I’ll sleepover when I’m dead

When you’re a teen-age girl, slumber parties are all makeovers and junk food, Tiger Beat perusing and MASH-playing, giggling and crank-calling boys. There is no down side to any of this. When you’re the mom of the slumber-party thrower, however, sleepovers are all down side.

We’re not quite sure where Maddux picked up her fixation with slumber parties (as always, I will happily lay the blame at the feet of the princess-industrial complex), but at some point when she was 4, she began begging for a sleepover with James. Having shared many a hotel bed with my children, I wisely declined, but Chris blithely suggested to our daughter that James and I would both sleep in her room on Christmas Eve. (Never mind that Santa cannot deliver presents if he is wedged underneath a slobbering, sweaty 3-year-old who stayed up talking gibberish until he passed out, mid-sentence, at 12:30 a.m.)

Since then, there have been two mom-sanctioned sleepovers — and countless other instances in which, upon hearing giggling and heavy footsteps three hours past bedtime, we have discovered the children throwing themselves a rollicking impromptu slumber party. But, for Maddux, too much is never enough.

This past January, I picked my wee kindergartner up at school one afternoon and was not so much asked as informed, “Mommy, I’m having six girls over for a sleepover tonight.”

Oh, really?  I quickly disabused my daughter of the notion that she could throw spur-of-the-moment overnight parties in what, that afternoon, happened to be a pigsty nearing “Hoarders” proportions. Her six friends were very disappointed, as they had already received their invitations, but I figured their mothers would appreciate their not acquiring tetanus staying up late on a school night.

Instead, I promised that she would get to throw a non-overnight pajama party on a weekend (TBD) as a reward for meeting her reading goals. The weeks flew by, and “TBD” went from February to March to April to “sometime before school lets out.” Then it was time for school to let out.  With one day left in the school year, Chris and I worked out a date when Nana could take the boys overnight so the wave of giggly, whispery, Disney-brand femininity invading our house would not be assailed by the usual horde of short-circuiting robots, brakeless tank engines and hungry tyrannosaurs. Instead of six girls, I made her invite eight so as not to exclude anyone in her class.  Luckily, only five could make it.

On Friday, the long-awaited girlfest finally happened. According to the little girls’ PJ-party postmortem, it was all pillows and stuffed kittens and pizza and cupcakes and swooning over the hero from “Tangled,” who was roundly deemed “nice and handsome.” In reality, the girls spent approximately 15 minutes playing happily in Maddux’ room, 10 minutes watching the movie and consuming popcorn, 5 minutes getting manicures and promptly threatening the white couches with dripping Technicolor nails, 5 minutes eating pizza, 30 seconds decorating and eating cupcakes, and two hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds engaged in school-age girl-on-girl emotional warfare.

Actual quotes from the party:

“Give me your unicorn —  or I swear I will never speak to you again.

“You can’t just boss people around.” (Said in bossiest voice possible.)

“Just because she’s being horrible doesn’t mean you should be horrible back.”

“It’s not fair for you to have two glowsticks!” (Said as someone picked up a stray glowstick while holding her own glowstick.)

“Seriously. If you don’t give me that unicorn, you will not exist to me.”

And just like that, the usual horde of berserk tyrannosaurs didn’t seem so bad.  I swigged back some Coke, mediated disputes over fairy wings, magic wands and stuffed unicorns, and agonizingly waited for the hours and minutes to tick by. (A note: Never, under any circumstances, schedule a children’s party to last longer than two hours. Three and a half hours, just FYI, not only will drive you insane, but is an amount of time only an already-insane person would consider when planning a party for 6-year-old girls. Lesson learned.)

After the unicorn-related emotional blackmail, bossiness and condescending judgment of others’ behavior on the part of all six girls, I was worried that the gang of friends who entered the house three-and-a-half hours earlier would leave the party sworn enemies. But that’s the thing about girls. We are eternal optimists. We let kids drown us in saliva on Christmas Eve. We plan overlong parties. And when we have overly dramatic disputes with our BFFs, all we remember afterward is the cupcakes and unicorns and our mutual appreciation for the handsome cinematic hero.

To my undying shock, not only did Maddux pronounce this gong show from the bowels of Hades “the best night ever,” but apparently all her friends went home and chattered happily away about the party all weekend, leaving out entirely any and all tales of unicorn rustling or glowstick misappropriation.

And then, as I laid in bed afterward — thoroughly exhausted both physically and emotionally — and looked back on my childhood sleepovers with fresh Mom eyes, I remembered that it wasn’t all MASH and makeovers. There were disputes over how some girlfriends treated other girlfriends. There were arguments over clothes, boys and whether to play Truth or Dare or be a stupid weenie and go to sleep. And, of course, there was the fateful sleepover when I was 7 and had to alert my parents to the existence of a clothing fire.

Yes, come to think of it, I believe we’ll be doing these daytime pajama things for quite awhile longer.

Breaking Bad

Ahhh, spring break! Remember spring break? When we were in college, it was a time to go skiing or party at the beach, or perhaps to take advantage of the underage-drinking loophole in the great state of Louisiana.

Once you have kids, however, they have spring breaks of their own. And if you do go skiing or visit the beach, it is most certainly not a break for Mom and Dad — no matter how many tequila shooters you do. (Just kidding! I didn’t do any tequila shooters, because we have no tequila. Believe me, I checked.)

Because our children don’t travel well, we opted to stay sane home this year.

The week began promisingly enough. The kindergarten’s class mom organized a series of group playdates, with the first at one of our favorite local parks. The kids did a fantastic job of not being complete hooligans, and nobody had to have a time-out in the stroller. I started the next day with a 6 a.m. workout and a coffee, confident that this spring break would be different. It would be exciting! Productive! Or at least somewhat less insane, and I would not spend days on end in my pajamas, binge-eating tortilla chips and counting down the hours.

Right now, James is in a contrary phase. Well, the contrary phase has technically lasted about a year and a half, but right now he’s in a particularly contrary phase. So we’ve been trying to keep him out of the other kids’ hair on difficult days. Our innovative strategy has involved lots of Scooby Doo in Daddy’s office.

However, seeing as how Daddy is the sole wage earner, sometimes James had to mingle with the other children. Occasionally, the mingling involved insisting that everyone watch his favorite episode of Scooby Doo. Other times, it involved throwing a blanket over his head and volunteering for a beatdown (a.k.a. “ghost wrestling”). But this is how several hours of each day went:

James: “You can’t play with my Littlest Pet Shops!”

