The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

Turf wars

Ronda ParsonsThere exists today in America an ongoing war that our history books have overlooked.

For never before in the history of the world have so many good men fought so hard and spent so much money in the pursuit of so little ground — that half-acre suburban dream known as the green lawn.

I know that you have seen them at every hardware store in town, war-weary lawn veterans loading up flat-bed carts with grass seed, fertilizer and weed-control products. They stand at the checkout, grave-faced, inadvertently spying what other weekend soldiers are purchasing in the hope of deciphering their battle plans. As they leave the store, they linger over rows of the latest tillers, cultivators and blowers. “Next year I’ll have to look into getting one of those if this new clay buster doesn’t work.”

My husband is a 30-year veteran of the Turf War, a decorated General who earned his rank through his determination to weed out scourges known as thatch, fungus, crabgrass and moles. He will stop at nothing to fight these usurpers. Armed to the teeth each fall with power tools and rakes he implements his plan with the gung-ho spirit that would make any Marine sergeant proud. I, on the other hand, am just a mere draftee in this yearly skirmish. I hold up the ranks, rake in hand, pledging each year to begin taking a two-week trip to Canada each autumn.

I knew last week he was getting ready for this year’s battle when he looked over his newspaper at breakfast and said in a dreamy voice, “I wonder if I should get the lawn plugged this year.” Later in the day I caught him reviewing the grass with the precision of a pre-battle scout and making endless lists while sitting at the garage workbench, his seasonal war room. As he handed me a list of battle rations to pick up if I happened to be at the hardware store, not realizing that no woman happens into a hardware store, he turned to me and said, “You know honey, I really think this year I’ve got it figured out. My lawn will be great.”

Bless him. His optimism is inspiring. Churchill would be proud. For even though his procurement list included special sprinkler heads and thatching spring blades, I knew that his perfect lawn was nothing but an elusive dream. Yes, his lawn would grow green and lush, at first. Then the mole bivouac would encamp under his velvety lawn and the gentle spring breezes would scatter crabgrass and dandelion seeds like fairy dust, while humid nights turned his lawn into a giant green fungal petri dish. But I kept quiet. Even generals need a dream.

About a week ago we ran into a friend of ours who had sold the family’s home and downsized into a condominium. He had a glow about him. He eyes were shining. Was that a spring in his step? “Wow, you look great,” my husband said. “How’s the new place coming?” And as the sun glinted off his relaxed, tanned and smiling face (I swear even his teeth seemed whiter), he replied, “Super. I no longer have to worry about the lawn.”

Well, I had best run. My general is away on business for three days and will want a full lawn update when he phones home tonight. I wonder how long it takes to have sod laid.

— Ronda Parsons

Ronda Parsons is the author of Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patientwhich was published by Rowman & Littlefield in May 2015. Many of her essays have been published in newspapers and magazines. With a background in sales management in two Fortune 100 companies, she now devotes her time to the pleasure of writing.

I feel bad about your neck

Con ChapmanOne of my first literary crushes was the late Nora Ephron. She was funny, wrote like a dream and was cute. To me, at least.

And so it was with some dismay that I read her collection of essays,  “I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.”

If only, I thought, she had known me back when I was putting together my Fifty-Year Plan for Long-Term Neck Maintenance, she wouldn’t feel bad about her neck.

That’s right. I was thinking about how my neck would look in the 21st century back when you were watching The Brady Bunch.  If you were even alive.

My long-term perspective on neck upkeep was prompted by Jabba the Hutt, the Star Wars character who bore more than a passing resemblance to Richard J. Daley, the long-time Mayor of Chicago whose neck melded into his pot belly shortly after the 1968 Democratic Convention.

Jabba was my nightmare–what I would look like if I didn’t take care of my neck; a triple-chinned blob of a man, cast aside while hard-charging up-and-comers half my age blew by me on the expressway of life.  I wasn’t going to end up a flabby mound of blubber, dammit!  Like William Faulkner, I would not only endure, I would prevail!

