Relative Importance

This morning, my boys were having a discussion about the relative importance of things.

Daryl, the puberty-entering near-twelve year old, was sitting at the dining room table, eating his cereal and milk. Hal, the learning-to-read-efficiently near-seven year old, was sitting in the living room, reading a book.

“Hal,” Daryl called out. “You need to come eat your breakfast.”

“I’m reading!”

“So? You need to eat breakfast.”

“Reading is important.”

“Not as important as eating breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need it to fuel your body for the rest of the day.”

“Well, reading is more important than eating!”

“No it’s not! You have to eat or you’ll die. You can read after you eat breakfast.”

When I related the conversation to my husband, Hal clarified his reasoning. Turning to his brother, he said, “Well, what if you ate poison, huh? If you ate poison, you’d die! And what if that poison had a sign on it that said ‘poison’? If you read it, then you wouldn’t die. But only if you can read!”

Who can refute such logic? Certainly not an older, thinks-he’s-so-wise brother.

Flat Tea

This was my Facebook status this morning:

It’s maybe a sign of a rough start to my day when I pour tea into the iron instead of water.

You see, I have a bad habit of assuming that any random cup of liquid I come across is 1) full of water and 2) available for my use. The first time this assumption bit me, we were visiting my mom. The kids were in bed (thankfully) and the adults were sitting in the living room. I was in the kitchen, in sight of the other adults, when I saw a cup of water on the counter and decided to drink it.

They all looked up to see me spitting rapidly and frantically into the sink, then desperately washing my mouth out.

“Did you just drink that?!” asked my husband, sounding shocked.

“Yes! I didn’t know it was bleach!”

“Really?!” he laughed. “I could smell it from here!”

This second and most recent event, I played to a smaller audience. As Daryl sat quietly eating his breakfast, I prepared to iron a shirt for Jane. Since it was cotton, I decided to add water to the steamer. There was a cup with a small amount of water on the table.

But as I poured the water into the iron, I noticed it was a very light brown. Oh, no I thought. So I sipped it. Yep. Jane drank tea for dinner last night, not water.

I quickly unplugged the iron, poured the tea into the sink, and rinsed it out a few times. When I plugged it back in, it let off a bit of smoke.

“Keep an eye on that thing and holler at me if it does anything dangerous,” I told Daryl, who looked up at the iron, stared for a minute, and then nodded. I wondered what he thought of the request.

I left the room to verify with Jane that this shirt still fit her. She insisted it did. But when she came in a few minutes later to see me clearly fulfilling her request to iron it, she said, “Oh! I don’t need you to iron that. I decided to wear a different shirt.” Really. And my question about the shirt didn’t clue you in? No.

As the rest of the family left for school, Hal settled in to eat his breakfast while I prepared to take my shower. I was feeling a bit hyper. I had run on the treadmill while watching a hilarious episode of Firefly, and then had the great tea-in-the-iron drama. I was up for a bit of silliness.

So as I locked the door, I looked at him and said dramatically, “Ok, look. I’m going to take a shower. Don’t touch that,” I pointed to the iron. “Don’t unlock the door. Don’t go outside. Don’t do anything that will get you hurt, maimed, or killed. Got it?”

I had spread my arms out wide in a grand expression as I finished my little monologue. He slowly swallowed the cereal in his mouth and said, “Ok. How about I just play with my train table?” That’s what I love about that kid. Sometimes he can be so dry.


This morning, Hal brought up someone I had not heard him talk about in some time. As he ate his (by his choice) cold blueberry bagel with cream cheese, he propped up half of a bagel slice on one end.

“Mommy, this looks like Sobo-be-nye-nye’s house.”

Sobo-be-nye-nye has been his most constant imaginary friend for at least three years now. But I hadn’t heard mention of him in months. Maybe even a year.

The thought of a quarter bagel shaped house intrigued me. Hal had resumed eating said bagel, but I asked him a question.

“What is Sobo-be-nye-nye’s house made out of?”

He swallowed the food in his mouth before he answered matter-of-factly.

“It’s made out of wood and it has a candy roof. And his room has a nest in it and there are leaves that cover him to keep him warm.”

This imagery made me wonder what Sobo-be-nye-nye looks like. I had never really thought about it. I suppose I always assumed he was human. Although, I should mention that even though Hal always uses the male pronoun to describe his friend, he has usually been clear that Sobo-be-nye-nye is actually a girl.

“So… what does Sobo-be-nye-nye look like?”

He finished another bite and then said, “Well, he used to look like… a baby dragon… but now he’s grown up and he’s… an ant.”

“An ant?”

He nodded.

“He was a baby dragon and he grew into an ant?”

Another nod.

“That’s kind of strange.”

