The Ongoing Saga of the Tooth Fairy

There was such a long break since the last activation of the Tooth Fairy in our house that I had almost forgotten the agony and stress that went with it. And then Hal showed me a bloody molar that I extracted for him one evening.

I don’t know if Hal still believes in the Tooth Fairy or if he knows it’s me. But he remembers the ritual. Basically. He put the tooth in a Ziploc bag (easier for me to find than a loose tooth) and put it on the bed. His brother’s bed, actually, which his brother (understandably) found odd. But I think Hal knew that the Tooth Fairy would never find it on his own bed, covered as it is by copious stuffed animals, blankets, books, toys, the real live dog that somehow picks out a place to sleep on it, and a large box that Hal prefers to sleep in.

I suggested we move the tooth to the dresser so his brother didn’t knock it off the bed and tucked him in. An hour or more later, when ready to pass out myself, I opened the door expecting an easy exchange of tooth-in-bag with coins-in-bag. But something about the air in the room made me hesitate. I walked over to the bed and peered into the box perched on the top bunk. No one was moving but I could see the bright glare of his Kindle Fire poorly blocked behind a raised leg.

I did the whole disappointed mommy shtick and took the device from him. He rolled over, pulling the blanket over his head in embarrassment and sorrow at getting caught. I then carefully placed the coins on the dresser, grabbed the tooth, and exited. I smiled a bit at the irony that arguably the least stressful tooth exchange had occurred while the child was awake.

But it left me wondering. What exactly was he thinking when he stayed up late on the night he lost a tooth? Here are my theories:

  1. He had already forgotten that his tooth lay waiting on the dresser.
  2.  He still believes in the Tooth Fairy and assumed that she would wait until he was asleep, no matter how late that might be.
  3. He knows it’s me and hoped the Fire would keep him awake until he caught me in the act but he either thought the box would adequately hide him or he failed to consider better hiding the screen.

Whichever it is, the Tooth Fairy is one of those Catch-22 situations. No one talks about Fight Club. You can’t ask if they still believe because that would be tacit admission that she doesn’t exist. And they are reluctant to tell you they don’t believe out of fear that you will stop giving them money for something as worthless as an old tooth. So we keep pretending. Or at least, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not sure what he’s doing. I haven’t asked.


The Battle of the Poop

There are small things and there are big things in parenthood. Good and bad. My hope is that in old age, it’s the good that shine the brightest. But there are times in the day-to-day that the bad grab hold and demand your attention. Or your irritation, at least.

Take, for example, the morning after my sweet daughter left for Europe. I entered my shower thinking that, despite the cold weather and long pants I would wear, maybe I’d shave. Only… my razor was missing.

That’s weird, I thought. Did I take it out for some reason? I glanced over at the counter and it wasn’t there. When I got out, I checked my overnight bag from a recent trip. It wasn’t there either, which didn’t surprise me since I knew I hadn’t packed it. You know, winter weather and long pants and all. My mind drifted to my daughter. Surely she didn’t take it with her? She has her own and likes it better.

I asked the menfolk of my household if they knew where it was. They all just shook their heads, looked at me odd for asking, and went about their days. Which I ultimately did as well, thinking about the missing razor only in the mornings as my eyes lit upon its empty holder during my shower. Just one of the minor irritations of being a parent and thus, not the master of my own stuff.

That is, until I found myself in the children’s bathroom early one morning with my eyes watering and a bandanna wrapped tightly around my face. It was then, in such a miserable state, that I saw my wayward razor sitting in their shower. She must have “borrowed” it, I thought to myself, backing out to the relative safety of the hallway. Hers was probably already packed. I bet she planned to return it when done. They always plan, but never do.

The thoughts were a delay tactic, I knew, and eventually I resumed my odious task – one of the larger and much more objectionable irritations of parenthood.

I had managed to forget about this task until that morning when I had opened the door to see which boy had gotten up without my knowing, and been greeted not by an indignant child unhappy about the door opening, but instead by a smell so strong that I quickly shut the door. And remembered.

It was late the night before. The boys and I were staying up a little late because it was Spring Break so why not? But finally, I had admonished Hal, the youngest, to use the bathroom, brush his teeth, and get ready for bed.

