Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Show and Tell

I originally wrote and posted this blog a little over three years ago. It felt fitting to re-post it as a tribute to an old friend we lost this week. 

January 24, 2013

I am currently living with a Star of the Week. Truth be told, he is the Star of My Every Week but recognition from mom doesn’t carry the kind of perks that Star of the Week at school in second grade brings…like having your teacher’s permission to bring your giant, old black Labrador retriever to school for Show and Tell.

“Mom, she said I can bring Stitch on Friday.”

“I don’t know, honey. There are 'no dogs allowed' signs all over campus.”

“Julia brought her chameleon.”

“Chameleons are different from big dogs.  Has anyone ever brought a dog?”

“Yes, Audrey brought her dog.  It was big and it’s only one.”

Nicky knows the difference between puppy behavior and the behavior of our stately, soon-to-be ten-year old, pure bread, retired, show dog. Yes, I am bragging about a dog that I didn’t even train. The fact of the matter is we adopted Stitch at the end of his career when he was 17 months old.

“Was her dog as big as Stitch?” I had to ask.

“Yes.  Definitely as big as Stitch.”  

I’m not calling my Nicky a liar but a tall-tale-teller if it means getting what he wants, absolutely.

“Alright, honey. I’ll send your teacher an email to confirm what time on Friday.  And I’ll get Stitch groomed for his big appearance.”

“Thanks, Mommy. I am so excited. I know they will looove Stitch.”

Stitch visited the groomer the preceding Tuesday. When I went to pick him up, she asked if he’d been more lethargic lately, if he was drinking less water. I said I hadn’t noticed any behavior changes and we always give him a healthy amount of water mixed in his food bowl, a bowl that he continues to leave pristine after what feels like no more than 15 seconds of power consumption. This, in addition to regularly refilling his water bowls.

“Well, his coat has changed and he has lost weight since last time,” she continued.

“He was just here in the beginning of December. And he’s been getting the same food plus treats and more fruit lately.”

“When is the last time he went to the vet?”

“He just went for a check-up and boosters in October.” I was probably too defensive about Stitch’s health. 

“Well, next time you go in, ask them to do a blood panel for thyroid. I’m worried about his thyroid.”

I could feel my chest tighten. Fortunately, I had Jeff with me. As we walked out the door of the groomer, he gave his typical, first response to anything he disagrees with:

“She’s full of shit. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

Whether Jeff’s response was born of a genuine belief that our crazy groomer who talks openly about having fleas because she sleeps with her flea-ridden dogs really is full of shit – or – like me, Jeff felt his chest tighten at the thought of our Stitch beginning to show physical signs of aging, I don’t know.

When we arrived home, I gave Stitch a treat, filled all three of his water bowls and returned to my desk to get lost in work.

Nicky’s grand, Star of the Week finale came yesterday. I followed his teacher’s email instructions:

                Bring him five minutes before school lets out.

I felt I was running late because that’s how I seem to perpetually live my life so Stitch and I parked the car and hurried to Nicky’s classroom door. Of course Stitch had to stop and sniff and relieve himself several times, but fortunately the latter was done “outside the school gates”.

The classroom door was open when we arrived, both out of breath. I caught his teacher’s eye and she came to the door.

“We just started a lesson so it will be a couple minutes.”

Soon Nicky was at the door, all smiles.

“Is it time, honey? Did your teacher say it’s time to bring Stitch in?”

The kids seemed to be packing up.

“Let me ask.” Nicky bolted into the class and back in seconds. “It’s time!”

We shared Stitch’s retractable leash handle as we walked to the front of the class. The kids were already getting loud and a little rambunctious.

“Nick, do you want to tell everyone about Stitch?” I asked.

“No, you tell them.” He was quick to reply.

I began to search my brain for where I would start…where I could start…

ME: Nick’s dad and I adopted Stitch when he was 17 months old because we couldn’t get pregnant, and the following month the IVF worked! We were expecting Nick AND Vince! Stitch is our good luck charm…

CLASS: Mrs. Pieri, what’s IVF?