Yet another nod. There was no smiling or laughing or any other indication – other than some slight hesitations as he spoke – that he was making any of this up. Imaginary friends in general, but his in particular, fascinate me. I wish I could get into his head for just a minute and see what it’s like in there. It must be a place of magnificent wonder.

The Evolution of a Snazzy Outfit

Hal found a clip-on tie in his dresser this morning and announced his intention to wear it. When I saw him next, he was wearing his Power Ranger pajama bottoms and a white undershirt with the tie clipped on.

“Mommy, where are my shirts with all the buttons on them that I can wear a tie with and that are just for me to wear? Where are the shirts with all the buttons?”

I led him to his closet, where he selected a blue button-down shirt. I then left him to his dressing choices and resumed my breakfast.

He returned in a few minutes, claiming that the shirt was too big. I helped him button it and explained that it was supposed to be tucked in. When he prepared to do so, I asked, “Are you really going to tuck it into your Power Ranger pajamas?”

“Oh! No.” He smiled sheepishly and hurried back to his room.

As I was rinsing my breakfast bowl, he returned. “TA-DAAA!! What do you think of these pants?!” His voice clearly indicated that he thought he was dressed to the nines.

He had tucked his shirt into a pair of polyester workout pants with stripes down the sides. I stifled my laugh just barely better than Jane did. Then he walked up to me and fingered the tie hanging from the collar of his shirt.

“Mommy, can you tie this into a bow tie like Daddy wears to church?” I gotta agree. A bow tie is all he needs to put this outfit over the top. Bow ties are cool.


Etiquette Anxiety

My son is missing a day of school and riding on a charter bus to his state Destination Imagination competition today. He’ll be staying in a hotel room without us. It’s a lot of responsibility to hand a third grade boy. He’s very excited and I’m happy for him, but also just a little bit anxious about his behavior. After all, he’s very excited and that doesn’t usually bode well.

So this morning when I walked by as he ate his cereal and I saw him wipe the milk off his chin with the top edge of his T-shirt, I had a mild parental etiquette explosion.

“Daryl! DO NOT wipe your mouth with your shirt!”


“I mean it! Please, please do not wipe your mouth with your shirt today. Please don’t do anything that will embarrass me.”

“It was just some water.”

“It was not water. You don’t have any water. It was milk and it doesn’t matter. You should always use a napkin. Do not wipe your mouth with your shirt!”

Daddy added in, “That’s with an exclamation point.”

“Yes, with an exclamation point. Two exclamation points. And all caps, bolded, with an underline. And highlighted. I mean it,” I said.

“And a question mark,” Daddy said.

“NO! No question mark! This is not in doubt. DON’T do it!”

My husband walked away laughing and said he was going to send the team coach a text asking her to write down all the times that Daryl did something that embarrassed me. Dads have such a higher tolerance for the foibles of nine year old boys. I guess they’ve been there.

The Continuing Saga of Jane and the Microwave

As I was preparing my breakfast plate for the microwave this morning, Jane jumped ahead of me and put a small apple-juice bottle full of ice in it. This is the bottle that she deliberately partially fills with water and places in the freezer so that she can have cold water at lunch.

“Why are you microwaving that?”

“Because I want to melt it.”

“Well you just prevented me from fixing my breakfast,” I said as I stopped the microwave, removed the ice bottle, and added my plate.

“And me too,” added her dad.

“Well, fine! I won’t melt it then.”

“Why would you want to melt it anyway? I thought the point was to let it thaw slowly so you’d have water at lunch?”

“Because I wanted it melted!”

“Then why did you freeze it?” asked her dad.

“Uggh! Because I wanted it frozen but now I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I want to put apple juice in it.”

“No,” said her dad, “you can take the water. Besides, you don’t put a bottle like that in the microwave with the lid still on it. It’ll explode.”

“It will?”

It still amazes me how many fundamental microwave mistakes she makes. I don’t recall my mother having to teach me to use the microwave. I think I will write an instructional manual for the boys based on their sister’s mistakes. Here is what will be in it so far:

1) Ask a parent or another adult for a suggestion on how long to microwave your food. You do not yet possess the skills to make this estimation on your own. Three minutes is a long time for a single slice of pizza.

2) Do not reheat items in Ziploc or fold-over sandwich bags, especially if you haven’t opened the bag. You will most likely melt the plastic onto your food and it is never a good idea to eat plastic.

3) Do not place bottles or storage containers in the microwave without first removing or at least unsealing the lid. Failure to do so will likely cause an explosion. This may sound really cool and exciting to you. Just remember that you will have to clean up the resulting mess.

4) Never, ever attempt to microwave clothing to get it dry or warm. This will start a fire and destroy the microwave. Now that you have been warned, you will be required to purchase the replacement microwave if you do this.

5) If you are uncertain on how to proceed with the microwave, do not ask your sister. She is not to be trusted.