Archive for the ‘Parenting’Category

Third Grade, Day One

Last night was “Back to School” night.

A couple of friends and I decided to hit a local pub just before the festivities began, which was not to my advantage, since in my foggy stupor, I ended up volunteering for events that I had planned on attending for pleasure. Yay me.

In the mean time, toward the end of the presentation given by my son’s very cool-awesome-fantastical 3rd grade teacher, we were given an assignment — write our child a note that he/she will be given on the 1st day of school.

And all of the sudden I wished I’d had at least one more shot of Patron, since the whole activity got me all verclempt and watery eyed and had me pretending that I needed to sneeze for TWELVE MINUTES STRAIGHT. Here is what I wrote (or something close to it):

Dear Jacob,

Welcome to the 3rd grade! Your dad and I are so very proud of you!

Please remember to be a good boy, follow Mrs. Teacher’s rules, and try not to talk too much. You know better than that!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you get confused. Remember – YOU ARE NOT “STUPID.” You’re an awesome boy and don’t let anybody tell you any different. Just do your best, always give 100 percent, and never EVER give up.

We love you, and we know you will do great things this year!

Love, Mom & Dad

I know . . . Cue the tears . . . But in retrospect, I wish I’d at least told him to have fun. I’m such a downer sometimes.

Good luck, sweet boy. Third grade is NO JOKE.


08 2011

Conversations With Ben: Continuing the Tradition of Embarrassing the Hell Out of Me In Public

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my very first installment of “Conversations with Ben.”

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I used to (and will still, from time to time) maintain a segment called “Conversations With Jake.” Most of the posts were dedicated to how my oldest son, now eight years old, could take an embarrassing situation and make it worse by screaming something out loud in public about it.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, Benny (now almost four) has begun to rise to the occasion when I have been faced with these unfortunate circumstances.

Which, lately, usually has something to do with his total lack of desire to fully potty train.

Yes, I know. Benny is four. He’s taking his sweet time getting his shit together (no pun intended) because he’d rather crap in his brand new Spiderman underwear than actually STOP PLAYING AND USE A TOILET. But he’s coming along . . . albeit at a pace that will have him toilet trained just prior to his wedding rehearsal dinner.

The other day, we were at a very busy Costco. (I know. I know. These things always happen to me when I’m at Costco. You think I’d learn . . .)

It was Fourth of July weekend, and on top of it, we were having a late birthday party for Jacob, so we needed to pick up his birthday cake.

With Benny in tow, I proceeded toward the entrance and asked, “Do you have to pee or poop?” and he replied, “No.”

I checked his pants to be sure he didn’t decide to take matter into his own hands on the way over. When I saw that things were clear, we made our way in.

And about every ten minutes or so, I would ask him, “Do you have to pee or poop?” And he would always answer, “No.” And then I would repeat the looking-into-the-underwear thing, because I have no sense of smell and I certainly didn’t want anyone thinking it was ME who’d stunk up the joint. Not that I’ve never let one fly myself and then totally blamed him and said out loud, “Oh my GOD Benny! What did Daddy feed you?!” Kids are good for that kind of stuff but don’t go having kids solely for the purpose of BEING ABLE TO BLAME THEM FOR YOUR FARTS.

Anyway, just when we had found an awesomely short line for checkout, Benny decided that he needed to go.



07 2011

The One Where Jacob Was Brave and Taught His Class About What It’s Like to Be Bullied

I would be remiss not to share this story with you, since bullying is on the minds of so many people right now.

And, it’s lengthy, just like most of my other posts.

But I beg you to READ IT.

Then forward it to all the parents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, babysitters, and educators that you know.

Because this story has a happy ending. And it contains a message that something positive CAN result from a negative situation.

Gay (as well as straight) children and teens are committing suicide at an epidemic pace because they are being teased and bullied. I say children because some of these kids aren’t even 13 when they choose to end their lives over these vicious attacks on their character.

As a parent, I will not tolerate teasing and bullying. If another child comes at either of my boys sideways EVEN ONCE, they — AND THEIR PARENTS — are going to hear about it. If it continues, then we will go so far as to remove our boys from the scenario entirely.

Troy and I also taught Jake at an early age that teasing and bullying is unacceptable, and if he ever experienced it, to tell a teacher right away.