He had returned quickly with his nose scrunched up and a small, nervous smile on his face. With a little giggle, he said, “The toilet is clogged!”

“When did that happen?” I asked, my eyes heavy with sleep and my shoulders now sagging. I looked around the room.

“It wasn’t me,” said Daryl, only momentarily diverting his attention from Fort Nite on the PS4 to me.

“Well it wasn’t me!” claimed Hal, a little too defensively and definitely too cheerfully.

“It didn’t just clog itself,” I muttered and headed into the bathroom.

“It really stinks in there!” Hal called out helpfully.

I lifted the toilet lid and what greeted me was of a magnitude unbelievable. With a certain amount of wishful thinking, I pushed the “big flush” button on our high efficiency toilet. It didn’t flush. Instead, I gagged and choked and covered my mouth as I watched through watery eyes all the brown chunky water, a log surely too big to have exited my young child’s rump, and reams of toilet paper swirl dangerously close to the rim.

I closed the toilet lid. I hurried from the room. I shut the door. Not my proudest moment, but it had been a long week. A tiring one.  Nearly a full work week covered over just three days, on the tail end of a 62 hour work week, and a long trip to take my husband to the airport very early that morning. Despite a couple of short naps that day, I was not ready to fight the battle of the poop. In my exhausted state, I declared it a task that could wait for morning.

And morning had come. And with it the fresh state of forgetfulness… until I had opened that door. I tried another hopeful flush. I gagged again. I left the room. Again. But this time to plan because even the most irresponsible of parents can surely not leave a toilet full of sh*t to stink up a room and eventually the entire house.

I found a box and a stick. The toilet paper, I had decided, needed to exit the bowl via the hole at the top instead of the hole at the bottom. I found a bandanna and wrapped it securely around my face. I entered the boys’ room. They looked up and did not bat an eye that their mother approached like a bandit robbing a stage coach.

“I have a task for you,” I said to Hal. “Get your shoes on. I’m going to be transferring some of the contents of the toilet into a box and then I want you to carry the box out to the burn pile. Do you want a bandanna to cover your nose?”

He nodded. Quietly. Like he wished there was a way out of this task but perhaps knowing that if his dad was home, it’d likely be Hal, and not his loving mother, who would be manually unclogging the toilet. He didn’t have the worst task and he knew it.

It was when I entered the room again with stick and box in hand that I noticed the razor. It struck me that if I didn’t have children, I wouldn’t have a clogged toilet and my razor would be where it should be.

Of course, I’d also be at work because what would be so special about Spring Break then? I’m all the richer, and wiser, and kinder, and more patient, for having children. But there are moments – like when I’m standing in a stinking room looking at my stolen razor through watering eyes – when I feel the price paid for those no-longer-little bundles of joy.

When The Mommy Taxi Runs Behind

This is how a Monday morning can go when a nine year old lives in the house.

I was running behind. It had been a very long weekend and I was reluctant to go to work. Or even get out of bed. But out of bed I must because being late isn’t a viable option for the third grade. His taxi must still run on time even if the taxi driver is out of gas.

This meant that when I stepped out of the shower and saw that it was 7:15 – the tail end of my 7:00-7:15 window for departure, I turned on the turbo thrusters. I quickly wrapped the towel around my torso and sought out the child.

“Hal,” I said in a brisk tone, looking approvingly at his completed state of dress, “Mommy is running behind. I need you to make sure you are completely ready to go because when I’m ready, we’ve got to fly out of here. Ok?”


I then turned back to my bathroom where I put on my clothes, deodorant, makeup, hair cream, jewelry, and glasses before grabbing my cell phone off the charger and heading down the hall less than five minutes later.

Hal, on the other hand, went to the living room, lay down on the couch, and tried to start up the new video game he had on his laptop computer.

I flew through the living room calling out, “Ok, I just need to grab my lunch. It won’t take any time. We need to go or you’ll be late to school!”

I then grabbed my already-prepared lunch items and headed to the front door with them. He looked up from his laptop and said, “Mommy, something is wrong. I don’t have Subnautica or Steam anymore. It’s asking if I want to buy it!”

