What did those kids do to that nice lady?

Monday, June 10, 2019

These are the days....

Well, ho-ly shit.

Another school year come and (almost) gone. How is it possible for each year to pass more quickly than the last? Is this some sort of competition?  I don’t mind losing if it is. I mean I’m not a hugely competitive person, unless there’s board games involved obviously, but I’ll gladly take the loss here and just put the brakes on the clock even if that means bedtime gets further and further away each night.

The rapid, unforgiving passing of time is pretty much the one thing parents of the world can universally agree on it seems. Well… that and a deep seeded hatred of common core math. (And if you like that math YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH and pretend you hate it like the rest of us so you can still have friends at parties. Also, call me so you can come over and do math with Daughter.)  The end of each school year is always a trigger for an avalanche of mixed emotions, especially as the kids get older. Where once the mere thought of summer would conjure fear and panic at the idea of so much unscheduled time, that same thought of so much unscheduled time now feels less like a burden and more like a prize. I say this full well knowing that my kids will be driving me absolutely mad at some point (immediately) over the summer and I will be fully kissing the floor of school grounds jubilantly come the first day of school. I mean we all know I’m not some kind of delusional, Pinterest parent with a whole box full of things to do when you’re bored. Frankly I am way too lazy to create such a box and also, I have always been in full support of boredom. Boredom sparks creativity. And naps. 

But as this school year ends and I look forward to lazy days with The Children, the passing of another grade has encouraged this very weepy phase of parenting I have found myself in recently as I watch Son grow from boy to  young man. As a human who has no shame in public crying (Hi, divorce), even I must admit it’s getting a tad embarrassing how easily and frequently I find myself tearing up at the simplest glance at Son. The older he gets, the more he naturally slips a bit away from me and while I know this is okay, this is what he’s supposed to do, this is healthy for him to discover who he is outside of being my son, (blah blah blah), I admit it breaks my heart a little more each day as my baby boy keeps getting further and further away and this teenager keeps getting closer and closer. Because that baby boy….wasn’t he just right here, holding my hand as we crossed the street to go to the park for the fourth time in one day and now that baby boy is almost a seventh grader and he kinda smells and he has a wart on his elbow that won’t go away and doesn’t even want to play board games with me anymore and DON’T YOU REMEMBER HOW MANY GAMES OF MONOPOLY JR YOU MADE ME PLAY WHICH IS THE WORST GAME EVER CREATED  SO PLEASE PLAY YAHTZEE WITH ME TO PROVE YOUR LOVE. Also, hand me a tissue. Also, you’re so handsome I could just cry. Oh wait, I am. 



I get tripped out as my kids get older and it becomes that much easier to remember when *I* was that age.  Seventh grade? Mrs. Bye was my favorite teacher, rivaled closely by Mr. McKay who drove a red Miata that was the envy of us all, I did this ah-maz-ing presentation on the wonderful country of Hungary, had a crush on Mike Ohotto, let Nate Stanton cheat off my paper in English class, Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling gave us the news each morning on Channel 1, and Mr. Glenn was the cutest gym teacher in the land. I feel so close to my childhood self, even though it was a long time ago and I can’t help but see all the years, past, present and future, slipping through my fingers like grains of sand. What will my kids hold with them as they move through their lives? What simple moments will get stuck in their heads for reasons we can never understand?  Because as I reflect on my childhood, it is always the simplest of memories I carry closest to my heart. Summer walks to Birdsall’s Ice Cream. Jumping off the dock into a warm lake. Shucking corn in the backyard with my siblings while lightning bugs gently glowed beside us. I wonder if my parents took a mental snapshot of those moments as I try to do with my own kids. I know we can’t relish each and every moment. People are busy; we got shit to do. Some days are meant for memories and others will slip by unnoticed. But the gift, I suppose, is in the not knowing where each day will land in our memory, hopefully forcing us to try and be as present as possible as these years unfailingly fly by. 

Growing older is a privilege, not a guarantee and no matter how hard I cling to my babies, I have to remember that we raise kids so they can be independent of us. I know I’m holding strong, Children, but I’ll keep loosening my grip. Just know that you can always hold tighter when you need too and you can even let go when it’s time. Also know that I’ll be crying a lot but I cry at choral music and every time Goose dies so don’t worry too much about me and all this weepiness. It just comes naturally.

Now…who wants to play a board game with me? 


Bueller…..

