My three-year-old daughter stuck out her hand and said, “Look at the fly I killed, Mommy.” Since she was eating a juicy pickle at the time,
I thrust her contaminated hands under the faucet and washed them with antibacterial soap.
After sitting her down to finish her pickle, I asked, with a touch of awe, “How did you kill that fly all by yourself?”
Between bites, she said, “I hit it with my pickle.”
Cindy Yates, Mill Valley, California
A police officer jumps into his squad car and calls the station.
“I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.”
“Have you arrested her?” asks the sergeant.
“No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.”
Submitted by Rose Mattix, Decatur, Illinois
At the mall, my five-year-old grandson joined the other children in line waiting to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap. When it was his turn, Jake didn’t move; he just stared.
“Don’t you want to sit on the
bunny’s lap?” I asked.
“No!” he shouted. “There’s
a man in his mouth!”
C. S., via mail
I once gave my husband the
silent treatment for an entire week, at the end of which he declared, “Hey, we’re getting along pretty great lately!”
from You’re Better Than Me
I’ve been working on my PhD
in engineering for the past five years, but my kids don’t necessarily see that as work.
As we were driving past Walmart one day, my son spotted a Now Hiring sign and suggested that I could get
a job there.
Hoping to make a point, I asked, “Do you think they’re looking for an engineer?”
“Oh, sure,” he said. “They’ll hire anybody.”
Christopher Fields, Fort Collins, Colorado
I guess this is what happens after you’ve worked at the same place for a while. I was eating at a fast-food restaurant when an employee began his shift by walking into the kitchen area and calling out, “Honey, I’m home!”
G. M., via e-mail
There is nothing more awkward than the moment you realize you’re getting a double-cheek kiss.
@michmarkowitz (Michelle Markowitz)
After i-messaging back and forth with my wife, I jokingly commanded Siri to pass along this message: “You need to get back to work now; you have a husband to support.”
Here’s what Siri sent: “You need
to get back to work now; you have
a has-been to support.”
John Brown, Jenks, Oklahoma
I’m driving with this guy, and
he runs right through a Stop sign. So
I say, “Hey, that was a Stop sign.” And he says, “I drive like my brother!”
A few blocks later, he plows right through a red light. I say, “You just ran a red light.” And he says, “I drive like my brother!”
So now we’re coming up on a green light, and he slows down. I’m confused, so I say, “It’s green; why are you slowing down?”
He says, “My brother might be coming.”
My five-year-old, Matt, worked with a speech therapist on the ch sound, which came out k. The
therapist asked him to say chicken. He responded with kitchen. They tried again and again, but it always came out kitchen. Undeterred, she pushed him for one more try. Matt sighed and said, “Why don’t we
just call it a duck?”
Pamela Spinney, Enosburg Falls, Vermont
I put so much more effort into naming my first Wi-Fi than my
@1followernodad (Sophia Benoit)
Halloween is the beginning of the holiday shopping season. That’s for women. The beginning of the holiday shopping season for men is Christmas Eve.
Try as she might, our granddaughter couldn’t grasp the concept of potty training. Then one day … Success! Jumping up and down,
she threw her arms in the air
and yelled in excitement, “I went potty all by myself, and now I can
go to Harvard!”
Jan and Jack McCloskey,
San Francisco, California
“Has your son decided what
he wants to be when he grows up?”
I asked my friend.
“He wants to be a garbageman,”
“That’s an unusual ambition to have at such a young age.”
“Not really. He thinks that garbagemen work only on Tuesdays.”
We use a really strong sunblock when we go to the beach with the kids. It’s SPF 80: You squeeze the tube, and a sweater comes out.
My 11-year-old grandson spent
a beautiful Saturday playing video games. His older sister tried coaxing him outside by warning, “Someday, you’re going to be 30 years old, single, and living in Mom’s basement playing video games all day!”
His reply: “I can only dream.”
Hacienda Heights, California
I got my first full-time job, but I could have sworn I was making more money in college, working for my parents as their daughter.
Hanging up with my 90-year-old mother, I sighed, then said to
my 96-year-old uncle, “She’s so
He shook his head sympathetically and warned, “You’re going to have trouble with her when she gets old.”
Angie Kiem, Irwin, Iowa
A Scottish mother visits her
son in his New York City apartment and asks, “How do you find the Americans, Donald?”
“Mother,” says Donald, “they’re such noisy people. One neighbor won’t stop banging his head against the wall, while the other screams and screams all night long.”
“Oh, Donald! How do you manage to put up with them?”
“What can I do? I just lie in bed quietly, playing my bagpipes.”
Submitted by Noah Jorgensen,
“Has your diet changed?”
I asked an 87-year-old woman I was admitting into the hospital.
“Yes,” she said. “For Lent, I gave
up whipped cream on my Jell-O, hard candy, and my two beers a night. [Pause] And look where it’s gotten me.”
L.K., via Internet
The latest parenting fads,
according to the Onion:
• Couples are waiting to announce their pregnancy until after their child has graduated college and become
a partner in a successful law firm.
• Parents are choosing not to learn the gender of their obstetrician.
• As part of the new Infinity Womb trend, women are using a wide range of Lamaze, strength-training, and yoga techniques to forcefully prevent their children from ever leaving their wombs, forever protecting them from the harsh realities of the world.
The cool part about naming
your kid is you don’t have to add
six numbers to make sure the name
Texting acronyms can stump even the best parents:
Mom: Your great-aunt just passed away. LOL.
Son: Why is that funny?
Mom: It’s not funny, David! What do you mean?
Son: Mom, LOL means Laughing Out Loud.
Mom: I thought it meant Lots
of Love. I have to call everyone back.
Daughter: I got an A in Chemistry.
Daughter: Mom, what do you think WTF means?
Mom: Well That’s Fantastic.
Mom: What do IDK, LY & TTYL mean?
Son: I don’t know, love you, talk to you later.
Mom: OK, I will ask your sister.
The water I was heating for pasta refused to boil, and if my 12-year-old son was right, I wasn’t helping by constantly checking on it.
“It’s like that old saying,” he said. “ ‘A watched website never loads.’ ”
Helen Russ, Medford, Oregon
My young son ran to me, crying. “Daddy, I stubbed my toe,” he sobbed.
“Let me kiss it and make it better,” I said. “Which toe was it?”
“The one that has no roast beef.”
Gary Neal, Clearwater, Florida
“Wanted to buy: playpen, cradle, high chair; also two single beds.”
Matthew Cole, Plant City, Florida
A child psychologist had twin boys—one was an optimist; the other, a pessimist. Just to see what would happen, on Christmas Day he loaded the pessimist’s room with toys and games. In the optimist’s room, he dumped a pile of horse droppings.
That night, the father found the pessimist surrounded by his gifts, crying.
“What’s wrong?” the father asked.
“I have a ton of game manuals to read … I need batteries … and my toys will all eventually get broken!” sobbed the pessimist.
Passing the optimist’s room, the father found him dancing for joy around the pile of manure. “Why are you so happy?” he asked.
The optimist shouted, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
My three-year-old sat in the bathroom with me, watching as I
removed my dentures and brushed them. After a few minutes, he asked, “Can you take your ears off too?”
S. W., via mail
Dad rarely dresses up, so when he left the bedroom decked out in a suit and tie, he wanted to commemorate the moment. Handing me a camera, he asked, “Mind taking a selfie of me?”
Rachel Hester, Clover, South Carolina
Events had left my son-in-
law’s sister feeling sad, and she started tearing up. Luckily, our
two-year-old grandson was nearby
to dispense words of wisdom.
“Don’t cry,” he said. “Sometimes
batteries die and toys break.”
Perry Finkelman, West Hempstead, New York
To get my cousin to write to
her even once, my aunt resorted to
sending him a check with this note: “Do not cash until you write me a thank-you.” A few weeks later, the check had cleared, yet no message had arrived. So she called him.
“I told you not to cash the check until you’d written to thank me,” she complained.
“I didn’t cash the check,” he said. “I deposited it.”
Mark Forman, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
Where there’s a will, there’s a relative.
I asked my brother-in-law, the
father of four boys, “If you had to do it all over again, would you still have kids?”
“Yes,” he said. “Just not these four.”
Sheila Lee, Lorain, Ohio
I was nine months pregnant and browsing at a garage sale when the homeowner asked me if I knew whether I was having a boy or a girl.
I told her I didn’t.
As I left a few minutes later, she yelled after me, “I hope you get the sex you want!”
Melanie Riley, Lakemoor, Illinois
Here is the best-ever backhanded compliment from a kid about a present: “Dear Genie, thanks for the toy. I’ll play with it when I’m bored.”
Debbie Skolnik, Scarsdale, New York
My young son declared, “When
I grow up, I’m going to marry you, Mommy.”
“You can’t marry your own mother,” said his older sister.
“Then I’ll marry you.”
“You can’t marry me either.”
He looked confused, so I explained, “You can’t marry someone in your own family.”
“You mean I have to marry a total stranger?!” he cried.
Phlylis Showers, San Diego, California
“Dad?” —Zebra looking at a piano
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21,
I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Father’s Day is important because, besides being the day on which we honor Dad, it’s the one day of the year that Brookstone does any business.
I gave my father $100 and said, “Buy yourself something that will make your life easier.” So he went out and bought a present for my mother.
I got all my looks from my father. Mostly just the look of disappointment.
My daughter-in-law was driving on the freeway when the sight of flashing lights in her rearview mirror made her pull over.
“Do you know why I stopped you?” asked the state trooper. “You were going 85 miles per hour.”
“Impossible,” she argued. “I had my cruise control set at 82!”
Pat Goetzinger, Lincoln, California
During my mother’s memorial, my five-year-old granddaughter could not stop staring at the urn that contained her ashes.
“Is that really Great-grandma in there?” she asked her mother.
“Yes, it is.”
“Funny,” she said. “I always thought she was taller.”
Lee Rosenow, Long Prairie, Minnesota
My husband was cramming all his chores into one day, but each
job revealed another problem. For example, while touching up paint
on a wall, he discovered gouges in the wood that needed to be filled in. Later, I found him sitting in the living room, staring off into space. Looking up, he announced, “Frustration is when my cope runneth over.”
Huntington Beach, California
We had just finished tucking our five kids into bed when three-year-old Billy began to wail. Turns out, he had accidentally swallowed a penny and was sure he was going to die. Desperate to calm him, my husband palmed a penny that he had in his pocket and pretended to pull it from Billy’s ear. Billy was delighted. In a flash, he snatched it from my husband’s hand, swallowed it, and demanded, “Do it again!”
I’d like to have a kid, but I’m not sure I’m ready to spend ten years of my life constantly asking someone where his shoes are.
“I’d like to discuss something with you,” my husband told our
nine-year-old son. He was about
to launch into The Talk.
“What is it?” asked Michael.
“We’re going to talk about girls.”
“What about girls?”
“Well, we’re going to talk about how girls get pregnant.”
“But, Dad,” said Michael, “I’m a boy!”
—Carol Wilson, Dublin, California
After a rough day spent corralling my rowdy kids, I’d had enough.
“I think I’m going to sell them,”
I hissed to my sister.
“You’re crazy,” she said.
“For thinking of selling them?”
“For thinking someone would buy them.”
—Sheri Mueller, Lehi, Utah
Two babies are sitting in their cribs, when one baby asks the other, “Are you a little girl or a little boy?”
The other baby shrugs. “I don’t know how to tell the difference.”
“I do,” says the first baby. He carefully climbs out of his crib and into the other crib, then disappears beneath the blankets. After a few
seconds, he resurfaces.
“You’re a little girl, and I’m a little boy,” he says.
“How can you tell?”
“Easy. You’ve got pink booties, and I’ve got blue ones.”
Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I took my daughter to her grave site, which was located beside a row of pine trees.
“How nice,” I said. “Grandma has a great spot here in the shade.”
