When I Was Young and Full of Grace

I believe, when my aunt labeled the Wee Niblet “irrepressible,” that she saved me at least twenty-three minutes of racking my brain to find the most apropos adjective for the little nutter. Indeed, without her astute assessment of him, I might have thoughtlessly described the lad as merely “zestful” or “bubbling.”

What a mistake that would have been, for he and his occasional mohawk efortlessly infuse twelve thousand bubbles, with small lungs and a twisty straw, into piles of unsuspecting zest, shake them to the tune of a mambo, stir the concoction with Mad Maxian vigor, and top it all off with an olive (or rather, ten of them, pitted, each waggling on the tip of a grubby finger).

Niblet is four. Niblet has remarkable mojo.

It is rising.

Placing a call on his hot dog phone

His days begin when he rolls into our bedroom, climbs into the parental bed, and starts kneading my belly, elbow skin, and neck folds (there are no greater expressions of affection from this tactile preschooler). After a bit of a cuddle, he’s ready to “watch,” a half-hour that has him singing and dancing in front of the tv…unless his watching gets derailed by a pick-up round of “Animal School” with his Girl sister. When they play Animal School, she teaches; naturally, he is a student and sits in his assigned place among the penguins, unicorns, bats, and gorillas. So effortless is his popularity that he may run for Animal School Council (they need a new treasurer).

As he watches or plays, Der Niblet munches on his breakfast of beef jerky, pickles, and/or croutons. By 9 a.m., his visionary and entrepreneurial spirit has awakened, and we find ourselves making helmets that are half-alien, half-dinosaur. Generally, the purpose of the helmet is not specifically revealed, but we’re amenable to pitching in because participating in the process means that we have license to make a whole lot of googly eyes and antennae–honest work that keeps us out of the meth lab. Plus, he needs an assist with the hot glue gun.

In between projects, there is some dabbling with chess, playing Camel Poop Care Bears with the neighbor girl, organizing his Pokemon binder, breaking eggs for the pizza dough, and cutting up National Geographic magazines. At some point during this agenda, The Boy Hurricane either makes a case for it being a pajama day or for wearing tights, a sportcoat, and a Frankenstein tie.

Best of all, while his given name is fairly unique in the U.S., setting him apart in any classroom or puke-ridden ball pit, he finds it unsatisfactory. Several months ago, as Niblet sat in his sweat lodge, toying with his ceremonial pipe, a new name delivered itself to our chap, a name that he, in turn, revealed to us. It is his true name, he maintains, and it should be the only one we use to address him.

It is Dinko.

Certainly, I slip up. Sometimes my mistakes slide by; sometimes I am quietly but firmly reminded of his Dinko-ishness. Sometimes he’d like to reprimand me for being so absent/neglectful/audacious as to not recall my own son’s name.

But then he spots his little sewing machine or a bag of magnets across the room, and he’s gone. I am temporarily off the Dinko hook.

Of course, when he trips up to me, three minutes later, holding a pop-up book about King Tutankhamun in hand, I’m back in the hot (glue gun) seat. You see, Dinko is adamant about the pronuciation of that dead pharaoh’s name, and when I read it with its traditional inflection, the boy grounds me with a glare and an exasperated: “Maw-om, it’s Too-kin-ham!”

Quickly forgiven once I apologize and practice, I am then invited over to his ever-evolving diarama of King Too-kin-ham’s barge, where my finer motor controls are required–to tape in a few new loaves of bread and storage barrels. The whole thing is made out of grocery bags, chopsticks, and unfettered whimsy.

Dinko’s days are full; he has many departments, from barges to monster-making, that require constant attention.

Frankly, we can’t figure out from whence all this zany caprice stems.

Although the origins of his character are murky, it is clear that Dinko is a one-man goof troupe.

This, I believe.



By Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."


  1. Love the ‘stache. Honestly, I don’t know why I bother with waxing, when I could just dye it with lime jello and look so fabulous.

  2. Whew, good thing I didn’t change my icon to the picture of me with the same glasses and mustache on, that would have been quite embarrassing.

    Now, for some reason I have Peter Garbiel’s Biko in my head with Dinko substituted in the chorus. And anyone else who reads this will too. You’re welcome.

  3. Dinko is my kinda dude. It is wonderful that you are fully engaged with his creative antics. Love and cherish all these times cuz before you know it he’ll be bench pressing you.

  4. God he’s cute. My little brother used to insist on going to nursery school in a white shirt and blue (clip-on) tie. My mom still laughs about how she went to pick him up one day and he had been given a time out (for he, too, was ‘irresponsible’) and there he was, sitting in a huge rocking chair in the corner, 4 years old, solemn in a shirt and tie…

  5. I have a friend that went through a phase where he would only be called “Elroy” from the Jettson’s. he refused to answer to anything else.

  6. You are right, there, Mom o’ Dinko. It’s a real puzzler where he could have gotten any of his verve and whimsy and zest from. I hear it skips generations, so you might want to look at some lesser aunts or 5th cousins on Groom’s side.

    You had said a bit ago that you wished Dinko and Sara were best friends. I wish it fervently, as if they were, I could send her over for advanced glue gunning and accessorizing tips for using googly eyes and turquoise faux fur. She gets not such help from me.


  7. may i borrow him for a while? creative 4 year olds are so much more fun than surly adolescents. you can come too and i will take you all to the the crayola factory!

  8. Now you just have to come up with a new name for yourself that goes well with Dinko. Dinko, Dinko…let me thinko, what rhymes with Dinko?

  9. I love kids that age. They’ve become human (i.e. they can hold a conversation) and aren’t yet blasé about the world.

  10. you are such a wild and wonderful family, i am consistently inspired by you, sister. you LIVE in this world. good for you.

  11. I can’t stop giggling! I want to come visit your house! “Hot dog phone” and “camel poop”!

  12. you had me at breakfast (I am off as soon as I’m done here to scour the cupboards for beef jerky!) but the sewing machine? I am a loyal Dinkoite for life!

  13. I really could use some of his mojo and sewing skills…and some of your writing skills. You have tickled me to pieces today! I love that I have found your blog.

  14. Goodness, I’m exhausted. I just can’t keep up with you guys!

    Excuse me while I wake my docile little plasteline animal zoo lover. I must tell her that tuna and gherkins is a normal breakfast afterall. LOL!

  15. Hey, Joc

    I was going to tag you to take the questionnaire challenge from my blog, but now I’m thinking I’d like to ask Dinko instead!

    Can’t get enough of your cuckoo world. I don’t know how many people I’ve read your posts to.

    So happy to have found you, thanks to Ms. Puss.

  16. You can never have enough whimsy. And ‘Dinko’ is fine – at least it’s not ‘Barbara’, then you’d have a whole lot of other things to worry about.


  17. That Dinko is awesome! I love boy energy. And he’s a real keeper.

    And I’ll have to agree about the apple and the tree thing. Your whole little household is incredibly unique and wonderful. 😉

  18. Sounds like such a neat kid with a ken imagination. he will never be bored and have to rely on you to suggest activities. Very refreshing in this day where the toys themselves do all the playing for them!

  19. The unicycle makes a lot more sense in this context.

    I miss childhood, when multitasking was a thing of joy.

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