Just stop now if you are an Armpit Person. I suppose you can take that any number of different ways. The person who loves a nice ripe subway ride in a New York summer. The person who enjoys a pleasant meander through the scent fields on a particularly amorous afternoon. I’m not judging you. But if you aren’t an Armpit Person, carry on, my friend.

I’d wager my nose is more sensitive than most and while I’ve weathered my fair share of pungent predicaments, I never thought I’d be contending with one in my own home. There is nothing quite like a brand new set of pre-adolescent hormones to create a scent soup that wrinkles the nose and waters the eyes. I understand the trouble with anti-perspirants but is it too much to ask for a deodorant that does its job?

I understand I’m asking it to work extremely hard (and I don’t mean fresh as a daisy no smell ever ruin your daughter’s self esteem hard). I’m just asking it to mildly take the sting out of the air. Dancing tactfully through this landmine while preserving said self-esteem is no walk in the park. It’s level ten parenting. I don’t want her classmates to ridicule her but I also don’t want to give her a complex.

After trying many different kinds of deodorants – remember Armpit People, we agreed you would stop at the top! – we’ve finally found one that maybe most of the time can limit the hormonal eau de daughter. But seriously. If you have or had one of these parental predicaments or even your own battle, what deodorant have you found that does the trick? All suggestions welcome – limit dairy? More showers? And the ever popular wait it out. But save my nose friends. Help!

Six-Year-Old Cursing

Have I mentioned to you how much we love camp?

RR has been learning lots at camp. She is learning things mostly from the 8 and under set which gives a certain sort of spin that makes you wonder what’s going on in their little minds. Certainly they are importing parents, brothers, aunts, neighbors, sisters, friends thoughts and beliefs but in a distilled way that makes you wonder what was actually said on the other end of the line.

The first time she came home chattering about her newfound religious beliefs, Debra and I gave each other the side eye. What on earth was going on at definitely-not-church-affiliated camp? It was disconcerting to be participating in a sort of theological game of telephone where some child’s parents said one thing, that child told my child, and I was hearing some rendition that had been hybridized by two people who can’t tie their own shoes. We let it lie. On the whole, it’s harmless. In fact, it’s helpful. Better to start out knowing that everyone has beliefs and opinions and not everyone has to have the same ones.

On the other hand, the swearing I could do without. Surely RR’s school has prevented a fair amount of conversationally-transmitted blight and I have no doubt that the new school has just as low of a tolerance. But camp found us at dinner the other night and between bites she asked, “Mama, what’s the f-word?”

I don’t know how Debra’s mother handled this priceless piece of childhood, but mine was more than happy to tell me what words meant just so long as I a) didn’t use them and b) didn’t ask about the wrong ones. I’m in the words have power camp and if you really know what a curse word means, a female dog for instance, the power to hurt gets sidelined a bit. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt at all, but we have A LOT of words, and there’s no need to rely on a few ridiculous ones when you really want to let loose.

So I told her and she nodded. And I mentioned that it was fine to say it in her bedroom or to herself but that she couldn’t use it in public. Fortunately, she didn’t ask me what sex was because that’s a conversation not covered in What Makes A Baby and that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Then we moved on to the a-word and the b-word. We all had a good chuckle at the s-word since we covered that one extensively the time the bed broke. After that though, she asked what the c-word was and there’s something deeply wrong about saying the word cunt at the dinner table. That was about the time that Debra mentioned that under no circumstances was RR to be the one enlightening her friends. Tell them to go ask their mothers, she said.

The rest of the dinner was spent with RR muttering fuckfuckfuck quietly in between bits of broccoli.

We were not nearly as composed when she was talking to a toy in the backseat and she said shut up. We were on her so fast I think I saw her head spin. Not in our house, not in our car, not in a box, not with a fox. No ma’am. She said it one more time under her breath and I thought Debra would pull the car over and take her out by an ear. Thanks camp, for everything.


