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Holding out in Stars Hollow

stars-hollow-2-850x478largeMy littles and I have this routine in the morning. It used to be PBS cartoons before preschool drop-off, and later it was Good Luck Charlie before grade school. But now, suddenly, five minutes later, we’re watching Gilmore Girls before the middle school bus arrives.

It started back in October, because every woman I know on social media was posting about the “not to be missed” Gilmore Girls reunion episodes that would be released on Netflix in November. I had never seen the Gilmore Girls, wasn’t terribly interested, and don’t really have a time slot in my schedule marked, “Binge watch tv.” (which, understandably, you don’t believe, based on the topics of my last two blog posts)

But then November came along and…well, you are all familiar with the nightmare-inducing, God-less circus act that went down. One day, post-apocalypse, I went looking for something to distract me that did not involve social media in any way. Gilmore Girls to the rescue.

Hank and Bear joined me around episode 3 and soon it became our morning routine. In between John and TP  leaving and the middle school bus arriving, the three of us take a short trip to Stars Hollow, where literary references, light-hearted drama and coffee all flow freely.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but even I can appreciate Lorelai Gilmore’s extreme addiction issue. It’s just one of many aspects of hyperbole her character offers up. Lorelai is obviously my favorite character, and not just because I wish I could rattle off one-line quips as quickly as she does from a memorized script. I can appreciate Rory, too, although I could never be friends with someone that naive and uptight in real life. I would have SO run off with Jess to California faster than Rory could straighten her Chilton knee socks.

Luke, well, he’s growing on me. At first I thought the girls should just look for another coffee shop, preferably one Taylor could not find. But now that we’re around season 5… there’s just something about a man who can appreciate a non-stop talking, handful of a woman like Lorelai. Not that I’d know anything about that.

I could go on and on about the townspeople of Stars Hollow (take Sookie for instance, who I adore, and not just because she’s played by Melissa McCarthy). In Stars Hollow, every day is sunny and full of promise.No one has to explain to their children why a world leader is making fun of disabled people or trying to deport their friends’ parents. No one’s cat repeatedly throws up on the carpet, and no one ever has to pack a cooler in the trunk because the only chance they have to stop at the grocery is between work and ballet drop off. In Stars Hollow, there is a perfect-weather, twinkle-light laden outdoor festival every weekend. But that’s not the point of this essay.

Six years. That’s the point. I’m currently stuck in this world where every day is filled with working and driving and planning meals and driving and volunteering and driving and reminding middle schoolers to take showers and driving. Aside from dreaming about opening an Uber service that caters to preteens, I sometimes fantasize about the day that me and my lover (yes, John) can run off into a California sunset together. And then I realized that day is only six years away.

Suddenly every two hour round trip journey to pick up my kid from high school seems like a gift. Every time I have to decide on a new way to make chicken for dinner exciting seems like an opportunity. And every morning, when I still get to snuggle on the couch with my two Littles and speculate aloud “where in Stars Hollow might Kirk be working in this episode?”–well it’s pure magic. Magic that will end when we finally reach the end of season 7. Magic that will end when my kids grow up and move away.

So for now, at least, I’m holding out in Stars Hollow.

*Side note: at least I’ll know where to find my Littles in 6 years. Thanks to Rory, they both are positive they’ll be going to Yale. Because, you know, that’s how we roll in Stars Hollow.

 

 

 

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Stranger things

Ok, first: No, I haven’t watched the Netflix series yet, but I’ve heard from several people that Stranger Things is worth a look. Last night I pulled it up out of curiosity, but that actually has nothing to do with this post except that when I went to put in the title, it was on my mind and it fit.

What’s so strange? Well, how about the fact that today, for the first time since–oh, probably 4th grade–my oldest child wore something to school that was NOT a knit, polo style short sleeve shirt (we only just graduated from solid colors this summer. For real.)

