Artist • Author • Activist • Advocate

Photo from howieluvzus' photostream at

When my boy was very young – maybe four or five years old – we had just completed our grocery shopping when he noticed a man in a green coat feeding dollar bills into a machine that then shot out shiny tickets. He asked me what the man was doing and what the machines were for and I thought, Aha! Now this is a teachable moment if I have ever seen one! I licked my lips, certain that this would be, without a doubt, the lesson on gambling that my son would never forget.

I explained to my littlun that the man in the green coat was buying scrach-off tickets. That each ticket had a different price, and that the man had a chance of winning a little money (as in the same amount as the cost of the ticket), a lot of money (in this case, up to $500 smackers) or he could lose everything.

For those of you who remember the ‘80s television sit-com, Family Ties, you may recall Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox. “Alex,” was a high school student who had a passion for economics and wealth. A proponent of supply-side economics, Alex’s heroes were Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. His favorite television show was Wall $treet Week and he was an avid reader of the The Wall Street Journal. My son has always had a little Alex P. Keaton in him. Maybe more than a little. For his birthday this year, he wants Apple stock. But I digress.

Anyway, at age 5, my child was positively enthralled by the machine, the lights, the magical production of a shiny ticket which he now understood could win him big bucks. His eyes were wide.

“So he could win $500?” my child asked, pointing at the man in the green coat.

“He could,” I reiterated, “but the odds are against him. Most people lose.”

My child was in a zombie-like state, drifting over to the man and the machine.

I tugged on his arm. “Would you like to go over and ask the man some questions?”

I did not have to ask twice because my child was now running towards the man in the green coat.

After introducing my son and myself, I asked the man in the green coat if my child could ask him a few questions, and he was more than agreeable.

My son had a million questions.

Boy: How many tickets did you buy today?

Man: 10.

Boy: How much is each ticket?

Man: $2.

Boy: How many times a week do you play?

Man: Every day.

Boy: Every day?!

Man: Every day.

Boy (incredulous): You spend $20 every day on scratch-off tickets?

Man: Yup.

Boy: Do you ever win?

Man: Sometimes. Not usually.

Photo by Shoshanah at

Boy: What’s the most you’ve ever won?

Man: Just a few dollars. Maybe $20. Usually I lose. But like they say, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

Boy: Who says that?

Man: It used to be on a commercial for the New York State Lottery.

Boy: What’s ‘lottery’?

Man: It’s another gambling game where you place a bet on numbers.

Boy: Do you play that?

Man: Sure do. Once a week.

Boy: Wow! You must be rich! How much money do you spend in a week on all these numbers games?

Here, I apologized profusely to the man in the green coat as boy was probing relentlessly about his finances and what he did for a living so he could afford to spend $20 a day on “these numbers games.” The older man graciously dismissed my apology with a wave of his hand.

Man: I suppose one day when you are bigger, you’ll be able to figure out how much money I spend in a week, even a year, on these tickets.

Boy (nodding): You gonna scratch now?

Man: Yup. You wanna watch?

Boy didn’t need to answer. He stood on his tippy-toes at the service desk, watching the man in the green coat burn through his scratch-off tickets with his “lucky” quarter in hand.

I was thinking to myself, if you usually lose, wouldn’t that be an “unlucky” quarter? Maybe you should pick a new coin.

In a short time, the man in the green coat was down to his last ticket, which he kissed dramatically. I am pretty sure he did this for my son’s benefit.

But whatever. I didn’t care. I was so happy. I had my car lecture ready to go in my head. It went something like this: You see, son, the man in the green coat spends $20 a day on scratch-off games, which is $140 per week. That’s about $560 per month, not counting whatever he pays for lottery tickets. That’s a lot of money, I would say. I was prepared to point out that our grocery bill that very day had come to $146, so that man’s habit was just under a week’s worth of groceries for our family of three. I was prepared to discuss car payments and mortgage payments and savings accounts, the money market, the stock market, 401K plans, stocks and bonds.

