A Day at the Baby Pool

I hold some tenure at the baby pool. I’m not proud of it. I’ve sat knee deep in toddler urine water, eyes rolling back in my head with my heart in my throat for eleven consecutive summers as my family of three inexplicably (I’m serious, Dad, I have no idea how it happened) grew one by one into a family of six.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned at the baby pool…

When your child is in the baby pool, you sit in the warmest of waters and watch as he mouths the plastic giraffe that a little girl just extracted from her swimmy diaper…the swimmy diaper her Mom is now changing on the grass because it’s full of poop. Poop that has disintegrated into 4000 individual particles. This indicates she pooped on the drive to the pool and has been in the pool wearing that poopy diaper going on 2 hours. So you can expect a raging case of hand, foot, mouth to hit your house by tomorrow. Despite this knowledge, you scramble from the water to offer her Mom an extra diaper because she’s just realized she left all of hers at home.


When your child is in the baby pool, you subject yourself to an oversized, colorful beach ball hitting you upside the head. Thrown not by your son, but by an enthusiastic 3 year old you’ve never met…and then you have a 20 minute catch with said 3 year old. You buy him a popsicle from the snack bar when you buy your kids’ popsicles, because he’s now practically your nephew. You wipe his hands and face after he’s sat on your lap dripping his red popsicle all over your Lands’ End bathing suit…your white Lands’ End bathing suit. You call him Henry, even though his name is Harry, and he answers to it. Between the beach ball, the popsicle, and the fact that he’s nearly impossible to understand, he forgives your mistake.

When your child is in the baby pool, you drink 47 cups of make believe tea with two little girls…one girl pours each of those cups from a lavender Disney Princess tea kettle with painstaking precision. And one girl gives you two lumps instead of one, and milk instead of cream with her tiny, delicate hands for each of those 47 cups. You blow on your last cup of tea just as convincingly as you did your first cup. And the girls giggle just as loudly and earnestly as they did the first time you blew on it.

When your child is in the baby pool, you are nonplussed when a 14 month old who doesn’t share your last name uses your breasts as handles to steady himself as he navigates the slippery floor on two legs still unaccustomed to supporting his weight. You fix his hat, applaud his efforts, call him “sweetheart”, give him your biggest smile, and clutch him against you in a hug after he places a wet, open-mouthed kiss on your unsuspecting lips. A kiss from which you surmise he’s recently eaten hummus.

When your child is in the baby pool, you have an ongoing conversation with another parent whom you’d never be able to identify in a lineup because you’ve made absolutely no eye contact…your eyes are trained on your own children. Or you sit next to another adult, neither of you initiating any conversation, for 6 straight hours…because your eyes are still trained on your own children.

When your child is in the baby pool, you silently curse the 10 year old who splashes in and grabs the Dora kickboard, because where on earth is her mother? She’s entirely too old to be in this pool! Until your own daughter, who’s 10 years old, slips into the baby pool to play alongside her 3 year old brother. And they share a moment of magic. And you’re not ready to tell her to get out of the pool just yet…can’t the magic last a tiny bit longer? How did you not realize back then how young and beautifully innocent a 10 year old still is?

When your child is in the baby pool, you leap from the side of the pool and cover 20 feet in two strides with the grace of a gazelle to grab the little boy who’s just slipped silently under water. Because his Mom has turned away for an instant to drag his screaming older sister out of the pool and put her in time-out for yanking the rubber duck from his hands…and you know she will never get to him in time. You pick him up, hold him protectively against you, and run him over to his Mom. She hears his gagging, reaches for him, meets your eyes, and the look of understanding and appreciation passes between the two of you. Tears spring to her eyes, and unable to find her voice, she mouths the words, “thank you”. Tears then spring to your eyes, you rub his tiny back, squeeze her hand, and turn to resume your watch over your children.

When our children are in the baby pool, we are in it together.

*An abridged version of this piece appeared in the Huffington Post on June 25th in the Parents Section.

Camp Mom. Week One.

The Interrogator trots past me. I glance up from the chocolate chip pancakes that aren’t quite ready to be flipped. He’s bare chested, and his shorts are on backwards. I smile.

They’re the same shorts he wore to bed last night. The same pair he had on yesterday.

I flip the pancakes. I hear footsteps descending the stairs. It’s the Kenyan. I smell him before I see him.

Me: “Good morning, Kenyan! Please turn yourself around and march back up those stairs for a shower. It’s been…how many days since you’ve showered?”

He touches his fingers while his lips silently mouth the days of the week.  His eyes glaze over as he does the mental math.

Kenyan: “6 days, Mom. I had a shower 6 days ago.”


