Wednesday, December 5, 2012

...and then she got over it

You could look at our kids and say they’re spoiled. You could look at our kids and say they’re sorely deprived. Well, both the spoiling and the deprivation are mainly by design, and our mantra is that, as a family, we are very lucky because we all have everything we need and most of what we want.

For the most part, the kids get this.

Sometimes they don’t.

So the other night, there was a lengthy discussion in the car about the kids’ lists to Santa (yes, they write them, because they work a hell of a lot better than asking Mommy or Daddy). Jack wants an iTouch. Caroline was convincing him he doesn’t. Caroline wants a digital camera. He was convincing her she already has an iTouch and can take pictures with that. I heard “I want I want I want” over and over and over.

I was listening. And listening. And listening.

And lost it.

“Do you know that there are kids who will ask Santa for a new pair of shoes? Or a roof over their heads? Or warm blankets or a meal? That’s right, a meal. Do you know there are kids who can’t even go to the doctor when they’re sick?”

It would’ve probably been okay if I stopped there. But I’m not known for stopping when I’m supposed to stop. “Kids who want two parents! Or a mother! Or their health! OR THEIR DOG TO LIVE A LITTLE LONGER!” (Okay, fine, that last one was on my letter to Santa.)

Fast forward a few hours, after both kids had been put to bed. I was doing the dishes. Caroline came in the kitchen, sobbing.

I wrapped her in my arms and asked, tenderly, what was wrong.

“Those poor, poor children!” she cried. “The ones from Hurricane Sandy and the ones who ate the Thanksgiving basket we donated and the ones who are poor and the ones who don’t have their parents and the ones with dead moootttthhheeerrrrrsssss….” sob sob sob “I’m just telling Santa to give them all my presents. Every one. I don’t want one thing. And tell Gramps and Ama and Aunt Jenn and Uncle Mike and Auntie Lish and Uncle Mat and Aunt Noelle and Uncle John and Aunt Nadine and tell them all to send my presents to the poor children! Just tell them! I don’t need any of it! Those children need it!” sob sob sob…

I melted. What a kind, selfless child we had raised! My heart swelled with love and pride. And a little bit of guilt, for laying it on SO thick that the child was ready to forgo all her Christmas presents. But mainly relief, that she thought of others more than herself.

Then she wrote her letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,

Ready for your big night? Great! First of all, please give all the poor children and all the Hurricane Sandy children what they want for Christmas. Really, please make it merry.

Then I want an iPad.



Well, I guess at least she didn't give herself top billing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The sound of silence

I am dreading Thanksgiving, and the annual over-the-river-and-through-the -woods trip we take.


Because I lost my voice.

What? No, that’s too passive. Correction: a germ-infested little boy got into my bed exactly five mornings ago and, while aggressively cuddling and telling me how much he loves me, coughed a wet cough all over my face. Exactly three days ago, my throat started to hurt. Exactly two days ago, I ceased being able to speak.

And very little pisses me off more than not being able to talk. I can deal with the cough, the snot, the knifing pain in my chest when I breathe, and the generally crappy feeling I am experiencing. I cannot deal with not having a voice.

It’s hard enough not being able to talk at home. I screamed at Caroline for ten minutes yesterday, ordering her to turn off her iTouch. As I was about to detonate due to her total lack of a response, I realized she literally hadn’t heard a word I said. Even her polite friends didn’t answer my questions until I stood right in front of them and tapped them on the shoulder, at which point I got a tentative, "Uh, Mrs. Kennon? Did you say something?" (Girls, I am ALWAYS saying something!! That is a rhetorical question.)

I tried to have one of those always-enjoyable, thirty-minute phone calls with Verizon tech support, and most of it was spent with the representative saying, "Ma’am?? Are you there?"

Yes. Bad enough.

But visiting a family that’s just as weird as my own?

(Okay, Whit, I think you actually won last time we argued about that, and we’re currently edging you out in the weird and dysfunctional category. But the pendulum will swing. Just wait.)

It can’t happen. How can I yell at my children to JUST WALK AND STOP DOING CARTWHEELS DOWN THE AIRPORT HALL or say, in an exasperated voice I have perfected, "You packed it, you carry it!" I can’t ask Whit to go get me a Diet Coke. I can’t change our seats around so I am sitting by myself with my family. For God’s sake, I can’t even try to get in the Thanksgiving spirit and be nice to strangers. They’ll think I’m some sort of demented charitable mime if I start mouthing kind words about their adorable children.

And once I get there? How can I stay up late, drinking wine with my in-laws and psychoanalyzing everyone who will be sitting at the Thanksgiving table? How can I boss anyone around on Thanksgiving Day? How can I make snarky comments to my husband about his family? And what am I supposed to say when we go around the table and everyone has to declare what they’re most thankful for?

Oh, wait just a minute. I just realized something. I bet I know what Whit and the kids are going to say they’re thankful for.

I dare you, people! (And I am SCREAMING that.) (Inside my head.)

Happy Thanksgiving, particularly to the afflicted (points to herself) and those who are thankful for said affliction (points to her family).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Me, me and more me.

One thing you guys probably don’t realize is how much I love feedback on anything I write (well, I love nice feedback. I don’t love shrieky feedback). So, I read comments on my blog and comments on my Facebook page and notice retweets on Twitter and I can honestly say that your comments can sometimes leave me walking on air.

Bill Peebles at ihopeiwinatoaster left me a comment telling me he was awarding me the Liebster Award. He warned me that it could be a big fake joke but that it would be fun, and he asked me to play along. It’s kind of like the Facebook thing where you answer a bunch of questions and then tag people so they can answer them – silly, fun, harmless.

Plus it’s the first time the word "award" has ever been linked to my blog, so I can’t help but play along.

Warning: this is a looooong post. Sorry.

So here we go. Here are the rules:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the awarder has given you, the awardee.
3. You, now the awarder, create 11 questions for your nominees, who are now the awardees.
4. Choose 11 awardees, link to their website, and notify them.
5. No award-backs.

Eleven things about myself? Let’s see. (This feels a little narcissistic but you can stop reading at any time.)

I’m one of five kids; my older brother and I are Irish twins (11 months apart to the day) and then there are fraternal twins at the other end with my sister in the middle. We were all born in VERY rapid succession. The kind that makes you go, "ewww" when it’s your parents you’re talking about.

I once worked for an internet company where strippers were hired to be the receptionists. (No, I was not a receptionist.) (Or a stripper.)

On a business trip for another job, I got to ride a camel around the pyramids in Egypt. The camels smelled, and so did I, since I didn’t get to shower before we flew home. On another trip, I was guarded by Colombian police armed with machine guns everywhere I went. It was a kick-ass, cool job.

Airplane is my all-time favorite movie. It’s hilarious. Even my kids know how to respond when I ask, "Nervous? First time?"

If I could, I’d go to bed by 9:00 every night and wake up around 5:00 am to go for a run. But I can’t, and I don’t.

My three biggest vices are chocolate, wine and Diet Coke. And I don’t try really hard to give any of them up.

I have loved to read ever since I can remember. When I was nine, I sat on a couch and ate a whole bag of Chips Ahoy cookies and read three Nancy Drews, back to back. I wanted to be Nancy Drew: 18, with a blue convertible and a boyfriend named Ned. Sometimes I also wanted to be Trixie Belden and tried calling my friends "Honey" but they told me I was weird.

I have crazy, vivid dreams and seriously freaky nightmares. The retelling of my nightmares can scare other adults.

I cry over roadkill. Dead deer and smushed bunnies make me so sad. (Squished squirrels, though, just make me barf, so at least I discriminate.)

I am a professional worrier. If you have a problem but you don’t want to worry about it, tell me. I’ll worry for you. Obsessively.

I actually really love my in-laws. They say things like, "No, really, drink your wine and read your book while we play sardines with your children. You could use a break." Want to know who else on the planet says that to me? Right. NO ONE.

Okay, enough about me. Now, more about me.

Here are the questions I was asked to answer:

1. Were you pleasantly surprised or slightly irritated when I tagged you with this?
Pleasantly surprised. See above. I never get awards for anything.

2. Do you think I am sorry for that?
No. (That was an easy one.)

3. If you were to smack me upside the head for passing this on to you with your favorite book, what book would that be?
Fifty Shades of Grey? Nah, that’s a paperback. And poorly written. My favorite book is usually the last best book I read, which is currently Gone Girl.

4. If you had back the (enter minutes spent on this exercise here), what would you do with them?
I’d be walking the dog or going to CVS. Which is really where I need to be right now but I was flattered enough to sit down and answer your questions.

5. Do you think perfect strangers should stalk around the Internet and bestow odd awards and ask random questions? Why or why not?
Yes, because my favorite thing about the internet is strangers. I love that strangers choose to read what I write and sometimes tell me they like it, and not because I’m going to accost them in the carpool line to see if they thought my last post was funny.

6. How can words be so beautiful to read and so frightening to write?
Because you get so judged by what you write but the best writing is unrestrained. It’s a horribly vulnerable feeling to know someone is forming or reshaping an opinion of you based on a creative outlet you enjoy. I don't even write about the really interesting stuff in my life because it would leave me much more vulnerable than I am comfortable being. And maybe I'd get sued.

7. Do you like my hat?
I do not. Goodbye!

8. How many hotdogs do you consume on a weekly basis?
I despise hotdogs. But I could eat a good cheeseburger every other day and be happy. Fat, maybe, but happy.

9. You seem like a decent person, how did you become so?
I’m actually not that decent. I’m very passive aggressive and sometimes a little judgmental.

10. Pop-up toaster or toaster over?
Um, toaster oven. Bagels get stuck in pop-up toasters.

11. Where do you physically blog, as in, where are you right now and, did you ever suspect blogging would be this damned complicated?
I have an office in my house. I love it because it has beautiful curtains and a rug I really like. It’s part of the 10% of my house that’s actually been decorated. And I don’t think blogging is complicated because it’s how I discovered I can write stuff that makes people laugh. Or cry. Or feel superior to me. All of which is fine, as long as they’re reading.

