15 years of hiccups

Tonight, after a birthday dinner ending with a hot fudge sundae topped with a candle, I sat on the sofa next to Jack, our middle child who just turned 15. He wanted to watch a movie we’d recorded on cable. We weren’t even 10 minutes into the movie before he got a case of hiccups. I smiled because it made me happy to know that some things never change. Before he was even born, Jack got the hiccups in utero at least two or three times per week. When you’re pregnant and your on-board passenger gets the hiccups, it feels like someone is rapidly tapping on your belly from the inside out. Last night, exactly 15 years after he made [...]

Letter to High School Juniors and Seniors

Dear High School Juniors and Seniors, It’s that time of year when graduation caps all over the country are tossed skyward in celebration. While those caps and tassels fly wildly up in the air, most people expect you to have everything else nailed down tight. I can’t imagine how often you hear these questions from well-meaning adults: “So where are you going to go next? What will your major in college be? What field are you planning to go into?” As the mother of a 17-year-old, I’m here to tell you that “I have no idea” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Don’t let the grown-ups fool you into thinking that they’ve always had things figured out. I know plenty of [...]

Can you go home again?

I went home last weekend – not my current home but the first place I ever knew as home – a little town in southern Arkansas called Stuttgart. I’d planned to make the trip with Jennifer, who I have been friends with since 5th grade. We were planning to attend a funeral for a dear family friend. Something came up at the last minute that prevented Jennifer from traveling, so Tom said he’d go with me instead. I was grateful for his company because heavy rain combined with the rhythmic hum of the interstate is enough to make any driver drowsy. But I perked up when we came within 10 miles of our destination. I hadn’t been back to my [...]

Nap flashback

A wonderful thing happened Sunday afternoon. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’d carried my laptop to the sofa with every intention of working and trying to get a jump on the week’s long to-do list. But then I noticed Tom was pulling a blanket up to his chest and hitting the recline button on his chair – classic pre-nap moves I’ve seen him do a thousand times. Perhaps the mood was contagious because I convinced myself I’d just “rest my eyes” for a few minutes before I began work. I set my laptop aside, grabbed another blanket and spread it across my legs. But I shouldn’t have picked the big, fuzzy gray one, which has earned a reputation as “the narcolepsy blanket” [...]

Sound of sirens

Last night I put three kids, two dogs and one highly annoyed cat into a small closet under the stairs in our house. Then Tom and I stood a few feet away by the television, glancing nervously out the windows while also watching the local weather report. Outside, tornado sirens blared a warning. While the TV meteorologist talked about the storm’s “rotation” and a possible funnel cloud spotting in the area, we stood ready to scramble into that storm closet with the kids and pets. The skies had grown dark and a driving rain mixed with small pieces of hail pelted the windows. Suddenly the weatherman went mute. His lips were moving but we heard nothing. A minute later, a [...]

Middle-of-the-night misery math

Last night was miserable – one of the longest I can remember. I made the mistake of thinking I could take an over-the-counter medicine that helps with allergy congestion before I went to bed. It worked great at helping me breathe but had the opposite effect on sleep. I spent the first hour in bed willing myself to fall asleep, but it didn’t work. So I shifted into problem-solving mode and tried different strategies. Here’s a record of how it went. Strategy No. 1: Change positions and get comfortable. I feel hot and reduce the number of blankets. I feel a chill and add back one of the blankets. I convince myself that once I get the combined weight of [...]

The little tree that could

The fall season gets a ton of attention around here. The leaves put on quite a colorful show before they drop off for winter – going out in a blaze of fiery reds, oranges and golden yellows. But as comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it, this awe-inducing display is part of a seasonal death march for the leaves, as the trees starve them of the chlorophyll that once made them green. It’s gorgeous and a tad depressing all at the same time. Maybe that’s why Spring is my favorite time of year here in the cul-de-sac where we live. Lately it looks like this place is dressing up for a summer garden party. With a flash of lavender and a pop [...]

Life After Diana

When I look around the house, I miss her. It’s been a few months now since she left, and this place is not the same. I met Diana at exactly the right time. I was almost nine months pregnant with our third child. In addition to the baby kicking around in my womb, there was also a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old kicking around the house, making messes wherever they went. I was in that early phase of motherhood when you foolishly believe being a “supermom” is an attainable goal. I was in a constant quest to keep the house clean – awkwardly bending over my pregnant belly to mop the kitchen floor or get Lego blocks off the rug. And [...]

Lessons learned from a streak and a shadow

In our house, we have a doggie dynamic duo. Charlie, who is a rescued mixed breed of beagle and Italian greyhound, is part sighthound and part scent hound. Cooper (the Corgi) is a herding dog. As far as life philosophies go, they couldn’t be more different. Charlie’s personal mantra is this: “Dash out any open door and run wherever thy nose doth lead you. When the squirrel scampers up a tree, stand at the base of the tree and loudly bellow up at it to express your frustration. The neighbors love that.” Cooper, on the other hand, takes his job as C.F.H. (Chief Family Herder) extremely seriously. His mantra is this: “I shall stay with my human sheep. The sheep [...]

Academic speed dating

Twelve years ago, I sat down at this keyboard and wrote a column about the day Tom and I took our son to his first day of Kindergarten. And here I am back at the same keyboard typing up a report on an entirely different first – that former Kindergartner’s first college visit. Judging by what I’ve heard and read, visiting colleges during your junior year of high school is a little like academic speed dating. You spend a couple of hours on each college campus sizing it up and asking questions. Then you decide if you can envision yourself spending four years with that college. Not only is this process new for our 17-year-old son, it’s new for us, [...]