conversation starters

Working on interpersonal interactions, Daniel had homework to do; homework that was basically conversation starters.

Was I willing to do this exercise with him, he wondered?

But of course! I’m his mom. I’m his super nerdy-homework-is-fun-as-long-as-it-isn’t-math mom.

So we sit down together and work on our conversation starters exercise. I am to start and he is to continue answering back with two to three sentences. We’re working on interpersonal interactions here because it has been proven on occasion that not everyone wants to talk about Hot Wheels cars and Lego sets and video games.

Crazy, I know!

Glancing at the ten conversation starters, I’m thinking this is going to be easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. Daniel sighs because mom is saying easy-peasy, lemon squeezy again.

First one: So I heard that there was a fire on your street…

There was a fire? Oh my god! Where?

No, son. There wasn’t really a fire. It’s the conversation starter. I say, “So I heard that there was a fire on your street..” And you answer back…

So there wasn’t a fire on our street.

No son. How about you answer back something like, “Yes, last night in front of my neighbor Don’s house…”

Don’s house?! Don’s house was on fire? But you said there was no fire.

There was no fire. We’re just pretending while we practice conversing. Pretend that there was a fire.

Why would I pretend something so bad like Don’s house being on fire?

Don’s house isn’t really on fire.

Then why would we talk about something like that? It’s not even true! Oh my god, mom!


Do you have any math homework?

But what about my Speech homework?

play it again: overheard under the Big Top #99

Because it was fourteen years ago which means we have children who have no clue whatsoever what the date September 11 means to so many people even if life goes on and sometimes they ask why.

Originally published September 9, 2011

While watching, as a family, a 9-11 ten years later piece on tonight’s evening news:

Daniel: Why is everyone so sad on the news?

Mom: Well, everyone is remembering a terrible, scary day that happened ten years ago.

Daniel: What happened?

Mom: I’m not really sure why but there were some people who hated everything about the United States and one day they decided to attack our country. On the day that they attacked us almost 3,000 people in the United States died that day.

Daniel: (eyes widen) Wow! That is terrible. Was it scary?

Mom: Yes. Yes it was. It was a very scary day that day. It was also a very sad day. A very scary and sad day that we all stop and remember every year because so many people were killed that day.

Daniel: Did we catch those mean people?

Mom: We’ve tried. Our country went to war because of the attacks that day. We still are at war…for better or for worse…We caught some of them.

Daniel: Good!

Mom: Yes, but now is a time to remember the people who died that day. There were so many people who were going home or going to work or going off on an adventure who had no idea that there were people who were at the same moment planning to kill them and planning to hurt the United States. Now is the time to stop and remember every single person who was killed that day. They are why people are sad and why people are talking about that day right now.

Daniel: (hugs me)

This is the very first conversation I have had with my son, who was born five months to the day after September 11, 2001.

How are you talking to your children about the attacks on September 11 and the aftermath?

Beyoncé’s status secured

How was your day, Mom?

He asks me that every day as he climbs into the car at the end of the school day. He cares, he really cares that son of mine.

After a long busy 12 hour night shift in the NICU, the mad drive home in go-to-work rush hour traffic followed by staying awake for just a couple hours more in order to take him to school and then enjoying the decadent pleasure of a 2 hour nap before picking him up from school, I can tell him with all the confidence that my day so far is pretty good. In fact, I tell him that it is great because I woke up like this.

I don’t get it, Mom.

Epic bed head, no makeup…I’m flawless, son.

I still don’t get it.

Fair warning to Queen Bey, Blue Ivy will someday soon be a teenager and she just might not see you as flawless anymore as our teenaged children often do. Enjoy these times now, Bey.

For now I am humbled and Beyoncé is indeed flawless.

the fire apartment’s great-great grand daughter

While checking out this

Fallon tells me how much she doesn’t like fire trucks. They’re kind of loud, they’re kind of scary she tells me.

Yes they are kind of loud, sweet girl. They have to be when they are going to put out a fire, or save lives because we need to GET OUT OF THE WAY! But scary? Not to me, I tell her. Then I tell her about the fire fighters in her family. Her family, she asks? Yes. And as I invite her explore some antique fire trucks on display at a car show, I tell her about my grandfather and uncle, both fire fighters.

Truthfully, she seemed to be more impressed with the sticker the fire fighter gave her.

Oh, three year olds!

But today, Hollie shared the latest Fallonism on Facebook: My uncle papa used to be a fire apartment and would put the nasty fires down. That’s so cool.

She’s a proud fire apartment descendant!

poolside chatter

Sometimes the most challenging conversations with your child are the times when you are least expecting it. On a long drive down Highway 17 as the sun is setting, the kid is going to ask questions about sex…because you driving down a twisty, winding mountain highway is not nearly challenging enough. Or when you are gripping tightly to the steering wheel while driving up Interstate 5 in a windstorm it will be the perfect time to ask why their grandmother, your Mommy Dearest, never calls or writes or visits. So it would follow that while you are lounging by a hotel pool, your son will float up to you and pose a question that is guaranteed to make you sweat…not because it is over 100º even as the sun is setting…not because you are experiencing your usual round of hot flashes that come without warning and literally leave your hair and clothing soaked…if only! Nope. He floats up to the edge the pool where you are lounging, smiles and…

Hey Mom, I was wondering…do you think my biological parents loved me?


So begins one of those hard conversations, the ones that make you sweat. Still I can’t shy away because this is Daniel discovering his story. He already knows our story of when he completed our family circus and it is a great story; he’s the first one to tell you that. But as he begins to discover who he is, as all children do as they grow up, part of that self-discovery includes his story before he joined this circus.

Do you think that they loved me?

So , taking a deep breath, I tell him yes. Because I was his nurse the day that he was born, I am privy to some of the more intimate details of his parents and his biological mother’s pregnancy.

Yes, son. I am absolutely certain that your biological parents loved you so much while they were pregnant with you.

Big tears fill his eyes as he slowly sucks in his breath. I hold myself back from reaching out to hold him tight. I wait. I wait to let him guide this narrative like I have learned too many times the hard way to do with the hard conversations with all of my kids. He exhales then meets my eyes.

But I was so, so tiny and so, so sick and they were afraid so they asked for someone to be brave for me like you and Dad. Right?


But they did love me?


He looks away discreetly wiping away the tears then looks back at me and smiles widely.

I’m glad that they loved me.

Me too, son.

Then he reaches out to hug me, hug me so very tight. Now I’m the one fighting back the big tears filling my eyes. I know that I was brave enough to be his mommy when he was so, so tiny and so, so sick in the NICU; but god help me, I need to even braver for conversations like this because I am certain that there will be more to come. I’m thinking that for now, I will avoid drives on mountain highways with him alone in the car…for now.