Evolution of a home

There’s good news here at home. Those two gaping holes in the side of our house have been plugged with new living room windows, just in time for January’s cold snap. We keep doing a double-take every time we pass that room as the unexpected sunlight catches our eye. Suddenly the space seems wider, taller. It has an airy feeling it never had before. Our living room is like a face that finally opened its eyes. We can see out. Sunlight can see in. And everyone can see the difference. As frustrating as a home remodeling project can be, this is the part that makes it worth the hassle — when a structural or cosmetic change feels like it was [...]

Where’s everything? Mama needs a backup for her brain

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books popular in the late 80s? I had one when I was 14 and found it fun but maddening at the same time. Just in case you were doing more productive things in the late 80s, I’ll give you the basic concept. Waldo (also known as Wally in the British version of the book) is a guy who dresses the same way every day. He likes hiking but prefers to do it in crowded places — not the woods where his distinctive red and white outfit would be easy to spot. The reader’s job is to flip open the book to a double-page spread of an intricately drawn scene (like a crowded beach or [...]

Reindeer games

Earlier this week my kids beat me at poker. No money changed hands, other than those colored plastic chips. But the bragging rights will last a while, at least until next year around this time. Our 20-year-old and 17-year-old sons wanted to teach the rest of us how to play Texas Hold ‘em. We ordered cheap pizza and listened to Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” while we played. One of the Christmas traditions at our house is to open a series of what I call “early gifts.” The process begins a few days before the main event. Early gifts are always family games, so the only surprise is what type of new games we’re going to play. I spend much [...]

Dear Santa, I need an elf

Dear Santa, Don’t take this the wrong way. You know I love you. But what I need right now is not new things. It’s help. And correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you have a whole workshop of helpers up there at the North Pole? So, what I’m asking you for this year is to give the following letter to your most helpful elf. You’ll understand why after you read it. Dear Elf, If anyone can understand what I and so many other mothers are feeling right now, it’s Santa’s busiest elf. What I need in these weeks leading up to Christmas is an extra pair of hands, even if they’re small elf-sized hands. I need someone who’s quick [...]

His first solo birthday

When I woke up this morning, I had one thought circling in my head: “My kid is 20. He’s 20! I am the mother of a human who is 20. How did this happen? Wasn’t I cutting up hotdogs for him five minutes ago?” Then I had a pang of sadness because this is the first time I’m not with my firstborn on his birthday. The invisible umbilical cord stretches nearly three hours away to his college town. Today is a strange sequel to the day Adam turned 10. While he celebrated his double-digit age, I felt panic – faced with the realization that I’d already had more time with him at home than I would have before he left [...]

A Thanksgiving experiment

This morning I took the dogs out and noticed a distinct change from yesterday. The leaves, which had been falling in an occasional sprinkle, have now ramped up to a steady shower. One of the things we love about this little cul-de-sac where we live is that it’s chock full of trees, so fall brings a blizzard of activity. I walked down the driveway and let my feet bulldoze the leaves into little piles, enjoying the loud rustling sound and the way the leaves carpet the lawn in a layer of golden yellow and cocoa brown, pierced with a flash of orange and deep red here and there. When I’m out there, I like to step on the acorns littering [...]

21 things I’m more thankful for

To celebrate Thanksgiving 2021, here are 21 things the pandemic has made me more thankful for this year: 21) Movie theatres: I didn’t realize how much I’d miss sitting in a big room with that larger-than-life screen and eating popcorn with strangers who are just as excited as I am to be in a theatre again. 20) Streaming movies at home: For those times when you just don’t feel like leaving home base. 19) Hugs: I’ve never been much of “a hugger” but I’m beginning to change my mind. The pandemic has made the benefits of physical connection clearer than ever. 18) A deep breath, a clear head, and energy for the day: I know people who survived Covid but [...]

These visitor goggles seem dirty

This column isn’t about beer goggles, but let’s start there. Just in case you’ve never worn them or heard the term, here’s a quick definition. “Beer goggles” refers to the way people and sometimes ideas look more attractive when you’ve been drinking as opposed to how they look when your brain is working. As a person who prefers Chick-fil-a tea over beer any day, I don’t know much about beer goggles. But I’m fast becoming an expert at wearing “visitor goggles.” The experience of wearing visitor goggles happens when a big group of friends or relatives is about to come to your house for a holiday – like Thanksgiving. Suddenly everything looks different when you begin to see it as [...]

Great Barbecue Heist of 2021

One day last week, I took my mother Christmas shopping because news anchors say all the stores may run out of everything any day now. Supply chains are apparently tied in knots. So Mom and I shopped. And then, as is tradition, we ate. It was a lovely day, until the crime spree began. But first I should back up to the lovely lunch. Mom wanted to try a barbecue restaurant she’d heard wonderful things about, so we headed to the next town to try it. Even at slightly past 1:30 in the afternoon, the place was still full of customers and the parking lot was packed – always a good sign. We each ordered a plate of barbecue along [...]

3 things scaring me this month

I’ll admit I still don’t understand people who “love to be scared.” I try to wrap my head around it because my three teenagers feel that way about movies. The more a movie makes them flinch or gasp, the more they love it. I’ve tried watching scary movies with our kids, but mostly I end up holding my hands in front of my eyes, cringing away from the screen and asking the kids to tell me when it’s safe to look. As for haunted houses, I’m a hard “no.” If I want to see a few creepy strangers, I can do it during a routine trip to the grocery store. I’m not paying money to have them pop out and [...]