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 [...]

Passionate opinions on punctuation

A few months ago, one of my fellow mom friends was accused by her teenage daughter of using “aggressive punctuation” in text messages. Since we’re both writers, my friend and I discussed this new information at length. Writers are punctuation nerds by nature, so we were surprised to learn that teenage text messaging has turned a simple period into something more like a door being slammed in your face. I asked my own teenagers if they, too, felt like punctuation was a text messaging throat-punch, and they agreed. My daughter even told me that a reply like “Okay” followed by a period is a way of letting the other person know that you are most definitely not okay with whatever [...]

Workin’ at the dog wash

Tis the season for teenagers and summer jobs. Two of my three offspring are pounding the digital pavement this week as they apply online for various jobs around town. Their dad and I have always believed that school is incredibly important, but we also realize that some of the best parts of our own education happened in places where we had a boss and a paycheck. Our daughter (who is the youngest of the three kids) is already hard at work. She scored herself a dog-washing job with a mobile pet groomer, and today was her first day at work. She was nervous and excited as we pulled up to the dog-washing unit on wheels. She’d already worked with her [...]

Math misery strikes again

Last night, on the eve of another week of school, my 14-year-old daughter remembered Monday would bring more math – geometry homework and tests, to be specific. Silent tears slid down her face in anticipation of what was waiting. If her life was a movie right now, geometry would be the monster lurking in the bushes. She hates it. Fears it. Dreads it. And last night as I laid down next to her in bed to dry her tears, she asked the question students have been asking for decades now: “Why do I even have to learn this? It’s not going to help me.” How can a parent answer this question? I asked the same thing when I was her [...]

Finally off the hook

Today I did something that felt so weird. I took down the hook. For the past nearly 14 months, a small Command hook has hung by our front door. That’s where we put the “answer the door mask.” We realized we needed one there after a few instances of reaching to open the door and then suddenly realizing we needed to put on a mask first. The first few times, we held up a “wait just a second” finger and would then run frantically through the house trying to find a mask. As the pandemic progressed, I also noticed that, when I answered the door wearing a mask, it was a signal to the person who knocked that we were [...]

How many throws does it take?

If you’re old enough, you may remember a TV commercial that featured a cartoon owl in a tree who answers a little boy’s question: “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie pop?” Lately, I’ve been asking myself a similar question about the newest dog in our family: “How many throws of the tennis ball does it take to wear out a dog who likes to run?” (Mac the Goldendoodle, still has the kind of puppy energy that rivals a toddler who has eaten three too many cupcakes.) I’m not sure I’ve found the answer to the question yet, but the research is fun. People say, “a tired dog is a good [...]