Today he came down the stairs wearing a short sleeve, plaid, button up shirt. One we purchased earlier this summer at the Gap, and one that I had already resigned myself to never seeing again after he tossed it unceremoniously into his closet. Because let’s face it, he’s not big on “new” or “change.”

Which is why it’s also been strange how easily he has drifted into high school. HIGH SCHOOL. As if it’s no big deal at all. He came home from orientation and announced that he joined three clubs. I tried to disguise the burst of incredulity that came from my throat as the beginnings of a summer cold.

About a week later, when I stumbled blindly into the kitchen looking for my morning cup of tea, he casually mentioned that we were out of milk, but said, “I saved you the last little bit because I know you like it in your tea.” He could not have made a billboard sign covered with lights or taken out a Superbowl ad to convey his message any more clearly. He loves me, I chanted to myself all morning long, my smile about to split my face apart.

And then yesterday, when I suggested he might soon receive notice from the health department based on the state of his room, he stunned me by agreeing. “I’m sorting out all of the papers and things I’ve been saving all these years so I can recycle the ones I don’t need.” This statement will only shock you as much as it did me if you know that he has struggled with throwing ANY item away since somewhere around 2007. (There’s a paragraph in this blog post I wrote in 2010 that describes his longstanding struggle with hoarding.)

So yeah, things are strange. But in the best possible way. It’s not just him, either. Yesterday, Bear announced that she likes school “10 thousand times better” than she ever has (huge sigh of relief) and also that she joined the Show Choir (!!) and needs to sell “at least 99 items” so she can win a prize. Sure, kid. (Side note: I told her she was essentially selling ‘overpriced cookie dough’ so during her first sales pitch, to my Mom, she proudly asserted, “B, would you like to buy some overpriced cookie dough?” She literally makes me cry with laughter on a daily basis.)

As for Hank, fresh off a George Takei documentary (yes, we watch this kind of thing for fun around here), he chose Harvey Milk for his National History Day project topic. I am brimming with pride. Just today I noticed that, despite not having grown more than an inch in the last 3 years, he suddenly seems to have developed a dimple in his chin, just like John. I may have become slightly enthusiastic upon noticing it (in the scary, “Mom, stahhhhp” kind of way).

So that’s the back to school update. All three kids get up on their own, make their own lunches, and leave the house with barely a backward wave now. I alternate between feeling really nostalgic about my rapidly diminishing role in their lives and plotting to make one of those construction paper chains to count down the approximately 8 years until absolute kid freedom (My friend Holli inspired this idea during a conversation earlier today on snapchat).

But I’m not stupid. I know it never ends. Your kids are your kids until the end of time, am I right?

Today on the way home from school, I related to T and his friend that I saw on Twitter that Tim Couch’s nephew is the quarterback for his high school football team. (I try not to be the biggest dork in the car, but awkward is my specialty). The other young adult riding with us followed up by saying she is planning to attend the next (first?) game. So, tomorrow, I predict my new high schooler will ask me to drive him to the Friday night football game so he can meet up with all his friends. In the past he hasn’t been big on crowds, or noise or anything related to sports. And yet, I just have this feeling he may give it a chance.

I mean, stranger things have happened.

 

 

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A series of unfortunate events

Don’t you just love it when people go on a nice vacation and then come home and complain? Of course I have laundry and hundreds of work emails to get to….but I promise, this is not that kind of whining. This is better.

To be perfectly honest, no matter how much I love the ocean, after two weeks I was ready to come home. It could have been because my oldest child was sleeping in a corner of my room the entire vacation (it’s hard to explain, but basically it had to do more with personal space than actual space issues). It could have been because literally from the very first day we arrived at the beach my esophagus felt like it had a hole burned through it and I could barely swallow anything that wasn’t liquid or applesauce. (Don’t worry, I took some meds and by the end of the second week I was eating baked potatoes and pancakes!)

Or it could have been because our (truly wonderful) cat watcher was relaying that, possibly, our cats were missing us a little more than usual. Despite Angie’s best efforts, and her daily visits, our cats had decided to take out their (apparently extreme) rage over our extended disappearance on our completely innocent living room curtains. Do you know what a cat’s litter box smells like? Do you know what that smells like when it’s hanging in your living room? Yeah.

