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It’s payback time, dear husband.

Yes, my handy hubby, someday soon you will accompany me to a place that strikes fear into the heart of many a man.  A place that can weaken the knees of the toughest guy.  A venue you’ve managed to avoid for years.

The fabric store.

When there’s a lull in our house projects, and you won’t need me to hold the plywood or hand you the drill or find the dropped nail, I’ll need you to be my helper for a change.

I think I’ll make curtains.

At the fabric store, be prepared to wander among row after row of bolts upon bolts of compelling colors and patterns.  We’ll do a quick walk-through, then a thorough inspection and comparison of dozens of possibilities.  Then we’ll repeat the process to choose lining material.  You may want an extra cup of coffee that morning.

We’ll need thread, too.  Of the hundreds of colors, it may take awhile to choose just the right one. Oh, and seam tape – that has to match, as well.  I may also want some new pins, needles, and tailor’s chalk.  Speaking of pins and needles, wear your comfortable sneakers.

I’ll ask your opinion and expect that you’ll have one, but of course, I’m the seamstress, so you’ll have to defer to me even if you really have your doubts.  Practice saying, “I think you’re right, Dear.”

And you won’t complain when I get particular because, after all, when I’m checking your dimensions on a piece of lumber, you’ll often ask me,

“Which side of the pencil line are you measuring to?”

And I have learned to answer without a grumble.

When I am ready to sew, you will sit on the bed next to the sewing machine, holding the fabric, so it doesn’t trail on the floor.  It will be a lot of fabric.  And a lot of holding.  You may want to think of some world problems that you can solve while you sit.

Don’t worry, though.  This entire curtain project won’t take too long – it’s just some straight seams after all.  Just a few hours, maybe.

NOT.  It will take a whole weekend, including evenings.

NOT.  Since I don’t sew that much, it will take several weekends, because you and I will have to rip out some very long seams after it dawns on me that I mismeasured.  Or pinned the pieces together inside-out.  Or cut them wrong.

In which case, we’ll have to go back to the fabric store.

And I’ll want you at my side, dearest Michael, so you can experience the joy of helplessly helping on a mind-numbingly tedious but ultimately satisfying project.

Some couples make beautiful music together.  You and I make handsome and enduring and inspiring house updates together.  And now we’ll include curtains.

I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

— Karen DeBonis

Karen DeBonis blogs about her wild adventures as a homebody, including writing (aka avoiding housework), meditating (aka napping) and serving a nightly smorgasbord to deer and other critters in her yard (aka gardening). She lives in a wonderfully emptied nest in upstate New York with her husband of 34 years.

Zoo adventure

Do you think people from Africa ever run through our zoos saying, “Let’s go see the chipmunks!” “Ooh look! I think that’s a squirrel!”

They can’t be very impressed with a zebra, giraffe, lion or other animal that already roams freely in many parts of their countries. I always thought the strategic set up of our local zoo was pretty impressive, kind of like displays in a department store. One wants to put the most exciting items up front to draw in the consumers. At our local zoo, that exhibit is the giraffe house. Next to that are the big cats and around the corner the monkeys. They keep the more boring animals at the very back.

I wanted to take the children to the zoo one day and see if we couldn’t capture every last animal that we kept missing every year. I think in order to really savor the experience we would have to take a few days to do it. Being as it took about two days to find a parking spot, I was losing time just getting into the zoo itself.

After standing for an hour in the front, the line finally started to move. One of the children got his jacket stuck in the little turnstile. Ughhh, I said to myself. This is going to be a long day. Once we freed his jacket from the bars, I turned to all the children and asked, “Now, does anyone need to use the bathroom before we get started?” I know they have restrooms placed in various parts of the zoo, but I didn’t want to have to stop and gather all the kids when we could take care of the bathroom breaks right off the bat. “No” they all said as they began wandering off in all directions.

“Hold it! I want everyone to stay together so that we don’t — where’s Dina?” We weren’t even inside five minutes and I’d already lost a child. My little Dina was very independent and was already off doing her own thing. However, this was not going to be acceptable, especially since she was only three!