And then it happened.

Photo from djainslie @

The man in the green coat shouted, “Hey-o! She’s a winner!”

He leaned over and showed my son the three matching numbers lined up in a row.

“Five hundred dollars!” he said, “Kid, you are my lucky charm!” he declared with a wink, “What time can you be here tomorrow?” Then he wandered off to stand in the line, I assumed, to collect his winnings.

My son looked at me and said, “I thought you said people almost never win!”

My beautiful lesson was destroyed. What was a mom to do? I shrugged my shoulders and swallowed my perfectly prepared lecture. “I guess you have to be willing to take a little risk if you want to do something where the odds are against you.”

My soon-to-be 11-year old has no recollection of this event whatsoever, but he did recently use his own $5 to purchase a raffle ticket that a friend was selling. I don’t mind him supporting his buddy’s youth hockey team, but I kind of hope he doesn’t win.

If he does, he might start asking for a trip to Vegas for his 11th birthday.

Have you ever had a teachable moment go horribly awry?

Colorado River Ride

Having just returned from a fabulous, week-long Tauck-Bridges Tour that started in Phoenix, Arizona, moved through a few of our country’s National Parks, and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada I am finding re-entry into everyday life a little rough as we were so very pampered. Where is my breakfast menu? You mean I have to start cooking again? Sigh. But now that the six loads of laundry are behind me, and I have a fully stocked refrigerator, I would like to take a moment to express a little gratitude because it is easy to get sucked back into the daily grind and forget how wonderful it was just 36 hours ago.

Here goes. Thank you to:

  1. AT&T: For your miserable coverage, which reminded me that I did, in fact, live without a Smart Phone until last December. Had my phone been working, I would not have been able to plug in to my family as fully as I did. Together, we swam, hiked, played chess, read books and chattered away. Not being plugged into technology also afforded me the opportunity to meet everyone on our tour. Yeah, I worked the bus.
  2. Suitcases with Good Zippers: I didn’t believe it was possible at the packing stage, but we were able to live completely comfortably – with everything we needed – for 8 full days – out of 3 medium-sized suitcases. And I still managed to bring 4 pairs of shoes and my favorite pair of cowboy boots. How can you go west without ‘em?
  3. The Grand Canyon: For reminding me how small I am. (Because sometimes I forget.)
  4. Horses & Mules:For being sure-footed where I would surely have fallen. Also for 2 hours of happy-happy, joy-joy bliss.

    Riding in Bryce Canyon
  5. Sunshine: For confirming what I had already suspected: that I am an exothermic lizard-girl who gets happier and happier the drier and hotter it gets. Thank you, sunshine, for showing up every morning around 4:30 am and sticking around – hot on my face – until around 7:30 pm. (Husband would like me to take a moment to thank Neutrogena sunscreen here.)

    Me, doing yoga on a very skinny ledge
  6. Headlamps: So that when day was done and sunset descended into the canyons so completely, we could still see the deer and fox around us. And when we turned them off, we could hear frogs and owls and bats.
  7. Children: Who despite their varied ages all managed to find something wonderful to appreciate about each other and enjoy the time they spent swimming, hiking, catching tadpoles, playing football, rooting on a park ranger as he wrastled a rattlesnake, even just hanging out together on the bus.
  8. Good guides: Thank you Southwest pilots for your sense of humor when the roller-coaster turbulence complete with big dips and swells was not appreciated by everyone. Thank you to William, our motor coach driver, for allowing my husband to truly relax and not have to fuss with maps or GPS systems or reservations (which, in turn, allowed me to completely relax because you know we might have killed each other if we were driving together, getting lost together, for 8 days). With William at the wheel, hubby’s most basic needs were met: he had a bottle of water every day; a rotating but reserved seat; he was able to tune into conversation when he wanted, tune out when he had had enough; and he could nap whenever he wanted, knowing we were still moving toward a destination. He never had to worry about checking in, checking out, dragging a bag, checking to make sure our flight was on time, or arranging for transfer to or from the airport; all of this was handled by our tour company. Thank you to Justin, our riverboat guide, who encouraged us to soak our feet in the Colorado River to understand what 47 degrees feels like. (Note: It’s damn cold.). Thank you Julie, our Tauck-Bridges guide, who worked her butt off to make sure the needs of 40 people were met. That woman managed to land us a king-sized bed and roll-away cot combo in the most remote of places. And thank you to Ver, our more than slightly abrasive Navajo guide who, at the time, pissed me off by snatching the camera out of my hands and screwing around with all the presets – but managed to capture one of the best photographs of the entire trip.

