Monthly Archives: June 2009


So there I was, looking up an article about the Vatican’s chief exorcist (don’t ask), when I came across a list of some of the possible ways that people might become possessed. These included practicing magic (such as using a Ouija board), being a Freemason, a habit of blaspheming, and “maledictions by close family members.”

I am completely safe on the first two counts. Even if we had a Ouija board, my kids would surely have lost the pieces by now, thereby saving me from the torment of demonic inhabitation. Come to think of it, maybe that’s been their plan all along, and that’s why they have also lost the pieces to every other board game we own. It makes sense, in a twisted “kid logic” sort of way: although the Vatican hasn’t officially come out against “Sorry” or “Celebrity Taboo” yet, why take a chance? ( And as for Freemasony, I think I’m fairly safe there as well, since I’ve heard they’re a pretty exclusive bunch. Except for the Shriners–they’ll drink with anyone.)

When it comes to the second two, however (maledictions and blaspheming), I am totally screwed. (Although you would think that if you can become possessed both by cursing someone, and by being cursed, then, eventually, possession would become so widespread that after a while it would become the norm, and the people who weren’t possessed by demons would be the ones seen as weirdos. Sort of like the way people look at me now when I tell them I don’t have a cellphone. “What do you mean you’re not possessed? You don’t have a demon? How do you even function? I mean, you can’t look at the middle of your back without a mirror or anything.”)

The hard truth is that if cursing (both in the active and passive sense) really is the “gateway to demonic possession,” then it’s all over for me. I’m totally @#$%. First, because I swear a lot. (See @#$%, preceding sentence.) But even if I didn’t swear at all, even if I said “gosh darn it” more often than Sarah Palin, there’s still the little matter of my daughter, Clementine. Because Clementine curses me all of the time–sometimes three or four times before breakfast, even. (Or, as they say down in Vatican City, she frequently “maledicts” me.) It’s worse than living with a grumpy gypsy.

She maledicts me when I won’t drive her and her friends to the mall, when I won’t pick her and her friends up from the mall after they have taken the bus to get there, when I won’t give her money so she can go to the mall, etc. (Come to think of it, maybe I misread that article; maybe it wasn’t malediction but mall-addiction.)

In fact, it’s rather shocking that with all of her maledicting and blaspheming, she isn’t the one possessed. Especially since when I did some follow up on the whole malediction thing I found that the four absolute worst groups you can curse at are God, parents, authority figures, and the deaf. (The latter presumably because it is a waste of time.) Again, I’m two out of four right there. (I’ll let you guess which two.) So why isn’t she possessed yet?

Unless, of course, she already is. Ah. That would explain everything.

It would explain the two feet of clothing that carpets the floor of her room (all the better for hiding that Hellmouth in the corner); it would explain why she refuses to wear socks with even the sweatiest of shoes (all the better to hide the sulphur smell); and it would explain why she refuses to brush her hair (all the better to cover up the horns, of course.)

It might even explain why we go through beer so quickly in my house: it’s either that, or there’s a Shriner with a Ouija board around here somewhere.

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Ever since she was small, my daughter, Clementine, and I have been engaged in a war of incompetence. Here’s how it works: whenever I ask her to perform a household chore, she makes sure to comply in the most ludicrously incompetent manner she can think of.

A request for her to make her bed might end up with all of the blankets wadded up beneath the mattress; emptying the dishwasher usually results in a massive search for dishes that can last well into the next week, with every meal becoming a sort of culinary scavenger hunt; and cleaning the toilet? Well, let’s just put it this way: your toothbrush needed replacing anyway, didn’t it?

For the most part, however, her tactics haven’t worked: the cycle of chore life continues on unabated. I assign the chore, Clementine does her best to not do her best, and I assign it again. This means that some chores need to be done over and over again, until finally they only achieve completion under direct and constant supervision. Frustrating? You bet.

The other day, though, there was a breakthrough on the chorefront of such magnitude that it just might possibly change the whole nature of chore assignments in my house forever. No, Clementine didn’t finally give up and just start doing the chores correctly the first time; on the contrary, she performed a chore in such a spectacularly incompetent manner that I am the one who is ready to admit defeat.

It all started with the bathroom. There are so many ways to screw up cleaning a bathroom (leaving the cleanser in the bathtub, so that the next person who takes a bath gets a nice, gritty crack full; cleaning the mirror with wet toilet paper, and then it leaving it there so that it adheres and dries in a sort of poor man’s papier-mache; even scrubbing out the sink with the toilet brush) that I was sure that there was nothing she could shock me with–after all, this was the same child who once used a wash cloth to clean the toilet, and then hung that same wash cloth back up in the shower to dry. (To this day I sniff anything I put anywhere near my face).

And so, thinking I was safe, I once again assigned her to clean the bathroom. Unfortunately, however, I had failed to take into account the fact that, as technology evolves, so do the ways to misuse it. In other words, I hadn’t reckoned on the Floor Mate.