Me: “That’s kinda gross, buddy.”

Kenyan: “Ooooh! Are those chocolate chip pancakes?”

I nod and point my spatula toward the stairs…which lead to the shower…which is long overdue.

Kenyan: “Oooh, Mom, are we going to the pool today?”

Me: “Probably.”

Kenyan: “No need for a shower. You say it all the time. Swimming in the pool counts as bathing.”

He has me there.


Me: “Fair enough.”

I check the pancakes. Almost done. As I walk the syrup to the table, I see the Verb in the corner. His back is to me. He thinks I can’t see him.

Me: “What do you have over there, Verb?”

He gasps…baffled that I’ve discovered him. I hear the crinkling of a plastic bag. He turns around to face me. His mouth is outlined in dark chocolate. He grasps a bag of semi-sweet morsels between his 3 year old hands, also covered in dark chocolate.

Verb: Placing the bag behind his back, “I’m not holding anything behind mine back, Mom,” he tells me with a smile in a sing-song voice.

What age do they start lying? I forget. Is this developmentally appropriate?

He runs past me into the kitchen to return the chocolate chips to their rightful place in the pantry.

Me: “Where’s Waldorf?”

Interrogator: “He’s asleep, Mom. Waldorf’s asleep. I know because I went into his room to get some Legos. And he didn’t yell at me because he was asleep.”

I glance at the clock. 8:47AM.

The Interrogator is wearing yesterday’s clothes. The Kenyan hasn’t bathed in 6 solid days. The Verb is eating chocolate before breakfast. Waldorf is sacked out in his bed. I’m making breakfast that requires more of me than pushing buttons on the microwave.

Summer is here. 4 kids. All of them home. No extracurricular activities.

Camp Mom is in session.

How was week one?

It was an adjustment. Here are some high points…and some not so high points…

I gave birth to 4 kids. Somehow, I manage to accumulate more kids on Tuesday. And it rains. And I am hell bent on going to Costco. I have 5 kids with me at the time. But I time it perfectly so that we zip through that puppy during lunch time. Turns out all of the kids love chicken cutlets. Bonus. I grant them permission to stand next to the sample cart and eat as many free samples of that bird as they can stomach. Yes, I remind them to chew with their mouths closed. I’m not raising cavemen. I hold up the bag, catch the eye of the lady doling out samples, give her a smile, an emphatic nod, a thumbs up, and make sure she watches me place it in my cart…while I abandon 3 kids next to her sample cart housing her bite size pieces. It works out perfectly. (Good news)

By the time we arrive home, I round up 2 more kids. 7 boys. Stupidity factor increases exponentially. Common sense at a dangerous low. We live in a split level house. The Legos are all the way upstairs, the costumes are one level upstairs, the Wii is downstairs. The boys are up the stairs, they are down the stairs. Up, down, up, down, up, down. While I unpack the products I purchased in bulk, I dodge boys rounding the corner down the steps into the kitchen. I sidestep boys rounding the corner up the steps out of the kitchen.

Me: “Guys, no running in the house please.”

Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat. Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat.

Me: Louder, “Guys, no running in the house please.”

Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat. Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat.

Me: Sigh. “GUYS, NO RUN..”

My 3rd warning is cut off as I am pinned against the piano. By a small child? Negative. By a large bear. Launched from the top of the steps.

I survive a bear attack. Original artwork by the Kenyan.

As I’m pinned under the bear, the guilty party flees the scene. A hit and run in my own home. The guilty party’s identity remains a mystery. (Bad news)

After crawling out from under the bear, I give all 7 boys a come to Jesus a choice:

“Legos upstairs or movie downstairs.”

They spend the remainder of the afternoon quietly playing. I spend it cooking. (Good news) Our indoor cat has a mad crush on me, so he keeps his eyes trained on me as he frolics around in the dining room. When I say frolics, I mean he really frolics. Dancing, prancing, up on his hind legs…I see him out of the corner of my eye while I cook. I assume he, like I, is jammin’ to Adam Levine.

Me: To the cat, “Fawkes, you got the moves like Jagger?”

I finally turn my full attention to him.

He does NOT have the moves like Jagger. He has a petrified chipmunk. On my dining room rug.

Our uninvited dinner guest

He’s been batting that nasty ass vermin around for a full hour while I, none the wiser, have been putting on my own Katy Perry concert in my kitchen. (Bad news)

I immediately perform the running man…double time. Very high knees.

Me: “Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, WALDORF!”

Waldorf arrives at my rescue within seconds, “WHAT? WHAT’S THE MATTER?!”

