Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Paul and I took the three younger boys out to Perkins tonight.

Ethan ordered the mac and cheese.

The server asked him, "What side?"

He thought about it for a moment and answered, "Uhm... on the right, please."

Like mother, like son

After work tonight, the boys and I sat in the living room chatting about our day.

Zayd was on one of the smaller chairs. He was tilting it to the side, and balancing it on two legs -- something that bugs the heck out of me.

But... before I could open my mouth...

Zach: Zayd. Don't do that to the chair. You're going to wreck it.

What did Zach just say? What did my 14-year-old son who single-handedly ruined at least two of my living room chairs doing the exact same thing JUST SAY?

I whipped my head around to Zach, my mouth hanging open... and stared at him in complete disbelief.

We both paused looking at each other.

Me: Zaaachh? What did you say?

Zach looked at me for a moment, then it hit him.

Zach: Oh. My. God.

He put his hands up to cover his face and sank down into the couch.

Zayd: What?! WHAT?! What did he say?

Me: You tell me Zayd. What did Zach say to you just now?

Zayd: Uhm.... Uhm.....

Me: Can you remember?

Zayd: Uhm....

Evan: He told Zayd not to wreck the chair. What's wrong with that?

Zach: Oh my God. I cannot believe I just said that.

Me: ZAAACCHHH!!!! (Huge grin) Look at my ZACHHH!!! Look at yewwwww!!!! You are only 14-years-old! Awwww.... I am so proud of you!!! You are becoming your mother!!!

Zach: Oh my God. Oh my God. What is happening to me?

Me: You are becoming me, that's what is happening.

You lucky, lucky, little devil you....

Monday, June 29, 2009


While I was gone the last week, some of the boys in the house forgot basic hygiene strategies such as "completing the wiping" technique, the use of toilet paper, and spaced out elements of a civilized household such as using the toilet altogether.

This became apparent as I was sorting dirty laundry after work today.

One fine piece of underwear, belonging to boy #3 or #4 -- honestly it's hard to know because oftentimes they wear each other's underwear -- had a piece of toilet paper stuck to the butt along with an impressive piece of poop... which had fossilized.

I wondered to myself... how much extra effort would it have taken to actually complete the wiping process? Further... was it worth the seconds the child possibly may have saved (by not completing the wiping process) to go back to what he was doing? And finally... wasn't it uncomfortable to have a piece of toilet paper attached to poop stuck in his underwear?

Huh. Interesting.

I continued sorting only to find another fine specimen. This time it was what appeared to be white briefs -- which were now almost 95% yellowish. I concluded that this boy, most likely #4, decided against using the toilet altogether. He must have been doing something extraordinarily fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the fact that while he couldn't find time to use the toilet, he did manage to find the laundry chute. Nice touch.

I can only imagine how long the once sopping undergarment had been amongst the other clothing in the chute...

This. THIS is why I no longer allow my laundry to touch theirs.

Friday, June 26, 2009


After arriving home on Wednesday night from Baltimore, I turned around Thursday morning at 6 am to drive 5 hours to Minot, ND, to make an 11 am meeting. Then, after the meeting finished on Friday at 4 pm, I drove another 5 hours back home to Fargo.

The boys missed me a lot.

This time, when I walked in the door, the three younger boys all hugged me, and no one would let go for a good five minutes. (The oldest was at a movie).

Right away the requests came tumbling in:

Are you going to the lake with us tomorrow?
Do you still have to write your paper?
When is that paper going to be done? Do you have to write it forever?
Did you buy us a present?
Why didn't you buy us a present? I made one for you. You are supposed to give me one back.
Can we have a family fun night now?
Let's play a board game.
Let's have a movie night.

I suggested that I would put them all to bed. That seemed satisfactory to them.

I was in Ethan and Zayd's room, rubbing Zayd's back.

Ethan: Mom, look at my money.

He pulls out a screw-top plastic water bottle full of coins.

Me: Wow. That's pretty impressive. 

Zayd gives a little snort-laugh.

Zayd: Ethan threw the TV clicker at me today.