I caught up to her heading towards the giraffe house and gathered the brood all together once again. We all walked down the ramp and around to the Primates Exhibit. I was always fascinated with the big apes. The giant lowland gorilla just happened to be near the window when we arrived. We all held hands as we moved close enough to see. “You know, that animal could tear a man’s arm clean off,” I whispered to one of the children. As I looked down to see his reaction, I shuddered. “You’re not Cory!” I blurted to the little kid holding my hand. I don’t even know where this little kid came from! Why was he holding my hand and where was MY son? I unhooked myself from this little lad, still aghast at my “tear a man’s arm off’” comment and started running feverishly through the exhibit. I found my son on the other end near the baboons.

Once again, I had gathered all of the kids together and said, “Let’s go see the lions.” Now my daughter announced that she had to go potty. Of course she did. I had to go find the You Are Here map and locate the nearest bathroom (which happened to be the one back at the entrance). We all headed back to the bathroom. Once the restroom trips were all taken care of, I rounded up the troops and we veered this time towards the Pachyderm House.

As we passed the sno-cone and hot dog stands, the kids begin to whine. “We’re hungry,” they all sang in unison. “How about we go see the elephants first, then we can get something to eat.” “But I’m hungry now!” “Me too,” whimpered my oldest one. I sighed as I took my wallet out and began calculating how much it was going to be for hot dogs and drinks. The grand total came to around $22. These had better be hot dogs laced with GOLD for that price!

With their tummies nearly full and their bladders empty, we could now enjoy the rest of the day. Once again, I did a head count of the kids. “One, two, three — WHERE IS DINA?” Dina was down the hill playing with the geese. As I herded the kids into one manageable pile, I wondered if we were ever going to get to see the animals.

As we approached the Pachyderm House, a big sign on the door said “NO FOOD OR DRINKS ALLOWED.” Great! We had to all sit outside and finish our food before we could enter. Needless to say, getting three young children to finish a meal is next to impossible, but I was not about to throw $22’s worth of hot dogs into the trash.

Soon inside the Pachyderm House, my daughter began to exhibit signs of allergy. The large bales of hay or straw, combined with the overpowering smell of whatever that other noxious odor was, had my Erin coughing, sneezing and itching all over. I decided she couldn’t be in the enclosure any more so we all strolled outside — only to find it pouring with rain.

— Mari’ Emeraude

Mari’ Emeraude is a poet and humorist from Denver.

Glue do a St. Patrick’s switcheroo

It would appear that I’ll be whiling away my precious Irish holiday by playing St Patrick’s Day games with my grandkids. Everything from Shamrock Scramble to Kiss the Blarney Stone to Leprechaun Trap.

Had I practiced such untainted activities throughout most of my adult life on St. Paddy’s Day, my rap sheet would be miles shorter.

Need I discuss my history as a partier on March 17th? Hardly. It’s all been well-documented. In 16 cities and 11 states. Yup, until recent years, you could count on my name prominently fixated in the newspapers on March 18th, recounting the chaos I had drummed up.

I’m innocent, by blarney. It’s the Dublin-born Rory Regan who has led me astray year after year. He’s my best friend and worst enemy all rolled into 280 pounds.

Regan’s one of those Irishmen who can drink the town dry and still stay relatively sober. Meself, I’m a low-tolerance bloke. Booze grabs me in weird ways. Especially on St. Patrick’s Day when the acting bug suddenly takes a big bite out of me keister, and I inexplicably teeter through barrooms, pretending to become other people.

Or so I’m told.

I’ve no memory of it, but my wildest characterization must have been pretending that I had been born in China and hadn’t learned English until I was in my 20s. According to all reports, I swept about the bar speaking English with a heavy Chinese accent, rendering Regan mortified. Pity.

Actually, ’twas Regan’s moonshine whiskey during our St. Pat’s misadventure of 1998 that brought my St. Pat’s drinking career to a screeching halt. Prior to that year, at least I’d managed to confine my antics (and accents) to North America.

Regan insisted upon flying me to Dublin, Ireland. I can’t really remember much about the trip, but I can clearly recall the look on my wife’s face when she met our plane on March 18, 1998. Drenched in green, Regan was pushing me into the terminal in a wheelchair. Believe me, I was in no condition to walk.

For St. Paddy’s Day, 1999, Regan promised my wife faithfully that, not only would I not drink, but he himself would stay dry.

Regan kept his word. ‘Twas a no-hooch night all right. All I remember consuming were brownies, garnished with little candied  leprechauns.

