Tuesday, March 24, 2015


In less than a week, Caroline turns 13. In less than a month, I turn 45.

Big birthdays.

I’m not totally thrilled about either one.

They have some things in common, because Caroline and I are, as a friend once said about me and my mother, an amoeba that split in half. (Please do not get scientifically technical on me. I’m just repeating it because it’s descriptive.)

First of all, they’re both big numbers. Caroline’s becoming a teenager and I am, in a really good-case scenario, hitting midlife smack in the face. Second of all, there are hormones involved in both cases. Third of all, we both want a big party. I particularly want wine and chocolate because they’re what I gave up for Lent.

But there are so many differences. I’m pretty sure I’m smarter now than I was five years ago. And Caroline at 13 is not who I was at 13 (thank you, God, for miracles large and small) and she’s an awesome kid.

However, as she moves full-throttle into the teen years, there are a few bits of almost-45-year-old wisdom I’d like to shout at her fleeing back:
  1. Sometimes life sucks.
  2. Sometimes life is flat-out awesome.
  3. Handle both occasions with grace and humility and a sense of humor. When life sucks, your character grows in leaps and bounds. When life is easy and good, your character is relaxing in a lawn chair with a margarita.  
  4. That character – how you act when no one’s looking and you’re not going to be held accountable – defines you more than your grades, first-place trophies, your clothes or your friends ever could. Take good care of it.
  5. It doesn’t matter what your body looks like. It matters what your body can do.
  6. If you love yourself, others will want to be around you. Including boys. (So I guess don’t love yourself too much.)
  7. If your friends talk unkindly behind someone’s back, they’re doing it to you. If they lie to other people, they lie to you. Trust me. This is always true. 
  8. Big boobs are a pain in the ass. Again, trust me.
  9. Don’t start coloring your hair because your dark roots will eventually become like tiny little ninja bosses yelling at you every time you look in the mirror. (Okay, this one's more about me. But just don’t start. Embrace “dirty blonde” from day one.)
  10. Life, at the end of the day, is fun right now. Love it. Love your friends and your health and your family and your sports and your room and your books and your dog. Revel in it and soak it up. You’re about to get launched into teenagerhood (see numbers one and two) so enjoy the calm before the storm.
We‘ll survive the next six years or so, you and me. When you hate me, I won’t take it personally (absolute, total lie). I will try to let you make all your own decisions, even when I want to scream at you that you're making a giant mistake. I will try not to criticize your clothes or the fact that you don’t really get all the tangles out of your hair when you brush it.

And all you have to do is remember that 13 years ago I fell in love with you, with more love than I even thought existed in the universe, and it’s only grown stronger. It gets stronger every day, and 97% of what I do and say comes from that love. The rest of it is just petty because you’re pushing my buttons.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. If we don’t talk for a couple of years, I’ll see you on the other side.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boo! (hoo.)

This was Halloween, circa 2003.

This is Halloween, circa 2014.

This year, she’s happy (and she’s the one behind the camera, albeit mostly taking selfies) and I’m the one in tears.

This year I won’t see a crying bunny or a grinning Blues Clues. I won’t see the cowgirl mad at her sheriff brother and I won’t see the cookie monster that bordered on being kind of weird in fifth grade. I won’t see the punk (and ill-advised) DJ who really wanted to match her friends.

I won’t see any more of it than is currently on her bedroom floor.

“Mom?” she asked tentatively, a few weeks ago. “I was invited to this Halloween party. And I didn’t go last year, but I really want to go this year. We’re going to trick or treat and watch Ghostbusters and have a sleepover. Can I go?”

This is what I wanted to say:

Are you crazy? No way. You may be 12 (and a half) and in middle school but you are still my baby. I don’t know that neighborhood. Will an adult be with you? Will they have extra batteries for the flashlights? Will you stay with a buddy? Will you not go to creepy houses? Will you stay away from strangers? Will you remember to eat something healthy so you don’t barf from all the candy? Who’s going to do your makeup? Not everyone can do perfect cat whiskers, you know.

Instead, I smiled.

