Category Archives: Low Parenting Moments

Why is my 12 year old so pissed off?

It starts in the morning. Aden never wants to get out of bed, and pre-teen hormones and angst have not improved the situation.

I quietly pad into his room and gently sit down next to him on his bed, careful not to get too close. (DON’T POKE THE BEAR!!)

I stroke his still soft cheeks and whisper, “It’s time to wake up….” and then cringe inside. He usually pretends he doesn’t hear me the first time and after several soothing prods, I might get a guttural groan that translates to “GO AWAY!”

Always wary with a hint of a smile

Always wary with a hint of a smile

I’m not allowed to turn on the light or open the shades. I can’t say too much, and God forbid I ask what he wants for breakfast or lunch. It’s a delicate dance on eggshells each day.

He takes his sweet time to get ready– like, longer than Sofia Vergara on her wedding day, with the same attention to his hair — and often screams downstairs at me if one of the only two pairs of sweatpants he deems worthy, is dirty.

There are no smiles, just snarls and eye rolls galore as he rushes through his cereal (Life with carefully sliced strawberries,)  grabs his backpack and slams the door behind him.

Despite kind requests, pleading, scolding, and groundings he often doesn’t text me when he gets out of school, lingering in town with friends, and making me worry. When he strolls in and I ask him about homework, he hisses at me “I did it already!” or  “I don’t have any!” If I dare follow up with a question on what he did have, he throws his head back in disgust.


Not totally sure of the subtext. Could be “Leave me the hell alone,” “Why do you care?” or “”It’s none of your damn business lady!”

Hard to know.

What I do know is that every word out of my mouth is the most annoying  ever uttered in the history of parenthood. I am useless, irritating and an obstacle he must remove to get to his room, where he will slam the door (once so hard the knob fell off and remains broken.)

funny teen cartoon

He lies on his bed staring at his phone– participating in a group chat, spying on friends on Instagram or obsessively playing his STOP app.

He’s 12. Middle school. I get it.

But wow is he hard to live with sometimes.

12 seems to be the worst age because they’re certain they know everything, but the one thing they know nothing about is themselves. How they appear and sound to people who aren’t 12 seems  inconsequential. Every thought they have is the most important and must be expressed, no matter how nasty it is.

London with kids on

Sometimes he likes me

Of course Jacob went through this too. I went back to the blog archives and found this excerpt from when Jacob turned 13…. sounds very familiar…..

Jacob has slipped into the inevitable yet loathsome phase of believing that every member of his family is a dunce. He barely listens to our conversations, unless they’re about him– because we are clearly not worth his time. When he does grab a detail he deems worthy of his attention, if he doesn’t approve, he snarls his lip, squints his eyes, and cocks his head.

He stares incredulously with contempt and I can only think he’s wondering how he could be related to people so moronic. When we tell him to do something– anything, really– from flipping a light switch to completing a term paper– he sighs loudly and shrugs so deeply I’m surprised he hasn’t injured his shoulders. We’re such a burden, I don’t know how he tolerates us.

So yes, it’s a phase they all go through. But Aden has always been more moody and internal so he’s teenish times ten, and his contempt for me (and poor Eli, his other target) seems more visceral and intense.

But what choice does a mother have but to bite her tongue to resist the temptation to put him in his place…. and maybe even laugh at his remarkably consistent overreactions to anything that offends his fragile sensibility.

Some day– sooner than I think or want to admit– I’ll wish I had a 12-year-old home to frustrate me. So I’ll tiptoe into his room again tomorrow, and be happy he’s still waiting for me under the covers.


Those days you wish for a parenting do-over

The last few weeks have been very busy in my part of the world. All three boys are playing travel baseball and going to various camps so it’s been hard to keep any kind of schedule. I constantly feel like I’m behind, forgetting something or someone, and generally exhausted.

So read on with a little sympathy and understanding if you would, please, cuz it ain’t pretty.

Not a bad mom graphic

After a weekend of baseball, entertaining family, and attending our town’s two-day jam fest– Maplewoodstock– and the Taylor Swift concert, I wasn’t exactly on my game to prepare for the week. On Monday, I left early and had plans to meet friends after work, before accompanying Wilson to a work dinner in Manhattan.

It wasn’t until we were on the train home at 11pm when I realized Eli had a camp overnight the following night. I had not signed the permission slip or packed for him. Thank goodness for email, I was able to get the slip and the packing list at that late hour.

As I ran around Tuesday morning trying to find a flashlight and make breakfast for my other boys, Eli disappeared. I was just putting $10 in a ziploc bag for him to buy treats at the water park when Aden started screaming from upstairs…

Aden: “MOM! Eli just stole $20 from your drawer!”

