7 signs you’re living with a child under age 7

There’s no denying it. You have all the symptoms. You’re living with one or more kids under age 7… aren’t you?



1. Your Netflix cue and cereal selection are both chock full of animated characters.20160324_075524



2. You occasionally rock out to a children’s CD even after the kiddos have gotten out of the car.20160324_111450



3. Your colleagues have caught you slurping up a Gogo Squeez apple sauce pouch during lunch.07d3bb85d2183ba8a8a5982fa57f2d80



4. Your vacuum suffers from lego-indigestion.20160324_081825


5. You’ve exceeded the surgeon general’s RDA for listening to knock-knock jokes.20160324_144841


6. You automatically cut up your meals into bite-sized morsels or wacky food art.8575e94a53391d4e827290e4b3c75bc2

7. Your highly developed sense of smell can pin-point the child responsible for producing offending odors in a nano-second.disgusted-mom-holds-nose





Super Bowl Conundrum


I’ve always been a Super Bowl fan — the food, the commercials, the game (roughly in that order). What’s not to like?

But this year’s different: 1.) I took a killer Super Bowl cooking class at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen to enhance my game day repertoire and 2.) I’ve actually been paying attention to what’s been happening on the field. (It’s been a heck of a season!) But it gets even better… 3.) This weekend my home team is playing!

Both of them.

Therein lies my dilemma: who should I root for? Carolina—the place I’ve called home for nearly 10 years, where I own a house, gave birth, and am raising two boys with my sports fanatic hubby? Or Colorado—my home on the range, where I spent summer days watching the Broncos training camp, about a mile from my parents’ house.


Cam Newton — what a player, what a smile!

It has been amazing to witness the Panthers’ historic, virtually undefeated season. Cam Newton’s smile and confidence are contagious. Underestimated week after week, he and his team keep slogging away and spreading their joy (sometimes with a “controversial” dance in the end zone).


People are dabbin’ all over town. Flags are waving. Skyscrapers are lit up in Panthers’ blue. And I was even charged with spearheading efforts at work for swagger rights in a friendly bet between Charlotte- and Denver-area arts institutions. Professionally, I’m 100% a Panthers girl.

Personally—it’s more complex. I think about my dad and my brother leaning into the TV, transfixed by the Broncos games all those autumn Sundays, when I was growing up. (They still are…) I think of the crazy Denver fans, like the guy who used to wear a barrel—that’s it—to every game for about 30 years. I think of the stunned look on my friend Staci’s face when rounding a corner, she ran smack into the massive chest of John Elway at a local burger joint. And I think about Broncos barefoot Kicker Rich Karlis, #3, coming to visit my brother when he was a patient at the Denver Children’s Hospital.


The Barrel Man in his signature hat, barrel, and boots (not pictured).

These things stick with you. Fanhood runs deep. And they still bring tears to my eyes. I can’t deny I will always be a Colorado girl.

But now I’m a Carolina girl, too.

It’s nice to have a definitive view on the world, like my nieces and nephew, who are pulling 100% for Peyton Manning, indoctrinated in the Broncos-way by their Colorado elders.

For my Charlotte family, it’s not so clear cut. My oldest son plans to wear his Panthers’ jersey with an orange shirt underneath. And my youngest switches his allegiance minute by minute.

Luckily, there is a bright side to this whole situation: on Sunday, my team is gonna win.

I am a Jedi like my MOTHER before me


Cue the theme music… here comes “Good Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, with the blue light saver (sic),” also known as my three-year old son. Lately, we can’t go anywhere without that light saber.

This little guy has an incredible passion for all that is Star Wars. From books and cartoons to Legos and mini action figures, he simply cannot get enough. Well, with the exception of the actual movies… which, after several trial viewings, he has deemed too scary.

Even without the Lucas films to reference, he’s memorized most of the plot line and convoluted family tree. Plus, he’s got an unquenchable desire to make-believe. In one favorite game, he pretends the guest bed is the Millennium Falcon and we have to scoop in to save Padmé or others in distress. Other times, he instructs one of us to play Darth Vader to his Luke. It goes something like this:

Me: [with labored breathing sounds] Luke, trust your feelings and you will know it to be true. I – AM – YOUR – FATHER.

Mateo: [gasps] What?! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Then we redo the scene. Again and again. Sometimes it’s hard to share his enthusiasm.


Even his older brother, age 6½, our Star Wars Lego building expert, is getting fed up. He loves the movies and can’t wait to get his hands on all the latest Star Wars toys but his little brother’s total fixation has become rather annoying.

This got me thinking about another set of siblings in a not so distant galaxy where little sister (that would be me, age 3 in 1977, the year the first Star Wars movie came out) became similarly obsessed with the Star Wars merchandising machine. I coveted the impressive collection of toys my big brother, age 7, had acquired. He seemed to have it all — Death Star, Millennium Falcon, Tie Fighter… and when his Star Wars figures would get a little worn out, guess who would get them?



I loved Star Wars and started to amass quite a collection of my own. Prized possessions included several dozen action figures, an x-wing fighter, a ton-ton which Luke or his comrades could actually ride and the planet Hoth with a built in at-at.

