Monthly Archives: December 2015

Inappropriate homeschooling and a case of mistaken bad parenting.

I’ve been beating myself up lately because I had all of these notions about how I would work with the girls—Nora especially, since we pulled her from her Montessori school when we moved—on literacy and math skills, now that I’m home. Nora’s been reading simple words for almost a year and delights in finding sums to simple arithmetic problems. And Frances is starting to recognize and write some of her letters. With my background and experience it makes sense that I should work with them at home.

I’ve found, however, that I lack the patience and discipline it takes to run a proper homeschool. The girls are definitely getting solid skills in playing make-believe, which I know is really important. They’re into building with blocks and legos. They help me bake, do dishes, and clean up. And, we’ve been spending loads of time outdoors and reading library books. So, they’re certainly not suffering from lack of enriching activities. I just feel guilty about not working more on academics because Nora seemed to be thriving cognitively in her school environment.

On her last day of school, Nora brought home a composition book. Apparently, she had been spelling words as part of the Montessori work she chose to do. In order to continue to fit the practice in, I encouraged Nora to bring the book into the car with her. This is the only place I’ve found that works for us right now. So, while I drive us around town, I give her words that have some common phonics patterns. For example, she spells lists of /st/ words. Or /ip/ words.

This afternoon, while the family was driving home from a weekend spent in Newport with cousins, Liam and I took turns calling out /ut/ words. We began with nut. Then, rut. I challenged her with shut and she got it. I tried to get her to spell butt, knowing she would neglect the second letter t, but wanting to get a reaction from the silly word. Nora just giggled nervously and said she didn’t want that one. She’s much too wholesome to be dealing with her mother’s potty-mouth.

Not her sister. Frances, who’d been listening up to that point, chimed in next with, “I’ve got a silly one. How about vaaa-giiiii-naaah.”

Should’ve seen that one coming. Needless to say, the family was on a roll. Which is why, I’m guessing, my husband decided to throw out the next word: slut.

I mean, it did fit the phonological pattern, but come on. Of course it was this word she had difficulty hearing, so he and I had to repeat it—shout it, really—about five times. We confessed it was a nonsense word. And then giggled ridiculously each time we said it. So immature we are.


Which brings me to the second story involving the same word. Again with slut. Those of you who know the family—my family—may very well have heard this one before. It’s a favorite.

When my sister, Melissa, was in first grade, she also had a composition book in which to record spelling words. Typically, the teacher would assign words, my sister would write them at home, my parents would check that they looked OK, and then the book would go back to school to be examined by the teacher.

On the evening of the /sl/ words, my sister wrote a bunch of words and my parents forgot to check them. The next night, when my parents were flipping back through the pages, they noticed that she had written the word slut the night before. And, while the word had been marked correct by the teacher, they became concerned. How can she know this word? Where did she hear it? What must her teacher think of us for not having caught this? 

My parents called my sister over to read her words.

When Melissa got to the word in question, without missing a beat, she read, “Slute.”

Slute?” my parents said.

“You know,” she replied. “Slute. Like when you slute the flag.”

Gotta love kid writing.






Heard around the house.

Liam: “Are you sleepy Frances?”

Frances: “No. I just tired.”


Nora: “Daddy. In how many months is Mommy’s birthday?”

Liam: “Four. What do you think we should get Mommy for her birthday?”

Nora: “Mommy? What is your most favorite thing to play with? Ever?”

Me: (thinking…)

Frances: (interjecting) “Eyebrows!”

Me: Umm. What?!

Nora: “Oh! I’ve got a great idea! A jack-in-the-box!”

Apparently my kids do not know me at all.


And, a day just wouldn’t be complete without a question or two about God and/or Heaven.

Nora: “Mama? Does God have a million eyes?”

Me: “I’m not sure. Why?”

Nora: “Because that’s how he can see everyone all the time.”

Me: “Oh. Well, maybe.”


Nora: “Mom? How did God make the first baby, like ever, without a mom or something like that?”

Me: “I don’t know, Nora. But that’s a really great question.”


Nora: “You wanna know my favorite place in the whole world?”

Me: “Huh?”

Nora: “Heaven. Because Daddy said you can get all the chocolate ice cream and cake you ever want when you get there.”

Me: “Yep.” (gulp!)


And finally:

Nora: “Was God ever a baby?”