Eli: “No I didn’t!!” (angry)

This exact exchange happens three more times, and Eli’s indignance escalates each time he denies taking the cash.

Me: (still patient) “Did you take money from my drawer?”

Eli: (on verge of tears) “I didn’t!!!”

Me: “Ok, then you won’t have a problem with me checking your pockets.”

He stands there with a look I’ve seen too many times before. You may recall that Eli has history of stealing and lying about it. We’ve had several discussions– within the last month– about respecting the belongings of others and telling the truth.

Childhood phase or gateway to life of crime?

Childhood phase or gateway to life of crime?

I found the $20 in his pocket and flew into a rage. I don’t love that he took it– and now I’m worried he’s been using that drawer as his personal bank for god knows how long.

But staring me straight in the face and denying it sent me over the edge. I yelled at him (a lot) until he cried, and then the camp bus pulled up.  I gave him a lame hug and sent him off for 36 hours, with my harsh words stinging in his ears and the pain of guilt weighing heavily on my heart.

In a moment of insanity, I signed Aden up for a 5 week writing class this summer. I feel strongly that my boys should have interests outside of sports, and Aden has a lot of unstructured time so we agreed he would take a class on writing about books. I put the class time in my phone on Wednesdays, instead of Tuesdays, so we missed the first class.

Mom Fail.

My apologetic email to the teacher was returned with an assignment to buy a book and assure Aden reads 150 pages of it before the next class. I reminded him several times during the week to read and as he ignored me I silently cursed myself for thinking the class was a good idea.

I already mentioned our insanely busy weekend so on Sunday night I realized he had not read one page of said book. I told him when he got home from camp Monday there would be no TV or video games until he read a lot of that book.  As we were out Monday night, I had my sitter remind him to read the book. On Tuesday morning I asked Aden if he read any of it and he triumphantly told me he read all 150 pages!

I was thrilled. Until we realized he read 150 pages of the wrong book! He “didn’t remember” me telling him which book to read, and it didn’t occur to me to be specific with my sitter.

Epic Mom fail.

And on top of that,  I was rushing to get him out of basketball camp early to get him to another town for this class and I forgot to bring him a journal he needed for the class too.

Feeling better about your parenting skills now, aren’t you?

Despite the knots in my stomach as I offered lame excuses to the teacher, it all worked out and he actually enjoyed the class, even without having read a single page. To reward him for his positive attitude, I took him for a frappucino at Starbucks. A little redemption.

But alas, our detour made us late getting home and we had to rush to get him dressed for his baseball game that night. Then he couldn’t find his game jersey. Anywhere.

Little League baseball on

The jersey in question

We turned the house upside down and as the minutes ticked away…. he was 10, then 20, then 25 minutes late for warm ups. He started yelling at me and refused to answer every time I asked him to retrace his steps on the last time he wore it. I started to get angry (again) and we argued until he finally found it in the bottom of the car trunk. Grrrr.

As I dropped him a full 30 minutes late for warm ups, he slammed the door of the car and didn’t even look at me.

Another banner day of parenting.

Every time I thought of Eli at camp I felt sad, and I couldn’t shake my bad behavior with Aden for the rest of the night. If I had been less tired, more patient, more organized, more focused, I could have handled each situation better, with a less unpleasant outcome.

So far, my boys seem to be forgiving (or perhaps just completely indifferent) when I have a bad parenting day.  But I’ve realized in my 15+ years of this mom gig, that while it feels really crappy when you screw up, you always have another chance to make it right.

You have no choice but to wake up and try again.

Make me feel better by sharing one of your low parenting moments in the comments.

Keeping it real: my imperfect Saturday night

I like that movement on social media where people try to tear down the illusion that everyone on Facebook is as happy and perfect as they appear in their fabulous photos of birthday gatherings, tropical getaways, and athletic victories.

If you’re a loyal reader (and thanks if you are) you know I’m pretty optimistic by nature and can usually find the sunny view on the cloudiest day. But lately life’s been dishing out some less than perfect moments, so I thought I’d share one with you to balance out all those shiny smiles in the pictures we post.

facebook cartoon

In the last month, we’ve had no less than three plumbing emergencies. The first was a frozen pipe that burst and leaked in a first floor coat closet. About a week later– and completely coincidentally– our very old water heater broke, flooding our basement and requiring replacement. Some bad luck, we thought.

So imagine our shock and frustration when we returned from the glorious weekend celebrating Wilson’s brother’s wedding, to find water pouring out from a light fixture and the ceiling in our kitchen, and the counter and floor soaked from the leak.

