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Poop is the word. The oft used -in spite of Mom’s discouragements – word. Aren’t there other, more interesting, topics of conversation? Sure, Mom. We’ll try.

Driving home from summer camp, Medium and a friend decided to record a spontaneous “commercial.”

I think she’s been secretly spying me watching Mad Men …

[vimeo 46521096]

Last weekend, Medium called a family meeting. We haven’t had one in months and I had no idea what triggered her to think of it.

She explained her problem and clearly communicated her expectations for our behavior. We raised our eyebrows (I may have smirked a little) and nodded understandingly. Every one of us promised to do better in the future.

We dispersed to our posts in front of various screens and quite frankly, I forgot the whole thing.

That is, until this morning, when I staggered into the bathroom for a shower and found this written reminder of my girl’s instructions:

Protected by Ziploc

She is her mother’s daughter. The “…or else” was implied.

At the end of December, the fates conspired against us and our furnace and our washing machine broke close to simultaneously. We live in Vermont, where it gets so cold (it is currently -25 degrees Fahrenheit) that some schools will close upon hearing the weather forecast (not ours, thank goodness!). Accordingly, our first priority was to ensure that our house had heat and hot water. I contrived to make the washer limp along until I reached the end of my patience with it. I was sure I’d make it a few months. The new one arrived today, in all its energy-efficient, front-loading glory. 

Next to the coffee maker, the washing machine is the most important appliance in our house. If I had to, I would hand-wash our dishes. But there’s no way in hell I’d hand-wash our clothes. After my husband came home, I encouraged the five of us to crowd around it like the proverbial golden calf. They oohed and ahhed for about five seconds before the boys lost interest and drifted away.

“You may not EVER get inside this machine,” I said to Medium, who had stayed behind to watch me fold laundry.

“Why not?” asked Medium.

“Because if the door closed, you wouldn’t have enough air and you would die.”

“Oh,” she said.

“And your brothers shouldn’t ever get inside it, either.” I added, thinking I was emphasizing my point.

“Why?” she asked.

Sometimes I wonder just how much my children care for one another.

My daughter was born with an old soul. She is more mature than her six years allow and generally conducts herself in a manner above reproach. She notices the smallest details while keeping the big picture in mind. She plans ahead; laying out her clothes the night before she wears them, making sure her bookbag is packed and ready for library day, spotting and collecting items for future projects of her own design. She is a quiet, but undeniable presence in our house. A smile from Nora is a true gift.

She also has a mile-wide stubborn streak. Once she has made up her mind, there is no moving her. And Lord, I have tried. Her dissents are typically measured and yet, forceful. To wit: the other day, we disagreed on a point. I wanted all the kids to go outside and play. She lobbied to stay inside. I gave her a choice: Go outside for a while and then play video games or stay inside and find something else to do while the other kids played video games. She firmly informed me that these options were unacceptable and stalked off to her room. She did not slam the door.

Hours later, after the cycle of diplomatic entreaties, acknowledgements and apologies was long completed, my husband came home. “Did you see Nora’s note?” he asked me, laughing.

“What note?”

“Oh!” said Nora, looking up from her snack. “It’s kind of funny, now.” She seemed a little sheepish.

I went upstairs. This is the note she wrote to me:

She’s a pistol; there’s no denying it.

I am reluctant to ring in the new year. For when I do, I will be that much closer to someone’s teen years.

Here’s to 2011, anyway!



I am what my friend E calls a “cafeteria Catholic.” I pick and choose what bits and pieces of Catholicism I can agree with and toss the rest.

This drives my mother crazy as she is an old-school Catholic. We’re talking novenas and stations of the cross and ashes on certain Wednesdays.

Growing up, we went to church every Sunday. My father, having been raised Jewish but who has not, to my knowledge, seen the inside of a synagogue in over 30 years, got to stay home. My sister and I were not so lucky. We had to attend even if I feel asleep (which I did often), raised a ruckus beforehand (ditto), or spent the mass doing math (counting how many people I could see, subtracting how many of those people wore hats and so on).

When I was three or four years old, I once crawled forward under the pews while my mother was praying on her knees with her eyes closed, a rosary clasped in her hands. She was not at all pleased when I popped up six rows in front of her and waved. There’s a look that I give the kids when they are misbehaving and I am too far from them to grab hold. It could peel paint from walls – it’s that intense. I learned it from her.

In my mother’s opinion, I have not given my children enough of a religious foundation. And maybe I haven’t. To wit:

An After Dinner Conversation with My Daughter

Nora: Does God have a father?

Me: No. He IS the father. He doesn’t have a father. He has a son, though.

Nora: Only a son? How come not a daughter?

Me: Uh…

Nora: I bet He wanted a daughter, too. Is He married? Who’s His wife?

I start thinking about how to explain virgins, immaculate conception and the progenitor to shot-gun weddings – a visit by an avenging angel on the bridegroom.

Me: Uh…

Nora: You know how Henry and me and Liam were in your body? And then we came out?

Me (cautiously):  Yeah?

Nora: Well, I thought you and Daddy made us.

Me: We did. Technically though, God made everyone. He is everywhere.

Nora: If God is everywhere, is he in outer space too?

Me: Yes.

Nora: The earth is in outer space. Does that mean that God is in outer space?

Me: Mmm-hmm.

Nora: How did the earth get into space? Was God there before space?

Brendan (calling from upstairs): Nora, it’s your turn in the shower!

Me: Go ahead honey. It’s time for bed.

Nora (amiably): Ok.

She hopped off the kitchen stool and presented the top of her head to me. I kissed it, as I have done a thousand times over. Raising her eyes to mine she grinned. “I’ll have lots more questions for you in the morning, Mom.”

You keep asking those tough questions, Nora. Even if Mommy doesn’t have all the answers!

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