    In Anelope Slot Canyon, Page, AZ
  9. The Navajo Nation: Though skeptical when we met in a rundown gas station parking lot in Page, Arizona. The trip to Antelope Slot Canyon was truly a treat, and we never would have found that skinny little hidden canyon where the sun shone through the cracks and made purple and yellow and orange. Thank you for opening your land to us. I truly feel blessed to have been able to be there.
  10. Bryce National Park: For making me feel like I was on another planet, like there are a million other places on this big blue marble we call Earth that are filled with that kind of magic.
  11. The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada: For reminding me that everything is better in moderation. That the 2-foot hot dog is a better idea than a reality; that sometimes it’s hard to tell by the height of a woman’s shoes if she is being stylish or if she is a prostitute; that I am not a drinker, a smoker, or a gambler and I prefer living in a place with windows and far fewer bells and whistles; that the shtick, the glitz, the glam – enjoyable as it is – is fake and after you’ve seen the MGM lions and ridden the roller coaster at New York, New York, and seen the fountain at the Bellagio and been to a show, there’s still no place like home.
  12. Family: That I am blessed to have one as good as I do. Because I am. Thank you for taking the trip that I have always wanted to take.

    My family at Zion National Park

photo by Renée Schuls-Jacobson

I am taking off for a few days. I am crazy excited, and I am sure that once all the frantic packing is finished and I’m on the plane, I’ll be able to have that ahhhhh moment. But not yet. Not yet.

So today’s questions is:

What is the best family summer vacation that you have ever taken, either as a child or an adult? Location and a favorite memory, please.

(And remember “favorite memory” doesn’t necessarily mean everything was perfect at the time. Memory can grow and morph and suddenly, a kinda-lame trip can be into a favorite story as the years go by. When I get home, somebody remind me to tell you about the Nepa Hut.)

photo "Sindone Days" by

Our friendship started just short of ten years ago, when our sons gravitated towards each other at Gymboree. It was almost as if each knew that the other was an only child, and while one was mobile and the other was not, they managed to stick pretty close to each other, climbing over mats and across obstacle courses. Of course, she and I were immediately drawn to each other – two young mothers appreciating how nicely our children played together. We were amazed to discover our similarities: we had both been English teachers and attended colleges in the East. One of her sorority sisters had been a friend of mine in high school; their financial guy was someone I’d known in high school. Like me, she loved horses. And books. We’d both played the flute.

Over the weeks, months, and years, she became the best friend I ever had. Pathological as it sounds, except for when she packed up her station wagon and went to her place in the mountains for five excruciating weeks each summer, not a day went by where one of us didn’t call or see the other. We went grocery shopping together and bathing suit shopping together. We ate lunches at her house and dinners at mine. And I never tired of her. Ever.

As the boys’ grew older, her son grew heavier while mine grew lean. Hers preferred to stay in his pajamas and watch television while mine was up and at ‘em with a “sproing” in his every step. We tried to hold them together – even forced them to play together – but theirs was a friendship born out of our desire for things to stay the same.

"slowly withering away" by megyarsh

One day, I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I realized our friendship was unraveling. Once, we had once joked that we were Frog and Toad, the infamous amphibian duo created in a series of children’s books by Arnold Lobel, but suddenly, it just didn’t feel good anyone. Actually, that isn’t quite true. It wasn’t sudden at all. There had been a series of transgressions on both sides. Years of hurt feelings that had never been addressed. What makes relationships end?

