Everything I Know About Motherhood So Far

© Pkruger | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Pkruger | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

My son turns eight next week, and since it looks like I won’t be having another child to practice on, I won’t be needing a lot of these hard-earned lessons for my next kid. Therefore, I give them to you, gentle reader.

1. Forget all of those gender-neutral parenting plans you had. Once the epidural wears off, reality kicks in. Nature, schmature, nurture, schmurture. You have joined the MOB. You’re the Mother of a Boy and there’s no turning back. The fart jokes will start in about ten minutes, and eight years later you’ll still be holding your breath.

2. Your child will never appreciate those first few years you spent sleepless, showerless, and adult-conversationless. In fact, he may even laugh loudly at a picture of what you looked like back in those days. If you get a chance for some time to yourself, run, as fast as you can. Sure your one-year-old may whine a bit and your two-year-old may throw a tantrum as you leave, but your seven-year-old will never know the difference.

3. All history happens to a kid, “when I was three.” “I had a really bad dream when I was three, that’s why I can’t go to sleep until midnight, mom.” “When I was three you slammed my finger in the car door.” “I heard you say a bad word when I was three.” Whatever the memory, it happened “when I was three.”

4. The only scientifically documented thing that actually happens at age three is kids become obsessed with their feet. Never accept food of any kind from a three-year-old.

5. Four-year-old boys can get a bit emotional when you deny them things. Here’s my favorite tip: You can say “maybe” and mean “no.” “Maybe” buys you time. “Maybe” helps you avoid tantrums in public places. “Maybe” gives your child a teensy tiny bit of hope he can hang on to for a little while, and he just might forget about what he wanted in the first place. This works with husbands as well as kids.

6. When you figure out how to explain to a five-year-old that some people get pretty offended when you take a certain someone’s name in vain, please, please, please help me explain it to my son. Meanwhile, if you know a way to avoid cussing when you spill a piping hot latte all over your new Coach purse, could you also let me know?

7. I know we haven’t had a rainy day in a long time, but when Koss was five, it rained a lot. Santa Barbara is not a rainy day friendly town–I’m surprised the bowling alley isn’t outdoors. When you coop up 48 pounds of five-year-old boy energy inside a teeny tiny house for too long, something’s got to give–your sanity. My suggestion is to hook him up to an electricity generating treadmill. Viola, no more global warming.

8. Six-year-old boys turn into lawyers–everything is a negotiation or a stall tactic, and you have no choice but to develop your own legal skills. For example, after the 13th time you tell him to brush his teeth/finish his homework/put out the recycling/tar the roof, he’ll finally look up from his whatever game he’s into that week and say, “chill, mom.” This is what’s known as stalling. Forcibly take the game from him and turn it off. Tell him he’ll get it back after he brushes his teeth/finishes his homework/puts out the recycling/tars the roof, etc. This is what’s known as a negotiation.

9. Seven-year-olds can chatter incessantly about mythical creatures and who would beat who in a fight — seriously, my kid can go at least 10 minutes without taking a breath. The trick is to nod your head and think about George Clooney. When your son finally stops talking, answer, with a straight face, “I think the second one is more powerful.” Works every time.

10. If he says he’s “gotta go,” he’s gotta go. And even if he says he doesn’t, make him pee anyway before you leave the house. If he’s two, your best friend’s new hardwood floors will thank you. If he’s seven, his baseball coach will thank you.

11. Seven-year-olds can do a lot of things for themselves, but they need very specific directions. Don’t say, “get a snack” unless you’re OK with him snacking on leftover Halloween candy. And if you let him snack on the fruity-chewy-gooey-not-worth-the- calories-candy, remember, you won’t be able to use it in his birthday piñata in July.

12. Never, under any circumstances, even if you have to push him away from the scale at Weight Watchers, let your child see how much you weigh. Show him your tax returns if you need to distract him.

13. Male Answer Syndrome kicks in early. If you want to know anything about anything, ask your seven-year-old son.

14. Keep in mind; sarcasm is a sign of wit, intelligence, and cleverness…until your kids use it.

Share your parenting lessons with Leslie at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 9, 2008.