Ethan: Ughhh... (big sigh) I said I was sorrryyy. Ughh...

Zayd: It hurt a lot.

Ethan: Oh nooo... Ughhhh. Sorrryyy Zayd!

Zayd: Feel the bump on my head mom.

Me: Why are you telling me about what your brother did wrong. Are you trying to get him in trouble again.

Zayd hides his smirk.

Zayd: Really mom... feel this bump.

Me: Holy cow! That is a bump!

Ethan: Ughhh...

Me: Ethan. Why did you throw the clicker at Zayd?

Ethan: Wellll... we were watching a movie and we were going to watch something different so I threw it at him to catch.


Ethan: He didn't catch it.

Zayd snorts again - holding back his laugh.

Me: I guess so. That's a pretty big miss.

Ethan: I accidentally missed.


Ethan: But mom! Look at this! You didn't look! (He holds up the bottle full of coins)

Me: Of course! I saw it! Very nice.

Ethan puts his head on the pillow and snuggles the bottle next to him.

Me: What are you doing?

Ethan: I'm sleeping with it.

Me: You are sleeping with a bottle of money? I don't think that is healthy Ethan.

Ethan: His name is Bob.

Zayd snorts again. Ethan gives me a huge smile and nuzzles the bottle.

Me: Bob?

Ethan: Yes. Look at him! Isn't he cute?

Oh my God.

Ethan: (holding "Bob" up now). He has eyelashes too.


Me: Really.

Ethan: But you can't see his head really well.


Me: He has eyelashes but no head?

Ethan: He has a head. It is small. 

Another snort from Zayd. Zayd is in a constant state of despair... like a tortured artist. He can't show me that he is laughing. That would wreck the whole tortured artist gig.


Ethan: Come and give Bob a kiss and hug goodnight!

I kiss Zayd and then Ethan... I do not kiss Bob. I start walking away.

Ethan: MOM! Bob needs a kiss!

I walk back, kiss my hand and put it on the bottle cap. Or Bob cap... or whatever.

Ethan: AND... a hug.

Me: No hugs. Bob does not get hugs.

Zayd: What should I think about mom? 

Zayd asks me this every night. He is convinced that if I tell him what to think about before bed, he will not have a nightmare. I have given him topics from birthday parties to grass. It's hard to come up with something new every night.


Me: Bob. Think about Bob.

Zayd: Ok.

Ethan: I'm going to think about Bob too!


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Last night, I got home after being in Baltimore for four days.

My husband picked me up at the airport and told me,"We all missed you. Too much testosterone in one house... we needed our woman."

Oh God. 

Before we even pulled into the garage, the door was open and boys were on stand-by waiting for me to hop out of the car. I was attacked by three - I had to go and hug the oldest. We were all standing around the island in the kitchen and I said..

Me: So, what did I miss guys?!

Paul: Oh. I have to show you this.

Paul opens the fridge door and pulls out a big jar with one large but lonely pickle floating in brine.

Paul: This was full of pickles at noon. These weren't mini dills either... these were big pickles! I can't believe they are all gone! No one will admit to who ate them all.

Zach: I had one pickle.

Zayd: No you didn't.

Zach: I had one pickle.

Zayd: No you didn't.

Me: It's ok if you had more than one...

Zach: I had one pickle.

Zayd: Well I only had one pickle too! I didn't eat them all!

Evan: I didn't have any pickles.

So that leaves... the one and only... 

Me: Well... Ethan DOES like pickles.

He also likes ranch dressing. Not anything with his ranch dressing... just the ranch dressing. 

Paul: Yeah, I thought of that (pause). But that means he ate almost an entire jar of pickles by himself this afternoon.

We all look at Ethan at the far end of the island. He is crouched down low enough so his eyes just clear the counter. 

Ethan: I didn't have any pickles. 

We all continue staring at Ethan.

Ethan: Weewy! I didn't have any pickles!

Me: Ethan, it's ok if you ate the pickles. We just want to know.


Ethan: Welllll....maybe I ate the pickles.

Paul: How many pickles did you eat?


Ethan: Welll... (a smirk comes over his face). Maybe... 10 pickles?