Now I have to choose some awardees and ask them questions. I don’t follow eleven blogs that aren’t widely known, but I do have a few friends who occasionally blog. I don’t know that they want to be named, so I will just tell them to identify themselves in the comments if they want to continue with the award. In my opinion, anyone who likes to write will jump at a chance to write about almost anything, so I'll tag them privately and let them decide if they want to respond.

1. What motivates you to sit down and write?
2. What’s the hardest part of your day?
3. What’s your biggest vice?
4. What do you do to relax?
5. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
6. What makes you happy?
7. What’s the last best book you read?
8. What’s the weirdest thing about you?
9. What is the quality you love the most in other people?
10. What is the last thing you ate?
11. What was your favorite thing about the 80’s?

And that, my friends, is the end. Thanks to Bill for the honor!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crushing political disappointment? Have some mint chip.

My sister just texted me asking me where the hell my blog has gone for the past month. Well, I am officially Going Through A Lot (which, frankly, my sister knows since it’s mainly family shit and she’s Going Through A Lot, too, and she should know as well as anyone that you can’t really have a month in which you tape multiple DNR orders to multiple refrigerators and then turn around and write or say something funny. If I’m not trying to be funny, then I don’t really want to write about death because I have a standing date to write about my mother’s death every year and, frankly, death, while occasionally slightly funny, is really just sad and depressing and not worth focusing on until you have to.) And writing is like exercising in that you can get out of the habit really really fast, and sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for a short run or write a short post to try to get back in the habit because you’re happier when you’re doing it. (And I could make a sex joke here but I’ll let you do that.)

So, I will capitulate and talk politics, because there was a recent election that I REALLY cared about. One for which I enthusiastically made posters, rudely pushed my agenda on my friends, aggressively took to social media to further the chances of my candidate winning it all, and laid awake at night worrying about what the opposition would do.

That’s right.

Caroline ran for 5th grade president of the student council.

Now, I’ll be honest. When she said she hoped her class would nominate her to run, I hoped she wouldn’t get nominated. Mainly because I was being a bad mother and I didn’t want to deal with the drama of a ten-year-old girl in a popularity contest. But she was nominated, and she ran, and she made cute posters (even though I told her, "Don’t be hesitant, vote Caroline for president" was a bit wordy and that hesitant was a big word for the younger kids to even pronounce).

She ran against three great kids, one girl and two boys. She’s friends with all of them and I’m friends with all their mothers, and I knew for a fact that any of these guys would rock it as president. We all sat in the gym a few weeks ago and listened to four earnest speeches filled with humor and honesty and promises.

Caroline lost.

She was edged out by a boy in a wig who sang "Call Me Maybe." (There was a girl who sang Katy Perry who did win another office, so perhaps Caroline’s downfall was that she can’t carry a tune. We’ll never know.)

Do I wish she had won? Sort of. But only sort of, because I have to say the big life lesson was in losing. And by "big life lesson," I mean for me. Because, for maybe the first time, I got to see Caroline handle what was, relative to her happy life, a huge disappointment. And I got to step back and just see what she did.

So yes, I got to see a few tears. But then I got to see her instantly congratulate her friend who won. And I got to see her adorable friends hug her and tell her they voted for her. And I got to see her wonder if maybe she could run for class representative. And I got to see her not take it personally, and not place blame anywhere. And when I gently pointed out that it was pretty amazing that she had the confidence to stand up in front of her whole school, I got to see a perplexed look that told me she couldn’t imagine why someone wouldn’t be able to stand in front of hundreds of kids and all her teachers and talk about how great she is.

Of course, I’m her mom, and she’s one of the two brightest lights of my life, so I think she did win. And I think she really won the most after she lost the election, but she is only ten and not quite deep enough to understand that. And part of the reason I’m writing all this down is that so one day, when she’s older and deeper and suffers a (relatively) crushing disappointment, I can remind her that she is capable of handling almost anything with grace and confidence and kindness. And I realized that, as a grownup who occasionally suffers some disappointment or sadness, I could take a page from her book.

And Caroline’s takeaway?

She woke up this morning and, in a purely nonpartisan comment, announced, "I sure do know how that Mitt Romney feels. Someone better take him out for ice cream."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The me the spam sees

Be honest. Have you ever actually looked at your spam emails, before hitting select all/delete? I really hadn't. Until today. And I was appalled by the opinion some seem to have of me, so I really couldn't resist the urge to set the record straight.

To the spammers who think they know me so well:

I have no plans to go back to school. I do not want a degree in criminal law, elementary education, preschool education, special education or child welfare. I do not need more stamina in the bedroom or while I’m running, and I’m not worried about my penis getting larger. I don’t know any rich uncle in Nigeria who may have died and left me vast sums of money. I did not order a power wheelchair. I don’t believe that there are that many child predators living near me. I’m not depressed or a compulsive shopper. I am not Hispanic and my digestive health is not in trouble. I could use a little laser hair removal, but not to the degree you seem to think is required. If you can’t spell "terminated" then I don’t believe you have access to my checking account, or the power to "terminalate" it. I do not need to battle substance abuse unless it’s saying no to a glass of wine after I read through all these ridiculous emails. I am not on Medicare. My dog doesn’t have fleas. My credit score didn’t change. I’m not incontinent or looking for a hot married man who wants to fool around. I do not have any undiagnosed skin disorders or sensory malfunctions. Plantars warts do not plague me, I do not poop by mistake when I run or wet my pants when I laugh and I do not feel personally responsible for the plight of the sea turtles or the problems with the ozone.

Spammers, send me the emails about free burritos. Send me the sales, the free shipping, and let that email telling me I’m the snack mom for the soccer game sneak on through.

But unless you sent the email that breathily announced, "207 local bitches wanna f**k" because you know I’m thinking about getting a puppy, you're really just not hitting your target audience.

Monday, October 1, 2012

ISO a sister wife

Sometimes every decisive bone in my body leaves me and I can’t make up my mind about things. Not big things, but little things. Like what to have for dinner. Or if I should go for a run. Or what to wear. On those occasions, I need a judge. Someone who will say, decisively, "Chicken. Yes. Black pants."

Such an indecisive moment came last Thursday night, when I was getting dressed to go out to dinner for a friend’s birthday. I stood, wrapped in a towel, surveying my closet for a full ten minutes before giving up and pulling on the old standby, a "safe" dress that’s really comfortable.

Me to Whit: So? How do I look?

Whit, barely glancing up from his iPhone: Fine.

I sigh and start taking off the dress.

Whit: What’s wrong with the dress?

Me: It’s "fine."

Whit rolls his eyes. This is an old argument, and he knows better than to defend the use of the f-word.

I look through my closet again.

Me: Hmmm...dress, or jeans and a sequined top?

Whit: Jeans.

Me: Boots?

Whit: Sure. Boots.

Me: Brown or black? Inside the jeans or outside?

Whit: Geez, I don’t know. Outside?

Me: The dark dark dark jeans or the dark dark ones?

Whit: I’m not even answering that.

Me, clattering down the stairs, out the front door, and barging into my neighbor’s kitchen: Does this (indicate my entire body) work?

Neighbor: No. Hold on. Did you shave your armpits?

She runs upstairs and gets an adorable sleeveless shirt. I whip off the sequined top and put on her shirt.

Her dog starts barking.

Whit is standing at her front door, threatening to go to the restaurant without me.

"Oh, for God’s sake. I’m COMING."

I run outside.

Whit: Nope.

Me: Damnit!

I text the birthday girl. “Dress I always wear, or jeans and a cute top?”

She texts back “dress.”

I run up the stairs taking off the borrowed shirt.

Whit shakes his head at me, pours a glass of wine and turns on the TV.

I come down the stairs in the dress I started with 30 minutes ago.

"Which earrings?"

"Black and white or silver?"

"Whit? Can you hear me??"

He turns up the volume on the TV and doesn’t answer me.

"Boots or heels? Last question. I promise."

He plugs his ears and starts humming.

I move toward the door, as if I’m walking back over to the neighbor’s house.

"Okay, okay!" he cries. "Dress. Boots. Black and white earrings. You look beautiful. You’ve never looked prettier. Can we please go now?"

Me, finally placated: Yes. And you could have said that 30 minutes ago and saved us all this drama.

Whit: I will never understand women.

Me: This is exactly why I need a sister wife.

Whit: What the hell are you talking about?

I’m moving to Utah.

And bringing my closet with me.

Friday, September 28, 2012

...and then I was banned from the sidelines.

We all say it. We’ve all read the articles in the New York Times. We’ve all heard about the books and listened to the psychologists on talk shows. We know we have to let kids lose, we have to let kids fail, we have to let kids be kids and make mistakes. Not every kid should get a trophy for showing up, right? They’ve gotta earn 'em. That’s the new message to parents. And, for the most part, we say we believe it. We say failure makes our kids strong! Let them fail a test. Let them be the kid who scores for the other team during a soccer game. It’s okay! we claim. It’s life! we tell each other.

Yeah, right.

Because you know the feeling.

Let me take you back to last weekend.

I’m on the sidelines of a Little League baseball game.

Jack steps up to bat. Bases are loaded, two outs. His big brown eyes stare at the metal pitching arm. Opposing coaches implore the fielders to “get ready” or “play at any plate, just get the out!” Jack earnestly knocks the ground with his bat, purely for show, and then adjusts his position until his coach or his dad gives him a thumbs-up: knees bent, elbows up, feet straight.

The first mechanical pitch – a real beauty – sails right over home plate without even a wild swing to deter it.

The second draws a futile swing that’s so hard the batter spins around in a circle.

The third is knocked off as a foul.