A few months ago my mother got me one of those mopping vacuums, the kind that scrubs the floor and then sucks the dirty water back up. It’s great. It works like a charm. It’s so simple even a child can operate it–anybody else’s child, that is.

After filling the machine with solution and demonstrating the different settings (you need to flip a switch to go from wet to dry), my husband gave it to Clementine. Twenty minutes later she was back, pronouncing that she was “done–to the best of my abilities.” Not liking the ominous sound of that, my husband went to check her work, and found … nothing. The floor looked like it hadn’t been touched.

“Did you even use it?” he asked her.

“Yeah,” she replied angrily. “I’ve been using it for the last half hour–it doesn’t work.”
Thinking back, and remembering the distinct lack of noise coming from the bathroom, a lightbulb went on over his head. “Did you turn it on?”


She had pushed the silent, non-functioning machine around the floor for the better part of twenty minutes.

It was at that point I gave up–it’s hard enough to clean a bathroom with a recalcitrant child standing in the middle of it; add in a husband who is prostrate from laughter, and it becomes nearly impossible.

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The other weekend, my husband and I went on a lovely road trip to Tucson.
The above sentence is almost true. We did go on a road trip. And it was to Tucson. Whether or not it was lovely, however, is up for debate, since our children went with us. Inside the car. (It’s a state law or something. Turns out, the man says that it’s illegal to strap one or both of your children to the roof, no matter what kind of bungee cords you use.)

Here’s the thing about traveling with one of your children: it’s the best. Maybe it’s because you aren’t staring directly at one another, but suddenly you’re having the kinds of conversations that you always dreamed about having with your kids (before you had kids, that is). Conversations about clouds, state license plates, and, even, ( thanks to the prevalence of bumper stickers) politics and religion.

You’re telling them the story about the time you got stood up for the 7th grade dance, and they’re telling you that they’re not sure that they’re ready for long division. The silence in between topics isn’t awkward, because there’s always something to look at out of the window, and the shocking revelations they make (like the fear of long division) don’t draw anything other than mild parental concern, because, after all, you’re driving, and you can’t keep your eyes on the road and whip around and look at the back seat at the same time. (Or at least, I can’t. I have seen it done–once–unfortunately while I was in the passenger seat. We nearly rear-ended the car in front of us during the process.)

That’s how it is driving with one of your children. One. Singular. Here’s the thing, though, about driving with two or more of them: it’s hell. The same kid who, on her own, is the most delightful traveling companion–the kind that will cheerfully agree to wait another hour to stop for lunch, or to turn down the volume on her iPod–becomes completely intransigent when you add another child to the mix. Add a third–thereby making it necessary for legs to touch in the back seat–and you may as well be hauling livestock. In fact, I have traveled in a car with 1 goat, 12 chickens, and 2 rabbits (don’t ask), and I can tell you that they were much more agreeable traveling companions than my two children. And yes, each of those animals relieved themselves at some point during the trip. (Of course, so have my children, so that doesn’t really change anything.)

Anyway, towards the end of our road trip to Tucson (for those of you who haven’t done the math., that translates into about 300 miles of driving, or, in parental figures, about 12,624 fights), a series of billboards started to appear on the side of the road. Mixed in with the usual ones advertising truck stops, fast food, and, always curious to me, subdivisions (as if buying a house were an impulse decision: “Honey, do you want to stop at Burger King or McDonald’s?” “Oh, I don’t know. Let’s just buy a house instead.”), there were billboards from a local church asking you a series of deep questions.

Questions like “When did you stop loving your wife?”; “When did you stop having fun?”; and, finally, “When did you stop enjoying your children?” When we passed the last one my husband and I turned to look at each other and spoke simultaneously. He said “Mountainnaire,” and I said “Kachina Village,” and we both smiled, because it was nice to know that even after fourteen years of marriage, there were some things we could totally agree on.

Like the fact that neither one of us wants to be in the same car with both of our children for more than five miles ever again.

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I Swear

The other day, while cleaning up after my daughter, Clementine, I found something very disturbing: I found a list she had been compiling of all of the swear words that she and her friends knew. While there were many things that were disturbing about the list, one of the worst was the sheer number of words that were left off of it–including some of my personal favorites.

Now, I know that times change, and that nothing changes as fast as slang, but I find it hard to believe that a word that Lenny Bruce once described as “a ten letter word describing any woman I would like to meet or possibly some day marry” could ever fall so far out of favor that it would fail to pass muster with today’s hip swearers (what I like to think of as the “curserati”).

And then there was the word that has been such a staple of the curseworld for so long that if it were ever to disappear entirely an entire swath of the English-speaking world would be left speechless. (I am referring, of course, to the word used to such good effect by Monty Python in their sketch about the man who confused his c’s with his b’s; I think the name of it was “Silly Bunts”).