Maddux: That’s my Littlest Pet Shop, Jamesy! Stooooooooop!”

Me: “The Littlest Pet Shops are in time out now.”

Thomas (fending off James’ grabby hands): “Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!”

James: “I want that Percy train!”

Thomas (clubbing James over the head with Percy): “You no take my train!”

Me: “James, get in time out! Thomas, time out!”

Maddux: “Mommy, Jamesy’s not in his time out!”


Mommy: “And Scooby Doo is going off the TV now.”

James: “Mommy, you’re a poo-poo-head robot.”

Thomas (escaping from time-out and dancing in the middle of the room with enormous cheesy grin): “Thomas poo-poo-head robot! AHAHAHHAAAHAAA!”

Me: “Sweet merciful crap. I need so much more coffee.”

And so were great amounts of coffee consumed.

Because a little crazy is never enough, I decided to undertake two spring break projects (three, if you count the Christmas tree, which is stripped of ornaments but still standing). The first undertaking, Thomas’ potty training, was a complete bust — unless letting a 2-year-old pee in Disney Cars underwear instead of Pull-Ups and then feeding him jelly beans for sitting fruitlessly on the potty constitutes success.

The second project was eliminating James’ nap.

I have tried many times to cut out the nap, but James tends to crash hard around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, after which point our adorable child might as well be a wild boar on methamphetamine. But after a nice, refreshing afternoon nap, James was staying up until 9 p.m., or, occasionally, 1:30 a.m., and acting like a meth-crazed wild boar in school.

If my child is going to race about growling and attacking people like some feral animal, I’d rather have it be at home than at school. So we stuck it out through two horrible, irrational days of meth-crazed wild-boar boy, and finally James started going to sleep at a civilized hour and acting human during the day. Success!

Until …

Somehow, a year or so ago, Maddux got it into her head that there is nothing cooler in all the world than — get this — a sleepover.

Raise your hand if you think this is a good idea. No one? Yeah, me neither.

But gut feelings aside, in 2009, on Christmas Eve, I agreed to sleep in Maddux’ room along with her and James. They were very excited, because we have a hard-and-fast rule that people sleep in their own rooms. (You know, so they can sleep.)

Maddux was bright-eyed and giggly at first, but she’s a morning lark rather than a night owl, so by 8:45 she was exhausted. James, however, chattered away nonstop about trains until 12:45 a.m. Maybe longer. I don’t know, because I fell asleep. Then Maddux woke everyone at 6.

I swore it would never happen again.

But somehow, the kids finagled another sleepover during winter break. This time, I was smart enough not to try to sleep in the room with them. Not so smart, however, was Maddi’s decision to wake James at 9 p.m. because he was drooling. Having been completely reinvigorated by his 20-minute nap, James stayed up into the wee hours and the sleepover was aborted. Apparently, though, in my half-asleep delirium, I promised the children that they would get a second chance over spring break.

Let me make it clear that neither do I remember making any such promise nor do I find it plausible that I would have done so. Nevertheless, I let the little ones have another sleepover. (Well, once I found them entrenched under Maddux’ bunk bed at 8:45 p.m. surrounded by everything James has ever owned and looking up at me with their most plaintive saucer eyes, anyway.) They were asleep by 10, but the next day, James was so tired he had a nap. As the kids say, facepalm.

Add to all that a shopping trip on the penultimate day of spring break, which — in addition to the usual mirror-licking, begging for everything in a 5-meter radius by Maddux, rejection of any and all new clothing by James, and throwing of decorative rocks in fancy stores — also included the improper use of the stroller as some sort of MMA fighting cage on wheels.

Corn chips — check.
Pajamas — check.
Tequila shooters — checked. Couldn’t find tequila, settled for Riesling.

The only thing breaking this spring was my sanity.

An Inconvenient Tooth

When Maddux’ bottom incisors came in, late in 2005, they seemed huge. To my slight dismay, these sharp invaders had broken up the pristine pink gum line that featured prominently in her adorable, gape-mouthed baby grins. But as I tried to pull her left mandibular incisor last night, it occurred to me that those teeth — so conspicuous in her mouth five years ago — were actually really tiny. And now, just when I’ve gotten used to them, they’ve decided to come out.

Of course, while I drag my heels at every milestone, reluctant to admit my children are no longer wee, helpless newborns, Maddux is more than happy to grow up.

She’s been shopping for her own clothes since she was 2 — often gleefully handing the cashier my debit card — and recently invited six classmates to a sleepover at our house, scheduled for that very night without my knowledge. (Much to her dismay, the sleepover was postponed indefinitely.) A month ago, she started talking about her loose tooth. Remembering with near-certainty that almost everyone I knew lost their first teeth at age 6, I blew it off. After all, Maddux also claims to have superpowers and swears she saw a baby bird trying to hatch out of a white stone she brought home from school.

But the talk of a wiggly tooth continued.

“Wanna see me wiggle my loose tooth?” Maddux asked me one day three weeks ago.

“Sure, honey,” I said, playing along like a good mommy.

To my great surprise it was actually loose. Really loose. She’s been wiggling it to and fro, backward and forward, pushing it with her tongue and cracking it against her upper incisors with abandon. At least once every five minutes, her friends and family have obligingly watched her perform various feats of dental flexibility and pain tolerance.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, Maddux came to me. Her bright eyes bore a mixture of anxiety and giddiness.

“I’m ready for you to pull my tooth, Mommy, ” Maddux announced solemnly, pride tugging the corners of her mouth ever so slightly.

With Daddy wielding the camera, we stood in the hallway, I with a tissue to help me grip the little tooth, Maddux with her mouth open like a manhole — as much as that is possible while smiling and bugging out one’s already preternaturally large eyes, anyway.

Unfortunately, while she’s grown into her teeth, Maddux apparently still makes just as much drool as she did when she was a tiny little thing of seven months. Between her slick, ever watering mouth, her penchant for biting down nervously, and the little barley-size kernel of a tooth, it was impossible for me to get enough of a grip to pull. We called it a night, and Maddux slipped off to silently weep lipitor medicine. (Yes, she doesn’t cry, she weeps, because that’s what Cinderella does. Even if her weeping sometimes takes place during a time-out and involves Linda-Blair-like theatrics and the words “I hate you, Mommy!”)

Tonight, she was ready again. After the boys were in bed, she pranced up to me, all anxious smiles and sparkling eyes, her tooth jutting out, cantilevered, over her bottom lip. She had been wiggling it furiously all day, her resolve only hardened by last night’s failure.