So the first thing we did when we got home was locate the site of destruction, take down the curtains and toss them. Then we cleaned the carpets in the den just to be safe. It could have been worse, I thought, as I tossed a load of beach towels in the laundry. All is well.

(side note: read this article on the value of therapy cats if you are, like me, having a hard time forgiving the cats for destroying my living room curtains and, well, basically the rest of my house over the last 5 years.)

After all the issues with my throat, and the extended slumber party with a remote, slightly hostile teenager, and then the military take-over of our home by the cats, we were exhausted and pretty excited to sleep in our own bed on Friday night. So we did, and it was glorious. Until we woke up.

About noon on Saturday we noticed that anytime we walked upstairs, it felt familiar…almost like we were back outside at the beach in 90 degree temps. Upstairs air conditioning unit = dead.

But that’s no big deal, right? We’ll just call the repair person on Monday.

And in the meantime, we can all sleep in the living room….with the lingering smell of pet carpet cleaner and our beloved cats. And maybe, if we’re lucky, our oldest child will join us and roll out a sleeping bag in the corner.

I mean, it all just seems normal at this point.

….

End Note: I started reading Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed during our drive home Friday and finished it Saturday. If you haven’t read his work, I highly recommend it. Not only because it is wonderful and insightful and brilliant, but also because it will certainly put your first world problems in perspective. For example: stupid cat problems and broken a/c and having to return to work after 2 weeks of vacation….

 

 

 

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Hush Lila

When I originally titled this post it was because I was going to give you the rundown on our encounter with a small girl named Lila and her extremely annoying older brother. It was last July 4th and we were sitting peacefully on a bridge near our house, waiting to watch the fireworks and happy about the lack of noise. Then Lila and her brother (and the incredibly tuned-out, and apparently deaf mother) came along and it was all Boom–pretty firework–Scream (Lila) and then “Hushhhhh Li-LA!” for the next half hour. For a full year afterward, anytime someone in our family was being extremely annoying, all of us would give our best impression of: “Hushhh Li-LA.”

But after I experienced the news this week, including all the reaction on social media and I thought, how can I possibly blog about Hush Lila? Just to make you laugh? To put out a funny, timely, 4th of July blog post? But there’s nothing funny about what’s going on out there in America right now.

I won’t recap the news for you. And I won’t sit here and pretend that a young white woman like myself (hey, I can still claim young) could possibly have anything to say to you about what it’s like to be black in America. Or what’s it like to put your life on the line every day as a police officer. I just can’t.

Angie and I were discussing this yesterday at the pool (pre-Dallas tragedy). Side note: I am forever grateful to have such a rational, intelligent sounding board in a truly awesome friend. Anyway, we talked about how we really needed a better perspective. We also talked about the big dilemma–what to say or not to say on our personal social media. I’m a big proponent of “if you stay silent you are siding with the oppressor” (just see my last blog post), however I also have tried to make a commitment to making my Facebook and Instagram a place of only positive, family type posts. You know, for the grandparents to enjoy.

But even just talking about my struggle on what to say or not say about all this seems so incredibly and stupidly….white. Who the fuck actually cares what I think about this? No one should.

These were the thoughts running through my head when a young African-American male named Joel approached the porch of the coffee shop where I was working this morning. Kathie (my writing pal) and I asked him about his skateboard and he asked us what we were drinking. When he came back out with his drink, we continued to chat with him, and eventually he sat down and we ended up having an hour-long meaningful conversation.

We talked about past mistakes (he gave his mom some trouble, but he’s making it up to her now), and future ideas (he is into video blogging and wants to study business and media in college). And yeah, we talked about what’s going on right now. We talked about fear based reactions, and racism, and how one of the best days we have all three seen was the day Obama was elected.