One cold, gray day, in the midst of my internal drama, I visited the tailor to have a few dresses altered. It was an errand that had been on my to-do list for a long time, and I felt good about finally taking the action step. I pulled my turtleneck over my head and alternated from one outfit to the next as the tailor marked the soon-to-be new hemlines with a special chalky-white line.

That night, as I went through my regular routine – brush teeth, wash face, remove watch, remove earrings – I realized one of my earrings was missing. They had been a fabulous pair, antique looking and sparkly, with just the right kind of clasp to keep them from slipping out of my ears. My friend had bought them for me years earlier, and the gesture showed that she knew me perfectly: my taste that favors pretty, old, one-of-a-kinds over anything hip and new and now; she even understood my quirky earlobes that refuse to retain wires or studs. Purchased for no good reason, they were simply “just because,” and I had worn them every day for years.

That night, I barely slept. I was sure somewhere on that tailor’s floor my earring was camouflaged amidst straight pins, stray threads, and lint. Early the next morning, I called the tailor, a stout man who spoke broken English with a heavy Russian accent. He shouted “no understand” and hung up on me. Pulling on my winter coat, I returned to his shop and got down on my hands and knees, searching frantically for my favorite earring. I showed him its lonely partner, cupped in my palm, and he looked through the lost and found pile, cluttered with other people’s lost trinkets. When he gestured toward the vacuum cleaner, I jumped at the chance. Of course, I reasoned, the earring had been sucked up inside the vacuum cleaner. I confidently ripped open the dusty bag.

It wasn’t there.

As the tailor’s door shut behind me with a thud-slam, I knew it was gone. Yes, the earring, but also the friendship. I had to stop searching for it and let it go. Buddha said: “There is no peace in the world until you find peace within yourself in this moment.” I am not angry with my old friend; there is nothing to forgive. No one did anything terrible, but our relationship had become something confused for friendship. I’d be lying if I said the loss wasn’t difficult. Detox is never easy; ask any addict. And she and I, we had a ten-year habit.

Afternote From RASJ on 7/1/10: A respondent named Russell suggested that I Google Ed’s little tirade (posted below) and guess what? Sure enough, Ed has posted his “one hit number” on more than just a few blogs. I guess the lesson-after-the-lesson is that people come to my blog to read my words, not someone else’s. It is unlikely that all my entries will be stellar, but from here on out, they will be mine.
"Angry Man" by Steve Rhode

Yesterday, I had a phenomenal day as my blog entry was Freshly Pressed (meaning it was recognized as a blog with a quickly growing audience), and it received a fair amount of attention. I was excited and enjoyed moderating all the comments and visiting new blogs. Somewhere in there, the following response came in from a respondent named Ed.

Initially, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I took his words personally. I wondered, Who is this guy? And why does he hate me so much?

That lasted for about 1 minute. The real lesson reflects my worldview: Most people are fabulous and supportive and interesting and delightful . . . but there is always going to be that one person who shows up drunk to your party and throws up in your bathroom. He is the thorn in your side, the fingernails on the chalkboard, the raccoon that comes to your campground and eats all your s’mores fixins. That person keeps us humble. Keeps our heads on. He provides balance. The trick is not to let the Eds of the world keep you down. Thank you, Ed, whoever you are.

Here are Ed’s exact words in response to yesterday’s blog. I have let him know that I have reposted his response today, so that he might comment – if he would like to.

So you ended up being just a mother.

Just another mother, like a chimp, a cow, an elephant, a whale, just another mother, like an insect, or an octopus, or a worm. Just another mother.

Your kids will not thank you, your husband will not like you, your own mother will pity you for making her own same mistake.

Just another mother.

For a moment of frenzy, of uterine voracity, irrational and irreversible, you destroyed your body, your beauty, and your own intellect.