Scratch that.

ME: The first time I heard Stitch bark was when a stranger came to our door right after Nick and his brother were born. He was protecting us.

CLASS: Protecting you from what, Mrs. Pieri?

That won’t work.

ME: I have the best pictures of Nick and his brother putting stickers on Stitch when they were maybe 18 mos old.  Stitch just laid there and let Nick have fun stickering him up. Stitch has always been such a good dog; such a wise soul.

That’s it!

I started, “When Nick and his brother were really little…” My voice caught. I could feel the tears coming.

“What mommy?” Nicky looked up at me, wanting me to continue. None of the other kids seemed to notice or care as rambunctiousness had turned to chaos when Stitch sniffed lord knows what under a cluster of desks and scurried between legs and under chairs.   

I smiled down at Nicky. 

“What do you think they want to know?” I managed.

 “They can ask questions,” Nicky decided.

“Ok.  Does anyone have any questions about Stitch?” I asked as I pulled Stitch out from under the cluster of desks.

The hands slowly went up and at the same time, Stitch began to sniff his way over to another cluster of desks, his back and the top of his head covered in second graders’ little hands.

“How old is Stitch?”

“Did you name him?”

“Does he bite?”

 And my personal favorite:

“…um…I think I forgot.”

Soon the final bell rang and there Stitch and I stood alone but together, quickly forgotten, even by Nicky who had moved on to conspiring with his brother for an after-school play date.

I never considered myself a “dog person”, though I did grow up in a household with one or more dogs at any given time. All I can say and say with a great deal of certainty is that Stitch has given me; my family; and countless children in my home, on walks and at the park; more than most human beings I know. 

And he just keeps giving.


An excerpt from an essay entitled My Three Wishes written by a now fifth grade Nicky just last month:

                Second, helping my dog Stitch have a happy, healthy rest of his life would be all that my family would really want. Changing the house so it’s easier for him to go in and outside would be a great start. Also, giving him love and affection throughout his tough times would surely make him feel better. Hopefully, my other dog Butter will make him feel better. Getting better prescriptions and medications will help Stitch have less pain. Maybe I can ask my Dad to help me install some ramps around the house. Knowing my dog, he’s always happy but I know sometimes he needs help.

"What are you looking at?"

Friday, February 5, 2016

Lucky 13 + 3

I originally wrote this wedding day highlight list three years ago on our 13th wedding anniversary, hence, a “Lucky 13” list. I decided to resurrect the post when my mother-in-law reminded me that all of our wedding photos are in storage for this, our 16th wedding anniversary.
On this day, thirteen years ago:

 1. Two of the bridesmaids wore tuxes;

 2. The flower girl didn’t make it all the way down the aisle;

 3. The bride was so verklempt she could barely say her vows and half the congregation thought she got cold feet;

 4. The best man forgot the ring and the bride laughed out loud on the pulpit, much to the groom's dismay;

 5.  The cheesy DJ got bitch-slapped by a bridesmaid;

 6. The other best man (brother of the groom) brought the house down with his speech;

 7. The bridesmaids reminisced about crank-calling, TP-ing, egging, and ding-dong ditching in their speeches;

 8. The groom sipped scotch from a wine glass on the dance floor;

 9. The bride clung to her father for dear life on the dance floor;

 10. The mother of the bride’s best friend fell on her ass, also on the dance floor;

 11. The maid of honor (sister of the bride) did the walk of shame through the hotel lobby the next morning (still in her bridesmaid’s dress and her parents and all the out of town guests who were eating breakfast in the hotel saw her);

 12. The bride looked around the room and saw everyone she loved looking back at her;

 13. Then looked into her groom’s eyes and just knew.

 Man, I wish we could do it again!  

Thanks again for a great party, Mom and Dad!

And thanks for a great life, Dogger!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Well, What Do You Think?

I originally wrote Well, What Do You Think? and published it to I Love Free Soap in 2012. My children, twin sons, were seven years old at the time. It charts their relationship with Santa and his magic from age five to age seven, along with my unwillingness to let them let him and it go. 