Then we talked about how he just turned 18, and this next election will be the first he can vote in, and he’s super excited. He is a Bernie fan, but he will throw his support to the candidate that does not fan the flames of fear. He told me that the main thing my kids want to hear right now (after a discussion on the difficulties of being a teenager), is that I love them and I’m there for them.

It reminded me of the famous quote by Mother Teresa: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” So that’s what I’m going to do. And if my kids act in a way that is not peace-promoting, or say something intolerant—yeah, I’m going to go all “Hush Lila” on them. Because we have to shut that shit down. The next generation is our greatest hope.

Mother Teresa also said: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Thank you, young Joel with the skateboard at the coffee shop, for reminding me how to find peace on a day like this, and for showing me that there is hope in our youth.

 

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Touchy

May 26, 2016, 8:25 am: straightened his tie before school on 8th grade promotion day

June 15, 2015, 2:30 pm: my arm rested against his in the overcrowded car after we bought a new climbing tower for the cats

November 20, 2014, 7:45 pm: our jackets touched when he let me take a ‘selfie’ together at the Catching Fire movie premiere

March 28, 2014, 6:10 am: I moved his hair aside to examine a head wound after he fainted and cut his head open on a door frame

These are the most recent times I have touched my child.

I can’t remember the exact date & time of our last hug, or the last time I kissed his face. I know somewhere in between I gave him a few home haircuts, which meant at least 30 minutes that I could get away with touching his hair. And sometimes, I’d pretend to brush something off his shoulder when he passed me in the kitchen, but he didn’t like that and saw right through my ruse. But I cherished those brief touches.

Sometime around 2010 he started standing as far away as possible from his siblings in pictures. I only know it’s 2010 from looking at the photo albums. We didn’t know why he didn’t want to be touched, but we knew that it caused him great distress. Then about a month ago, when he was patiently helping Bear with her math, he was standing right behind her and she leaned back in her chair. “Stay still!” he admonished her. “It causes me actual physical pain when you do that.” Oh.

Every so often I recall that night in the hospital, when he was 4 days old and dangerously dehydrated because I was producing absolutely zero breast milk. They had him in a closed incubator with a light for the jaundice, and I wasn’t supposed to take him out for any reason. The nurse walked in with a bottle to feed him and my heart leapt–I wanted to hold my newborn baby and this was my chance. But then she walked away with him; took him out of the room even, to feed him; brushed off my requests to feed my own baby.

Now, when this memory pops up, I feel irrational anger as I realize she stole those touches from me. I’m angry at her for not trusting me, but I’m even more angry at myself for not insisting more forcefully. And I feel sadness because I now know just how precious those touches were.

The other day on Facebook, another mother posted a photo of she and her teenage son embracing. I “liked” it, because it was a sweet photo. Then I struggled to tamp down the jealousy I could feel bubbling to the surface.

I only share all of these thoughts because they are inside me and it feels good to let them out. And yet, I am thankful. He is healthy. My arms may ache, but he is here and alive. So many don’t have that luxury.

He has friends. He’s kind and helpful and we have a secret look we share when we think the Littles are being ridiculous. We share a love for literature, and baking, and writing. We have the same hair and the same nose. Sometimes, if I say something funny, I am rewarded with a sideways smile he cannot repress no matter how hard he tries.

And I have hope. I know that holding him in my arms again is…possible. Until then, my other children seem to sense when I need them, and come to my rescue with tight squeezes. “Don’t worry,” said Hank when I was holding on to him for a little too long the other day. “I won’t ever grow out of this.”

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Post-beach snuggles with TP, July 2002

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Silence

I’ve been lying to myself, and you, too.

I talk about not judging anyone, even if I don’t agree with what they do. I talk about being tolerant of every person. And it’s true: I actually don’t care what you look like, what religion you are (if any), or whether or not you are sexually attracted to boys or girls or both. I say things like, “If we were all the same, the world would be a boring place,” and “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around.”

But actually, I am quite intolerant these days.