He follows my line of sight. Discovers the dead chipmunk. Looks at me. Looks back at the cat.

Waldorf: Smiling, “Yes! Way to go, Fawkes!” to me, “I’ll be right back.”

I continue my high step running man. My chant changes to, “Ew, ew, ew, ew, disease, disease, DISEASE!”

Waldorf returns less than a minute later with all 3 of his brothers. And a camera.

Verb, “Oh, he’s so cutey, cute!”

Interrogator: “Mom, can we keep him, Mom? Can he sleep in my bed, Mom? I can feed him. I’ll feed him. Can we please, please, pretty please keep him? Can I pet him, Mom?”

He reaches out to pet the dead chipmunk.

“NO!!!!” comes the chorus from Waldorf, the Kenyan, and me.

Waldorf: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! You’ll ruin my picture!”


Kenyan: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! Fawkes will scratch you!”


Me: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! You’ll get a disease!!”

The four of them turn to look at me. I can’t remember a time when 4 faces looked at me so blankly. Wait that’s not true…I see that look on their faces almost daily.

Me: “Everybody head downstairs please. Daddy will take care of this.”

I text B&B:

“Will you be home soon? There is a dead fucking chipmunk on the dining room floor, and I just vomited in my mouth.”

He replies:

“Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

I text him:

“I didn’t catch your ETA…”

He replies:

“5 minutes.”

I dry heave, shiver, and back into the kitchen. Shake my head. Shiver some more.

So, that was Tuesday.

Wednesday afternoon I have 6 boys again. And I get a long overdue haircut and color in my very own home while they do who the hell knows what sit quietly in the family room. The color is lighter than I usually go.

Me: “Kenyan, tell me the truth. What do you think of my hair?”

Kenyan: “The truth? I think it is the exact color of old person’s hair.” (Bad news)

Don’t ask a question unless you’re prepared to hear the answer.

But, week one of Camp Mom ends on a high note.

On Saturday, we take the kids to a local farm to pick fruit. My guys would eat their weight in fruit if I allowed them to…and the Verb does exactly that in the raspberry fields. It is a gorgeous day…sunny skies, low humidity…and I’m fairly sure the entire tri-state area is at the shore. So we have the place to ourselves.

Looking for strawberries

We return home in a fruit coma.  I’m the only one who suffers sunburn. (Good news)

Sunday is Father’s Day, my Dad’s 75th birthday, and the first time we see Little Sister, Flyboy, and their 3 kids since Thanksgiving. They bring their Arizona noise to the East Coast for most of the summer to avoid the 100+ degree heat of the desert. The grandkids serenade my Dad with You Are My Sunshine, When I’m 64, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Absolutely adorable. (Good news)

Monday is kinda cool. I receive an email from The Huffington Post saying they published my Father’s Day piece. (Very good news)  Ari Gold from Entourage right here…“BOOM!”  I am beyond excited that my piece makes the cut. Humbled, flattered, thrilled, stoked. Not to mention, it secures my position as the #1 child in Dad’s eyes (the best of the good news)…and, yes, I mention that to The Huffington Post when I email them to thank them for the opportunity. Oh, I most certainly do.

I spend Monday night with family at the Neil Diamond concert. 71 years old. Still performing. Voice sounds better than it has in a decade. And putting on the show of his life. Really, does it get any better?!

In the span of a week, I am violated by a stuffed animal, unknowingly host a dead chipmunk for cocktail hour, and am called a blue haired old lady by my son.

In the span of that same week, I spend a perfect day outdoors with B&B and the boys, am reunited with Little Sister, am serenaded by Neil Diamond, and am published in The Huffington Post.

Even Steven.

Maybe a little better than Even Steven.

Kinda kick ass all around.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment…

The View from my Father’s Shoulders

I learned to dance…because he offered me the tops of his shoes and his 2 gentle hands.

I learned to get dirty…because he encouraged me to climb trees.

I learned the theme song to Captain Kangaroo…because he pulled me onto his lap, and we watched it together.

I learned to love the early morning sunlight dancing off the ocean…because he hoisted me onto his shoulders and walked me over the dunes to see it for the first time.

I learned to compromise…because he gave me siblings.

I learned to be a friend to my brother and sister…because he’s remained a friend to his.

I learned to read…because he read to me.

I learned that summer is for grilling…because he manned the Weber 3 months of every year.

I learned that some people can eat raw hotdogs without getting sick…because he consumed one every time he grilled.

I learned that autumn leaves are for jumping in…because he raked them into high piles and stepped aside to watch me leap.

I learned to love the theater…because he sat with me in the orchestra and opened my eyes to its magical world.