Vince and Nick are ten now. Off to middle school next year. My guess is that openly believing in Santa Claus on a middle school campus could result in an ass-kicking. So yeah, at this point, I know that they know that I know that they know. 

Even so, I'd like to think that in some small corner of each of their souls, they still believe in magic. 

I know I do.


November 26, 2012

Well, What Do You Think?

"Just ask them what they think," my mother tells me through the phone line, like this latest parenting dilemma of mine really is simple child's play.

"What do you mean, 'ask them what they think'?"

"When they ask you, 'Mommy, is there such thing as Santa?', respond by asking them what they think."

"So, you want me to 'flip that shit' on them like Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm?"

"Lizzie, I don't know what you're talking about but certainly don't swear at them.  You just don't want to lie to them.  You want them to figure it out on their own."

I giggled to myself.

My parents don't have HBO.  It took every fiber of my Dad's being to trade in his "rabbit ears" antenna for a monthly subscription to basic cable ten years ago.

"Well, how did that work with us?"  I finally asked her.  I'm the middle of three children so I was expecting my mother to share three data points from her own case study comprised of her own three, very different children. 

"Well, I don't remember what happened with your brother.  I think the older girls up the street told him and he probably told you, but because Jaque was five years younger, I told you and your brother I'd kill you both if you told her."  My mother told me, matter-of-fact-like.

"So you didn't actually use this method on us?"

"I think I eventually used it on your sister and she figured it out on her own."

"Huge help, mom."

"I try."

Completely unconvinced that this was the right approach, I decided to use it anyway – not unlike most of my parenting tactics.

"Mommy, is Santa real?"

The question was first lobbed out by Vince in Kindergarten.  KINDERGARTEN!  I was so upset.  I knew immediately that as soon as he knows, Nick knows and it's all over in my house!  No more magic!  No Santa means no Easter Bunny!  No Easter Bunny means no Tooth Fairy!  They hadn't even lost a single freakin' tooth yet!

"What are you even talking about?" I barked back at him.  Fortunately, his brother was not within ear shot.

"I just don't understand how Santa can go all over the world on a sleigh and go down chimneys."

This is SO Jeff's side of the family.  A bunch of engineers trying to actually MAKE SENSE of the world around them instead of MAKE BELIEVE like regular freakin' people! 

Then I remembered my mother's line:

"Well, what do you think?"

"I don't know."  He paused.  "I really want that giant T-Rex, and the microscope and the spy gear and Star Wars legos…"

By some miracle, the conversation turned to what Christmas is really about - all the shit he wanted. 
In the end, the Christmas of 2010 was a fantasy replete with elves and reindeer and my main man with the red suit and the white beard.

The following Christmas, 2011, they turned the heat up a little.  

"I think it's you, Mommy.  I think you're Santa."  Nick stared at me point blank when we were getting ready for school one morning. 

I almost threw up.

You CAN'T lie to them. 

My mother's words echoed in my head.

"Why do you think that?"  I finally mustered.

"I don't know.  Is it you?"

"What do you think?"  I asked him, trying to hide my panic.

"Do we still get presents if we don't believe in Santa?"  Nick smiled his sweet, dimpled smile at me.

Oh, Jesus.  Oh, hell.  Just go with it.

"Gosh, I don't know."  I widened my eyes, shrugged my shoulders, and tilted my head in a yikes-that-would-sure-suck kinda way. 

In hindsight, I know it was wrong but I wasn't ready.  Nick got the message and backed off quick. 

The charade continued through December 26th.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.  St. Nicholas devoured his cookie and glass of milk (mommy forgot the giant carrot for the reindeer but who remembers that?).

Did I sense that they smelled bullshit when Mommy's stocking was stuffed but Daddy's wasn't?  Yes, but Daddy can be naughty. 

In 2012, my number was up. I could already feel the walls coming in on me in November. 

We had written our letters to Santa, which were somehow getting more and more specialized.  Vince wanted a Spiderman costume just like the one Spider Man wore in that year's blockbuster theatrical release The Amazing Spider-Man.