I’m intolerant of people who hate other people based on their race, religion or sexual orientation. I 100% can’t endure people who kill other people based on this hate.

I’m intolerant of people who pretend that a ban on selling semi-automatic rifles would somehow affect the hand gun they have locked in their top dresser drawer, because “they have rights.” Don’t we all have the right to gather in public places without the fear of being gunned down by an assault weapon?

I’m intolerant of an “all or nothing” and “black or white” attitude, especially when innocent people’s lives are the currency these types of thoughts are paid with.

I’m intolerant of those who would support a presidential candidate who embodies all of this hatred because they say, “I’m not racist, there just isn’t another option.” There is. There is the option to not be a racist and not vote for a candidate who champions hate.

I’m intolerant of men who rape, and parents who raise kids who don’t know how to respect another person’s body, and a society that still insists that I teach my daughter how to “prevent” this from happening to her.

I’m intolerant of people who blame “satan” when things go wrong and praise God when things go their way, but who refuse to take any personal responsibility for their own actions. Please: do pray. But consider praying and exercising the free will God gave you to take action.

—-

Yesterday, in the news, I saw that Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark, of the state’s 5th congressional district, along with others, is refusing to take part in Congress’s moment of silence in order to make a statement that action is what is needed; not just more of our ‘thoughts and prayers.’

With everything that has happened lately–the Stanford rape case, Orlando, talk of building walls and deporting Americans who aren’t the “right” religion–I’ve been quiet. But my silence has been a lie.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…”

more love

 

 

 

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true colors

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So I’m writing with Kathie this morning (it’s our Friday tradition) and as usual we spend the first hour talking. We have to get it out of our system–which new writing projects we’ve taken on, which client resurfaced out of nowhere, which new app we found that will irrevocably change the way we do business…all extremely serious, all the time, of course.

We also have shared history, in that we worked together way back when internet was dial-up and production studios sent us actual tape cassettes of our finished radio spots. This morning, discussing “back in the day” reminded me of my first boss, Fran. I’ve written about her before, and I’ve told this story many times, but I don’t think I have ever written it down.

First, a little about Fran, which I’m just going to borrow from myself (circa 2009):

My first boss taught me the power of enthusiasm. She brought energy and excitement to the table on every project–regardless of whether it was creating a fantastic brand slogan or just editing a boring technical document. Often she would ask,  “Did you get the Coke account yet?” (The Coca-Cola account is considered a dream account)  This was only a half joke, and she meant: “Never stop doing your best creative work. Never stop reaching for the top.”  I would always respond, “I’m working on it!” She made me believe that I could get the Coke account if I really wanted it.

So she was amazing. You get the picture. She was also the kind of person who believed in working 24/7 and giving 110%….so things sort of fell apart on my end when I realized I could not get behind that sort of work model and have a family at the same time. Still, my memories of her are never about the times we disagreed, and always about the times she inspired me. She had a way of doing things differently that completely changed the trajectory of my writing career.

Like the day she hired me.

Here’s your image: I had on my brand new navy blue interview suit and my freshly prepared portfolio under my arm. I was 22 and freshly degreed (not a real word) and I was ready to embark on what I assumed would be my extremely lucrative career leading straight to a corner office and a nameplate that said, “President of the Company.”

I walked into the advertising agency and the receptionist desk was empty. Almost immediately, a smiling woman walked around the corner and greeted me. She took me to the conference room, where I assumed I would wait for the allusive Fran, current President of the Company, and the person I was scheduled to meet.

This smiling woman, the receptionist I assumed, asked me how my day was going. She asked if I wanted water or a soda. I declined. She spent the next 15 minutes talking with me about our hobbies and where we grew up. She asked me what I like to read about and we compared our “to read” book lists. She was incredibly easy to talk to, and intelligent and wonderful and well on her way to being my new best friend.

But even as I was enjoying this woman’s company, I couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t go get the President for my interview or at least check on the situation?

