Today. In the carpool.


This morning, the boys in the backseat of the minivan turned their conversational prowess to the subject of rats.

“I heard,” said the redhaired boy with an air of both authority and gravitas, “that if they are hungry enough, they will eat your face.” He let that sink in. “Your face,” he added, for emphasis.

“I heard,” my son said, “that they ate everyone on a pirate ship. Like a swarm of rats. Are there swarms of rats? I don’t know what you call a lot of rats. But they ate everyone. Pirates. Real pirates. And then they swam. ACROSS! The OCEAN! And found another pirate ship. And they ate them too. Real pirates. And I read that in a book. So it’s true.”

“Not everything in books is true,” I piped in. I don’t think they heard me.

“I heard,” said one of the blondes, “that a bunch of rats? One time? Swam all the way? To Antarctica? And they ate a penguin. Or maybe it was a penguin. Maybe it was a leopard seal. Are there leopard seals in Antarctica?”

“They couldn’t eat a leopard seal,” my son Leo said. “That is insane. Besides. Leopard seals have leo in them. So. Maybe it was a killer whale. Could rats eat a killer whale?”

“They’re called orcas,” the redhaired boy said.

Your called orcas,” said one of the blondes.

Your mom is called orcas,” said – oh god. One of them. I couldn’t tell which. In any case, I decided it was time to intervene.

“Rats are gross,” I pronounced. Because it is true.

“Well . . . ” Leo equivocated.

“There is no well. Rats are gross. They sleep on their poop and lounge in their pee. Their teeth are yellow and their feet look like aliens and their tails are too gross to be allowed. They are sneaky and evil and would eat us all if they felt like it, but they don’t have to feel like it because most of the time we are just garbage cans with legs and they get enough food from our stupid trash. Also? They eat trash. Gross.”

I might have strong feelings about rats. They may or may not haunt my dreams.

“They’re not, like, the grossest,” one of the blondes – a boy named Ozzy – said.

“Oh yes they are,” I said. there is nothing grosser.

“Well,” Oz said. “I am way grosser than rats.”

“My darling boy,” I said. “You are not anywhere near as gross as a single rat, much less a nest of rats. You are not even in the same league.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” said Oz.

I pulled the car in front of the school and the kids started tumbling out of the minivan.

“It isn’t a challenge, dear. It’s just a fact. When it comes to rats -”

“Well,” he said as he hopped out of the car. He turned to me and bowed with a flourish. “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”

“No. It’s just like -”

And the mob of miscreants from the barnhill minivan all started rubbing their hands and cackling with glee.

And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to their mothers in advance. I have no idea what’s in store, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be gross. Possibly grosser than rats.


I have been incredibly delinquent in blogging lately, and it’s silly of me, because THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING! Good Things! Exciting Things! And I have much to say in the very near future. And I need to be blogging more regularly, because the fact is, it’s super fun.

I hope all of you have been well, and that your projects are going swimmingly and your families are healthy and your work is fulfilling and you are all on tracks for winning Nobel Prizes in Being Awesome. Smooches to all!



In Which Voldemort Gets the Cheese Touch.

This is the expression on my face most days. Especially the eyes.

I think I’ve mentioned on this blog the fact that I, most days, haul a carpool to school filled with delightful elementary school boys. I use the word “delightful” here in its broadest sense, in order to include yelling, cat-calling, fake-swearing, bodily eruptions, poop jokes, gun jokes, penis jokes, fart jokes, farting penis jokes, something about boobies and light-saber-sound-effects. To rescue my thin grip on sanity, I decided a while ago to forgo any crunchy-mama prohibitions I may have had ever in my life regarding screen time and throw a movie into the ole minivan VCR.

(It is, I do believe, a certifiable miracle that the thing still works, as both minivan and VCR are about ten years old. And that thing gets hammered – hot in the summer, absolute zero in the winter, sticky drinks, stray kicks, and, once, projectile vomit. The thing keeps ticking. If it is a miracle, does that qualify my minivan for sainthood? If so, someone should alert the Vatican.)

Anyway, the kids watch movies on their way to school in ten minute increments, and I listen to said movies as I drive. E.T, Apollo 13, Star Wars, Newsies, Cats and Dogs, Galaxy Quest, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Dark Crystal, George of the Jungle, and basically whatever else I’m able to pick up at Savers for a quarter. I have become a connosieur of kid-movie sound construction and voice inflection. E.T., for example, is a thing of beauty – communicating more through silence than most films can do in hours of scene-building. The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, while bad to watch, is torture to listen to, and whoever is responsible should be in prison.

Today, they watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or the end of it, anyway. They tumbled out of the car last Friday just as Professor Quirrell was about to remove the turban from his head. They climbed back into the car today shouting turn it on turn it on, despite the fact that they have all read the book and watched the movie approximately nine million times. They were beside themselves with anticipation. I pushed play, rolled into the road, and headed toward school. Here is a transcription of the conversation that ensued in the back seat.