Ten Little Leaguers jump up and down screaming, "You can do it!" and, randomly, "Make us proud, Jack!"

My husband sits back, relaxed. Jack’s sister is playing soccer in the outfield with other kids. No one is really feeling any tension.

Except me.

I’m a complete wreck.

I’m in the throes of a panic attack, praying frantically that he just makes contact with the ball.

I want the damn kids to shut up and stop distracting him.

I’m thinking that he HAS to get a hit, HAS to knock in a run.

"Come on, Jack," I silently implore, "You’ve been to the batting cages! You knock the hell out of them in practice. It’s a GAME, buddy, don’t screw it up!"

The coach manning the pitching machine signals Jack to adjust his stance.

"Don't be the kid who can't get a hit!!" I think.

Jack wiggles his feet in the dirt.

"Be the hero! Hit a home run!"

The coach counts down.

I can't believe how painstakingly painful this is for me.

Three. Two. One.

"He's not going to do it. He looks too relaxed."

The pitch is coming.

"HIT IT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!" I scream. Maybe in my head, but judging from the look my husband gives me, maybe a little bit out loud.

He makes contact. It’s sort of an unintentional bunt.

But it counts.

"Runrunrunrunrunrunrun!" I bellow like a lunatic, "Beat the throw!"

A run scores. Jack is safe on first, his little alien-head batting helmet (his personal one, because you know I’m a little freaky about lice) beaming almost as brightly as his smile.

I cheer. I clap. I whoop and yell.

I collapse into my beach chair.

As my heart rate lowers, I wipe a little sweat off my forehead and try to act nonchalant.

Whit is staring at me.

"Uh, you know," I comment offhandedly, "That was good and all, but it would’ve built character if he’d have struck out."

"Right." He turns back to the game. "You are completely crazy," he mutters.

He looks at me over his shoulder. "And Jul?"

"I know," I reply, hanging my head. "That was just the first inning."

Sigh. "I'll go watch from the car."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And then I became THAT mother

If you know me, you know certain things about me. Like the fact that I’m not usually late. I’m not usually disorganized. I usually have all my ducks in a row. My hair is usually brushed.


Not today.

Last night I didn’t sleep. I don’t know why, but I fell asleep around 5:30 this morning. And the power had gone out briefly overnight so whenever I did open my eyes to check the clock it was always some blinking number that looked like I had time for ten...more...minutes...zzzz...

I sat up with a start at 7:40. The exact time Caroline and I were supposed to be at Girls on the Run; she in a running capacity and me in a coaching capacity.

I flew down the stairs and saw her sitting on the couch, in her pajamas, watching TV.


"Um, 7:40?"

"'Um. 7:40??' Yes, 7:40. 7:40 when you’re supposed to be at school. Get dressed. Come on come on come on!"

Speed in the morning isn’t her thing. So while I flew around the kitchen gulping sips of coffee, she stretched. While I hastily threw breakfast on a plate, she stopped to pet the guinea pig. When I tossed anything I could find in her lunchbox...she complained.

"That’s a messy sandwich and that’s not the snack I want."

"Where’s my good water bottle?"

"Did you do the laundry?"

"These strawberries taste funky."

Let’s just say I lost my patience with Her Highness. Let’s just say maybe I raised my voice. Let’s just say she got upset and couldn’t find the shirt she wanted to wear and couldn’t find her safety patrol belt and then it was 8:00 and then I said we just wouldn’t go to Girls on the Run because I was late and she was irresponsible and then she started to cry. So then I felt bad but was still irritated and didn’t want to let the other coaches down so we went to Girls on the Run really late and both feeling crummy.

Then, as I was walking out, in the rain, my friend pointed to an enclosed area of the playground and said, "Oh, look, someone left their backpack. Let’s bring it into the office."

We walked over and I noticed it was the same color as Jack’s backpack. It had the same shark on the outside. And whoa, it even had his same initials!

Well, shit. Because it had been there all weekend. In the rain. So the library books were wet. The papers were wet. The lunchbox smelled.

Seriously? I am that mother who doesn’t notice that her son doesn’t bring home his backpack? I’m that mother who didn’t notice I wasn’t emptying his lunch box? I am that mother who didn’t – gulp – check his progress report on Friday? Or Saturday? Or Sunday? Or, thanks to the holiday, even MONDAY?? I am that mother whose son is so laid back it didn’t occur to him his backpack was missing? I’m sorry, but did the OCD gene your sister and I share just skip right on over you? Or Jack, how about last night, when I told you guys to pack your backpacks for school today and you quickly and confidently said, "Did it!" Did it? How’d you do it IF YOUR BACKPACK WAS ON THE PLAYGROUND???

Whew. So there I was. Flustered. Sweaty. Not caffeinated. Carrying a dripping backpack with soggy contents into his second-grade classroom. I was mad. I was a mess. I was in running clothes with no makeup on and I was a little frantic. And his teacher is someone you’d hate if you didn’t love her because she’s gorgeous and wears gorgeous clothes and never yells and has nice teeth and nice hair and would never, ever not notice a missing backpack for four days. She’s so perfect she just smiled and said, "Oh, I understand, we’ll just dry everything out!" in a cheery voice and I wanted to run away crying and press a big, fat, redo button on my morning.

Yup. That was my morning. I am, officially, That Mother.

Now don’t you feel good about how put together YOU were this morning??

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Tapeworm Mom

I am not a Let Go parent. I am a Hold On Tight parent.

Helicopter parents? "Rookies!" I scoff.

I am more like a Tick parent. A Leech parent. An Internal Parasite parent.

Not because I am a psycho controlling nutcase, for which the case could certainly be made. Rather, it’s because of love. It’s because of an aching love for my children that makes the mama bear in me wrap her arms tightly around precious little bodies so no harm or distress will ever come to them. You know, it’s the kind of love that suffocates children and renders them void of any life skills. Or so I’ve heard.

I’ve read enough parenting books to know that I must become a Let Go parent. I have a little big girl going into middle school next year, and they aren’t going to let me sit in class with her, even if I beg. (Or make them cookies. I asked.) So I told myself that it was time to wear the Responsible Mommy undies and become a Let Go parent so my daughter can grow up unhindered.

The first test came immediately. My (sniff) 5th grade (sniff) safety patrol daughter sailed off to school on her bike in a gaggle of yellow-belted friends. (And, for the record, I didn’t get in the car five minutes later to make sure her bike was parked safely at school. But I thought about it.)

I went in her room and noticed the book next to her bed. Here’s what went on in my mind:

Me 1: Oh, shoot, Caroline forgot her book. She might get in trouble. I’ll bring it to her.

Me 2: Drop the book, sister. She forgot it, she gets in trouble, she won’t forget it again.

Me 1: I’ll just scoot down to where she’s patrolling and stick it in her backpack.

Me 2: Or she could actually suffer a consequence.

Me 1: No way! If she doesn’t have it, maybe her day will be awful. Maybe she’ll get mad at herself. Maybe she’ll call herself stupid and forgetful and she’ll be awash in self-esteem issues before she even hits puberty.

Me 2: Or maybe she’ll borrow a book from the teacher.

Me 1: Shut up.

Me 2: Drop the book.

Me 1: Sigh. Fine.

The next test came after school.

She had asked a friend if she wanted to play. The friend said she was busy and then turned around and asked a third friend if she wanted to play, right in front of Caroline. She was sad. My mind games began:

Me 1: What a bitch.

Me 2: So Caroline finds out not everyone wants to play with her all the time. That’s life.

Me 1: Let’s egg her house.

Me 2: I’m sorry, but are YOU in fifth grade? Kids need to learn to work things out.

Me 1: Can we at least crank call her?

Me 2: ...or we can just listen and offer support.

Me 1: Leave me alone.

Me 2: Just give her a hug and change the subject.

(Me 2 is such a pain in the ass. But even Me 1 knows Me 2 is right.)

So there you go. I am well on my way to becoming a Let Go parent.

For the record, it’s not going to be easy. I look at this poised ten-and-a-half year old and I see my little three-year-old girl with blonde pigtails and big blue eyes telling me to hold "callerpittars" for her. I kiss her cheek and I think of the five-year-old who needed butterfly kisses, eskimo kisses and mommy kisses before she’d go to sleep. It really feels as though yesterday involved cribs and high chairs and gliders; diapers and Goodnight Moon.

I’m going to hold on to any little girl parts I can find. I’ll read to her when she asks; she can sit on my lap and hold my hand and help me bake. I’ll scratch her back and keep Band Aids and snacks in my purse. I’ll indulge the little girl in her until it is finally and totally edged out by a big girl.

But. But I’ll delight in the big girl stuff, too. I’ll delight in how she finally gets my jokes and tells funny ones of her own. I’ll be proud of the strong athlete who can score soccer goals and run a 5K and win an ice-skating trophy. I’ll celebrate the big kid who makes good choices and watches out for her little brother. I’ll cheer her on as she leaves elementary school behind, even though I could swear she just started kindergarten.

I’ll love every part of her fiercely, even as I’m letting go reluctantly.

And every now and then, when I’m sure she’s got the independence thing under control, I’ll give Me 2 the finger and let Me 1 win.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And then life kicked my optimism in the ass.

I like to run, but I’m very rarely satisfied with where I am in my running because I’m pretty tough on myself. I’ll set strict time goals for ten mile races. I’ll set distance goals for Saturday runs. I recently ran eight miles after a v.e.r.y. late night because I figured I knew I wanted to run eight miles for days before and no, my friends weren’t actually pouring the wine down my throat and keeping me awake, so I had to suck it up and run the eight miles. I'm not a marathon runner, but I'm a bitch of a self-coach and never pat myself on the back.

This past weekend, I did something I’ve never done before. Something that intimidated the heck out of me. Something I didn’t really tell anyone I was going to try. Something I swore I couldn’t do, didn’t want to do, would never do.