Wilson– like many men– tends to feel very out of control when we have house issues too big for him to diagnose, much less fix. There’s a lot of yelling, hand wringing and mumbling…. for days. Then there’s the bellyaching at the plumber’s bill.

I’m sure our misfortune has helped our plumber purchase that fishing boat he’s always wanted.

So last Saturday night when I was coming down the stairs, dressed up to go to dinner and I heard the guttural shouts of “NOOOOOO!!!” I panicked. My stomach tightened and visions of Noah’s flood sloshed through my head.

I ran into the kitchen …but there was not a drop in sight. There was only Wilson holding an empty plate, and screaming obscenities.

You see in the 5 minutes I ran upstairs to reapply lipstick and Wilson stepped into the family room to catch the score of an NCAA basketball game, our beloved puppy, Brady had inhaled all 18 brownies I had baked and lovingly stacked on a plate, covered in plastic wrap to bring to a dinner party.

My goldendoodle ate 18 brownies and survived on

Who, me?

If you don’t already know, chocolate is toxic for dogs. A dog Brady’s size (about 58 lbs) might be able to eat one or two and just feel sick, but 18 were sure to poison him.

I called our heroic vet– who always drops whatever he’s doing on a Saturday night — to help. He advised us to give Brady one ounce of hydrogen peroxide to make him throw up the dastardly dessert.  We, of course, didn’t have any, so Wilson rushed out to the store like a speed demon and was back in 10 minutes. He held Brady’s mouth open while I poured the liquid in.

And then we waited.

The vet — graciously answering all my frantic texts– said it would take 3-4 minutes for him to spew the sweets. But nothing was happening.

There I was, standing in my high heels and leather jacket, perfumed and coiffed and ready for a glass of wine but instead had to roll up my sleeves and get into crisis mode. (It reminded me of the time last year when both my kids got sick the night we were at a cocktail party.)

After 15 anxious but puke-less minutes, we gave Brady a second dose, at the vet’s suggestion.  Then he started pacing around the kitchen and we could hear his belly gurgling. It was a little too reminiscent of the scene in Stand By Me when Lard-Ass gets his Barf-a-rama revenge.

Waiting for it.....

Waiting for it…..

The second dose did the trick, and for the next 90 minutes I waited for Brady to chuck the chocolate, and counted the brownies as I cleaned it up. (Wilson is handy in many situations but he doesn’t do puke.)

Two pieces of good news:  most of the brownies reappeared (many still whole) so we knew he was going to be okay…and the puke smelled like chocolate so the cleanup was not as gross as it could have been.

Our friends at the dinner party — who texted words of sympathy and encouragement throughout the ordeal– told us to come on over, despite our tardiness and bad dog-parenting skills. We drove as fast as we could to flee the scene of the crime. We really needed a drink!

There is no moral of the story– except maybe that Brady can’t be trusted for even a second.  I thought I’d share the messy details to give you a laugh and keep it real.

What disasters have you survived lately? Tell me in the comments.

My Halloween scrooges

I used to get excited about Halloween.

We’d go to the pumpkin patch in search of the best gourds to carve, then toast pumpkin seeds and ghost the neighbors with fun treats and spooky poems.

Now it’s just about the candy.

Lame Halloween costumes on

In 2007, the sports trend began with Jacob.

When my boys were little we’d study the costume catalogs and pick some classics… or try to come up with clever, original outfits for them.

Lame Halloween costumes on

Jacob got creative in 2008.

That lasted a few years, but about 5 years ago, my older two– Jacob and Aden– started to turn on me.

They were so over Halloween and didn’t want to dress up.

Lame Halloween costumes on

Aden’s debut as a Giant in 2008

Aden was so stubborn one year, he refused to bring a costume to school for the annual parade and preferred to sit in the library with the abstaining religious kids instead of holiday marching.

Lame Halloween costumes on

The downward spiral of lame begins. Orange hair as costume.

They do the absolute minimum to dress up, because I made it clear they may not trick-or-treat without a costume. No dressy, no Hershey!

For the last few years, at least one of them has been a superhero (store-bought)…

Lame Halloween costumes on

Eli as the caped crusader in 2008.

….or a sports player– hardly a stretch as they wear football jerseys and sweatpants to school every day anyway. They put on a helmet and feel candy-ready.

Lame Halloween costumes on

Aden in 2009. Very original.

Other years, they’ve dressed as a robber: all black clothes and a black ski hat. Lame Halloween costumes on

Surprise! Robber, superhero and sports player in 2010.

Lame Halloween costumes on

Aden’s friend Mac had the gumption to dress as a girl. But Aden stayed safe in 2011.

I would not call this sperm-like costume inventive, just creepy.