And so it is that I end up, midway through the sixth decade of my life, without a double chin (or “chin scrotum,” as fitness freaks like to call them).  From some angles.  If the light is right.  With the wind at my back.  Unlike the guys I read about in The Wall Street Journal who pay $6,231 for face lifts (proper name, rhytidectomies), money they could be spending on booze if only they’d taken care of themselves.

How can you achieve the same semi-tough neck–with the approximate firmness of a trout’s belly–at my advanced age?  Simple–follow this E-Z Home Neck of Steel program, and you’ll never feel bad about your neck.

Play High School Football.  High school football is a great way to build neck muscles so that you end up at +60 years with very little flab on your neck.  Or sometimes no neck at all.  Consider Tommy Nobis, my role model when I was a budding linebacker.  Tommy built his neck up to a robust 19.5″ circumference by daily neck exercises of the sort our coaches made us do; we would drop down on the ground in push-up position, but support the upper half of our bodies with our heads instead of our arms.

With this type of conditioning, we could use our heads as human battering rams, which led to some neck injuries but was a small price to pay for a neck that looked like an Ionic column.  Hint:  start forty-five years before you wish to avoid a flabby neck.

Whiplash:  Whiplash is a great conditioning tool for the neck.  The best way to acquire it is to be hit from behind by a car full of girls, which will cause their car to slam into your rear-end (I mean your car’s rear-end). Your head will snap back, then bounce off the head rest.

When your car comes to a stop, the girls will surround you and apologize profusely, enveloping you in the scent of perfume while their long hair gently brushes your face and–I had a point back there, before the crash.

Oh yeah. Whiplash causes pain that can be alleviated by yoga, especially the cobra position, which also tones your neck muscles.  Again, remember to start early–give yourself plenty of time, around five decades.

Buy Executive Health Briefs.  In the late 70s ads began to appear in leading business publications for an expensive newsletter called “Executive Health Briefs.”  For an exorbitant annual subscription price, you would receive a weekly collection of health tips that would keep you trim so that when you discarded your first wife in an expensive divorce you could acquire an aerobics instructor who shortened her name to a diminutive containing the letter “i” just so she could dot it with a smiley face.

As a come-on, the publisher offered a free copy of “How to Avoid a Double-Chin” to new subscribers.  In a risky arbitrage move, I signed up for Executive Health Briefs, then as soon as I’d received the Double-Chin teaser, I canceled my subscription.  After all, I couldn’t afford to spend what little beer money I had on a magazine whose price point was set for six-figure CEOs!

But many years later I refer to that collection of exercises, which cost me $3 (adjusted for inflation, $1.2 billion).  I am now happy to share key double-chin fighting exercises with you–free–because that’s the Way of the Internet.

1. Interlace fingers across forehead.  Bow your head forward until your chin touches your navel.  Dig down, remove belly button lint, resurface.  Repeat six times.

2. Turn your head towards and then over your left shoulder.  Place chin on left shoulder blade, scratch patch of dry skin that you can’t reach using your right arm.  Return to original position, and repeat over right shoulder.  If neck becomes stuck behind shoulder, call Fire Department.

3. Place palms against side of head.  Press until lymph nodes in head pop, sending colorless liquid streaming out ears.  Repeat until neck is drained of fluid.  Adjourn to singles bar to receive admiring compliments from people two decades younger than you who would like to inherit your estate.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

A ceremonious retirement


Astra GroskaufmanisIt was bound to happen at some point in their lives, but it still came as a shock when, after 11 seasons of minor hockey, my boys decided to quit and hang up their skates and live off nonexistent product endorsements and Mom’s cooking. Gone for them were tryouts, hockey camps, spring hockey leagues and winter hockey leagues.