I learned to skim rocks…because he taught me on a stream in the woods behind our first house.

I learned to throw like a boy…because he wouldn’t have a daughter who throws like a girl.

I learned to sing with conviction, with a voice not half my sister’s…because I listened to him sing, with a voice not half my Mom’s, every night in our kitchen.

I learned to appreciate Peter Sellers’ physical comedy…because he introduced me to the Pink Panther movies.

I learned to love string bands…because, in the crisp cold of the New Year, he dragged me to the Mummer’s Parade.

I learned to body surf instead of boogie board…because he believed in the simple harmony of the water and the body.

I learned to save gently used paper plates…because he was a child of the Great Depression.

I learned faith in God…because he raised me to believe.

I learned to question that faith…because he taught me to speak my mind.

I learned to admire conviction in a man…because he’s never been short on passion.

I learned to love English…because that was his college major.

I learned that Neil Diamond tours every 4 years…because he always scores tickets.

I learned to embrace my heritage…because it’s impossible not to when he loves it so much he paints his beard green every March 17th.

I learned to be carefree…because he saved adult conversations for times when children were out of earshot.

I learned the importance of balance…because he worked hard and played equally hard.

I learned that there are certain beverages I shouldn’t drink…because he told me that gin rhymes with sin.

I learned that Mom drives the car home once he sings Goodnight, Irene…because that is his song of choice…after drinking gin.

I learned that Friday night is movie night…because he began the tradition with the birth of the VCR.

I learned to be trustworthy…because he trusted me.

I learned to share certain things only with Mom…because, despite that trust, he would have locked me in a tower had he known.

I learned to continue to push my body as an adult…because he played racquetball until his knees would no longer permit it.

I learned that crew is more than a sport…because I watched his bond with my brother strengthen from their shared love of it.

I learned to treasure friendships…because he’s maintained his best for over 50 years.

I learned that the most exciting 32 seconds of college basketball occurred at the Spectrum on March 28, 1992…because we stood side by side, holding our breath, 10 rows behind Kentucky’s net.

I learned that a smile and a kind word can turn someone’s day around…because I watched him make that difference in so many lives.

I learned that a sense of humor is invaluable…because he used his to put others at ease.

I learned the art of storytelling…because I paid close attention to his delivery.

I learned the power of positive reinforcement…because he never tore me down.

I learned to feel special…because he told me enough times that I believed it.

I learned to be present…because he whispered so frequently, “Remember this moment.”

I learned to seek out silver linings…because he’s always been a dreamer.

I learned to disagree politely…because he taught me responsibility for my words.

I learned compassion…because I watched him come apart over the loss of his best friend.

I learned courage…because that’s what it took for him to stand before the crowd and eulogize that same friend.

I learned to fly…because he spent 24 years helping me grow wings before releasing me in my simple white gown on a windy afternoon in June.

I learned that a parent never stops worrying…because he asked me 3652 times, “are you OK?” when I was pregnant. Every time I was pregnant.

I learned paralyzing fear…because he burdened me with the news that he had cancer.

I learned hatred of that disease…because it threatened to take him from me.

I learned to value each day with him…because the radiation worked.

I learned the power of a grandparent’s love…because I watched his face transform when we placed my son, his first grandchild, in his arms.

I learned nothing compares to the pure joy on my children’s faces…because he so generously took them to Disneyworld for the first time.

I learned that age is just a number…because when that first grandson suggested the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, the fact that he’s 74 didn’t stop him from riding it.

I learned that sunglasses provide excellent camouflage…because he used them to hide the look of bewilderment after his Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster experience.

I learned to continue his legacy…because I recognize it in the values I teach my sons.

I learned the value of being proud of myself versus being prideful…because he took the time to teach me humility.

I learned respect…because he commanded it.

I learned confidence…because he believed in me.

I learned to follow my dreams…because I’ve watched his come true.

I learned my voice was worth hearing…because he listened to me.

I learned not to spoil my children…because, when others gave things, he gave me time, and with it we created cherished memories.

I learned to be bold…because he showed me that chances are worth taking.

I learned, upon falling, to recover with dignity…because he raised me to be strong and move forward, holding my head high.

I learned to smile for my children when my world was collapsing…because he taught me that my job as their parent is far more important than any drama in my life.

I learned that every year for him past 70 is a gift…because he’s acutely aware that those are years his father never had.

I learned that authenticity is what I most respect…because he’s always been a true original.

I learned that his opinion still matters…because when he told me, “I read what you wrote, and it moved me,” I floated through the remainder of that day.

