I Strongly Dislike Paleontologists (#2 in the Bastards series)

Complex dino names
Roll off his tongue like ice cream
While I stammer, lost…


I am mother to the most adorable, sweet, kiss-filled 5-year-old boy in the entire universe. Yes, he is just like your 5-year-old boy, just a wee bit better. (I must confess that last week he showed his boy parts to the entire playground on a dare, so he is way more normal than my first sentence might lead you to believe. For those of you who don’t believe this is normal boy behavior, you are either parents to only girls or not familiar with my son’s father, whose history includes chasing his cousins and sister around, boy parts in hand, threatening to pee on them… last week when he was a kid… so, you get the picture. Apple, tree, blah blah blah.)

Back to my son.  AB is completely enamored with all things dinosaur. Right now, he is watching one of the 7,000 Netflix series on dinosaurs – Walking with Dinosaurs, Eating with Dinosaurs, Stalking Smaller Prey with Dinosaurs – Reptile edition, and so on.  These all include very realistic, computer generated dinosaurs that simply walk around looking for things to chomp on. Oh joy.

This fascination with dinosaurs started ages ago, and for some reason I have yet to recall, I purchased an enormous book about dinosaurs entitled The Complete Guide to Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Reptiles, “a comprehensive look at the world of dinosaurs with more than 250 superb illustrations,” by Chris McNab.

Complete Guide To Dinosaurs

image from Amazon.com. Look at the cool green guy with the enormous claws - he's my favorite!

Let me start by saying this is actually a very, very good book. It is readable (although given its size, not very handle-able). AB understands the concepts it presents about how life began, evolution, and the theories about why the dinosaurs all died. (When I say “understand” I mean he doesn’t pester the crap out of me with questions.) Having read it through now, or at least looked at the pictures and names and details of all the dinosaurs, many, many times, I can say that it is still interesting and I notice new things each time.  This isn’t my issue.

My issue is with the paleontologists – the SOBs who named these beasts. What in the hell were they thinking? Is there some secret pact they all take whereby they promise to name the things the most ludicrous, hard to pronounce, obtuse selection of letters possible?  Let me illustrate:

Ericiolacerta (eric-ee-oh-LA-cherta). First off, where is the “saurus” in this name? Rule #1 – all dinoSAURS need to have a SAURUS in their name, right? (I’ll allow for -ceratops as well since those are pretty cool.)

Coelurosauravus (SEEL-oh-ro-SAWR-ah-vus) Coel = SEEL? Then spell is that way, why don’t you.

Planocephalosaurus (PLAN-oh-KEF-al-oh-SAW-rus) I kid you not, his name is longer than his body if the pictures are to be believed.  Rule #2:  the name has to be shorter than the body. And it must not exceed 5 syllables (Rule #3).

Eurhinosaurus (YOOR-i-no-SAW-rus).  Again, eurhi is not a combination of letters found in the real world. If you must resort to dead languages to put together a decent name, then you are working too hard and need to stop.

Dromiceiomimus (droh-MEE-see-oh-MEEM-us).  Too many vowels. Rule #4 – a limit on the number of sequential vowels.

Saurornithoides (saw-ROR-ni-THOI-deez). This is just a freakishly hard name for me to pronounce. Mr. Paleontologist, do you understand that each time my son asks me to read this I stutter through this word like I’m concurrently having a stroke, until I give up and turn the page? It’s embarrassing.

Opisthocoelicaudia (oh-PIS-tho-SEEL-i-CAWD-ee-a).  Too many syllables and again, where is the “saurus”?  Rule #1 and 3 opis-ed away.

Leaellynasaura (LEE-el-in-a-SAW-ra). No comment. They hate me.

Psittakosaurus (si-TAK-oh-SAW-rus)  Rule number 5: no silent letters. Period. If you cared enough to name it something, say it all out loud.