With just my daughter left playing, the question I got asked an awful lot was, “What are you doing with all your free time?” You would think that with all this free time on my hands, I would have mastered a new language or learned to play the oboe or something. Or, at the very least, I would no longer have any expired dairy products in my refrigerator. But the answer is no — my free time was consumed otherwise. I perfected the art of social media — induced procrastination. I discovered the art of a second cup of coffee. Life was beautiful.

Soon after the boys announced their retirement, we had some neighbors over for dinner, and they remarked on my new dining room accessories: two hockey jerseys hanging from the chandeliers.

“Nice touch, Astra,” said one.

“Are we seriously eating dinner in here?” said another.

“What gives?” they all asked in unison.

You see, I was struggling with how to appropriately honor the momentous occasion of my boys’ retirement (beyond the impressive little happy dance I did in the privacy of our garage, and the long-anticipated clink! of wine glasses I shared with my husband). It was both a proud moment and a little depressing, too. It was a day to both rejoice and grieve, laugh and cry.

In keeping with a tradition well known in many sport circles, I decided to retire the boys’ jersey numbers. Their hockey careers were done (until their initiation to the beer leagues), and it just wouldn’t have felt right to see other kids sporting their famous jersey numbers.

So I arranged a very special ceremony. I respectfully invited members of my sons’ hockey association; they were not able to attend, but their touching response (“You are hereby requested to return the two jerseys to our association or face a replacement fee of $80, plus tax, each”) brought tears to my eyes.

Members of the community also received gracious invitations to the event and, though not in attendance, were delighted to pass on their congratulations and acknowledgment of my sons’ many accomplishments (“The outstanding credit on your skate-sharpening card will be voided at the end of the month unless it is used in full”). And though we expected a full contingent of friends and family members, many of them were otherwise occupied (“Sorry we can’t make it — unlike you, the rest of us are still busy with hockey!”).

I shed a tear or two as I proudly hoisted those two jerseys to the rafters (noting that those rafters — our dining room chandelier — had to be dusted, since I now no longer had any excuse to avoid house cleaning). I thought of something a most revered doctor friend (that would be Dr. Seuss) once said: “Don’t cry because it’s over; cry because it happened.” Hockey certainly did happen in this house! It was the perfect denouement to complete my sons’ calling to minor hockey, and my life as a humble hockey mom — that is, until my daughter retires.

As you might imagine, my husband thought I’d totally lost it this time.

He thought the jerseys should be hung from the ceiling in our bedroom.

— Astra Groskaufmanis

Astra is mother of three who lives in Ottawa, Canada, and pokes fun at motherhood, middle age and minor hockey. She wrote Offside by a Mile: Confessions of a Hockey Mom (FriesenPress, 2015) and contributes to Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @mydustbunnies.

Deli Hell

DrozdowskiI hate the supermarket deli.

Well, maybe hate isn’t the right word. It’s more like fear.

You fear the unknown and that which you cannot control, such as ghosts and tornadoes. I fear delis for these same reasons.

My encounters with supermarket delis, which I tend to severely limit because of this fear, follow a similar pattern. I arrive with a shopping list my wife provides. The list will include, for example, “ham (deli),” meaning I shouldn’t get the pre-packaged stuff that, while perhaps somewhat vile by comparison, would be immeasurably less complicated to purchase.

So I make my way to the deli, which is usually overcrowded and populated with people who actually know what they’re doing there. I take a number from the dispenser and compare it to the number on the digital display. Typically I get something like 68, and the display says they’re currently serving number 50. That’s okay. I can wait.

When I hear my number called, I drop my ticket in the used-ticket basket and wonder if they recycle these numbered tickets. If so, how do they get them back in the dispenser? If not, why do they get their own special basket?

“Sixty-eight!” I hear, my pulse now racing. I revisit my list. Ham (deli).

“I’ll take a pound of ham,” I announce.

“What kind?” the deli clerk replies, appearing somewhat impatient.

“The usual, I guess,” I respond.

“The usual?”

“Yeah, you know…regular ham.”

“Domestic or imported?”

“What’s the difference?”

“One kind comes from this country, and the other doesn’t.”