Finally the woman stood. “Follow me,” she said, and I took a deep breath. This was it. I was finally going to meet the President and have my interview to be a creative writer at a real advertising agency. My dream job.

She led me down the hall and into the largest office with big windows that looked out over the courthouse downtown. The nameplate on the desk read, “Fran Hammond, President.” And then the smiling woman went around the desk and sat down.

“Your references are wonderful,” she said. “What are your salary requirements?”

It’s probably been obvious to you for a while now that my smiling receptionist was actually Fran, the President of the company. But at that time, at one of my first interviews, as nervous as I was, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized my mistake. And I was mortified.

I mean, you know me. And you know that when I feel comfortable with you, I don’t hold back. I had been my most enthusiastic, most talkative self. Not how I planned to act in a job interview at a top advertising agency. No, I had planned to be serious and filled with decorum. I had planned to impress the President of this company with my writing awards and tell her about my ability to meet deadlines in the “fast paced environment” the job posting had described. Instead I had spent the last 15 minutes as if I was having a (not yet invented) frappucchino with a college friend. She hired me anyway.

Several years later, on a flight to Chicago, where Fran and I were headed for a conference together, I admitted to her that I had not realized it was her at first.

“Oh I knew you didn’t,” she said. “And that’s exactly why I hired you. You were personable and respectful, even when you didn’t know I was the president. You showed your true colors and I knew right away that you were the kind of person I wanted working with me.”

So she knew. How genius is that? Pretend you aren’t the boss and weed out the fakers right from the start. I mean, they have some show on tv now with this exact same premise, but Fran was always light years ahead of the game. It’s why she was most inspiring to work with, and why I often find myself channeling her spirit when I really want to make things happen on the creative/work front.

I am now the same age that Fran was when she passed away. That seems unbelievable. But I like to believe that the best people live on in all of us. Sometimes, when I’m working on challenging content, I channel her for inspiration. I can almost see her fine tip pen flying across the notepad as she blocked out an ad for me. “You can fill in the body copy later,” she’d say, confident in my ability to deliver. Her brilliance unmatched, except, perhaps, I dared to dream, mine. Because that’s what she gave me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Grapes of Wrath

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“What should our theme be this year?” John asked me on one of the first warm days that we were able to sit outside and have a drink on the porch.

Every year, we have a sort-of theme for the summer. It started out just being a theme for the porch. One year it was Hemingway and we sat outside and read books and wrote down our thoughts and drank whiskey in excess. That was a fun summer, but not so much productive or kid-friendly.

Then the year I started working at the university, John created “Summer Fun” with the kids, taking them on daily adventures and…oh, you’ve seen the Facebook posts. So the two ideas sort of blended together over the years and that’s why when John asked, “What should our theme be this year?” I knew what he meant.

Summer themes aren’t meant to be followed religiously. It’s all in the fun of finding ways to fit everyday life into the theme. And the themes seem to just sort of happen. One day in May, I was researching an article and I came across this old saying from the 1930s: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” About five seconds after I saved a screenshot, Cate announced, “I need my own laptop.” Sure you do. 

“Our theme should be The Great Depression,” I told John, later, back on the porch. “You know, like Grapes of Wrath style.”

John added his idea of visiting every city park in Lexington as our Summer Fun. “And we’ll make lemonade and put cut flowers from the yard all over the house, and sew patches on things and grow our own food. And no one is buying anything new!” I was getting excited. (Just wait until the year I talk him into “Little House on the Prairie” theme.)

Anyway, our theme fit perfectly with my 1930s adage. I promptly wrote it out on construction paper and then trimmed the edges with my great-grandmother’s heavy pinking shears (straight from the 1930s). Then I hung it on the fridge where my kids can spend the next 2 months rolling their eyes at it every time they need a glass of milk.

The next day I took Henry and Cate to Target to buy new swimsuits.

So yeah, the theme is not an absolute. But it’s fun to try to work things into it. It’s also fun to call Cate, “Ma Joad” when she stoically accepts her fate of never getting her fair share of computer time.

