Category: Family life

Warning: Take the Month Off

IMG_0291Yesterday, the Daily Post writing prompt asked us to invent an astrological sign for ourselves. While I was too upside down and backwards to do that piece, I’m pulling myself out of the depths for today’s post: The actual horoscope for October, written in retrospect. Retrospect I can do.

October Horoscope

During this month, the pieces of your carefully constructed reality will fly up in the air and come down again in a different order. You’ll want to move forward, but you won’t know where anything is.

The people closest to you will suddenly seem to have lost their minds. They will make decisions you don’t understand and can’t prevent. People will exit and enter your life at a dizzying rate, leaving an impact far beyond what is reasonable or predictable. Things that felt solid will dissolve under your feet. Things that seemed moveable will remain so solid you cannot budge them.

And although you are entering a period of extreme unrest, all you will want to do is rest. You will find yourself resting as items on your to-do list pile up around you.

Make no mistake – this energy is taking you somewhere, you just don’t know where. Big change is coming. It has to. You’ve felt its approach for a long time now, but you haven’t been ready to face it. Well, get ready. You can’t stop change.

The temptation will be to close your eyes, open them up when it’s all over, and see where you’ve landed, like Dorothy in the tornado, headed off to Oz. If that’s the tack you take, just be ready, when you open your eyes, for your surroundings to look completely different. And to, somehow, find your way back home.

One last vacation mishap

2012-08-14_15-39-33_376While I’d love to pass on my recent Liebster Award from Taprina at For Sanity’s Sake to Barb Taub, I understand (from Barb herself) that this would be an exercise in futility because she will never, ever respond. So instead, I’m featuring her travel story in one, last vacation mishap post.

We didn’t really get a honeymoon, so a few years later took our honeymoon in Hawaii—with child in tow. How was it? Well, the hotel bathroom was nice. I know this because that’s where I spent the whole trip. My daughter wasn’t feeling well on the plane, and by the time we landed I could spot the chicken pox coming out. The hotel doctor absolutely panicked. We had a visit from the health department, who quarantined us to the room. Because the light hurt her eyes, we spent the better part of the next week in the bathroom, sitting on the floor drinking mai-tais. Her spots were gone just in time for us to catch our flight home. I’ve often wondered what the rest of Hawaii looks like.

And this we have in common, since I’ve never been to Hawaii.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their stories. Here’s wishing you better vacations than these.

Up north


I don’t fish or water ski. I abhor the smell of wood smoke. I’m bugged by bugs. So why did I so enjoy our “up north” vacation?

My family of five shared a tiny, slightly-musty cabin. The weather was cool and rainy – we barely saw the sun. It was too cold to swim. My son sprained his foot. And we spent most of the week in damp, grubby clothes. On our return, the laundry (literally) brought tears to my eyes.

But there was a wonder to watching our oldest son catch his first “real” fish – a 16″ bass – and sharing it for dinner. To seeing our teenage daughter befriend a tiny, self-assured young man, aged four. To watching our youngest win a sandcastle-building contest. To hearing our children, within hours of arriving, ask, “Can we come back next year?”

And even though this is not the trip my family took when I was a kid, there was something familiar about the call of the loons, the crisp, clear water, and the activities at the lodge. It reminded me of childhood, of a simpler time where the last fleeting days of August were all the more sweet because school was right around the corner.

The rest of our year is a frenzied blur of homework, carpools, business trips, and deadlines. Music lessons. Airport noise. Telephone calls.

“Up north” we traded rushed meals for long dinners at the lodge. Housework for damp clothes draped over the deck railing. Sports practice for pick-up volleyball games. 24-hour connectivity for evenings by the fire.

And non-stop activity for peace. The peace that comes with having all the time in the world and nothing, really, to do. Time to watch an eagle soar, or wait for a bite on the line. To play cards with friends all afternoon. To listen to the owls calling all night, and then sleep in.

Which is all I really wish for in a vacation. See you next year, little cabin.

More vacation mishaps

2012-08-14_15-39-33_376Or maybe I should say vacation horrors. This is a follow-up to last week’s post where I asked readers to send me their own vacation mishaps. Their submissions made mine pale in comparison! These poor folks have had some miserable trips.

Here are my favorites (if you can call them that with any empathy.)

Caroline at Not Enough Wine in the World relayed a mishap that occurred after they checked into a Toronto hotel:

We took a nap before venturing out only to discover that our sheets had several blood splatters.  They offered to test the blood for contaminates/diseases.  We were upgraded, big time.