Standing by the front door, dropping the food into a tote bag, I responded, “Well, we’ll have to look at it this evening. We need to go now so you aren’t late. Come on! Close the laptop!”

He closed the laptop and slid off the couch. Then he walked unhurriedly into the dining room and looked at an unopened bag of French bread on the table. Without any sense of the urgency I was exhibiting by the front door, he pointed to the bread and asked, “Can I get some of this to eat?”

“No! I told you to make sure you were ready to go so we wouldn’t be late! That includes eating breakfast. We need to go NOW.”

“I just want to take some with me.”

“No! We. Are. Going. To. Be. Late. You should have thought of that earlier.”

“It would just take a minute for me to open the bag and tear off some bread,” he muttered tearfully as he picked up his backpack and headed toward me.

“True. And that’s a minute you should have taken earlier instead of trying to play a game on the computer!

This is the disconnect between parent and child. The child can’t believe the parent won’t let him take a minute to grab some food on his way out the door. The parent can’t believe the child ignored all the indicators that he needed to take care of business sooner.

And no amount of pointing to the clock in the car and discussing the situation closes that gap in perspective. Instead, the child sits in the backseat staring angrily at the back of the parent’s head while the parent oscillates back and forth between incredulity at the child’s cluelessness and guilt at making him skip breakfast.

Who Rules the Universe?

I came across this story in the Facebook flashback feature last night. Of course, I failed to screenshot it before going to bed so I’m not sure when it happened. I’m guessing Daryl was maybe 7 or 8 and Jane 10 or 11. Anyway, it’s one of those funny tales that get forgotten by an aging momma and it brought a smile to my face.

Let’s set the stage. A group of kids are sitting on the steps leading up to the chancel area at the front of the sanctuary. The pastor is sitting with them and hoping to guide them to something insightful about the day’s scripture reading. I think most experienced pastors are always a little nervous about what the children might say in these moments.

One of the other children announced, “Darth Vader rules the universe!”

A pastor, sitting in his sanctuary in front of his congregation, can’t let that statement go unchallenged, of course, so he said, “Ok, wait. Who rules the universe?” He even emphasized the word ‘who’ in a leading way that should have had kids yelling “Jesus!” since that’s usually a safe answer during the children’s sermon.

Instead, Jane yelled, “The rebels do!!”

The pastor lost control of the room at that point with the congregation laughing too loudly for him to continue. The great irony in this moment was that my younger, usually less on the point, and huge Star Wars fan son, Daryl, was the one to return the focus to the topic at hand by answering “God.”

GW to KG – Wassup?!

It seems only fitting after sharing some of Jane’s recent writing, that I should share some of Daryl’s. Eighth grade history with a bit of a flair! Here is his vision of how a conversation might have taken place between George Washington and King George during the Revolutionary War. If they had had cell phones. And if they talked smack like the average middle schooler.


Some translations for those of you not hip enough to digest this with full understanding:

KG: King George
finna: fixing to
W: win
LMAO: laugh my ass off (you knew this one surely… right?)
boi: said expressively to indicate the other did or said something stupid
brb: be right back
tryna: trying to
rn: right now
aiight: all right?!
foo: fool
WTH: what the hell (guessing you knew this one too…)

I’ll close with a couple of observations.

George Washington probably should have charged his phone before he tried to cross the Delaware. No way 53% is going to get him through the day – especially that cold outside.

And it’s no wonder England lost. What with the King texting his plans to the enemy and all.


Home Sweet Box


“I want to sleep in my box tonight.”

“You are not sleeping in your box tonight.”

“But why not?!”

“It’s a school night! You can’t sleep in your box on a school night!”

“Being a school night makes no difference. I can sleep in my box.”

“But it won’t be comfortable. You won’t get a good night’s sleep.”

“Yes, I will. My box is wonderful. It’s so comfortable. It’s my new home!”

The box had arrived at our house the day before with my husband’s replacement recliner in it. It had sat in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, pulled right up to the front door of the house. The recliner had been removed from it and the box had remained in the truck bed. Hal had gone to work decorating it with Crayola marker rugs, pictures, refrigerator, bed, and many other more difficult to discern items.