“Mommymommymommy, time to pull out my tooth!” she badgered. I didn’t really want to try again, because she is not allowed to get any older, EVER since her tooth didn’t seem ready last night, but I can only take so much adorable begging. I relented.

Daddy again grabbed his camera, I revisited the Kleenex box, and Maddux opened up — only not quite so wide this time (I suppose because she knew she was going to bite me eventually anyway). We tried a few times with the tissue, to the same results as before. But Maddux was certain she wanted her tooth out, and I was certain I didn’t want to send her off all teary and disappointed again. Chris pulled out the rubber gloves and we gave it another go.

To give you an idea of what it was like, imagine pulling half a Tic-Tac out of a backed-up sink where it’s been craft-glued, while avoiding 19 other closely-spaced (but Superglued) Tic-Tac halves. The faucet is running and a bear trap is threatening to ensnare your hand.

Maddux is lucky she’s so cute, or she’d still have that tooth.

The gloves found a non-slobbery surface on the third try. One quick yank and it was done. The tooth that had once seemed so dominant in her infant mouth was surprisingly tiny resting in my palm. I packed it away in Ziploc, with an aching sense of loss troubling my chest. Here was this little tooth — one that had grown in my daughter’s jaw as a fetus and pushed through her gums right before her first Christmas — and now it was no longer a part of my little girl. Not only had Maddux lost her tooth, she’d shed her babyhood.

Which, of course, delights my firstborn to no end. She is finally a Big Kid. Any day now, she will have superpowers and decolletage and princely marriage proposals and her long-awaited baby daughter, Rainbow Rose. Like a real grown-up, she has decided to defer monetary gratification and show her little incisor off at school before leaving it out for the Tooth Fairy.

On the other hand, in the background of her proud little toothless mug shot, I can be seen blinking away tears.

Gap girl

Read ‘Em and Weep

For centuries, doctors and scientists grappled with the problem of infection. Hand-washing and boiling helped limit bacterial outbreaks, but once infection set in, there was little one could do other than throw a few leeches on the patient and hope for the best. Then, in 1928, Alexander Fleming left a petri dish uncovered, some mold grew on his culture, and the rest was history.

I wouldn’t say I view competition as mold, but I do confess to being a little bit of a hippie. I always stress to Maddux that she shouldn’t worry about what her friends are doing; she should try to do her best job, regardless. (I realize this may seem hypocritical coming from someone who expected from herself nothing less than perfect scores, but “Tiger Mom” I am not.)

Nonetheless, just like the mold that inhibited bacterial growth on those cultures at St. Mary’s Hospital some 82 years ago, competition — that thing I try so hard not to emphasize — has proven to be the catalyst for my daughter’s reading breakthrough.

At the beginning of this school year, Maddux couldn’t read much more than her name. Perhaps it’s part of the ADHD, perhaps she’s a touch dyslexic, or maybe she’s just a late bloomer, but for some reason the letters seem to mix themselves up before her eyes and she quickly gives up trying to decipher the text in front of her. Until this month.

For the past few weeks, Maddux’ kindergarten class has been participating in a schoolwide “read-a-thon” in which the house teams compete, based on minutes read, for a gold medal. (At least that is what my daughter tells me. Whether there is an actual medal, I have no idea, but far be it from me to detract from her incentive!)

Because she is a superhero and a princess, Maddux feels that she should be the very best at everything. She wants to be the fastest runner, the strongest lifter, have the blondest hair, be the lead in the class play, lose the first tooth — I think you get the picture.

For an entire semester, I was under the impression (based on her frequent bemoaning of the fact that “everybody else” was in a higher-level reader) that she was the worst reader in her class — until her teacher informed me that, upon beginning her ADHD medication, she quickly advanced to perfectly average. I was also informed that she was a pretty darn good mathematician, which Maddux conveniently forgot to mention because she expects to be marvelous at everything.

Me: How are you doing in number work?
Maddux: (Shrugs) OK.

But since her reading contest began, Maddux has been strangely enthusiastic about reading. Gone are the days when getting her to complete her 10 minutes of reading homework requires threats and bribery. No sooner is her backpack hung on its hook on our return from school than I hear “Mommy, can we do some readin’ now? I want to read for 90 minutes today so we can BEAT THE RED TEAM! They’re CHEATIN’!”

We haven’t quite made it to 90 minutes, but she has read aloud for about 30 minutes most nights ever since she realized her team wasn’t in the lead. This weekend, she has a sore throat, but she still managed to log 34 minutes tonight without prompting.

Her hard work is paying off. On Thursday, her house team pulled ahead in the competition, thanks in part to the six stickers she earned for the “racetrack” on the wall in the school hallway. Apparently, she read more minutes last week than any other kindergartner — despite the fact that she still painstakingly sounds out every letter.

Who would have thought that, like the mold at St. Mary’s Hospital, the answer to our reading problems was lurking under our noses the entire time? I had tried everything with Mads — phonics games, interesting books, conversations about phonics while driving to and from school — to no avail. Apparently, for Maddux, learning is not its own reward. Gold medals are. (Perhaps we will start having room-cleaning contests and not-interrupting-grown-ups-while-they’re-talking contests.)

I’m still not sold on competition as the sole motivator for learning (after all, that’s how we get test-bank cheating and “ringers” taking the SATs), but for now, I’ll take it. Like penicillin, it may not work forever, but it cleared up our reading issues quite nicely.

Hooray for Band-Aid Solutions (or Why I’m Drugging My Kid)

You’d think I’m injecting my 5-year-old daughter with heroin, to hear some people talk.

“Drugs are just a Band-Aid solution,” they’ll say – these mothers of non-learning disabled children who believe all problems can be avoided by Good Parenting. (This is after I mention the ADHD and before I mention medication. After this quote, I never get around to mentioning medication, funny enough.)