On theme: I started buying eggs from a friend who has her own chickens. We’re growing a tiny herb garden on the front porch. Today I added mint from my friend Dorothy’s yard, which her husband first planted in the 1950s and we found by accident when John mowed over it one day. The other morning we scouted yard sales and I was able to get a Vera Bradley bag that Cate has been wanting for a tiny fraction of the online cost. It’s not exactly the color she wanted but she was thrilled to have it.

Today I told Dorothy all about our summer theme and, having lived through the actual Great Depression, she wasn’t all that impressed. “I can think of better ways to have fun,” she said. “But I do like your idea of visiting all the parks.”

Yesterday, Cate carefully packed her new “used” bag with her ballet shoes and hair pins and we headed off to class. In the studio she pointed to a tiny hole forming on her leg and said, “I’m going to need new tights.”

“You can make those last until the end of Summer,” I said, examining the minuscule hole. “Remember–”

“I know, I know,” she quipped, “Use it all up, make it work….” But she was laughing, at least.

So, minimal wrath. But lots of eye rolling. Maybe next year’s theme will be the Industrial Revolution.

 

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Just be

The other night, at a cookout, my brother says to me, “We want to know what you’ve done with your kids that made them turn out so well so we can do the same thing.” Wow. The ultimate compliment. I stuttered to try and come up with an answer. I had a hard time articulating exactly what we’ve done, other than let the kids be themselves. “Luck?” I offered, halfheartedly.

I’ll tell you one thing we haven’t done: schedule them. The other night at the pool, a mother I barely know says to me, “Will your kids join the swim team?” I lifted my shoulders, “Nah.” She went on to tell me how her child doesn’t want to join, but she makes him because ‘kids need something to do.’ I nodded, an agreeable smile, even as I disagree politely.

I don’t schedule my kids. At all. If they want to do something, I’m happy to look into helping them join that team or club. But I could care less if they do. And if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s easier on me if they don’t. Less driving. Less time out of my schedule. Less frantic, busy, hectic family life that I see and hear so many others complaining about.

My answer is simple: if it’s causing your family drama, just don’t do it. Of course Cate has her dance. But that’s her choice. When she quit a few years ago, and took a 2 year break, that was also her choice. I fully support any activities my kids want to do. I just don’t make suggestions.

My boys do…nothing I guess. Just head on over to my Facebook page where I was just bragging about them to see how that’s working out. They are helpful, generous, straight A students with active social lives. Who cares if they don’t play sports or join clubs? Of course I’d love to see them play baseball, or soccer, for my own selfish reasons. But it’s not necessary to their childhood.

I also don’t talk to them about their academic performance. I don’t check if they do their homework, but I’m willing to help if they ever asked. If Henry comes home with straight A’s, I pat him on the back and say, “good work.” The end. If Thomas has a D in math at the mid-term, I say, “Let us know if you need help to bring that up.” The end. When I found Cate crying one day because she thought she would fail science, I said, “As long as you’re trying, we don’t care about your grades.” The end. Of course we are proud of them when they achieve, but life is about so much more than academic performance.

Still, the mommy pressure lingers. Every time I hear another mother say that they have to make their child join at least one activity, or that their child is grounded for having a bad grade, a tiny alarm goes off in my head. Am I doing it wrong? Is my laid back attitude going to be a liability for my kids later?

But then…I see how happy my kids are on a daily basis. I hear other mothers complaining about back talk and arguments, and all the driving, driving, driving and crazy schedules. Meanwhile my kids load up into our car for another family adventure of Summer Fun. We eat dinner together every night. They stage family parties in our living room and make elaborate construction paper invitations. They still play with wooden train tracks and match box cars, together.

I’m not trying to pretend it’s ideal. I’m not saying my way is better or right. They still argue; I still have to ask more than once for someone to empty the dishwasher or feed the cats. They still play too much Minecraft, their little heads glued to the laptop for long stretches.

