Fight, don’t freeze

My eyes were shut tight, but I could hear his approach. His guttural breathing came out slow, deep, and just loud enough to let me know he was too close. I tried to be still, but my body flinched when he grabbed my shoulders. My eyes flew open and I lunged toward him, jabbing my fingers toward his eyes. When he instinctively leaned back, I kicked – hard – between his legs. I did it again, and again, and again, pausing only long enough to keep my balance before launching another kick. He finally fell to one knee. I froze for a moment. Then I heard a woman’s voice say, “Kick the head!” I obeyed instantly and kicked his head, [...]

Do hamster balls come in extra, extra-large?

Today I flashed back about 35 years ago to a time when I went to play at a friend’s house for the afternoon. This friend had a hamster named Harry, who seemed harmless enough, except that he looked too much like a mouse on steroids. When I asked my friend what she did with the hamster besides hold it occasionally, she showed me his “exercise ball.” That’s when things got interesting. She put Harry into a transparent rubber ball, a little smaller than a volleyball, and he took off, rolling all over the room. Now and then he – or rather, his ball – would bump into a chair leg or the sofa, and he’d simply go a different direction. [...]

One day they shall sleep…

Tweens and teenagers are infamous for their not-so-pleasant qualities – the eye-rolling, the obstinance, and the way sarcasm becomes their primary language. But they don’t get enough credit for the one thing they’re great at during this stage of life – sleep. If I could give one piece of reassurance to the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived parents of babies and little kids, it’s this: One day your kids will sleep so well that you won’t even see them emerge from their bedroom caves until the crack of noon. All the sleep you’re missing right now will be returned to you if you can just hang on until they turn 13. As a self-professed night owl who relishes the opportunity to sleep late [...]

Once upon a year…

ost people don’t like endings. They like beginnings because they’re exciting. Or they like the middle of a story, when the action is typically at its most intense. But endings are important, too. A good ending helps us appreciate the story that came before it. The lack of an end point is one of the things I find unsettling about social media. Have you ever noticed how you can endlessly scroll Facebook or Instagram and never quite find a stopping point that indicates you’ve seen it all? There’s no end to the stories, the updates, or the photos. Perhaps some people find the unending stream of new content exciting, but I find it overwhelming, exhausting. I suppose my writer-brain needs [...]

Fox and the hound

This morning as I was settling into my desk chair to begin work, our dog Cooper walked over to me with the “kill” in his mouth. I’ve seen him do this more than 100 times over the past 18 months, and by now I can perfectly translate what the look in his eyes is saying: “Let’s play fox.” I grew up with dogs and have had at least one all my adult life, except for a few years during college when dorm life prevented it. But I’ve never seen a dog get so attached to one particular toy. For Cooper, this stuffed orange fox is the equivalent of a toddler’s “lovey” or security blanket – with the primary difference being [...]

Letter to Santa (and parent helpers, too)

Dear Santa, Don’t worry. This isn’t another letter full of requests like the millions flood your North Pole mailbox each year. It’s just a quick note to see how you’re doing. Are you exhausted? Because I am, and I’m only prepping the holiday for three kids – unlike you who are taking care of these three plus every other kid on the planet. Even for a magical being like you, that can’t be easy. I mean, sure, you have the flying sleigh. That’s got to be faster than standing in line at airport security and then waiting an impossibly long time for your group number to be called just so you can shuffle onto a packed airplane, like cattle with [...]

Stitch in time

I don’t often write “follow-up” columns, mostly because life moves quickly, and I can barely remember what I wrote about last week, much less several months or years ago. But I’m making an exception today because I’ve learned something new that feels worthy of an update. In addition to my current job titles as wife, mother, daughter, writer, driver of kids, cleaner-upper, grilled cheese maker, pet feeder, grocery shopper, appointment scheduler and gift wrapper, I’m now proud to report that I am also a knitter. About six months ago, I wrote a column about how I couldn’t quite shake this urge to learn how to knit, despite a busy schedule that insisted I had a million other things to do [...]

20 secrets to the 20-year wedding anniversary

Last weekend, Tom and I went out to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. An acquaintance we bumped into said congratulations and then asked us “So what’s the secret?” Honestly, I didn’t have a quick answer. She seemed almost annoyed, as if we were keeping the secret recipe all to ourselves. So, I gave it some thought these past few days and made a list of 20 “secrets” we’ve learned during these past 20 years. Choose well. I’m listing this one first because, without it, the rest of the secrets might not matter. “Fixer Upper” is a hit television show, not a smart strategy for choosing a spouse. Be kind. This one is vital. Yes, your spouse should still love you [...]

Zippy meets Ruby

In June of last year, I wrote about a tiny turtle my kids rescued from a swirling pool filter and turned into a pet named Zippy. For the record, I was in favor of releasing Zippy back into the wild to do whatever it is turtles do. But the kids thought that, because she was a small orphan, she’d need special care. So Zippy went from the pool filter to a shoebox and then to her own tank complete with filter, fake plants and a bridge for sunning herself. Our youngest kid, Kate, and her dad oversee all turtle feedings and tank cleaning because I have a strict “I-don’t-touch-reptiles” policy. So, imagine my surprise two weeks ago when I learned [...]

Under one roof

I never thought I’d say this, but here goes: I’m a 40-something living with my parents. In American society, that’s not a popular thing to say. People assume something went terribly wrong if you find yourself under the same roof with your parents after the age of 18. But I’m beginning to realize there are some situations that make a multi-generational home feel just right. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Since 2007, multi-generational living arrangements have increased in the United States by about 30 percent, according to the 2016 Pew Research report. Homebuilders are even designing new homes and entire sections of neighborhoods that feature a main house with an attached smaller house with its own [...]