“I can give you the number of a really great naturopath,” says one well-meaning acquaintance, who then tells me a 10-minute story about a former involving this wonderful “doctor” and some blood test (unavailable at the allergist’s office owing to that pesky thing called “a high rate of false positives”). The test proved the child in question was — as are all people who get their allergy tests at a vitamin store — sensitive to gluten, dairy, soybeans, carrots, anything yellow or beige, and oxygen. The child’s improvement was immediate and dramatic, of course. (Never mind any nutritional deficiencies or that giant bubble in which he now lives.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for natural foods and positive reinforcement. We’ve done sticker charts and bribery positive reinforcement. Desserts are for holidays and chips are for computers. We use some natural supplements (like the newly-debunked fish oil chewables) while abstaining from others (marijuana as an ADHD cure? What are these people smoking? Er, never mind …). Chris and I both have ADHD ourselves, and after I did the quick mental Punnett squares any woman does when considering a potential mating partner, I realized I’d better research solutions for raising kids with ADHD, as any given offspring would have a 50/50 chance of being jittery, distractible spazmazoids like us.

My suspicions were confirmed when, sometime in the middle of my first pregnancy, I read about “kick counting.”

“Who the heck are these lucky women who have to count kicks?” I thought to myself as the world’s tiniest perpetual motion machine pummeled my ribcage.

The pregnancy book suggested drinking orange juice if one wasn’t feeling kicks. I wondered what one might drink in order to sleep for five consecutive minutes without the sensation of being attacked from within by a badger.

The experts said to worry if you didn’t feel 10 kicks in a two-hour period. I was never worried. A quiet spell for Maddux meant only 10 kicks in two minutes.

And one warm May day, the hyperactive fetus became a colicky, hyperactive newborn. The newborn turned into a bright, playful, and curious baby who was remarkably resistant to naps and bedtimes. Soon, the baby crawled, climbed, and beat up all the other babies in her playgroup, and her swimming class, and library storytime. (Did you know that a dainty blue-eyed 8-month-old girl can use another infant as a climbing apparatus? Neither did I. Neither did the mom of the other baby, who stared at my lovely daughter as if she had chewed her way out of my chest rather than spent 11 hours coming out the normal way.)

There was never a time, from the moment our fetal daughter began the never-ending gymnastics routine, that were anything less than certain she shared our disorder. And although Chris and I had both done wonderfully on ADHD medication, I was determined that we wouldn’t Drug Our Child until she was old enough to make the decision herself.

Books directed at parents of children with ADHD unfailingly mention the importance of establishing a predictable routine. Because we spazmazoids are predisposed to chaos and general spazmazoidery, structure and routine are not innate and must be taught from an early age. So, in what felt like a crime against my own nature, I made my first schedule ever – planning out meals, naps, exercise and quiet play down to within 15 minutes (to allow for all the diaper changes, as her bowels were hyperactive too).

Foods were introduced with great care and were organic and hand-mashed (Maddux being my first child and all — Thomas, being the third, eats a steady diet of dirty, expired Twinkies). Multiple books on pediatric allergies were consulted before I commenced Maddi’s initiation to solid food at 7 months with a bowl of shredded and gently steamed organic Gala apples. Any food sensitivities (broccoli and, oddly, rice) were caught and the foods eliminated.

I like to think it would have been worse had I not been controlling her diet, keeping her on a predictable routine, and implementing organizational aids and bribes positive reinforcement. But truth be told, there was a lot of coloring on furniture, assaulting of playdates, shampooing with glue, and bringing cups upon cups of water into her room at naptime and pouring them all over the carpet.

We won’t even mention Poo-casso’s Brown Period. (OK, we will. It lasted from 10 months of age to about 17 months, and it happened at least once per 24-hour period. There was one horrible day when she painted once upon waking in the morning, once at naptime, and then again for good measure that night after bedtime, and I had to put her back to bed with no sheets because all the others were still in the wash. The next week, noting that I had lost the will to rise in the morning, I began taking Prozac.)

Despite all the challenges to my own well-being, I continued with the non-medicinal approach. Drugs are bad. Just say no.

“They” say to be sure you give your child with ADHD at least five praises for every criticism. Some of the praise came easily. The same genes that cause Maddux to feel like there’s a fire lit under her heinie every minute of the day also imbued her with insatiable curiosity and a remarkable hyperfocus. When other moms looked askance at Mads as she spoke (OK, yelled) out of turn at library storytime, I shamelessly boasted of her encyclopedic knowledge, at 3, of the human digestive system (while hoping she did not enlighten her playmates on the female reproductive system, as I was pregnant and she was very fond of telling people her new brother was going to be squeezed out of my birth canal, or be-gina). She also picked up preschool French easily, and was constantly singing made-up songs and telling imaginative stories. Her My Little Ponies had the most amazing dance parties ever (small consolation at 3 in the morning when most of them occurred, but fabulous nonetheless).

However, on days when she threw sand at preschool or used a contraband marker to decorate her very expensive dollhouse bed, five praises for each criticism seemed a tall order.

“Hey, Maddux,” the conversation might go. “I appreciate that you only hit your brother once and told the truth about putting all the hair elastics and barrettes in the toilet, but it makes Mommy and Daddy sad when you punch your classmates. But great work on remembering that we don’t undo the deadbolt and leave the house at night, and we’re very proud of you for helping clean up all the yogurt cups you opened this morning!”

The same types of people who now act as if I’m pouring chemicals into my daughter generally let me know back then, in no uncertain terms, that I Had No Control Over My Child.

Had I heard of “1-2-3 Magic?” I was asked. “The Happiest Baby on the Block”? “Raising Your Spirited Child”?

I had. Endlessly.

Just as I’d heard of and tried swaddling, babywearing, natural foods, positive reinforcement, sticker charts, schedules, and 5-praises-for-every-criticism. I’d doggedly followed all the “best practices” for ADHD offspring because the people who sell self-help books to harried mothers insist that if their techniques aren’t working, it’s the mother’s fault because she didn’t “stick with the program.”

So I stuck with the program, and Maddux still met the criteria for combined ADHD, her pediatrician told me this fall when we brought her in. Because unlike pop-psychology parenting books, genetics is based in actual science and your kids’ genes don’t particularly care whether the baby food is hand-mashed organic fare or whether you keep doing the sticker chart even if it doesn’t seem to be working. What I had was the best possible outcome for my little spazmazoid. And she was a happy, confident, hard-working (well, as hard-working as could be expected) little girl.

This year, Maddux entered kindergarten. She had been behind the other kids in preschool phonics, but this year, the teachers really piled on the work.Maddi had only just mastered the most basic phonetic reading, and now she was coming home with diphthongs and “sight words.”

