All those teeth

George lost a tooth.

“You can leave that out for the tooth fairy,” I said. 

George rose from the dinner table and walked into the kitchen. The garbage can lid rose and fell, and then George returned to the table, empty-handed.

“Where’s your tooth?” Tobin asked.

“I don’t want the tooth fairy coming into my room at night,” George said. 

“The tooth fairy will leave you a dollar,” Theo said.

“It’s creepy,” George said. “Some strange lady coming into my room while I’m sleeping and taking my tooth. What does she do with all of those teeth?”

“What about Santa?” my uncle — visiting for the weekend — asked. “Is Santa creepy?”

“Santa’s magic,” George explained. “He brings presents. He’s not taking anything away.”

“Maybe the tooth fairy’s building a boat,” Theo said. “You know, like the ship of the dead.” This is from Norse mythology, the boat built from the fingernails and toenails of the dead.

“Not from my teeth,” George said. Read more

  1. What if everyone really is doing the best they can?
  2. What if I behaved as if the world were an abundant place?
  3. What does this moment feel like in my body?
  4. What if not everything my parents taught me about the world is true?
  5. How would I behave if my goal were to connect rather than to win?
By Alison S. Lebwohl

Image by Ioannis Ioannidis from pixabay

Home improvement

It started, I suppose, with getting a dog.

Because we got the dog, we needed to replace the backyard fence.

“We can do this ourselves,” Tobin said. This was a few weeks ago. It was an old split rail fence, lined with wire fencing, and it had started to rot and lean in places.

“We can do it together,” I said.

In our 15 years of marriage, we have an uneven history of doing projects together. So Tobin was only mostly joking when he started the project task list with (1) put marriage therapist on speed dial.

I suggested that we make the fenced yard smaller, let the wild wooded area get larger.

“I’m not making our yard any smaller,” Tobin said.

On one side of our property, a wooded area leads down to the creek. Inside our fenced back yard, mature oaks and hickories shade thriving ornamental bushes, neglected flower beds and a large savannah of weeds, nuts, sticks and dirt.

Tobin’s arms were folded across his chest.

“OK,” I said. “We can keep the yard the same size.”

We watched some online videos on split rail fencing, then measured, selected materials, called Diggers’ Hotline.

“I don’t think we need to call them,” Tobin said. Read more

Believe me

“Should we tell them about The Bunny this year?” Tobin asked.

It was Saturday night and we were driving to my sister’s house for a Passover seder. It was also the night before Easter.

“Up to you,” I said. “You’re the Christian parent.”

The boys are 9 and 11 years old. Questions like this come up more frequently now: Santa, Bunny, Fairy.

“I’m worried if we tell them about The Bunny, other things will start to unravel,” Tobin said.

“What will unravel?” Theo asked from the back seat, looking up from his book about Norse mythology. “What does unravel mean?” Read more

Life with kids

“Want to play Life?” Theo asked.

“Ticket to Ride?” I asked.

Theo shook his head.

Othello? No. Sleeping Queens? No. Catan? No.

As we were setting up the game board with its brightly-colored track, and built-in spinner and plastic car tokens, Tobin and George came home.

“Want to play Life, Dad?” Theo asked.

Tobin shook his head. “I’m going to start dinner,” he said.

“Can I play?” George asked.

Behind George, Theo shook his head, vehemently. The last time we played a game with George, he got mad when he was losing — or maybe when he was caught cheating — and threw the dice so they bounced everyone’s players and pieces off their respective places on the board.

Still, it’s my job to believe — perhaps foolishly — that my children can make different choices than they have in the past. “Let’s include George,” I said to Theo.

“Then I’m not playing,” Theo said, crossing his arms.

But after we agreed that everyone would be respectful of the rules and the physical game and the other players and the other players’ bedrooms after the game, we put three car tokens at the start of the game and inserted one colored plastic peg in the driver’s seat of each car — blue for boys, pink for girls. Then we began spinning and drawing cards and moving spaces.

Theo was the first to get married. Read more

Super worm mom

“Did you see the moon this morning?” I asked. I had seen it from the dining room table before the sun rose: enormous, butter-yellow, resting in the branches of the neighbor’s oak tree.

“It was a supermoon,” Josie (my niece) announced, looking up from the origami cat that Lauren (my sister) was folding for her. “It’s a super worm moon.”

“What’s a super worm moon?” George asked.

Josie shrugged. “We were talking about the supermoon today and someone said it was a super wolf moon and someone else said it was a super blue moon, so my teacher looked it up. She said it was a super worm moon.”

“So what is that?” George asked again.

“All over Madison,” Josie said. “Kids are asking that. That’s what my teacher said. That at every dinner table tonight, kids would be asking their parents, ‘What’s a super worm moon?’”

“Let’s look it up,” George said.

We were busy folding and cutting and talking.

“Later,” I said. “We can look it up later.”

At the end of the table, Theo was folding a series of irregular diamonds. He had a stack of them beside him. Read more

Bigger Panda

“Dad, if you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” Theo asked Tobin.

It was bedtime. Theo was lying on our bed with Tobin and George. Juno was curled up next to them. I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom.

“And you can’t wish for more wishes,” Theo said. “That’s against the rules.”

“Can we wish for the wisdom to make good wishes?” I asked, mouth full of toothpaste.

“Also,” Theo said. “You can’t wish to be able to wish for more wishes. That’s also against the rules.”

“Can we wish that our wish would have no unintended consequences?” Tobin asked.

“Like what?” Theo asked.

“Like I wish for an end to world hunger,” Tobin said. “And then everyone lives and the population problem gets worse.”

“Dad,” George said. “You could wish for a Lamborghini. Or a Subaru. Subaru makes cool cars.” Read more

The princess and the politician

George wanted to know about Sleeping Beauty.

“How did that come up?” I asked. He shrugged. It was Wednesday after school. Or maybe Thursday.

“Can you tell me the story?” he asked.

“It’s a fairy tale,” I started. “The king and queen have a baby girl, a princess.”

George wrinkled his nose. “We don’t like princess stories.” He swept his arm to include Theo, who was making a snack in the kitchen. “We only like Frozen because of Olaf.”

And then he looked at me, expectantly. Read more

George writes his birthday list

Last week, George started putting together a list of things he wants for his ninth birthday.

This is what is on it. Straight transcription.

George birthday list

  1. Beat’s head Phone
  2. Amulet Seires
  3. Minecraft Seires
  4. fernicher for room and stuff
  5. buck’s hat
  6. Minecraft lego
  7. football resever gloves
  8. waky takys
  9. bager gear
  10. Gizmo watch
  11. camra
  12. pareket
  13. hoodie’s
  14. Skateboad
  15. Panda
  16. Puzzels
  17. red panda
  18. uculale

Lines 19 through 35 are numbered, but still blank.

“Are these in order?” my sister Nina asked. “Are the things you want most on top?”

Read more

Never in a thousand years

“Mom,” George said. “Tell me a riddle. Or a joke.”

He was setting the dining room table. Napkin, fork, knife, spoon, repeat.

I considered.

“I don’t think I have any new ones,” I said.

“That’s ok,” George said. “I don’t mind.”

And this is true. He doesn’t mind if you tell him a joke he already knows. Sometimes — though it’s rarer these days — if he likes a joke you’ve told him, he’ll repeat it back to you. Right away.

“I could tell you a froggy-in-the-well,” I offered. Read more