Me: “No, I don’t think so.”

Nora: “I think he was. Like a long time ago. Before he made the dinosaurs and all that stuff.”


Nora: “Mom? You know what I wanna be when I grow up?”

Me: “What’s that, honey?”

Nora: “A doctor. So I can take care of people when they’re sick.”

Me: “Well. That would be great.”

Frances: “When I be a grown up I wanna cut fruit.”

Me: “OK.” (pause) “Well, that would be great too!”

Heaven help us.

‘Tis the season for lying about Santa, Elf on the Shelf, and trying not to murder your spouse when putting up and righting the Christmas tree.

Our oldest girl asked recently if the Santa with whom she took her picture last Christmas was the real Santa. After a brief glance toward the hubs and a pause that lasted perhaps two seconds too long, I replied unsteadily, “I’m not sure. It’s hard to say if that was the real Santa, or one of Santa’s helpers.”

“Huh?” she asked, rightfully confused.

“Well,” I stammered, “Santa has helper elves that look just like him. So, sometimes we see the real Santa, and sometimes it’s just one of his elves. We can never tell.”

“Oh,” she said, digesting the information. And then she walked away, as if it were just all too much to consider.

The hubs and I exchanged another glance and then agreed we felt quite ridiculous lying to our daughter about the bearded man in a red suit with flying reindeer. I mean, the whole Santa thing is absurd, really. But we also agreed we didn’t want to rob her of the magic and mystery of Christmas that we both experienced as young children.

I’m just dreading the day that she comes home from school—like I did some time in the early elementary years—and tells us how someone in her class told her that Santa is make-believe, and instead of taking him at his word, confronts us with the issue and explains how she didn’t believe the kid because her mommy and daddy would never lie to her.

Well, until then, we will just keep participating in the ludicrous lie that is Santa Claus.


Moving on. Elf on the Shelf. I never intended to have one because I fancy myself unconventional. And also, I felt a little uncertain about threatening my pretty well-behaved kid with a tale about an ever-watching twelve-inched stuffed sprite who reports back to Santa.

However, last year, an Elf was gifted to us by a family member. So, I opened the box in secret, read through the book, and took one evening, right before bed, to introduce the Elf and the whole far-fetched concept to Nora.

Needless to say, she was terrified. Most kids may accept at face value the idea that Santa would send a household elf to watch over a family and tattle back if necessary; not this kid. Watching her face process the silly—and admittedly frightening—scheme was priceless. After two nights and mornings of talking about the Elf and witnessing his flights of fancy, she bravely asked if we could mail the Elf back to Santa. Like, immediately.

And so we did. More lies.

The Elf went back into the box and she and I later talked about how he might return when she was a year older. Better able to handle the thought that some weird creature was flying about her house by night and watching her every move by day. Because that’s not creepy at all for a kid.

At this point, I haven’t yet decided if the Elf will join our family again this year or not. But, I will admit to having changed my mind about using a sprite to threaten my kids into behaving properly. These days, I need all the help I can get.


Every year I DREAD having to put up the Christmas tree. Dread. This probably stems from the trauma of childhood Christmases and watching my dad under the tree, year after year with the tree stand, tightening and loosening this screw and that, rotating and twirling trunks left and right. All while my mom insisted over and over again that the damn thing still wasn’t straight. Wasn’t showing its best side. We children held our collective breaths and winced while our dad stomped off and stormed around a bit until he had calmed down enough to try again. We silently urged our mom to just say good enough is good enough. But it had to all be perfect.

Now that I’m one-half of the tree-putting-up committee at my own house, I’ve learned to expect less than perfection for sanity’s sake. Still, adjusting those stubborn screws and getting that damn conifer to stand straight is a HUGE pain in the arse.

On top of all of this stress, I fear we have lost the tree stand in the recent move. Which means we may need to purchase a new one. I was browsing today on Amazon and discovered a few brands that people claim will save marriages and should be invested in no matter the high cost of $100.

One hundred dollars for a tree stand?! You’ve got to be effing kidding me! For one hundred dollars, included in that deal better freaking be Bing Crosby himself come back from the dead to hold the trunk merrily, all while singing “White Christmas” round the clock for our family and holiday guests. Sheesh.

On second thought. I guess it does beat the cost of having to pay for counseling and/or a divorce lawyer. I think I’ll have to sleep on it.