Meltdown in 3…2…1…

For an entire week RR’s behavior has been spinning into chaos. She’s screaming at things that haven’t bothered her before (bugs), she’s screaming even when we tell her to stop (at the dog), she’s ignoring us when we ask her to do something (help, walk, shoes, stop screaming already for pete’s sake), she’s throwing an almost tantrum at bedtime when we stop reading (and physically grabbing at the book), she’s kicking and pouting and generally being an asshole.

As she says about anyone else behaving this way, she’s “mist-understood”.

Whereas on Friday I was wondering what got into her and how illegal it is to lock her out, I think the reasons are starting to surface. She went to visit her new camp yesterday, the first time she won’t be staying at her regular school for camp. On Tuesday, she is headed to her new school for a day-long visit, part of what they do with all incoming students. On Friday, her school holds an international luncheon which is a big event for the kids. They rehearse songs in many languages and have a family feast afterward. It’s the traditional indicator that school is almost over and it’s downhill from here.

Whether it’s  a symptom or is part of the cause, she had several accidents last week. On the bright side, I’ve noticed she’s actually dancing around and crossing her legs when she has to go. She’s never shown any signs like this before so I’m hoping we’re turning a corner. It’s stressful for me knowing that she’s going into a new environment with this issue and I worry that she won’t fit in or will be asked to leave. I know that’s unlikely (at least at the new school) but it’s keeping me up at night. Still, we remain neutral when an accident happens, ask her to change, and let her take responsibility for clean-up. It’s just the norm.

Last night she burst into tears at bedtime and wept about how she will miss her current teachers. My heart breaks for her (and for Debra and me too – this isn’t easy!). I think it’s a testament to our parenting that she was looking for solutions even as she cried, wondering if we might invite her teachers over for dinner.

I don’t know how to make this easier. We are giving her time to warm up to new situations before they happen since we’ve long since learned that she needs that attention to transitions. She’s visiting the new places she will be and she’s doing it with optimistic anticipation, if not outright enthusiasm. We let her take the lead and try not to push when it comes to meeting new people. Yesterday at camp, she tried things she hadn’t mastered before, like a short rock wall and a seated scooter. She also sunk down to draw with chalk at the first opportunity, relief practically oozing out of her. I don’t know what the new school will hold tomorrow since we won’t be by her side. That’s a good thing. At least until she comes home transformed into a terror.

I hadn’t even noticed how overwhelming it all must be. And now I feel bad for wanting to lock her out. A little. Let’s hope this isn’t a pattern until school starts in September and that there’s at least a little reprieve after camp gets into full swing.






Hold on…Just a Second

My daughter may have nothing genetically in common with me (although she could pass), but she certainly aquired several traits that support the nurture part of raising a child. Given that I’m Just That Sort Of Person, I’m probably missing the adorable bits of me that she reflects (you could argue that there aren’t any). Two things:

Getting up to pee isn’t something she is willing to do. In fact, I suspect she doesn’t even get that her bladder is paging her repeatedly. As we’ve discussed my peeing habits in depth before, I won’t exhaust you with more detail however it’s fair to say that I will avoid going as long as possible so that I can keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t even know it’s happening until my internal organs are all “GET UP TO PEE DAMMIT WE’RE CROWDED IN HERE.” I once read something, somewhere, about this being a typical kid thing. Just interrupt them, it said, remind your child that it’s time to use the bathroom. You know what? If you came into my office and suggested I take a break, I would look at you as if you were crazy with my dagger eyes of sharp pointiness before I realized you were absolutely right and shouldn’t I be gracious after all? Right. My kid has nailed the first part. Not so much the second.

Also, she torments her poor little fingers. Never a thumb or finger sucker, I can’t figure out why and when she started biting at her cuticles and ending up with red, raggedy fingertips. They look painful and she complains of bits of skin she’s nagged at. Who does this? Me. And I really, really wish I didn’t. I’m so much better than I was when I was a child. In fact, sometimes weeks go by before I’m worrying away at some piece of rough skin or nail. It’s stress, it’s boredom, it’s a relentless wish to have perfectly smooth fingers which is rendered impossible by the very habit. Yes, I know it’s disgusting, bad for us, and related to all sorts of disordered thinking. It’s come up in therapy. Don’t forget I’m six shades of crazy. Debra and I remind her not to pick at her fingers, well, chew really, and she’ll stop for a moment. We moisturize, we trim hangnails before she can get to them, we try to make her fingers lovely. We have yet to break her habit (or mine).