Oh, Lord. Is it obvious that I’m not quite over it all yet?

Eric, Liz, Leslie Rothaus, 1976

Me with my older bro and younger sis, circa 1976.

I’m not sure if my obsession riled my brother’s nerves though it probably did, especially when I cut off the tips of Obi Wan and Luke’s light sabers to make them more realistic and tried to slide Vader and Leah’s cloaks on other, bulkier characters. (He seemed to have a sixth sense that these toys, or at least their non-mutilated twins, would have value someday.)

My parents surely worried that the only times I’d play with my 3-story doll house was to reenact an elaborate scenario in which the resident family hid beneath the removable kitchen floor to escape the ruthless Storm Troopers who came looking for them.

Behavior like this (not to mention my questionable taste in naming my baby doll, “Carwash”) must have led to some serious eyebrow raising but they never let on that I was an unusual child. They let me be me, quirks (especially quirks!) and all. I’m glad for that now.

All of this has left me wondering a few things:

  • Is this all a coincidence or is age 3 a moment when most children fixate on a particular passion?
  • How important is the influence of older siblings or do all children go though a similar phase?
  • Finally, should I worry that my son is obsessed with Anakin and his struggle between the light and dark sides of The Force or is it actually the perfect metaphor for the impulses he’s experiencing now?


No doubt, my Star Wars youth prepared me well for having two boys. Each time I was pregnant, I wondered what on earth I would do if nature bestowed a girly-girl upon me. How would I handle it? I guess I would have done the only possible thing, dug down deep, marched into the American Girl doll store to buy a brunette doll who could fit a custom-made Princess Leia costume.

Parenting: It’s a Dirty Job… so why do we do it?


“Sounds like you have been knee deep in actual puke lately!!” was the way my friend delicately summed up my last few weeks in a text message. And it’s hardly an exaggeration. This winter, we’ve been bombarded with more than our seasonal share of colds, allergies and stomach bugs.

It got me thinking, as I sprayed down my son’s sheets yet another time in a pre-wash ritual that’s become a little too familiar: How do we do it? How do we parents and caregivers deal with all the puke, all the poop, all the pee-pee?

Before I had kids, these were the things that I dreaded most when I imagined parenthood. How could anyone, I wondered, deal with all of that… YUCK?

Let’s start with the basics. Picture it: six years ago this month, our new baby arrives and the nurse helps us put on a diaper…once. After that, it’s up to us. I’m so desperately afraid I’ll break the baby, that he’ll squirm right off the changing table, that I don’t even know where to begin.

I look back now and wonder when did it start to become natural?

How did I go from freaking out about soiled baby clothes – choosing rapid disposal over the repulsive prospect of washing them – to the mama who can play it cool in even the most challenging of situations? Like the time I sprinted from the breakfast buffet to a casino bathroom with a child whose four-day potty strike had abruptly ended, only to discover a baseball sized wad of caca had already emerged at the bottom of his pant leg.

Nothing prepares you for that!

This is simply life with kids, my friends, and probably why that catch phrase “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” sounds a lot different to me now.

There must be something that transforms us, allowing us to rise to the occasion and face the utterly disgusting. Could it be instinct?


No different from the cat that meticulously licks her kittens clean or the bird that teaches her young to aim carefully for the large grey Mazda below, we find ourselves trying to sweet talk a 2-year-old into peeing in a cup at the doctor’s office when he still hasn’t made up his mind about this whole potty training business. It’s a tall order but we do our best to make it happen, as doubtful as the outcome may be.

Attempting the impossible: that’s part of the job description whether or not we knew it when we signed up for this parenting gig.


But then I think about the other moments – those that are much cleaner – and easier to delight in:

– that huge smile from my preschooler when he leaps into my arms for a hug

– the touch of those soft, little palms when one of my boys holds my hand

– the way my kindergartener runs into school with his backpack bopping up and down

– how they stretch on their tip toes to see themselves in the bathroom mirror while brushing their teeth

– their efforts to one-up each other with absurd knock-knock jokes

– their total lack of self-consciousness, one wearing a Spiderman costume to go shopping and the other coming home from school with his shoes on the wrong feet

– their ingenuity when they “skateboard” into the room on a toy cutting board

– the pride I feel when they share willingly or say thank you without a prompt

These things may seem insignificant to others but they are exactly the kind of everyday moments that remind me why I can now handle all the other stuff.* Is it love? Is it maturity? Is it because if we don’t, who will?

I think the truth is that day by day, we grow into our roles as parents. For my kids, I can be brave. I can try to find a solution and I can deal with the poop.

*Insert scatological word of your choice. [Ok,I admit it. I was dying to use the word “scatological” somewhere…]

My on again off again love affair…


Oh, Technology! What a strange and twisted path we’ve taken together. At times, you’ve wooed me, showed me a world of possibilities, and then you’ve spurned me, leaving me bitter and betrayed.

You are amazing. There’s no question about it — the way you morph into something newer and often better, at an ever-quickening pace. But you also distract, leaving us half-focused on the world around us, our eyes darting about like junkies for an available screen. You’re fickle too — one minute I’m digging through my mix tapes and you’ve already moved on to streaming online playlists.