Jake’s been through his fair share of torment, just like any other kid, and for the most part has handled it like you’d expect a kid to handle being teased: He didn’t like it, told a teacher, and got over it.

These past couple of months, however, have been extraordinarily tough for Jake.

In August, he was supposed to start the 2nd grade at a school that he’d been attending since Kindergarten. This was a place where he was most comfortable — he loved that school and felt at ease with even the oldest of the 8th graders.

Then he decided that he wanted to play football — just like “that,” after attending one practice.

He didn’t even know how to PLAY football. Didn’t know the rules. And certainly didn’t know that he’d have to wear a helmet and pads on 100+ degree days.

He just knew that when he put the uniform on and went out onto the field, it felt right. It fit. And he wanted in.

The problem was, that, the school he loved so much changed their academic structure, and if he was to attend in the fall, he’d be kept in class until 5:00pm. Which didn’t leave much time to get to practice, which started at 5:30pm.

Those of you who know us personally know that we tried everything we could to get the school to allow Jake to leave at 4:00pm on practice days, but were ultimately shut down in our attempt to find common ground between Jake’s athletic commitments and the administration’s firm stance on the new school schedule.

So, Jake gave it all up.

He gave up the friends he knew, the school that he loved, and the environment that was so comfortable to him — all so he could participate in a sport that he’d never even played before.

That alone should be a testament to his character.

But apparently (as I just learned today), Jacob’s character knows no boundaries.

At seven years old, standing 4’7″ tall and weighing 115 pounds, Jake’s a sizeable kid. But he doesn’t look like he weighs 115 pounds. He just looks like a big kid that could do some damage if he wanted to. Yet, anyone who knows my Jacob knows that HE WOULDN’T HURT A FLY.

So much so that his coaches are punishing him for not being aggressive enough on the football field. They scream, “HIT SOMEBODY, LANCASTER! FOR CHRIS’SAKES THEY’VE GOT PADS ON! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO KILL THEM!!”

This kid can open a hole like nobody’s business, and can also hold his own against two defenders while STANDING ON HIS BACK FOOT. But he doesn’t want to HURT anybody. Safe to say he’s the nicest player that the Sacramento Youth Pee Wee Football League has ever seen.

So you can imagine my emotional torment when I picked him up from school this past Monday and he announced to me that he wanted to change schools at the end of the year.

“Why? What happened?”

“These two girls were being really mean to me, and they poked me [pointing to his chest and belly] and called me fat.”

“WHO DID THIS? Were they older girls?”

“No, they were from my class.”

Now, my first reaction was to turn the car around and confront the teacher since I’d not heard anything about it. Which in itself was quite unusual, because his teacher is one of the most engaging and brilliant educators I’ve ever met.

“Did you tell the teacher.”


“Then what happened?”

“They got in trouble. Bad trouble.”

Okay, I thought, she’s got his back. I can come in from the ledge now.

Then, after we got home, I found a note in Jacob’s backpack:

“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Lancaster,

Today during lunch recess a couple of girls were teasing Jacob. He was very upset (I would have been too).

I spoke with both girls to try and explain the seriousness of their actions. They will be in tomorrow at recess.

I hope that this doesn’t happen again.

Please, bring it to my attention if it does and I will discuss it with them further. I don’t believe they meant to hurt him, but it hurt Jacob just the same.

Thank you & Sorry”

After I wiped the tears from my eyes, I asked Jacob if he was okay, and he said yes. Then I asked him if he wanted to talk about it, and he said no. Then I explained to him that sometimes kids are mean, and I really didn’t know why — maybe because someone had been being mean to them and they want to take it out on someone else. He seemed fine with that, and, when I asked him if he wanted me to talk to his teacher about it, he said no, because his “teacher got the girls in trouble.” So I left it at that.

But I was heartbroken for my son. The whole scenario must have been SO AWFUL FOR HIM. I never, EVER wanted this to happen to Jacob, and I felt a pang of guilt for encouraging him to switch schools just so he could play football.

Then today, as I was walking down the school corridors to pick him up from school, his teacher flagged me down and asked me if he told me about “what he did.”

“No . . . what happened?”

“Okay. Did you get my note?”


And then we talked a little bit about what he said to me, and why she didn’t hear from me after it happened, and how we both felt absolutely horrible about the situation. She also let me know that she spoke to both of the girls’ parents, who were as equally distressed as we were.

“You should be proud of him. He did a VERY brave thing.”

