Toddlers Demanding Coffee and English Regularity

“Buying coffee from the Mermaid,” according to my 3-year-old

Brontë (pointing through the car window): Mermaid coffee!

Me: Yep! That’s Starbucks and we bought their coffee earlier.

Brontë: Mommy and Brontë had coffee.

Me: Well, mommy had coffee and you had a strawberry smoothie.

Brontë: No, COFFEE.

Me: You loved the smoothie. You drained it.

Brontë (outraged): NO! I NOT BABY, I HAD COFFEE!

Me: Alright, you had strawberry coffee.


Having a kid can make you rethink the mechanics of your language. As adults, we’re familiar with English (or whatever our native language may be). We instinctively know when something “sounds right” or doesn’t, forgetting how arbitrary linguistic rules can be.

And it can be tough to grasp these rules when you absorbed them so long ago, you don’t remember doing it. When I was in the Army learning Arabic, for example, many of my fellow soldiers and I noticed how we had an easier time learning from American teachers than teachers who were Arab immigrants.

Native Arabic speakers were better at the language (obviously), but they knew when something “sounded right” or didn’t, without having to think about why. American teachers, on the other hand, needed to learn the rules themselves before teaching them.

Not as easy as it seems

Parents have similar issues teaching kids our native tongue.  Think about it. If our child says, “I have two mouses,” we laugh because they should’ve said “mice,” yet we don’t know why. It just *sounds* right.

We often chuckle at our kids’ cute, messed-up phrases while forgetting they’re learning English on the job. Many of the mistakes coming out of my daughter’s mouth are actually perfectly logical, except we don’t happen to say it whatever way she’s saying it.

The last time we had a storm, for instance, Brontë yelled “I’m scary!” every time she heard thunder and lightening.  I kept telling her to say she’s “scared” instead.

But her take made perfect sense.  In English, you say “I’m hungry” when you have hunger. If you have thirst, you say, “I’m thirsty.”

So why don’t we say “I’m scary” when we have fear?

If you step outside your intellectual comfort zone, hearing kids learn to talk becomes an entertaining showcase of the irregularities of the English language. Besides, their refreshing take can be hilarious.

Brontë: (pacing back and forth with a toy phone): Mmm hmmm… Yeah… Mmhmm.

Me: Who is on the phone?

Brontë (sternly): Mommy, I’m on the phone. I’m **talking.**

Me: Oh, sorry… Shh.

Brontë (pretending to hang up): We were playing circles.

Me: How do you play circles?

Brontë: I’m playing OCTOGON, BWAHAHAHAHA!

Toddler language jokes.




Six Word Story Challenge: Anticipation

Come on over and participate in the Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller! It’s lots of fun and anyone can play.
This week’s theme is anticipation. argument.jpg

I threw in two entries (you’re allowed to do that!). They were:

  1. He said, “Special dinner. Dress nice.”
  2. You and I need to talk.

Kind of opposite scenarios, right?

The Underrated World of Daddy Hacks

cropped-10924822_10152841226509821_8908954721205412902_n.jpgI’d like to begin today’s posting by stating the obvious: men and women are raised differently.

And I think these different expectations result in different parenting approaches.

Women, for example, are brought up with thousands of idealized images floating in our heads… snapshots of how a perfect life is supposed to look.

This is the perfect outfit, the right interior design, the way your hair should fall into perfect messy imperfection when having a cute pillow fight with your boyfriend.

Open women’s magazines and you’ll discover what an enviable life is supposed to look like.

They are filled with beautiful still-life compositions: pretty meals on color-coordinated table sets, adorable coffee cups with heart-shaped cappuccino foam patterns, perfect women with complex eyeshadow designs, like miniature Monet masterpieces, adorning their oval faces as they wear expensive coats while walking down lively urban streets…

Many of us grow up clutching at paint swatches and Pinterest pins, hoping to authentically express ourselves by painting our lives the right shade. If we become mothers, we fret about how to design the perfect nursery, wondering whether we are having sons or daughters and how to correctly color-coat their space.

Being a good mother, for many, means a constant production of all this conventional beauty: dressing our kids in charming outfits and serving them adorable meals on brightly-colored dish ware. We hope any candid photos of our random mothering could attest to our powerful love with their beauty alone.