“Yes, I know that,” I say confidently. “I meant difference in quality.”

“Well, this kind here comes from Spain. It’s made from pigs that feed only on the finest grains from the Andalusia region.”

“How much?”

“Nineteen a pound.”

“Hmm,” I respond, trying not to seem the least bit fazed. “Any specials?”

“Our Krakus ham is only seven fifty.”

“What about this?” I ask, pointing at a slab of meat the size of a Volkswagen Golf.

“That’s our pork shoulder,” he says. “One step above spam.”

“How much?”

“Three ninety-nine.”

“I’ll take a pound.”

“Right,” he says, probably thinking my choice was somehow inevitable. “How do you want that sliced?”

“Medium is good,” I say.

“Medium what?”


“Sliced thin?”

“Yeah, sure.”

A few seconds later he holds up a piece, waving it like a Rottweiler flogging a stuffed chipmunk. “How’s this?” he asks.

“Perfect,” I assure him, not exactly knowing how I’m supposed to determine if this slice of flesh dangling 30 feet away is within a millimeter of my specifications.

He plunks down a pile of it on the scale. “I’m a tenth over,” he says. “That okay?”

No, I think. Can you remove two slices so we’re right at a pound? “Fine,” I say instead.

“Anything else?” he asks, handing me my cheap meat.

I look back at my list. Cheese (deli).

“Um…a pound of cheese.”

His exasperated eye roll betrays his inner feelings for me.


I scan the row of options, three yards long. Six customers have come and gone since my turn began. I’m now getting the foot tapping and icy glares from those witnessing this public humiliation, which has become my own version of a Monty Python skit.

“What do you recommend?” I ask, as if I’m dining in a fancy French bistro.

“Our muenster’s on sale for six bucks a pound,” he suggests.

“Is that domestic or imported?” I ask, pretending to be somewhat discriminating.

“It’s a domestic cheese.”

“How about American?” I reply. “Is that imported?”

He fails to appreciate my humor. “Want the muenster?”

“I like Swiss,” I say. “How much is that?”

“Four ninety-nine.”

“That’s good. One pound.”

The deli clerk and I repeat the process of slicing, waving, approving and weighing. “Will there be anything else?” he asks, cringing.

“Nope,” I reply, relieved that this most recent torment has ended. “That’s quite enough for today.”

— Mark J. Drozdowski

Mark J. Drozdowski is a writer, humorist and aspiring pundit. He was a columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education for nine years and currently writes a humor column, “Special Edification,” for Inside Higher Ed. His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and Salon, among other publications and websites. He blogs at, and you can follow him on Twitter @drdroz.

Hi, Doll!

Frances Peacock(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Kappa Delta Pi Record.)

The best things I know about teaching, I learned from my dentist.

Dr. Brennan took care of my teeth from the time I was five years old, and that man had a way about him. He must have known that some children, while they waited in the chair, found all kinds of ways to scare themselves silly. I was one of those children. I’d sit there and imagine the long, moveable lamp above my head was really a pterodactyl in disguise. I’d tell myself that the crazy, swirling spit sink would suck me up whole if I leaned in too close.

And then Dr. Brennan walked in — no, it was more of a bounce — and the whole place changed. One flash of his big smile removed all my fears.

“Hi, Doll!” he’d say. It’s the way he addressed me at every visit, and it’s the first thing he taught me about teaching. He said I was a beautiful doll. He told me my choppers were the prettiest set of pearls he ever inspected. His words were so convincing, his manner so genuine, that all of a sudden, I was delighted to be at the dentist. He made me feel great, and so I stretched my magnificent mouth wide open for him, and I never once considered biting that man’s hand.

Looking back, I know it didn’t have to go this way. I’ve seen my old school pictures, and frankly, I wasn’t really a doll. I was far from it. I was an uncombed, freckled girl with six colors of Crayola wax under my fingernails. I had choppy, uneven bangs that I trimmed myself once a month. I smelled like peanut butter. I rarely brushed, and I never flossed.