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sittin' When the Evenin' Comes

One of the most miraculous things about a summer evening on the lake in northern Iowa is just how very long the sun stays up. A glance at the sky, its colors perfected by the paintbrush of nature, would suggest that it is merely dinnertime or just after but indeed it is well past that. The sky darkens slowly, each color fading gently into the next day, until finally at last you are left with only the light the stars have chosen to give you that night. From my perch on the dock, the gentle lapping of the water rocking the boats beside me lures me down to the edge and I place my feet into the warm cocoon of childhood. Unlike the Pacific which I have become accustomed to, this water does not shock me, does not insist I take the time to get used to it. No; this water invites me in, gracious in its temperature. Leaned back on my hands, I let my legs dip a little deeper into the lake, my ears perked up anticipating the small, quick footsteps that accompany children who’ve just discovered their mother has left the house. Knowing without a doubt those footsteps will come, I relish in the absolute calm that I’m bathed in. 

Closing my eyes, I remember what it was like to be a little girl, jumping off this dock, fearless of the lake’s slimy texture, unaware of the creatures beneath the surface scattering upon our arrival into the water. One jump after the next, each of us siblings trying to outdo the other with our splits and our spins and our silliness. I remember the eager anticipation of getting my turn to get behind the borrowed boat and do my best to stay up on those tricky skis. The wind and water whipping my face as I stood upright for just a few precarious seconds, the laughter and cheers of my family hitting my waterlogged ears. 

A rumbling, distant hum of a motor forces my eyes open and transported back to the present, I reach for my wine glass, the deep red hitting my lips, slinking down my throat, it’s velvety linger a welcome peer. I watch as the last few boats head back to their docks, sun-soaked passengers recounting with echoed laughter their day on the lake, waving to me with gusto when they pass by as if to say-isn’t this wonderful? I can’t help but smile and wave back and agree that yes, it is wonderful. Can I come back home now? Could I live here again? Could I live here forever? 

The hypnotic spell is broken as quick footsteps startle me out of my dreamy daze. A small smile curls my lips and I turn my head towards the shore and see the determined lanky limbs of my daughter approaching me. What are you doing, she asks? Oh…just watching the sunset, I say. Can you believe the sun is still out this late? She says nothing, but rests beside me, her feet grazing the top of the darkening water and we sit silently for just a few precious more minutes until at last we bid the sun adieu. 


Friday, March 29, 2019

And Then She Was Ten....

Dear Daughter, 

When you were younger, I joked that your budding personality was the result of a perfect storm consisting of your dad’s ease of socializing with anyone and my somewhat inappropriate sense of humor which translated to you telling fart jokes to a car full of your brother’s friends. I would watch as the punchline hit and your eyes would gleam from the giggling victory and it was you and you alone who had command of us. The boys unable to control their laughter, the mom unable to tell her to stop, the brother unable to deny that his sister was pretty damn funny.

This perfect storm resulted in you, with nary an inhibition, stripping your 4 year old self of a shirt, justifiably questioning it’s necessity, and requesting that I open the  sunroof as we waited for brother’s school bell to ring. There you would stand, shirtless in the gleaming sunshine, waving to those who passed by, some amused, some horrified, most jealous of your effortless sense of freedom. 

As the years have gone by, too swiftly as they tend to do, you have never wavered from this independent spirit that resides inside of you. Whether you’re choosing basketball shorts over dresses or baseball over ballet, you still like to get your nails done. You might like to play with the boys but I suspect it’s because your crushes are intense and plentiful. You wear wolf ears in your school picture, you save your money to buy astronaut helmets one day and the next you wish for Steph Curry jerseys and the next for golf clubs. 

I hope you always remain blissfully unaware of how you seamlessly morph from one daydream to the next all while remaining intactly, completely, unquestionably you. To so many who have met you, we all have one thing in common: to be you when we grow up. We want to walk around this life in pink motorcycle jackets and basketball shorts; we want to be the only girl on the baseball team; we want your robust determination to try new things; we want to never be afraid to ask questions, to share our feelings; we want to hold court with fart jokes; hell-we want the confidence you have to claim your own fart and then just laugh about it because farts are pretty funny. We want to freestyle rap at the dinner table and slam our bedroom door just because it feels right.  We want to chop our hair off and then throw on a baseball cap. We want skateboards and Hamilton tickets and telescopes for Christmas. We want to be scientists, writers, crocodile rescuers and football coaches in a single lifetime. What evades so many of us, for years or even for a lifetime, comes to you so naturally, so easily, this superpower you have of simply being yourself with no barriers to what you can do, who you can be or how you can do it.