After a few of those yummies, I noted that we were both in even livelier spirits than we’d ever been while downing moonshine all night. In fact, we simply couldn’t stop smiling.

“Rory, me lad, I wish you’d have baked these brownies when we were single because they make me feel so damn good-looking,” I simpered.

The more we munched away, the more we got the giggles. Since we were so joyful, Regan proposed playing what he referred to as Rory’s Glue Game.

“It’s a fun game,” Regan insisted. “Easy. All ya gotta do is remember that, when you come to the word ‘YOU,’ in a song, just substitute the word ‘GLUE’ in its place.”

He was singing at the top of his lungs such hits as “Glue’ll never know just how much I love glue . . .” and many more.

Wouldn’t ya know, I was somehow too screwed up to think of a single song with the word “you,” in its lyric, but I died laughing at all of his.

Oddly, after I arrived home, even with all of those brownies in me tummy, I was still ravenously hungry. During my hunt for munchies, my belt somehow got caught on the knife and fork drawer and, when I staggered away, the entire drawer  came loose, the utensils hitting the floor and making a horrible clatter.

I giggled, sat on the floor and started singing at the top of my lungs: “Glue do something to me. Glue got the power to hypnotize me.”

NOW? Now my brain kicked in with a song that had “you” in the lyrics?

I sensed my wife’s presence and looked up.

“Hi, wife! Wakey-wakey?”

“Hi, husband. How hi — are you?”

“Glue know me so well.”

Since 1999, Regan is forbidden to come within 200 feet of me on St. Patrick’s Day.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

The tiddlywinks channel

Two men sat at a table, several tiddlywinks in front of each of them, their attention on the little pot in the middle. They were not smiling. They were concentrating. After all, it was the eighth-finals. And it was being broadcast on the Twiddlywinks Channel.

“Hey, I used to—”

“Shh!” someone hissed. “This is important!”

Everyone else in the bleachers surrounding the table on all four sides clearly agreed. They were absolutely quiet. Respectful. The player in the red uniform focused, thinking very hard about his next move.

“The squidger!” someone shouted to him helpfully. “You have to pick up the squidger!”

After a few more very long tension-filled moments, the player picked up his squidger. Everyone cheered.
“Okay, now flip your wink into the pot!” someone else said encouragingly.

The player studied the table, concentrating.

“The pot’s in the center of the table!” Another supportive fan.

Just as he was about to flip his wink, he stopped. The crowd held its breath.

He pulled a squidger cloth from his pocket and cleaned the squidger.

Then he studied the table again, leaning to the left and the right. Then he got up from his chair and took another look at the table.

“He’s gotta be careful not to go offside,” the commentator whispered.

“He does,” the other commentator agreed, “but he’s gotta take a good reading of the distance and angle of orientation involved in this next shot. He might not get another one.”

Satisfied, the player returned to his seat and stared at the pile of blue and red winks in front of him. Finally, he picked up a red one. And made the shot.

A groan rose from half the crowd as the wink fell short of the pot. The other half cheered.

“Let’s watch the replay of that shot, Jim.”

The shot was replayed. In slow motion.

“Oh, see that? It fell short.”

“Yeah, that’s a shame.”

The shot was replayed again, this time from a different angle.

“Yes, it definitely fell short, Joe, no doubt about that call.”

A few tense moments later, the player in yellow flipped his last wink. It landed on the red wink that had fallen short. Even louder groans and cheers rose from the crowd.

“Oh, he’s been squopped!” Jim cried out. “That’s gotta be humiliating.”

“Yes, and that’s game,” the camera cut to a clock. “Let’s hope the crowd keeps it together. We don’t want a repeat of the riot that occurred yesterday.”

“We’re going to cut to a commercial while the referee tallies up the tiddlies—”

Several fans were on their feet in the bleachers, shouting and shaking their fists.
The commercial was for a complete set of twiddlywink player cards. Twenty-five in all, a different player, menacing in close-up, on each card.

“Well, Joe,” they were back on the air, and the referee had declared the player in yellow to be the winner, “this is a real shame. A real shame. And I don’t think anyone of us saw this coming, Cody out of the quarter-finals. If anyone could’ve made that last shot, Cody could’ve. He’s one of the best players in the league.”

“And one of the highest paid too, at $5.2 million last year,” Jim said.

“You know, he even had a twiddlywinks scholarship to Princeton.”

Jim shook his head. “What’s the world coming to?”

—Jass Richards

Jass Richards has a master’s degree in philosophy and for a (very) brief time was a stand-up comic (now she’s more of a sprawled-on-the-couch comic). Despite these attributes, she has received four Ontario Arts Council grants. In addition to her Rev and Dylan series (The Road Trip Dialogues, The Blasphemy Tour and License to Do That), which has reportedly made people snort root beer out their noses, she has written This Will Not Look Good on My Resume, a collection of short stories described as “a bit of quirky fun that slaps you upside the head,” and its sequel, Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun (“… terrifically funny and ingeniously acerbic…” Dr. Patricia Bloom, My Magic Dog). All of her books, including her most recent, TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of Godcan be purchased (in print and various e-formats) at all the usual online places. “The TwiddlyWinks Channel” is adapted from License to Do That. 

Q&A with Barb Best…and Barb Best

(Barb Best is the author of the new humor book, The Misery Manifesto: A Self-Help Parody for the Self-Absorbed with cartoons by Roz Chast, Liza Donnelly and Andrew Genn. Published by Wise Ink.)

Q: Since I am as self-absorbed as your average PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant or locomotive engineer, I decided to interview myself. Is that okay with you, Barb?

A: (busy texting) Huh? What? Hum? Okay… sure.

Q: Rumor has it you have written a parody on happiness entitled The Misery Manifesto: A Self-Help Parody for the Self-Absorbed. W. Bruce Cameron calls it “Hilarious!” What compelled you to write this?

A: I wrote this book because Man’s Search for Meaning and A Dog’s Purpose were already written. Plus, I was inspired by the multitude of self-help books that instruct us on how to cultivate joy and vanquish misery. They are often written in a stiff style and the approach tends to be overly academic. Perfect for lampooning.

Q: The Misery Manifesto is a month-by-month survival guide. That’s an entertaining format, isn’t it?

A: Ha! (posting on FB) I just found the funniest cat video — where the orange tabby is high fiving the toddler, loses his balance, and falls off the breakfast table. The toddler laughs so hard that he spits oatmeal all over his mom. (musing) You can’t make this stuff up.

Q: That sounds like a comedy classic. Speaking of sharing…

A: Everybody wants to be happy. We all know that life includes unspeakable pain and suffering. My cockamamie and obscenely facile — don’t you love that word? Facile, facile, facile — formula is to embrace your misery. If done well, complaining and kvetching can be fun. Point is, enjoy the absurdity. Revel in it. You might as well laugh.

Q: So, aside from chocolate and Percocet, laughter is the best medicine?

A: One sec. (tweeting) Gotta RT this plug for the @EBWW conference on April 5-7, 2018. Oh, also this killer one-liner from @WendyLiebman. Wow, that’s an amazing photo of a hot cinnamon bun dripping in maple icing. Whoa! Get me a room!

Q: Like many of us, you seem to need some “me time” without your cell phone.

A: Right you are. A self-care time-out with a good book is usually all we need.

— Barb Best

Barb Best turns hassles into humor one laugh at a time on her popular blog “I Feel Your Pain” which appears at BarbBest.com and Alltop.com. Her comedy material has been performed by Joan Rivers, and her essays and light verse have been published in numerous print and digital publications. Barb’s books include Find Your Funny: The LOL Survival Guide for Teens with Joanne Jackal, Ph.D., Smiles to Go: Take-Out for the SMILE Hungry with Barbara Grapstein and 100 Fast & Funny: Ha-Musings. She is proud as spiked punch to be an Erma Bombeck Global Humor Winner. The Misery Manifesto: A Self-Help Parody for the Self-Absorbed is available on Amazon.

CPR for Dummies

When it comes to saving lives, I used to be such a dummy that I couldn’t even spell CPR. But I recently took a CPR class in which the instructor used me as a dummy. Now I am a lifesaver. And if you’re ever choking on one, I can save your life.

I was transformed from a nervous wreck who knew only the Heineken maneuver (“You’re choking? Have a beer!”) to a confident guy who also knows the Heimlich (“Pop goes the Life Saver!”) by Tom Henry, the dashing, funny, extremely impressive trainer who taught the CPR class I took at work.

I was among 17 aspiring heroes in the auditorium, where Tom had assembled the tools of his trade: masks, defibrillators and, of course, dummies, of which I would be the biggest.

“These mannequins and dolls are my second family, except they don’t talk back,” said Tom, 55, a former New York City CSI detective (“It was boring compared to the TV show,” he acknowledged) who now runs an American Heart Association-approved CPR training center.

The mannequins and dolls came in three sizes: adult, child and baby. Since the adults were only heads and torsos, Tom wanted to demonstrate on a real-life dummy.

“Jerry!” he said, pointing in my direction. “Come on up.”

I bounded to the middle of the spacious room and was asked to lie on the floor, next to an adult mannequin.

Tom gazed down and said, “The dummy is better-looking.”

Then he ran through the possibilities of why I might need CPR, among them a heart attack or a bad fall.

“If I hit my head,” I said, “I wouldn’t get hurt.”

“I can see why,” said Tom, adding that one of the first things to do is to take off the victim’s shirt in case a defibrillator is needed. “I am NOT going to take off Jerry’s shirt,” he announced.

My colleagues, both men and women, breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Tom then said mouth-to-mouth resuscitation might be needed.

“Am I going to lock lips with Jerry?” he asked. “No way!”

Instead, he demonstrated the technique used in pumping the victim’s chest to keep the heart beating. It didn’t hurt because Tom didn’t use full force — he saved that for the mannequin — but it did tickle.

When Tom was finished, he helped me up and announced, “We saved Jerry!”

My colleagues applauded, which also did my heart good, though I’m sure none of them wanted to lock lips with me, either.

“When performing CPR, you can’t worry about hurting somebody,” Tom said. “If a person is in cardiac arrest, they’re dead. You can’t make it worse. You can’t hurt somebody who’s dead. Although in Jerry’s case,” he added, “it might be difficult to tell the difference.”

Later, Tom used me to demonstrate how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

“Despite what Jerry says,” he noted, “it doesn’t involve beer. You have to do this if a person is choking.”

Tom got behind me and put his arms around my middle, showing the class how to force out whatever might be lodged (a Wint O Green Life Saver, perhaps, or an entire Happy Meal) in my upper airway.

“You should be careful when doing this to someone who’s pregnant,” Tom advised.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m not.”

“No,” Tom replied, “but you are kind of flabby.”

We used the mannequins to learn how to perform CPR and do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“If you were breathing into Jerry’s mouth,” Tom told my classmates, “you’d have to hope he brushed his teeth.”

“I did that yesterday,” I said.

The last thing we learned was how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator), which was demonstrated on a mannequin.

“We’re not going to jump-start Jerry,” Tom said. “He’s been through enough today.”

But it was well worth it. The three-hour class was fun, fascinating and vital. And Tom was a great instructor.

“You were great, too,” he said when the session was over. “In fact, when it comes to CPR, you’re a real dummy.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Aging (un)gracefully

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is teaming with prolific author Allia Zobel Nolan on a proposed humorous anthology about aging.

If accepted by a publisher, the book will feature a mixture of Zobel Nolan’s essays and “fall-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-in-stitches” humorous contributions from 30 or 40 authors and bloggers from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

It’s tentatively titled When Life Hands You Age Spots, Play Connect the Dots. She’d like to share an initial four-to-six funny essays on aging as part of the formal proposal. Deadline to submit essays for the book proposal is March 13.

“I need one of your funniest pieces on aging,” said Zobel Nolan, who has published close to 200 books, some for children, some humorous, some devotional. “Since it will be offered to a traditional publisher, this publisher would probably want all rights to this one particular piece.”

This book has a great shot at finding a niche in the market.

“Unlike titles that promise eternal youth…if only the reader did this or that…or sappy books about how wonderful it is to age, this book will deal with the bald truth of the sagging and the nagging, the pain and the profundities, the wonder and inanities of having a brain that knows everything there is to know about a lot of things, but a body that lacks the ability to do anything about it,” said Zobel Nolan.

For more information or to submit an essay for consideration for the proposal, email Allia Zobel Nolan at AlliaZobel@optonline.net.

Sharp like knives

(This essay is an excerpt from Kristen Hansen Brakeman’s upcoming book, Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing? It’s reposted by permission of the author.)

