Evening in BarnhillLand

So here’s the thing: I’ve got a really weird job.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve had lots of jobs in my life (lots and lots and lots of them), and I discovered along the way that I’m, well, ill-suited for……pretty much everything. And I’m not whining and I’m not being annoyingly or fishingly self-deprecating. These are just the facts.

I’m overly chatty, I can’t type for crap, I’m disorganized, I’m surly with folks in authority, I’ve got poor attention to detail when working on other people’s projects, I bristle at wasted time, I fall asleep in meetings and I am not a team player. I’ve been fired from eight different waitressing jobs for consistently writing down orders – not what people wanted, but what I thought they should have. And once for spilling a $300 bottle of wine down my shirt. I nearly came to blows once with a district official over a reading curriculum that I absolutely refused to use in my classroom. (Because it sucked). (She told me that I’d be lucky if a single child passed their state reading test. I told her I didn’t care because the tests in Minnesota at the time were the laughingstock of the nation – which was true.) (79% of my kids passed – one of the highest stats in the district. So I told her to suck it.)

Anyway. I work very hard when I’m on my own. In the world – in the real world – I’m sorta….vague. My husband says this is adorable. I think he’s being nice.

So I have this job instead. This writing job. This live-in-a-world-of-my-own-making job. And….well it’s weird, isn’t it? It’s a weird job.

But another weird part of my job is porous division between the imagined and the real. Particularly since my real life is written in the language of hyperbole, and synched to the rhythm of hyperbole and painted with hyperbole’s brush. Every day I must comfort a daughter whose life, apparently, is over, and another daughter whose leg is falling off and must stop a son who has decided to destroy a house (that part wasn’t hyperbole at all, though. That bit was real). Also, the little boys who daily invade my house, are constantly threatening to explode.

In any case, it’s an odd bit of vertigo that happens, when my head is still in the story, still sitting on the shoulders of runty, foul-mouthed gods who are – as we speak – creating universes, and smelling the sulfury breath of easily annoyed dragons who have no hearts in their bodies, or looking up the gory details of shoulder wounds or armpit wounds, or inventing the masonic structure of an ancient castle – then figuring out how to destroy it…..and then – THEN – be interrupted by my panicked children because the toilet, apparently is overflowing. Or the bank’s on the phone, and they’re pissed. Or I’ve forgotten to meet a friend for lunch. Or the email that I thought I sent I only sent in my mind. Or whatever.

In any case, I’m terribly grateful to my children for keeping me in this world. I don’t know what I’ll do when they grow and move out. Maybe I’ll have to hire kids to hang around the house and distract me from my work. Or maybe I’ll fade into the pages of a story and you’ll never see me again.

Right now, with my head in VIOLET, that feels like a possibility.

In fact, all day, I felt partially-faded. Like Frodo when he had the ring on too long. I was translucent-faced, cellophane-bodied, eyes made of smoke. And I would have continued like that – a half-existence, a half-life – had it not been for Leo.

I was hunched at my computer, rewriting a scene for about the nine-thousandth time, when Leo tapped on my shoulder with two fingers.

(and really hard, I might add. I think I have a bruise.)

“Mom,” he said. “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, MOM!”

“What!” I yelled. Honestly, I only heard the last MOM. “Why are you yelling?”

“Mom,” he said. He was red faced, red lipped, eyes bright as full moons. “GUESS WHAT?”

“What?” said. Thinking: This better be good.

“What happens, when every person on earth burps AND coughs AND sneezes AND farts….. AT THE SAME TIME?”

I pulled my hands from the keys, cracking the knuckles. I brought my fingertips to my brow and pressed at the headache that I’m sure was there all day, but I was only just noticing (does this happen to you too? Do you feel separated from your body when you spend all day at a story? Or not even all day, but three or four hours? Sometimes I forget that I have a body at all.) Leo waited. He bounced on his toes. He was thrilled.

“I don’t know, honey.” (I secretly did.) “But I would love it,” (a sigh, a long, slow, long-suffering sigh) “if you would tell me what happens – what really happens – when all the people on earth burp, cough, sneeze, and fart at the same time.”