Good God. Who eats 10 full-sized kosher dills in an afternoon? Should I call poison control? All that brine can't be good for one 5-year-old.

And come to think of it...

Who ate all the ice cream?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A call from the principal

When my oldest son Zachary was in kindergarten, he got in trouble the first week of school - the kind of trouble the principal calls you about. Now mind you, this is my oldest son, and he is in his first year of public education in our hometown. I am of course, expecting perfection from him.

I got the call at work.

Principal: Mrs. Amundson?

Me: Yes?

Principal: This is Mrs. Griffin at the Kindergarten Center.

Uh oh...

Me: Yes! How are you?

Principal: Well, not so well right now. We had an incident with Zach this morning on the school bus that you need to know about.


Me: Oh! Ok... What happened?

Principal: Well... how should I put this? Zachary... well... Zachary mooned the kindergarten bus.


Me: Excuse me?

Principal: He MOONED the kindergarten bus. He pulled down his pants and exposed his buttocks on the kindergarten bus this morning.


Me: Oooookkaaayyy...

Principal: I've had to call all the parents of the children riding the bus to alert them to the incident.

My brain is still at "He mooned the kindergarten bus..." But it is obvious at this point I am going to need to keep up with this.

Me: I'm sorry? What did you do?

Prinicipal: Mrs. Amundson, the girls on the bus were mortified by the incident. It was important that I call all their parents so that they were aware of what happened. It's obvious these girls need to talk about this when they get home.

Oh. My. God. She. Called. ALL the parents. ALL OF THEM.

Me: Mortified?

Principal: Yes, they are quite upset. This is absolutely inappropriate behavior and will not be tolerated. Zachary has been expelled from the school bus for one week. He will not be permitted to ride the bus.


Me: He has been expelled from riding the school bus.

Principal: Yes. The parents are quite upset about this too. I think this is the absolute minimum that I should be doing.

Now my brain has caught up.

Me: Uhm... Mrs. Griffin. I appreciate the fact that what Zachary did wasn't appropriate, but he is just a 5-year-old boy.

Principal: He is old enough to know better. I have already spoken to Zachary about this and he is aware he will not be on the bus next week. He is also aware of the gravity of the situation.

Me: Of course.

Principal: Thank you Mrs. Amundson. Goodbye.

I sat for a moment, stunned.

First I thought - What in the world possessed Zachary to pull down his pants in front of everyone on the kindergarten bus. Second I thought - Oh my God. Every freakin' parent at the Kindergarten Center now knows about this.

And finally I thought...

What the hell!? No one... and I mean NO ONE... would be "mortified" by my son's butt. He has a super cute butt. That's just a bunch of bull crap.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Game of Life: Mom's Way

My boys love playing the board game: "Life."

I hate some of the assumptions built into the game. My big peeves are:
1. You have to get married.
2. You can only choose between being a blue or pink person.
3. You have to have kids.
4. You have to buy a house.
5. The accumulation of monetary wealth determines the winner.
6. There is only one road to get to the end of the game. The symbolism behind that bothers me.

So - my boys know that Mom plays it with some slightly expanded options:
1. You don't have to get married.
2. You can still have kids whether or not you choose to be married.
3. If you do want to get married, you can marry either a blue or pink person. And you yourself can be either a blue or pink person.
4. You can have a boyfriend or girlfriend rather than a spouse.
5. You don't have to buy a house.
6. We don't count the money at the end - because Ethan manages to win every time we play. (He also ends up with the most children).

When anyone lands on the "get married" spot, I usually hear: "I know, I know mom... we can get married to a boy or girl... or we don't have to get married. But I want to marry a girl, and I want her to be pink - Is that ok?"

I've also mentioned that some people get married to several others... to which 8-year-old Zayd stared at me blinking slowly for about 6o seconds. He finally said, "Why in the world would you want to have more than one person to be married to? That sounds like too much work to me."

No one has yet to follow my lead against the norm. I am the only one who had not gotten married, married a woman, been a blue person and married another blue person, or has picked up a boyfriend. I have had children, not had children, had children without getting married to either a pink or blue person, and gotten married without having children.