I should have been just another youngster in Dr. Brennan’s chair, for whom his task was to check the molars, fill the cavities and send home with shiny, newly polished teeth. He didn’t have to make me feel special, but he did.

Now I am a teacher, and my students are the dolls. When I use Dr. Brennan’s words in my classroom, I see the same thing he saw: a child who looks up at you and smiles and soaks in what you’ve said.  A child who feels so charmed, so happy inside, that he’d let you take a pointy metal drill and run it right down through the middle of his tooth. Or let you teach him to read.

After the drilling, Dr. Brennan took out the treasure box, and I learned something else about teaching. He plopped that box of wonderful toys onto my lap, told me to pick something out, and gave me all the time in the world. The mayor himself could have been in the next room, waiting for a painkiller and a double extraction, but Dr. Brennan didn’t care. There was a child here, and a present to be chosen, and the decision could not be rushed.

The  treasure box that I have is just like Dr. Brennan’s. It’s a crate of whistles, yo-yo’s and plastic rings for my students to churn their hands through. On Fridays I call the children to my desk, one by one, to pick out a prize. I give them all the time they need, in just the way Dr. Brennan showed me it’s done.

To look at it, that treasure box of mine is nothing fancy. It’s just a bunch of toys in an old wooden container, an assortment of simple objects that cost a few pennies each. It’s no big deal at all, really. There’s nothing important about any of this, I suppose.

Unless you happen to like whistles and yo-yo’s. Unless you’ve ever waited in a cold room, by yourself, feeling nervous and scared. Unless you’ve ever been showered with words of flattery while you swished cherry-flavored flouride around in your mouth.

Unless you were ever a doll, like me.

— Frances Peacock

Frances Peacock is a regular attendee of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, where you can always find her sitting next to her sister, Jean Johnson. Frances has been an elementary school teacher for 25 years.  She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Andy. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. Her blog, Essays From A Teacher, can be found at

Confessions of a husband beater

Kathy TurskiI beat my husband the other night. I couldn’t help it, he asked for it.

“I’m tired of playing games,” I said. “How much more do you think you can take?”

“Come on,” he coaxed. “Just one more round of Battleship.”

He shouldn’t have pushed me like that. After the third beating he reeled slightly, blinking in bewilderment.

“How can you do that?” Staring at the ships on the computer screen, he added, “I can’t even find your aircraft carrier. What kind of goofy strategy are you using?”

“It’s called ‘hide the ships where you can’t find them.’”

“That’s ridiculous. I should be able to find them all.” This is from a man who demands daily where I’ve hidden his reading glasses. “You must be cheating.”

He shouldn’t have accused me of cheating. I demolished his fleet three more times. Even his PT boat wasn’t safe.

“Just a few more rounds,” he mumbled.

“Haven’t you had enough punishment?”

He shook his head. “Are you kidding? I’m just getting warmed up. What, are you scared of losing?”

“I’ve been petrified the whole time.”

“Very funny. Come on, set up for the next round.”

I put a hand on his shoulder and said softly, “It’s late, honey, we need to get to sleep.” Once the lights were out, I pretended not to hear him whimper, “Just one more round.” I felt like a sadist.

For the rest of the week he begged me for more. I only replied, “Not tonight, I have a headache.”

Several nights later we visited another couple. After dinner they invited us to play games. My husband’s face paled and he excused himself to the restroom, claiming a possible case of distemper. The wife gave me a look eloquent with sympathy.

“You beat your husband, don’t you?”

“Only at Battleship. He asks for it, though.”

“They always do.” She stared at the husband, who fiddled nervously with a card deck. “Try beating this one at Scrabble. He’ll keep you up all night until he finally wins. The tiles are so stained with sweat you can’t read the letters any more.”

“And the dictionary?”

She shuddered. “Don’t ask.”

Ads for popular games claim their products bring people closer together. So does hand-to-hand combat.