You shhh!”

“We’re missing it.”

You’re missing it.”

“Cheese touch.”

“Wait. What movie is this again?”

“Harry looks like he has to fart.”


“Cheese touch.”

“You’re squishing me.”

“You’re squishing me.”

“Cheese touch.”

“Why do you keep saying that?”


At that very moment, Voldemort, stuck on the back of the doomed professor’s head, instructs Quirrell to take the Sorcerer’s stone from Harry. But when he touches Harry, his hand burns up, thus showing that Voldmort cannot be touched by the boy wizard.

“Harry Potter has the cheese touch.”

The boys nearly peed themselves laughing.

“Now Voldemort has the cheese touch. Lookit him! Cheese toucher.”


“Voldemort smells like a fart. Like cheesy farts.”

“Cheese farts are not as bad as sausage farts. Sausage farts are THE WORST.”

“I’m kinda hungry.”

“Don’t let Voldemort get the Sausager’s Stone.”

“It’s the Sorcerer’s Stone.”


“Quit saying stuff like that. I have to pee.”

“Harry Pee-ter and the Sausager’s Stone.”


“If it could make me defeat Voldemort I would totally touch the cheese.”

“You already touched the cheese.”


By the time we reached school, I was weak with laughing. And hunger too, as I had forgotten to have breakfast before I left in the morning. When I got back to the house, I went straight to the fridge to grab something quick before getting to work. A nice, square slice of cheese.

Cheese touch.

Today. In the car.

The kids were all buckled in when I ran out to the car, tea sloshing everywhere, shoes only half on. I sat down in the midst of an argument that went something like this.

Cordelia: Mom.

Me: (searching for keys) What?

Cordelia: Tell Leo what boogers are made of.

Leo: Candy.

Me: Not candy.

The Little Redhaired Boy: See?

Leo: Rats.

Me: Boogers are made of dried up snot, skin cells, dust, pollen, street dirt, in your case: dog hair, and lots and lots of germs.

Leo: Well, that’s not so bad.

Cordelia: Mom!

Me: What?

Cordelia: Tell him that you can’t eat boogers.

Me: Oh. For sure, Leo. You can’t eat boogers.

The Little Redhaired Boy: SEE, LEO?

Leo: But boogers are so good! And sometimes I get hungry.

The Little Redhaired Boy: If you get hungry, then you can eat bugs. Lots of people all over the world eat bugs all the time. 

Leo: Really?

The Little Rehaired Boy: Yes. So next time you get really hungry, just find a spider. Then eat it.

Cordelia: Or a worm.

Leo: Can I eat grasshoppers?

Me: Sure, but you should first ask its permission. Grasshoppers are terribly fastidious and won’t be eaten by just anybody. They will want to know whether you have brushed your teeth lately, and will likely inquire as to the state of your nails. They will want to know if your room is clean and if your toes are free of jam and if you have recently washed the dishes.

The Little Redhaired Boy: My room is clean. I can totally eat a grasshopper.

Leo: I’m fastidious.



Leo: What does fastidious mean?

Cordelia: It means “not Leo”.

Me: You should be careful of grasshoppers, though. While they are reputed to be delicious, they are also terribly clever. A grasshopper might convince you to build it a new house, or give it the PIN to your bank account, or buy it a rocket ship.

Leo: Grasshoppers like pins?

The Little Redhaired Boy: They use them as swords.


Rudolph the Farting Reindeer

This morning, the power went out to about 4,000 homes in Minneapolis – mine included.

And it was a lovely morning – gray and damp, with the yellow glow of candles and a fire in the hearth. It was beautiful. And amazingly, though I’m normally hollering to high heaven trying to get these kids organized in the morning, this morning they were dressed, washed, brushed and minty fresh a good thirty minutes early. Leo and Cordelia nestled together by the fire with A Diary of A Wimpy Kid open on their laps, Cordelia reading to her brother.

And, I admit it, I got a little misty.

But the lack of power has consequences – mine being a car packed to the ceiling with kids. Here’s what happened: Because I drive a minivan, and because there were other folks in the neighborhood who couldn’t get into their garages to open their garage door since they only had one door to the garage and, without electricity, it only opens from the inside (D’OH!), my neighbors were desperate. So we shoved a bunch of kids into my car and trundled on into the road.

More kids than seatbelts? I’m not telling.

Anyway, it didn’t take long, in that crush of kids and backpacks and salt-crusted coats, that someone started to sing.

Jingle bells, Batman smells,

Robin laid an egg.

“Oh that is BORING,” one kid said. “Sing this instead:

Joy to the world!

Barney’s dead!

We barbecued his head!

The boys (they were, aside from Cordelia, all boys. It was a mountain of boys, a sea of boys, universes upon universes upon universes of boys) laughed until they drooled.

One boy – a redhead – said: “Do you guys know the Dreidel song?”

I have a little dreidel

I made it out of snow

I put it in the oven


I snorted to that one.

Leo piped in:

Silent farts,

Holy farts,

What’s that smell?

I can’t tell.


“I agree, darling,” I said. “Boys! No more fart songs.”

Apparently, a gauntlet had been thrown. The boys, opened their mouths and sang in unison. They already knew the words. It was as though they had tapped into a fart-joke-hive-mind.

Away in a butt-crack

A baby did fart,

They sang lustily, greedily, with wild abandon.
“That didn’t even make any sense,” I said.

“Yes it did,” they assured me in unison. Even their inflection matched. Then they began to sing again.

Rudolph the farting reindeer

had some very noxious gas.

And if you ever smelled it

You would…..

They stopped.

“We need a word that rhymes with ‘gas’,” one boy said.

“And it should have something to do with farting,” another boy said.

“What rhymes with gas?” still another queried. “Mass, lass….. think of words that have an ‘ass’ in it.”

There was a terrible pause. A car full of naughty minds all turned at once.

I had to think fast.

Up on the housetop, I sang at the top of my lungs.

Yellow snow.

Santa’s reindeer had to go.

The car erupted. And the boys joined in. And nobody swore on purpose. The boys, though potty-mouthed, remained relatively pure.

For now.

It was a Christmas Miracle!




Moses….no, Pharaoh. No, wait. Moses.

I have a secret confession:

I love driving carpool.

This is a strange thing for me to admit, because I actually hate driving. Like a lot. I find it uncomfortable and stressful and a huge waste of time. Also, my car smells like cheese.

But I love the carpool because the kids forget that I’m there half the time and I get to listen in to their ridiculous conversations. Like this:

Kid 1: Your bathroom has a bad word in it.

Kid 2: No it doesn’t. What word?

Kid 1: Hot.

Kid 2: That’s not a bad word.

Kid 1: It is when it’s the love kind of hot.

Kid 2: It’s not the love kind of hot. It’s the water kind of hot.

Kid 1: That’s just what your parents told you so you wouldn’t freak out.

Kid 2: MOM!

I didn’t answer. I was too busy laughing hysterically.

This morning, we were driving a little boy who lives up the street. I love this kid. He has flaming red hair and delicate features and a somber, quiet, deliberate way of speaking. He gentles my car in the morning. This morning, he was trying to teach my son a blessing that he had learned in his Hebrew classes at the JCC after school.

Leo, unfortunately, was a poor Hebrew student.

We were driving along, and while passing through the Highland business district in Saint Paul, I saw a car nearly crush a mother and her daughter as they crossed the road.

“JESUS MOTHER CHRIST!” I yelled, and then rolled down the window to yell some more. (I did not, I’d like to point out, use profanity. Though I surely would have done if the kids were not in the car.)

The little redhaired boy was fascinated.

“Kelly,” he said. “Are you Jewish?”

“No, darling, I’m not. Why do you ask?”

“My mom says Jewish people get to say ‘Jesus’ when they’re mad. She says it’s a perk.”

“Well,” I said. “Sometimes people see it as more of a guideline than a rule. And sometimes lots of rules go out the window when you see a car trying to kill a lady and her kid.”

The redhaired boy thought about this and nodded.

Leo was interested in the JCC and Cordelia was talking about her project on President Lincoln and American slavery.

The redhaired boy perked up.

“We learned about slavery too,” he said.

“Really?” I said. “What did you learn?”

“Well, it’s an evil story,” he said taking evident delight. “Because the people had to carry REALLY HEAVY ROCKS on their backs up the sides of these humungous rock piles FOR NO REASON, and then Moses, when he got mad, would whip them just because.”

I paused.

“You mean Pharaoh?”

“Right,” he said. “Pharaoh.”

“Oh, I know this story!” Leo yelled. “It has a pillar of fire!”

“There’s no pillar of fire, Leo,” the redhaired boy said. “Oh, wait. Yes there was. But it was later.”

“The pillar of fire is the best part,” Leo said.

“No, the best part is when Pharaoh sent plagues to Egypt. Like frogs. FROGS!”

“You mean Moses?”

“Right. Moses. And frogs. And then Harriet Tubman-”

“THAT’S THE WRONG STORY!” Cordelia yelled. She’s bossy about details. She’s a detail boss. “That was America, not Egypt!”

“Well,” the redhaired boy said thoughtfully, “slavery is bad no matter where it is. Even Antarctica.”

“That’s totally true,” I said.

“And then Moses….no, I mean Pharaoh. Actually, no, it was Moses. Wait…..which one got all his hair cut off?”

Bible literacy, ladies and gentlemen! There’s something for everyone!