The Early Years

I guess you could say we got off on the wrong foot. Me, the naïve young thing, an eager inventer. You, refusing to make my second grade Valentine Mailbox pop open automatically though I’d painstakingly drawn a button labeled “PUSH HERE TO OPEN” on the pink and red wrapped coffee canister.

I was disappointed but it didn’t take long for you to win me back. My neighbor’s Atari 2600 soon had me hooked.


I remember how I loved watching the little skier twist and turn in place as the mountain terrain raced behind him. Shooting At-Ats in an Empire Strikes Back game, saving poor little Frogger from a cruel Semi-induced demise, and helping that little dude jump over quicksand enabled me to wile away the hours when I should have been playing outside.


The Home Front

At my own home, things were getting pretty crazy as well. Though the yellow rotary phone would remain in its kitchen perch making reassuring chaaaaaaaaaa-chaaaaaaaaaaaa sounds for many years to come, the hall phone had been updated with a sleek button-dial model. Soon thereafter came an answering machine: “Hello, you’ve reached the Rothaus residence…” announcing our arrival in the big time. We had places to go, things to do, people to see. Obviously, we needed someone to take a message. (But can you blame me for resenting it those times the tape would get stuck and all of the messages mangled?)


Your VCR was life-changing too. We could now play back blurry videos of every community theater production we participated in since some other kid’s parent was always eager to show off his camcorder skills. And my parents could record every program that they thought we’d want to save and rewatch for all eternity — The Winter Olympics! The ’84 presidential debates! The Louis Rukeyser Wall Street show! These videos sat dust-covered in the newly installed drawers below the TV, until they’d be re-used to tape something even more memorable: the week’s Thursday night NBC line up, the special on the Kennedys, the ’88 vice presidential debates…


Meanwhile Dad brought home an Apple 2C, relegating his trusty, grey electric typewriter to a little fold out table. (Oh, the shame!) But that Apple 2C really was something. Dad said he used it for work, but how could he ignore the starter disks — those big, square, floppy wonders that demonstrated the home computer’s amazing ability to play music — Mozart for God’s sake! — and all the cool graphics you could use to print 10-page long signs on perforated printer paper.


Fast forward to New York

Time marched on and my Walkman which once blew my mind was replaced by a Discman and finally, reluctantly, an MP3 player. In the personal phone arena, I held out for as long as I could, proudly counting myself among a handful of New Yorkers in the late ’90s not to carry a cell phone, not reachable at all hours of the day. But in your typical “I told you so” fashion, you finally convinced me after I spent an hour waiting for a date to meet me at the FlatIron building. If only we’d had phones, we would have known that we were standing exactly 20 feet apart on opposite sides of the flattened façade.


Long Distance Love: The Skype Years

In 2004, while living abroad, it was thanks to you that my cell phone could receive a sweet but bashful “texto” message inviting me on a date with a handsome Frenchman. And then it was you, Technology, who made it possible with your newest revelation, Skype, for me to talk and continue seeing this man who would become the love of my life. We lived on different continents, with an 8-hour time difference between us but for two years we spoke in this way for free every day in between actual visits.


What a wonder! In the mid-20th century, my grandfather wrote long letters from America to his sisters in Eastern Europe, unable to see or speak to them for years at a time. My mother told me stories of the expense, excitement and difficulty entailed in placing a trans-Atlantic phone call even in the ’70s & ’80s,  Suddenly, I was doing something that I’d thought would only ever be possible in a James Bond movie.

And then, years later, again thanks to Skype, when I had to return to work in Charlotte and my husband was able to prolong his vacation in France for a few more weeks, we were still able to communicate as though we were in the same room. Though I was speechless, my husband took one look at my stunned reaction and instantly knew the results of the pregnancy test I’d just taken.

The Dark Side

But as you continued to amaze, I also started seeing your dark side. Sitting in meetings, I was shocked by the way certain people glued themselves to their Blackberrys. Sometimes they’d be totally disengaged from a meeting that they were supposed to be leading! I could never imagine this kind of detachment from the real world and the simultaneous compulsion to be constantly connected … until my husband got me an iPhone.


Suddenly, I was tuning out the world and turning all of my focus online. An email just arrived? I-need-to-respond-immediately… my kid said something funny? I-need-to-facebook it…(and how did that become a verb?)

Where Do We Go From Here?

As the years zoom by, you seem to dole out your wonders faster and faster. Our house is filled with gadgets, thanks to my husband’s knack for being as much an early adaptor of technology as I am a reluctant one. iPad, Nook, Chromecast, AppleTV, smartphones, netflix, nespresso, amazon, youtube, Twitter… how could I live without you? But as much as I use and love you all, I can’t help hearing that little inner voice saying: “yes, it is absolutely amazing that my son just took his first steps and we could instantly share video all around the world. But isn’t there something a little sad about me wanting to rush back to the computer this afternoon to finish this blog?”

I guess our love story will continue, for better and for worse. Because when I look at all the evidence, Technology, it sounds like most of the time it’s me, not you. I just wish we could take things a little more slowly at times… and always stay friends.