But I spent my childhood summers watching too much television. And when I was tired of that, I went outside and rode my bike or climbed a tree. The same things my kids are doing now. Because they can. Because there is nowhere else to be. Because it is childhood.  And somehow they still manage to build things and lead others and impress with their creativity.

So to answer my brother: It’s probably just luck. But if I had one piece of advice to give it would be this: don’t try to design your kids’ life. Don’t try to micromanage their schedule or insist that they achieve. Just let them be, and they will be more than you can imagine.

traintracks

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Fit Bit Freak

If you know me, then you know that I resisted the fit bit fad for as long as possible. I scoffed at my counterparts who proudly wore their chunky black step counters as their newest favorite bracelet. And I smiled condescendingly at them when they fretted over reaching that elusive, daily 10,000 steps.

I would never care, I thought smugly. I might be mildly interested in seeing how many steps I take, and certainly I’d be okay with wearing a heart monitor 24/7 because–well, have you witnessed my personal health obsession?

But just as I am apt to wear my Wicked skate t-shirt one day and my Lily Pulitzer shorts the next, I am nothing if not a contradiction in action. So despite actively making fun of my fit-bit wearing friends, I started telling John that I wanted one for my birthday. I need to build up muscle tone, I reasoned.

fit bit

He had it sitting out for me Mother’s Day morning. I‘ll just put this on and see how many steps I average in a day, I thought innocently. It will be like a fun science/social experiment. So we went to breakfast with my Mom and sister, and then I laid around on the couch and watched a JLaw movie (Joy) and read a book.

Later we took a short walk. Out of nowhere my fit bit started buzzing and shouting at me that I had reached 10,000 steps. Why are all these other women griping and groaning about how hard it is to reach 10K? I scoffed. This would be a piece of cake! Besides, who even cares if I reach the 10K? What does it even matter?

HA HA HA HA HA

“Mom, I think we’re seeing the trigger of your own personal OCD,” Thomas said casually as I made laps through the kitchen and living room last night. “It’s no big deal,” I insisted. “But it’s storming outside and I’m SO close to my 10K,” I replied, right before I clamped my hand over my mouth in horror. When did reaching 10K become a task?

It’s not an obsession, I reasoned. I could totally take off this fit bit right now and just go to bed at 7746 steps, I told myself. Instead I started going up and down the stairs–casually, you know, because I just needed to check on the laundry that many times. I was rewarded with awkward stares from my kids and the fit bit Marathon badge, proudly displayed on my app.

Right at this moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop at 10 am and my wrist tells me I have 2248 steps. I’m trying really hard not to think about how many steps I earned walking from the counter to my table. But there’s no need to wonder! I can simply click this little button at my wrist and I know. Sometimes I find myself driving to get a kid somewhere and I fantasize about walking all those steps instead. I could break 20 or even 30 thousand in a day…the big leagues.

And it’s been like that since the moment I put this little shackle–I mean wonderful device–on my wrist. But there are so many good things about it, despite my obsessive tendencies, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it or even buy it for you. For example: since it has a heart monitor, it’s like wearing a paramedic on my arm! “How long until we’re in the ER?” John joked the first day, when I could not stop reporting to him that my resting heart rate seemed much higher than average.

Other bonuses: The other evening when John didn’t feel like walking (because he legit walks 15K steps at work each day), Cate went with me instead. We had a terrific time, just the two of us, even if she does walk at a manic pace. But probably the most fun was yesterday, after Angie got her fit bit, and we messaged each other to compare our steps for the rest of the day.

Actually, it’s her fault I was walking stairs at 8:00 last night–because when I saw her at 3:30 she already had 9,000 steps and I was certainly not going to bed until I at least caught up. “Let me know when you get there,” she sent via text.  Accountability. No backing out now. I texted back when my wrist alerted me that I was the most awesome human on the planet and had successfully reached 10K steps along with all the other fit bit drones.

…….It’s 19 steps from the counter to my seat in this coffee shop, by the way.

 

 

 

 

 

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