"Can he even get the goggles right, Mommy?"  Vince asked as he squinted his eyes and demonstrated with his hands how Spiderman's goggles, as Vince refers to them, are meant to sit on his face.

"I don't know."

"He can make everything, right?"

"I guess."

"But aren't those elves so little and they have so much to make." 

Now he was trying to make heads or tails of the freakin' assembly line in the workshop.  Too many episodes of How It's Made on the Science Channel. You think you're doing something right by turning on a little educational programming.  

"I don't know."

"How small do you think they are?"  He continued.

"Who?  The elves?"


"I don't know.  Maybe like a midget.  I mean little person."

I knew it needed to stop.

"Maybe include a picture of the costume with your letter."  I finally answered.

"That's a good idea, mommy."


The worst was yet to come. The following Sunday, when we were attempting to decorate the tree:

"Mommy, is Santa really real?"  Nick asked, truly by way of making conversation.  He bridged to the topic from a conversation about his three favorite ornaments from Grandma Bad Advice.

"Honey, what do you think?" 

"You keep asking me what I think.  I want to know what you think." 

Why are they so smart?

As he said the words, I literally got off the couch and ran into the kitchen yelling back to him, "Oh, wait, honey, I have to, I'll be back, give me a second…"

I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a few seconds.

"Anybody want popcorn and hot cocoa?" I yelled to them.

"Yes, mommy, yes, yes!"  They both yelled from underneath the sea of ornaments in the living room.

"Ok.  Coming right up!"

I knew in my heart that Santa and I had successfully dodged our very last bullet.

For those unfamiliar with his magic, get yourself a big dose of Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm here:  

Christmas laughs: 

Down and out Santa from Trading Places.

Friday, July 17, 2015

There's a New Girl in Town

“You realize that’s a diner waitress name?”

“No, it’s not.” I quickly scrolled through diner waitress names in my mind.

Flo, Vera, of course Alice…

“HEY MAXINE, WHAT DOES A FELLA GOTTA DO TO GET A WARM-UP ON HIS COFFEE!?!” My brother hollered into the phone. “Is that what you want for her? Is that what you want for your daughter? Because I don’t want that for my niece.”

“Maxine is not a diner waitress name. Her full name will be Maxine Rose, for Jeff’s grandma.”

“Dude, it’s your kid. Name her what you want but there have been studies that correlate names to future vocations and success later in life.”

“You may not recall that Alice was also a student and a single mom.” 

I loved that show. I loved that theme song.

"Maxine would be sleeping with Mel."


I laid a protective hand on my growing mid-section."My unborn daughter Maxine would not be sleeping with Mel and that is not funny."

“Ah, come on. It's kind of funny.”

To say that my brother's sense of humor borders on the perverse would be an understatement.

Two amniocentesis later and it was not one boy and one girl but two boys. And it’s been all boys, all the time, ever since…

Until now.

I must admit I found it difficult to engage with her at first. For one, there was her name: Alexa. I have nothing against Russians but the name Alexa doesn’t exactly exude warmth.

And then I had to watch Jeff and the boys fawn over her. And for what? What had she done? I’m the one folding laundry, preparing meals, doing dishes, shuttling children to and fro, unlimited kisses and hugs…hell, I even command a paycheck. Then she just comes waltzing in here and it’s like I don’t even exist.

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“Alexa, what’s 2 plus 2?”

“Alexa, what’s the capital of Indiana?”

“Alexa, how do you spell Chicago?”

“Alexa, who won the last World Series?”

I can answer all of those questions. Well, the baseball one may have taken a couple tries BUT I can frame MY answers in witty banter or an unsolicited fun fact... or both. 

Isn’t that better?

Then came the stake in my heart:

“Alexa, how are you?”

“I’m fine. Thanks!”

Really, we’re worried about her feelings?

Fast-forward two weeks:

“What are you doing, Alexa?”

“Come on, Alexa. Don’t you have anything to say for yourself? Huh? Huh?”