Leo smiled with all his teeth. “THE WORLD EXPLODES!” he said, jumping up and down.

“Well,” I said. “Let’s hope that never happens. Next time you need to fart, be sure to tell us, so that we don’t accidentally do it at the same time, okay.”

And then we went outside to go spider hunting. Because I had been outside of this world for long enough. And it felt good to be running around the back yard – my real yard of my real life – with my son for a little bit.

The story will just have to wait its turn.

You see? This is why we can’t have nice things.


My son, home from school and starving, went into the kitchen to get himself a snack. He opened the cupboards, pulled out our gigantic container of peanut butter (I buy it by the barrel), grabbed a bowl and sat down at the table. He started unscrewing the lid.

“Young man,” I said. Leo stopped, unaware that he was being watched. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Leo pulled the lid off the peanut butter and laid it on the table. He leaned over the open top and breathed in the scent of it. He smiled. “I love peanut butter.”


“I wanted a snack.”

“I see peanut butter and I see a bowl,” I said. “Aren’t you missing something?”

Leo stared at me.

I stared back.

WHAT?” he said, exasperated.

“This is not how we eat peanut butter,” I said primly.

“FINE,” he said, stomping over to the silverware drawer. “I’ll use a stupid spoon.

“Well-” I began.

“Crazy moms and their crazy spoons,” Leo muttered.

“Actually, I meant-” I said.

“When EVERYBODY knows that peanut butter tastes better with fingers.”

Then he shoved a heaping tablespoon – actually, it was so heaping that it was closer to a third of a cup – of peanut butter into his mouth and rolled his eyes at me.

“THERE,” he garbled. “HAPPY NOW?”

Back to Normal

The children are back in school. My hands are raised to the heavens. My mouth sings hymns of praise. I have cleared away the debris on my desk (there was beach sand on my desk. And a flip flop. And nine snail shells. And a note from my daughter demanding her own room) and I have gotten back to work.

There was a time, when my kids were small, that my only time to write fiction was between the hours of four and six in the morning. This is a scenario that I cannot recommend. During those years, I would haul my shaking carcass out of bed, stumble to the stove and light it. Sometimes I would forget to put on the kettle, and would, instead stand in the darkened kitchen, staring at the cold blue of the hot flame. Once I burned my hand. Another time I singed my bathrobe. Honestly, I’m astonished that I didn’t – not once – burn down the house.

Or maybe I did. In a different universe. I’ve been obsessing with universes lately.

In any case, I would stumble, tea in hand, sloshing it all over my damn self, and lean into my desk chair and start to write. I wrote a grown-up novel that collapsed under its own weight (I had actually started that one in college), and a young adult novel that was so dark and so upsetting and so violent that no one in their right mind will ever want to read it (all copies – I’m pretty sure – have been destroyed) and a mystery novel that wasn’t horrible, but still wasn’t particularly publishable.

It was an important time for me, but it wasn’t a time of producing good work. Just work.

But then – oh! then! – my kids went to school. No more collapsing at keyboards! No more zombified visage! No more potential disasters with fire! Instead I was rested, rejuvenated and organized. I planned out my writing day the night before, and worked in time to read. I had time, each day, to plunk words on the page, and the words – while not good, per se – weren’t terrible. I had graduated from Sucky to Mediocre. I was on fire!

But here’s the thing about the school year – it’s only nine months. Like a pregnancy. And like a pregnancy, it ends with interrupted schedules and lack of sleep and crying fits (mine, mostly) and bouts of vomiting and sticky surfaces and howls of rage. (Also mine). It is almost impossible for me to work during the summer.

Now sometimes, one has to. Deadlines, after all, exist, and boy did I have one. I needed to get the new version of Iron Hearted Violet to my beloved editrix, and I fear that I tried her patience, alas. My time was interrupted, and the work was slow, and the deadline began to creep, and bend, and topple forward. If I lived in NYC, I think she might have strangled me.