I ran a half marathon.

I ran it with a friend. We ran through the woods and crossed streams on cute wooden bridges and couldn’t run more than two people across because it was just a little path through the woods. I loved it.

As I was running, I started remarking on how pretty the run was. Started talking about streams and bridges and trees.

Then, by about mile eight, I started to realize I felt great. I looked at my watch, and we were running at a pretty decent clip. I was doing it! The miles were flying by!

I confess, I started to get a little cocky. Little pleased with myself. Started thinking that maybe I could run half marathons. Started to feel like maybe I wasn’t just a ten-mile-max runner. Just started the mental motions of patting myself on the back.

Big mistake.

Because I got close to the finish line and wanted to get there. Wanted to drink water, see Whit and Jack and Caroline, and, frankly, I kind of just wanted to sit down. I kind of just wanted to stop running.

So I sprinted as fast as I could.

Should’ve stayed humble ‘til after I crossed the finish line.

Because, see, I had gotten water right at mile 11 or 12. And then I ran as fast as I could, through the chute lined with moms and dads and kids and dogs and friends cheering madly for the runners. I sprinted, my heart raced. I could barely breathe. I had the fleeting thought that I should've skipped that water station.

And then my stomach started convulsing.

And I started barfing.

And maybe, just maybe, I wet my pants a little bit.

In front of all those moms and dads and kids and dogs and friends.

Then I got home and realized my Body Glide had failed me and I had a raw, red ring of open flesh around my rib cage, right where the band of my sports bra had been rubbing off my skin for 13.1 miles.

Then I realized the old, comfortable shoes that had felt so good for 13.1 miles had destroyed my knees and hips and I was walking like an arthritic amputee.

Then I realized I was a little dehydrated from running 13.1 miles and couldn’t take enough ibuprofen or drink enough water to kill my headache.

Then I burned my hand by grabbing a pan I’d had in a 450 degree oven. (This injury has nothing to do with the race but it sucked.)

So my little pat-yourself-on-the-back, give-yourself-a-little-handshake moment of feeling like I had conquered a new frontier?

It’s over.

Now I'm in the throes of a wrap-your-ribcage-in-nonstick-gauze moment. A change-the-bandage-on-your-second-degree-burn moment. An if-I-can-make-it-up-the-stairs moment. A google-how-much-ibuprofen-will-kill-you moment.

I miss my happy place.

I miss mile eight.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The bright lights of fame are blinding…my dog?

I just got the mail and opened a letter from Workman Publishing Co. with interest. After all, I do aspire to be a writer. "Perhaps," the thought skittered optimistically across my mind, "this contains an unsolicited yet lucrative book deal!" (Only catch is that I haven’t actually written a book. But whatever. Weirder things have happened.)

"Dear Whit and Julie Kennon," the letter read,

"Congratulations! We are very happy to inform you that your dog, Bo, has won a spot in the 2013..."

...wait for it...

..."Bad Dog Picture-A-Day Wall Calendar." Better yet, he’s also Mr. March 18 in the Bad Dog Page-A-Day Calendar.

Oh, crap! Apparently at some point I sent this company a picture of Bo. Of all the bad things Bo has done in 13 years, I can’t even imagine which one I chose to send. The one where he’s eating a poopy diaper or road-kill rabbit? Or running away from me with a raw steak in his mouth? Or finding chickens in the bushes or blowing his doggy camp interview? Or chewing something expensive? Or breaking the guinea pig out of her cage so he can chase her around and cause G.P. P.T.S.D. (A.S.A.P.)? Or breaking into my then-pregnant neighbor’s house and making her chase him as he only stopped to drink out of toilets? The possibilities are endless.

And I, truly, do not know. I have no recollection of which picture I could have sent, or when I sent it. I do know something about it sounds vaguely familiar so I’m sure it’s not some cruel attempt by a disgruntled neighbor trying to point out that my dog can be a little deviant.

My husband, who is rarely surprised by anything I do, just shook his head and said, "My dog is the most famous member of my family. This is pathetic."

No way it’s not. Everyone!!! Go buy the 2013 Bad Dog Picture-A-Day Wall calendar or the Page-A-Day Wall Calendar. I’ll get Bo to give you an authentic paw print on the page for March 18. And, not to be pessimistic, but I’d hurry if you want that paw print. In people years he’s a nonagenarian (sad for me and my dog, but a great Scrabble word).

Oh, Bo. You’ve got game, my little canine friend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Oh, summer. I’ll miss you, you crazy season.

I get weirdly attached to things. I remember a watermelon barrette I loved and lost when I was nine. I remember and miss every detail of my childhood home, though I haven't lived in it in nearly 30 years. I can think back to favorite 80’s Benetton sweaters that didn’t get tossed until my friends did a fashion the 90’s.

Unfortunately, I got very attached to this past summer. This is odd, in that every living mother with elementary school-aged children usually wants summer to end a solid two weeks before it does.

Not me. Not this year. I wanted more flashlight tag, more watermelon, more beach/bay/mountain trips, more picnics, more relaxation. More time not worrying a bit about what time it was. More time with my kids. More time as a family.

I’m sad it’s over. So I think I’ll try a little reverse psychology to snap myself out of it.

Ah-hem. Here is a heartfelt list of things I WON’T miss about summer. Not one bit.

1. Living in a bathing suit, and sucking in my stomach all the time. I sucked it in until it almost touched my spine. I did that so religiously that one would expect me to have sculpted abs from the inside out. But I don’t.

2. The inertia that overcomes children if they’re still in their pajamas at 9 am. So it’s noon and they’re saying, "What are we having for breakfast?"

3. The expectation that there will be a big breakfast every day of the week. And thus, an abundance of bacon. And sausage. I’m tired of eating things that oinked.

4. Being forced to get in the pool. Remembering everyone pees in the pool. Watching my kids fill their mouths with pee pool water and spit it at me.

5. The constant OCD that is sunscreen application. And reapplication. And touch ups. And the maternal defensive panic that arises when another mother comments on your child and says, with a superior grimace, "Oooh, he’s getting so red! Look at those shoulders!" Yeah, well, bite me. That’s why God created aloe.

6. Constant sweat. Constant wondering if there’s a stronger deodorant I should buy. Constant wondering if someone close to me is stinky enough to actually be hitting puberty.

7. Bright sunlight at 9:00 pm. Convincing children it is, actually, night and they should go to bed. Stealthily applying superglue to their eyelids. (Kidding. But I considered it.)

8. Running errands with children, because I could be in a funeral home looking at caskets and they will still find something they want me to buy for them.

9. The perils of water. Chlorine that turns eyes red and hair green. Waves that knock you down and leave sand all the way inside your ears. Jellyfish. Gross blobs on the beach you can’t identify but need to step over.

10. Trying to in vain to accomplish everything on the kids' list of "Things We Will Do This Summer." I’m goal-oriented, and it still annoys me that we didn’t make it to the watermine family swimmin’ hole. I asked Whit to go with me last Wednesday and told him that if we'd just float around the lazy river once I could cross it off, but he rolled his eyes and went back to work.

So, you summer-lovin' self, see how much you won't miss? So live a little. Un-suck in your stomach.

Ahhh, that worked. It does feel good to unsuck. Bring on the foliage. And, while I'm unsucking, the caramel apples. And, hell, maybe some pizza. Hot fudge sundaes...

Oh, yeah. Me and fall are going to get along just fine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For better or for worse. Really.

Okay, so can I just tell you that Twitter is killing my blog? All summer long I twittered and tweeted and barely wrote a darn thing here. It was a crazy busy summer and I really didn’t have time for more than 140 characters at a time. I felt a little writer-ish, though, with a (kind of dorky) article in a local magazine, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss this particular forum for my random thoughts.

So today, I am going to talk about this.

Which is the breakfast Jack made for my and Whit’s anniversary. (There’s lettuce in the fruit salad. Because, "It’s a SALAD, Mom.") So, the anniversary. Which is today. (Which you would already know if you followed me on Twitter.) And no, I’m not going to write a post about how you’d better lock up your second-grade daughters because my son is eventually going to slay them with that sweet and thoughtful personality. And no, I’m not going to write an ode to my husband of 14 years and publicly tell him he is my Prince Charming and I wouldn’t change a thing. Rather, I’m going to rewrite our wedding vows.

This is what should have been said:

I, Julie, take you, Whit, for better or for worse. And by better, I mean I’ll still love you on the days we find out we’re going to have a baby or on the days we get jobs or I get published somewhere exciting. I’ll love you on the days I have a good run or make a good dinner or tell a funny joke or decorate a room that looks really cute. I’ll love you when we close on a house or take a great vacation or sit on the beach at sunset, sipping wine and counting our blessings. I’ll love you when there’s plenty of money in the bank and our whole family is healthy and the kids get good grades and score Olympic-worthy soccer goals and you bring me coffee in bed.

But, here’s the kicker.

I said I’ll take you for worse, too, and the worse might really suck, so my fingers might be crossed. (Okay. FINE. Uncrossed now.) I’ll love you when I have miscarriages. I’ll love you when you or I lose a job we really need. I’ll love you when I am so irritated you haven’t cut the grass/taken out the trash/moved the laundry upstairs I could scream. I’ll love you when you leave crumbs all over the counter I just wiped. I’ll love you as your ever-widening bald spot ever widens or your body breaks down for no logical reason. I’ll love you when my mom dies and I decide life does, really, bite. I’ll love you when you’re crabby and you’re pessimistic and you’re critical. I’ll love you when you don’t tell me I look pretty or a tree falls on our house or I’m really sad or I decide you’re just a pain in the ass. I’ll love you, even when you don’t seem like you love me so much. I’ll love you, no matter what.