Parental-brain-atrophy-syndrome, where your brain biologically adjusts to the need of your infants, descending at their own subhuman level, with just one dimension, food, or perhaps two dimensions, food and feces.

You left your ambitions, your achievements, your potentials outside your life and outside the lives of those who really loved, only to become a receptacle of an unknown body of an unknown person that never will be yours, and to whom you will never belong. Strangers united in a pool of blood and dirt.

And dirt has become your life, and your life has become dirt. Urine, remains of food, excrements, diapers, vacuum cleaners, old soap, crusts, a life of dandruff and diseases, vaccine and lice, high school and drool.

You lost your dignity through your open legs, first inwards and then outwards, first-in-first-out, garbage-in-garbage-out, a boomerang of boredom.

Do you remember who you were?

Do you realize your loss?

Nobody chooses prison voluntarily, except for mothers, except for you.

You chose the life of a slave in a cavern of dirt.

People around you, who know that you are just another mother, do have compassion for you, but no respect. They know all about your emptiness, your pain, your despair, all dressed in the robes of a Virgin Mary.

And a Virgin Mary you are not, because Mary was not a Virgin, and you are not a Mary.

You were manipulated into just another life wasted on the heap of trash of a lost humanity dedicated to popular procreation and proletarian proliferation, to please the leaders of a domain of plebeians.

The world lost you, and you lost the world.

Good bye, sad mothers, good bye, old cows, with dried-out utters and distorted hips, good bye, and so alone you all will die.

Note from RASJ I believe Ed meant to use the word “udders” (as in the things cows have beneath their bellies) – not “utters” (the synonym for the word ‘says’). Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ed would have benefited by adding a dash in the word “good-bye” which appears three times in his last line. What can I say? First and foremost, I’m an English teacher.

"boxed in" by massdistraction

I am a pretty organized person. In fact, there was an eight year stint where I worked as a professional organizer and was paid to go into people’s homes and help make systems to create order out of the chaos that surrounded them. And I was really good at it.

Truth be told, I am supremely organized. I used to lie about my house being as neat as it is. It doesn’t look quite as fabulous as the homes in Style Magazine or House Beautiful, you know, where everything has been staged to perfection – the beds heaped with fluffy, organic linens with a thread count of two million and smoothed so they 100% lump-free; every knick-knack is interesting and placed at the proper angle; the glass in the picture frames on the side tables sparkle, and the familes in the frames sparkle too.

It’s not like that here. Things here aren’t perfect; I just know where my stuff is.


Except when I don’t. Because that happens sometimes.

One night, around 10 pm, while I was folding laundry and my husband was out enjoying a Jeff Beck concert, my son apparently realized he had lost his book, Pendragon: The Quillan Games, (#7 in the series) somewhere at school. Pendragon is not a book he checked out at school; it is a library book. A thick, hardcover library book. Apparently, he laid there in the dark perseverating. You know, that thing we do that gets us absolutely nowhere except more freaked out? He was running “what if” scenarios over and over in his head, trying to figure out where he might have left his book, even though he thought it was probably in his desk. Alone in his bedroom he was thinking, What if I can’t find the book? What if it’s really gone? What if I left it on the playground? What if the library charges me three times as much as a new copy would cost. What if my parents get really mad at me for losing the book and don’t trust me and won’t let me take out any more library books? (For a voracious reader, that would be a major punishment.)

Apparently, he tortured himself like this for about thirty minutes before he finally exercised the good sense to come downstairs and explain his dilemma.

My child is the responsible type. He doesn’t like to lose things. He doesn’t like to miss deadlines or due dates. The thought is abhorrent to him. I understand this – apples don’t fall from pear trees, right? – so I was glad when I was able to share something with him that a friend of mine helped me with not too long ago with when I was freaking out about something insignificant, that seemed really big at the moment.