Some people eat when they’re stressed out. Some smoke. Kids with ADHD get into mischief. Maddux threw sand on the playground. She hit classmates. She escaped from storytime and methodically locked all the stalls in the little girls’ room from the inside, offering a shrug and an embarrassed “I don’t know” as explanation for her prank. At home, my adorable blonde pixie continued to draw on walls and shred paper like a gerbil and empty six pots of glitter glue onto the shag carpeting in her room and wake her brothers up at 6 a.m. on weekends for spirited furniture-jumping sessions. In short, her behavioral issues eclipsed James’ autism in terms of parental worry. If only it were as easy as a spare set of clothes, extra planning and avoiding activities that involved jackets or strange footwear, we thought.

But those aren’t the reasons she started medication.

Every day at homework time, I quizzed her on her phonics. She did fine, as long as we sounded out one letter at a time. Putting the sounds together, however, required a level of concentration that kids with ADHD don’t have. At least not when the subject matter doesn’t interest them.

Maddux could proudly name the phonics sound for any letter you’d ask, but after a word or two, she’d lose interest. Her eyes would wander the room, searching for something more stimulating than a bunch of boring letters.

If you asked her to read the words on the clip that held our bag of Cheerios shut, she’d sound it out painstakingly. “Ch. Ee. R. Ee. Oh. Z.” Which would be great, if the clip said “Cheerios,” but it in fact said “Bag Clip.”

It didn’t bother me that James was well ahead of where she’d been at his age. It seems only fair that the universe should balance his difficulty adjusting to new clothes with the ability to sound out words he saw upside-down (not surprisingly, both autism and ADHD appear to be caused by large copy number variants on the 16th chromosome). But when Thomas – who is completely typical as far as we can tell – could rattle off as many phonics sounds at 25 months as Maddux did in her second year of preschool, I began to worry.

And then it came to me.

I’d had the same problems with numbers. To this day, if I’m not on medication, it takes me a good month before I can confidently tell you my latest telephone number. To me, 867-5309 might as well be 908-3567 or 866-3355. As a child, I’d wanted to become either a neurologist or a craniofacial surgeon, but I majored in journalism instead because I knew my sloppiness with numbers would bode ill for a future in medicine.

After realizing in my mid-twenties that journalism was incredibly unfulfilling, I rescheduled the follow-up appointment I’d forgotten about after my ADHD diagnosis in college (yes, you read that right) and availed myself of a bottle of Strattera. Suddenly, I was multiplying matrices without absentmindedly ignoring the order of operations. I was also cleaning my long-neglected kitchen and waiting for people to finish talking before I cut in with my own hilarious but completely unrelated anecdotes. ADHD medication enabled me to be me, but better.

As I reminisced, I realized that while medication shouldn’t be the first resort, I’d been foolish to write it off altogether for Maddux just because she was a child. Here we were, doing everything “right,” and Maddux still came home weeping because all her classmates were in a higher phonics reader than she was. We could praise her endlessly for her great science and French skills and her generous heart, but surely having to reprimand her 20 times a day for hurting playmates and damaging property was going to have some sort of effect on her self-image.

And for us, taking ADHD drugs had made a profound difference. My failure to follow a dream because of my math troubles paled in comparison, I realized, with the struggles my daughter faced if her ADHD gave her similar misgivings about something as fundamental as literacy.

Of course, we had reservations about pharmaceuticals. The children in the articles I’d read on medication always seemed to have complaints about stomachaches and feeling “fuzzy” and losing their creative spark. These were things the helpful moms of children with perfectly-calibrated dopamine receptors were certain I needed to know before I began poisoning my kindergartener with drugs.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t bear allowing my daughter to develop a lifelong hatred for reading when one 10 mg pill per day could make all the difference for her.

Amazingly, within the first few days of beginning her daily 10 mg dose of Biphentin, a drug that one might compare with an extended-release form of Ritalin, Maddux was experiencing approximately zero of these side effects. Instead, she has listened to lessons and participated eagerly in class instead of tearing up pieces of paper and antagonizing whoever happens to be in the vicinity. Her reading has improved to the point that, three weeks after her poisoning by Big Pharma commenced, she was able to navigate, with little incident, a book titled “The Headache.” Not one pot of glitter glue or Sharpie has been abused in her room (although she and James did empty a third of a tube of AquaFresh into the toilet tank last weekend). And she is once again allowed to use the school bathroom on her own rather than suffering the ignominy of an adult escort.

When the other moms and the well-meaning naturopathy adherents tell me solicitously about the benefits of fish oil (she’s been taking it since she was tiny, thanks very much, and JAMA debunked the fish oil mythology this month anyhow) or how Supernanny does this wonderful star chart, I smile and nod.

Then I go home to drug my kid — my natural-foods eating, fish-oil-supplemented, oft-bribed positively reinforced kid — so she doesn’t cry over her schoolwork and endure dirty looks and cruel whispers from the same people who are telling me I’m poisoning her with pharmaceuticals. (And, yes, also so I don’t feel the urge to throttle her for disobeying the no-toothpaste-in-the-bedroom rule yet again.)

Maddux doesn’t get stomachaches. She doesn’t feel “fuzzy.” She’s not a dull-eyed zombie, but a sparkling, cheerful girl who invents delightful games for her playmates. She still makes up wonderful songs and stories, but no longer suffers from the impulsive and destructive behavior that made her a kindergarten pariah. Shortly after beginning her prescription, Maddux told Chris, “I never want to stop taking my medicine. It makes me so smart.”

Naturally, there are days when her mind still wanders during phonics lessons or she gives her brother a green foam-soap beard while the rest of the house is sleeping. And she misbehaved outrageously for an entire week following Halloween (thank you, chocolate). But so do “normal” kids, and that’s what pharmaceuticals have enabled her to be.

If drugs are a Band-Aid solution, I’m pretty sure people aren’t giving bandages enough credit.

Queen of the Castle

For the last two years, my almost-5-year-old daughter has gone through life thinking that she is a Real Princess, waiting for that magical day when a prince discovers her and is so overtaken by her beauty that he gives her the Kiss of True Love and spirits her off to her rightful home, which is (naturally) a gigantic, jewel-encrusted castle.

Here are but a few gems that my flaxen-haired little royal has uttered:

“Mommy, how is a Real Prince going to fall in love with me when I is only a child?” (spoken, of course, with the woe begotten melodrama of Cinderella right before she races off to the garden, flings herself on a stone bench and weeps her despairing little heart out)

“Mommy, I’m going to sleep in my wedding dress. That way, if a prince comes and throws rocks at my window, I can marry him right away.”

“Mommy, where can I find a prince who is only 4 years old like me? I need a young prince.”