I also do not buy a house - ever.

I tell the boys I live in my car.

Despite all this, they still continue to ask me to play "Life" with them.

I'm trying as hard as I can to change this.

Tonight's Bedtime Conversation with Ethan

Ethan: Mom? Where is that cage I used to sleep in?

Me: Cage?

Ethan: Yeah - that cagey thing I used to sleep in.

Me: Oh! You mean your crib? It's called a crib.

Ethan: But it looks like a cage.

Me: Yes, I suppose you are right. It's in the shed.

Ethan: Why is it in the shed?

Me: Because mommy wants to keep it for when you have babies. You'll bring your babies to visit me and they can sleep in the crib.

Ethan: So I have to buy this house?

Me: No, Dad and I will live in this house.

Ethan: (sigh) Oh goshhh... so I have to build another house now?

Me: Uhhh...

Ethan: (in a frustrated voice) But, why do I have to be the dad when I growed up?

Me: Well... do you want to be the mom?

Ethan: No! Mom's have babies.


Ethan: Do I have to get married?

Me: Of course not. You don't ever have to get married if you don't want to.

Ethan: I don't have to get married and I can do whatever I want?

Me: Yes. You do not have to get married and you can do whatever you want.


Ethan: Then... I want to be... (hushed voice) The Ice Cream Man.


Me: Wow. The ice cream man, huh?

Ethan: Oh no! But I don't know how to drive! How am I going to learn?!

Me: Don't worry. We'll teach you how to drive.


Ethan: Then maybe I'll be the... (hushed voice) The Candy Man.

Me: Oookkkaaayyy. That sounds interesting.

Ethan: But I don't know how! (sigh) How do you be a candy man?

Me: I'mmmm noooot....

Ethan: Oh! I really want to be a space man. Is there a thing called a space man?

Me: Yes, there is a thing called a space man. They are called astronauts.

Ethan: Who is going to teach me how to be a space man, mom? (big sigh) I don't know how I am going to learn all this.

Me: You will... you have plenty of time to learn.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Another eye-opening discussion... this time with my 11-year-old, Evan.

He's been feeling down lately, so I suggested the two of us go out and do something together. He was very excited. I told him to choose whatever he wanted to do. He decided on going out to eat at Perkins and stopping by Scheels All-Sport.

We had a lovely dinner - he talked and talked and talked... I listened. Then we headed for Scheels. He wandered around for a while by himself, then came to find me. I wanted to try on a couple of t-shirts, so he came in the dressing room with me.

In the dressing room, there was that little sign that reminds women not to remove their undergarments while trying on swimwear...

Evan: So... why do they need that sign?

Me: Well... some women try on swimsuits without their underwear on... and that is just... you know... kinda gross.

Evan: (totally matter-of-factly) Crabs.

Did he just say crabs?


Me: Did you just say crabs?

Evan: (serious) Yeah - crabs.


I haven't heard the words crabs since I was a freshman in college. The rumor was that some girl living on the third floor of Brown Hall had crabs and no one was using the bathroom there anymore.

Evan now sees that I am off in another world... My brain simply cannot put together my college memory and my 11-year-old son in the same space.

Evan: Mom. You know what crabs are? Don't you?

I am too stunned to reply. This isn't my smart-mouthed, knows-too-much-for-his-own-good 14-year-old... this is my precious little Evan. Eleven-year-old Evan.

Evan: Mom. Crabs are like lice... except not on your head hair.


Evan: On the OTHER hair. (His one eyebrow goes up and he slowly nods his head -- like he wants me to nod along)


Me: Uhmmmm... how do you know about crabs?


Evan: You're kidding, right mom?

Me: Weeeelllll...

Evan: Oh my God mom! Hellloooooo. Family living classssss.... Remember? In fifth grade, we get family living class. I know about everything mom. You don't have to worry about me.

Juicy poop

This past weekend, I was sitting at the kitchen counter working on my paper when Ethan walks by in his swimsuit to go out to the backyard.

Me: Oooooo! Look at you!

Ethan: (serious look - places his index fingers on his nipples) Please don't look at my nipples.


A few minutes later, he comes back inside.

Ethan: Cue'z me. I've got a really juicy poop to get out in the toilet.

And he walks by again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

White t-shirts soaked in water

Fourteen-year-old boys... hummmm... How do I put this?
... Full of testosterone.

Fortunately, I am here to refocus all that testosterone into constructive discussions about feminist thinking.

About a month ago, I took my son and his friend to Culver's for some ice cream after one of their choir concerts.

I hope they found our conversation enlightening...
Because frankly, I was enlightened in a way I would not have preferred.

Me: That was a fun concert. The 8th graders sounded great! I'm really glad you guys have stuck with it. But, why do they separate the girls out for a girl's choir?

Zach: Because there are so many more girls in it than boys.

Me: So what do you both do while the girls are practicing? Do you get to leave practice?

Carlson: Oh no... we get to sit and watch them. (He smirks) A lot of guys drop out after the 6th grade. They don't see the advantages.

Oh my.

Me: What do you mean?

Carlson: That we are one of the few guys in it... with all those girls.

Me: Ahhhh...

Zach: Yeah. Should I tell you what we do while we are watching them?

(double pause). I stare Zach in the eye, trying to decide whether I really want to know this or not. I decide I need to know - I don't want him to think he can't talk to me.

I brace myself.

Carlson: We sit there and imagine all of them wearing white t-shirts.

Zach: And then a huge flood of water dumping over all of them.

(triple pause)

Ok.. ok. I didn't quite think it would be that imaginative. I thought it would be something more straightforward - like they were thinking of them all naked. The wet t-shirt thing is a bit more... uhmm... something.

Me: (deep breath). Ok. That's interesting. Sooooo... this seems like a good moment to talk about objectifying women.

Zach: Oh my God, mom. I know... I know... women aren't objects. They are people.

Carlson looks at Zach and me - intrigued. Obviously he had not considered this before.

Me: Right. Exactly right. I mean, look at how society has influenced you to even think about your classmates being seen only as sex objects. The media bombards you unrealistic images of women - Women whose only purpose is to satisfy your fantasies. These women in your class have thoughts. They are intelligent, emotional, thoughtful human beings. You need to treat them as such.


Zach: Mom... Really? We're 14. Just let us have this, ok? Just let us have our moment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Now the neighbors know

This morning, after Ethan crawled into bed with me at 6 a.m., we finally woke up and got ready for our day.

Now, I have no privacy in my home. None. I have come to accept that. The boys come in and out all the time. I figure at least they have grounded sense of what real women look like.

As I was washing my face and brushing my teeth, Ethan was trying to talk to his dad who was watering his garden below. The window was closed, so I opened it for him.

Me: Paaaaullll! Look uuuuupp! There's a little monkey I found who wants to talk to you!

Paul: Hi Ethan!


Ethan: Paaaullll! Look up! There's a naked mommy up here!

Me: Ethan. (sigh) What are you doing?

Paul: Reeeally?

Ethan: Paaauuulllll! She doesn't have her pants ooonnnnn!


He gives me the most devilish grin then turns to the window again.

Ethan: Paaaauuullll! She doesn't have her bra onnnnn!

Me: ETHAN! Knock it off. Why don't you leave so mommy can get dressed in peace.

Ethan: Oh! She has her bra on now Paul. But she doesn't have a shirt on.

Good God.

Ethan: Oh! She has her shirt on now.

I walk to the window and yell down.

Me: Now you have had your play-by-play of your wife getting dressed.

Paul: Actually the entire neighborhood got a play-by-play.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Ethan tried to pick his nose with my finger tonight.
He also tried to itch his leg itch with my nails.
He told me that he saw a dog today "brown holes" and "black holes" on it.
He asked if I was old enough to watch PG-13 movies.
He tried to look down my underwear.
He kissed me all over my face before his bedtime...

and finally, he smelled my feet.

I'm not sure what to think about everything that has transpired between us this evening.

Sand Boobs

Another theme emerges... 

Actually, did we ever leave the boob theme?  

During our Florida vacation, the kids and their father partook in the beach ritual of burying bodies in the sand.

Paul quickly buried our 8-year-old... then began to trace boobs on the sand where Zayd's chest would be.

Me: Oh my God! What are you doing Paul!

He just laughs.

Zayd is laughing and Ethan, the five-year-old, who already has what I would deem an unnatural obsession with boobs is giggling hysterically. 

Me: Paul. Serious. Stop that. No wonder our children are single-mindedly focused on boobs. This is YOUR fault!

Paul: I'm drawing a bikini, Najla... not boobs.

I tilt my head to the side to get a better look. 

Me: Well you aren't a very good artist. Two circles the size of watermelons does not look like a bikini.

In the meantime, Ethan decides that dad should be buried. Paul is 6 foot 6. This is not an easy undertaking. So Paul helps them dig a hole.

Zayd and Ethan work and work to cover up dad... and when they are done... 

Well... what do you think?

Ethan starts working on the boobs... complete with nipples.


I jump off my beach chair and wipe out the nipples.

Then Zayd starts working on something else...   
somewhere else...

Me: OH MY GOD! ZAYD! What are you DOING! Knock it off you guys!

Zayd: I'm drawing a bikini mom... Look - it's a triangle!

O.M.G. Am I living with four boys and a man, or five boys, or five men? I'm really not sure anymore. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


As I mentioned in the "bikini" post, my family spent more than a week with my sister's in Florida.

Yasmine mentioned that her dog Rudy managed to capture an armadillo recently- they found part of its bloody remains poolside. She told me there are lots of armadillos around.

Me: I've never seen one. I'd really like to see one.

Yasmine: Oh! You can see lots of armadillos in the morning. I see them all the time on the way to teach aerobics at 5:15 am.

By the way, in order to get to a 5:15 am aerobics class, you have to wake up at 4:40 a.m. Yasmine wanted me to attend her aerobics class. I begged her not to make me. For one thing, I hate group exercise. For another - this is supposed to be my vacation. Lastly... HELLO! It's 4:40 a.m.

I went.

I figured, at least I'll get to see my armadillo.

So, we are driving along the dark road towards God knows which fitness center that apparently is open at 4 in the morning and...

Me: Where are all the armadillos?

Yasmine: I don't know. I guess none of them got hit by cars... cuz I see them all the time smashed on the road.


Me: You mean I am up at this God forsaken hour to see DEAD armadillos?

Yasmine: Wellllll... yeah.


Yasmine: Oh you thought I meant LIVE armadillos? Ohhhh! noooo. Only dead ones. I've never seen a live one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mom's bikini

I have never worn a bikini.

It's not that I am shy or modest... the opportunity has just never presented itself. Until now.

My sister loaned me one of hers to wear this last week. My family spent the week with her's at her home in Florida. Her home is beautiful! I felt like I was at a spa -- and I felt very comfortable wearing this cute little bikini in her private backyard pool. SO comfortable, that when all the kids were playing inside, I decided it would be fun to find out what it felt like to swim like boys do -- without a top.

You couldn't see anything. I had a Spider Man floaty-thing pressed firmly against my chest as I kicked around the pool. Very sexy -- as you can imagine.

But then I looked up at the big picture window into the kitchen... and there he was. My 14-year-old, with his mouth hanging open... looking at me in sheer horror. I waved. He slapped his hand against his eyes and shook his head. He ran out of sight.

A moment later, my sister came out.

Yasmine: Zach is mortified. He thinks it's gross that you don't have your top on.

Me: Whatever!

Yasmine: I know! I told him, "Whatever! She has nice boobs!"

Me: Huh. Thank you Yaso.

Yasmine: No problem.

Me: So, what did he say to that?

Yasmine: Well, he said, "Imagine YOU are a 14-year-old boy and your mother is swimming around a pool without her top on. How would you feel about it?"

Me: What did you say?


Yasmine: Weeellllll... I told him there were too many variables in his question for me to answer that with any accuracy.


Me: That would be kinda gross.


Yasmine: Yeah. That would be kinda gross.

I put my top back on.