Great Halloween costume on carpool

J and pals’ not exactly inspired costume in 2011.

One year, when he wasn’t a superhero or ninja, Eli indulged me as Justin Bieber. He was perfect and I was thrilled!!

Great Halloween costume on carpool

The Biebs in 2011

I’d have to coast on that because the following year was Superstorm Sandy. Halloween was all messed up and somehow I have no photos of it. I’m sure my kids used the storm as an excuse not to dress up and I was so wiped out from freezing my tush off with no heat and wandering around looking for a recharge with no power that I let them trick-or-treat in street clothes. Heathens!

Last year, Eli went as a ninja….

Lame Halloween costumes on

Aden went rogue…. as the Giants coach.

Lame Halloween costumes on

This week, I’ve been impressed and incredibly jealous of friends posting pics of their kids in homemade, creative costumes.

Halloween costume Hershey kiss on

How adorable is this homemade Hershey kiss? Great job Carly!

I try to suggest some original costumes every year and get shut down faster than Aden can gobble a Reeses peanut butter cup.

Cool Halloween costume on

Jared’s bloody zombie is killer

My friend, Amy’s kids love to be pop culture personalities. This year her son’s dressing up as Pharrell. And how cool is this?

Amazing kid Halloween costumes on

Amy’s kids in 2011: Barry Gibb and Ellen Degeneres.

This year Aden is dressing as a robber and Eli will be soccer star Cristian Ronaldo. As of now, Jacob has no costume.

(Heavy sigh)

Sometimes in parenthood, you just have to lower expectations. At least this year Halloween falls on a Friday, so I’ll be nursing my disappointment with a glass of wine and several Baby Ruth minis.

Post your favorite costume pix in the comments. Happy Halloween!

What to do with my 8yo son, the pretty little liar?

Last week, I took my kids to a museum (you can read more about that amazing place here.)  When we got to the gift shop at the end, there wasn’t anything crying out at us, so we left with only memories.

Or so I thought.

It turns out, someone pilfered a magnet from the Museum of the Moving Image. How do I know? Because it mysteriously ended up on our back door (which for some inexplicable reason is magnetic and holds all the cheesy magnets we normally would attach to our fridge if it had magnetic powers.)

museum of moving image magnet on

I asked my boys (ages 8, 10, and 14) and they each said they didn’t take it and don’t know how it made its way to New Jersey from Queens, New York.


I suspect it was snagged while I was distracted at the gift store, and stashed in a jacket pocket to covertly cross the state border. What surprises me is the audacity of the petty thief to display it prominently in a place I — and everyone else visiting our house– can see it.

museum of moving image magnet on

Can you find the magnet on the door?

I’m quite sure it was 8-year-old Eli. That kid is –for lack of a better term– a big fat liar.

He’s one of those fibbers who actually believes half of his own stories, which can make them more plausible, and confusing to his victims.

He’s the one who pees with the toilet seat down– leaving delightful driplets behind– and neglects to flush.  He does this regularly, mostly in a visible bathroom in our kitchen, so I know it’s him. Yet he looks me straight in the eye and says “It wasn’t me!”

He tells little lies all day long: about washing hands, finishing homework, and eating candy and junk food (leaving wrappers behind is a telltale sign.)  But there are whoppers too, like denying he swiped his brothers’ money or gift cards, even after we find them in his room.

He once told the kids at school that he had two mommies. When I visited the classroom and a little girl asked me about it, I explained he had the much less exotic mommy and daddy setup. But even then, he insisted I was wrong, and he did have two mommies and a daddy, citing our family friend as his second mother.

I wasn’t quite sure his teacher believed me when I assured her there was no second mommy, so I started to stammer and over-explain our family friendship, as Eli sat back grinning. He can be quite convincing.

no lies graphic on carpoolcandy.comSo what to do with my tall tale teller?

I’ve tried to correct him, lecture him on the sanctity of honesty, read him Peter and the Wolf.  But that kid makes Pinocchio look like an amateur.

Every time I look at that magnet, I feel a little sick.

When my oldest, Jacob, was about that age he stole a rock from the Liberty Science Center after I told him I wouldn’t buy it for him. But when he got home, he buried it in the bottom of a drawer. When I found it, he burst into tears and apologized. We had a long talk about how stealing affects many more people than just him. I said that there were lots of good reasons he shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to him, but a powerful one was to prevent how bad he felt after doing it.

As far as I know, he hasn’t stolen again, and he doesn’t lie often or effectively. I chalk that up to his nagging conscience.

But whomever took that magnet is ok with looking at it every day on the back door. Like a prize.

I’m opening it up to you, wise honorable people. What’s your best advice on how to curb the conning? Please tell me the truth in the comments.