Yeah, and what about the monster truck house? Won’t you miss that? And the haunted porch we go by every year? And laughing at Daddy acting silly, and coming home and dumping all your candy on the family room floor and engaging in a furious bartering session with Jack? And for the love of God, who’s going to make sure your candy doesn’t have razor blades sticking out of it? If we were in Colorado that could be MARIJUANA candy, you know. I can’t risk it. No.

I put my arms around her.

And definitely NO! We’re a family! We spend all holidays together, even kind of fake ones! What if Daddy dresses up? Will you stay with us then? What if I give out full-size candy bars and let you be my first trick-or-treater? Then will you skip the party? Please skip the party. Please stay with us. I’ll miss you so much.

And I said, “Of course you can go, sweetheart. I think you’ll have a blast.”

Later, my husband looked at me and said, “You know, she’s 12. It’s perfect.”

I sniffled.

He said, “How about I dress up (a little), and give you a giant candy bar, and maybe a to-go cup of wine, and we take the puppy and take Jack and go with friends and enjoy every single second of still having a reason to trick or treat? Because it won’t last forever with him, either.”

He's right. So that’s our plan.

And the part of me that loves seeing my kids grow up and become independent is cheering wildly.

And the part of me that wants to hold on to my little babies forever is a bit teary.

And all of it feels just like being a parent, which means always being caught right between a belly laugh and a few bittersweet tears.

And you know what?

It's just perfect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My boobs are too big (and other reasons yoga’s not for me)

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Who said this? Albert Einstein? Rita Mae Brown? Narcotics Anonymous? Doesn’t matter, just lock me up in the looney bin.

Because, yet again, I tried yoga. You may recall that I’ve tried hot yoga without success. I’ve also tried warm yoga and down dog yoga and up dog yoga and general yoga and every time, I shake my head, resigned to the absolute knowledge that yoga and I don’t mesh.

After the mind-blowing decree from a neurosurgeon that I cannot run (or, as I like to interpret it, I cannot run right now), I once again thought I’d give yoga the old college try.

“Expecting different results.” Sigh. I’m an irrepressible optimist. And yet, as I sit here on the backside of yet another class, I must realize once and for all that yoga is NOT for me. Why? Well...

1. My boobs really are too big. There’s no “gracefully reach your lunge forward and gently frame your front foot with your hands” happening in any sort of zen way for me. Rather, it’s “wrestle those mofos out of the way and plunge your hands forward to the ground before those suckers swing back and you can’t reach your front foot anymore.” The zen goes right out the window.

2. As a runner, and only a runner, and a runner who never stretched, I am very inflexible. Therefore, yoga’s hard. And embarrassing, because the teacher kept having to dig in the bin and bring me blocks. I had blocks under my hands, blocks under my butt, blocks under my hips, all in the vain attempt to have different body parts touch. I looked like a Lego creation.

3. If I stay in one place and sweat, I smell. It’s not a bad smell, it’s kind of a body-wash/deodorant smell, but I do not like to smell myself. When I run, I don’t smell myself until the end (and truthfully, that’s not always such a great smell). Then I started to think I could probably smell other people, too, and they most likely didn’t shower before yoga like I did, and that grossed me out so I tried not to breathe. Which defeats the whole purpose of a class based on the principles of deep breathing. And left me gasping for air. Totally not zen.

4. I found myself mentally arguing everything the teacher was saying. For example, “Where you are right now is where you’re supposed to be.” Not true. I was supposed to be at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but I got sucked into the yoga class instead.

5. My balance is kind of...well...nonexistent. So if I was to balance on one leg and lean forward and stick my arms out in front of me and stick my other leg out behind me, say, then I bet I would totally and loudly fall over and the teacher would have to come check on me again. Theoretically speaking, of course.

Okay, once and for all, I'm done with yoga.

Because sadly, I could go on and on, but I won’t. I have to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll try Zumba.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pizzle and the puppy

Our little puppy, Piper, was spayed this week. She didn’t have a great reaction to the surgery and ended up being very sick for about 24 hours, until we could get her back to the vet and get her stuffed with fluids, anti-vomiting drugs and heavy-duty painkillers.