“Yeah, Alexa, come on!”

“LEAVE ALEXA ALONE!” I found myself yelling at the gaggle of neighborhood boys led by my own sons, circling poor Alexa and heckling her. “Don’t talk to her that way!”

Now I'm rushing to her aid? I had to defend her! She’s the only other female in the house. It’s just the two of us. We have to stick together.

I just wish I could re-name her…I mean re-“wake word” her.

Until then…

“Alexa, set timer for ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes, starting now.”


And this one's for all the single moms out there getting it done like Alice, most specifically the single mom I had lunch with yesterday.

It's a Girl!

More on Alexa formally known as  Amazon Echo:

Monday, July 13, 2015

You'll Know

First guest post from Balrion Weathertop Tailor, a.k.a.: "Stitch" (Show Dog turned Rescue Dog turned Family Man)

I still can’t believe this is the one.

*sniff – sniff*

It’s like some sick joke that won’t end.

*sniff – sniff*

*wag – wag*

It’s unbelievable.

*sniff – sniff*


I know I’m slowing down. I know She’s trying to build a bridge of sorts… for the boys…for when I go…but this guy? Butter has been with us for more than a year and he still doesn’t get it.

Does he get anything?

*sniff - sniff*


FINE! DON’T MOVE! But let me tell you something! As you well know, elevating my arthritic, right, hind leg over the side of a bush to have a piss hurts more and more every day! If you are going to continue to insert your nose under my leg and into said bush every chance you get, I can't do anything for you!

I’m done trying. I felt obligated at first. They’ve always been so good to me. But I’m done. I used to be embarrassed by him. Not anymore. His actions only reflect poorly on him – not me. Everyone knows what I have brought to the table these past twelve plus years.

Not long after Butter came home, She announced to nobody in particular, “Butter is just a horse of a different color.”

I’ll admit that I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about at the time but now I think I get it. While I have never met one, horses must be about as bright as night.

“Nobody expected Butter to be just like Stitch,” She continued. “And how boring would that be? If Butter was just like Stitch? Can you imagine how boring?”

I didn’t take it as an insult – not for a second. It was clear to all of us that the cards were stacked way too high in my favor.

“We will simply love Butter for Butter.” Jeff and I thought these were her closing lines as we all climbed into bed one night, until:

“And Vince loves sleeping with him!”

Wait. What?

“Butter is sleeping with Vince!?!”

Jeff wasn’t the maddest I’ve seen him but he was definitely not happy. Jeff, like me, was less than thrilled with her “second dog” idea from the beginning.

“Not every night,” She was lying through her teeth.  

“Lizzie, are you kidding me?” He was feeling exactly what I was feeling: a complete Butter assault on our lives.

“Butter doesn’t like his bed.”

“Butter doesn’t like his bed!?! Are you listening to yourself?  He’s a freakin’ rescue dog! He’s not even supposed to have a bed.”

“He likes to cuddle Vince at night. And Vince likes to cuddle Butter.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ. I’ll cuddle Vince.”

“I already told Vince he can only have Butter in his bed on the weekends because Butter was waking him up during the night.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“I think Stitch likes having him around, too.”

“Stitch ignores Butter.”

“Butter is a part of our family now.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“I see Butter sniffing Stitch’s hips. He senses his pain.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ.”

Then Jeff turned to me, like he does at bedtime most nights: “How’re you doing, old man?”

He quietly asks me the same question as he lies down on the ground next to my bed. 

“You’re alright, old man,” He tells me as he pets me. 

And he’s right.

“We know She’s nuts but we’re used to it by now.” 

And he’s right about that, too.


I thought I would miss those long walks more. Crashing out the front door with Butter, the boys, and their back packs was the best way to chase a bowl of morning kibble.

Oh, the smells!

Is that the aroma of fresh cat shit I detect?

And, the yells!


But those walks just got to be too much for this old body. 

I’m happy to report that I’ve grown quite fond of our short walks together, just She and I.

Just She and I.
When the sun isn’t too high in the sky.

