Fish Tales from a Princess Perspective

IMG_1036Hi, my name is Stacey and I’m vocationally challenged.

Every 10 years I suck all the marrow from one career and move on, which makes for a roller-coaster ride of a resume. Like Mr. Sinatra crooning, I’ve been an actor, a singer, a dancer, bookkeeper and pediatric nurse. A blogger, an author and newspaper columnist. Administrative assistant was the worst. That’s life — at least mine.

The only interesting job I haven’t done yet is fishing pro. I’d love to relax on a pond or lake all day, slathered in bug spray and sunscreen; however, anyone who has fished with me will say I have a scaly green thumb.

On last year’s fishing trip, my husband and I watched our daughters snag an overflowing line of rainbow trout, using miniature hot pink Barbie poles and worms. My adult-sized, dirt brown pole produced zero fish. So I used the girls’ pole, thinking it was the lucky charm, but my numbers didn’t increase.

“Oh, Barbie. You did me wrong!” Leaving the fully stocked fish hatchery that day empty-handed gave me more drive to learn the secret.

So when planning a recent fishing trip, I remained hopeful but realistic. The only way to catch a fish was if I cast out whopper fish tales, the type of story where after repeating it to everyone within earshot, your fish morphs into a 250-pounder. This type of lie is quite acceptable in fisherman circles.

Our pond was well-stocked with a menagerie of gilled Midwest prospects: catfish, bass, blue gill, marlin and mahi-mahi — at least that’s how I remember it. I set my hopes high and was all about the bass, no tuna. In fact, when one of the guides took me out on the pond with an aerated cooler full of minnows, I had never felt so professional, and out of my comfort zone.

It was a 50-degree morning and I was wrapped up tighter than a cryogenically sealed pack of tilapia. Fighting my windbreaker, jacket and two layers of clothing, while balancing the boat with my legs, was the beginning of my trials. I looked like a deranged toddler wrangling the slippery minnows beneath my feet in a cooler. Every time I opened the cooler, my center of gravity shifted and so did the boat. How in the Sea World do you keep your pole on board while wrestling minnows and posed in the disaster drill position?

Soon visions of princesses danced in my head. According to any 1950s advice columnist, a damsel in distress should find a big, brave man to hook her bait. I would have spent days trying to talk a single minnow into jumping onto my hook.

Embarrassed that I needed help, I reconsidered using hook sushi. Worms I could handle! I’d overcome that fear a few years back and now prayed any fish would get a hankering for my segmented annelid.

I was setting a good example for my girls in the next boat.

IMG_1034No daughter of mine needed to fear bait.

After several attempts, I hooked a fish I was certain would need a hydraulic wench and rig to lift out of the water. I wasn’t far from my estimation because that bass was enormous. Fifty pounds or more!! Did I say 50? I meant 100!

This slick and feisty reward was all mine and I’m sure the folks in the next county over could hear my excitement. At last a real fish that I caught was coming into the boat.


Holy, Carp! There’s no way I’m touching that thing.

Batting my eyes, I begged my guide, “Could you help me get him off the hook? I don’t want to hurt him.” There was another fish tale.

That day with my family, I learned sometimes you must lower your standards. Summoning your inner princess and asking for help isn’t the end of the world. Plus, you can always change the story later.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 28, 2016)



The Mystery of Kid Teeth

Chloes-ToothHave you ever wondered why if your hand fell off you wouldn’t grow another in its place?

Toenails and fingernails typically grow back. Skin cells, hair follicles and oddly enough, tonsils can reappear. But over the ages, tooth mysteries have had populations chattering the most.

The collective attention to growing a tooth is intriguing. For example, if a child’s at a family gathering and shows off his new up-front-and-center incisor, thunderous applause ensues. Relatives might raise a toasting glass to celebrate this amazing achievement that the child had nothing to do with. In turn, when that child loses the same tooth several years later, for some weird reason it’s just as monumental of an occasion.