Tuojiangosaurus (toh-HWANG-oh-SAW-rus).  This one makes me giggle, at least the pronunciation guide does. It sounds like something Bevis and Butthead would snicker about, or drunk men would take to mean something else:  “Did you see me toh-HWANG-oh-SAW-rus that blonde? She won’t soon forget me!”

Related, I’d like to commend the following, for these people used naming conventions that I fully support:  let your kid name it, name it after where you found it, name it after your job or yourself and make it pronounce-able.


Albertosaurus – Albert Smith found a saurus. When he did, he said “oh”. Well done.

Rhabdodon – Rabbi Don Issac found this specimen in the limestone near his Temple, many years ago.

Bactrosaurus – Not many people know that Alexander Flemming not only discovered penicillin but was also an amateur paleontologist, digging in the fields near his home in his spare time.

Lambeosaurus –  Jessica von Meyer, a well know Canadian paleontologist, allowed her toddler Mary, a fan of nursery rhymes, to name the last dinosaur she ever found. Bravo.

Silvisaurus – Silvia Readdy, an English women who lived on a large manor near the coast, dug this up in her garden and took the easy route to naming it.

Montanoceratops – Jeffrey Millery, a rancher in – you guessed it – Montana, thought one of his bulls had died. He was wrong, but he got to name a dinosaur instead. Easy. Done.


None of these violate any of the rules, except for the syllable count in Montanoceratops, but given its easy naming convention, I’ll give it a pass.

So a word to you paleontologists out there.  I’m begging you, please, the next time you dig something up, call it Bob. Or just number it – Dino #493. I know it seems boring, but the whole “name it such a complicated thing and prove my prowess as a bad-ass digger” is just so last century.

I would be forever grateful.

PS: Alas, I must admit, everything between the two *’s, other than the actual dino names, is completely made up.

Puppy Pirates – the Art of Conversation with a 5 year old (Part 2)

There are no pit stops
On McTalker’s race track: just
Go fast and turn left.


Thanks for coming back to read part 2 of Puppy Pirates.  First, how have tactics one and two been working for you?  The Last Noun Volley and Big Muscle Maneuver can be quite helpful so I hope you give them a try.  And since it is fairly obvious from those first two tips that I’m not up for Mother of the Year again this year, I’ll continue with my final tactics, 3 and 4.

Tactic #3 – Character Acting

Pretty straight forward, this one is:  talk through the toys. AB got several Imaginext Dinos for Christmas (pause for a review – they are wonderful! Highly recommend). The velociraptor’s mouth opens and closes – the only one which does that. So when AB wants to talk and play and play and talk (and all I want to do is veg out, but realize I haven’t spent any time with the little guy), I grab this velociraptor and use him like a puppet.  Moving his mouth and talking at the same time can be highly entertaining.  I get to be someone else – kind of cranky and dino-like (sooo unlike my normal character) – and I get to amuse myself being witty. (Pathetic, I know…)

These types of conversations are never as funny or interesting in the retelling as in the moment itself, so instead, let me capture the critical elements:

image from Fisher-Price website

  1. Repeat to your kid something annoying they always say to you, in character. “No, I won’t wanna do that; I wanna do this! Stop touching me! Mine!”
  2. Build in an inside joke with your husband as you speak through the toys… engages the “trying to be clever-er than you” part of your brain, which likely needs some exercise anyway.   You can also try some double entendre (wow, what that hard to spell) with him, unbeknownst to the kids, and double the fun.
  3. Let your shadow side peek out. My velociraptor is part Eeyore.  He complains a lot. Doesn’t want to participate. Goes off in a huff sometimes.  Watching my son employ all the same approaches I try with him when he’s in a mood is great affirmation that he’s at least paying some attention.

I forgot to mention that tactic #3 is actually fun – way more so than just picking up a dino and moving it around… Taking over the character requires more adult brain, plus I get to mess with my kid, which is never bad.