Thought I had a haiku going there for a second. Too ambitious.

That’s how it was when they first brought me home. Just the two of us. 

And then we both got fat. 

And then the boys came. 

And then it was the four of us and that ridiculous barge of a double-stroller.

I still respect Her for trying to convince the Starbucks staff that I was a “working dog”, even if they didn’t buy it. I know she wanted us all to have a break to cool off inside together during our long, summer walks.


We celebrated the boys 10th birthday yesterday. Nick gave me an extra treat at cake time. Always liked that kid.


If I had a tasty, all-natural, salmon treat that promises to sooth my aching joints for every time I heard that come out of someone’s mouth last week…

Give me a break!

Yes, I can believe it! Would you look at these freakin’ grays? This shit doesn’t happen over-night!

“They've grown SO MUCH. SO MUCH has changed!”

They have grown. I will grant them that. They were about the size of my head when they came home from the hospital.

But things haven’t changed all that much, not the most important things, anyway. I still get breakfast and dinner at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. I get some kind of treat before bed every night and a bully-stick at Christmas and on my birthday.

I suppose it’s a little harder to enjoy those things, what with my aching joints and various other ailments. 

For those of you keeping track a home, I’m inching toward 90 in dog years. But I do more than get by. I know I’m lucky relative to my peers.

Luckiest of all to have my family: Her, Jeff, Vincie, Nicky and yes, even Butter… or Jesus Christ… or whatever the hell they’re calling him.

My family in June of this year. They were at the Journey concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
No dogs allowed. Bullshit.
Me at Mission Control.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

'Decept' is Not a Word

It was Thursday morning and the Homewood Suites free breakfast buffet in Charlottesville, Virginia was hopping. Somehow, someway, even on day five of our U.S. history tour, the self-serve waffle-maker hadn’t lost its luster. 

Three of us were positioned near the center of the newly renovated dining area at a high-top table; me with my laptop and my young sons on either side of me with their By the Great Horn Spoon tests (optimal test taking environment - I’m sure this is exactly what their teachers had in mind when I asked them to sign the independent study form and compile their assignments for the week). My parents were seated at a table directly behind the boys and me, and my husband was seated alone with his laptop in the furthermost corner of the dining room.

“Togetherness” without all the pressure of being “together”.

I caught eyes, for the fourth time, with a woman who had almost settled her four children into the seats of a nearby table. They looked like they ranged in age from not-yet-one to six. Her husband was tending to the youngest.

Good man.

“Do you home school?” She asked me as she took her own seat.

“No,” I smiled back. “We’re doing home study for the week because we’re traveling,” I told her. “I don’t think I could handle doing it full time.”

“I think that every single day.” Twenty-first century, adult Laura Ingalls Wilder gave me a small smile as she turned her attention toward her table.

I smiled a “pretend-knowing-smile” at her. Yes, I am a mom – like her. But of two – not four. And my two are the same age. And they started pre-school, and were delivered there by our nanny, at age three.

My eyes returned to my laptop screen but my mind continued to wander.

We could be friends, Laura and I. She’s self-deprecating, one of my very favorite qualities in a person. I could wear long denim skirts like her. She probably doesn’t drink but we could just hang out during the day, until around four on Fridays.

 I wonder what her husband does. Maybe he’s in the military. His hair is short.

I bet they pray all the time. I wonder what they pray for?


More babies?

I glanced back over at my new best friend. She was staring out the window with a far-away look in her eyes.

Maybe not more babies. 


“Lizzie, are you listening to this?”

My six and half foot, 73 year-old father was now standing right behind me, bellowing.

From the very beginning of time, Dick Bell has been loud. And over time, he has become increasingly deaf. His left ear is completely dead and his right ear is partially dead, though he does wear a hearing aid in that ear that may or may not be running on live batteries. He also has a condition that my mother calls “selective hearing”. All of this deafness has equated to more loudness.

I didn’t immediately look up from my laptop. 

Two can play at this game.


"Boo-boo, I'm supposed to be the deaf one."