Kristine at Mum Revised recounts a mishap during a Christmas trip to Cuba:

My son threw up on me during landing. My daughter threw up on me in bed. I threw up in the toilet and slept on the bathroom floor. One bed in the room we called the sick bed because it had been thrown up on so many times. Last time we would ever stay in a three star that cleaned the room every second day. We had one meal together in 7 days. I never even got to the beach in Cuba. I can’t even blame the food.

Sandy at PowerPoint. Responsibly., like me, had an episode on a houseboat:

 I spent nearly the entire trip worrying about the kids falling off the boat, which didn’t phase my husband at all since he was fishing the entire time. Imagine my terror one day as we were cruising and my 2-year-old disappeared. I found him climbing up the ladder to the upper deck. The ladder was on the outside of the boat. I remind you – the boat was moving!

And Fred, who can be found at Fred’s Audio Visual, describes a harrowing afternoon while on tour with a group of experienced storm chasers:

As we were driving up the freeway into town, straight ahead of us was a massive tornado – it was HUGE. The tornado ripped through the town – I have never seen anything like it before or since. Our tour director had to make a choice – pull off the freeway to the right or left. He chose to pull off on the right. We went into a restaurant for shelter. The restaurant where we were had some windows blown out, but the structure remained intact. The tornado ripped apart everything on the left side of the freeway. Had he pulled off to the left, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

One submission, from Steve at Parnassus Musings, was so involved I didn’t feel right editing it. Watch for Steve’s guest post on Wednesday where you’ll get the whole story directly from the source. You’ll love the twist at the end.


Still want to contribute a vacation mishap? It’s not too late!

The sandwiches of the 70’s

IMG_0559Maybe it’s because I just finished loading the completely overwhelming school calendar into my schedule, but today’s Daily Post writing prompt got me thinking about school lunch – what to buy, what to send with my kids, and what we ate. Especially what we ate.

The 70’s is not an era known for its cuisine. It was the time of gelatin blocks, frozen mixed vegetables (including the dubious lima bean), and an array of convenience foods best known for promoting the widespread use of MSG.

In keeping with the times, my classmates brought sandwiches that make me cringe now – peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow cream, and my personal favorite, peanut butter and pickle. All served on good, old, spongy white bread that had about as many nutrients in it as the brown paper bag we carried it in.

My kale-loving, grain-eating self can’t quite reconcile my current eating habits to those days, and in truth, I didn’t eat many of these sandwiches. Peanut butter and pickles never made it into our family repertoire, and my mom did not buy marshmallow cream. Instead, I ate a tuna sandwich almost every day of my school career, a habit that followed me into my college years. (Which makes me think that the hazards of consuming mercury have been grossly overstated by public health officials.)

This would seem a more healthful choice if I had not consumed it alongside one of the past-the-sell-date Twinkies we bought at the Hostess outlet store. Oh, and a Delicious apple, the type that has been bred, in my mind, to taste the least like an actual apple. As you see, I cannot play the superiority card here.

My children have many more healthy options. I buy whole-grain bread, and nitrate-free turkey. Pack warm, homemade soup. Make kale chips. Cut up beautiful, organic fruit.

None of which they’ll eat. Even if they have the time to finish their lunches (which they won’t), I have no illusions that given the chance, they’ll trade for a past-the-sell-date Twinkie.


The Slightly Hungry Games

IMG_0714The other morning I woke from a dream where I was engaged in a Hunger Games-esque contest – only the contest was filtered through the mundanities that are my life.

There was a lot of packing involved. We each had to amass a large amount of gear in a duffel bag. Then the contest got delayed. We waited and waited, until it was rescheduled and then we all had to pack again. The kicker – some people got to decline to participate. As I woke, I was asking myself, “Why does she get to get out of this?”

Yeah, sounds like the kind of adrenaline-producing, life-or-death struggle I’d be part of.

It got me thinking how other movies would be watered-down if they were filtered through my life. Here’s how I think they would play out:

Born on the 2nd of July. We can only scrape up two kids who are not at camp or on vacation to attend the birthday party for the kid with the summer birthday.

Dances with Coyotes. A coyote crosses my son’s path as he retrieves the newspaper at the end of the driveway, passing so close my son can hear its nails clicking on the pavement.

Dead Tired Mom Walking. After a day shuttling kids to the orthodontist, the mall for back-to-school shopping, and driver’s ed, I sit through three hours of evening lacrosse practice.

The Deer Chaser. After hearing crunching through the front screen door, I confront a doe who is on the front stoop eating the buds off the perennials. She calmly walks away, annoyed with me.

Life of Pie. I make a pie in order to use up some peaches that are getting soft, then spend the hour it’s cooling trying to keep the cat-who-will-eat-anything out of it.