I hope she is picking up something else of mine, though I’m hard-pressed to tell you what that might be. She loves flowers. Does that count? Poor thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my body is going to go on strike if I don’t just go already.

Things I Didn’t Expect To Say

Whose pee is that?

And honestly not know.

Because there are multiple culprits.

And I’ve said it more than once today.






Where’d She Go? (Five Dollar Complaint #5)

I have so many questions.

Why would you leave a heap of wet towels on someone else’s bed?

Why are there Doritos on the floor?

Why did you lose track of my daughter?

No, actually, really. How exactly did my mother not notice that RR and her out-of-town-just-turned-seven-cousin-she-has-no-memory-of-ever-meeting-before walked through the woods, crossed a busy intersection, and traversed a street with no crosswalks? We could blame it on the cousin. We can blame it on RR, who, by the way, took responsibility anyway. But mostly, we have to look hard at the grown-up in the situation.

You guys, there is just so much. Do you know ridiculous it feels to find yourself wondering if your 5-yr-old daughter is always going to let strangers lead her away without question? How ridiculous it is to just assume she’s safe with whatever cousin or uncle or aunt we toss at her, especially when we barely know them? And how ridiculous, really, that there I was, picturing my pony-tailed teenager traipsing starry-eyed after some boy or girl with a to die for dimple and losing her over the edge of some lemming cliff.

It’s times like this I wonder if we should helicopter parent more.


In the middle of a tantrum (and believe me, it nearly was mine), I realized that RR is having some throwback terrible twos. I guess they are anyway. RR has always been something else, but two years ago, on the cusp of three, she was like this: full of cute babyisms and charm. But. BUT. She wasn’t potty training then.

You heard me. Potty training is going to kill me. The accidents. The whining. The shouting and stamping and growling. What?! you are surely gasping, STILL?! Yes, still. This is a child who spent so much time reading and adding and outsmarting us that she is just now getting around to the practical business of using. the. bathroom.

For what it’s worth, she mostly does (use the bathroom) and by mostly I mean about 50% of the time we pick her up and she’s “a little wet, mama, just a little” which can very between damp and GALLONS. She’s old enough to be completely through with us reminding her to hit the bathroom but she’s still that kid who gets so deeply into whatever she’s doing that she forgets she and her body are in this together.

Cue the tantrums.

I’m pretty sure this is what the terrible twos are made of. All of the frustration she feels piling up on her little soul. It’s worse on days she has an accident. It’s much worse on days when she’s so wet a teacher has noticed and sent her to change. While I think that she is surrounded by patience and practicality, all the empowerment in the world doesn’t change the fact that it must be beyond awful to be nearly five and trying to master this. And so she loses her mind.

We’re back to the urologist again next week. I don’t expect he can fix tantrums though, so I’ll just keep mine to myself


Oh have we played fast and loose with RR’s world. Several nights this week she has gone to be after 7pm.


Oh. You were thinking about her 7pm bedtime. I saw that side-eye.

hippo side eye

My friends, we have put RR to bed at 7 from the start and she likes it. In fact, when we keep her up, she delivers a package of noyoujustdidn’t that would fell even the mightiest of parents. But for one reason or another we haven’t had her to bed before 8 and if you come to our house you can see the very foundations of our world crumbling before your eyes. It’s like the moment before the sinkhole. It’s not good.