I asked my son to sit on the floor beside me, to close his eyes, and listen to my voice. I told him I was going to take him to the worst case scenario: His worst fear.

photo of "mother and son" by

“Are you ready?” I asked.

He nodded.

“The book is, in fact, lost. You will have to pay for the book, maybe even three times the price.” Then I added this part: “But you are okay. You aren’t sick. We are all healthy. You have dad and me. We have a home. We have food and clothes, and we love you like crazy.”

He was calmer. Quieter. It was working. (Plus, he was really tired.) And because he was being quiet, I added, “And just so you know, assuming you live a long time – and I hope you do – you are going to lose stuff. A lot. It happens. I lose things all the time. I write notes to myself on slips of paper and they disappear. I don’t know where they go. I lose bills and receipts. Bottom line is, you have to know that you are going to lose shit, and you have to know it’s not worth losing your mind when you lose something.”

He giggled.

“What?” I asked.

“You said the ‘s-word’.”


Drawing on sage advice from my friend Jennifer Hess and her children’s yoga practice, I asked my son to take a deep breath, take in as much air as he could, and then exhale as if he were blowing out a million candles. At first, he couldn’t do it. He felt stupid, he said. But I insisted that he keep trying. He got it right on the third try.

“That felt good,” he said, calmer now.

Walking upstairs together, he let me hold his hand – something he doesn’t always let me do these days.

I hope he gets it: That adults aren’t perfect. We can strive to be organized and have our perfectly-perfect systems, but nothing is fool-proof or fail-safe. The important thing is to have the perspective to understand that what feels so terribly, awfully, overwhelmingly, miserable at one moment can be dealt with and the awful feeling will pass. Even when it is a big something – the loss of a friendship, a major illness, even death – these things have to be dealt with calmly too. Freaking out doesn’t help.

That night was about a lost book.

That night I counted our blessings.

Afternote: Boy found the book at school the next day. It was rescued just as it was about to be sent back to the public library. All’s well that ends well. He is now well into Pendragon Book #8.

"Indulgence of the Flesh" by 4T9R @

“You’re not really going to eat that, are you?” a friend asked me just as I was about to bite into a fabulous piece of very, rare filet.

As a little girl, whenever my father would barbeque, he would always let me sneak a few little pieces of meat off the grill long before they were ready to be served. Charred on the outside and raw on the inside; that was the taste of summer.

In the years before microwaves, when mothers had to decide what they were making for dinner by breakfast each morning, my mother would sometimes put out hamburger meat and, if I was lucky, by the time I got home from school, she would have fashioned them into seasoned patties, ready to go into the oven. In super stealth mode, I would sneak into the kitchen to snatch little bits of uncooked burger from the porcelain plate where they waited to be broiled. I think once I actually ate an entire  burger – raw. This was frowned upon by my mother but not seen as dangerous or cause for grave concern.

My immediate family knows I am a carnivore. To this day, I have a taste for raw, red meat, and I totally gross out my husband. People are always telling me that I am going to get E.coli or trichinosis or salmonella or staphylococcus or some other creepy bacteria that I can’t see or smell.

"mince meat" by sinsiwinsi @

I can’t even disagree with the people who tell me this. I know that E. coli 0157:H7 are like super-bacteria and have managed to mutate so that they survive refrigeration and freezer temperatures and, once in food, they can multiply quickly. People delight in telling me I am being stupid and stubborn, and if I would only agree to cooking my meat just a little more, the bacteria would be killed.

I know the FDA recommendations. People tell me I am tempting the food gods. All I can tell you is in a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, there was a drop in the cases of E. coli 0157 and that it struck “fewer than one case per 100,000 people” and they are clear when they point out that “death is rare.”

Maybe someone should have told my mother 40 years ago that she shouldn’t have left the burgers out at room temperature for more than two hours because, honestly, it was really just delicious. I never got sick. Not even so much as a stomach ache.