Right now, I miss my kids – I really do. The school day is long, and I’m lonely without them, but I need the time away from them in order to make fiction. Right now, my house is quiet. Right now, my heart is quiet. And right now, my new book is taking shape – even as I write this post, even now – under my hands. It presses on my skin. It whispers in my ear. And now, with the kids blissfully at school, it’s quiet enough for me to hear it at last.

My Baby Is Twelve

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Twelve ridiculously short years ago, I was sitting in a hospital room, amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, playing cards with my brother and my husband. Hearts, I think, and I won – though truth be told, given my delicate condition, they may have let me win.

You see, I suck at cards.

Anyway, I was supposedly in labor, but I didn’t feel like it. Just some cramps here and there and a bunch of ominous nurses keeping hepped up on antibiotics and using sinister words like “pitocin” and telling me my labor was “delinquent”. They regarded me with tight lips and narrowed eyes.

I actually liked being called a delinquent.

But here’s the thing, despite the slow start, my labor went from zero to a million later that afternoon, and my child emerged – bloody and gooey and squalling – in a single push. A thing of beauty. A howling angel. A screeching goddess. And I was terrified.

Here she is:

Clearly, the child’s a genius.

And there I am, clearly clueless. When I became a mother, I was twenty-five, shiftless, rootless, directionless, in love with my own youth, in love with my own plans, and terribly, terribly in love with my husband.


And over the moon for that little girl.


That baby, those blue eyes, that red skin, that complicated heart – she made us a family. We were not ready for her – not in the least. She didn’t care. She made us ready. She made me a grown-up, because I certainly wasn’t one just a few days earlier. The reason why I work as hard as I do, the reason why I throw all of my intelligence and my spirit and my being into my work as a writer, is because of that little child. So I can deserve her. So I can be the mama that she needs.

Twelve years ago, I sang and sang and sang myself hoarse. I sang as she cried, I sang as she nursed, I sang as she slept in my arms.

Welcome to the world, my darling, I sang. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

And now, a dozen years later, I continue to sing.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I am a better person now, Ella. Every day that I am your mom, I am a better person. Thank you for surprising me; thank you for challenging me; thank you for your presence and your spirit and your intelligence and your joy.

And I will sing my love to you forever.


How my daughter learned Important Life Lessons from David Bowie.

My story today will have to be brief alas. I’m working in a coffee shop so that I don’t have to go home and clean my house. Normally, I feel that the pre-writing session houseclean can be an invigorating, zesty enterprise, and that it, in general, clears the head, raises the heart rate, calms the spirit, and organizes thinking. Today, however, the house is a disaster. And I don’t know where to start.

Also, the internet doesn’t work. So I’m here. In a coffeeshop. Pretending to work.

(No! Actually working! In a minute. After this blog post.)

Anyway, I wanted to tell you a quick story. A quick story that involves the things we learn from men.

This man, specifically:

This weekend, my husband and I scored some cheapish tickets to see U2 (and holy hell, y’all, that was an amazing concert; but I digress) and we hired a babysitter to watch the children. We showed her how to stream the Netflix on to the television, and told her that the kids could watch anything streamable as long as it was rated PG and we left them to their own devices and had a magnificent time.

The next morning, while having breakfast with my eleven year old, I got the run-down of the evening – who listened, who was naughty, who was a pain in the butt, etc. (Interestingly, all three kids had different interpretations of who, exactly, should fall under which category.)

“What movie did you end up watching?” I asked.

“Labyrinth,” she said.

“Nice,” I said. Because I love that movie. Even though it definitively and irrevocably destroyed my childhood innocence when I watched it, right when I was about her age….Hmm. I decided to investigate.

“It’s been a while since you saw that movie,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “I had forgotten a lot of it. It’s still good. It’s just…”

She paused.

She knitted her brow.

She chose her words carefully.

“There are some movies that you just…… Well, you just learn a lot from them, you know?”

“I do,” I said. “What did you learn from this one?”

She pressed her fingers to her lips and breathed through her nose. “First of all,” she said, “little yappy dogs aren’t cute at all. They’re annoying.”

“Indeed,” I said.

“And that little brothers can be annoying, but it’s also annoying when people are annoyed by their little brothers, you know? Or acting annoyed is annoying.”