But, disturbing as it was to see which cursing classic didn’t make the list, it was even more disturbing to see the ones that did. Words like “crap.”


Ever since my children were small I have allowed them to watch shows like “South Park” and listen to music from the likes of Mickey Avalon, and this is how they repay me? With “crap?” Crap is so far from being a swear word that I can even write it in the pages of Flag Live without having to make either Lenny Bruce or Monty Python allusions. I mean, just watch: crap, crap, crap. You see? I just wrote it three times, and Ryan (Flag Live’s beloved editor), hasn’t once reached for that bottle of Scotch he keeps hidden in his “special editor drawer.” (Actually, I’m making up the part about Ryan, and the Scotch. We all know that, like all editors, he drinks nothing but Appletinis and Fuzzy Navels.)

But enough about girly drinking habits. My point is that, if now, at the prime swearing age of twelve, Clementine thinks that “crap” is an actual swear word, what happens when she hits middle school? “Bull Puckey?” “Cheese and Rice?” I shudder to think about the consequences: if she doesn’t learn to swear–and more importantly, if the newness of it doesn’t wear off soon–she’ll end up like one of those guys. You know, the ones who always sit behind you at the movies; the ones who only learned how to swear in the last two weeks? (Or so it would seem.)

Why else would they think that every single word they speak (or rather, shout), needs to be preceded by the gerund of a certain word describing fornication? In fact, their use of this word is so prevalent that it is almost as if they are trying to speak pig Latin, and just got a little confused. (“No, no, no: it’s end every word with ‘ay,’ not start every word with ‘ef’.”)

Anyway, that’s the position Clementine could find herself in if she doesn’t step up her swearing game soon. If only there were some kind of “swearing boot camp” I could send her to–other than, of course, the entire island of Great Britain. Because sending her to Britain would not only be prohibitively expensive, but she also might come back not only swearing, but drinking and smoking as well.

Although I guess that wouldn’t be so bad–as long as she didn’t come back drinking Appletinis.

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I was watching the Suns play the Spurs the other day, and I couldn’t help but start to think about the “art of the flop.” (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Ginobli.) More specifically, the art of the kid flop.

It starts when they are just beginning to walk–as surely as NBA players know which refs will let them get away with a flop, kids know which parent is the most likely to run over and comfort them when they hit the ground. You can watch the same kid fall down two times in a row, and their reaction will be totally different both times: suddenly the same kid that swooned over a paper cut when their mom was there is capable of stoically walking three blocks spouting arterial blood when she’s not around.

Another similarity is that–just like with NBA flops–with “kid flops,” the more history the players have together, the worse it gets. This is especially true of the “sibling flop,” which is a very specific type of flop that only occurs between siblings with a history of battery (which, I suppose, means all of them). The sibling flop is what occurs when you are in the kitchen and hear a loud thump coming from the living room, followed by the (quickest-witted) child screaming “Ow (insert sibling name here)! Why’d ya hit me?” (It’s funny how kids who mumble into their shoes every time you ask them a question have no problem projecting their voices to the cheap seats when there is some transgression to be reported.)

Whenever I hear “why’d ya hit me, (your name here)?” I know that there are three possible scenarios:

1.Neither child was within five feet of the other one when the supposed assault took place; some clever child is just capitalizing on a random thumping sound.

2.The complaining child has launched a pre-emptive whack on the accused child, knowing that any retaliation will just be seen as further evidence of the original alleged transgression.

3.Everything happened exactly as it was reported: the first child was sitting quietly in the corner, serenely contemplating world peace, when the second child swarmed up and viciously attacked them for no good reason.

Ok, you’re right: scratch that last one. There are actually only two possible scenarios–both of which involve flopping.

Of course, the important thing to remember with “kid flopping” is that, unlike the NBA, there is no such thing as “home court advantage”; whereas during a basketball game the crowd will always be on the side of the home team when it comes to flopping (as far as I’m concerned, Steve Nash has taken nothing but charges ever since he left Dallas), when it comes to children the assumption is the exact opposite: parents always assume that the visiting team (child) was the victim of their own child’s aggression. It’s one of those “the devil you know” type situations.

Is this fair? No, but then again, neither is my having to assume the de facto role of “peacekeeper” between all people under five feet tall in my house.

There’s talk in the NBA about possibly instituting a rule against blatant flopping. While part of me thinks that this would be a great idea (yeah, I’m talking about you again, Ginobli), another part of me recognizes that, until referees are given the same sweeping, all-encompassing powers that mothers have (a mother’s power to accuse, convict, and sentence makes the military tribunals at Guantanamo look like The People’s Court), this will just open up the system to even more accusations of abuse.

Especially when the refs starts defending their calls with a very Mom-like “because I said so.” Oh wait–they already do that.

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