And then:

I, Whit, take you, Julie, as my wife. I’ll celebrate your accomplishments and support you when you want to try something new. I’ll love you when you run errands for me or leave me a sweet note in the suitcase I’m packing for a business trip. I’ll love you, even if your phlegmy dad moves into our basement or I decide all your siblings need to be committed to either Betty Ford or a mental institution. I’ll love you even when you get your feelings hurt and cry hysterically and get snot all over me. I’ll love you when you let the dog sleep under the covers, and I’ll love you when you make me carry him up the stairs because you’re scared he can’t make it. I’ll love you when I have to do inane whole-house "murderer checks" before I go on a business trip or when you bitch at me for not answering my cell phone. I’ll love you, even when you don’t seem like you love me so much. I’ll love you, no matter what.

That would have been a more realistic view of what the next 14 years had waiting for me. And that would have given me the secret to making it 14 years: love, no matter what. Love, in the sucky times. "No matter what" belies the tough times, and the strength and the sense of humor one needs to get that far.

Piece of cake? Not always. Worth it? Always.

So babe? Happy anniversary. No matter what.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Love, suburban style

(Now, before you cluck over the dismal state of my marriage, let me tell you that it’s been me & him, him & me for almost 18 years. So it could be a heckuvalot dismal-er.)

My husband and I very rarely find ourselves in the house together, alone, and not otherwise occupied with to-dos. So it was unusual that both kids were invited to a movie on Saturday afternoon, and I really didn’t have anything else to do other than to sit on the couch and read my book.

Whit came up to me with an excited gleam in his eye.

He sat down next to me.

"Honey," he said, with trepidation, putting his hand on my knee, "I know exactly what we could do for the next few hours while the kids are gone."

I looked at him as though he had just told me he was an alien visiting to farm body parts.

"Oh, Whit, for God’s sake. Not a chance. I’ll get sweaty and I already took a shower. And I’m reading my book. And it’s 3:00 in the afternoon. And...seriously...really? No way."

He looked a little confused and backed away from me.

"Really? How did you know what I was thinking? Who cares what time it is? I know you’ll get all sweaty but I have an idea that would cool you down. And you could kind of read your book during breaks, when I’m working on my form."

"Working on your FORM? You have FORM? I don’t even want to have this conversation."

Whit, irritated, responded, "Of course I work on my form! I work on it every time. How else am I going to get any better?"

I said, "You’re 45 years old. You don’t have to get any better."

He said, "A lot of pros have game into their 70’s!"

My heart stopped. His 70’s? Really? I was just trying to make it through his 40’s. And he wants to call himself a pro? Aren’t we a little sure of ourselves there, big boy?

Whit narrowed his eyes. "Wait just a minute. What are you thinking of?"

Me, a little uncomfortable: "Um, nothing. What are you thinking of?"

Whit took a deep breath. "I was thinking you could videotape my golf swing and then we could go out for a drink."

Me, backpedaling fast: "Ha. Yep. Of course. That’s just what I thought you’d say. Great idea. Let’s go!"

Whit looked relieved and said, "Awesome! I was hoping you’d say yes. I’m a lucky man."

Oh yes you are, honey. A lucky, lucky man.

On the way out to the car, he swatted my rear end. "'I’ve already taken a shower???' You can do better than that."

I laughed and warned him: "Dude, if you think you’re gonna turn pro and have game into your 70’s, any excuse is going to have to work."

Yes, all you twenty-somethings with stars in your eyes. This is what it looks like. This is love, suburban style.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


(I know I haven't posted in a long time. But with the end of school and my vacationing working husband and vacation and then, just as I was getting back to normal, a tree crashing through my roof and no power and post-derecho Armageddon in my neighborhood, I haven't been able to write anything. But this is short.)

So for many years, I've read a popular and syndicated advice columnist named Carolyn Hax. She's very funny and practices tough love much more successfully than I do. Today she emailed me (!!!) and asked if she could post one of my blog entries on her Facebook page (!!!!!). I admit I almost wet my pants before I said yes. So here it is, a thrilling moment after a really...well...turbulent week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Burning the midnight oil?

From (almost) right after college graduation (almost) until my water broke with Caroline, I had a full-time, corporate job. Or several.

So I understand that working can suck. I understand 15-hour days and crappy commutes and unreasonable bosses and deadlines and unreliable team members and huge projects and fire drills and the stress that can be a full-time, corporate job.

But I also stayed in suites at the Waldorf Astoria and rode camels around the pyramids in Egypt and was escorted through the Colombian jungle by armed guards and had courtside seats and expense account dinners and lots of happy hours with people I genuinely liked and respected, so I also understand that working can NOT suck in a very big way.

Some husbands can sometimes pretend like business travel is a real drag. Keep talking, buster.

My husband is on a two-week-long business trip. It happens to be the last two weeks of school, so he has missed plays and concerts and father/son baseball games and his 45th birthday and all the drama and excitement that is The End of The Year.

(Now, he is working hard. I know that. And he really misses us. But that’s not funny, so we’ll ignore it right now.)

These two weeks have been fun, but a little stressful for me. Okay, REALLY stressful for me. And throughout my busy, stressful days, I’ve gotten texts from my husband. Here’s just a sampling:

"You would like this place. It’s right on the water and the sun is setting soon. Gorgeous."

"I want a sailboat."

"Rumrunners are dangerous drinks."

"(My coworker) has man boobs. He’s asleep on the beach."

"Just ate conch fritters, salad and grouper – delicious – I’m stuffed!"

"I’m sunburned."

"I think we’re going to try to go scuba diving."

"Need to get cleaned up and head out to a nice dinner."

"Boarding a plane; have a few hours to just relax."

"This voluptuous waitress won’t get off my lap."

(Okay, I made that last one up. But let’s face it, the guy is having fun.)

My texts back to him:

"American Express wants to know if your card was stolen. The charges are through the roof."

"The dog’s legs gave out on our walk and he scraped his nose on the asphalt."

"I have to take my dad back to the ER."

"I think I saw a rat outside."

"The kids won’t go to bed."

"It’s going to rain on the last day of school, all the outdoor parties are canceled and they’re gonna lose their minds."

"Am I a bad mother if the kids eat hot dogs for dinner...again?"

"I thought I was putting eye drops in my eye. It was albuterol."

"I think I’m blind."

He texted back:

"I’m on Bourbon Street."

That man is going to be really, really early for Mardi Gras 2013, isn't he??

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sometimes love looks a lot like a cup of coffee.

On the occasions Whit gets up with the kids (or, should I say, gets up with Jack, who wakes up before dawn every morning and then comes in and “cuddles” so aggressively that one quickly gives up on sleep and goes downstairs with him), my husband does a sweet thing and prepares my coffee, perfectly, and brings it to me. It’s a fabulous way to wake up. A rare treat? Perhaps. But a welcome one.

Whit is out of town for a l-o-o-o-ng time and I have been exhausted. When Jack was standing by my bed at 6:00 sharp this morning, I barely registered his presence. I assumed he’d hop into the bed and start bugging me to wake up and go with him to get a blanket/get cereal/find the remote control/watch Phineas and Ferb. It didn’t even pierce my tired consciousness that, instead, he left my room and went downstairs by himself.

Later, there was a tapping on my shoulder.

"Mommy? It’s me, Jack." (This is his standard greeting.)

"Mmmm hmmmm..."

Jack, proud: I made you coffee!

Me, waking up fast: You did what?

Jack: Well, Daddy’s not here, and you’re tired, and coffee wakes you up (I’ve never actually told him that, so the difference in my energy level must be drastic).

Me: But how did you do that?

Jack: Well, I poured it in the cup when the machine was done gurgling, and I spilled some but it didn’t burn me, and I put some of the sugar in it and some of the milk and I took a big spoon and stirred it up and walked up here very carefully.

He looked at me hopefully: Do you like it? Is it good? Is it like Daddy makes it?

Honestly, I could barely answer him. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, and this act of pure love, and pure kindness, was just about my undoing.

"It’s the best cup of coffee I ever had."

He high-fived me and ran downstairs, his good deed forgotten.

As I went through another stressful day, all I had to do was picture a seven-year-old boy carefully carrying hot coffee up the steps to his mom. Every time I pictured it, my heart melted, and the stress abated for that minute.

Is parenting hard? Yup. Thankless? Pretty much. Worth every second, just so you get to experience the heart-melting minutes? You’d better believe it.

Thanks, Jack. You may not know it, but you made my day today. And likely my tomorrow.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Maybe he's smart in other ways

Jack brought home a poem he wrote in school. The assignment was to use rhyming words in his writing:

My mom is nice.
She likes making rice.
She has lice.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The care & keeping of an old me

If you know me well, you know I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about and dealing with aging. I don’t mean aging in my forties, I mean aging aging. Aging with a capital A. And I’ve come to a conclusion: it sucks. And I don’t want to do it. But, God willing, I will, and so I want to tell my kids something. I can’t tell them now or they’ll roll their eyes and tell me I'm annoying, but I can write it down so they read it eventually. So...

Dear kids:

When I get old, don’t dismiss me. Please don’t think I am less of a person because I am dependent or seem mentally absent. Please remember who I am, and not how I may appear.

If my hands shake, remember that these hands hold you and wipe your tears. These hands shampoo your hair and make your favorite cookies and clap for you until they’re red and stinging. These hands keep you safe in parking lots and rub sunscreen on you and wrap your birthday presents. These hands have painted your nails (yes, even you, Jack, when you were two and insisted) and thrown baseballs and played with play-doh and taught you how to paint like Monet or Jackson Pollock.

If my eyes fail, remember that these eyes have seen the words I've read to you since before you were born. Remember that these eyes watched you both learn how to ride bikes and saw you score goals in soccer games and swing on tire swings. Remember that these eyes gauge how your day went when you are still 100 feet away, just leaving the school building.

If I can’t remember things, remember that this mind can tell you where to find a missing shoe or overdue library book. This mind regales you with stories from long ago, when I and my crazy siblings were young or when Daddy and I met or when you were babies. This mind has cataloged and appreciated every moment of your existence.