“This is true,” I said. “I never thought of it that way.” (Which is a lie.)

“Also?” She drank her juice. She leaned in and lowered her voice. “And this is the most important thing: a person should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever.” She paused. “Ever. Never ever trust a man who wears tight pants.”

She took a few bites of her cereal.

“I mean, not ever.”

“I’m with ya,” I said.

“Pants like that just scream untrustworthiness.

“That’s just good advice, my love,” I said.

She shuddered. “They shouldn’t have been allowed, mom,” she said. “They just shouldn’t have been allowed.”

I know, honey.

And it seems to me that a lot of women of my cohort and younger had a similar Labyrinth-moment – a David-Bowie-ification of the nacent sexual development of the female of the species. And I wonder how widespread it is. Is this just limited to the girls who were geeky in girlhood, or the girls of geeky parents? Are we the only one who gazed in horror at David Bowie’s Goblin King costume and found ourselves suddenly terrified of growing up? Or is this a nationwide phenomenon?

And this, of course, is not to knock Mr. Bowie, who I actually adore – Seventies glam forever! – and whose song “Life on Mars” is one of my all-time favorites. Still, those pants should not have been allowed.

Puberty, man. It’s a frickin’ mine field.

Grasping at straws

So my son -Leo?- I may have mentioned him a time or two (or a million) before on this blog, lost a tooth today at camp. He was thrilled.

“I can’t wait to put this under my pillow for the tooth fairy,” he said.

“Why,” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

Later on, Leo found a very nice card and a very nice pencil and he sat down to work.

“Mom,” he said. “How do you spell ‘fairy’?”

I told him. The house deepened into open-mouthed silence. Then:

“Mom,” he said. “How do you spell ‘please’?”

Then: “How do you spell ‘bucks’?”

Finally, after a long time working, he came to my office to show me his work. It was in his very best handwriting. Each word was exactly one fingerspace from the word before it. He had decorated it with wings and hearts and lightsabers.

“You worked hard,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “Because I have a new strategy.”

“For what?”

He looked over his right shoulder. Then over his left. Then he cupped his hands around my ear and whispered earnestly. “I know how I can get a Lego Death Star.”

Ah, the Lego Death Star! Lego Death Star II Coming Soon

It is, in the Barnhill house, the Holy Grail of toys! It is our World Cup, our Pennant, our dragon’s gold, our doorway to Valhalla! It haunts Leo’s dreams and occupies his waking moments. It is all he wants, all he dreams about. It is the one thing – the one thing! – that child covets.

“A lego Death Star?” I asked incredulously.

“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. The tooth fairy! The tooth fairy has LOTS of money!”

He showed me his note.

Dear Tooth Fairy, his note said. Here is my tooth. I took care of it. Please give me 400 bucks. Love, Leo.

Then, he lovingly placed the note in a quart sized ziplock with his tooth, decorated it with stickers for good measure, and put it under his pillow.

Right now, that child is dreaming of going to Legoland in the Mall of America, plunking down his four hundred bucks in shiny new quarters, and skipping home with the death star under his arm.

Right now, under his pillow, is a new note.

Dear Leo, the note says,

After careful consideration, we decided, instead of four hundred bucks, to give you four quarters.




The Tooth Fairies.


Who’s the meanest mom alive? This girl, right here.

Farewell, Kindergarten!

Today is Leo’s last day in Kindergarten.

Just looking at that sentence makes me fall into grief.

Yesterday, in celebration for their hard work as Kindergarteners, the parents were invited for a Recitation and Ice Cream Social. Now, at Leo’s school, the concept of a recitation is nothing new. It’s part of their School of Oratory curriculum, and they learn how to speak in front of a group, how to communicate effectively, how to make eye-contact and etc. But this was the first time they spoke in front of parents, so it was a big deal.

What’s more: they were reciting poems that they themselves had written. As part of their unit on insects, each kid learned everything they could about a bug, and wrote a poem about their bug. Leo chose spiders. “Why spiders,” I asked. “Because spiders are awesome,” he said.