Men, on the other hand, aren’t often raised with these (sometimes overwhelming) esthetic demands. They are raised instead to be practical, to fix problems, to ferret out the most pragmatic solutions. They are happy to get from A to Z with a minimum of fuss and even less concern about what observant neighbors may be thinking.

And this is probably why any time my daughters go out in public wearing something crazy, random strangers smirk and ask me if their father dressed them today. It’s funny (and sometimes true), but also illustrates how our society tends to believe mothers have this whole parenting thing down to a science, whereas fathers are holding on by the skin of their teeth.

You can see it in the countless comedy tropes about goofy dads scrambling when left alone with the children: inept fathers pouring waffle batter in the toaster while their kids are breaking plates all over the floor. In real life, any mom who mentions that her husband is looking after the kids is likely to hear chuckles and hopes that she won’t be retuning to utter chaos, as though dads obviously can barely hold down the fort while she’s away.

It’s an old joke, and in my opinion, often an unfair one. Yes, my husband’s solutions tend to be more practical than polished, but they are solutions, just the same.

Sometimes they are downright hilarious.

For example, anyone with an infant has probably wrestled with terrible restaurant highchairs before. Those things are one-size-fits-all, regardless of whether your child is 3 weeks or 3 years old, and have flimsy little seatbelts. A small baby could turn the wrong way and flip right out of them.

You have to finagle your baby out of his or her carseat, wrangle them into the crappy highchair, and try to wedge sweaters around them to keep them in place. It’s a hassle.

So when John just up and engineered a restaurant hack by angling the carseat right into the booth, I thought it was brilliant. It looked ridiculous, but worked perfectly… Bridget was happy, safe, and ready to eat. Plus, no other customers had to stumble around an awkward highchair in the middle of the restaurant:

My husband’s Carseat-Booth apparatus

And this isn’t the only time my husband’s slapdash innovations have come in handy. Many a joke has been made about babies being messy eaters, but you really have no idea how crazy it gets until you have one.

My kids love pasta and they especially love a recipe I’ve had around since I was tiny. We call it “Kid’s Spaghetti” around here. It’s an extremely inauthentic but delicious meal involving lots of sausage and cheddar cheese.

Bridget’s chocolate fine dining experience

We served it to Brontë when she was tiny and she LOVED it. So much, in fact, that she wouldn’t just eat it–she would grab handfuls of bright orange pasta and mechanically shampoo them into her own scalp.

This particular combo of sausage, cheese, and grease is insanely delicious, but leaves such a greasy neon orange oil slick on your kid that we would keep a kitchen sink bath on the ready every time we ate the meal. After dinner, we’d  scoop Brontë right out of her high chair, dump her into the sink and start scrubbing away.

But the last time we had it, John had a great idea. After snapping Bridget into her high chair, he left the table and came back with an armful of dishtowels.

He started grabbing each towel and tucking it around Bidgie’s little body: around her legs, around her trunk… when he was finished, she looked like some kind of banana-shaped dishtowel mummy with a face and two little pudgy arms sticking out. Then he plopped her plate in front of her.

When we were done eating, Bridget was a hot orange mess, but all John needed to do was peel away the dishtowels and chuck them into the laundry bin before wiping her hands. Awesome.

Daddy Hacks: not picture-perfect, but they work.



Nominated for the Sisterhood of the Word Bloggers Award!

Thank you Becky for nominating me for a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! These awards and challenges can be a lot of fun.

Becky is the author of Welcome to My Life, Part 2, a very personal, raw and authentic blog that I follow. She tried to trace the origin of this award and found interesting info about the logo. I’m curious about it myself. But without further ado…


  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Put the award logo on your blog  (See above)
  3. Answer the ten questions sent to you
  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
  5. Nominate 10 blogs


The Question and Answer Part of Today’s Program

1. List three things that are on your Bucket List.

  • Visiting the Ancient Egyptian pyramids
  • Going for a month-long cycling vacation throughout the UK, stopping in tiny villages and checking out historic sites
  • Visit Carcassonne, and other mystical Cathar hangouts in Southern France

(I don’t know how realistic our bucket list is supposed to be, but this is my fantasy bucket list!)

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Probably southern France. It’s more laid-back than Paris, so it might be more relaxing to live there. It’s also not far from northern Italy, so I could visit all the time. I love northern Italy but don’t know much Italian, whereas I speak enough survival French to get by.

This will all happen after I win the lottery, of course.