People can speak to me about animal cruelty until the cows come home. (Ooh, that is probably a bad choice of words to use here.) And seriously, I am not unsympathetic. I have seen videos of the inhumane ways that cattle have been slaughtered, and it is awful to watch. Truly gruesome. I like to believe the kosher meat that I purchase is prepared a bit more carefully, but I’m not positive that this is the case. For a little while I tried not to eat red meat, but I fell off the wagon with my folk and knife poised over a gorgeous slab of prime rib.

All I know is that I survived my father’s raw steaks, my mother’s raw burgers, piles of steak tartar, 15 years of sushi (some served at restaurants of questionable repute) . . .  and on a tangential yet not completely unrelated note, as I’m sure you can imagine, I absolutely, positively always lick the bowl that held the raw cookie dough. And I’m still here.

I’m still here.

photo by Sheilaz413 @

At what age is it appropriate to give a child a cell phone, and what are the responsibilities and expectations that come along with having one? Do you get the least expensive “pay as you go” plan? Include text? Or go full-blown Internet access?

What are the consequences (if any) if the phone is lost?

"sola" by Alessandro Pinna @

I am trying to understand disappearance. When a person chooses not to communicate, does it mean that person is busy? Could they be on a vacation overseas? Could it have been something that I said, or did I say nothing when I should have said something?

Because here I am walking around thinking everything is right in the world, that every baby born for the last six months has had ten fingers and ten toes. I thought the rain in the forecast meant the grass was growing, that the chill in the air meant pumpkins, not the end of something.

When a person chooses not to communicate with you, that person holds all the cards, all the power. There is little for the excommunicated to do but look at the sky but wonder and try to determine how it could be so blue, cry a little – alone, maybe – in the car, but put on a happy face, as if being forgotten does not hurt like a hundred bee stings, or the bloody scratch from the extended claws of a trusted cat.

Could it be that the person has decided that you are not, in fact, worth the effort – and has left you to figure it out? If that is the case, I am slug-slow at “figgering” and would prefer, like a racehorse with a broken leg, to be put out of my misery more cleanly. In this case without a bullet, but perhaps the words, “In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m already gone.”

How have you dealt with the loss of a friendship?

Ron Mueck's "boy" photo by Adriaan Bloem @

I know a bunch of 10-12 year old kids who, for whatever reason, have developed these funky, little quirks. One friend’s daughter mashes her teeth together in an oddly rhythmic way: three light taps and a grind-slide that, to my ears, sounds about as delightful as fingernails on the chalkboard. Another friend’s daughter  developed this nervous throat-clearing thing which then morphed into a full-blown frequent cough. For a while, my son was making this bizarre “blooping” sound. I don’t even know how he discovered that he could make such a sound, but he began to do it so suddenly one night that I actually got up to check to see if the kitchen tap was dripping.

Years ago, when my now ultra cool, college-aged nephew was younger, he went through an awkward phase where he grimaced and twitched a little bit, and now I know at least two other 11-year old boys who possess these same twitchy-twitches. One frequently touches his ear; the other prefers to touch his nose.

These kinds of “tensional outlets” (as teachers call them) are not uncommon in children, and I’m told the best thing to do is ignore them, but it can be challenging to let your cougher-twitcher-bruxer live and let live. Truth be told, none of these behaviors seem to bother any of the kids within the peer group. In fact, most of the times,  friends are as oblivious to the tics as the kids with the tics are unaware that they are doing anything that could be perceived as weird or annoying.

For a time, it was thought that these strange little habits were a sign of an anxious child: the nail-biting, the hair-twirling, the teeth clicking, but research has shown that tensional outlets show a patterned progression with change and age. Basic physiological outlets like stomach aches and headaches, and even the more overt outlets such as grimacing and excessive movements involving the whole body that are characteristic of ten, eleven and twelve year-olds become less constant as children age. And of course, most outgrow these little idiosyncrasies completely in due time.

So if your littlun starts up with some strange little behavior, do your best remain calm: he will likely soon outgrow it, and soon find another way to drive you nuts!

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop