”Debit cards? You’re kidding!”" the astounded father gasped as 16 eyes riveted on me. Make that 14 — one woman has a teen-ager, so she knew the drill.

“”Yep. My kid came home from kindergarten last week really impressed with the set-up. He was thrilled they gave him milk he didn’t have to pay for.”"

All of which reminded me that I had promised a fuddy-duddy rant about how cow juice on credit deprives kids of a chance to learn money realities.

Here it is, as promised:

What in the name of

A bribe by any other name convinces Big Guy to read
Monday, 14 Jul, 2008 – 7:29 | Comments Off

Big Guy roared through the door with a fire up his fanny, barreling past me to the bookcase. He picked the biggest volume he could find — a 13-book Dr. Seuss compilation — and lugging it to the living room.

“”Mom, I almost forgot. We have to do a reading lesson every day now — teacher says.”"

His next words, though, wiped the Chester Cheetah grin off my face. “”I have to learn to read so they’ll give me a book.”"

Uh-oh. Four days of kindergarten under his belt and the school system already had corrupted him with one of my pet peeves: The bribe.

I readily admit I’m a bit — no, a lot — sanctimonious on this point. No one bribes me to do my job every day — the state of the newspaper business of

Big Guy meets the Milk Lady
Friday, 11 Jul, 2008 – 6:21 | Comments Off

Day Three for Big Guy at the Big Kids School, and he bounded out of the cafeteria to greet me with his classic bear hug around the knees. Whew! Signs of my sweet 4-year-old. I’d feared the backpack-toting stranger who was too cool for kisses had permanently replaced him.

“”Mommy! I had chocolate milk for lunch!”"

“”Chocolate milk?”" I gasped. “”You’re kidding! They have that at your school? Sheesh, I wish they’d had that at school when I was a kid.”"

He nodded, once and firmly. “”Yes. And I bought it myself!”"

I already knew that, because I’d peeked through a window as he finished lunch, just as I’d done the previous two days. Except this time, I saw a tiny brown carton in front of him. At last, Big Guy had figured out the Milk Lady.

For Big

Big Guy’s first day at the Big Kids’ school weird for everyone but him
Thursday, 10 Jul, 2008 – 7:04 | Comments Off
Big Guy’s first day at the Big Kids’ school weird for everyone but him

Long before the guys came along, I’d dream of the moment:

A freshly scrubbed 5-year-old trudges up the sidewalk on a crisp September day. He reluctantly loosens his death grip on my hand and heads for the classroom door. He turns and waves hesitantly as I flick aside a delicate tear. My baby’s first day of kindergarten!

I’m not capable of dreams wild enough to conjure up Tuesday’s reality:

Four-year-old Big Guy bounced out of bed on a 96-degree July morning, cheering, “”It’s time! It’s today!”" I swiped at the chocolate milk on his face, but he was half-way down the block on his scooter before I could catch him.

As we waited outside his classroom, he did his “”ants in his pants”" dance and incessantly asked how

Big Guy’s countdown to kindergarten speeds up
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:47 | Comments Off

July 8, 2008, 8:10 a.m.

Big Guy becomes a kindergartener. Just got the word today.

You’re rolling along in your comfy little overscheduled, hyperfrantic routine, surviving but knowing you can’t handle one more thing, one more hitch. And then something like this hits.

I am not ready.


How will I ever get everything together in time for him to start kindergarten in six weeks?

I had mentally braced myself for August – that’s when the year-round session I’d requested begins. I hadn’t heard anything from the school until I called today to check, and that’s when the lightning bolt hit.


I don’t even know what supplies he’ll need – the district’s Web site is decidedly nonhelpful, listing only the school calendar under the “parent information link.” Chunky crayons? Rounded scissors? Paste? Blackberry? Lap top with dual core processor?

This kiss, this kiss — it’s criminal
Monday, 2 Jun, 2008 – 5:07 | Comments Off

It was sweet and innocent and precious three summers ago when Big Guy, overcome by his feelings for little Snow White, had to express them with a kiss.

But, then, this was a daily occurrence for those two. From the second he started at day care, she was at his side, tracking down his lost Bear and dissing her daddy to kiss him goodbye.

Good thing they’re not going to kindergarten in Denver next fall.

Both would wind up spending more time at the police station than they would in class.