Now that she's better, I wanted to buy her a little treat. I went to the pet store and bought her favorite thing: a hard, brown roll called a bully stick. The store only had them in the 24-inch size, so I bought it and brought it home for her.

The kids asked what, exactly, a “bully stick” is. I told them that one pet store employee responded to my similar question with, “You don’t wanna know.” I left it at that. My kids...did not.

Caroline: Jack, look at the tag. It says it’s made of bull pizzle.

Jack: What’s pizzle? Let me google it.


Hysterical laughter.

Sidesplitting laughter from my two kids.

Jack, gasping for air: Pizzle is an old English word for PENIS!



After they told me, told my husband, texted a few friends and laughed at a very confused Piper, they settled down.

Piper started chewing on her bully stick.

And I heard Caroline say to Jack, sotto voce: That must have been a huge bull.

Ba dum bum.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


This vacation – the vacation we’ve taken for 18 consecutive years with my husband’s parents and any of his four sisters who want to come – starts as any other vacation starts.

With lists. Three-page lists full of items that need to be packed, each with an empty circle beside it that can be checked off with a feeling of satisfaction. Lists of to-dos, lists of in-case-of-emergency numbers for the neighbors. Lists of where the dog is going (where is her rabies certificate?), where the guinea pig is going (add that friend to the list of people for whom we need to buy presents) and who is taking out the trash (ditto). Lists of my clothes, the kids’ clothes, and Whit’s clothes. To dos and lists that leave me feeling exhausted but fully prepared.

We drive to this vacation of ours, anywhere from six to nine hours in the car. This is where I worry. I worry about traffic and I worry about my back hurting and I worry we’re going to get in an accident and I worry someone will drown on vacation. I worry that Whit’s parents will some day not be on this vacation with us. I worry my house will burn down, the dog will misbehave, I forgot to pay a bill that will be due while we’re gone. I worry.

We unload the car and I neurotically count our items and an efficient college student with an awesome summer job grabs our bags and bins and loads them onto a boat. Whit parks the car and says goodbye to it for a week. We board the ferry and it blows its horn and slowly chugs toward the island we’ll call home for seven days.

This island doesn’t have cars. We travel via golf cart, often with kids on laps and hanging off the back (shh). Our children learned this summer how to drive the golf carts, which gave them hours of thoroughly illegal fun (shh again…and pipe down, it was safe).

As my days on these beaches unfold, I suddenly care less about rules. I care less about what I'm "supposed" to do. I care less about helmets. I care less about food groups, which explains why Jack ate a popsicle for breakfast today. I care less about bedtimes, I care less about watches, I care less about the problems that await me at home.

What I suddenly care about is pulling the kids out of the ocean, away from their cousins, to reapply sunscreen to pink noses and shoulders. I care about whether or not there are enough Mike’s Hard Lemonades in the cooler for each adult and some of the older kids to have another one. I care about whether the light will be good for pictures on the beach during our traditional twilight cocktail hour(s). I care about the faces of my kids as an older cousin launches them into the air in the ocean or their smiles as they race toward me on a boogey board.

Here, I don’t despair that the doctor told me I can’t ever run again. Instead, I care about long walks on the beach, whether they’re at 7 am and my heart is pumping or they’re in the middle the afternoon as my son stops every five feet to dig for coquinas or it’s a long stroll to chat with my mother in law. I care about whether the single, teeny store will run out of chicken before we have thought about what we’re grilling for dinner. I may idly wonder if I should run a load of beach towels through the wash or if the golf carts are all charged, but they’re generally passing thoughts.

This is my favorite vacation. It’s the only one in which I’m totally, and completely, unplugged. From my phone, my laptop, my iPad. My lists. My stressors and my worries.

It’s my family’s favorite vacation, too.

There might be a coincidence lurking in there.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Dads Do

When I married Whit, I spent some time wondering what kind of husband he’d be. I imagined our married life together; I wondered if he’d get mad if I spent $300 on a pair of shoes (yes) or drank wine with my girlfriends in the middle of the day (no). I never wondered what kind of father he’d be.