I learned that, although I’m too big to ride on his aging shoulders, his love for me is just as fierce…because I recognize it in his blue eyes, covered by glasses and surrounded by the lines of time.

I learned to be whole in a world full of broken women…because of the unconditional love of the first man who held me.

Happy Father’s Day (and happy 75th birthday) to my Dad, a true original.


*An abridged version of this piece ran in the Huffington Post on June 18th in the HuffPost50 section.


A Sneak Peek

Verb: “I don’t want to wear mine raincoat! I want to take off mine shirt!”

Me: “Yes, you do, and no, you don’t.”

Interrogator: “I’m not going to eat breakfast right now. I’m going to play.”

Me: “Yes, you are, and no, you’re not.”

Kenyan: “My legs hurt. And I don’t like my haircut.”

Me: “No they don’t, and yes, you do.”

Waldorf: “Everything hurts. I can’t walk.”

Me: “No it doesn’t, and yes, you can.”

All this in a span of 3 minutes. While herding them to the car to drive to school.

We walk to the car. I open the doors. They pile in.

Me, with exaggerated calm: “Verb, get into your car seat. Verb, turn around and sit properly in your car seat. Verb, hand me your Legos or I will turn you around in your car seat. And I won’t do it gently. Verb, that’s 1. Verb, that’s 2. Verb, that’s..”

A split second before I drop the hammer, he turns around, sits properly and smiles.

3 year old boys aren’t any easier the 4th time around.

Verb: “I love you Mommy. Forever and ever. Ahhhh-men.”

This is his newest thing. After he tells me he loves me, he adds “forever and ever. Amen.” And he draws out the Amen. Most recently, he’s been hitting me with this gem when he’s on the toilet.  Right after he requests I wipe him.

It’s not so cute anymore.

I pull out of the driveway. Begin our 14 minute drive to school. I’m lost in thought when the Kenyan interrupts my reverie…

Kenyan: “Mommy, Beauregard’s parents aren’t married.”

Me: “I know.”

Kenyan, eyes wide: “They never were married.”

Me, nodding: “I know.”

Kenyan: “Well, how can they have a baby if they were not married?”

Me: “You don’t have to be married to have a baby.”

Waldorf, resident expert on every topic, chimes in: “Yes, you do.”

Me: “No, you don’t.”

Waldorf: “Yes, you do.”

I’m ignoring Waldorf now.

Kenyan: “I’m never getting married. I don’t want all these kids.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard him say this. In contrast to the Verb’s “forever and ever, Amen”, I find it thoroughly amusing. Every time I hear it. I should probably be insulted, but I’m too amused to be insulted.

Me: “You don’t have to have kids if you’re married.”

Waldorf: “But you do have to be married to have a baby.”

Some days I think he was put on this earth to make my life a living hell challenge me at every turn.

Me: “No, you don’t.”

Kenyan: “How does that work?”

I glance in the mirror. Eight blue eyeballs are trained on me.

I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

Me: “It works in a way that not everyone in this car is ready to hear about. It works in a way that I’m happy to explain to you at home.”

Waldorf: “You do have to be married to have kids.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake…

Me: “You DO NOT. Remember that talk Dad and I had with you about how babies are made?!”

I raise my eyebrows and make what I hope is meaningful eye contact with Waldorf in the rearview mirror. Then I swerve the wheel to compensate for the 6 seconds spent focused on the mirror.

Waldorf, suddenly disgusted, looks away: “Ugh, yes, I don’t really want to talk about that.”

Me: “I don’t either, but that’s what I’m referring to.”

Waldorf: “You mean about the no pants?”

Oh, brilliant.

I raise my eyebrows higher, make even more meaningful eye contact, swerve the wheel again.

Me: “Shhhh. Yes.”

Kenyan: “No pants? What the…”

Interrogator: “No pants? Who has no pants?! That’s inappropriate, Mom!”

Me: “Yes, it’s inappropriate.”

Waldorf: “Dad has no pants sometimes.”


Ever the instigator…

Me: “OK, enough, thank you. That’s good.”

Verb, shrieking with disbelief: “Dad has no pants? Interrogator, YOU had no pants last year! Remember, you go’d pee pee on the potty, then you came outside with no pants?” He kicks his bare feet in sheer joy.

Interrogator, laughing, “I remember, that was fun, wasn’t it, Verb? Except it wasn’t last year, it was yesterday. It was fun and funny. But Mom didn’t like it.”

Me: “I remember that you lost dessert for that stunt, Interrogator. Pants are mandatory outside.”

Waldorf: “But not when making babies.”

Angry Eyes in the rearview mirror.


It promises to be a mind numbing a relaxing 87 Days of Summer