According to a recent article in the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Public Schools referred two 5-year-olds and their parents to the local Human Services Department after they kissed in

Kindergarten decision weight goes to Big Guy
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:24 | Comments Off

His smile was wider than a kid at Toys R Us as he pressed his nose to the library window. “Look at all those books! Can we get some today?” Big Guy asked.

“Not today,” I said.

Before he could work up a decent protest, though, he spotted the multipurpose room and ran to leave nostril prints on that glass. “That’s the biggest stage on EARTH!”  he shouted. “Do you think I’ll get to sing there?”

“Wouldn’t surprised me,” I replied, invoking the parental non-committal committal learned long ago.

“Can I go see the teacher?” he asked.

“Not now. She’s busy helping the kids study.”

“Oh. OK. Mom, what’s ‘study’”

Thus began Big Guy’s journey to kindergarten, with our trip today to pick up registration papers. It’s an issue that’s pretzelized me

In love with teacher
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:14 | Comments Off

There comes a moment in every boy’s life when he realizes there are other women in the world besides Mom. When he notices a certain lady with a certain light who outshines all others.

At the guys’ preschool, that moment comes at roughly age 2½, when Teacher L captures their attention.

The first six months of preschool, you see, are spent getting used to the strange new land, adjusting to the structure of “class time” and jockeying for position. Once that’s dispensed with, there’s time to fall in love.

It happens to all the boys at that preschool. The 4-year-olds in her class fight to sit next to her during lessons, and a chance to be by Teacher L’s side no doubt is more responsible for Big Guy’s

The alphabet and the stinkin’ cards
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:55 | Comments Off

I should have learned long ago, sometime around the start of the Mufasa Bridge phase, to be careful what I start with the guys.

At least I can blame my lengthy detours to see the lions guarding the Seventh Street Bridge on an accident – we drove that way one morning to avoid a train, and I wound up taking that route for weeks. Even Little Guy joins in on the pleas – “Fasa Ridge, Mommy!” – and the only thing he knows about “Lion King” is “Thimba.”

This latest insanity, though, was a deliberate action on my part – one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time,” and it would have been if I’d just kept it simple.

But, noooooooooooooo! Instead, I

It’s never too early to freak out over kindergarten
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:51 | Comments Off

There are roughly 347 days between Big Guy and kindergarten, depending on where he winds up going. Is it too early for me to start freaking out?

Because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Back to School night Friday at his preschool.

Surrounded by two other moms and myself, Big Guy’s teacher lamented the problem of teaching 4-year-olds to do what they need to do to be ready for kindergarten these days. “I have to make them sit here at a table for part of the day, when they’d all rather be playing and running around and being kids.”

I share her sorrow, which is why I’ve always shunned flash cards and such, preferring to let a kid be a kid for as long as possible. I

Time to junk the junk food in schools
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:21 | Comments Off

I did a triple-take when I glanced at a school lunch menu hanging on the fridge at a friend’s house a few months back.

Monday, chicken nuggets and fries. Tuesday, pizza. Wednesday, grilled cheese and fries. Thursday, cheeseburger and fries. Friday, super nachos.

What the heck? Weren’t we at least two years down the road on the “healthy school lunches” kick? Obviously, some districts weren’t getting the message.

That’s why I’m glad the Legislature stepped in with fairly strict new guidelines that become law Sunday. Obviously, some districts needed help getting the message.

Call it micromanagement, call it the nanny state, call it whatever you want. The bottom line for me is, we have an obesity epidemic in this country, with adult-onset diabetes showing up in grade schools. Something

Professor Tree v Florida’s Pre K
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:56 | Comments Off

Welcome to Professor Tree’s Lemonade 101.

In April, Professor Tree was loaded with fragrant blooms. At least, most of him was. The top was a threadbare, the victim of the winter’s frost.

Big Guy and Little Guy, of course, wanted to rip off the blossoms. And since the tree desperately needs pruned – it’s a metaphor for my life – many blooms were within easy reach.

“Let’s not do that, guys. We need to leave the flowers, so they’ll grow into lemons,” I said.

Big Guy looked at me as if I’d sprouted another head. “No way,” he said. Tonight everything clicked.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy ! I see the little lemons! I see the little lemons! Can we make lemonade?”

I explained the rest of the process: they’d have to water Professor Tree so the little green lemons would get big and yellow, and then we could make lemonade.

Welcome to the state of Florida’s pre-k program, where 5-year-olds are given one-minute drills in an effort to gauge the program’s success.