As I set down the orange juice on the breakfast table, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of my 12-year-old daughter, Samantha, struggling to cut up her pancakes. Holding her knife in her left fist like a ski pole and her fork like a video game nunchuck, she ground the two utensils together until her plate became a mess of shredded, torn pancake bits.

My future Mensa member and current household video-game champion had no more ability to use a knife than had our cat.

How did she escape learning this basic life skill? Looking back I admit I purposely kept knives away from my kids. I thought that giving a sharp object to a child could only end badly.

Whenever we went to a restaurant where knives were recklessly set on the table, the inevitable sibling sword fight would ensue, only confirming my suspicions.

It’s likely also that a diet of kid foods were partly to blame. One doesn’t need to cut up chicken nuggets, pizza, and macaroni and cheese. Though my kids often dine on more grown-up fare like salmon, shrimp and pastas; these are again, all fork-friendly foods.

After deciding to brush off the knife incident as a minor blemish on my otherwise spotless parental record, I was faced with another shortcoming.

My two older girls wanted me to bake a heart-healthy corn soufflé to serve our dinner guests. Rushed for time, I instructed them to start without me by gathering all the ingredients and opening up the cans of creamed corn.

With the front room finally tidy, I went to check on their progress. I walked in to find every drawer in the kitchen open as my daughters rummaged about, muttering, “I don’t know which one is a can opener. Is this a can opener?”

“No, I think it’s this thing,” the other one said, holding a corkscrew. “Or maybe it’s that thing there?” while pointing at a garlic press.

Astonished, I interrupted. “What? Do you mean to tell me that neither one of you knows what a can opener looks like?” I reached into the appropriate drawer. “This is a can opener!”

“Oh,” they said in unison.

“You’ve never used a can opener?” I demanded, only to be treated to shrugs and the onset of uncontrollable giggles. “Oh, yeah. Go ahead and laugh.”

I tried to impress them with the seriousness of the situation. “It won’t be so funny when The Big One comes and Daddy and I are squished under the entertainment center and you kids have to fend for yourselves. What will you do then? Huh? I’ll tell you what you’ll do. You’ll starve! I can see the story on the Ten o’clock News: ‘Local children starve to death in a kitchen surrounded by cans of food!’”

Now gasping for air, Chloe somehow managed to squeak out, “We won’t starve. We’ll order a pizza.”

I ignored her. “This weekend, the two of you are going to learn about the kitchen, and we will have a special class in advanced knife work.”

Morning came and after a half-hour of Show and Tell with the kitchen utensils and appliances, I presented my children with a stack of easy-to-cut French Toast.

I gave them a lengthy dissertation on proper knife holding technique and exact index finger placement for maximum pressure, and then encouraged them to try it themselves.

Chloe tried to flaunt her knife skills first, but soon food went flying over the edge of her plate. Samantha made a couple feeble attempts and then disregarded my advice and began mashing up her French Toast like she had her pancakes. Again, more giggles.

I was ready to admit defeat when my seven-year old asked, “Mommy, am I doing it right?”

To be honest, I forgot my overlooked third child was even at the table. But now, I was thrilled to learn someone had actually been paying attention.

“Why yes!” I gushed. “You are doing it right! Wow, girls… look at your much younger sister. See how well she wields her knife? Why can’t you two be more like her? Excellent job, Peyton. Here, have some more syrup and powdered sugar.”

I knew very well I had violated the advice of every parenting book by comparing the children to one another, but I didn’t care. I was feeling desperate.

Sadly, my efforts were all in vain. Chloe and Samantha soon abandoned their utensils entirely and resorted to ripping bites of French toast with their teeth, much like the feral children they were apparently meant to be.

The good news was that at least my youngest child would someday be able to enter civilized society.

In the meantime, I can only hope that some Silicon Valley whiz invents a game that teaches kids how to use a butter knife.

— Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Kristen Hansen Brakeman’s comedic essays have appeared in The New York Times’ Motherlode, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Working Mother Magazine, Scary Mommy and on our blog. Her debut collection of comic essays, Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing?, will be published in May 2017. She has appeared on Huff Post Live to endlessly debate the use of the word “Ma’am,” is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and a guest blogger for the Christian Science Monitor. Real humans have compared her writing style to both Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron, but possibly they were intoxicated at the time. Brakeman works behind the scenes on television variety shows and lives in the suburbs of Los Angeles with her husband and three daughters.

Reflections of Erma