Neither Whit nor I had a close relationship with our dad. Whit became close to his stepfather a little later in life, so it’s safe to say he didn’t have exactly the perfect paternal role model during his formative years.

So I should have worried.

But then we had kids.

And they hit the daddy jackpot.

So, kids, when you’re older and reading this, let me give you a little primer on what dads do...based, of course, on what your own dad does.

Dads like breakfast. They take you out to diners and for bagels or croissants. They don’t even notice if you’re missing a food group.

Dads teach you how to play golf and throw the baseball on target and trap the soccer ball.

Dads lie down with you every single night and let you talk about your day, even when it’s well past your bedtime.

Dads give giant bear hugs and gentle kisses and always have a lap ready when there aren’t enough chairs…and sometimes when there are plenty.

Dads play snapping turtle and let you shriek as loudly as you want.

Dads let you eat ice cream before dinner, skip church and ride in the front seat.

Dads coach your teams. And if they’re not coaching, they’re sitting at every game cheering you on.

Dads pick you up from school when you’re having a bad day and take you out for nachos so you can talk. CAROLINE.

Dads are protective. They check every lock before bed and investigate every sound in the middle of the night.

Dads will do anything to make you laugh, whether it’s loudly breaking into “Let it Go” or burping at the dinner table.

Dads want you to know you’re loved. Your dad never gets on an airplane without sending me a text telling me he loves all of us, even the dog.

Dads stand outside at a freezing ice rink at 6 am so they can videotape a figure skating routine while there’s no one else on the ice...

...and dads get up at 5:30 every Saturday morning from November to February to get a little hockey player to his (ridiculously scheduled) practice.

Dads take you to four stores to find the flip flops you want, without ever becoming impatient.

Dads treasure the idea of family.

So, I suppose, I’ve learned a little something. You don’t get to be a great dad by watching someone else or reading a book or seeing a tutorial on You Tube.

Great dads aren’t taught. They’re born that way.

Happy Father’s Day to all the really great dads.

Especially ours.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Help wanted?" "Help needed" is obviously more like it.

Disclaimer: I am a very happy stay-at-home mom who volunteers a lot and also does sporadic freelance writing and is paid for it. However, as my children get older, the hours from 9:00 am and 3:00 pm stretch out longer and longer, and I miss the days that used to fly by because I was so busy. I’m not a “do yoga go out to lunch watch an episode of Breaking Bad and WHOOPS the kids are home” kind of mom; I’m much more of a “give me a long to-do list and let me at it and WHOOPS the kids are home” kind of mom.

All that said, here are my...

Top Ten Signs It’s Time to Get a Job

1. You google “ideas for organizing Tupperware.” And then you search until you find an Instagram picture you like, and then you rearrange all your Tupperware.

2. When you’re feeling blue, you go look at your Tupperware, and it makes you happy.

3. You consider becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers for fun.

4. The ongoing joke you’ve had with your husband about flashing your boobs to motorists for cash starts to sound genuinely appealing.

5. You live in fear of the question, “What are you doing today?” Doesn’t matter who’s asking it, you just never really have a great answer.

6. You’re secretly envious of anyone who has a job, whether it’s the barrista at Starbucks, the Nordstrom cashier or Savannah Guthrie on the Today show.

7. You start actually reading every neighborhood listserv email regarding dog poop, and you seriously consider weighing in on the issue.

8. When people ask what you do for a living, you find yourself spouting ridiculous, outdated facts: “In 1994, I went on a business trip and rode camels in Cairo!” or “In 1996, I took the shuttle to New York every week to negotiate a bond offering!” You repeat these impressive yet totally irrelevant facts because “I make lunches and change sheets and go to Costco!” just doesn’t inspire the same level of excitement.

9. The usual four-hour window for service people doesn’t stress you out. Just doesn’t matter. You’ll be home.

10. People yelling at you to keep your dog from peeing on their lawn constitutes meaningful social interaction with adults.

Sigh. The signs are clear; I’ll dust off my résumé.

But that’s all for now. There’s a tub in this house, and it’s not going to re-grout itself.