Tactic #4 – Silent Treatment/Change the Subject

As the mothers of boys reading this know, our angels can sometimes be a little gruesome. The other day while in the drugstore (that place brings out the best in him), AB was singing about Frosty the Snowman… “with a button nose and two eyes made out of blood”. I’m not kidding. Where in the hell does he get this? I asked, and he said someone at school said it. (Yeah right, I’m thinking…). Anyway, after a polite request to not say that because it is gross, I was rewarded with higher volume during the next chorus.

Employ tactic #4: the silent treatment. Ignore him. We all know this, but I too often forget that this is such an easy way to move the conversation forward. Only takes about 30 seconds. And then you pop up enthusiastically about another topic: So, when are you going to play puppy pirates again?

And he’s off again…. Flapping and fluttering at 75 mph.  Truth be told, I’m happy to be along for the ride, even if it is exhausting.

A few last points.  If you are the mother of girls, you are probably frightened by all this. I’m sorry. I was too as my first is a girl and I was totally unprepared for mothering a boy. I promise you I will do my best to raise a wonderful man, but you have to get through the high energy, sometimes-gross boy to get there. Leave it to me…   Also, don’t tell anyone, but some of these same tactics (especially number one) work beautifully with the self-centered friend who always calls you to see how you are and then hogs the entire conversation.  Wait for the breath, repeat the last noun, and she’ll be off again, no worries; you can get back to the crossword.  And lastly a caution: I’ve also tried this same tactic with my husband (see this post) with less success because frankly he’s usually looking straight at me and able to read the visual clues, thus figuring out that I’m totally not engaged. Oh well, worth a try.

Puppy Pirates – the Art of Conversation with a 5 year old (Part 1)

Lightning McTalker
Speeds round the conversation
Leaving me in dust


I picked AB up from the gym child care one day last week. He was hunkered down in the far corner with the only other kids in there at that time – two girls. They weren’t visible when I first walked in, so it was with a little hesitation that I asked him what they were playing.

“Puppy pirates mom.”

Really? What’s that?

“Well, it’s when you have a pirate and then some pink puppies come along and after a while the boat isn’t going anymore because the sail is messed up, but a dinosaur came over and handed them apples so they had dinner, but then the snow monster came over and created a real problem until the puppy pirates melted him.”

Got that? Talking with him is like trying to watch a hummingbird fly. Just impossible to keep up. As such, I notice I employ a few tactics in my efforts to master the art of conversation with him.

Tactic #1: Last Noun Volley

This one is really easy to do, requires a minimal understanding of the actual flow of the conversation, but does mean you have to listen for the breath as that is when you can insert yourself into the conversation. Example:

AB: So I was pretending to be the yellow power ranger who is a cheetah and I was like pow but then he became a girl on another one and the table was heavy so it wouldn’t work anymore but the cheetah is really fast not as fast as a rocket but the movie wasn’t over yet so we went to the monkey book place where they were having snacks and some bananas. <pause for breath>

Me (quickly, before he gets started again): They had bananas? Really?

AB: yeah and then after that we blah blah blah blah blah blah……….. …………..blah …………………blah but they couldn’t wait until after the legos were picked up.

Me (again, with some immediacy): Did you like the legos?

AB: yeah and then we…

You get the idea. This tactic, also called the “last noun volley,” allows you to semi-listen to the stream of consciousness from your child and still seem engaged. You just wait for the breath and repeat the last noun he mentions in a question or statement (that’s the volley) — he then picks it right back up.  I’m not entirely proud of this tactic, but sometimes, after a day that starts with a 7am global call with a bad connection and ends with me forgetting an umbrella in a monsoon, it’s the best I got.