He had been concerned about the fate of the box when he saw Sunday morning that the truck was gone. After I assured him the box was on the porch, he had leaped with excitement and crawled in to play until time for church. It was now the afternoon and I was preparing to leave the house.

“If you are going to sleep in the box,” I said, “it needs to come in the house.”

“NOOOOooooooo!! I want to sleep in it out here!”

“What?! No! You can’t sleep in it out here!” I said, slightly shocked. A glance at the twinkle in my husband’s eye made it clear I’d get no help from him.

“Why not?!”

“Because you wouldn’t be sleeping behind a locked door.”

“I want to sleep out here,” he insisted.

“Maybe I could sleep out here with him,” my husband suggested.


With a sigh, I muttered, “whatever” before climbing in the car to head out.

Hal then passed the afternoon, at least in part, attempting to watch the first episode of the first season of Stranger Things. He was motivated to give it a shot because of the Stranger Things themed game he had downloaded onto his tablet. From what I hear, he didn’t get very far before he deemed it too scary. Something we had already told him.

That night, as we walked from the dark church through the dark parking lot to head home, he told his dad, “I hope the Demogorgon doesn’t come tonight.”

“Well, if he does, I guess he’ll get you first.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Because you are sleeping outside. Remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I changed my mind about that.”

The Train Station

My beautifully talented daughter asked me recently if I wanted to read an essay she had written for school. I said yes and she handed me a couple sheets of paper. I was soon breathless as I savored some of the most beautiful writing I had ever read. That is not maternal hyperbole, nor is it false modesty when I say it’s better than anything I could write. I prefer to write the meat of the story and rarely do I spend enough time creating such vivid imagery.

There are storytellers – I count myself as an amateur one. Brandon Sanderson is an extremely talented and successful one. But then there are people who write poetry in prose. Whose words are so beautifully selected and placed with each other that it feels like you are doing more than reading a story – you are actually viewing a painting or intricate tapestry. I love many authors but put few in this category. Patrick Rothfuss is the only one that comes readily to mind. This essay evoked a similar reaction from me.

I hope I haven’t now oversold her story. With her permission, I am posting it below:


I thanked the ticket master as I clutched my ticket and walked further into the train station, busy with throngs of people coming or going. The walls seemed alive with the echoes of laughter, arguments, and guitar playing, both long gone and currently reverberating. Its skin crawled with scribbled declarations of love and sprayed-on masterpieces, the tiles desperately in need of a good washing. The grimy fluorescent lights above seemed to flicker erratically in time with my heart, creating an effect almost like I was at a party. All around me, people hurried, their lives obviously much more important than mine; my body became a tiny rowboat, lost in the stormy bustle, jostled from side to side by the waves of people. Eager to gain a short reprieve, I stepped onto an empty platform, feeling weary. It was then I happened to glance up and across the tracks. Exactly opposite me stood a girl whose countenance appeared to mirror my own. It seemed as if she too felt a disconnect from the hordes of people passing by. The noise of the crowded station faded away as we stared at each other for a brief second that seemed to last an eternity. Her eyes looked like they understood my annoyance with and simultaneous longing for all the people constantly streaming through the area, so deep and wise I tried not to fall into them. Suddenly, I wanted to meet this girl, take her to coffee, and become her best friend; the one person who seemed to instantly know me to my core. Just as I raised my hand to give a small wave, she opened her mouth, as if about to say something. A train came roaring through. When it had passed, the girl was no longer there. My hand fell limply to my side, the magical moment gone. The lights returned to their dull flickering, and the noise of the crowd came rushing back with sudden ferocity. My heart burned as if branded by a cattle iron. I wasn’t sure quite why, but I was almost certain I had just missed something very important. All around me, mothers, brothers, and children continued to carry about their business like nothing had happened. In fact, nothing had actually happened. However, nobody except myself seemed to care about the importance of that missed interaction with the girl across the train station. As my train came roaring into the platform, I had to wonder if this other girl, seemingly great in her compassion, would miss that opportunity for interaction with me. As I wondered, my hand pulled my phone out of my pocket, slipping my earbuds into place, and my life became much more important than anyone else’s.