“When I go to Disney Land, I’m going to ask Sleeping Beauty to see if her prince has any prince friends who will want to marry a little girl.”

“When I get married, I’m going to change my name, too. But only a little bit. I’m going to change it to Princess Maddux Phillips.”

So, you see what I’m working with here. A kid who wanted to be Pippi Longstocking or run away with a traveling Shakespearean troupe, I could deal with. I mean, I was expecting my kid to want to build a time machine or a moon rocket or even be a Russian double agent. These are all things I can work with. But what do you tell a kid who thinks that she’s going to become a princess at the age of 16?

When my stepdaughter was Maddi’s age and Maddi was a wee thing, we pronounced the occasional “Princess Day” — where we’d dress in our finest frippery and go do girlie things — to get some baby-free quality time. Of course, baby-free time is harder to come by when you have lots and LOTS of babies, so it took a few years before we were able to swing a Princess Day for Mads. But last Thursday was the day!

I asked her weeks ahead of time what she’d like to do. A tea party? Get our nails done? Make some personalized kiddie jewelry?

Apparently, what Princess Maddux wanted to do on her royal day was to crawl through tunnels and climb rope ladders at EnergyPlex. (Who knew?) And so it was decreed.

We spent the better part of two hours getting red-faced and plastered with perspiration in a human Habitrail with what seemed like 500 rotten 8-year-old boys (none of whom were princes) azithromycin online. Then we hit the mall — sweaty hair and clothes notwithstanding — for a trip to Claire’s for some princess loot and a kids’ hot chocolate at Starbucks.

I have to admit I was quite relieved that while Maddux has invested quite heavily in the princess-industrial complex’s gender myths and manufactured expectations, she can still enjoy some good tomboy fun. All is not lost!

At the end of the day, as I tucked her in, she flung herself on her bed with the characteristic princessy sigh and proclaimed, “Today was the best day ever, Mommy!”

And then she asked me for a story about her and Jack Skellington and an evil vampire, in which Jack tricks the vampire into going to the sun right before he bites Maddi’s neck, and she marries Jack Skellington, and he turns into a handsome prince.

Yep, that’s my girl.

The future Princess Maddux Phillips


Being a mom is slightly exhausting on a daily basis, but in case you are a sucker for punishment, there are a few things that really wear a mom down in a hurry. Chances are, if you’ve had a kid or two, you are thinking of a few examples already. A toddler cutting canines, for instance. The chaos and insanity of school breaks. And the mother of all nighttime-candy-binge triggers, potty training. Oh, I’m sorry. Potty training a boy.

So, with which of these nerve-wracking situations might I be dealing, you ask? Try all of them.

Yes, in my infinite wisdom, I decided it would be easiest to potty train my middle child during spring break, when our days would be lazier and more suited to hasty trips to the toilet. I realized, of course, that Maddux would be out of school and, unaccustomed to so much unstructured time in the middle of the day, she would probably invent new ways to amuse herself. Ways that involved dressing Thomas in doll clothes and taunting James by putting his favorite toys where he couldn’t reach them. What I didn’t realize was that my 18-month-old would be cutting four enormous, daggerlike eyeteeth while I was busy battling sibling rivalry and a mad carpet assassin.

Every day of this spring break has been a little bit like battling a horde of relentless robotic Kewpie dolls.

Here’s a little picture of yesterday, by the numbers:
50 — Gummi bears dispensed to pottyers and siblings of pottyers
12 — Time-outs given
8-10 — Toilet overshoots mopped up
8 — Lectures given
3 — Quarts of green snot wiped from Thomas’ face
3 — Doses of Infant Tylenol administered
2 — Applications of Orajel administered
2 — Near-removals of my fingers by brand-new teeth
2 — Sets of pants and underwear changed
0 — Naps taken by any child
1 — Bag of ketchup chips eaten by me
1 — Package of Reese’s cups eaten by me
1 — Episodes of “Real Orange Housewives” consumed while eating chips

Wait, you might be asking, Zero naps? Why? Why would you do that to yourself, you crazy woman?

Well, the answer is quite simple. I wouldn’t.

I put all three kids to bed after lunch. Thomas, who finds new teeth very tiring indeed, was delighted to jump into his crib. I’m pretty sure he was asleep before the other kids’ heads hit their pillows. James was tucked in with tractors, diggers, trains and trucks all lined up in the appropriate places on his bed, shadows and monsters shooed from his room, and the requisite number of “You Are My Sunshine” encores and kisses. And Maddux, who had woken up at an unholy hour that morning and antagonized her brothers all day, clambered up into her bed for a story about a skeleton princess’ spooky surprise party and an admonition to take her nap or there would be no playground afterward.

Confident that I would be enjoying two full hours of NOT being smeared with snot and drool, NOT being sprayed with urine and NOT having to lecture anyone about tormenting siblings, I settled down with some Halls Centers and the previous night’s episode of “Project Runway.” (Did I mention I have a cold and that my throat feels as though I swallowed a set of Chinese throwing stars? I didn’t? Hmm, guess that’s because that was the least painful part of my week.)

But alas, Tim Gunn and friends would have to wait. The kids had been down for barely 40 minutes — not asleep, mind you, just down — when I heard Thomas fretting over the monitor. Now, having been slathered with a heaping dose of Orajel before his nap, I knew he wasn’t waking up on his own. So I turned up the volume on the monitor. Sure enough, I could hear the faint sounds of banging. And shrieking. I raced upstairs to tell James to pipe down.

But it wasn’t James. Oh no. James was happily playing with diggers at his regular naptime volume (which is loud, but not loud enough to wake a tired baby). The banging was coming from Maddux’ room, where she was doing goodness-only-knows what. And despite my having shut her door and told her to keep it shut so that the baby could sleep, my darling princess had flung her door wide and was singing at the very top of her lungs.

When she saw me coming, she clambered (noisily) into the far corner of her bunk bed and pretended to be fast asleep while sitting upright. I was not convinced.

The thing about the kids’ naps is this: If Thomas gets less than two hours, he will cling to my head like a drowning swimmer all night long. If James gets less than two hours, he will not pee on the potty. (And if I sit him on the potty, he won’t tuck. Which means I will reek of urine by the end of the day) If Maddux starts her day on the wrong foot and misses a nap, the mischief is compounded by a factor of approximately 3,000. Maybe more. If all three kids miss naps, well, we’re talking flying toys and a portal to hell in the closet.