The best laid plans: when parenting spoils a good time

Wilson and I were invited to two cocktail parties Saturday night, and were looking forward to seeing friends at the adults-only affairs. We got all gussied up (40 minutes for me, 5 for him) and hit the town.

ACHIEVE dinners invitation on carpool

The night was full of promise

We’re at the point now where we can skip a sitter if we stay local and our 14-year-old, Jacob, watches his brothers, Aden 10, and Eli, 8. The downside is they never get to bed at a decent hour and the house is a mess, the upside is it’s free.

Eli had a sleepover party so if Jacob wanted to hang with his friends at home or elsewhere, the plan was that Aden would be ok to stay alone for the evening.

But as we all know, mom plans and the universe laughs.

Eli came home from school Friday with a temperature and a sore throat. When we took him to the doctor Saturday he had strep throat and laid on the couch all day. Plan B had bitter Jacob staying home with no friends, playing nursemaid to his brother. Part of that job was giving Eli his liquid antibiotic before bed.

I was one and a half glasses into a Sauvignon Blanc, having a lovely conversation about  music with friends when we got the first call. Jacob could not get the medicine bottle open. Apparently child-proof tops only work when you wish they wouldn’t.

We tried to verbally explain how to get the thing open but after a few minutes, Wilson hopped in the car and drove 5 minutes to the house to open it for him.

He was back in a jiffy and we chatted some more before leaving for our next stop. In my old age, I find wine makes me tired if I sip it all night so I switched to a special vodka party punch that was so tasty I downed two glasses in an hour. I wasn’t driving so what the hell, right?

We checked in with the boys around 10pm. Eli and Aden were in bed and Jacob was watching basketball. We could finally relax. The parties were filled with people we love, the catered food was yummy and the candlelit homes were beautiful. It was turning out to be a stellar night.

Then the second call came in around 11pm.

It was Jacob saying Aden had woken up with stomach pains and puked all over his rug. Wilson could hear Aden in the background pleading with us to come home.

kids bathroom on carpool

The scene of the crime

I was munching on a mini cupcake when Wilson yelled at me from across the room with his serious face that we had to go immediately because Aden threw up. Wilson is very mature and take-charge in these situations.

My first thought should have been, “Oh no, my baby’s sick!” but instead it was “Damn, I’m having a good time and I don’t want to go home!”

It was probably the cocktails talking.

Wilson had car keys in hand and was glaring at me from the front door. I was still in shock and went to get my coat and purse. A few people asked why we were leaving so early (it’s not like us) and I told them about the puke. My friend Mike wondered why we both had to go home to help. One of us should be able to stay and have fun, he said.

For about 3 seconds I thought about tossing down my coat and staying, but a ball of guilt was gnawing at my insides and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it. Like a petulant child, I pouted all the way home.

But once we got there, any resentment or regret was pushed aside by my sympathy for Aden– who was doubled over in the bathroom– and the helpless look on Jacob’s face.

I was where I needed to be.

Wilson and I worked as a special ops team for the next 3 hours, taking turns between soothing encouragement in the bathroom, cleaning up the mess in the bedroom, and rubbing Aden’s back as he lay in bed waiting for the next bout of nausea to overcome him. He was heaving every 20 minutes or so until about 2am.

I had to slip out of my cocktail dress and heels so I could get on hands and knees to rid his room of the smell of puke, which is like kryptonite for Wilson. (I highly recommend rose-water from the GNC to neutralize odors after you clean up.)

rose water on carpool

Our savior

One extra special moment was when we had to shoo our puppy, Brady, away from going to town on Aden’s spew.

At about 1230am, Eli woke up moaning and crying. He was congested and hot and his throat hurt. I left Aden’s side to lay with Eli and rub his back to try to get him to sleep.

At this point, all that vodka punch and the kids’ wailing was starting to give me a headache. I needed sleep. Somewhere around 315am, Eli’s kicking and sniffling woke me up again and I crept from his room into my bed. When I looked at the clock in my room, it read 415am.

What a perfect night to lose an hour of sleep for daylight savings.

Everyone woke up feeling much better the next day. Brady even let us sleep late before barking to come out of his crate. The events of the night truly felt like a dream in the bright morning light.

As I picked up my dress in a heap on the floor and smelled the rose-water from Aden’s room I smiled. We had survived another sucky night of parenting.

Take that, universe.

Stretching my patience: can yoga help my parenting?

I recently had an epiphany in yoga class.

Moving through the different poses, willingly stretching and contorting my body, I tried to let stress and negative thoughts temporarily melt away. When I’m able to focus on proper positioning and breathing, I get the most out of the experience.