  1. What is your go-to meal when you’re home alone?

Depends on whether I want to eat something good or am just trying to shut my stomach up as fast as possible so I can get back to whatever I was doing. Usually it’s the latter, in which case, I tend to pull out corn tortillas, cheese , oil, and fry up a quick quesadilla. I dump salsa on it if I’m feeling fancy.

If I want something better, I usually make garlic parmesan or tomato soup, or some kind of pasta.

  1. Which books have you read multiple times?  Or Movies you have watched multiple times

I love The Tao of Pooh, books by Sarah Vowell, and books about some historical women, like Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette. Yes, I’m a total nerd.

Movies? I don’t usually watch them multiple times, but I do love some retro films, like His Girl Friday and Casablanca, Godfather (the first) and also the Indiana Jones series (except number 2).

  1. What is the most embarrassing concert you’ve ever been to?

Probably Warrant at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. I was dating a British guy who was obsessed with glam rock at the time. It was fun.

  1. While we are on the topic of embarrassing music, what song is your guilty pleasure?

Hmm, I like lots of embarrassing songs. “A Woman in Love” by Barbara Streisand may be the most embarrassing.

  1. What fact about you surprises people the most?

Probably that I was in the Army. I don’t seem the type (I’m not) and have had people accuse me of lying until I showed them the paperwork, lol

  1. If tomorrow you win 1 million dollars, what would you do with it?

I would find a good accountant or someone else who knows how to handle money, because I sure as hell don’t.

Then I would plan a trip 🙂

  1. What is one job you could never do?

Too many would come to mind if I thought about it, but the first one that did is working at the pound. Because I’d have to put down sweet animals all the time and it would be horrible.

  1. Five words your friends use to describe you.
  • talkative
  • free-spirited
  • curious
  • academic
  • ruthless

Good questions, Becky!

My 10 Questions for my nominees

  1. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  2. If you could be any animal for a day, which one would it be?
  3. What is your favorite world cuisine?
  4. If you could visit any country, which one would it be and why?
  5. What animal scares you most?
  6. If you were the opposite sex for a day, what would you do?
  7. If you could visit any period in history for a year, which would it be?
  8. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
  9. Are you a cat person, a dog person, both, or neither?
  10. What has been your favorite age, so far?

And My Nominees

I don’t want to put anyone on the spot, so I’m just gonna throw out some names here and you guys can participate if you’d like 🙂


How to Be A White Girl

Ava Gardner claimed Cherokee blood, like many brunettes

I always knew I was white, but never realized HOW white until my mother ran 23andme genetic tests on many family members a while back.

Because people assume I’m a foreigner all the time, I had long suspected something else was in the mix. Strangers often ask me where I’m from and when I tell them California they get frustrated, saying “No, I mean WHAT COUNTRY are you from?” as I stare back at them, perplexed. Police officers even ask me if I can speak English.

One time in boot camp, in South Carolina, one of the African-American drill sergeants was calling roll when he shouted “O’Leary!” and I shouted “Present!” (People call you by your last name in the military and we’re going to pretend my last name is “O’Leary” for a moment.)

He walked up to me, looked me over, cocked his head sideways and said, “You ain’t entirely white, are ya, O’Leary?”

He said it with the kind of Southern accent whose authenticity you suspect, since many people in the military are Southerners and the rest tend to suddenly adopt Southern accents upon enlistment.

I wasn’t clear on his motivations for asking me. Maybe he was trying to rile me (since drill sergeants spend most of boot camp trying to do just that) but if so, he was barking up the wrong tree. Because I wasn’t at all put off by the notion of not looking entirely white.

“Well, it’s hard to say, Sir,” I responded. “I’ve always been under the impression that I’m white, but who knows what your ancestors were up to and what got covered up? I’m told there’s some Cherokee in our blood, but I don’t know about anything else.”

“That must be it. Where are you from, O’Leary?”

“California, Sir. Northern California.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Somewhere near Humboldt County?”

“Yes, somewhat near, Sir.”

He smirked. “You’re alright, O’Leary,” he said. “You’re alright.”

He walked away as I tried not to laugh, realizing that 1) he took my awkward rambling for evidence of chronic weed use, and 2) chronic weed smoking made me alright in his book.

Maybe he was testing me or maybe he just thought I looked unusual, but my Cherokee explanation seemed to satisfy his curiosity. As far as I knew, my ancestors on my mother’s side were Scotch-Irish immigrants who lived in the Appalachian hills, armed with shotguns, before becoming midwestern farmers who made their way West in search of better jobs during the Depression, Grapes of Wrath style.