Tactic #2: Big Muscle Maneuver

This one requires not your brain to be engaged, but your body.   You see, every one of these conversations is coupled with an insane amount of body movement on the part of my 5-year-old. Remember the hummingbird reference? I wasn’t kidding.  What you do is simple: hold his hands in yours and get him to use big muscles.  He will continue to talk the whole time, but because your body is involved, he doesn’t need you to actually say anything.  Example:

What he says What his body does
So after the train sailed over the alligator pit…. While holding hands, does deep knee bends and then pushes up high in the air
The pterodactyl got caught in a tornado with some flowers and SnotRod… Dangles from your arms, pulling legs up to his chest using extraordinarily strong stomach muscles (on a separate posting I’ll describe his six-pack abs, not kidding…)
He’ll be alright through because Buzz Lightyear gave him that circle ball thing that let him fly… Flips head over tail while still holding your hands, falls down, manages to blurt “I’m alright mom” and is still able to return seamlessly to the plot (did I say plot?) of his story.

If you don’t have the muscle stamina to do this while standing, sit on a bed with him.  It will accomplish the same thing…

Position 1: sitting next to me, bouncing
Position 2: standing next to me, bouncing
Position 3: doing a seat drop onto the bed
Position 4: rolling off the bed by doing a forward roll
Position 5: picking up a stuffed animal and pushing it down my shirt
Position 6: leaning over to kiss me, while also grabbing the dog.

Again, all the while telling me about the new space car that uses poop for energy and how it likes to eat popcorn and applesauce…

In both scenarios, large muscles are used repeatedly, which in the case of my son, eliminates the need for me to respond verbally in any way to his story. I am merely a climbing frame that he happily ascends. This is a great one to do while on the phone (wireless headset required) or when talking with a friend, assuming the child’s volume is manageable. Some amount of agility and strength are required, but you might be able to count is as some resistance training for the day.

Stay tuned for the last two tactics.  I would share them here but frankly I’m clear that no one who has read this far has time to read any further (I count myself among this group!). A two parter seems prudent. In the meantime, practice these a little, but be gentle on yourself (remember stretching is important for tactic two). And please share any  approaches you’ve employed successfully – we are all in this together!

Kids say the darndest things (or Balls, part 2)

Imploringly he
holds my face and whispers his
sweet little boy song


The place: CVS

The who: Me and my then 4 year old boy, AB.

The what: AB watching himself on the security TV at the entrance.

The quote:  Hey mom, watch me! I’m whacking my boy parts on TV!!

The reaction: Silence.

Because really, what can you say after that? I had at least 10 replies cued up in my brain, several that were downright hysterical, but none would play too well in that suburban store. Instead, I smiled blandly at the clerk, who, at 16 years old, thought that was the funniest thing she had heard in a while, and quietly replied “he’s 4”.

We left the store rather quickly. I tried to explain to AB that a) we don’t whack our boy parts and b) we certainly don’t do it in public.  But he was already onto the next topic, the whacking long forgotten.

I think AB picked me; I think that little soul looked down from wherever souls hang out pre-birth and decided that I needed to learn agility.  Verbal ability, mental agility, emotional agility, physical agility and most of all spiritual agility.   He has presented me with so many wonderful opportunities to build my skill set in this regard – always with a smile that melts your heart (those dimples! damn them!).  It hasn’t been an easy practice.  There have been more than my fair share of hot tears, born from frustration and defeat. But then we have a moment like CVS. Where the universe gifts me with an opportunity to observe my son with wonder… to watch him so downright pleased with seeing himself on camera… to have such confidence in who he is and what he is capable of that he boldly declares it to the world.  Look at me! Look at what I can do!

Who cares that if he was 10 years older he would be arrested for saying such things. I don’t want to be the one who dampens that spirit just yet. Instead, I’ll just carry on, walking with him, learning to be more agile than I ever thought I would need to be.  We will be fine. And we are going to have some great stories to tell someday to an unsuspecting girlfriend.

“The Best of” our Christmas holiday (or how weapons, a hand mixer and underwear made for a great few days)

Christmas joyfulness
Cupped in my hands, warm, fragrant,
To be savored, shared.


The buzz of Christmas is giving way to the reality of normal life. Before it gets away, let me share some of the more notable happenings around the Howard household these last few days.