“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING IN HERE WITH YOUR DOOR WIDE OPEN??!!!” I yelled, channeling Joan Crawford. Shaking with the psychological devastation of an epic nap fail on the day when everyone (not least, Mommy) most needed it, I rushed a thrashing, screeching Maddux down the stairs, away from her brothers and their potential sleep. Of course, screaming at one kid is generally a pretty good way of waking the others up. So there we were, in the middle of what should have been naptime, back in the playroom. Thomas clinging to me like a hybrid koala-piranha, wiping snot in my hair. James refusing to sit on the potty or share trains. Maddux coloring in Daddy’s office so I wouldn’t accidentally strangle her.

There would be no restorative sleep for the cranky, teething baby. There would be no pee making it into (as opposed to in the general vicinity of) the training potty. There would be no acts of kindness from a well-rested oldest child. And there would be no break for Mom until after 8.

Don’t get me wrong. Potty training is still WAY easier during a break, when we’re not racing around to the gym and school. However, I cannot be held responsible for any junk food and terrible television I may consume after my adorable little mayhem machines are plugged into their recharging stations.

Frickin’ Lasers

I think they’re on to me.

For years, I’ve been telling my children that I can see through walls and can monitor everything they do. It started with an offhand comment about needing laser eye surgery.

“Do you have laser eyes, Mommy?” asked my then-2-year-old daughter. wide-eyed.

“Yes, Maddux. That is how I know when you’re being naughty, even when I can’t see you,” I replied.

That’s not actually true. I can tell she’s being naughty because misbehavior is accompanied by either manic giggles or ominous silence. (Basically, this means I should worry any time she’s awake and most of the time she’s supposed to be sleeping.)

Here’s a typical night at our house:

7:30 Kids are tucked in.

8:15 Loud thumps, naughty laughter and the squeaky melodies of hard-partying My Little Ponies waft downstairs from Maddux’ room.

8:16 I find Maddux sitting straight up in her bed, My Little Ponies in each hand, eyes shut as if in slumber but fluttering ever so slightly so that she can peek and see whether I’m on to her.

Me: “Maddux, why are you still awake? Go to sleep. Now check my source.”

Maddux: “How did you know I was awake, Mommy? Did you use your laser eyes?”

Me: “What do you think?”

Maddux: “I think you used your laser eyes. I’m going to go to sleep now, but I don’t want you to use your laser eyes this time.”

Me: “Goodnight. If I have to come in here again, your ponies are going to go in time out.”

7:22 More thumping and giggling are heard upstairs.

Me: “Maddux, I told you no more pony parties. Give me the ponies. Right. Now.”

Maddux (wailing): “Mommmmmeeee, you said you wouldn’t use your laser eyyyyyyeees!”

Here’s another scenario for you. I come downstairs into the playroom with the boys after naptime and notice Maddux lying underneath the table. It’s not a very low table and offers absolutely zero shelter if you’re looking for a good hiding spot.

Me: “Maddux, why are you under the table?”

Maddux: “Mommy, don’t use your laser eyes! I was tryin’ to hide and surprise you guys!”

Since there’s an obvious lack of glowing red beams shooting from my face, I figured at some point Maddux would figure out that her mom hasn’t been bionically augmented. But as Maddux’ intelligence and knowledge base have increased, her level of incredulity has stayed at zero.

Maddux: “Mommy, when I grow up, I’m going to have laser eyes just like you.”

Me: “Is that so?”

Maddux: “Yes, because I got my genes from you, and you have laser eyes. When am I going to get my laser eyes?”

Although I could have told her laser eyes were a recessive trait and that she couldn’t expect to see through walls and set things ablaze with a mere glare unless Daddy had a dormant laser-eye gene, I instead told her that she would get her laser eyes when she became a mommy. It’s kind of true. Especially if she gets my nearsighted genes.

But while Maddux’ entire universe is built on her ability to suspend disbelief, James is firmly grounded in reality. This is, after all, the boy who was asked what Santa would be leaving under the tree and answered, “A big mess.”

So last night as I was tucking him in for the umpteenth time, I was pleasantly surprised when my little boy told me, smiling widely, that “Jamesycakes sees you all de time with his blue laser eyes.”

“Awesome!” I thought to myself. “My little boy’s imagination is finally blossoming.”

Then James threw his head back and began laughing uproariously. Because, of course, he knows that my supposed laser eyes are a fraud of Madoffian proportions.

I suppose I should be proud of my son for having the earliest-developed sense of sarcasm in the history of humor. But really, I’m just scared. Once they figure out that my laser eyes are actually just a pair of working ears and some intuition, the jig is up.

At least until I convince Santa to give me access to his network of hidden cameras.

Writes of Passage

When I look back on my childhood, my memories are broken up into two distinct eras — preliterate and literate. What I remember most about my preliterate life was wanting to read. Learning to read was like discovering the master key to the mysteries of the universe. No longer at the mercy of my parents (who were no doubt as relieved as I that they were no longer my personal encyclopedias), I was an insatiable consumer of fiction, biography, science textbooks, poems, magazines, newspapers, and the entire AMA Family Medical Guide (or as I liked to call it, the hypochondriac manual).

Learning to write went hand in hand with learning to read. I used words to label my pretend anatomy charts at age 5, to poke lighthearted fun at Reader’s Digest in junior high with my “Melodrama in Real Life” series and, later, to earn an impressive $10 an hour as a rookie newspaper reporter (age being no indicator of wisdom, this was what I chose to do with my expensive 4-year private-university education).

Having had this 28-year love affair with the written word, I’ve been anticipating the day my own children could share the joy of reading. When I held a 6-week-old Maddux in my lap and opened the pages of “Busy Little Mouse” for the first time, I imagined a time when she’d enjoy books on her own. While she teethed on her well-worn copy “I Love My Mommy” at 10 months, I told myself she was merely practicing for her future as a voracious reader.

But as much as she is her mother’s daughter in many ways (how many preschoolers can accurately summarize the workings of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems?), she also is her own person. And that person would rather be read a story than to read one, and would rather “just figure it out” than look it up in a book.

So getting Maddux to spend any more than a few minutes working on her phonics has been — well, like getting me to work on my math (something Maddux actually enjoys a lot). But lately, it’s been occurring to her that reading might come in handy in certain real-life scenarios, whether it be finding the price of a particular princess playset, figuring out the settings on a blow-dryer or asking Daddy via instant message what we’re having for dinner. (Also, it’d be nice not to have to rely on Mommy to provide spellings of people’s names when writing royal-ball invitations.)