Not-so-national Lampoon’s Vacation. Five people vie for wi-fi access in the car, and eat two weeks worth of snacks in the first six hours of the trip.

Of Mice and My Husband. My spouse declines to remove the gas fireplace insert in order to remove the dead mouse that is obviously enshrined there.

The Titanic Problem. I find a puddle of water at the base of the water heater.

I tell you, it is five-star action around here. Non-stop.


Search terms of the sad and desperate

sosIt seems the search terms used to hit my blog are written by people so desperate for advice or supporting evidence, they’ll craft long, elaborate phrases searching for answers. The poor souls get no help from me. Until now.

Some background: A few weeks ago the blogger at Idiot-prufs published a hilarious post about the funny search terms people use to hit his site. It sent me off to look at my search terms, which it turns out are not funny at all.

Other than the only mildly amusing “will i am wears black sweater” and “can I own a cannon“, mine are populated with what I’ve taken to calling Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate.

Clearly these people have nowhere to turn if they are seeking out my blog for help and advice. So I thought I should take some action.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to respond to a few of these issues with the type of unqualified, largely useless advice one might expect from a random blog. Stay tuned for the first installment: Anxiety dreams involving my kids.

Management by Walking Away

IMG_0528Those of us of a certain age remember the concept called Management by Walking Around discussed in Peters and Waterman’s classic, In Search of Excellence. Well, I coined a new phrase today – I’ve decided to practice Management by Walking Away.

You see, I’ve realized that the teenaged members of my household do not take responsibility for their “stuff”. And furthermore, my badgering and constant reminders enable their incompetence.

Working at home means I’m available to deliver the forgotten gym shoes or musical instrument to school. To provide a ride when they miss the activity bus. To keep their schedules, and make sure they have a snack before the game. Problem is, they do not, cannot, seem to manage these things on their own.

I have a plaque in my home that reads, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” I’m not the mom who orchestrates the path, for sure, but I’m definitely questioning how prepared my children need to be if they know mom is always there to keep them on the path in the first place.

Maybe it’s Mother’s Day blowback, or my having just passed on an opportunity I wasn’t entirely sure I didn’t want. Or perhaps just general fatigue. Whatever the catalyst, I’m completely, decidedly fed up. So I’m walking away.

This strategy is not without some risk. I expect a few failing grades, a few forgotten items, a few missed appointments. But I can no longer care more than my subordinates do about their own responsibilities.

Failure hurts. But it also teaches. Prepare, children, for the lesson.

If I woke up in a parallel universe

Because I have a million things to do, I’ve been daydreaming about what it would be like to wake up in a parallel universe, where everything was the same but not quite. Here’s what I hope it would look like:

  • All the clothes in my household would be clean, folded and put away.
  • Projects would never be put “on hold”.
  • Clients would pay on time. Some would even pay early just because.
  • There’d be no need for low-rise jeans.
  • Cats would clean their own litter boxes,
  • …and take themselves to the vet,
  • …and pay the vet.
  • I would not have real-time, online access to my kids’ grades.
  • No one would ever forget a musical instrument at home.
  • No one would ever forget a musical instrument at school,
  • …or on the bus. Or at the bus stop.
  • The motion detector light in the backyard would go on when I step outside,
  • …and would not go on every time the mouse who lives under the deck runs across it.
  • No one would ever, EVER ask, “What’s for dinner?”
  • Wine would not have so many calories.
  • Gray hair would be sexy.
  • Weather forecasters would not be so gleeful about reporting bad weather.
  • Black would be the new black.
  • We’d have a fabulous Mexican restaurant right down the street.

It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but oh, what a different world it would be.

Refrigerators should come with THIS warning…

fridgeDanger…well, let me tell you the story first. It started with a fairly innocuous act: Reaching for the celery. The next thing I knew, I was dodging the shrapnel from an exploding magnet.

You see, when I tried to close the door it was stuck. On what, I wondered? No drawers open, nothing blocking the hinges. So I gave it a little tug and CRACK!

I blew apart a magnet. Actually blew it apart. My best guess is that someone (who will probably never be identified) placed a rather strong magnet on the edge of the door. When I opened the door, it attached itself to the wall of the refrigerator and held on for dear life. And when I tugged the door shut I think I created nuclear fission.

I don’t lament the loss of the magnet but the large dent in the refrigerator is a bummer. And it made for some interesting dinner time conversation: “Honey, I dented the refrigerator today.”

So here is the warning I propose:

Danger: Magnets may be extremely unstable. Use caution when affixing children’s artwork, schedules or school lunch menus to the refrigerator.

Or should the warning come with the magnet? I’m not thinking clearly. It’s possible I’ve had my poles reversed.