What’s for dinner?

There’s one question that haunts me. I can’t shake it. No matter how many times I answer, it comes back for more, more, more: “What’s for dinner?” Honestly? I have no idea. But that doesn’t keep everyone from asking. These kids and their growing appetites have made answering this question more pressing than ever. When the kids were between the ages of 3 and 7, we lived in the stage of questions. “Why are cars able to go so fast, Mom?” “Why do people call them cars? How did they get that name?” “Who gets to name things?” Tom and I felt like all we ever did was answer questions and then answer the questions triggered by the answers. But [...]

Life under construction

When I turn out of my neighborhood and get to the first stoplight, I have to choose. Turn left and I run smack into road construction. Traffic slows down and a man on the road crew holds up a sign telling me to stop. When he waves me through, I idle down the rough road crowded on both sides by orange barrels and tall mounds of red dirt. I steer around bumps in the road, and I wince when my tires hit breaks in the pavement. Turn right and it’s more of the same. Earth-moving machines putter along the long stretch of construction, kicking up a daily dust storm. I hold my breath as I squeeze past other drivers on [...]

Household Memo

To Whom It May Concern (and you know who you are): It has come to my attention that there may be a misunderstanding about the meaning of this phrase: “Clean up your dishes.” When a person asks you to clean up your dishes, she is implying that literal cleaning should take place. (Running water, soap, scrub brush, etc.) Judging by the recent condition of the kitchen, it’s obvious you thought “clean your dishes” was more about location, location, location. Perhaps you assumed that by moving the dirty dishes off the counter and into the sink, your job was done. But that’s not what it means to clean the dishes. We call that “relocating” the dishes. There’s a big difference. Where [...]

Clueless or chronic in Aisle 7

Generally speaking, I enjoy grocery shopping – the piles of fresh produce, the seasonal displays, the cute helium balloons tied to the check-out lanes. But if I had to choose whether to go to a busy grocery store on a Sunday afternoon or have a surprise root canal, I’d have to think about it. I’m not sure which one is more uncomfortable. At least you get some numbing medication with the root canal, maybe even some laughing gas. But no one is laughing when they’re stuck in a shopping cart traffic jam in the cereal aisle. Why is it so maddening on busy weekends? Two words: Spatial awareness. Experts say spatial awareness is “an organized knowledge of objects including oneself, [...]

Note to my teenage self

Sometimes when I look at my 14-year-old son and his 12-year-old brother – the one speeding down the on-ramp to join his brother in the teenage years – I think they’re pretty brave. We grown-ups like to moan and groan about how tough it is here in the real world – and it is – but we forget sometimes that being a teenager isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Sure, it looks easy when they’re sleeping until noon or playing their third consecutive hour of video games. But when I think about whether or not I’d want to relive that time of my life, the answer is a resounding “no.” In fact, sometimes I wish I could write [...]

What should I be when I grow up?

One of the things I hear my kids worrying about far too often is this: What should I be when I grow up? Kids who don’t even have a driver’s license are feeling stressed about what will one day be on their business card. So I’ll lay out the truth about this age-old question once and for all. The answer is this: I don’t know, and you don’t either. It’s okay not to know. If you’re extremely lucky, you might figure it out in high school. Or maybe college. It might not happen until your twenties or thirties. When it does happen, you’ll feel relief that you finally figured it out… until the day you begin worrying that maybe you [...]

Summer Bummer

I wouldn’t say this directly to my kids because they might take it the wrong way. But here’s the truth: Back-to-school time makes me happy. It’s not because the kids will spend more time away from the house. I actually love our relaxed summer schedule, if you can even call it that. There have been plenty of days the kids didn’t change out of their pajamas until two in the afternoon. They’d watch movies, play board games or float around in the pool with friends. The hustle and bustle of the school year can be intense, so I like to see them get a break from the busyness. The reason I secretly look forward to this time of year has [...]

Time to toe the line

On the last day of our summer vacation, we went to a water park in Kansas City. When we arrived, we dropped our beach towels on lounge chairs and took off for one of the smaller slides so we could “warm up” before we tackled the big scary ones. The first slide was a brisk but gentle ride on an inner tube through a series of twists and turns. “That was awesome! Mom, let’s go do the next slide,” my son said when we splashed down out of the slide. “Sure!” I said and then launched myself out of the inner tube and into what I thought was waist-high water. It turned out to be less than knee-deep — a [...]

Buckle up, baby

There are two times in a woman’s life when she needs an epidural to block the certain agony coming her way. The first is the day she gives birth to her sweet baby. The second is the day her sweet baby takes his first driving lesson. Right now I’m thankful I had the good sense not to go through this experience alone. I enrolled our 14-year-old in a course at the Driving Academy of Northwest Arkansas. He completed a week’s worth of in-depth classroom instruction and now we’re in the midst of four private driving lessons with a certified instructor. I rode in the backseat during today’s lesson, promising myself I would simply observe and pick up pointers on how [...]

A Vacation Unicorn

It happened – the rarest of family vacation experiences. It has never happened before and may never happen again, which is why I must document it here for the sake of posterity and to give parents everywhere hope that it’s possible. On our recent trip to Minneapolis, Tom and I took our three kids to the amusement park he’d visited as a child – Valley Fair.  We arrived before the gates opened and hoped the morning rain shower wouldn’t wash out our plans. We debated about buying “fast passes” for the kids. These passes allow you to stand in shorter lines for rides, which means you spend more of the day riding and less of it standing around sweating. But [...]