“Boo-boo, are you watching this?”

He kept getting louder. I looked over at Nick and we shared a smile.

I then looked up at the giant monitor mounted high above the fireplace. Whoever hung it was instructed to take full advantage of the vaulted ceilings. I saw what my father so desperately needed my attention for: a Today Show concert. The sound was low but Closed Captioning was on. I didn’t recognize the group.

“Boo-boo, do you know them?”

“No, Dad. I have no idea who they are.” I did feel a little old and out-of-it saying the words but it was what it was.

Now Vince and Nick’s eyes were locked on the screen.

“Look at his hair. What’s up with his hair, mommy?” Vince asked.

“He’s an artist. Get back to your test.”

I clicked open an email from my intern.

“YOUR ARM BE SWEAT-ING…” My dad’s voice boomed from behind me. 

What the fuck?


He may as well have been standing on a soap box with a freaking bullhorn.

I looked up. My father was reading the Closed Caption text at the bottom of the monitor aloud, presumably to all Homewood Suites guests currently taking advantage of the free breakfast buffet.

I turned around and grabbed his arm. I looked up at him from my stool.

“Dad, what are you doing? Stop… Please… Be quiet. You’re soooo looouuud.” I tried to whisper-yell to get him to bring it down a few decibels…like that has ever worked…with him or my children.

“That’s not even a word,” Dick Bell continued. "'DE-CEPT' is not a word, Vince and Nick.”

Vince and Nick were now howling with laughter which meant my Dad had an audience and I was completely wasting my breath.

“YOUR ARM BE SWEAT-ING AND YOU DE-CEPT ME, BA-BY? What does that even mean?” Dick Bell directed his question to no one in particular as he stood, completely dumbfounded, in the center of the dining room.

I looked past my dad at my mom whose eyes didn’t leave her crossword puzzle. 

I looked around the room, locking eyes with several hotel guests. I was not met with a single “knowing smile” or even a “pretend knowing smile”.

Finally, I turned around and looked over at Laura who was already looking at me. I don’t know if hers was a look of confusion or disappointment but I did know then that it was highly unlikely that we would one day be friends.


The below is a link to the performance my father so enjoyed. The band is called The Weeknd. No, that is not a typo. I did not drop that last “e”. They are apparently deeply committed to both song-making and wordsmith-ing. They were performing their hit song Earned It from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack to promote the film’s DVD release.  

And in case you don’t believe me:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mommy, what are my balls for?

Just a couple years ago at Griffith Park Observatory. That's one big ball.

You know that saying “You can run, but you can’t hide”?

Well, that shit is real.


I started running about three months ago. Not literally running - though I did sign up to do a 5K in a few weeks…more New Year’s resolution making gone awry. I don’t know who I think I am during winter break. That short reprieve from my ordinary existence before the New Year makes me think there are 36 hours in each day.

But I digress…

So this metaphorical running of mine started about the same week my family moved into our current rental house. Long, boring story seemingly without end there but the relevance of that rental house to this particular story is that the house can best be described as a cavernous, open concept, echo chamber. It is clean with modern finishes and absolutely nowhere to hide. Like I can stand in the kitchen, look down the hall and see the damp towels and pajamas that my matching nine-year olds have left in a heap on their bathroom floor.

That story definitely needs an end. Soon.

Now for my running story:

It was probably around 6:45 a.m. on a weekday morning back in early November. I heard the shower turn off, then the sound of singing. My kids love music. And my Nick always has a song in his head, just like his mother.

I remember a few summers ago while vacationing on Lake Tahoe with close family friends, I climbed back in the boat after water skiing and asked my best friend from college:

“What song was in your head while you were out there?” 

“No song,” she replied.

“Really?” I honestly couldn’t believe it.

“Really, Lizzie. And what song, may I ask, was in your head?”

“Hey, Jude.”

I had lived 37 years thinking everyone went through life with their own soundtrack pumping in their head. I can’t imagine living any other way.