I often practice in about 95-degree heat, which loosens my muscles and allows me to go further into poses, testing balance and endurance. Teachers calmly urge us to push through resistance to achieve the best form.

We were doing a posture called pigeon, which requires you to bend one leg in front of you—shin parallel to the mat– and slide the other leg straight behind. If you can manage that, the next step is to reach your torso forward and rest your cheek on the floor. It’s not easy, but if I can get there it’s an incredible hip opener.

While you’d think my inner dialogue during this pretzel would be profanity-laced, I was surprisingly tranquil and in the moment. I tried to fixate on how each part of my body was positioned, and slowly attempted to stretch deeper into the pose.

Yoga practice on

As I pushed through discomfort, the teacher encouragingly suggested we let go of any tension. It sounds so simple, but unless you really focus on surrendering the strain, you get caught up in the pain. If you can— even just for a few moments– resist the temptation to squeeze and tense your muscles and just give in, you can actually ease into the pose.

If I can get there mentally, and then physically yield, it’s ephemeral euphoria.

After a few brief but glorious moments, a switch went off in my head and I was aware of the pain and had to readjust.

But as I was trying to override the resistance, I discovered a metaphor for parenting. Often at the end of the day, when I’m tired and my boys (ages 8, 10 and 13) are being sassy and my patience level is low, they start pushing my buttons.

I should be the mature adult who sets a better example of how to act. But when they’re simultaneously barking dinner orders at me; avoiding homework; and tossing a football in the family room, knowing full well that’s against house rules….my composure flies out the window.

If I scold them too harshly, I feel crappy. There’s very little satisfaction in telling off your kids. It’s not like standing up for yourself against a boss or friend who’s done you wrong. You don’t feel empowered, you just feel like a heel.

So while reaching my heels to my mat in down dog, I realized I need to take the Zen attitude I bring to yoga into my parenting.

Easier said than done, I know.

yoga on beach key west on

But if I can trick my mind into believing my limbs are not on fire, I certainly can find a way to abandon my ego and avoid the temptation to snap at my kids when tensions are high.

Breathing helps. Yogis often emphasize the importance of deep steady breaths.  Taking a couple of soothing breaths—and maybe even closing my eyes—when the kids are unruly may ward off a mommy meltdown.

If calm talking and breathing doesn’t work, I can always try standing on my head to get their attention.

What do you do to avoid losing it on your kids? Tell me in the comments.

Puppy 911!

I knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

Things have been going well with our new Golden Doodle puppy, Brady. He’s 12 weeks old (we’ve had him for 4 weeks) and growing quickly.

cute puppy eats poison on

He’s super smart and eager to please, and the indoor accidents are down to 1 or 2 a day, and that’s only if we’re not paying attention. He’s the perfect combination of playful and cuddly and has responded so well to puppy training I’m considering enrolling my 3 boys in a PetSmart class. Do they have obedience lessons for children?

But one thing he likes to do is chew. On anything. And everything.

It’s normal puppy behavior. We have commands that make him stop, and there are a dozen plush toys, knotted ropes, and rubber bones littering the floors of our living space to occupy his sharp little teeth. But sometimes, life gets in the way and we can’t watch him every minute.

That’s what happened one night this week when Brady got into some trouble. My 7-year-old, Eli was having a bad asthma attack so I propped him up on the couch with a mask on his face to breath in his Albuterol treatment through a nebulizer. (It looks and sounds much worse than it is.)

kid using nebulizer on

After the treatment, I put Eli to bed and came downstairs to watch TV. At some point in the evening– we don’t know when or how– Brady got a hold of a vial of Eli’s Albuterol medicine.

I heard him chewing on something, but it sounded like his rawhide bone. After a few minutes, I opened his mouth and realized it was an empty, chewed-up plastic vial. We could tell that it had been sealed, so he must have chewed it open and the liquid dripped out.

I tried to remain calm as it hit me that our unwitting puppy had just ingested poison. We couldn’t find any traces of the liquid so we had to assume he licked up whatever leaked out.

puppy eats medicine on

Remember my recent blog about how my 10-year-old son, Aden, hurt his shoulder and I neglected to seek medical attention for 3 days because I didn’t think he was really injured? And then it turned out to be a fractured collarbone, torn ligaments and a medium sprain? (Oops.)

Well apparently, with my kids, I’m willing to risk bodily harm, but I’m not taking any chances with Brady. (In fairness, if any of my toddler boys had ingested poison he too would be raced to the emergency room.)

As Wilson took to the internet to seek advice, I frantically called animal and human poison control, the vet, and the local 24-hour animal hospital. All concluded that Albuterol was BAD to ingest– especially for a 16-pound puppy– and required an immediate vet examination. I gave Wilson no option but to jump in the car with Brady at 11:45pm and head to the nearest animal hospital 30 minutes away.

Clueless little Brady made friends with everyone in the place with his tail-wagging and face-licking charm, and showed no symptoms of any distress. We were told the poison (if he ingested it) could cause heart problems, seizures, and/or disorientation. Although he showed no discomfort throughout the entire process, we were not willing to risk not treating him, especially since it was so late at night.

The vet hospital hooked him up to an IV with special fluids, fed him charcoal pills to soak up the toxins, and monitored him overnight. He came home the next morning exactly the same adorable puppy we know and love.

Except he did have a section of his paw shaved and taped where the IV was, which freaked the kids out a bit. But they slept through the whole trauma so Wilson and I bore the stress and guilt alone that night.

puppy eats medicine on

Brady biting at his taped paw after the vet removed his IV.

Good news? Brady is completely fine and now we know what to do in case of emergency and how careful we must be about watching him.

Bad news? That little visit cost $800!

Would love some advice on pet insurance from you dog lovers out there. Looks like we’re going to need it.

And the worst parent award goes to….

I like to keep it real with you people so I’m going to admit to a recent low parenting moment.

I was in the middle of a very busy day last week when my 10-year-old son, Aden, came home with an ice pack on his slumped shoulder and a miserable puss on his face. He’d been tackled while playing football at the park with friends.

He was wincing–but not crying– as he summoned all his medical knowledge to explain that he had dislocated his shoulder. I’m no doctor but I know that a dislocated joint looks nasty and causes constant pain and discomfort, similar to labor.

There was no way he dislocated his shoulder.

I was headed out to volunteer in my younger son’s art class and luckily my mother was visiting and agreed to stay with Aden while I fulfilled my smock duty.  I gave him a pain reliever and instructions to ice the spot on and off for the next hour.

But as I went through the motions, all I kept thinking was what a pain in the ass this sudden injury was and how it was completely disrupting my day. And then what a rotten mother I was to think such evil thoughts.

It’s easy to feel empathy and want to comfort my kids when they’re feverish or throwing up. I’ve been on many a playing field, clutching my stomach with worry over a bad hit or a wound gushing blood.

But this was one of those nebulous, ‘could be nothing’ injuries that drive me nuts.

By the time I got back, Aden was sitting on the couch, engrossed in some Disney channel show and seemed just fine to me. When he realized I was in the room, he grabbed at his bad shoulder and slumped it further down to Quasimodo standards.

It’s not that I thought he was faking exactly, but I was pretty sure he was experiencing a dull ache and a sharp need for attention. He continued to insist the shoulder was dislocated,  and whined about the pain.

I reluctantly called the orthopedist. The nurse said their X-ray technician had left so I could make an appointment– the soonest one was two days later.  Or I could go to the emergency room, wait two hours for an X-ray, and have a physician’s assistant tell me to go see an orthopedist.

I opted to wait and see.

I also called a close friend who’s an orthopedic surgeon who told me that of course he couldn’t diagnose him over the phone but he definitely had not dislocated it, and would probably feel sore for at least a week.

Both medical opinions made me feel a little less guilty that I was basically neglecting my child.

Aden slept fine and didn’t complain of pain in the morning so I sent him to school. Within two hours, I got a call from the nurse claiming he was in so much pain he couldn’t finish the day and I had to pick him up and not return until we had seen a doctor.  She didn’t ask him to take his sweatshirt off (a sweatshirt he managed to pull over his head without apparent distress that morning) to examine the injury, she just acted on his pain complaints.

Sprained arm on

Instead of feeling bad for the kid,  I was annoyed that I had to pick him up early and couldn’t get work or errands done. The nurse added to my errand list by suggesting I go immediately to CVS to buy Aden a sling to relieve his pain.

When I picked him up, he got in the car grinning and asked what we were doing the rest of the day, like it was a sunny Saturday afternoon.


(I’m a terrible horrible person.)

I was snippy with him in the car as we drove to CVS, and refused to get him candy at the register. “There will be no treats! There will be no TV! You should be in school!” I yelled. He shrugged his one good shoulder and skipped out of the store. We had tried on the sling to make sure it fit, and he was smiling ear to ear as we walked to the car.

” I kind of like it when I get to wear a cast or a sling,” he admitted cheerfully.

Remember, he’s my middle child of three boys. His brothers each have huge personalities, talk incessantly, and often suck all the air out of a room. So when Aden can briefly grab the spotlight, he milks it.

Realizing that made me soften a bit and drop my sassy attitude for the rest of the day.