Cheers! You didn’t need that rotten tooth after all!

If you’ve paid attention to young parents on social media, you are aware that a child’s first tooth loss experience often morphs into a bidding war. Over-achieving parents boast how their Tooth Fairy is far more generous than the rest of the world. A monetary version of “mine is bigger than yours.” Shy new parents observe from the gallery, comparing if their toothless wonder was ripped off by the Tooth Fairy. Cheap fairies are the worst!

“When I was a kid I only got a quarter for a tooth. Can someone direct me to the current inflation chart? I need to check if what Bobby got under his pillow is the going rate?”

Recently, my daughter pulled out one of her second molars. It’s the mammoth of a tooth located in the far back of the jaw, used for chewing and grinding.

Congrats, my brave daughter for taking care of it yourself.

Sounds good, right? The only problem was it wasn’t ready to be removed. Earlier in the evening, she wanted me to wiggle it. That baby tooth wasn’t near ready for excavation. I told her to keep on wiggling it, so she might get a Tooth Fairy visit within the next week. Alas, my kid needs to work on patience.

When I inquired why she played dentist on herself, she said she needed the money. Before you call social services on me, my two daughters get an allowance for contributing around the house. But since it’s the end of the school year, they have been shirking their duties and not finishing their work. Instead of yelling or beating my head against the wall, I have been withholding funds for several months. I figured when they needed the money, they would return to their jobs.

I had no idea that she would think pulling her barely wiggly tooth would be worth a dollar. That’s what our Tooth Fairy has brought her the last decade, so she had a good idea of profits.

Upon waking to a neatly folded up dollar bill stuffed in her tooth pillow, she exclaims that she was robbed. “I figured if I pulled out a huge one, I’d get more money than a dollar!”

Needless to say, the girls have returned to their daily chores, and I’m shelling out the dough. Can you imagine how much she would get for a permanent tooth? This mom is not willing to find out.

So after hiding all the pliers in the house, I’m going to lean toward preventive parenting. Perhaps reading “The Little Engine That Could” at bedtime all these years backfired and we should have focused on the virtue of patience.

“I’d like to thank the Academy of Pediatrics for this Mother of the Year award …” and thunderous applause ensues.

Previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 14, 2016.


Hyperbole is Killing Me

I have an embarrassing secret to share. My fourth-grade daughter continually puts me in my place in the math department, plus a few other subjects. I still can carry my own in science and grammar, but I need to up my game to prove I can assuredly assist in the homework world.

The retired television show, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” suggested kids can intellectually pass up their parents by the age of 10; but let me tell you, my child knocked me off my high horse numerous times in third grade!

“Hold on, honey. Let Mama read the question again… hmm. Oh, well! Dad will be home in an hour. He loves quadratic equations!

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s not that advanced, but the new math certainly feels foreign to this mom.

Some of you may be up close and personal with our country’s Common Core standards. I’ll add you to the prayer chain. This beastly teaching model produces hives on every parent who partakes in homework supervision. I realize someone who knows better is attempting to make our children smarter by ramming knowledge into their gray matter, but why must the powers at be make parents feel stupid in the meantime?

Recently, my anxiety surged a smidgen when my daughter asked me to define the word “hyperbole.” She’s 10! Why does she need to know that definition, let alone spell it right and use it correctly in a sentence?

How can I expect her to use this advanced word correctly, when I’m not sure of the answer myself? So I did what every other parent in the world does — I lied. Telling her she should do her own research in the dictionary.

Since the nut doesn’t fall far from the genetics tree, my parents also pretended they knew answers when asked the origin, definition or spelling of a word. My mother was notorious for having me get up from the dinner table to find the right answer. Doesn’t every family in America have a dictionary several feet from the kitchen table? It was wedged next to our 1960s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one was leaving the table until we knew the ins and outs of an earthworm’s reproductive system.