Dad’s family, on the other hand, came from Scotland. My great-great-etc grandfather graduated from the University of Glasgow before moving to America, working as a Confederate doctor during the Civil War, and settling in Oklahoma. Somewhere in there, someone had a Cherokee mistress, “as cruel as she was beautiful.”

Or so I was told.

She put the “Cher” in Cherokee

My grandfather, according to family legend, was eligible for a tribal roll number but declined it since he could pass for white, which is what people wanted to do back then.

This injection of Cherokee into the family bloodline had decidedly Slavic-looking results. One time at Target, a Russian woman walked up to me and started asking me questions in Russian. After I helplessly shrugged, she rolled eyes that seemed to say “Oh FINE, now you’re AMERICAN and don’t remember Russian anymore” before stomping off as I yelled “I’m really not Russian! I really can’t speak it!” after her.

And when I lived in San Francisco, the Russian doorman repeatedly insisted I was Slavic. I would tell him I wasn’t and he would look deep into my eyes, point an index finger skyward, and slowly say, “Only the mother really knows…”

He was so convincing, I half expected to find Slavic blood in my 23 and me report, but pulling it up revealed these results: white, white and whiter, with an mild sprinkling of extra white.

That may be a bit of an oversimplification.

Technically, the test revealed that I’m mostly British/Irish/Scottish with some French/Italian and a surprising chunk of Scandinavian thrown in. 99.8 % European, at any rate… a bloodline to satisfy the most discriminating of SS officers.

It was pretty disappointing, actually… I’d been hoping for a more colorful pedigree. There was a dash of Jewish and North African, but both accounted for less than 0.1%.

And Native American? ZERO percent.

Baffling. I’d grown up hearing stories about our Cherokee past all my life, and my father wasn’t having it. He was certain they made a mistake.

But after doing a little research, it turns out that family legends about supposedly having Cherokee blood are common and usually untrue.

Maybe we just long for a more interesting family background, or maybe we hope to balance  feelings of ancestral guilt with the idea that we also came from oppressed people?

Because when I look into my family tree, I only see conquerors and raping, pillaging Vikings. I wonder if my empathy for the Trail of Tears is any less valid, now that I have no genetic connection to it (no connection to the sympathetic side, at least).

True, I have lots of  Celtic blood and Celts were oppressed for centuries, but my ancestors probably lost the moral high ground after joining up with the Confederates.

Either way, it brings to mind many questions about what our heritage really means. Do we pass on ancestral guilt through our bloodlines, like the moral failings of Adam and Eve supposedly pass to every newborn, according to The Good Book, or are we free agents? Do we inherit the moral high ground, demanding a balancing of the books for what our forefathers endured, or is everything reset at birth?

Balancing those books might be a tougher job than we thought, given how much history has been scrambled with anecdotal stories and family lore. Check out this story of a man in California, who was shocked to find out he wasn’t black after a lifetime of great pride in his African heritage.

I imagine that questions of cultural identity will be increasingly complicated as genetic testing becomes more sophisticated and widespread.  Do your genetics matter more than your personal experiences? Does culture shape you more than family background? Do your features shape your personal experience more than any particular DNA?

And how much does any of it really matter?





Bizarre Search Terms

Fallout 4_20151113022948
Another kind of dick beebot

When you have a WordPress account, your Stats page provides info about your blog readership. Stuff like how many hits you’ve gotten today, what countries they’re coming from, and any search terms that were used that lead to your site.

Well apparently, today someone navigated to my site after entering “what is a d1ck beebot” into Google.

I’m baffled, incredibly curious about what they were trying to find,

And fairly certain they didn’t find it on my blog.

Sorry, whoever you are. May your future d1ck beebot searches prove more fruitful.



How To Avoid Movie Fights With Your Spouse

My husband and I try to have a date night every week, which we think is important after kids. So most Fridays, John and I drop the little ones off at their grandparents’ house for the evening before going out to dinner and a movie.

Problem is, like many couples, we have really different tastes in movies. He loves superhero, horror, and action flicks, whereas I’m a fan of indie flicks, girl comedies, and painfully slow, dialogue-heavy foreign films. Early on, these differences led to more than a little bad-and-forth sniping.

