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 [...]

Birth of a baker

Finally! I’m about to write a sentence I never thought I’d write: “I cooked something, and it was REALLY good.” Around here I’m known for both my lack of cooking expertise and my disinterest in acquiring any. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of. I wanted to be one of those mothers who could really cook – the kind whose meals become legendary with not only her own children but also her children’s friends, who begin coincidentally stopping by to visit around dinnertime. My mom was one of those mothers. Her mom was one of those mothers. DNA was on my side. But it didn’t pan out. It’s not that I never cook. I do, and I can produce a [...]

Car conversations with a 6-year-old

Have I mentioned that one of the best places to talk to your kids is in the car? It is. Maybe it’s because they’re strapped in and they can’t run off to play. Maybe it’s because they’ve got time to fill while the road slips by outside the car windows. Who knows? All I know is that it works. Yesterday while we were on our way to the grocery store, I asked the kids what they wish grown-ups understood about being a kid. It was 6-year-old Kate who spoke up first, and three of her tips are good advice for parents but also wise words to live by, no matter who you are. Number 1: Do what you say you’re [...]

Put some pants on

I’m beginning to question that old saying about how we all “put our pants on one leg at a time.” Because lately, I’m noticing plenty of people who have stopped putting pants on at all. This weekend Tom and I went to a Laundromat to wash a king-size comforter in one of those high-capacity washing machines. While we were there, I saw a man sitting on the back of his pick-up truck. He was staring down into his smartphone’s screen and he was wearing a white t-shirt and pajama pants with the Harley Davidson logo printed all over them. It seemed a little strange, but I figured he was probably washing his real pants and wasn’t too worried about appearances [...]