Most surprising: It was one of our best Christmas’s ever. I usually fret each year that the kids won’t like what Santa got them; they will ask “is that it” at the end of the frenzy… that they’ll mention the one gift they had secretly wished for, which I didn’t know about…. All of which would break my heart. I was determined that this year I would be “relaxed and groovy” about everything. And you know what? A funny thing happened. I was relaxed and groovy and so was everyone else. Coincidence? I think not.   It was a wonderful day full of gratitude and love.

Most ridiculous cooking instruction:  Mix for 5-7 minutes until combined.  Are they kidding me? Combined means it is all one color and that takes about 30 seconds.  What happens after that is a waste of time.  I made it 4 minutes and gave up.  The cake was wonderful. 

Best timed cooking mishap:  My hand mixer, which held up so nicely in the agonizing 4+ minutes of cake batter (not to mention the other things I cooked Christmas Eve), died later that same evening. Just as I was finishing Santa cookie dough, one of the beaters stopped working. The other one died a few hours later as my husband was working on homemade yeast rolls.  Lucky for us, that was the end of the need for the hand mixer.  And this is what after Christmas sales are about, after all.

Proof I have the best kids:  At 7:30am Christmas morning, both kids galloped  into the bedroom ready to go. My husband turned over and said “it isn’t 8 o’clock yet. Go back to bed!” and you know what? They DID! Both retreated to their rooms and slept/read/played quietly for 30 minutes. I was astonished. Best kids ever.

Best answered prayer: Christmas day was warm enough that the blasted Cars 2 Splash Car Color Change Track wet-o-rama could be set up outside.  That was a complete mess. If you don’t know what this is, just know that ice cold water and hot water are both required for it to work. No way will that ever be set up inside. Whoever designed that does not have children, hates mothers and lives in a room with a drain in the center of the floor.   

Funniest moment:  My 5 year old boy got an Imaginext T-Rex, which launches projectiles (aka weapons).  My 9 year old girl got a hu-mungo Littlest Pets tree house thingamajig complete with a dozen wacky animals (aka peaceful). I walked in on the boy, T-Rex in hand, stalking the tree house chanting “I’m going to shoot you down… pting, ptchow” and launching all matter of pretend spears at the little creatures. It was like a replay from Avatar – the militant brutes against the tree loving aliens. Classic boy play.

Best quote – unbelievable:  “I can’t wait to try on those shoes,” spoken by my husband, seriously, when the large box from Zappos arrived. I was astonished and didn’t reply for several moments. I plan to remind him of this quote at a future time beneficial to me.

Best quote – concerning: “Mom, can I have 4 skewers?” spoken by my daughter, who was playing with her younger brother. As she disappeared upstairs with them, she shouted over her shoulder “Don’t worry, I’ll be safe, I won’t poke him!” Yeah, right, I thought.

Best quote – embarrassing:  While standing in the crowded checkout line at Macy’s, intimate apparel in her hands, my mom loudly declared: “You know, I haven’t bought underwear in 12 years.”  If silence made noise, the place would have been deafening.  I watched eyes bulge and ears prick, could hear brain cells working, asking themselves “did that woman just say what I think she just said???” My reply: “Mom, why did you feel compelled to declare that in front of this large group of strangers?” at which point everyone laughed out loud. A slightly racy conversation ensued where people speculated as to why my mom hadn’t purchased any underwear in such a long time.  I crept away slowly…

Prettiest scene: My table set with lovely Christmas china, my wedding silver and wedding crystal. I just don’t use this stuff enough, and yet when I do, I enjoy it so immensely.  I even lit candles – long tapers in lovely silver candle holders. It was so peaceful I lit them again for the leftovers tonight – it made an average meal feel special and calm.  Highly recommended.

I would love to hear your stories.  And I hope you had a memorable Christmas with those you love and that you can keep the feelings present well into 2012.

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