Before you know it we are IN the sinkhole. And we’re making it worse by scrabbling around looking for ways to distract her from her sugar/excitement/chaotic high in ways that turn her into even more of a monster. They are well-intended gestures. Here, baby, watch a little TV while we get ready for work turns into PUT YOUR SHOES ON OR I WILL. Well, I don’t know what. I’ve never gotten to the point before where every other sentence is “So help me god if you don’t…”

When I do finish the sentence I follow through. This, of course, results in epic tantrums because for some reason she hasn’t yet caught on that if I say “Please listen or I will leave the room.” I actually will leave the room. I don’t fool around, you all. Suddenly I can see why people start to drown in a pool of time-outs. That route would be ineffective for RR who puts her own self in time out, cackling happily at the break from you, me, life, everything.

We’re trying to bring the bedtime routine back, but weekends of birthday parties and late nights and dinners drawn skeptically from the depths of the refrigerator have resulted in a the return of the wolverine*. I am not happy to see you again, no sir. Please tell me this is not what four is like**.



*Given the number of times I have compared RR to a wolverine, I’m considering a domain change. It’s a good thing is available.

**Unless you are Becky who makes no secret that four is what makes her child an only child.


My first, and only, experience with soccer prior to 1998 was sitting in the frozen bleachers to watch a girl who I had an enormous crush on but, tragically, had no idea that’s what it was, play. Was she any good? More worryingly, did I even tell her I was there? My only memory of the game is that I spent it shivering. Nice start in the romance department, self.

A handful of years and a new city later, I was playing on two co-ed adult teams as one of two token females because, “well, we have to have at least two girls to get to play.” I don’t suspect I was any good. I have terrific aim but I hate to run. That same summer, I was spending afternoons skipping out of State Department Portuguese homework and watching the World Cup in a local pub with other diplomat delinquents. My friend Matthew, a perplexing combination of American diplomat and British accent, took my football schooling to heart. We dated once or twice, maybe, but I admit I was dating the soccer fan, not the boy. Outside of the sunny pub and sober, he lost some of the shine.

In 2002, I was in Mozambique, ground to pieces by my job. I have almost no memory of those weeks beyond turning my TV out the window every day so that the guards at my house could watch from the yard. The woman I was dating had no use for soccer and, as it turned out, I had no use for that woman. It also turns out that I lost a few more years getting past my job and her to life now (and thank goodness that’s done).

More than a decade later, I am taking my daughter to soccer class and watching her learn to handle the ball. Or rather, I am taking my daughter to class and watching her consider the ball and then lay in the grass counting clouds. She tells us, I yove soccer, mamas. And then she weeps because you are not yistening to me! and I am too hot! and we are perplexed because she’s not telling us anything at all and, baby, we are also TOO HOT. This evening I’ll no doubt be watching birds, counting clouds, and investigating beetles with her instead of playing soccer and, sadly, instead of watching the opening match.

There’s probably a whole post here, in and of itself, about my daughter inexplicably opting out of things, but it turns out the World Cup is on so it will have to wait for another time.



My daughter, a Sleep Champion, hasn’t napped since the third week of December. I can almost tell you exactly how many days it has been. I knew we couldn’t expect to continue enjoying marathon naps (typically 12:30 to 3:30 on a weekend day) but I didn’t think she’d go cold turkey.

I’d heard about children who gave up naps. Their parents rarely survived.

It was like a timer went off in her head. Pssst. RR. You’ll be 3 and a half next week. Time to ditch the nap! Poof. It was gone. I thought it was a phase at first, send her back to school, I thought, nap times will be back. But they didn’t come back. Then I thought she just wasn’t getting enough exercise, but that wasn’t the problem either. RR moves until she is wilting…and then moves some more. Last weekend she went to two gymnastic classes and while she looked a little wild-eyed after the second one, she still didn’t nap.

She does play in her room during “naptime” and we can hear her babbling and banging around for about an hour before she comes back out. She has more toys in there than she did before, but I suspect that even if we removed them she’d still find things to clap together and with which to conduct elaborate conversations.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.37.16 PMFinger Puppet Circle

Of all the developmental leaps RR has taken at the last minute, I rather hoped that naps would be one of them. She still hasn’t figured out the potty, after all, and that’s a leap I’d push her into if I could. We’ll miss you, naps. Now about that internal timer and toilet mastery…