For ten years now, this unique spirit has only grown and my wish each passing birthday is that you always hold fast to it. The thought of something or someone crushing that spirit is one I can’t even bear to think about. But you keep proving to me that I don’t have to worry about it, not yet, maybe not ever. You’re just going to go ahead and keep doing it your own way. Even if your way can sometimes be really loud, emotionally draining and full of dramatic exits. 

You, dear Daughter, are so much more than a perfect storm of your mom and your dad. You are your own storm, making waves, carving paths and creating majestic mountains. I’m the luckiest to be along for the ride.  

Happy 10th Birthday, my sunshine…my only sunshine…

Love, 
Mama



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

To Believe or to Not Believe...

The Tooth Fairy really screws Santa over.

Let’s face it; the moment your kid starts to question a tiny fairy collecting teeth in the middle of the night in exchange for currency is the same moment St. Nicholas himself comes into closer examination. And I’m sorry-but the tooth fairy should feel really bad about that. Think of the longevity Santa could have if we didn’t have to pretend the tooth fairy was a thing. 

This dwindling childhood magic hit me hard recently when Daughter lost another  cavity-ridden tooth. As far as I was concerned, enough money had already been sunk into said tooth and she certainly was not deserving of payment for it. But yet she still excitedly detailed the moment-to-moment extraction and then tentatively began to cross examine me with regards to it’s reward. Her eyes grilled me silently from the passenger side of the car and I began to sweat a little as she questioned the authenticity of the tooth’s banker. 

I slowed to a stop and she pulled my face to hers and looked me square in the eye and said: 

Mama? Some people at school say Santa isn’t real. I say he is but some people say no. He’s real, right? Tell me the truth. Tell me the truth, Mom.

What followed was not some sort of beautiful explanation about the spirit of the season and the essence of Santa living on inside of us and how giving is always better than receiving….nope. Not at all. 

What followed was more of a stuttering, half-assed, caught off guard response of yeah…I mean…totally…like…what do you believe? Who cares about those other (jerky, keep your mouth shut) kids? You do you, Daughter.

And then thank god the light turned green and I diverted her attention by turning on Party In The USA and we sang it loud and proud with the windows down, just as Miley intended. 

I know Son slipped silently from Believer to Non-Believer. He never asked me about it and I didn’t want to confront it with the hopes of another year of magic on the line. But Daughter questioning this so boldly and me so ungraciously failing at an answer…well…needless to say…I blame the tooth fairy. 

Regardless of who believes what, I know The Children will discover that there is always magic crackling in the air this time of year. Towering Christmas trees, sparkling light displays, laughter with friends, a chill in the air and generous hearts are what rule December. And they will learn the lesson we all eventually do: extraordinary magic lies within the ordinary. 

That is the truth, Daughter. Kris Kringle told me so. 




Monday, December 3, 2018

And Then He Was 12...

Dear Son,

I always hated the piñata part of the party. Alongside the squeals of delight from the terror toddlers was my reoccurring fear that you wouldn’t get a chance to take a whack if I didn’t push you a little into the line. And I knew you wanted to so badly. I mean every kid wants their chance to at least have a shot. There you would stand, twisting your hands nervously, eyes big, patiently waiting. And then some asshole kid would shove his way in front of you. And some absent parent wouldn’t even notice. And then another kid would do the same. And then another. And I would forcibly hold myself back, willing you a silent message….don’t let them do that, Son. Please. Stand up for yourself. Your eyes would fill just a little as you let them have their chance and I would walk over and gently nudge you forward while resisting the urge to trip those kids but it was almost always too late as the sudden explosion of candy would fall from the sky. I would try to distract you from this great disappointment of not getting your chance by encouraging you to get some candy GET SOME CANDY and you would run and always be just a half a second late and I would then find myself snatching pieces away from greedy little hands just so you could savor a few pieces to help heal your broken toddler heart. 

But it wasn’t the candy you wanted. 
It was the chance. 

What’s going to become of this sensitive soul, I would wonder to myself. I ached to protect you from life’s piñata disappointments, but I also knew I couldn’t shelter you from them. I wanted you to be more assertive but I also appreciated that you were that kid who didn’t cut the line just because he could. I wanted you to be independent of me, but you had such a hard time saying goodbye…sweaty, small, desperate hands clinging to my neck, declaring my betrayal. I loved your sensitivity because it made you more thoughtful about many things, but it also led to intense fears of wind and water and darkness because it was as if you already knew inherently that wind could knock a house over and water could swallow you up and in darkness you couldn’t see light so…instead of running into the waves, we would tiptoe. 