My husband’s movies

But we found a simple solution: we just trade off. He picks one week and I pick the next, unless we really want to see something that looks like it might leave the theaters soon (in which case, the other person gets to pick for the next two weeks).

This method saved us from constant bickering and has a few other great advantages:


  • We see a broader range of films than we otherwise might

Someone once said “a camel is a horse designed by a committee,” and while this may be unfair to camels, they make a fair point.

When you have to reconcile competing goals to please everyone, it waters down your choices. Since we don’t both have to like the movie, we don’t have to stick to “safe” genres.

  • We get to see what we really want

Since the tradeoff started happening, there’s been a fairly predictable schedule of chick flicks one week, then dick flicks the next.

But no one’s complaining. I may not always be in the mood to watch sarcastic renegades blow stuff up, but I’ll try to rally because I know that next week, my husband will sit through two hours of people giving each other quiet, longing looks without any fuss.

Plus, sometimes you can play the odds in your favor. Movies like Ex Machina and Inception were swing votes (either one us us might pick them), so you can gamble by picking whatever other film you wanted to see.

  • Sometimes you love something you never expected to

My movies

I’ve ended up loving may of my husband’s movie picks, even after being sure I’d hate them. The Iron Man series, for example, and Guardians of the Galaxy, were so much fun that I respected the entire superhero genre more after seeing them.

John was crazy about Life of Pi and Phoenix, both movies he admitted he would’ve never watched if left to his own devices.

Plus, it’s easier to have an open mind about seeing new films when you didn’t throw a fit about seeing them in the first place, because it doesn’t mean admitting you were wrong.

Stepping outside your comfort zone can be a great thing. You get a new perspective. It shakes things up.

And I’m not saying we never get bored or make mild threats (“I swear if you force me to watch The Gift, I will MAKE YOU WATCH ‘THE PERFECT GUY’ THE VERY NEXT WEEK!”), but arguments are minimal.

But sometimes you discover a hidden gem.

This week was Deadpool, so I’m thinking The Maltese Falcon may be on the agenda.




Six Word Story Challenge: Supernatural

“Someone in the mirror isn’t here.”

That was my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller, on the theme of the supernatural.

These challenges are fun and anyone can participate. Why not hop on over and give it a try? 🙂

Things You Never Pictured Yourself Saying

Bridget figures out how to use a faucet.
Bridget figures out how to use a faucet.


Things I found myself saying at the park today:
“Brontë, if you would keep your shoes on, the ground would stop hurting you.”


“Bridget, we don’t chew on old pantyhose we dug out of the sandbox.”

If kids have taught me nothing else, it’s that our fear of germs is learned. They MUST be building antibodies, with all of the gross stuff they find to chew on, or else we would’ve surely gone extinct from typhus centuries ago.

On the plus side, Bridget did figure out how to work water faucets, after her indignation about me wrestling someone’s discarded pantyhose out of her mouth subsided.

3 Day 3 Quote Challenge – Day 3

Today is my final installment of the Three Day, Three Quote challenge!

Thanks again to Simon for nominating me. Since I went with inspirational quotes for the first two days, I thought I’d change things up on Day 3 with something funny from Tallulah Bankhead (who was a real character).

My quote of the day: 

(Upon seeing a former lover for the first time in years)

“I thought I told you to wait in the car.”

-Tallulah Bankhead

I’d love to know the story behind this, wouldn’t you?

I’d like to think she said this in front of a crowd who knew about her former involvement with the guy. Because that’s hilarious.

It makes me consider the impact of social media in our lives nowadays. When I was vey young, the internet was around but everyone didn’t have Facebook accounts. When I broke up with someone back then, as far as I knew, he remained suspended in time… frozen in the diner where we broke up, a fork halfway up to his mouth in shock.

Of course, I knew this wasn’t the case, but it may as well been.

Now we have access to nearly everyone we ever met on places like Facebook. We can see that our exes got married and moved to Arkansas, went into real estate and bought a Alaskan Husky. When I was a kid, this would’ve been considered stalking.

And now for the challenge recap…

The rules for this challenge are as follows:

1  –  Thank the blogger that nominated you.
2 – Share one new quote on three consecutive days on your blog. They can be from anywhere, anyone, or anything.
3 – On each of the three days, nominate three more bloggers to carry on with the fun! No pressure; nominees are free to decline.

Today’s nominees: