Tag Archives | Parenting

Trying to talk to a Teenager…

I write for a great blog called WorldMomsBlog, which brings together writers from around the globe to talk about life in their part of the world. Sometimes, as you might imagine, events and issues are culturally specific but more often than not, there are shared connections, sometimes in unexpected places.

My post for WMB last week is one of those universal things, I think, at least for parents in relatively developed societies: the moment when your adorable baby becomes an adolescent with a gadget of some sort apparently surgically attached to his or her ear. Weirdly, that device–used for communication–seems to be making it harder and harder to communicate with each other: Forget Esperanto, Does Anyone Speak Teenager?

Continue Reading · on February 15, 2016 in Children, family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, tech life, World Moms Blog

what goes around, comes around: in which i suffer karmic retribution

Way back in the dim mists of time (which is to say, 1985), my family took a trip to France. I’d been studying in London and my mother, an eternal Francophile, had planned a two-week family driving tour through France at the end of my semester.  A two-week trip that she planned  before the internet.  There was no tripadvisor, people; there was no google map. It was like an artisanal trip: crafted entirely by hand.

Her plan: Paris, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, a few days driving through the Loire Valley and visiting historic chateaux; then Brittany, and the Normandy Beaches.  What a fantastic itinerary, you say;  that must have been the trip of a lifetime, you say.

Yep.  Trip of a lifetime:  My sister, sporting a slicked-back hairdo ala Princess Stephanie of Monaco, complained because the only sightseeing she wanted to do was in the Paris shops; my father threw his back out and was in dire pain for the entire two weeks; my brother only put down the book he was reading (Thomas Covenant) long enough to dart from the car to the highest allowable point of whatever chateau we happened to be visiting.  I’d like to say that I was a paragon, a perfect traveler, but alas dear reader, I fear that while studying in England I’d picked up the habit of smoking Gitanes and while I didn’t smoke in the car, I must have always smelled like a French bar at closing time. Plus I was all weepy-eyed and forlorn at having said good-bye to my Irish boyfriend, he of the peroxide-blonde hair, sea-green eyes, and cheekbones like scimitars.   I’m not even going to mention the hour we spent on the first day looping endlessly around the Arc de Triomphe, listening to my father (who didn’t usually swear) let loose a string of blue language that would make a Marine blush, as he tried in vain to get from the innermost lane to the outermost so he could make the turn towards Versailles.

Yep. A beautiful trip and mostly we were all assholes, in one way or another.

Sorry mom.

Oh the wheel of life, how it does turn.  Last week we were in Italy—there were school holidays here (the States get Columbus Day, we get Eid-Al-Hadha), the boys have been curious about Pompeii—and wait, really, who needs an excuse.  Italy: ruins, art, pizza, gelato, shoe shopping. Did I say gelato? Perfect family trip site, with something for everyone, right?

But the ghost of France in ’85 was never far away.

Liam’s feet hurt. Caleb was hungry. Why do we have to take the train? Why do we have to walk? Can we have more gelato? I don’t want more gelato. This church/building/museum/painting is stupid/boring/lame. I’m hot. I’m cold. It’s raining. It’s too sunny. He hit me. He hit me.

Ah yes, the Bicker McBickersons had apparently come along for the ride.  They had needs, dammit, and Italy was falling short of their expectations.  Liam wanted to know why episodes of “The Daily Show” weren’t downloading to his phone.  I mean really, no wifi? In the middle of Pompeii? Who can live like that? No wonder the Pompeiians died. Caleb wondered why Husband didn’t want to discuss the finer points of “Star Wars The Old Republic” as we climbed to the Vesuvius crater, which was a grave disappointment to him because of the lack of molten lava. He climbed all that way for what? A few rocks, a whiff of steam? Lame.

They wanted to know why it was a problem that they were just doing a little shoving, some fun shoving,  just some happy shoving, and they were just  goofing around because they were sooo bored. Why did I have to get so angry?


That may have been a bit of a low point. The loud swearing in the Pope’s museum. Yes. Well, Um.

Luckily we were surrounded on all sides by Chinese tourists with headsets on, so I am hoping they didn’t understand, or just thought I was praying loudly and with gesticulation.

And I was praying. Praying that someday my kids will take their kids on a lovingly planned family trip and that the karmic wheel will circle around yet again. Amen.


from a detail of a beautiful & rather disturbing tapestry titled “The Slaughter of the Innocents,  in the Vatican Museum. 



Continue Reading · on October 19, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Kids, Parenting, Travel

The Moral of the Skinned Knee

I’m borrowing the title of this post from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, that great book about the importance of letting your kids feel some of the bumps in life instead of coddling and protecting them every inch of the way.  Judging from this article about the can-you-top-this attitude towards “care packages” sent to camp, parents seem not to be getting the message, however: smuggling candy to your kid by taking out half a box of kleenex, filling it with candy, and then hot-glue-gunning the box back together? Shoving M&Ms into hollowed out tennis balls, or tampon tubes?  Really, America? really?

Anyway. Here’s what I learned today:  you shouldn’t leave late for yoga class and half-trot to the CitiBikes stand in hopes of grabbing a bike and getting to yoga on time if you’re on an uneven New York City sidewalk and you happen to be wearing your favorite sparkly FitFlops.

Because you will somehow stumble on the loose cement and you will go sprawling on the sidewalk like … like … like a middle-aged lady falling.

And you will lie face-down on the sidewalk for a split-second and think to yourself, before everything starts to hurt, “oh crap is this going to hurt.” And then it does begin to hurt and you realize that you’ve pulled not just one layer of skin off but several layers of skin, in several different places, and you will hurl a long litany of bad words into the quiet air of an early Sunday morning.

You will wonder for a moment if you can still make it to yoga, and then you will realize that there is a wee trickle of blood going down your shin, so probably not the best thing for a yoga class, and you will hobble back to your apartment.

You will not get to yoga but you will sit on the couch with your bloody knees and read about over-indulged children at summer camp.  You will wish that someone would bring you a tennis ball full of M&Ms, or at very least a cookie, but no one does. You realize that not only do your legs hurt but also that you are going to have the mother of all scabs on your legs.

There are several morals here, the first of which could be: don’t exercise. The second might be: only run in closed-toe shoes.  The third might be: always have a stash of M&Ms on hand, because sometimes a skinned knee needs more than band-aids. It needs chocolate. Or maybe a drink. I wonder how the care-package crazies would smuggle alcohol into their little darlings’ camps? Vodka in orange slices?  And god forbid any of these children end up in prison: mom will be right there smuggling contraband in by whatever means necessary.



 you should see the other knee…and my right elbow…and the palms of my hands. 

I am way too old for these sorts of booboos. 

Continue Reading · on July 22, 2013 in exercise, Kids, NYC, Parenting

There’s a Foosball Table in My Living Room

Foosball. The only people I knew who had a foosball table were Chandler and Joey on “Friends.”

Oh, okay, I didn’t really know them know them.  But they did have a foosball table.

And now I have a foosball table too.

About two months ago, before we knew we were moving, we re-arranged the boys’ shared bedroom, a shift that included moving Caleb’s legos from one side of the room to the other.  His response to this shift was something like HOW CAN YOU MOVE THINGS IT’S PERFECT THE WAY IT IS NOOOOO PLEASE NO CHANGES NOOOOO PLEASE DONNNNNNNT.

You would’ve thought we were asking him to take up residence in the cupboard under the stairs but without the consolation of magic or Quidditch.

So as you might imagine, I felt a tad anxious about how our change-averse eight-year old would handle the news that we were moving.

Then in a sporting goods store, where we were buying one of the boys new soccer shoes football boots, I had a revelation. While I was paying, I saw Caleb and Liam playing with the foosball table that the store had on display. Or rather, the boys saw “foosball” but I saw a bribe an incentive: announce the move and then tell them that the new house would have room for a foosball table.

Worked like a charm. We explained that we were moving, Caleb immediately began to angle for livestock–bunnies, gerbils, guinea pigs, dogs–then we countered with the foosball table and he was sold. Wondered why we weren’t moving RIGHT AWAY.