What’s going to become of this sensitive soul?

At 12 years of age now, I see that boy slipping away and the teenager slipping in. I see that you still want a hug, but you don’t always take one. I see that you don’t care about what I say, but you still want my approval. I see that you like to be left alone, but you always ask me when I’ll be back. I see that it’s easy for you to say goodbye to me but you love seeing me again. I see that you don’t need me, but you still want me. I see that I am clinging to you with sweaty, desperate hands begging the boy in you to always stay forever with me. And I see that I must let you go and discover who you are going to become. Because behind that ever-developing teenage dismissiveness, I still see you, Son. 

What’s going to become of this sensitive soul?

He’s grown from baby to toddler to big kid to adolescent. And now, God willing, he’ll grow from adolescent to teenager to twenty-something to man. He loves baseball and music. Football and books. Hanging out with his friends and staying home on the weekends. He could tear apart a piñata with one swing, but he’ll still wait his turn. And if someone cuts in front of him, I know he doesn’t need his Mama to help him out. 

But I’ll still fuck someone up if they mess with you, Son. Don’t get it twisted.

Because I still see you, Son, and I know you see me.

I love you more than I did the day you were born. Each day I love you more. Even when you’re being a dick because then I just ignore you until you ask me to scratch your back, which is your absolute genius way of apologizing to me. I’m just a sucker in a grown up suit.

See? 

You see me.

Happy 12th Birthday, baby mine. 

Love,
Mama


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Common H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

Common Core Math Brought to You by Satan: 

Question:
10 times as many as _______ hundreds is 60 hundreds or ______ thousands.

Wait. What? Let me read that again. 

10 times 6 is 60. So….that’s 60 tens which is….I mean 60 tens is 600….60 tens is 600 but what in the fuck is 10 times as many as….like what? I mean 60 hundreds is 6 thousand…so 10 times as many as 6 hundreds is 60 hundreds which is 6,000? Is that right? Hold on. The actual m’f’ing question is what’s 10x600, right? Which is 6000. Correct? Oh my God. Just go get my phone. 

The first step to figuring out the answer in Common Core Alleged Math is figuring out what in the actual hell the question is. 

The second step is to read the problem 27 more times to make sure that you are right in your assumption of what Alleged Math is asking. 

The third step is to begin to calmly explain to Offspring what in the actual hell they are actually asking. 

The fourth step is everyone cries and yells and slams doors which inevitably leads to the forced alcoholism that likes to kick in right about the time a math book is throw to the floor and a Daughter loses her shit and a Mother is rocking in the corner saying things like…carry the one….add the zero….this isn’t math…this is the devil’s work…THIS ISN’T MATH!

Okay…I’m being dramatic. There’s no rocking in corners, but there is wine. And there is cursing. But don’t worry; my kids know all the bad words already so it’s fine. And obviously there is door slamming. I mean…this is Daughter we’re talking about. 

I think we can all agree that the only ‘common’ thing about Common Core Math is  EVERYONE HATES IT AND WE ALL WANT IT TO BURN IN HELL WITH SQUISHES AND SLIME. But burn slowly so we Parents of the World can really take the time to cackle and high five one another while tears of joy spring from our eyes knowing that we can now explain how 10x600=6000 BECAUSE THAT’S THE ANSWER. It will always be the answer. You add the zero! I mean…come on! YOU ADD THE ZERO.  I mean…is making an array with 6,000 dots really a better way to explain that? I DON’T THINK SO. Also, that takes a very long time. Also if you don’t know what an array is, you should go Praise Jesus right now. Go ahead. We’ll wait. 

This is by no means a knock against the Teachers of the World who by the grace of God are somehow surviving this Math Apocalypse as we know it. I know they can’t crack because they have to teach it and pretend it’s super and makes total sense even though Children go home crying every night while their Parental Units drown their sorrows in Cabernet screaming JUST LET ME READ IT ONE MORE TIME before resigning to the most miraculous of apps on their phone named THE CALCULATOR to determine that yes of course 7x4 is still 28 even though Esmerelda and Joaquin are trying their darnedest to confuse the snot out you with this many puppies and that many lollipops and then Joaquin sells a puppy for an alligator then four lollipops are gone because the alligator ate them now Esmerelda is crying so if she has 7 tears 4 times how many tears does Esmerelda have? 

28.

She has 28 tears.

Because that’s the answer. 

This is also not a knock against those strange people who somehow understand Alleged Math because one of those people actually lives in my house. He is 11. He is in 6th grade. And for fun, he will sporadically ask me for help with his math homework simply to watch me sweat and nervously laugh and sputter a …yeah…sure…let me see it…before he’s all…oh my God, Mom. I’m just kidding. 

That’s enough about him. 

I know what the teachers say: Alleged Math is trying to teach the Children why the answer is the answer and to feel comfortable with large numeric problems naturally. But we’ve all come this far without needing to know why. We just accepted it was. I mean…honestly. This just feels like another page in the Everyone Gets A Trophy handbook.  So now Everyone Gets to Understand Math? Bullshit. I don’t want a trophy unless I win and I do NOT need to understand Alleged Math when I have an $800 phone that can tell me everything I need to know. Take your place value charts and your number lines and your arrays and your purposely tricky, verbose “math” word problems with four syllable proper names and be gone. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a YouTube video to watch so I can adequately prepare for 4th grade math homework.


God help us all. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Digs

It struck me the other day that the house I just moved out of was the longest I had ever lived in one residence. This might be evident to The Children who find it amusing that I still call 28th Street “my” house. But to be fair, I still call my childhood home “my” house, so maybe it’s just that I have a harder time letting go than most. (Or have control issues.)

But the truth is…I know a part of me will always live on 28th Street, just as I know each place I’ve lived will always remain inside me; each home living and breathing as if I am still existing in it’s walls. 

I relish in the yearly long, slow drive down the old Iowa street and I’ll be damned if I can’t see my 8 year old self rollerskating up and down the cracked sidewalks. If I can’t envision the night games that dominated summer months. If I can’t smell the pile of crunchy, freshly fallen leaves, raked up only so we could jump into them. If I can’t feel a chill in the air at the thought of those dark, early, winter evenings.

I visit my family in Texas and I remember the early days of living in a new place, so far away from everything we knew at just 14 years old. I see my mom painting those wretched blue walls white; I see myself mowing that huge lawn then jumping into the pool fully clothed in the 100 degree heat. I see us figuring out how to live, to breath in our new home. 

Each chance I get to pound the pavement in my beloved New York City, I walk down that long stretch of 79th, from Broadway to Columbus and remember the jolt my 18 year old self felt each time I realized I lived there. I remember coming home as the sun came up, a smile on my lips, sleep on my eyelids, knowing that I was exactly where I wanted to be doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. The thrill of young adulthood is an impossible high to catch once it’s gone. 

And then there is California. It was meant to be a temporary stop, that thrill of young adulthood taking a detour to the sunshine. But 17 years and a whole lot of life later….I guess this is where I live now. 

And now I got me some New Digs once again.

And having come so recently from such a long stretch in one place…I have to admit it’s been a little challenging to figure out how to just…live in these New Digs. Every routine, each neighbor, every car, each room…it’s all changed. The sounds are different, the traffic is different, the dogs are different. As I sit here and type these words, the melody of the high school marching band practicing just down the street is wafting through the air, reverberating throughout the neighborhood as a gentle reminder that summer is almost at an end. The sun is setting and the rehearsal is coming to a close and I wonder how it will be to live here on Friday night football games and each afternoon as the bell rings and teenagers take over the streets, mindlessly messing around on their precious mobiles. I wonder how life will look once the haze of summer has lifted and it settles into the routine that a school year brings.

It is for this thirst of routine that I am looking forward to the close of summer. I don’t want it to rush by; I like our lazy mornings and my kids are having great adventures alongside lazy afternoons, but I feel as though I’ve been lost amongst the drifting. I feel as though I haven’t had the chance to connect with these New Digs; to sit alone and figure out how it breathes, how it lives. We are still strangers figuring one another out. And these chaotic, boring, fun, lazy, monotonous months of summer have prolonged me from not feeling like a guest in my own home. 

Home is where the heart is, they say. These people who say stuff seem to be right a lot of the time. Because nothing makes me feel more at home than Two Children fighting over my personal space on the sofa while we all yell at one another about what we want to watch. So perhaps it still feels foreign; perhaps I am still pondering what goes where and how it fits and who does what and how do I just….be still in these New Digs….but I know that one day down the road, I will pass by these New Digs and close my eyes and feel all the life that was lived inside it. 


But for now…I just gotta get living in it.