What to be when you grow up

There’s an ongoing conversation in our house about what we’re going to be when we grow up. Our three kids regularly revisit and revise their career plans – wondering aloud what the best or the coolest job might be. We’ve told them many times that there’s no need to figure it out yet since they’re only in 6th, 4th and 1st grades. But I understand why they think about it as much as they do. They’re at the age when their life possibilities are as vast as their imaginations. The boy’s collective career plans include things like historian, professor, investment banker, novelist, computer programmer, video game inventor and drummer. And our youngest, 6-year-old Kate, feels certain she can be a [...]

My not-so-deadly household sins

A friend recently passed along an online article by author Meagan Francis, who wrote a great book called “The Happiest Mom.” I love how this writer lets us peek behind the curtain of her real life. We moms tend to compare ourselves to each other, and some women use those comparisons to beat themselves up and drive themselves nuts in a futile quest to be a “super mom” (as if such a thing even existed.) Meagan’s article is titled “11 (Totally Not) Shameful Ways to Slack Off Around the House,” so I will happily join the movement with seven of my own not-so-deadly household sins. 1. I only sweep up what the dogs won’t eat. Yes, I have a broom [...]

Organizer, heal thyself!

Last weekend I only had one little chore on my “to do” list. It said, “Clean a cabinet.” I’ve been systematically working my way through each room of the house doing a general “purge” – out with the old, outgrown or broken stuff and in with the new – and the home office was the only room left to tackle. The home office has a wall of built-in cabinets that are wonderful for storage, except when they’re so full of stuff that you can’t store anything in them. So I decided to clean out one cabinet every couple of days so that the whole room would be organized in a week or so. Easy peasy, right? But then I opened [...]

A Letter to Miley Cyrus

Dear Miley Cyrus, Oh, honey. I’m not even sure what to say. Like the millions of people who’ve seen the video of your performance at the Music Video Awards show, I’m still a little stunned. At first, I chalked it up to another celebrity behaving badly. Happens all the time, right? But then I saw a news interview with a so-called “media and image expert,” and he said something that made this mama’s blood boil. When asked about your nearly naked, pelvic-grinding, tongue-thrusting, foam finger-riding performance, he said that, while you may not have won an actual Music Video Award, the huge reaction to your exhibition means that you “won the night.” Why? Because we’re all talking about it. I’m [...]

The end of summer break

For the past few weeks, I’ve been ping-ponging between two internal monologues. The first one goes like this: “Oh, I love the summer and how the kids and I are free from strict schedules, homework, filling lunchboxes, school programs and ballgames. Summer is awesome.” And then the second version goes more like this: “If these kids don’t go back to school soon, I’m going to lose my freaking mind.” I’ll be honest and tell you that last week, I found myself chanting the second one in my head more than the first. So even though I’ll miss the lazy days of summer, I’m also happy to drop off the kids for adventures in elementary and middle school. After school drop-off [...]

The Stuttgart Girls Hit Chicago

Alaina, Christy, Jennifer and I grew up together in a small southern Arkansas town. We survived puberty and junior high school together. We cruised around in cars together singing the lyrics to every song on the Chicago 17 cassette tape. We put each other back together again after bad breakups. We dreamed, made plans and eventually stood side by side and tossed our graduation caps into the air during the spring of 1991. But after high school and college, we scattered to different cities and, despite the sporadic phone calls, texts and Facebook updates that kept us loosely connected, we all knew that one of the things our grown-up lives were missing most was time with each other. So during [...]

The Drinking Bird still has it

There’s a bird in our house. And even though he has no wings and can’t fly, we can’t take our eyes off him. He is a “drinking bird,” or what some people call a “dippy bird.” Made of two small glass bulbs connected by a glass tube, the bird is designed to tip over and dip his spongy, felt-covered beak into a cup of water. Once he has a drink, he rights himself once again and continues to rock back and forth until his next drink a minute or two later. Birds like this one have been drinking for nearly a century now, originating back in the early 1900’s. As soon as I spotted the bird in a toy store, [...]

On judgment

When I was in second grade, one of my classmates told me I was going to Hell. I remember the moment vividly. We were on the playground during recess on an unusually hot day in the fall. She was wearing a long, full skirt and tennis shoes that had the Incredible Hulk on them. We were perched on the monkey bars, and she said it like a casual statement of fact. Stunned by her proclamation, all I could think to say was “Why?” “Because you’re wearing shorts,” she said, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world. After school that day, I told my mom what the girl said during recess. And she assured me that I [...]

No more whine, please

One of my main goals as a parent is to raise non-whiners. It’s not easy. We’re all inclined to whine when things don’t go our way. Babies do it. Toddlers do it. Reality TV stars do it. And increasingly, older kids and grown-ups who really ought to know better do it, too. But it’s obnoxious. And when it’s combined with pouting or feet stomping, it’s downright ugly. Tom and I are pretty strict about it around here, but it’s certainly an ongoing battle. There are some parenting books that tell you to ignore all forms of whining. Act like it’s not even happening, they say. The thinking here is that, if you ignore it and don’t reward the child’s whining [...]

The thrill is gone

When we say parenting has its “ups and downs,” sometimes we mean it literally – particularly after spending a weekend at an amusement park with the kids. Some of those “ups” are slow, tension-building climbs to the top of a steep hill followed by “downs” that reach speeds of 90 miles per hour, flip you upside down and zip you through a corkscrew turn with enough G-force to make you regret every lunch you’ve ever eaten. I’m the designated roller coaster parent in our family. Tom will occasionally go on a kiddie ride with our 6-year-old, but, as a general rule, he doesn’t get on anything that moves higher or faster than a standard ladder. He says his stomach won’t [...]