I found a foosball table for sale on dubizzle, the UAE equivalent of Craigslist, and voila: here it is, wedged into the living room behind the couch:


Do you suppose that either Chandler or Joey ever played foosball in his underpants? That’s Caleb’s preferred uniform.

True, my living room now feels a bit like a frat boy lounge, but you know what? Foosball is wicked fun and I’m thinking that spinning all these knobs is probably good for my triceps.  I do slap the ball into my own goal with alarming regularity, unfortunately, which means that I’m at the bottom of the family foosball tournament ladder.

Heh. But I practiced this week while the boys were at school and I’ve developed a little whizbang shot that works like a charm.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go kick some eight-year old ass.



Continue Reading · on June 14, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, family, Kids, Parenting

yes you have freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean you can call your brother an idiot


My kids get in trouble if they call each other names.  They lose precious screen time for saying “idiot,” or “stupid,” or (my personal favorite), “pig-head.”

Screen-denial happens for shoving as a response to frustration, or for bellowing “shut up,” or for clambering up on the counter and rifling through the cabinets in order to find the last two sugar cookies that mommy was hoarding for herself.  There will be no counter-clambering in my house, dammit.  (And yes, screen-denial happens if one of them happens to emulate mommy daddy and let fly a curse word. Hypothetically, I mean. If we were to curse and if they were to emulate us.)

Eleven-year-old Liam, flush with the power only a pre-adolescent can have, yammered on last week about freedom of speech and how he bloody well will express himself in the thought that his brother is THE WORST BROTHER EVER.

I said no, actually, that to express yourself for purely malicious or destructive purposes is an abuse of that freedom. And then I did some kind of blah blah blah about the golden rule, and then a little song-and-dance blahbitty blahbitty about the need for mutual respect, and that maybe if he stopped saying his brother is an idiot, his brother would stop trying to hit him.

Both boys burn with the conviction that I am far more lenient with the other, that THE OTHER ONE never gets in trouble, that THE OTHER ONE is loved more, and that my standards are wildly unfair, not to mention unattainable.

So I struggle to turn my children into civilized beings, and then I look at the tragedy in Libya, the riots in Egypt and now Yemen. It makes me wonder if we are living in the death throes of civil discourse. Maybe I should just let my kids whack each other on the head when they’re pissed off; maybe shoving and hurling insults really is the way to go.

Perhaps I’ve been too long in the world of the very young, but I can’t help but think about turning the tables. I mean, what would Terry Jones or Steve Klein have done if someone had made a video portraying Jesus as a whoremonger, a lover of young girls, a bastard, a drunk? Would they have done the Christian thing and turned the other cheek?  What about the mysterious “film-maker” (with apologies to film-makers everywhere) who made the video that insulted Islam? Or the dude who thought it would be a good idea to translate this video into Arabic, just to make sure that it got some airplay?

No, Mitt, I’m not apologizing, and no one should condone the violent responses to this video (although in Libya, it looks increasingly as if the attack had been long-planned and the video just a convenient excuse).

But underneath all this sadness and frustration (yet another nail in the coffin of can’t-we-all-just-get-along), I am having a disconcerting reaction. I find myself wanting to shut down the possibility that the Terry Jones, and the Steve Kleins, and the other purveyors of hate in the U.S. can cloak future bile in the drapery of “free speech.”  Yeah, yeah, free speech as cornerstone of liberty and all that, but you know? Really? In our house, when freedom of speech means calling your brother a pig-head, you get sent to your room and your beloved “Star Wars the Old Republic” game gets turned off.

If you’re using “freedom of speech” and “Christian values” to incite violence, mayhem, and fear, I’m pretty sure you’re not following Christ’s example. As for free speech? I’m pretty sure you’re doing that wrong, too.





*full disclosure: in the photo, the boys are actually playing a game, not trying to kill each other. although true, there is a fine line between the two.







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Continue Reading · on September 13, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Kids, Parenting, Politics, ranting, religion, UAE

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