Then she proceeded to tell me something so profound about my son that it made me cry.

And I’m still crying as I write this, pausing in between sobs to type.

First, she explained that she kept the girls in from recess THREE TIMES in one day. In the morning, she had them write a note of apology to Jacob. After lunch, she edited the notes and made them re-write them. In the afternoon, she looked the notes over one more time. Then she made the girls apologize to Jacob in person (again), and asked them to give him the notes.

He must have kept the notes in his classroom folder, because I never saw them.

The following day, he asked the teacher if he could share the notes with his class. At first, the teacher was reluctant to let him do it, and said that she intended them to be just for Jacob.

But he persisted, and asked again if he could read them aloud in class.

Now, I have to stop for a minute and explain to you that reading out loud is Jacob’s KRYPTONITE. He HATES to read out loud. But he felt a need to share his experience with his class, and convinced his teacher to let him go forward.

So, in front of a class that he barely knew, doing something that he openly despised, he began to read the notes.

Then, something else happened as he started his mission: Another new student — newer than Jacob, and a little girl who has just as much fear of reading out loud as he does — stood at his side and held his hand. Even putting her head on his arm when things got difficult.

And as Jake read the notes out loud and explained what it felt like to be teased and bullied, the class listened attentively. Some of the kids, including the girls in question, had tears streaming down their face. Jacob’s teacher also cried.

When he was finished, his teacher made sure that the entire class could see her reaction. She wanted them to know that what Jake had done was extremely brave, and that bullying would not be tolerated.

After a few minutes had passed, the kids began raising their hands.

Because THEY wanted to talk about how they had experienced being bullied too.

As Jacob’s teacher was telling me the story, I was bursting with pride and wet from tears and feeling terribly guilty for not believing that he could do something so bold.

But that’s not the end.

Later that day (the day Jacob read out loud to his class), as his teacher was cleaning up, she began to find little folded up pieces of paper.

They were notes.

Notes from students who were apologizing to others for acting like a bully.

“I’m sorry for treating you badly.”

“I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

“I’m sorry that I made you cry.”

All because Jake decided that he’d had enough.

He didn’t hide his feelings. He didn’t run away from the problem.

He instead chose to face bullying head-on, and perhaps changed the lives of his classmates forever.


10 2010

Conversations With Jake: The “Nay Kit” Flash (Or, Why You Should REALLY Make Sure Your Kid is Asleep Before Listening to Podcasts in Your Car)

Earlier this year, I wrote about a photographer named James Beltz (who I now refer to as “Professor Jimmy” around the house, because, as it turns out, he really DID feel uncomfortable with my calling him “The Jimmy Lama”).

To know him (through his podcasts) is to love him. He’s southern and charming and hilariously funny in his A.D.D./silly ranting kind of way and frankly, the LOML is starting to get jealous of my constant bringing up of his name. But the fact of the matter is that Jimmy is the only photography instructor that I know that totally gets “it.” He doesn’t take himself too seriously, gets his audience/students to relax, and teaches in a way that is both fun and challenging. And I honestly have NO IDEA where I’d be without his classes or podcasts.

ANYWAY, most of you know that I do quite a bit of my podcast listening while driving. And sometimes even while the kids are in the car. (Usually while they are sleeping, or else I get pelted with Cheerios or Cheetos until I tune the dial to Radio Disney. ACK.)

A few weeks ago, I had picked up Jake from day camp and didn’t even get out of the parking lot when noticed that his eyes were getting heavy and he had leaned the seat back a little bit in order to settle in for a nap on the way home. So I decided that as soon as he was “out,” I would plug in my iTouch and listen to one of Professor Jimmy’s podcasts.

And wouldn’t you know, it would be one where Jimmy uses the phrase “Nekkid” flash about 678 times. (“Nekkid” is southern for “Naked.” And a “Nekkid Flash” is what you would call one of those big long flashes you see on professional cameras WITHOUT what you would call “a white thingy” on the end. A “white thingy” is a flash diffuser, which helps soften and spread light evenly.).

And I remember thinking, Holy CRAP it’s a good thing that Jake is asleep or he’d be asking me what the word “nekkid” meant. BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW INQUISITIVE THIS KID CAN BE.

Fast forward a few days.

I had hopped on to the computer before going to work to check out some recipes I was thinking about trying for dinner. And without remembering to bookmark the page that I’d found, I shut the browser down and turned the computer off.