The next morning, the orthopedist looked at the slight swelling in Aden’s shoulder and asked him to move his arms to demonstrate his range of motion. He took an X-ray and guess what?

Sprained arm on See the tiny little line at the end of his collarbone? Hairline fracture!

That little stinker has a medium sprain and torn shoulder ligaments and a tiny fracture on his collarbone!

It’s basically the equivalent of an adult’s separated shoulder, but kids are so rubbery and active, it heals much faster. Course of treatment? Three weeks in a fancy sling (upgraded from CVS model) and no activity whatsoever until he sees the doctor again.

I was surprised and chagrinned.

Sprained arm on

I still don’t think a trip to the emergency room was necessary that first day, but I might have offered a little more compassion.

In the end, Aden wasn’t looking for sympathy, he just liked having something that made him feel special.  Everywhere he goes, people ask what happened and he happily explains the injury and diagnosis in great detail.

I’m thinking the novelty will wear off in about a week when people stop asking and he realizes he still can’t play on his fall ball team or with his friends for another two weeks.  Then he’ll really need me, and I’ll make sure to be there for him.

That is, if I can work sensitivity into my busy schedule.

I survived one of life’s embarrassing moments

The other day I decided to make a new recipe for spaghetti and clam sauce. I took 7-year-old Eli with me into our small village to get clams. I parked in front of the frozen yogurt store and saw my friend Callie* in the window. I went in to chat with her briefly and then headed to the fish store. After gabbing with the friendly guy behind the counter, I  bought my clams. Next, I took Eli to the grocery store to get chicken nuggets, because he’s mildly allergic to shellfish and can’t eat the clams. I saw a few people I knew in the store, nabbed my nuggets, and left.


When I arrived home a few minutes later and walked into the house, my 10-year-old son, Aden, startled me, yelling,MOM!”

What?” I said defensively as he looked at me with mouth gaping open.

“What happened to your pants?” Aden cried.

“What do you mean?” said I, looking down at my blue cotton capri pants. They looked fine to me.

But Aden was pointing to my behind with wide eyes and a goofy grin. Now Eli was in on the action and started pointing too.  I craned my neck around and saw what looked like a rip in my pants. I reached down to discover a giant gaping hole!

This wasn’t a split on the seam or small cut on the pocket. It was air conditioning. I had a tear in my trousers that put my derriere on display!

I don’t know how I didn’t notice it because now all I could feel was the air rushing through fabric to my skin.  As my charming children burst into a fit of giggles, I ran in horror to the mirror to look up close.

Then I started to remember all the places I had visited in town, all the people I saw… and panicked about whether they had witnessed my wardrobe malfunction.

Eli, did you see this hole when we are at Kings?!” I shrieked.

He couldn’t remember. First he said yes, then he said, no. I was comforted by his uncertainty and ran through all the possible ways the rip could have occurred.

I have a wire back support attached to the driver’s seat in my minivan. I convinced myself that the pants got caught on it as I was exiting the car. Surely I would have noticed this behemoth break in my britches if it happened in town.

Now, with a reasonable explanation to allay my fears, I proceeded to make my spaghetti and clams, still wearing my holey pants. I wanted Wilson to get the full effect of my folly when he got home. Just telling the story would not do, he needed the visual.

Life's embarrassing moments ripped pants

Impressive, no?

(I can’t tell you how much I loathe posting a fanny photo, but it really enhances the story.)

Meanwhile, at a party a few days later, I  ran into Callie. Just to be sure of my theory, I casually asked her if she happened to notice  a gap in my pants when I saw her at the yogurt store.

” Oh, yes! I did notice that, ” she said looking slightly worried.

I was mortified.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I implored, still in a mild state of shock. Now the truth hit me like an ice-cold bucket of water over the head. I really had pranced all over town, chatting it up with friends and strangers, with my haunches hanging out.  There was no denying it.

The only thing to do was laugh.

Although my lining was ripped, I found some silver in it. I’m grateful I didn’t discover the split until I got home. How would I have found a graceful exit to any of the stores I visited that fateful day once humiliation set in? It was hot out.  I had no sweatshirt to tie around my waist, no blouse to untuck.

And, my story has brought smiles to the faces of many. My friend, Rebecca, says she was washing dishes and found herself chuckling aloud at the thought of me and my holey pants trotting down Main Street, completely unaware.  I’ve shared the story many times with friends who’ve howled with delight.

I like to think I’ve created my own Sisterhood of the Unraveling Pants.

Don’t leave me out here, practically naked, all alone. Tell me your most embarrassing story in the comments!

(*not her real name to protect the innocent….and/or guilty!)