The Handwriting is on the Wall

By wikipedia:en:user:Sotakeit (w:Image:Cursive.JPG) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By wikipedia:en:user:Sotakeit (w:Image:Cursive.JPG) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In case you’ve missed the writing on the wall, cursive writing is going the way of eight-track tapes. Today’s students will almost certainly be the last generation to learn handwriting, and I’m not sure that this is a bad thing.

Until the 1970s, penmanship was a separate daily subject taught through sixth grade, but a recent survey of primary-grade teachers found that most now spend 10 minutes a day or less on it. Even kindergarteners are learning keyboarding instead of handwriting. And while we used to celebrate a National Handwriting Week, today marks the celebration of National Handwriting Day. There’s not even a parade, despite the fact that it’s also John Hancock’s birthday today, for which my husband and I usually exchange the traditional gift of fountain pens and parchment paper.

So much for the longevity of longhand.

After all, effective communication is the ultimate goal, so why bother with a time-consuming, archaic method of communicating when so many high-tech, high-speed methods are available? Anyone out there who is worried about the development of the next generation’s communication skills should watch how skillfully the average13-year-old wields the text message function on his cell phone. Of course spelling will be the next part of the curriculum to go, but that iz a topic 4 anoth col.

Sure, I’m a little dependent on my laptop–OK, I was semi-suicidal the day my wireless card stopped working–but that doesn’t mean I have anything personal against handwriting. Until recently, I took a certain amount of pride in my penmanship. It’s extremely legible, which is the point of writing. The other cool thing about it is that in defiance to all of the handwriting experts who say that they can predict your personality traits by looking at something you’ve written, my sister and I have almost indistinguishable handwriting and distinctly different personalities. It’s eerie when I get something in the mail from her. Cue the Twilight Zone music: “I don’t remember writing that.”

I used to wonder if my son’s writing would look the same as ours did. Would genetics kick in, the shape of our hands perhaps? With two professional writers for parents, it was no great surprise that our son was an extremely verbal, great natural communicator. He started out this way on the page too, filling his kindergarten journals with imaginative stories about silver-tongued aliens and basketballs that could fly five zillion feet in the air and return with the snap of his fingers.

Then came the dreaded D’Nealian Alphabet.

Bearing only a slight resemblance to the loopy cursive writing style that I was taught in elementary school–and have barely used since–the D’Nealian Alphabet is designed to be a bridge between printing and cursive writing, adding curves and slants to the traditional circle and stick printing that children learn first.

Sounds simple enough. Almost logical.

Not for Koss. His previously legible printing quickly curved and slanted its way into oblivion. Before we knew it, none of us knew what the heck he was writing about. His sentences became shorter and less and less coherent. There was so much red ink when he got his papers back that I thought he might have had another bloody nose. The poor kid was thinking and worrying so much about his handwriting that he forgot what he was trying to say.

His well-intentioned first grade teacher gave him extra handwriting homework. Just imagine how much fun it is for a six-year-old kid to do an extra two pages of letterforms a night. A-A-A-A, B-B-B-B, C-C-C-C, D-D-D-D, just shoot us now and take us out of our D’Nealian misery! Talk about D’wasting D’time.

But his motor development is fine. You should see him put together those Bionicle pieces. What he suffers from is called dysgraphia, otherwise known as “bad handwriting.” Luckily, we’re living in an age where it doesn’t really matter that much in the larger scheme of things.

I’m doing a little happy dance because Koss’s teacher this year is letting him use a computer for some of his writing assignments.

I’m sure my own second grade teacher is rolling over in her retirement home. I can just hear her say, “Penmanship is extremely important. Don’t you know that the health of at least 1 in 10 Americans is endangered by the poor handwriting of their physicians?”

To which I’ll say, “So what. By the time Koss graduates from medical school there won’t be any more prescription forms, we’ll have prescription chips embedded in our bodies.”

And she’ll reply, “But did you know that up to $95,000,000 in tax refunds are not delivered because of unreadable tax-forms.”

And I’ll say, “Haven’t you ever heard of Quicken?”

To which she’ll reply, “But more than $200,000,000 in time and money is lost because poor handwriting results in phone calls made to wrong or non-existent numbers.”

I could tell her about cell phones and email, but at this point it seems more merciful to send her a little hand-written note, thanking her for teaching me how to write…or just transfer her to voicemail.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound

Decisions, Decisions …

Wheat ThinsIt’s the Wheat Thins that get me every time. The anxiety starts as soon I walk down the cracker aisle. Should I go for the low sodium or the reduced fat? The ranch flavor looks good too, but the Harvest Five-Grain Wheat Thins are on sale. What’s the difference between those and the multi-grain kind again?

Before I know it, my head is spinning with visions of calorie and cost calculations and cheese combinations and I’ve spent 17 minutes that I don’t have to spare talking to myself and staring at a shelf full of crackers. What are Chicken in a Biscuits? How do they get them in there?

Am I the only one who has problems making such mundane decisions?

Apparently not.

Decision-making is a source of stress for enough people that you can actually get a degree in Decision Science these days. Evidently Carnegie Mellon University is one of the leading centers in the world for studying decision-making, so I checked out their website to see if they could help me.

No luck. Apparently in order to learn how to make decisions scientifically there are lots of math classes involved, which seems like it would take way too much math. If I could calculate things in my head faster, then I wouldn’t have any problem making simple decisions.

There are some decisions–whether or not to quit a job, have a baby, color your hair, lie about whether you ate that last piece of See’s Candy–that should require a little bit of agonizing over. I’m not talking about those kinds of decisions. But agonizing over what kind of crackers to buy can’t possibly be normal. Right?

I turned to the experts.

Psychiatrist Lynne Tan says it is. “People agonize about the consequences of their decisions. There’s always the fear of getting it wrong.”

“Beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression,” according to Barry Schwartz, Ph.D., author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.

The only time I really feel depressed about having too many choices is when I realize how much time I’ve wasted trying to make a choice that ultimately, won’t really make that much difference. So the Honey Wheat Thins might clash a little bit with the spicy pepper jack cheese. Is that really worth spending another minute of my life thinking about? I think not.

According to Dr. Schwartz’s book, most “good” decisions involve these steps: Figuring out your goal or goals; evaluating the importance of each goal; arraying the options; evaluating how likely each of the options is to meet your goals; and picking the winning option. The easy to remember acronym for this is FEAEP. You then use the FEAEP results modify your goals, the importance you assign them, and the way you evaluate future possibilities.

What the FEAEP? I’m sorry, but the consequence of making decisions using that technique would be that I’d spent my entire life talking to myself while wandering the aisles at the grocery store.

From now I’ve got a new decision-making technique–the Coin Of Destiny (COD, patent pending).

I can’t believe it took me so long to decide on this method. It’s so simple. I should have thought of this years ago. Pick a coin. Don’t spend more than three minutes picking out the right coin. If you’re tempted, close your eyes and pick the first coin you touch. Now it’s time to make your next decision. Flip the coin. If you don’t like the outcome of the flip, take the opposite choice. It’s a nearly foolproof approach.

Oh, and if you don’t have a coin handy, check out www.flipacoin.net, a virtual coin flipping site which offers a choice of 91 different coins from 28 different countries.

Come to think of it, the Eeny Meany Miney Mo Of Destiny (EMMMOD, patent pending) might just be the way to go. I’ll decide later.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound

Harvard Schmarvard

Harvard University, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Harvard University, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

I used to think that people who had degrees from Harvard had arrived into the elite upper echelon of higher education. Like most people who have seen Love Story, and Good Will Hunting, I pictured Harvard guys a certain way. Preppy, sophisticated, erudite and of course, rich.

Then I met my husband.

It’s not that the guy isn’t witty or smart–I married him, didn’t I? It’s just that he isn’t exactly any of those other things that I had previously associated with a Harvard education. People have a surprised reaction whenever they find out where Zak went to school. It is probably because he looks like more of a UC Santa Cruz kind of guy, or one of those kids in that new movie, Accepted, who invents their own college when they can’t get in anywhere else. People are either appalled, like my cousin Todd, who coughed up an entire six pack when he found out Zak went to Harvard; or impressed, like my friend Sienna, who immediately suggested she take us out to an expensive dinner so she could start sucking up to get her four-year-old son in.