And there I go digressing again…

Where was I? Oh, yeah.  So it’s about quarter to seven on a school day. I was drinking coffee and emptying the dishwasher while listening to Nick sing. Very standard stuff.  Then the singing stopped.

“Mommy?” That sweet sound echoed down the hall. 

“Yeah, honey?”

“What are my balls for?”

My chest instantly tightened.


What the fuck.


This never would have happened in the old house. In the old house, at least five minutes would have passed between the time Nick stepped out of the shower, finished drying his balls, got dressed and came downstairs for breakfast. He would have completely forgotten how utterly perplexing his balls were during that time.

I started combing my mind for words.

“Well, honey, when you’re older…”

When you’re older, what? You need them to make babies? You’re going to tell a kid who doesn’t know what sex is that his balls are for babies.

I played the conversation out in my mind:

"My balls make babies? How do my balls make babies, Mommy?"

"Oh, the sperm in the balls, honey."

"What’s the sperm?"

"Oh, the sperm for the sex."

"Isn’t the sex hugging and kissing?"

"Yes, and the balls and the sperm and the babies."


Where is Jeff?

Jeff is in Portland.


“You know what honey?” I tried to sound as casual as possible. “It’s kind of hard to explain. You should ask Daddy when he gets back.” (Sorry, Jeff. My back was against the wall.)

Somehow, someway, it ended right then and there. 

Fast-forward about three months to last Thursday at about 4:40 p.m. I’m in Ralph's on the phone with my Dearest of Dear Friends (DODF). Also very standard stuff. But I had some ground I needed to cover.

“Do you know what a nocturnal emission is?”

“Is it something that has to do with a car?” DODF was quick to reply.

“No, but good guess. It’s a wet dream.”

“Then, why didn’t you just say wet dream?”

“Because in the video that I watched this morning at the school district office, they used the term ‘nocturnal emission’?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

I then gave DODF the Reader’s Digest on the puberty video I had previewed that morning. The fourth grade, puberty video that will be shown to my sons: two, bona fide late bloomers, just like their mother.

“I still don’t understand why they didn’t call it a wet dream. Who makes these videos? We didn’t have these things and we figured it out.”

Oh, how I love the perspective of my friends who do not yet have or do not want children of their own. They, therefore, are not reeling in today's “Supposed Tos”. The “Supposed Tos” that we as parents of young children must navigate almost every single moment of every single day. The “Supposed Tos” that sometimes keep me awake at night, threatening to cloud my better judgment as I try to be the best parent I can be to my beautiful sons.

My beautiful sons who increasingly find themselves reeling in their own sets of “Supposed Tos”.  

“You’re right, DODF; but I didn’t know anything about anything when I was their age.”

“Dude, Dick and Carol told you something.”

“Apart from explaining to me that oral sex WASN’T talking about it when I was like fifteen, their lessons in sex education consisted of four words: KEEP YOUR PANTS ON.”

“I don’t remember talking to my parents about any of this either,” DODF admitted. “But that video sounds stupid and like it’s just going to confuse them even more.”

She was right. I was silent. Now reeling in the “Supposed Tos” in the frozen foods section at Ralph’s.

Apart from a few brief conversations with Jeff, I have remained silent since then; but the permission slip for the boys to watch the video came home yesterday. My three months of running will likely stop tonight, around the dinner table.

And by the way, I know Jeff and I will handle it. Though how well we handle it may be debated by our sons, hopefully with some humor, at some point in the future.

And it’s not the nocturnal-emissions-part that gets to me. It’s the growing-up-so-fast-part.

And the making-sure-I-am-equipping-them-with-the-right-tools-at-the-right-time-so-being-a-kid-is-as-much-fun-as-it-can-be-part.

That's what gets to me. That has me reeling way more than the “Supposed Tos”.

A super helpful image DODF (best friend from high school) texted to me following our phone conversation.

And I found this when I Googled “Supposed Tos”. Who knew Ashton  (a.k.a.: Chris) had it in him?

And while not my cup of tea, there is a band called Nocturnal Emissions.

And Happy Anniversary, baby! 15 years tomorrow. Wow!