To get ready to write his poem, he wanted to look at every youtube video ever made that had a spider in it. Like this one:

“I like to know how they move,” he said. “Also how gross they are.”

I arrived a little early with my assigned contribution (caramel syrup; on sale), and was greeted with the requisite Kindergarteney hugs (Look! It’s Leo’s mom! I love Leo’s mom!). I always get hugs from Leo’s class. This is partially because they think I’m funny, but it’s mostly because they love Leo. Because he is funny.

There was a little podium in the front of the room, set up on a small wooden dais. One by one, the Kindergarteners walked up, took the podium, recited their poems, and bowed.

Then, it was Leo’s turn. Leo the class clown. Leo the constant performer. Leo who was sent to the principal’s office during his first week as a Kindergartener. That Leo. He stood up, took the stage, paused to gaze at the audience and made a silly face. The other Kindergarteners thought it was hilarious. He took the podium and cleared his throat.

The Awesomest Spider
By Leo Barnhill

The Spider will leap to its prey
it will quietly creep.
The Spider is big.
The Spider dances a jig.

The Kindergarteners erupted with cheers. It was, as far as they were concerned, the best poem that had ever been written, or would ever be written. Leo bowed, then raised his hands in a two-fisted Victory sign. The crowd went wild.

And then, as his piece de resistance, he lifted his shirt, exposed his bare belly and chest, and rolled his stomach muscles like a belly dancer.

He was escorted out of the room.

Later that day, as he played at the playground and I sat on the bench, decompressing (did I wish for a gin and tonic? Or two? Why yes, ladies and gentlemen. Yes I did.), fifteen different Kindergarteners came up to me and gave me a hug.

“Thank you for putting Leo in my class,” one kid said.

“Leo is my favorite friend,” another kid said.

And last, the kid who gave me no less than four hugs that afternoon, motioned for me to lean down so she could tell me a secret. “Leo,” she whispered, “is my hero.”

“Mine too,” I whispered back, as my son, oblivious to our conversation, scooped up handful after handful of playground woodchips, and shoved them in his pants.

And GOD gaveth her a SON to teacheth her HUMILITY

In honor of the recent anniversary of the King James Bible, I’ve been thinking a lot about admonishments – from clergy, from doctors, from teachers, from little old neighbor ladies, from televangelists, from uptight uncles, and from moms. This mom, specifically.

Because holy hell, do I ever admonish.

Just to illustrate this point, here is a list of the admonishments from today given by me (THE MOTHER) to Leo (THE SON).

1. Do NOT punch your sister in the face.

2. Do NOT punch your sister in the butt.

3. Do NOT punch your dog in the butt.

4. Do NOT rip the picture out of that book.

5. I do not care if it would look good on your wall.

6. Do NOT bury my cell phone in the garden.

7. Tell me where my cell phone is THIS MINUTE.

8. No, you may NOT play video games.

9. No, not even if you give me a hundred bucks.

10. No, I will NOT give you a hundred bucks.

11. Do NOT dump that can of paint on the floor.

12. No I will NOT help you look up instructions on how to build a bomb.

13. No you may NOT feed the toothpaste to the dog.

14. Tell me where your dog is THIS MINUTE.

15. No you may NOT stick that screwdriver into that outlet.

16. Do NOT turn on that stove. I MEAN IT!

And so forth.

And that was just today. And he was at school for six hours of today.

I remember once having a discussion in a Theology class about biblical God-as-Father metaphors as opposed to God-as-Mother. Mothers, the thinking goes, nurture. Fathers oversee. Mothers forgive; fathers admonish.

But that’s not been my experience. I admonish. I admonish a lot. I think admonishment is a form of nurturing. We admonish when we need to stop danger, foolishness or downright stupidity right in its tracks. We admonish when we need to give our children a vigorous and no-nonsense view into the consequences of the very, very poor choice they are about to make.

Admonishments are nurturing on steroids. They are the things we yell, wail, yodel and screech to keep our children from hurling themselves over the goddamn cliff.