Of late, she’s been sounding things out and connecting the sounds the letters make with the noises she hears in words. With a little prompting, she can finally read some of the easier words in her picture books. And tonight, in the bathtub, something finally clicked.

Maddux was playing with her foam letters and happened across a “J,” which we’ve established many times is for “James.”

“I’m going to spell ‘James,’ Mommy,” she announced. “What comes after ‘J’?”

Being a lazy mom, I replied with a typical lazy-mom answer. “What do you think comes after ‘J’? Sound it out.”

“Jjjuh. Ayy…” she began, using the word-building techniques her school and I have been using.

“So, what letter makes that sound?” I prompted.

“A!” Maddux squeaked excitedly, fishing around in the bubbles for that vowel.

She sounded out “Mmm” and followed it with “Zzz,” and thus was her first-ever word spelled on the wall of our bathtub. Technically, “Jamz” is not a word or a name, but it’s an appropriate phonetic spelling of “James,” so we’re counting it. She then spelled “Dad” with ease.

I have no idea what Maddux plans to do with her new skill — whether she’ll instantly begin devouring material way above grade level, or whether she plans on reading only when she can’t find someone to do it for her. Part of me suspects that she began reading because James has begun trying to sound out letters recently and Mads didn’t want her baby brother catching up with her.

But no matter what she does with it, Maddux’ future is here. She’s got the key to the entire world — literacy — right within her grasp. Soon she’ll be able to read herself stories, to select her own videos in Media Center, and even to discover that restaurant menus contain more options than just the healthy ones Mommy and Daddy offer up as suggestions (thank goodness ‘chocolate’ is such a long word).

Learning to read may not be such a huge milestone in everyone else’s lives, but it was the big milestone in my childhood. Books were my entertainment and my primary source of information in a pre-Internet world. The public library was an adventure, and at the same time, a home away from home.

I hope literacy will be important to my little girl as well. I look forward to sharing the old childhood classics, along with all the new books we find in the Scholastic catalogs she brings home from preschool. At the very least, I am excited — as I’m sure my parents were when I was small — at the prospect of no longer serving as my daughter’s on-demand encyclopedia.

So proud of her work, she insisted on a picture!

It’s Sockey Night in Canada

When I pulled the hockey sticks out of storage and wrapped them, Chris told me it was a bad idea. We’d bought them on sale at Costco when Maddux was about 18 months old and James wasn’t even holding up his own head, let alone a hockey stick.

Before the kids were big enough to interact with each other, we had visions of our adorable tots playing backyard games of ball hockey. When the kids finally did interact with each other, we revised that vision. The new vision looked more like a cross between Jai-Alai and a gladiator deathmatch, so into storage the toddler-size hockey sticks went.

But a few years had passed, and the older kids were big enough to know that high-sticking gets you a lot of time in the “time-out” box. Plus, what we’d managed to scrape together on our recession-era Christmas budget was looking pretty sad when we laid it all out to wrap.

“I’ll probably regret this,” I admitted as I surveyed the assortment of weaponry I was about to bestow on our band of tiny hooligans. But Maddi had already spied the sticks in the furnace room, so I was committed to the process.

When the paper came off the ball-hockey set on Christmas morning, the boys’ eyes lit up. “Sockey ball!” James giggled. No matter how many times I tell him that we play “hockey” with a “puck,” James will always insist that Canada’s national winter sport is sockey ball.

Ever since they were tiny, the boys have enjoyed watching sockey ball. James enjoys sockey and baseball in equal measures, but Thomas has a particular love for the ice. Before he was sitting up on his own, he’d watch hockey games with his daddy, his little eyes tracking the players and the puck. He’d squeal at the action and pump his little fists until the commercial break, at which time he went back to being a normal infant.

When Thomas was about five months old, we took all three kids to see the local WHL team play. Guess who started jumping up and down and squealing when the players skated onto the ice? As his siblings sat in their near-rinkside seats, somewhat bored, our not-yet-crawling baby tracked the action, waved his arms and jabbered gibberish in an urgent voice to the players. When we left at the end of the first period because Maddux and James were getting tired, Thomas howled his disapproval.

So now that Thomas was walking, I figured it was time to break out the hockey sticks. Insane, I know. Chris and I fully expected those sticks to be in permanent time-out by noon Christmas Day. But the kids proved us wrong. To be sure, there have been a few checking and high-sticking violations (for those who aren’t hockey fans, that means the boys have used their sticks to whack bodies and heads instead of the puck a few times).

However, this is what usually goes on: Thomas picks up a stick and holds it exactly like an NHL player. James does the same. If the puck (a blue ball in their case) is available, James will move it around with his stick while Thomas roars with laughter and swings his stick wildly (it’s as big as he is, and he’s new at this whole walking thing).

In the very likely event that the puck has gotten lost behind the couch, the boys will simply run around the playroom with knees slightly bent, sticks out, and their super-intense pro-hockey “game faces” on. James’ “game face” is concentrated scowl, with a slight flare of the nostrils, his eyes a few feet ahead of his stick on the “ice.” Thomas’ “game face” is a little different — his eyes wide, alert, a little crazy, and he’s usually jabbering some baby trash talk in James’ direction.

And on Saturday nights, we can always count on one thing. After dinner (usually pizza) and before bedtime (usually a bit late), the kids jump on the bed and watch “Hockey Night in Canada” with Daddy. Maddux, who’s going through her (realllly long) princess phase, doesn’t usually watch long, but if it’s Hockey Night, the boys happily watch the game until they’re dragged off to bed wailing “I watch sockeeeeeyyyy!”

Tonight, because the Canucks are losing*, the boys are celebrating Sockey Night downstairs with their own sticks. They’re good little boys and have watched enough hockey to know how the sport is played, so my refereeing skills are needed much more rarely than we thought when I pulled those sticks out of storage.

On the rare occasions when a boy raises a stick over his head and begins chasing the “other team” with wicked glee, all it takes is the question, “How do good little hockey players hold their sticks?” Down go the sticks. On go the “game faces.” It’s Sockey Night in Canada.

Watching the home team win the midget sockey championship

* The Canucks did not, in fact, lose and the kids got to watch the recorded version of their win after dinner. There was cheering and arm-pumping and the usually-coordinated Thomas was so excited that he took a header off the end of bed for the very first time. (Don’t worry, he was fine and went right back to jumping on the bed and cheering on the Canucks!)