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 [...]

Boots the Beloved

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but, if I did, I’d want to come back as my parents’ dog. They adopted him four years ago, and he was a tiny thing – solid black except for small white feet. Mom and Dad named him Boots. My theory is that, when parents raise their children and send them out into the world, the love and attention they once heaped on their kids doesn’t disappear. It has to go somewhere. All that energy transfers to something or someone. Some empty-nesters spend the energy on travel. Some take up a new hobby. And some people, like my parents, transfer that parental love onto a dog. Boots is what I would call a professional love [...]

Every step you take

Back in May, I dropped a hint to Tom and the kids that I’d like a new Fitbit activity tracker for Mother’s Day. It’s part wrist-watch and part step-counter. It even syncs up to my iPhone and vibrates on my wrist if I have an incoming phone call, text or a calendar reminder. Seven weeks later, I’m glancing down at my Fitbit and feeling a bit frustrated. A bit guilty. Maybe a bit resentful. This thing watches every step I take! Sure, that’s why I wanted it, but that was back when I believed I was an active person. I assumed the Fitbit would confirm that theory and ease my guilt about not making it to the gym. The Fitbit [...]

Once upon a story

Just when I thought the machines had truly taken over and that kids’ attention spans had shrunk down to the time it takes to download an app, something wonderful happened. My 12-year-old son had birthday money burning a hole in his pocket, and he asked if we could go to the bookstore to spend it. Immensely grateful that it was the bookstore and not the arcade, I said an enthusiastic yes. Any excuse to go to the bookstore is a good one. His brother and sister wanted to go, too, so off we went. I love the bookstore. It’s good for a writer’s soul. Writing is a solitary experience, which is ironic because writers who spend too much time inside [...]

Mother and child reunion

Last night I slept better than I have in a week. There was no sleeping pill involved. No meditation. No hot bubble bath or glass of wine. All I needed was the peace of knowing my ducklings are back home where they belong. For seven days, two of my three kids were at summer camp – their first trip away from home and parents for an extended time. For weeks, they’d been counting down the days until camp started. I told myself that the ease with which they left me behind was a good thing – proof we’re raising independent kids who don’t need mommy around all the time. They went to an “old-school” summer camp – the kind with [...]

Can we choose “none of the above”?

Dear Kids, You asked me the other day what I thought of the stuff we see on the news about the presidential race. As someone who makes a living with words, this is hard for me to say: I just don’t know. This time around, the words fail me. I imagine this must be how you guys feel when you’re in school and you have to take a hard test. You know how sometimes you get a test question that has multiple choices, but none of them seem quite right? Option A doesn’t really fit and Option B sounds crazy, so you go with Option C, which says “none of the above.” On tests, sometimes “none of the above” is [...]

Burn, baby, burn: Homework inferno

My kids’ education just went up in smoke – again. Friday was their last day in school, so this weekend we held the annual End-of-School Bonfire. Other than Christmas and birthdays, it’s the one day of the year the kids look forward to most. We stumbled upon this idea last spring. Tom was using a burn barrel to burn some twigs and leaves and suggested the kids toss in the piles of math worksheets and spelling tests they’d stacked on the kitchen table after the last day of the school year. Shocked, the kids looked at him for confirmation. “Really? We can burn our school papers?” Tom shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t see why not. You already learned that stuff, [...]

The Royal We

After you become part of a couple or get married, “you” become a “we,” and “we” is a powerful pronoun. Couples begin many of their sentences with the word “we,” and they’re particularly fond of “the royal we.” In case you’re not familiar with the royal version, “the royal we” was originally used by kings and queens to suggest they were acting in conjunction with the people over whom they ruled. Queen Victoria is famous for the quote “We are not amused.” But couples tend to use it for more practical reasons, like passively handing off responsibility for a task to someone else, while giving the illusion that we are in this thing together. Here’s an example of the royal [...]

The measure of a man

For months now, 14-year-old Adam has been asking: “How about now?” And I’ve been saying, “No, absolutely not. You’re still a kid.” He kept on asking, so certain the time had come. Last week, he asked yet again and insisted on standing back-to-back with me in the kitchen, our heels lined up and touching. “Look, Dad. Am I taller than Mom yet?” Tom looked closely from several angles before issuing the verdict. “You know… I think you are. Just barely, but you are a little taller than her.” I shook my head in defiance. “No way. I think Dad is just telling you what you want to hear.” Still standing back-to-back, I put my hand on top of his head [...]

The voice in my head

I slid the wrapper off the straw, blew air through it and stabbed it through the plastic lid of my Chick-fil-A tea. Eleven-year-old Jack questioned the move he has likely seen me do a thousand times. “Why do you always blow air through the straw before you put it in the drink?” “Because that’s what Aunt Eunice always did.” (Aunt Eunice was my smart, witty great aunt who taught me how to diagram sentences when I was a kid, just for fun. She also gave me a can of Lipton tea every Sunday afternoon when I’d visit her. She’d pop the top of the can, pull a straw out of her cupboard, and blow air through it before sticking it [...]