Is this an argument then, for the adoption of the God-as-Mother metaphor as opposed to God-as-Father? If three-quarters of the bible is a list of don’t’s, can’t’s, don’t-even-think-about-it’s, and OH-FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-PETE-WHAT-DID-YOU-JUST-DO, then I am well on my way to godishness. Because, in the end, as much as we’d all prefer the whole big, fluffy, amorphous marshmallow in the sky, the fact is that much of the world’s population is built like Leo, and actually needs an admonishment or two along the way. So maybe we all need to channel our inner nosy-neighbors, our inner strict teachers, and our inner royally pissed off mothers and start admonishing the hell out of anyone and everyone who needs it.

I think we all need to start admonishing. Today. Tomorrow. Every day.

For example:

1. No you may NOT publish racist pseudo-science studies. (That means YOU, Psychology Today!)

2. No you may NOT negate the fourth amendment. (Supreme Court, I’m giving you the stink-eye)

3. No you may NOT write bigotry into our state’s constitution. (That’s right, Minnesota. You’re on my list.)

You know? I actually feel better. Admonishing is great! Who would you people like to admonish?

On Farkle, Mathematics, and Ruling the World (or, the sinister side effects of childhood games)


The root of tyranny, I’ve discovered, can be traced to the toyboxes and game shelves of six-year-old children. Inside every evil overlord is a little kid winning at Candyland or Crazy Eights or Sorry.

(Risk and Mastermind, obviously, go without saying)

I taught my son to play the game Farkle last night (and for those of you who haven’t ever played that game, I simply must insist that you learn it instantly. It beats the pants off that stinkin’ Yatzee, I’ll tell you what), and the child is some kind of Farkle supergenius. He’s a Farkle wizard. He memorized the point structure, weighed options, assessed risk, and soundly kicked my sorry butt.

He was thrilled.

What amazed me was the fact that, though the points assessed for different rolls are valued in the hundreds and thousands, he did all the addition in his head and kept track of how many points he had and I had at any given moment. The kid is six years old and he adds quicker and faster than his mom. (Granted, this is not hard to do. I am math-deficient.)

But what was most amazing was simply watching my son – my wild man, my aspiring juvenile delinquent, my budding evil genius – as he became calm, sober and focused in his attention to his dice and the points he was receiving from his dice. His voice quieted; his movements gentled and slowed. He was wide-eyed, cherubic, lovely.

And then he beat me by 11,000 points.

At the end of the game he reached over to shake my hand.

“Good game,” he said seriously.

“I appreciate you shaking my hand,” I said.

He nodded. “My teacher says that you can only be a good sport if you’re showing someone else how to be a good sport.”

“Your teacher is very smart,” I said.

“But she doesn’t say that it’s more fun to be a good sport if you win.” His face was intense, as though the need to do a touchdown dance was knocking at the backs of his eyeballs and exploding his brain. “But it is. It’s way more fun.”

“I know, honey,” I said. “Thanks for being such a good sport. And for showing me how to be a good sport.”

“I like this game,” he said. “I like that it has math. Math is fun because it makes me win.”

“How so?”

“I add up my points,” he said. “And then I win. Math is the best. I’m going to do more math so I can keep winning.”

“Interesting plan,” I said.

“And then I’ll win so much that I’ll win the whole world. The. Whole. World.” His eyes were bright, wild, ferocious. He kept his hands at his sides, but they were balled into fists.  He wasn’t kidding.

He got up, and went to find a calculator and his sister’s math book. He can’t do it, mind (it’s Algebra), but he liked turning the pages and pretending to know what was going on in the book. He sat there for over an hour.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how tyrants are born. Those who aspire to a life bent towards world domination begin the early inklings of their master plans in their six-year-old bedrooms (painted to look like the surface of Mars. What were we thinking? My husband and I are fools! Fools, I say! We should have painted his room to look like a dentist’s office! Or a courtroom! Or even a construction site!). It begins with a simple game of Farkle, and it’s only logical end is the status of Overlord.

All I can say, folks, is brace yourselves.