If I am weak, remember that these legs can power walk to your school balancing an art project, two backpacks, a water bottle and a jacket. Remember that this strong body can ski and hike and ride bikes and swim and jump in waves with you. Remember that, though you’re ten and seven and a half and getting a little too tall for this, this body can pick you up when you’re hurt or even when you just want a hug or you're tired.

If I sleep too much...well, then, actually, I don’t want to hear about it. I deserve it. I haven’t slept through the night since I first got pregnant. So don't wake me up.

If I look old and wrinkly, tell me I’m still beautiful and that I earned every single wrinkle the hard way. And that you're amazing, which proves it.

If my voice quivers, remember that this voice can bellow up the stairs when it’s dinnertime or yell down the block when you’re playing with the neighbors. Remember that this voice cheers for you as you play sports or perform in a show. Remember that this voice laughs the loudest at your jokes. Remember that this voice recited "Wynken, Blynken & Nod" every single night of your lives until you told me to stop. This voice sang every known lullaby to you, albeit horribly off key...this voice lulled you to sleep more times than I can count.

If my ears fail and you have to scream at me to be heard, remember that these ears are so acute they don’t miss one midnight "Mommy?" coming from your rooms. Yes, they’re the same ears that hear when you haven’t turned off the TV when asked, and the ears that catch you saying bad words or muttering at me under your breath. But they listen to you sing (oh, boy, do they) and they listen to you read and they listen to how your day was and they listen to why you’re excited or mad or sad. They hear your whole childhood.

All these things about me now are part of my soul. My soul is who I have ever been: the bossy third grader (shocking, I know) and the high school girl in the Catholic-school, polyester kilt and the sorority girl and the newly employed graduate so excited to wear a suit. My soul is the 24 year old who met Daddy and the 32 and 34 year olds who brought brand new babies home. My soul loves the dog and throws great parties and is a perennial room parent. My soul is my competitive streak and my sensitivity and my feelings. My soul is my laugh. My soul is my energy. My soul is the love I have for my family. And my soul will never age, and never fail me, even when my body and mind do.

So kids. When I am old and do gross things and need your help and you start to feel sorry for me, just stop. That’s an order. Stop. And look hard to find or remember who I really am, and appreciate my soul. Because I can assure you that the essence of who I am will never disappear.

Oh, and guys? If I wet my pants or drool, that’s just payback. I’m probably doing it on purpose just to push your buttons.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Top ten most frequently heard phrases from my (top) ten year old

In a minute/In just a sec/Later.

It’s not inappropriate.

It’s so unfair.

You don’t understand.

All my friends can read/see/say/hear it.

You make me go to bed so (yawn) early.

I heard you, I just didn’t know you wanted an answer.

I want a playdate.

This show will be over in just a few minutes.

I know I picked it out (and so you took the tags off and washed it), but I’ve decided I don’t like it anymore.

And then, almost every night, I get a sleepy, "You’re the best mommy ever."

And that, my friends, is how I get through trying parenting days. Like today.

(Note to Caroline, when you find this blog and need therapy: Yes. You say all these things, almost every day. Yes, they push every button I have. Yes, I probably said them to my mother, so I will try not to assume you're going to end up a crazy lonely old lady with a lot of cats. Rather, I think you'll end up just like me -- with a payback kid you love with all your heart.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Are you a Perfect Mother? I'm not.

Lately I’ve been inundated with The Perfect Mother. I’ve seen The Perfect Mother on television shows and commercials. I’ve read about The Perfect Mother in books. I’ve heard from my kids about how all the other mothers are, in fact, The Perfect Mother. I’ve seen The Perfect Mother at soccer games, sitting quietly in her chair, not sweating or swearing to herself or hopping up and down like a lunatic. (No, of course I’m not describing myself.)

So, with Mother’s Day coming up, I thought about whether there’s any planet on which I could be described as The Perfect Mother. I know I’m a Darned Good Mother, but Perfect? Hmmm...

Well, no. Not really. Not a chance.

Actually, really pretty far from it.

Perfect Mothers are mature. I pull my husband's pajama pants down when he's walking up the stairs in front of me.

Perfect Mothers are trustworthy. My children have to hide their Easter baskets from me or they know all the Reese's peanut butter products will disappear while they're at school and I will claim to have seen nothing.

Perfect Mothers are respectful. I yell at old people who drive slowly when I'm in a hurry.

Perfect Mothers always insist on proper nutrition. Sometimes I let my kids have chocolate at 8 a.m.

Perfect Mothers are always obedient. I constantly explain to my children that very stupid rules can, and often should, be broken.

Perfect Mothers are cautious and never scream. You should see me flying down a huge hill on a saucer during a snowstorm.

Perfect Mothers are consummate grownups, through and through. Outside, I’m 42. Inside, I still feel like that high school kid sneaking Sun Country wine coolers in a field after a football game.

Perfect Mothers are diplomatic and never snarky. I tell my kids that they're acting bratty and that their friends have issues.

Perfect Mothers are impeccably neat at all times. I love to play in the mud and stomp through rain puddles.

Perfect Mothers aren't competitive. I have to be restrained so I don't join my kids on the soccer fields to help their teams win.

Perfect Mothers are totally appropriate. Umm, have you read my blog?

Perfect Mothers don't like potty talk. My favorite joke is, "Why did Tigger stick his head in the toilet?" "He was looking for Pooh." That was also Jack’s favorite joke at age 4. (Really, I am a bad mommy.)

So the Perfect Mother? Not me. Not at all.

But that’s okay. I’m pretty certain I’m a Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Maker. I’m a Perfect Cuddler. I’m a Perfect Stuffed Animal Vet. I’m a Perfect Tear Wiper Away-er. I’m a Perfect Hugger. I’m a Perfect Prankster and, as we know, a Better-Than-Perfect Wine Drinker. (I would say I’m a Perfect Love-er and a Perfect Swing-er but those would get totally misinterpreted).

So happy Mother’s Day. I'm not a Perfect Mother, and maybe you're not either. But I do know we’re all perfect in one way or another.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nothing but the truth. Unless you worship a lying sibling.

I teach Jack’s first-grade Sunday school class. It’s something I’ve done for one kid or the other since Caroline was in first grade. It’s not always a piece of cake, but I can usually count on my own kids to be well behaved and not veer off on a weird tangent. (Note that I said "usually.")

Yesterday I was talking to the kids about the importance of telling the truth. I was explaining that, if they don’t tell the truth about little things, no one will trust them about the big things. I used a (very realistic) example of me asking Caroline if she’s made her bed. Sometimes she says yes, whether or not it’s been done.

Jack raised his hand.

"Well, she lies because if she says she hasn’t made her bed, you’ll say she doesn’t have any more time and she’s had all morning and you’ll ask her why she moves like molasses."

Me: "Right, but she’s telling a lie. That’s wrong."

Jack: "No, actually, that’s right, because then she goes to school and you make the bed for her and you’ve forgotten about it by the time you pick her up and nobody yells at anyone else."

Me: "Okay, well, a) I don’t forget about it, I just choose a different battle at that time; and b) lying is wrong. Period. Let’s move on."

Jack raised his hand again.

"I lie."

Me, skeptical: "Really? I don’t think you do. What do you lie about?"

Jack: "Making my bed."

Me: "No, when you say you’ve made it, you’ve made it."

Fifteen little heads were snapping back and forth like they were watching a ping-pong match.

Jack: "No, it’s sometimes a lie. That’s the main thing I lie about. Making my bed."

Me: "But you don’t lie about that. I physically SEE that you make your bed every day."

Jack looked disappointed.


Me: "You want to know what you do lie about?"

He nodded, excited.

Me: "You lie about LYING. You’re telling a lie right now, when you say that you lie."

Jack, triumphantly: "See? I told you I lie, too."

Me: "You’re kidding me with this, right?"

Jack, pleased: "Nope."

Sometimes I think I’d pay a million dollars for normal siblings who hate each other. Instead, I’m stuck with this sordid solidarity.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The problem with being me

(No. This is not a veiled self-compliment, like "The problem with being me is that I get way too much unwanted attention from hot single men." This is an actual problem. As you will see.)

The problem with being me is that I have absolutely no filter between my brain and my mouth.

For example, one time I remarked to a fellow kindergarten mom that it was far too windy a day for me to be walking to school wearing thong underwear and a skirt. It’s not that I had to change the world with my remark, it’s that I thought it and simultaneously said it. It’s involuntary and usually mortifying.

Now, in that case, that mom ended up having an equally strange sense of humor, and we became good friends. In general, I try to surround myself with people who think my quirkiness is funny. One, I have to apologize less. Two, otherwise I’d be alone in a dark room, cackling to myself. Surrounded by cats. (I don’t know why, but when I picture myself eventually succumbing to mental illness and losing my marbles, I’m always surrounded by feral cats. Lots of them.)

I think writing helps, because I can get my husband to be my filter. I will often email him draft posts saying, "Do I offend anyone’s religion, race, gender, mental capacity, appearance, personal hygiene, location of a port wine birthmark or penchant for dead animals?" And, I’m proud to say, I’m mature enough to hit "delete" if the answer is yes.

Okay, so. This weekend, I walked by a neighbor’s house. The neighbor is a good friend and, thankfully, thinks I’m funny. Her husband does not think I’m funny. I wish I had remembered that.

Their yard is fenced. His dog was outside the fence, eating grass. He was inside the fence, lying on his back in the middle of the front yard. That’s all I had to go on.

I said, "Hi. You okay?"

He said, "Yeah, just playing with my dog."

And I said (and I cringe to repeat it), "No, your dog is over there. You’re actually just playing with yourself."

Ha ha?

He stared at me.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit.

I hurried on by.

Later, I told his wife what I said. She told me she thinks it was a funny joke. She also told me her husband thinks I’m strange.