Because I obviously love to over-share, here is what I learned. “Hyperbole” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an exaggeration by effect and not meant to be taken literally.” Really? I seriously thought it was a story with a wild ending. Now if my daughter had asked what “onomatopoeia” meant, I would’ve exclaimed, “Wow! I know that!” but once again my fifth-grader-to-be caught me unprepared.

There are countless memorable stages as a parent. The first smile, that first step, when she’s finally potty-trained! But right now I’m living the assisting-with-your-child’s-homework stage. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. This phase could easily drive a parent insane, lead to premature aging, or trigger excessive drinking — not that I’m recommending any of these. Carrying those “ones” in a multiplication number sentence should be cautiously completed by a high-functioning, sober mind.

But if you get stuck, might I suggest secretly sneaking a tablet or cellphone to ask Siri? That gal has more right answers than any encyclopedia I came across.

(previously published in the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 23, 2016)


6 Signs You’re Shopping With Your Child

Metal shopping cart isolated on white background

Shopping with your child is the WORST

For the past eight years I have struggled with taking my children grocery shopping. I love my girls, but their behavior in public is like getting stabbed in the ears with chopsticks. Their indoor voices aren’t their strong suit.

In fact, for years I’ve tried everything to make sure they aren’t with me when I’m at the supermarket. I’ve even written about their behavior in a book I co-authored – but did that change them? Nope.

If the kids are invited to a play date, I’ll grab my list, drop them off and set my GPS straight to market. Grandma asks to see the munchkins? “Hi and Bye!” I’ve got a little errand to run. Free at last. God Almighty, free at last!

Even when the Jehovah Witness’s knock at the door, don’t think I haven’t considered making a quick run to pick up a few necessities.

But the other day was the first time I made it through the entire event without my blood pressure raising the roof. No, I wasn’t drunk or showing signs of dementia. Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but my girls are finally helpful. Oh, sweet baby Jesus the day has finally come!!

Just like when they started tying their shoes for the first time – it happened over night. Can you imagine my surprise? So what is it about being 7 or 8 that turns them into helpful humans? I’m sure not going to sit around and analyze this miracle, but I wanted to share the glorious wonders of it all.

Shopping with your child…

1. If your child insists on reading every word of the grocery aisle signs and reminds you where the large vats of ice cream are…you might be shopping with a 2nd grader. Normally, when people point out my flaws or are telling me what to do, I get irked. But now the munchkins can read and help me find items or even read labels when I can’t locate my stinking old readers, they are little shopping sidekicks!

2. If your daughter remembers you need cheese IN the dairy aisle, instead of realizing you forgot it as you pull into your driveway…you probably are shopping with a 2nd grader. When you hit a certain age, perimenopause takes over your brain causing a pea soup thick fog to lead you through your day. This is why it is helpful to have fresh sharp brains right beside you, to keep you on track. College nightly adventures didn’t do my brain well. PSA: “Kids don’t do drugs…or drink heavily. When you’re older, you will miss all those braincells.”

3. When your kid begs to heave the groceries on the conveyor belt giving you time to chat with the checker to discuss important things like the weather, fruit ripeness and sporting events…you might be shopping with a 2nd grader.
I’m not sure why I thought I would be doing everything for my family the rest of my living days. These children who I carried for 9 months, and wrecked my abdomen, ahem; really can take over and give you a break from time to time. I’m not talking indentured slaves or free child labor, all day long; but we can share some of the family responsibilities to make our house a messy, but sanitary home.

4. If every. single. time you stop the shopping cart to turn and grab something, and you find your son riding the cart…he’s a 2nd grader. Really my girls do this too. I can’t keep the monkeys off the rails without threatening a “brown out” at our house. I guess I can’t blame them. If I had someone who would push me around on the side of a big, red Target cart; I’d be whooping and hollering like rodeo cowgirl who sat on a hill of fire ants. I like me some fun too!

5. If your daughters are discussing the difference between regular lemonade and diet lemonade and the words, “big butt” come up…you are hanging with 2nd graders. Body image talks have already started with my girls and the grocery store is usually a forced time to do it. I love asking the hard questions, especially discussing airbrushing while looking at the celebs in the checkout magazines. Suck it, Cosmo!

6. If your kids “ooh” and “ah” when they enter the chip aisle, like they are watching the grand finale of a fireworks display…yep. Second grader! As long as I can remember, my girls have been obsessed with chips. ALL chips. It’s like listening to Forrest Gump’s friend, Bubba talking about his favorite shrimp. Pringles, Doritos, Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cool Ranch Doritos, Fritos, Big Scoop Fritos… It’s like the store pumps in LSD into the air at the end of that aisle. Turn on the Grateful Dead and let my munchkins drool, stroke and hug the bags of chips. When people laugh at their behavior, I just tell them I haven’t fed them since last Tuesday. Then that ends that!


For those of you who haven’t reached this magical time in your parenting career, I’m here to shake you back into consciousness and repeat, “It shall happen to you too.” It may seem like an eternity for the stage to arrive, but the payoff is so worth the tumultuous wait. Investment in ear plugs can be a smart choice too.

Now I find myself imagining how pleasant my summer is going to be. I relax by the pool, imagining how my shopping stress will be minimized. I dream of floating on a tranquil cloud down the aisles, giggling with my girls on our magic ride to the produce section. Life is good.

But if I’ve jinxed them by writing of this newfound bonding time, you can bet your sweet bippy I’m calling Grandma for a visit until they snap out of it!

When did your kids finally get to be helpful on shopping trips? Please leave your answer below in the comment section. I’d love to compare and whine.



Heaven is a funnier place now

Sometimes crying can stop us in our tracks


Heaven is a Funnier Place

Whether it’s tears of joy, tears of relief, or tears during every single Hallmark commercial, they can range from a hiccup in your step to knocking you off your path. But the ones that pack the hardest punch are those Smokey Robinson tracks of tears triggered by great loss, and if it’s followed by a belly laugh — ah, catharsis.

The cemetery scene from the film “Steel Magnolias” is my favorite example. Just when the characters have hit the lowest point, a monumental joke causes viewers to scream of laughter through their tears, joining the characters on the screen. It’s a healing moment for everyone.

I’ve always tried to surround myself with funny people, those who lift my spirits at the most desirable time. So when my friend died unexpectedly, I was not only grieving the loss of someone dear to me, but also for the person who for decades had made me laugh harder and longer than anyone. Often I would be hoarse and exhausted by the time we hung up the telephone.

In my 20s, when I first struggled with severe anxiety, debilitating panic attacks would hold my body hostage, incapable of functioning. I started calling my comic buddy and within a few moments, the attack had passed and I could breathe again. His jokes were better than any drug. I only wish I had shared that with him.

It’s tragic to know the person who brought such joy to my life will never be there for me. There will be no calls when we have just sat down to dinner, or when I’m at the dentist, or the gynecologist. His timing was flawless — except with his exit from this world. The proverbial vaudeville hook nabbed him off the stage much too early.

I broke the news to my grade school daughters, explaining why I was weepy and distant the morning after his passing. My 9-year-old rushed around the breakfast table to give me one of her amazing hugs. As she nuzzled into my neck, I said to her, “I’ll be OK. He was one of my dearest friends, but he’s in heaven now. I’ll see him again some day.”

My girl continued to hold on a few more moments, until she whipped her head back and stared at me concerned.

“What if he’s in hell, Mama?”

My laughter exploded through my tears. When I had calmed down enough to talk, I told her my friend would have loved her question. I can still hear how his booming laugh would have filled the room with that one.

My daughter’s timing is perfect. She is capable of replacing the comic relief I will miss in my friend’s absence.

I guess my funny friend passed the giggle torch to my daughter. Thankfully, she’s young, because I’m planning on many years of her cracking me up. I only wish she could have learned from the master.

Loss is confusing and challenging, but one thing I take comfort in is that heaven is a funnier place now.