Yet, after much thought and research, I’ve finally found the perfect game for my husband and me to enjoy. There will be no more complaining, no suspicion of cheating, no criticizing. I call it “Strip Twister.”

The way I figure it, my husband will never know if he’s winning or losing, and even if he does, he probably won’t care.

— Kathy Turski

Kathy Turski writes the way she looks — short and funny. She’s published in Flush Fiction, A Bubba In Time Saves None, The Anthology From Hell, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader and by Aurora Wolf Press. Her latest work, “My Inner Fat Girl,” appears in You & Me Magazine. Kathy lives in North Texas with her husband, clerks for a local library and loves old movies, baking and coming up with weird story ideas — mainly fueled by caffeine and chocolate.

When do I get to slumber?

Kristen Hansen BrakemanMy husband and two youngest daughters were headed for the door when I noticed they were packed rather light, “Wait, where are your sleeping bags?  Don’t you need them to stay at your Mom’s?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you? She had a thing, so we’re going to a hotel down in Long Beach instead. Thought I’d show the girls the Queen Mary.”

“Won’t that be lovely,” I say, biting my tongue so hard it almost bleeds. It was my idea that my husband take our two younger daughters away for the night while our eldest had her first slumber party, partly to keep the younger girls out of their sister’s hair, but mostly to prevent my husband from having that spontaneous migraine he gets whenever exposed to a gaggle of shrieking 12-year-old girls.

Now I was jealous. Solo hosting of eight girls for 16 hours seemed like the better deal when compared to my husband and kids fighting for space on a fold-out couch while my in-law’s stinky, geriatric dog licked them throughout the night. But a night in a fancy hotel? That was a different story.

There was no time to dwell. Seven cars had already pulled up to my house. After a quick drop, the girls’ parents ran back to their cars, perhaps worried I would change my mind. The smell of burning rubber hung in the air.

“So, what are we going to do?” the kids demanded in unison.

Luckily, I had a plan. “We’re starting with a game, then we’ll have dinner…”

“Only one game?” a girl said in a bratty voice. “I am so out of here.”

I was horrified, but then she laughed and we all laughed and I remembered that my daughter actually had nice friends. I relaxed.

Six pizza boxes and two cartons of ice cream later, these nice friends were fueled up and ready for action. The high-pitched chatter grew so loud it actually made the windows vibrate. The cat and dog ran for cover. I started to get my husband’s migraine.

“Girls! It’s time for a craft…outside! You’ll be decorating these pillowcases with fabric paint. It’s the type you can wash.” Magically, the girls moved to the patio to start the quiet craft. That was too easy.

The phone rang — husband checking in from the Observation Deck of the Queen Mary where he and our girls were enjoying Martinis, Shirley Temples and the sunset. My youngest daughter yelled into the mouthpiece, “We’re having a feast! Fried shrimp and nachos, and later we’re going to have room service!”  Great. Lucky you.

“Everything is completely under control here,” I boasted. “What a great bunch of girls. Chloe has such nice frien– Kaitlin! What are you doing?  Get down from the roof! Megan, did you, did you paint your feet? Good God, people!”

I threw the phone down and lunged for the future acrobat who had shimmied to the top of our patio awning. Then, I turned towards Megan and her purple feet.

“You can’t walk on my carpet with painted feet … and there’s paint on your pants, too!  Didn’t you remember that I said the paint was permanent?”

“Oh, I thought you said washable?” The kids, clothing strewn with various shades of neon paint, stared at me crestfallen as if I had deceived them.

“No, I meant you can paint it on the fabric and it won’t wash out — that kind of washable.”  Apparently, I wasn’t very clear on that point. I’ll surely get some angry phone calls on this tomorrow.

One DVD, 60 minutes of Dance Dance Revolution and three tubs of popcorn later, the kids were thankfully ready for the slumber part of the party. Ah, sleep at last.

Or so I thought.