This morning, while reading to my kids as we waited for the carpool, I had a sudden realization: I was sweating my brains out. When I checked the thermostat, I had another startling realization: someone had turned the heat up to 78 degrees (my house had hit 73 at that point). (Normally we keep it at 65.)

“WHO,” I roared, “TURNED THE HEAT UP TO 78?”

“Hee hee hee,” my eight year old giggled nervously, “ha, ha, ha.” She raised her hand. “Well,” she said. “I was cold.”

“Do you not understand what a waste that is?” I said. “Not just the money (though it’s expensive to heat a house) but it wastes energy. Do you have any idea how much gas we use to raise the temperature that high?”

My son sniggered.

He slapped his hand on his face.

He sniggered again.

“Gas,” he said.

He fell on the floor in a fit of the giggles.

“You said gas,” he snorted.

My daughter started laughing too. “Mom needs gas,” she said.

Leo howled, laughing so hard that –


It was, in truth, a glorious fart.

“I think I just gave you some extra gas,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Want some more?”


Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Do you realize, J.K. (if that’s your real name) how much your books have hijacked the brains of my (I’ll admit it) utterly addled children?

I know I’ve written about this before, and I’ve certainly thought about it often, but today was bloody ridiculous. It began when I asked my son to choose his breakfast.

“EXPELLIARMUS!” he cried, pointing at my chest with a chopstick.

“That’s very nice,” I said. “But what I want you to do is decide between Cheerios-”

“EXPELLIARMUS!” he yelled again, giving the chopstick a jaunty flick.

“or oatmeal,” I continued.


“Or, if you want-”

“EXPELLIARMUS!” https://i0.wp.com/digilander.libero.it/orteip1/harry%20potter/potter43.gif

“I could boil you an egg.”

“EXPELLIARMUS! EXPELLIARMUS! EXPELLIARMUS!” He vaulted forward, somersaulting across the kitchen floor, zapping me with his magic spell over his shoulder, then from under his leg, then upside down. He shouted the disarming spell while leaping, lunging and flying through space. He was joyful, intent, and unbridled. He was magic personified.

My eight year old – always a cool customer – was not amused. She extracted her spoon from her cereal and licked it clean. Then, shutting one eye, she pointed her spoon squarely at her brother.

“STUPEFY!” she yelled. Leo froze in mid-air, his face a mask of shock and horror, and fell, senseless to the ground. Deedee humphed, twirled her spoon, blew the tip, and resumed eating.

“It’s so easy,” she said with her mouth full, “to be in charge of boys.”

Leo still didn’t move. “Will someone,” he mumbled with frozen lips, “please un-stupefy me?” Deedee didn’t budge.

“Hermione wouldn’t’ve done, so I won’t either.” Deedee tucked into her breakfast and re-opened her book, a barely-concealed, un-uttered snicker uncurling across her lips.

I asked Leo later why he didn’t just get up – why he waited for his sister to finish eating, brush her teeth, and then un-stupefy him. Leo looked at me like I was nuts.

“How could I have?” he asked. “It’s not like I could just break the spell.” And he sat down and ate his breakfast and no more magic occurred that day.

DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO US MS ROWLING? Granted, my kids are crazy, but I think the evidence clearly shows that you have made them crazier. And a bit of a challenge to parent.

Perhaps, it’s time for me to return to my copy of Defensive Magical Theory and my Standard Book Of Spells (vol 1-7) just to brush up.


Coversations With Leo

Leo has a massive crush on a little girl from his preschool class. He sings songs about Erin, draws pictures of Erin, tells jokes about Erin and even insists that his nightly bedtime story (read, by his insistence, from my imagination) features Erin in some supporting role. Anyway, he’s scheduled to have some after school playtime with Erin on Thursday, but apparently, an hour of post-school play isn’t gonna cut it.

LEO: “I don’t want regular play. I want house play. I want Erin to come over to my house forever.”

ME: “How about just on Saturday.”

LEO: “Fine. Saturday. ALL Saturday.”

ME: “We’ll I’ll call her dad and find out if she’s free.”



LEO: Of course she’s free. She doesn’t cost anything. You can’t buy a friend. There’s no friend store.



LEO: Is there?