I was actually impressed by Zak’s Harvard pedigree when we first met. That is until I realized that despite his English degree, he’s better schooled in the works of Stephen King than he is in those of F. Scott Fitzgerald. And that he would never deign to actually use any of those seven figure college connections to, oh say, try to get a frickin’ job.

Needless to say, we’ve developed a friendly collegiate rivalry over the years, though it’s not really much of a competition. My alma mater, UCLA, continues to stack up basketball and football championships while Harvard alumni rule the lesser worlds of politics and Nobel prizes. Clearly I come from the superior school.

Did I mention that with only a minor in English and a major in frat boys, I’ve read more classic literature than my husband, Mr. English Degree from Harvard, ever did? Or that MY college loans have been paid off for more than a decade? And that there’s never been an American president who went to UCLA?

Despite the clear superiority I feel in being a Bruin, I have to admit I took a little bit of pleasure in this week’s Time Magazine cover story, titled “Who Needs Harvard?” Especially when the next day’s news logged a defeat for Harvard in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings, which rates Princeton over its Ivy League rival. That UCLA was ranked number 26 didn’t faze me a bit, as my husband gently pointed out. We Bruins know better than to put our faith in things like college rankings, unless they are from the NCAA.

While the U.S. News and World Report rankings take things like endowments into account, there’s more to a great college experience than sitting in a beautiful library. What about sitting in a library full of beautiful people? UCLA’s close proximity to Hollywood and Southern California’s year-round sunshine make for an exceptionally photogenic student body. Score one for UCLA.

Then there’s our superior five squirrel rating. According to the annual rankings published by Academic Squirrels of California and Beyond (www.gottshall.com/squirrels/campsq.htm) which uses the simple algorithm that the quality of an institution is directly related to the number of squirrels on its campus, the size, girth and health of UCLA’s squirrel population is second only to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. And that’s only because those squirrels have had 156 years of federal government protection. And they got extra squirrel points for having Rocky and Bullwinkle as their mascots. Harvard ranks a lowly three on the squirrel-o-meter because squirrels, like everything else, tend to freeze their nuts in those unpleasant east coast winters.

Score two more for UCLA, for furry friends and weather.

Then there’s the school pride factor. While proud Bruin alumni line up alongside busloads of tourists to purchase the latest in bear wear fashions, you’ll never spot a real Harvard grad in a Harvard sweatshirt. It’s like they are too cool to admit it or something. When I went with Zak to his 10-year college reunion, they gave us crimson hats that said “HR class of 1987,” like it was a secret code or something! What could possibly be so great about a school that people don’t want to admit they went to?

Finally, though, it all comes down to mascots. UCLA has the bruin. A bear. How cool is that? Harvard has crimson. A color. A color you have to have a degree from Harvard to identify. Crimson is the color a Harvard student’s nose turns when he’s out in the snow trying to cheer on his sorry excuse for a football team.

Harvard Schmarvard, indeed.

When Leslie’s not out in the sunshine, cheering on the Bruins, she can be reached at email

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 25, 2006.

Why Do Men Have Nipples

Why do Men Have Nipples? BookWhy? Because it’s an awfully catchy title.

The screaming titles in the window of Barnes & Noble caught my eye: “Why Do Men Have Nipples?” and its sequel, “Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?” by humorist Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg. Sure, “Dr. Billy” sounds like he should be playing with a plastic stethoscope, but I could forgive him his name if the books actually delivered the answers to these mysterious questions. After all, the obstetrician that delivered my son was Dr. Howie Mandel, and I’ve almost gotten over that one.

Did these books really have the answers to these long-pondered questions that had been taking up my valuable brain space for almost as long as, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” I decided to investigate.

Since the books are subtitled, respectively, “Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini” (nipples) and “More Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour” (sleep), I decided to pour myself a glass of wine and ponder the imponderable in my quest for factoid fun.

The merlot seemed like a good choice, given my history of falling asleep after my third glass of just about anything resembling a martini and the fact that we had no whiskey in the house. Does anyone actually know how to make a whiskey sour anymore? It sounds like something Dudley Moore drank in “10.”

Like most college graduates, I had already spent countless drunken hours contemplating the mystery of why men have nipples, and unless I had missed a memo, knew that that answer was an unsatisfying, “nobody really knows.”

Just to be sure, I double-checked. According to the authors, while only females have mammary glands, we all start out in a similar way in the embryo. The embryo follows a female template until about six weeks, when the male sex chromosome kicks in. At that point males have already developed nipples.

It takes men six weeks to develop nipples, but at 40 years old, my husband still has to be reminded how to wipe the sink down properly after shaving and put the seat down after peeing? I’ve got a few ideas for Dr. Billy’s next title, like “Why Are Men Such Babies When They Get Sick?” and “Why Can’t Men Write Down a Phone Message When There are Notepads All Over the House?” and “Why Did You Say You Were Listening to Me When Clearly You Weren’t?”

Actually, Dr. Billy has an answer for that last one. He says it’s not that men listen less than women. Get this, it’s that they listen “differently.” This sounds suspiciously like not keeping score in T- Ball and pretending the kids won’t know the difference. However, according to Dr. Billy, “Men use one side of their brain whereas women use both sides. And when men hear women’s voices they hear those voices in different areas of the brain than women — they hear women’s voices in the same area of the brain they use to process complex musical sounds — so you can extrapolate the women’s voices are more complex. … And more difficult for us to listen to.”

So women use our whole brain to listen and men only use half a brain when they listen to women. And why did that chicken cross the road? Maybe he wasn’t listening when his wife asked for directions.

When she’s not pondering life’s eternal questions, Leslie can be reached at email

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 18, 2006.

The Not-So-Newlywed Game

Courtesy YouTube.com.

Courtesy YouTube.com.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m actually rather competitive. Especially when it comes to stupid things, like knowing the names of one-hit-wonder bands from the 1980s (of course YOU remember when “Der Kommissar” was in town, but I bet you couldn’t tell us that After the Fire was the band that brought him); being able to intuit who is on the phone every time it rings (my mom); and predicting with 99.7% accuracy the words that will come out of my husband’s mouth before he says them. Even if most of those words are, “um,” “well,” and “yeah,” you still have to admit that that is pretty impressive wifely knowledge.

So when my friends Colonel Dan and Lola did a victory lap around the Padaro Beach Grill to celebrate their recent domination of an Alaskan Cruise Ship Not-So-Newlywed Game Tournament, I must admit to feeling a bit envious. I wanted that first place gold-plated bottle of Cold Duck for my mantle.

Sure, their closest competition was a couple from Nantucket who only had one good ear and half a head of hair between the two of them. And sure, the third place bronzed beer can went to a couple that only knew a few words of English. But still, Dan and Lola had won an international Not-So-Newlywed Game competition.

I couldn’t help but wonder how Zak and I would have stacked up. I figured we knew each other at least as well as these hacks. After all, Lola was by herself half the time while Dan was out saving the world on some mission or other. Zak hardly ever left the house without me by his side. Most of the time I knew his thoughts before I let him have them. Surely we could kick their sorry little butts.

Luckily, Colonel Dan was eager to quiz us.

The first question was easy. “If your spouse were lost while driving in a foreign city, he/she would do what?”

“Not ask for directions,” I yelled eagerly, knowing I had aced that one.

“OK,” Dan said. “What if you were the one driving, Leslie?”

Zak and I both laughed. I refer you to my column where I made fun of my dad’s driving. My dad taught me to drive. Me, drive in foreign cities? Not in this lifetime.

Dan threw out a few more easy questions. What color are your spouse’s eyes? Boxers or briefs? Leno or Letterman? Dog or cat? Would you like fries with that?

I was starting to feel a little cocky when Lola mentioned that she and Dan had gotten a perfect score. How do you top that?

Lola asked the next question: “If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only be with one person, who wasn’t your spouse, who would it be?”

I weighed the possibilities. Would Einstein or Da Vinci be better able to build us a boat out of palm leaves and coconut shells? And more importantly, which of them was better suited to help me repopulate society? Hmmm…Then Zak piped up with “Brad Pitt” for me. Please. I like man candy just as much as the next girl, but I’m still angry about the whole Jennifer thing.

Dan interrupted my reverie. “Who would Zak want to be trapped with on a desert island?”

C’mon, we’re down a point. Got to regroup, focus. I know he’s moved on from Uma to Scarlett Johanssen, so I go with Scarlett.

He says, “Leonardo Da Vinci.”

Honey, I really didn’t mean to punch your arm so hard. You know how I get in competition.

Zak was still rubbing his bruise when Dan let us have one final bonus question that would allow us to tie the score with them. “Where’s the most unusual place you’ve ever made whoopee?”

I looked at my husband and giggled. We both knew the answer to this one. All we had to do was say the word and the Newlywed Game honors would be ours.

I looked deep into my husband’s eyes (still blue) and nodded, as he said, “Not in this lifetime.”

We’re Not-So-Newlywedded for a reason, after all. It’s all about how well you know your partner.

When she’s not singing “Tainted Love,” by Soft Cell, Leslie can be reached at email

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 11, 2006.

With a Hop, Skip and a Ro-sham-bo

Dodgeball image courtesy SUARTS, Flickr.com.

Dodgeball image courtesy SUARTS, Flickr.com.

They don’t tell you this in Lamaze class, but one of the most fun things about having kids is that you have the best of all reasons to behave like a kid again. As my son will testify to, I get just as excited as he does about dressing up for Halloween, hunting for treasures from the Easter Bunny and finding the M & M’s hidden in the popcorn while watching the latest Disney flick. And when Santa comes to town … don’t even get me started about all of the long-delayed pleasures a certain big bearded guy brings to a Jewish girl who has lusted after Christmas trees her whole life. Oy!

Given how much fun it is to yell “Yahtzee” at the top of my lungs, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that favorite childhood games like Four Square, Dodgeball and Rock Paper Scissors are being reclaimed by adults.

They actually gave away $50,000 at the first annual USA Rock Paper Scissors League Championship held in Las Vegas last month. Bud Light and A & E Network have signed on as league sponsors. I’m telling you, the duel may be all about the hands, but this sport has legs. Reportedly, Rock Paper Scissors is under consideration as an exhibition at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. According to a fake press release on the official USARPS website (www.usarps.com), International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is a huge Rock Paper Scissors aficionado who sees this competition as a tremendous way for countries to engage in mental battle and clearly determine which nation boasts the sharpest minds and quickest wrists. “The world will finally find out who has the mettle to medal,” Rogge says.

Sure. At least until Rock Scissors Paper gets ruined by steroids.

Hmm … I wonder if that Olympic archery competitor and actress Geena Davis will start training now that Commander and Chief has been canceled? She could always use her excessive height advantage to compete in Dodgeball, yet another childhood “sport” I hear is under Olympic consideration. Thanks in large part to the 2005 Ben Stiller movie, which played the sport for absurd comedy, the International Dodgeball Federation projects that it will have more than 300,000 sanctioned players by the end of 2007. According to the IDBF’s official website (www.dodge-ball.com) adults aged 25-35 are the sport’s largest and hottest growth segment. The Federation recently welcomed new leagues in Pakistan, Australia and Puerto Rico. Even though it’s also known as “war ball;” clearly the UN should be looking into incorporating Dodgeball as a possible peacekeeping measure.

Apparently my old recess favorite, Four Square, is back in vogue for adults as well. It’s one of the most popular sports in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with frequent tournaments and more than a dozen teams competing in an adults-only league. Norfolk, Virginia is a hotbed of adult Kickball, another of my childhood favorites. Stickball never made it to any of my Santa Barbara playgrounds, but apparently it’s big back east, where New Yawkers relive their youth in three different adult Stickball leagues. Kansas City has the Tag Institute, where kids of all ages indulge in variations of the game, Tag. Here in California, where we like a little showbiz with our sport, we have San Francisco’s Double Duchess Jump Rope Troupe, whose adult members do their acrobatic routines dressed in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms. My husband is not allowed to go.

“Not last night, but the night before

24 Robbers came knocking at my door…”

My toes immediately start tapping to the familiar rhymes. I’m having a flashback to fourth grade, where schoolwork seemed much easier to face after a few turns of the rope or kicks of the ball.

A little voice says, “Wanna play tag, mom?” brings me back to the present. “You bet,” I say. I may be older and slower, but I can still use my wits to dominate a six-year-old.

“You’re it,” we say simultaneously.

“One, two, three jinx. You owe me a coke.”

Anyone up for a game of Kickball? Email Leslie at email

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 21, 2006.