My daughter replied, “Mom, they’re all in the shade.”
Sandra Shea-Crabbe, Tolland, Connecticut
I tell my kids that Santa is fat because he eats the children who get up early on Christmas morning. That way, I get to sleep in.
James Knowles, on topfive.com
Human beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home.
My cousin always “borrows” money from her older brother’s piggy bank, which drives him crazy. One day, she found the piggy in, of all places, the freezer. Inside was this note: “Dear sister, I hope you’ll understand, but my capital has been frozen.”
—Source: Funny in China Survey
Sometimes you have a mess on your hands that defies description. Not anymore. Clorox teamed up with comedian Carol Leifer to create The Clorox Ick-tionary, a Wiki-style dictionary for everyday messes. Here are new words that define slovenliness.
Apocolipstick: The streak on your face when you’re bumped into while attempting to apply lipstick.
Szechuan doodles: The pattern that your lo mein noodles make when they fall on the floor.
Fridge-a-mortis: The liquid in the bottom of the vegetable drawer that hardens over time.
Board-’oeuvres: Crumbs on your keyboard.
“My great-grandma gave me this money,” said my three-year-old, happily clutching a $20 bill he’d
gotten as a present.
“That’s right,” I said. “How did you know that?”
Pointing to Andrew Jackson’s face in the middle, he said, “Because her picture is on it.”
—Andi Olson, Avondale, Arizona
Needing to look up a phone number at a friend’s house, my teenage daughter asked for a phone book. She might as well have asked for a papyrus scroll.
“A phone book?” asked her friend.
“You know,” said my daughter.
“A book with numbers in it.”
“Oh,” said her friend as it dawned on her. “You mean a math book.”
—Karen Eccles, La Mesa, California
Little girl: I want cotton candy!
Mom: You can have some cotton candy after you eat something
Little girl: I want cotton candy now!
Mom: I said no, you’re going to have something healthy! How about a corn dog?
—Laura Curran, Kellogg, Idaho
During a science lesson, my sister-in-law picked up a magnet and
said to her second-grade class, “My name begins with the letter M, and
I pick things up. What am I?”
A little boy answered, “You’re a mommy.”
—Robert Boyer, Marion, Indiana
A young girl is reading a book about knights.
Girl: What does our family crest look like, Mommy?
Mom: Poor people being crushed by a boot.
Did you hear about the identical twins who robbed a bank? After they were caught, they finished each other’s sentences.
I can’t tell the difference between a rose and a dandelion. So when it came time to fix up my garden, I had no clue which plants to keep and which ones to remove. Until, that is, my mother gave me this handy tip: “Pull them all up. If it comes back, it’s a weed.”
My two daughters were discussing the less than desirable physical attributes they had inherited from their father.
The older one: "I hate my freckles from Dad."
Her unsympathetic younger sister: "At least you got his freckles. I got his eyebrow."
People’s parents actually give them sage advice, like “Do what you love, and the money will follow” or “The early bird gets the worm.” All I remember is “Don’t fill up on bread.”
"You shouldn’t be eating candy so early. We have doughnuts."
"The key is to put the mousetrap outside the house. That way, the mice don’t come in." "Your aunt couldn’t make it, so I brought the cat."
"Don’t do drugs. They’re hell on your body, and I may need one of your organs someday."
I arrived home from work to find all the windows and doors wide open. Apparently our puppy had had an accident.
“Yeah, it really stank,” my daughter told me. “In fact, when we first walked in, I thought you had come home early and were cooking dinner.”
Our 25-year-old son moved back home with an eye toward socking away money to buy a condo. We never bothered asking how long he’d planned to stay, but I got a pretty good idea when I walked into his room recently. In the corner was a milk jug with a few coins in it and a label that read “Condo down payment.”
My wife is a by-the-recipe baker. But that attention to detail still hasn’t made her chocolate chip cookies taste any better. One day, after the cookies had been in the oven a while, I smelled a familiar odor. “They’re burning,” I shouted.
“I know,” she said nonchalantly.
“Aren’t you going to take them out?”
