The pack attack

‘Tis the season of carry-on bags, rolling duffels, and the much-maligned fanny pack. It’s summer break, and we Americans are on the move with all our stuff. As the mother of three, one of the not-so-fun parts of vacation is the packing process. Most moms feel an unspoken obligation to remember to pack things that anyone in the family might possibly need while on the trip. Not only do we have to remember our own stuff, we must think through the “just in case” scenarios for everyone else, too. It’s no wonder most moms are tired before we ever climb in the car or board the plane. Even now that my three kids are plenty old enough to pack their [...]

We are not unbreakable

When I was in college, I had a professor who often began class with a ritual. He’d shuffle to the front of the room and reach inside his tweed sportscoat to retrieve a folded strip of newspaper. Then he’d carefully unfold it, adjust his glasses and start reading in his signature monotone delivery that always reminded me of the cartoon character Droopy Dog.  Each news clip told a different story, but the overarching theme remained the same. The report detailed how someone who was about our age – late teens or early twenties – suffered an untimely death or life-altering injury after making a dumb decision. It was usually something along the lines of “19-year-old student killed by oncoming train [...]

Behind stainless steel closed doors

Today I read about a new technology that sounds completely ridiculous and perfectly rational – all at the same time. Let me explain. There’s a new dating app called “Refrigerdating,” which works in conjunction with the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator. In case you’ve never seen this appliance in person, it’s what you might call a fridge of the future – the kind of thing you might have seen in Jane and George Jetson’s kitchen. It has a touchscreen door and a built-in camera, allowing you to browse what’s inside the fridge without even opening the door. The app developer apparently decided to marry the concept of Love Connection with modern fridge technology. By using the app, you can peek inside [...]

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 [...]