When I returned home later that evening, I fired up the browser and decided to go to my internet history in order to find the site I’d been on earlier that morning. And this is what I found:



Yes, you read that right.

There were searches for “NEY KIT FLASH,” “NAY KIT FLASH,” and “Professor Jimmy,” among other things.

Now, if you are slow to get this, bear with me. BECAUSE THIS IS A DAMN FUNNY STORY. (The LOML had me add, “Damn funny to photographers, maybe . . .”)

After discovering the search queries I laughed. HARD. For, like, TWENTY MINUTES.

Then I picked up the phone and called the LOML.



“Uh, can I ask you a question?”

“Oh . . . ‘kay. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Nothing. Just wondering if you happened to be on the computer at lunch, looking for something to buy me for my birthday.”


And then I was all, REALLY? Have you NOT ever heard of the INTERNET HISTORY BUTTON?

“You’re joking, right? I KNOW EVERYTHING.”

“[Loud silence, and then a long sigh.] Fine. YES, I was looking up stuff I wanted to buy you for your birthday. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for.”

“And what exactly, dear, were you looking for?”

“Well, this morning on the way to drop Jake off at summer camp, I asked him what he thought we should buy you for your birthday next month, and he said, ‘The man on mama’s radio says that you can do just about anything with a nay kit flash, so maybe we should get her one of those.’”

And on the 1,103rd Day, He Made Her Cut the Boy’s Hair

I’ve always wanted a little boy with long hair.

Growing up and all the way into my adult years, I’ve been a “rocker chick.” I liked my dudes to have longer hair than me. (Until I met the LOML, of course.)

And during those years, I envisioned having a little boy with super cool long hair and a leather jacket and a name like “Dominic” or “Thaddeus.”

I could not have been happier after having Jake — he actually CAME OUT OF THE WOMB WITH LONG HAIR. It was like the metal gods smiled down upon me and said, “Ye shall possess a first-born son with locks that Metallica themselves would be jealous of.”

But then the LOML intervened and Jake got his first haircut at 5 months old. Because the poor kid had hair so long that we had to pin it up “samurai style” to keep it out of his eyes and mouth. It’s been short ever since. And sometimes the LOML goes so far as to shave it all off at the beginning of summer, which irritates the crap out of me because it makes Jake look like “Vern” from Stand By Me.

Then along came Benny. WHO WAS BORN BALD.

It took him three years to get his trademark hair — the hair everyone likens to that of Dolly Madison.

The LOML has been threatening to get his hair cut since Christmas. Then in April, I decided that I thought I’d be ready to go through with it by Benny’s third birthday.

Which came and went with no scissors in sight. I thought I was home free.

Until this past weekend, when the LOML called me on my bet, loaded the car with my camera gear, and said, “Let’s go.”

There were a few moments before we even went in where I thought I might cry or vomit or grab Ben and make a run for it.

But I acquiesced, grabbed my rig, and started to shoot. It was the only thing that kept me from having an out of body experience.

Below is the before picture:


Benny Gets a Haircut

Benny, ROCKING the Dolly Madison look and waiting patiently for his turn in the chair.


The noise from the clippers drew Benny’s attention to his older brother. Who HATES getting his hair cut.

Benny Waits to Get His Hair Cut

Benny looks on as his older brother is subjected to the clipper treatment.


I probably should have promised him something cool, but all he got after he was done was a root beer sucker.

Jake Gets the Clipper Treatment

Seriously. Do I *REALLY* need a caption here?


Five minutes later, Benny would get in the chair.

Benny in the chair . . .

I love this image. He sat down in that chair as if we had said, "We'll buy you some ice cream if you sit still." Oh, wait . . .


I have a photo of the “First Cut,” but I couldn’t bring myself to post it. Here’s what became of the first cut:

Baby hairs . . .

Remnants of the "First Cut."


And finally, the “After” pictures:

Jake's "After Picture"

This image makes Jake appear to be TWELVE YEARS OLD. Next week kids will start asking him to buy their beer.


Benny's "After Picture"

Here's the 'Zilla with his new 'do. His shoulder action reminds me of Schroeder from "Peanuts."


He seems to think that, now that his hair is shorter, he can run faster. If I had made that argument before going in, the LOML probably would have kept his hair long.


08 2010