“No. They still have six minutes.”
I was not thrilled with the idea of letting my clueless 13-year-old son babysit his younger sisters, even though he begged me to.
“What about a fire?” I asked, referring to my No. 1 concern.
“Mom,” he said, rolling his eyes, “I’m a Boy Scout. I know how to start a fire.”
My sister is a know-it-all who bristles at anyone’s well-intentioned advice. But when our older sister gave her several clever tips, she was impressed. "I have to hand it to Pat," she told me. "She really is smart. Not Jeopardy! smart; more Wheel of Fortune smart."
“Why doesn’t your mother like me?” a woman asks her boyfriend.
“Don’t take it personally,” he assures her. “She’s never liked anyone I’ve dated. I once dated someone exactly like her, and that didn’t work out at all.”
“My father couldn’t stand her.”
My mom wants me to name my kids after people in our family. So I’m naming my firstborn Uncle Karl.
Before my daughter went on her first date, I gave her "the talk."
"Sometimes, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re with a boy," I said. "Remember, a short moment of indiscretion could ruin your life."
"Don’t worry," she said. "I don’t plan on ruining my life until I get married."
Once I’d finished reviewing my daughter’s homework, I gave her an impromptu quiz. “What is a group of whales called?” I asked. “I’ll give you a hint—it sounds like something you use to listen to music.”
“An iPod?” she guessed.
“Close,” I said. “But what I’m thinking of is a little smaller.”
I was on my way out of the house to meet with a cantankerous client, and I was dreading it. The look on my face must have given me away because my four-year-old daughter asked what was wrong.
"I’m going to meet a woman who always yells at Daddy," I told her.
"Oh," she said. "Say hi to Mom."
Even with a thousand games, dolls and crafts to choose from, my customer at the toy store still couldn’t find a thing for her grandson.
"Maybe a video or something educational?" I asked.
"No, that’s not it," she said.
We wandered the aisles until something caught her eye: a laser gun with flashing lights and 15 different high-pitched sounds.
"This is perfect," she said, beaming. "My daughter-in-law will hate it."
Dad is from the old school, where you keep your money under the mattress—only he kept his in the underwear drawer. One day I bought my dad an unusual personal safe—a can of spray paint with a false bottom—so he could keep his money in the workshop. Later I asked Mom if he was using it.
"Oh, yes," she replied, "he put his money in it the same day."
"No burglar would think to look on the work shelf!" I gloated.
"They won’t have to," my mom replied. "He keeps the paint can in his underwear drawer."
One evening after dinner, my five-year-old son Brian noticed that his mother had gone out. In answer to his questions, I told him, "Mommy is at a Tupperware party."
This explanation satisfied him for only a moment. Puzzled, he asked, "What’s a Tupperware party, Dad?"
I’ve always given my son honest answers, so I figured a simple explanation would be the best approach. "Well, Brian," I said, "at a Tupperware party, a bunch of ladies sit around and sell plastic bowls to each other."
Brian nodded, indicating that he understood. Then he burst into laughter. "Come on, Dad," he said. "What is it really?"
As she slid behind the wheel for her first driving lesson, my daughter couldn’t contain her excitement. "You need to make adjustments so the car is comfortable for you, the driver," I began. "Now, what’s the first thing you should do?"
"Change the radio station," she said.
My doctor friend moved his family to a small town in Montana. An Italian American raised in Philadelphia, he wanted his kids to enjoy clean the benefits of air and the outdoors. The locals were thrilled to have a doctor of their own, and were always inviting him and his family over for dinner.
During one visit, one of his daughters told a rancher’s daughter, "We’re Italian."
Somewhat confused, the little girl replied, "We’re Ranch."
Don’t ever pay a surprise visit to a child in college. You might be the one getting the surprise. I learned this the hard way when I swung by my son’s campus during a business trip. Locating what I thought was his fraternity house, I rang the doorbell. "Yeah?" a voice called from inside.
"Does Dylan Houseman live here?"
"Yup," the voice answered. "Leave him on the front porch. We’ll drag him in later."
Since I am a busy mom of four, I rely on my children to help me out with everyday chores around the house. One morning I was running around trying to get the children and myself ready, when I suddenly realized it was trash pickup day. So I handed a bag of garbage to my sleepy seven-year-old son and told him to toss it in the trash bin on his way out the door.
Glancing out my window moments later, I saw him wearily boarding the bus. He was carrying his backpack, his lunchbox and a big white bag of garbage.
Driving with my two young boys to a funeral, I tried to prepare them by talking about burial and what we believe happens after death. The boys behaved well during the service. But at the grave site I discovered my explanations weren’t as thorough as I’d thought.
In a loud voice, my four-year-old asked, "Mom, what’s in the box?"
My two-year-old cousin scared us one summer by disappearing during our lakeside vacation. More than a dozen relatives searched the forest and shoreline, and everyone was relieved when we found Matthew playing calmly in the woods.
"Listen to me, Matthew," his mother said sharply. "From now on when you want to go someplace, you tell Mommy first, okay?"
Matthew thought about that for a moment and said, "Okay. Disney World."
One night about 10 p.m., I answered the phone and heard, "Dad, we want to stay out late. Is that okay?"
"Sure," I answered, "as long as you called."
When I hung up, my wife asked who was on the phone.
"One of the boys," I replied. "I gave them permission to stay out late."
"Not our boys," she said. "They’re both downstairs in the basement."
It had been a nerve-racking experience for my attorney husband. He was working with the FBI on a federal sting operation. Worried for his safety, they put him under protective surveillance. Finally the agency told him they had rounded up all the criminals and were lifting the surveillance.
A few days later my relieved spouse was on the phone, telling his brother about the whole adventure. "Did you happen to mention to the FBI that you have an identical twin?" his horrified brother interrupted. "Who lives next door?"
My sister felt she was well prepared for her in-depth interview with several members of the police-academy board who would determine her suitability as a candidate. The first situation they presented to her was: "On routine patrol you see a car traveling at excessive speed, with undue care and attention. You pull it over and discover that the driver is your brother. What do you do?"
Without hesitation she replied, "Tell Mom!"
She was accepted.
This couple was heading to the hospital with their 16-year-old daughter, who was scheduled to undergo a tonsillectomy. During the ride they talked about the procedure.
"Dad," the teenager asked, "how are they going to keep my mouth open during surgery?"
Without hesitation her father quipped, "They’re going to give you a phone."
Several months ago, my daughter and I had similar virus symptoms. She decided to consult a doctor so as not to lose any more time from her job.
“I’ll see the doctor,” she said, “and then tell you what’s wrong with us.”
The next day she called to say, “Guess what, Mom. We’re pregnant!”
Mother and I were discussing our mutual weight problem one evening, when I challenged her to a contest. If I lost the most weight in the next month, I wouldn’t have to pay her the $6 that I owed her. If she lost the most weight, I would have to pay up. Anything for an incentive!
“All right,” said Mother happily. “But let’s wait two weeks before we start. There are some things I have to eat first.”
My husband bought an exercise machine to help him shed a few pounds. He set it up in the basement but didn’t use it much, so he moved it to the bedroom. It gathered dust there, too, so he put it in the living room.
Weeks later I asked how it was going. “I was right,” he said. “I do get more exercise now. Every time I close the drapes, I have to walk around the machine.”
One evening I was commenting on my bad exercise habits and tight clothes. Whenever I criticize myself, my four-year-old son always has something charming to say.
Using a new word this time, he smiled and said, "Oh, no, Mommy! You look flabulous!"
One rainy morning, my mother went for her daily run. As she returned to the house, she slipped and fell, hitting her head on the driveway.
I called the paramedics. When they arrived, they asked my mom some questions to determine her coherency. “What is today?” inquired one man.
Without hesitation, Mom replied, “Trash day.”
After my wife had a sonogram, I asked my mother-in-law to guess the sex of the twins her daughter was carrying.
"Two boys," she said.
I shook my head.
"It must be two girls," she offered.
Again I told her no.
"Well, then," she asked, "what are they?"
I spent an afternoon helping my boyfriend move into a new home. In one carton I found a crockpot, with an odd-looking and very dirty metal lid. Later I ushered my boyfriend into the kitchen and asked why he hadn’t mentioned this perfectly good pot.
He stared at it, then replied, “Well, after I broke the lid I never thought of replacing it with a hubcap.”
My wife and her friend Karen were talking about their labor-saving devices as they pulled into our driveway. Karen said, “I love my new garage-door opener.”
“I love mine too,” my wife replied, and honked the horn three times. That was the signal for me to come out and open the garage.
My sister decided to go on a diet, and that first evening she phoned me. I could tell her mouth was full, so I asked her what she was eating.
“A cupcake,” she mumbled. “I just got on the scale, and it read 149 1/2 pounds. I decided that was no place to start a diet, so I’m rounding it off to 150.”
My sister and I were out on the town one night when we ran into a man I knew. "You’re sisters?" he asked incredulously. "You look nothing alike.
Pointing to her nose and my chin, my sister said, "Different plastic surgeons."
My mother was away all weekend at a business conference. During a break, she decided to call home collect. My six-year-old brother picked up the phone and heard a stranger’s voice say, "We have a Marcia on the line. Will you accept the charges?"
Frantic, he dropped the receiver and came charging outside screaming, "Dad! They’ve got Mom! And they want money!"
While I was dining out with my children, a man came over to our table and we started talking. He asked where my kids go to school. I told him we home-school them. With a raised eyebrow he asked if my husband is the sole breadwinner for our family. I said no, I also work—out of our home. Then, noticing our two-month-old son, he mentioned that his daughter had just had a baby, and he wondered what hospital our son was born in.
"He was born at home," I answered.
The man looked at me, then said, "Wow, you don’t get out much, do you?"
I am a first-grade teacher and a new empty nester. One night I was trying out an art project: making a person with simple materials. I took a coat hanger, attached a paper-plate face, put a shirt on the hanger and stuffed it. Then I sat it on the couch to see how it looked.
Later that evening my son walked in the door, home for a surprise visit. Taking one look at my coat-hanger friend sitting on the couch, he said, "Mom, it’s not that bad, is it?"
When my friend got a job, her husband agreed to share the housework. He was stunned by the amount of effort involved in keeping a house clean with small boys to pick up after, and insisted that he and his wife shop for a new vacuum cleaner.
The salesman gave them a demonstration of the latest model. “It comes equipped with all the newest features,” he assured them.
The husband was not convinced. “Don’t you have a riding one?” he asked
My husband and I both work, so our family eats out a lot. Recently, when we were having a rare home-cooked meal, I handed a glass to my three-year-old and told her to drink her milk.
She looked at me bewildered and replied, "But I didn’t order milk."
A couple of hours into a visit with my mother she noticed I hadn’t lit up a cigarette once. “Are you trying to kick the habit?”
“No,” I replied, “I’ve got a cold and I don’t smoke when I’m not feeling well.”
“You know,” she observed, “you’d probably live longer if you were sick more often.”
My cooking has always been the target of family jokes. One evening, as I prepared dinner a bit too quickly, the kitchen filled with smoke and the smoke detector went off. Although both of my children had received fire-safety training at school, they did not respond to the alarm. Annoyed, I stormed through the house in search of them. I found them in the bathroom, washing their hands.
Over the loud buzzing of the smoke alarm, I asked them to identify the sound.
"It’s the smoke detector," they replied in unison.
"Do you know what that sound means?" I demanded.
"Sure," my oldest replied. "Dinner’s ready."
My daughter had absentmindedly left her sneakers on our kitchen table. "That’s disgusting," my husband grumbled. "Doesn’t she realize we eat off that table?" Then he went out back to work on the car.
I cleaned the table and left to do my grocery shopping. When I came home I couldn’t set my bags down anywhere. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen table was a car muffler.
As my 40th birthday approached, my husband, who is a year younger, was doing his best to rub it in. Trying to figure out what all the teasing was about, our young daughter asked me, "How old is Daddy?"
"Thirty-nine," I told her.
"And how old will you be?"
"Forty," I said sadly.
"But Mommy," she exclaimed, "you’re winning!"
My mom had always wanted to learn to play the piano, so Dad bought her one for her birthday. A few weeks later, I called and asked how she was doing. "We returned the piano," said Dad. "I persuaded her to switch to a clarinet."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," he explained, "with a clarinet, she can’t sing along."
Recently visiting my hometown, I ran into Bev, a classmate I had not seen in years. We updated each other on careers, marriages, children, and found common ground discussing the joys and hardships of being the single parent of a teenager.
She admitted the decisions she made and advice she gave as a mother were based on hope and instinct rather than any certainty of what was best. I agreed, but said our parents probably felt the same way—and we hadn’t turned out too badly.
"Yeah," she replied. "But we had real parents. Our kids just have us."
I understood exactly what she meant.
—Contributed by John R. Griffin
It seemed that all our appliances had broken in the same week, and repairs were straining our budget. So when I picked up the kids from school and our Jeep started making rattling sounds, I decided that rather than burden my husband, I’d deal with it. I hadn’t reckoned on my little tattletales, however. They rushed into the house with the news: "Daddy, the Jeep was breaking down, but Mom made the noise stop!"
Impressed, my husband asked, "How did you fix it?"
"I turned up the volume on the radio," I confessed.
We purchased an old home in northern New York State from two elderly sisters. Winter was fast approaching, and I was concerned about the house’s lack of insulation. “If they could live here all those years, so can we!” my husband confidently declared.
One November night the temperature plunged to below zero, and we woke up to find interior walls covered with frost. My husband called the sisters to ask how they had kept the house warm. After a brief conversation, he hung up. “For the past 30 years,” he muttered, “they’ve gone to Florida for the winter.”
To keep their active two-year-old from roaming onto the busy street in front of their home, my sister and brother-in-law decided to put a gate across the driveway. After working over two weekends on the project, Robert was ready to attach the lock to complete the job. He was working on the yard side of the gate, with his daughter nearby, when he dropped the screwdriver he was using and it rolled under the gate, out of his reach.
"I’ll get it, Daddy," Lauren called, nimbly crawling under the newly erected barrier.
Rushing to get to the movies, my husband and I told the kids we had to leave "right now"—at which point our teenage daughter headed for the bathroom to apply makeup. Her dad yelled for her to get in the car immediately, and headed for the garage grumbling.
On the way to the multiplex my husband glanced in the rearview mirror and caught our teen applying lipstick and blush, which produced the predictable lecture. "Look at your mom," he said. "She didn’t put on any makeup just to go sit in a dark movie theater."
From the back I heard, "Yeah, but Mom doesn’t need makeup."
My heart swelling with the compliment, I turned back to thank this sweet, wonderful daughter of mine just as she continued, "Nobody looks at her."
My family has a tradition of naming the cruise control on our cars. We were used to hearing my father proclaim, "Take it, Max," as he flipped on the cruise control during long trips in our station wagon.
Recently, I was traveling with my parents in their new car when we hit a wide-open expanse of highway. My dad leaned back and said, "I think I’ll let Tom drive for a while."
"Tom who?" I asked.
My mother translated for me: "Tom Cruise, of course."
I was with a friend in a café when a noisy car alarm interrupted our conversation. "What good are car alarms when no one pays any attention to them?" I wondered aloud.
"Some are quite effective," my friend corrected me. "Last summer, my teenager spent a lot of time at the neighbors’. Whenever I wanted him home, I’d go out to our driveway and jostle his car."
My sister Darlene has the courage—but not always the skills—to tackle any home-repair project. For example, in her garage are pieces of a lawn mower she once tried to fix. So I wasn’t surprised the day my other sister, Jesse, and I found Darlene attacking her vacuum cleaner with a screwdriver.
“I can’t get this thing to cooperate,” she explained.
“Why don’t you drag it out to the garage and show it the lawn mower?” Jesse suggested.