Three hours later and cackles of laughter still emanating from the living room, I began to wonder if I would ever sleep that night. Surely, they would have to tire eventually. They were human, weren’t they?

I pictured my husband sound asleep in that extra comfy hotel “Heavenly Bed” surrounded by cozy feather pillows and beautiful silence. My only consolation was that my youngest daughter would certainly wake him later in the night, convinced she’d seen a ghost.

By 3 a.m. I had had enough! I marched into the living room, summoned my inner meanness and growled, “I don’t want to hear a single word come from this room.”Martinis and Motherhood

I’m pretty sure I heard someone say, “word” after I turned the corner.

It was no use. I considered taking a couple Tylenol PMs. No, that would be wrong. The parents of these kids had put their trust in me. What if something happened in the night and I wasn’t completely alert? Hmm, maybe just one.

Two minutes later morning came and my zombie-like guests were out the door.

I called my husband to tell him the coast was clear. “Okay, you can come back. The girls are gone.”

“Oh, we would, but we’re still waiting for a table.  Apparently they have this fantastic brunch here.”

As I was about to respond I glanced over at my daughter, already asleep on the couch. Finally, I had a quiet house.

“That’s nice, dear. You take your time.”

— Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Los Angeles essayist and blogger Kristen Hansen Brakeman has published pieces in the Huffington PostWashington Post, Working Mother Magazine, LA Parent, Christian Science Monitor, Orange County Register, as well as  posts in Scary Mommy and the New York Times Parenting blogs. This piece is excerpted from a parenting collection called Martinis and Motherhood. She’s currently searching for an agent for her collection of essays, Where to Dump a Dead Body and Other Life Lessons.

Bedtime snack

Panda ElderI am a sucker for large crusty boogers.

Very few boundaries exist between young children and their parents, so I hope it’s understandable that I’ve wanting to pick the perfectly crispy mass that occupied my three-year-old’s right nostril all day. I casually asked him if I could a couple times throughout the day. He shut me down on each occasion. I don’t know what’s up with him, but he’s actually not into nose-picking at all. He just wanted it to stay there.

Tonight we were climbing into bed to read his bedtime stories, and that nose dweller caught my eye again. I knew this was my last chance to get it, and I just really couldn’t let him go to bed like that. It could have interfered with optimal breathing. But mostly I just wanted a certain type of weird satisfaction. So I explained, “Jav, you have this really big booger in your nose. Let’s get it.” He giggled. I took that as somewhat of an invitation. I put my finger in quickly and said, “There it is!” as I tried to scoop it. He pulled away, but he was still laughing. I tried to get him to feel it, but he wanted nothing to do with it.

“Come on. Let me get it. I need a bedtime snack.”

Oh my goodness. He laughed so hard when I said that. I love this age of making jokes that he gets and appreciates. It really was a preposterous notion because as badly as I wanted to see that baked boog exit his nose, I have NEVER been an eater. Even as a kid, I may have tasted one once or twice, but putting them in my mouth was not for me.

Since laughter was rolling, and he didn’t feel too assaulted by my finger in his nostril, I tried again, this time with a little more determination to get it. And get it, I did. It was like a pea-sized pebble, and it was every bit as gratifying and I hoped it would be.

I was so excited that I said, “Let’s show, Daddy!” I jumped up from the bed and walked to the banister of the stairs. I called down, “Daddy, look!” I reached out my pincer grasp, and he cupped his hands in preparation to receive something. I dropped the booger down, and it landed perfectly in his hand-cradle.

He gave it a wee bit of acknowledgement then flicked it across the floor.

I know. We are disgusting. Is every family like this or are we weird?

Come over tomorrow for a game of Find the Booger in the dining room. Winner gets a handful of candy corn.

— Panda Elder

Panda Elder is an elementary teacher, turned stay-at-home mom to two boys. She describes herself as a hot mess who relies on coffee and wine. She stays up too late writing about the good, the bad and the ugly of motherhood on her blog.

Reflections of Erma