My not-so-secret furniture crush

There’s one piece of furniture I adore and will probably never own. Every time I spot one in the background of a television show, my heart swells and I get a rush of nostalgia. What is this wooden wonder my heart longs for? A card catalog. It’s a weird piece of furniture to have a crush on, but it makes sense if you grew up as a shy book nerd like I did. For kids who often feel overwhelmed by the loud hustle and bustle of packed classrooms and hallways, the library was our safe haven. It was the one place where it didn’t matter if you were too shy to talk because talking was literally against the rules anyway. [...]

Confessions of a sleeper-inner

I’m writing today’s column on a Tuesday that feels like Monday. We just finished a glorious Labor Day weekend with plenty of one of my favorite things – sleep. I used to hide my secret love affair with sleeping late because I worried it would make me seem lazy. Our hurry-up society loves early birds but looks down on night owls. And there’s a reason why clichés like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” have become commonplace. Americans often equate constant motion with not only effort but also success. When I was in the chaos of early motherhood, I had a love-hate relationship with sleep. Not only did my kids not want to sleep, I resented my own bedtime and regularly [...]

Pears, pares, everywhere

It’s hard to write with all the chomping in the room. Goldendoodles are not known for their table manners, or, in this case, floor manners. Mac is lying next to my desk loudly eating his latest conquest from the yard – a pear he plucked off the tree himself. The tree has a long backstory, but the short version is this: Right after we moved into this house 15 years ago, we planted an apple tree that didn’t produce fruit for years. Then one year we finally saw the beginning of our long-awaited apples. But the oddly shaped green apples were hard as rocks. It took another month before we realized our apples were actually pears and that the tree [...]

Good, bad, and the ugly of family vacation

Every family vacation wraps up with experiences sorted into categories – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our crew ended the summer break with a trip to a gorgeous lake in Wisconsin, only about an hour southeast of Duluth, Minnesota – birthplace of Tom Rockwood – who’d been planning this trip for months. Let’s start with the good. Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota are incredibly good. Beautiful, in fact. And when it comes to August weather, no one does it better than these northern states. Temperatures stayed in the 70s and mid-80s, with sunny skies, a gentle breeze and almost no humidity. The people of Wisconsin and Minnesota also fall squarely in the good category. While we were there, we [...]

Back to school clothes shopping with a teenager

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I should’ve known this was coming. But I honestly didn’t expect it. I thought I was special. And now I know, I’m not. Because it’s back-to-school clothes shopping time, and I’ve officially become my mother. This realization snuck up on me because, until this year, my kids went to a charter high school with uniforms. A few weeks before the first day of school, I’d pick out a few new collared shirts in the approved school colors. Then I’d add a few pairs of new khaki pants to my online shopping cart, and that was it. End of shopping. No real decisions. No drama. But this year, our youngest kid – the 14-year-old girl [...]

Can you ditch your smartphone for a day?

If you’re like me, you take your smartphone with you almost as instinctively as you take your next breath. And I don’t mean you take it to work or on errands. I’m talking about taking it with you from room to room in your own house. (Let the record show I don’t take it into the bathroom because I’m not an animal and because I have no doubt it would somehow fall in the toilet.) So, I’m writing this handy “How to Take a Day Off from Your Smartphone” tutorial so we can all prove to ourselves and others that we’re not technology-addicted zombies. We can take it or leave it. It’s not as if phones have become an integral [...]

Life on the lab

Last week, our two teenage boys came home after their first day of work at a new summer job. My mouth fell open as they breezed past me because I’d never seen them like that before. They looked like walking dirt clods. As the mother of two boys and a girl, I’ve seen my share of dirt. I’ve spent nearly half my life trying to keep it from being tracked inside the house. When the kids were little, we had a drainage problem in the backyard, so the ground stayed half-muddy nearly all the time. And when the kids were toddlers, we owned a sandbox, which is sort of like owning a giant vat of dirty glitter. It’s everywhere. All [...]

Death and a dinner roll

Sometimes you get subtle reminders you’re not as young as you used to be – like when you notice the small but insistent ache in your knees while climbing the stairs before it rains. Or the way you involuntarily make an “umph” sound when you get up after sitting on the floor. Other times, the reminder is much more visceral, much more in-your-aging-face. I’ll give you two real-life examples that are too weird for me to have made up. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance (who’s close to my age and looks fantastic) told me about the day she was out shopping for a new area rug. She’d narrowed her choices down to a few rugs and had laid them [...]

P marks the spot

The carpet cleaners are coming today. It’ll be expensive and leave us with damp carpet longer than we expect. But it must be done. Otherwise, we’d have to burn down the house, and that seems more inconvenient than getting damp socks from walking in the living room. How did we get here? That’s a longer story, but I’ll sum it up with this: Puberty is messy. Dog puberty? Even more so. About three weeks ago, we started seeing spots – small ones that left us with the distinct impression that one of our dogs was having accidents in the house. But as it turns out, those spots were no accident. They were premeditated hits. It was easy to guess the [...]

The trip I still treasure

Judging by the throngs of people surging into airports and tourist spots, summer vacation is alive and well once again. The country is finally unfurling from its Covid cocoon as families spread their wings. As much as we all yearn for the perfect summer trip, it’s often the unexpected adventures and mishaps that lodge in our memories. Almost every summer of my childhood, my parents took me and my older brother, Greg, to the Hope Watermelon Festival in the southwest corner of Arkansas. In addition to refrigerated tractor trailers used to serve slices of sweet, crisp watermelon, the festival featured all kinds of food and craft booths. Once we were old enough, our parents let me and Greg wander around [...]