Note to self: restrict inappropriate comments to this blog, where someone can choose not to read them, or to people who know you’re inappropriate and expect you to be offensive.

Other note to self: avoid that guy for a while.

Final note to self: walk by their house acting very normal at every given opportunity while ignoring him, so maybe he’ll think he made the whole thing up.

As I said, it's the problem with being me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


You know what’s really, really hard as a parent?

Deciding whether or not to tell your kid he or she sucks at something.

Really, like most parents, I think my kids are nearly perfect. But “nearly” is a broad spectrum, and smack in the middle of that “nearly” is Caroline’s singing voice. It’s a particular pitch that makes me think my brains are trying to escape from my skull.

Poor thing can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

And yet, she’s convinced she’s the Next. Big. Thing.

She’s. Not.

But. She sings all the time. She sings in a fake British accent and she sings in a breathy voice and she sings as though she’s got a gangsta for a music teacha. She sings opera and ad jingles and pop songs and television theme songs. She sings the way she hears songs, so she doesn’t necessarily complete all the sounds in words and it’s all one, long, run-on noise. She sings into a microphone and she sings in the shower and she downloads karaoke versions of songs on her iTouch so she can hear herself sing, rather than listening to that pesky Selena Gomez.

She sings loudly. She sings constantly.

It’s driving us completely crazy. We’ve thrown parenting rules out the window and finally implored her to shut up, though we said it in a very nice way. We’ve said “no singing at the dinner table” and “no singing while doing your homework” and “no singing when you’re awake.” Jack will nod and say wisely, “You’re not very good at it and it’s annoying.” She responds by asking if we think she’ll be chosen as a soloist for the spring choir performance.

Her class is performing the Pirates of Penzance this spring. It’s a musical. She tried out for all the big singing parts.

She came home very excited: “The teacher told me to stop singing after the first two lines. I was that good. I totally got a good singing part.”

Imagine her surprise when she was awarded the very non-singing role of the narrator.

“Well,” she rationalized. “I was Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. They probably needed to give me a small role this time.”

Right. That’s why.

(Yup. I’m a wimp. I’ll wait for her friends to tell her.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Jack’s assignment was to write about the character traits of someone. He had to answer a few questions:

What is the person’s name?


How does the person make you feel? Use two feeling words.

Protected. Safe.

What does the person do?

When I’m upset Caroline helps me. And gives me stuff.

Write two describing words that tell about the person.

Loveable. Cheerful.

I hope I die in the next thirty seconds because this is about as happy as a mommy can be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What I’d Really Like to Say to my Kids

We got home l.a.t.e. last night. On the East Coast. From Colorado. So, after we had returned the rental car that got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and after the TSA barely let my husband on the plane (a name thing, not a terrorist thing) and after our car battery had died in the airport parking lot and after I made fishsticks at midnight for my hungry children because that and mustard were the only edible things in the house, no one was tired yet.

And then Jack had baseball practice at 8:30 this morning. And he likes it, so we were all there, like idiots, blinking into the sun with sheer exhaustion written clearly on our faces.

It was, to say the least, a long day.

Then, tonight at dinner, just about when I was praying everyone would go to sleep so I could, too:

Jack: Think we’re too old for the Easter bunny to come?

Caroline: No way.

Jack: How do you know?

Caroline: Well, I’m ten. And besides, the leprechauns came. They all know each other – Santa, the leprechauns, the tooth fairies, the Easter bunny. One comes, they all come. It’s like a rule.

Jack: Yeah, I think you’re right. Good.

Caroline: Yeah, and remember he does that funny thing with the string? So I call getting to follow my string first in the morning.

Pushover Easygoing Jack: Deal.

"That funny thing with the string." Damn you, Family Fun magazine, which gave me so many cute ideas TEN YEARS AGO. Damn you, adorable idea to have the Easter bunny lead each child to his or her basket with colored yarn, under tables, through doors, inside, outside, around trees. Damn me, who has had to improve on the labyrinth year after year until the children practically have to ride twenty miles sitting backwards on a lame donkey to find their baskets, hidden somewhere near the Holy Grail.

I looked at my husband, silently imploring him to take over the Easter bunny duties. He looked at me, silently telling me to suck it up because normal people don’t create such a hell for themselves.

The kids ran upstairs. And, with every non-mommy cell in my body, I wanted to call them back downstairs. And this is what I wanted to say:

Children. Let’s be serious. Let’s just PRETEND there’s a giant bunny that magically knows who celebrates Easter. Okay? So there’s a giant, anti-Semitic bunny, and he sure can hop, because he hops all over the time zones finding those people and delivering candy that, oddly, is readily available at Target. And the drug store. And the grocery store. Because really, starting in February, your exact baskets are sitting in front of you every single time we go shopping.

So the bunny gets to our house. And somehow he bypasses our alarm system. And then, are you still with me? The giant bunny takes yarn and weaves it through our house? Seriously, do you really think he does that for everyone? How can he possibly have that much time? And how can he possibly know our house so well that he finds the really good hiding spots? How can he possibly have that much yarn? Where does he keep it? He doesn't have a sled, you know.

And really kids, I’ve been terrified of kidnappers since the day you were born. Do you really think the giant bunny could hop through the entire house and not trip the zillion motion sensors I have everywhere? Really?

And the dog, who chases the SCENT of a squirrel, just turns a blind eye to the giant bunny hopping through our house in the middle of the night?

And how does he lock the door behind him? You know I don’t give out keys.

Grow up, people.

For the love of God, Caroline, you just turned ten. Get with the program. Your friends are going to laugh at you.

And Jack? Dude. You’re bright. Give me a break. At this rate, you’ll never get out of first grade.

Not that I want you kids to grow up too fast. Not that I want to steal any of your innocent childhoods. Not that I won’t love that innocence in, oh, say a week, when I’m not so flippin' tired.

It's just that...well...can this Easter bunny catch a break, just once? Like this year? Like right now, so I can go to bed?


You and I both know that I didn’t say any of that.

You and I both know that I’m about to get in the car to go buy complementary yet unique and colorful balls of yarn.

You and I both know this post will self-destruct ten seconds after midnight so my children will never know that I was stunned by the naiveté that might just be hiding serious (and probably genetic, from the maternal side) mental disorders.

It’s gonna be a late night.

Does anyone have a corkscrew?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Better than stock options.

Once you’re a mom, traditional rewards disappear. You’re kind of unappreciated. No raises, no bonuses, no “atta girl!” slaps on the backs, no courtside seats or expense account dinners. No A+ report cards, no winning goals, no adoration or congratulations from anyone.

And before you write me off and sniff and say, “My children are reward enough,” I will say to you...give me a break. When you have two toddlers at home and one is barfing and the other is whining and you haven’t showered and the grocery store seems like The Most Impossible Journey Ever, they’re not enough. When you have a adorable little girl in an adorable little dress lying on the floor of a very nice restaurant screaming her brains out because you said she can’t have a third bowl of ice cream, they’re not enough. And when your husband comes home, after they’re fed and bathed and kissed and cuddled and put in bed, and after he has the dinner you lovingly saved for him to eat in your cleaned-up kitchen, and he does pat you on the back and say, “I don’t know how you do it but you do it well” -- THEY’RE. NOT. ENOUGH. Bring on the courtside seats. Bring on the A+. Moms need appreciation. Moms need BLING.

I write, and I feel appreciated. I love hearing that someone likes something I write. I run, and I like meeting or beating a goal. I like the medals at the end.

Yesterday I ran a race and I tried to do well. But I had to get up early, and I ran hard, so I was pooped when I walked through the door.

To this:

And this:

And this:

And suddenly I wasn’t pooped.

And suddenly I didn’t need courtside seats or a good report card.

Suddenly I had all the bling I ever wanted, colored on butcher paper and taped all over the house.

I had my kids.

And they’re more than enough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Knockin’ on Heaven’s door

Just so you know, this isn’t a funny or upbeat post, and it’s long, so you don’t have to read it. But I kind of need to write it.

Today is the sixth anniversary of my mom’s death. It still stinks. Lately I’ve been wishing Heaven had a mail service, and thinking about what I’d like to say to her if I could write her a letter. This is what I’ve got:

Dear Mom –

Hey! How’s Heaven? (I’m assuming that all your irreverent nun jokes were forgiven when they were deciding where to put you.)

We miss you down here. You wouldn’t believe the changes. For one, Dad lives in my basement. Remember how you dramatically warned he was taking you to Florida to die, and then you did really die? I bet you were so proud of yourself for finally making good on one of your threats. Smug as you may have felt, though, he got the last laugh. The basement is actually pretty nice (keep your snarky comments to yourself; I hired a decorator) and I take good care of him (and totally overlook the “Am I being fed tonight?” texts I get if his dinner is late). He does say “thank you” a lot but he still doesn’t like kids (how did he have five?) and he changes the TV channel really fast when I walk downstairs, so that kind of scares me because I just can’t imagine what he’s watching. But otherwise he’s deaf, happy and spoiled, just like he was before you died. (I first mistyped that “soiled” and I laughed out loud thinking of how that would have cracked you up. Don’t worry; he’s not incontinent. Yet.)

The kids, Mom. They’re something else. Remember how when Caroline was born you said, “Wow, Jul, she’s going to be just like you” and I took it as a compliment? Well, now I know what you meant, and I’m sorry for every smartass answer or temper tantrum or prima donna moment you suffered through with me. But I know I made you proud, and she makes me proud, so I guess if you were here you’d tell me I’ll forget about all the drama at some point. She’s still the kid who throws her arms around my neck and tells me I’m beautiful and totally gets my jokes, so it’s not all bad.

And Jack – he was just a little guy when you died, but remember how you called him, “Happy Jack?” He still has that twinkle in his eye and that captivating smile. Remember how you told Caroline that after you died, every time she saw a rainbow or a butterfly, it was you sending kisses from Heaven? Well, she’s told Jack, and the other day he was trying to catch a butterfly. I said, “Jack, what will you do if you catch it?” And he looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Kiss it. I’ve gotta kiss Grammy back.” He’s wickedly funny and really sweet and he and Caroline love each other in a way that you wouldn't believe, especially after you lived with the five of us hellions.

I’d tell you all the juicy details about my four siblings but a) you probably already know them if you’re worth your celestial salt and b) they’d kill me, which would have me meeting you just a little too far ahead of schedule (clearly I’m implying that my general irreverence about everything will also be overlooked at the pearly gates. Fingers crossed.) But you see why I can’t. There’s nothing huge – a marriage or divorce here or there, but no one has come out of the closet or anything. In fact, the good news is that everyone has kids, and the better news is that they’re all really cute kids. They see each other all the time. I still have big family dinners with too much wine, and the craziest of your three sons still dresses up like a girl if he thinks he can get a laugh or he’s really drunk. The last family dinner was so wild that I learned how to shoot a 9 mm gun the next day, so I think I’ll keep everything under control from here on out.

I kind of keep waiting for you to haunt someone in a mean way, like you promised you would. Can I send you a list under separate cover?

I miss you, Mom. (I never get to say that word much any more.) You always made me laugh. You died too young and it just gives us way too many years to miss you. I know you weren’t ready to die. We weren’t ready for you to die. It really, really sucks that you did.

I guess there’s only one other thing I think you need to know: before you died, you worried to me that you would be forgotten. I think you actually thought it could happen.

Well, not for a minute, Mom. Not for one minute.

Love you. Always will.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The parenting strategy that worked too well

(An aside: if you called me, emailed me, texted me, messaged me on Facebook or left a comment on this blog after my last post, thank you. Thank you so, so much. Your kind words and support mattered more than you probably thought as you typed.)

(I actually think you all made me get over it.)


When I was pregnant, I would make lists of how I wanted my babies to turn out.

Then I’d go find a parenting book that told me how to raise a child that way.

But I am an overachiever, so I read a lot of books.

And have basically barfed parenting strategies on my two children.

Poor Jack doesn’t know whether to be tough or sensitive. Poor Caroline can’t figure out if grades and winning sports teams are important, and if they’re not, why I’m such a lunatic about both, while also telling her they don’t matter. I have gotten so confused about all the different strategies that my children are destined to have split personalities, simply because that’s what I model more consistently than anything else.

But. One thing was always important to me, and that was raising confident children. I think self confidence, innate, learned or faked, is one of the skills most crucial to happiness at any age.

Of course I never know if any of my parenting sinks in with either child.

Until it’s the week before Caroline's birthday.

She sent an email to my sister: “Hi, Aunt Jenn. Can you please email me any pictures you have of me?”

To my mother-in-law: “Ama, got any pictures of me?”

To me: “What’s your password on Snapfish?”

Finally, I asked what she was doing.

“Well, it’s my birthday next week.”

“Yes, honey, I know. I birthed you.”

“Okay, so, well, I know how to do slideshows in PowerPoint.”


“And I thought it would be supercool if I made a slideshow of pictures that we could maybe hook up to the big TV (because the cord we need only costs $30 at Radio Shack) and it could, like, run all week in honor of my birthday.”

“Well, Caroline, that is a cute idea. But what would the pictures be of?”


Blink. Blink.

“Well, me as a baby, then me as a toddler, then me doing all sorts of cute things and wearing cute clothes and making cute faces, and maybe all the way up until now. So everyone can sort of watch me grow up, but really fast, in honor of my birthday.”

Incredulous, I looked at Whit.

He said, sotto voce, “Hmm, little narcissistic?”

She said, “I heard you. I know that means humble.”

So. Can someone please write a parenting book called, “This is what you do when you work so hard on a parenting strategy that it backfires” or “Undoing the raising of a self-confident baby” or even just “How to teach your fourth grader the difference between synonyms and antonyms”?

Ah, forget it. I’ll take it. Girl power and all that. She’s hitting double digits (I am therefore crying in my wine) and if she enters those (gulp) preteen years thinking she’s amazing, well then, I guess there’s nothing to do but agree with her. She is amazing.

Happy almost birthday, my adorable little narcissist.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I’m not dead, I’m just irritated.

Okay, so I’ve been pretty quiet lately. (Except on Twitter, which I openly hated and now secretly love.) And, while there are multiple reasons for this silence, something happened that made it particularly hard for me to sit down and joke about my life and my kids and my parenting failures and all the other things that have made this forum so cathartic to me for the past year (yup, one year. Happy birthday to me.)

I don’t really know how to say this in the vague way I’d like to say it, so I will just say it without lots of explanation and details: a fourth-grade class at Caroline’s school was given access to my blog.

Not by me.

Not by any of their parents.

It appeared when they logged on to their home computers to do their homework.

I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I do know that my kids can sit on this very computer, where I write my blog, for an indefinite amount of time and they will never stumble on my blog. But that’s not the case for the kids who did stumble on it.

Now, I am certain none of those kids clicked and read this writing. “Mama Drama” is hardly a salacious title for a fourth grader. And I am certain that however it happened, it was inadvertent and a mistake and blah blah blah. But I don’t need my daughter’s peers reading about what it’s like to be her mom.

At the end of the day, I can’t do a darn thing about it. It was pointed out to me that my blog is public (true) and can be found by googling my name (true). It was suggested I block the user name these kids use for their homework, but despite hours of online searching, I can’t find a way to block any users, I can only allow users. And (thank you God) there are plenty of people who read this blog who I don’t know, and I can’t allow the entire universe without allowing that one username (and you, the friend who said, “Oh, I make fun of bloggers!” when I told you I had started one. You’re banned, too).

But it’s one thing for me to write a parenting blog that, by necessity, mentions my children. It’s quite another to write a parenting blog that mentions my children that is also totally appropriate for any of their peers to read.

So I’ve been stuck. I’ve had a bunch of things I’ve wanted to sit down and write (it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all, and I was itching to publish a follow up to this or this) but I’ve gotten stuck because I just don’t know who will be reading what I write. And the fact that anyone can read what I write becomes both a blessing and a curse, because I never, ever want my writing to make my children uncomfortable. (Until they’re adults and have several years of good therapy under their belts.)

I will come back to this. I like it too much. And I LOVE those of you who have asked me where it’s been. But I have to let the yucky feeling pass before I can get back to it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why I’m a terrible mother. Otherwise known as why they might never find a cure for cancer.

In my defense, it sounded ludicrous. "Mommy, Mommy, we’re going to have a bake sale to cure cancer." Really? We’re one cookie away from a cure? Who knew?

In my defense, I had very short notice. "Can you just bake everything in this book that has a sticky note? We’ll do it on Sunday." In two days? Two days in which you have a figure skating competition, a basketball game, an end-of-season pizza party and an awards show? Oh, yeah, and Jack and Daddy and I have lives, too.

In my defense, I didn’t think they’d have much success. "How cold will it be? Really? So maybe we sell hot chocolate instead of lemonade?" No, Caroline, the hot chocolate will freeze upon exposure to the elements. Stick to vodka for the parents. It never freezes, and they’ll mix it with the lemonade.

In my defense, my daughter’s philanthropic sales always mean a lot of work for me, a playdate for her and limited financial success for the organization. "Remember how I saved the sea turtles last summer?" Yes. Your $9 donation to the conservancy ended the plight of sea turtles everywhere.

So I gave a very dramatic, unsupportive sigh and said, "Fine. I’ll make something. But I have to already have all the ingredients in my kitchen. Because I’m too busy running you from activity to activity to go by the store." (Fine, I didn’t say that last sentence, but I thought it, and it sounded meaner than that in my head.)

And so, because I’m passive aggressive and because I didn’t know what these were doing lurking in my dry food closet, I unleashed the worst punishment I could think of: I used boxed cake mixes. (Oh, stop it. It’s just a thing I have. I like to bake from scratch. I do eat fish sticks, so see? I’m normal. Insofar as eating fish sticks makes me normal.)

So I came home from the post-basketball party Saturday night and baked up a storm with all my boxed mixes. I was still chanting, "Waste of time, waste of time, waste of time" in my head, but at least I was producing.

Sunday morning, we did our church and Sunday school thing. I was still annoyed about the bake sale, primarily because I was hearing, "And can you get the card table? And can I have money to make change? And do you have napkins and maybe a basket and perhaps some bags and ribbons for the cookies and maybe can we run by the store and get cookies if it looks like there aren’t any because, after all, the signs do say 'cookies for cancer' so we need cookies, right?"

Then I saw something posted on the neighborhood listserv, by my similarly-imposed-upon friend – the mother of Caroline’s cohort.

"Two industrious 4th graders will be selling lemonade, hot chocolate and yummy baked goods today with all proceeds going to cancer research, and a local young mother battling stage 4 breast and brain cancer." (PR. And she spent an entire day baking. She's just a better mother than I am, though not significantly less sarsactic.)

Then Caroline asked me if she could donate some of the money to Kyle.

Then I got it. This wasn’t about me being put out. This wasn’t about Caroline sabotaging our weekend. This was about two little girls who know people with cancer, and who thought they could help, in the only way little girls can.

And I felt terrible. Which is how I usually feel when I think I’ve underestimated my kids.

So I got the card table and bought extra cookies and packaged them with pink and green ribbon and drove Jack over with a wad of cash and asked my neighbors to stop by.

And those little girls made $160 in two hours. And I just pledged a chunk of it to a fundraiser in which Kyle is going to shave his head for kids with cancer, which just gives me chills, and tears, thinking of the years in which a bald head wasn’t his choice.

Sometimes my kids remind me that I still have a lot to learn.

(And, truth be told, sometimes they remind me they have vast earning potential if I can come up with a worthy cause.)