Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Just Another Christmas Memory

Me (to oldest child): What should I write about on my blog today?

Him (takes huge bite of cereal): I don't know.

Silence hangs. A couple of years ago I would have received thirty crazy ideas for what to write about. Aliens taking over the world, if all our furniture came to life, how you cut your arm and had to get stitches. I take a picture of the cat and post it on Instagram. I notice that my Instagram feed is becoming a series of pictures of our cat. Oh well. Some people like cats I guess.

My coffee is cold. I warm it up; it's almost 6:45 and the youngest child isn't out of bed yet. I don't blame her. Every day they get up, go to school, have after school activities, and then come home and do homework. It's your job, I say when they complain. Find the good. You're building a knowledge base and expanding your brain power. You see your friends. School is fun.

I know it's a lot. They are used to it, can handle it. Just like I handled it for years.

These kids are growing up and out. Few weekend nights find all four of us under the same roof. They make plans, only need my driving services and spending money and the occasional help with arranging carpooling. Can you find a ride home? I ask more than I ever thought I would. Not long ago I'd set up the activity and arrange it all behind their backs and let them know what was going on.

Now they are reminding me what is going on.

* * *

It's Christmastime and our house isn't decorated because holiday decorations get in the way of house projects. We planned it like this, even though we didn't really think about what Christmas without a Christmas tree would look like, would feel like. It's strangely freeing. My daughter noted that it's hard to imagine that it's Christmas because we don't have those markers of the season in every corner of our home. She wasn't complaining. It's Christmas everywhere; you just can't see it. I turned the Christmas music up on the radio after she said that.

It's nice, having teenagers. Nobody says it. But it is. They are the babies we watched grow. They are our family, our people. They have their own opinions and thoughts and personalities and they surprise us with what they know and frustrate us with what they haven't yet learned. I like seeing their two- and five- and ten-year old selves in their words and actions today. I like having a holiday marker like Christmastime to remember how life looked in the past, to think about how much they've grown, how much we've all changed.

It doesn't really look like Christmas, it's true. There's plastic sheeting making a division between the dusty and non-dusty sides of our house. We have caution tape instead of stair railing, boxes of supplies where our Christmas tree usually stands. I found the Santa hats and hung them on a chair.

It's okay. We are making memories, as they say. This is the year we did house projects instead of decorate for Christmas. When our teenagers are all the way grown, it will be just another blip in their conversations when they remember Christmases past. This one will come up and they will remember how Mom and Dad made the questionable decision to do home construction over the holidays.

Hopefully I will be there to defend our decisions. To say it didn't really matter. To remind them that we still had Christmas, even though it didn't really look or feel like it.

I think they will agree.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Let it be known that around here, we don’t do anything quickly.

Getting out of the house is a major chore. We say “Be in the car at one o’clock” and there are people still sitting around in bare feet and sauntering into the bathroom at 1:08. There are some things that you just can’t teach to another person, and one of those things is moving in a timely manner.

Two years ago we realized that our upstairs carpeting was in disrepair and it needed to be replaced. We decided on hardwood, to match the downstairs. We sort of haphazardly shopped around for the flooring, casually figured out how much it would cost, and talked about replacing the carpeting in the way that people talk about their dreams for the future, or losing ten pounds, or going to Alaska.

We just sort of went about life, and tromped on the old worn-out carpet and vacuumed it and spilled on it as usual. We painted some walls and figured we were going to replace the carpet anyway so we didn’t bother with drop cloths and you should have seen the huge glob of paint that I spilled the one day the paint tray tipped over when I wasn’t paying attention.

Finally we got up the nerve to go to the store and ask them to help us measure for our new flooring and a guy came out and measured our whole upstairs with a laser and it took him ten minutes and I thought what a job that guy has because I paid thirty-five dollars for that, I wonder if that thirty-five dollars goes into his pocket because he could make like two hundred dollars an hour if he didn’t have to drive all over town.

Really I was thinking eleventy billion dollars an hour because I’m not that great at quick math and that’s obvious because I couldn’t even figure out how to measure for flooring and that’s why I had to pay someone else thirty-five dollars to do it.

We ordered the flooring and then promptly ripped up all of the carpeting ourselves because we might not be able to measure for flooring but we can surely do a disgusting job like rip up carpeting and the amount of dust underneath was eye-popping and I felt like a housekeeping failure. There was even a huge bloodstain underneath the carpet in one of the rooms - spot remover works amazingly well on carpet but not the underside or padding - and I was glad that I didn’t have to explain THAT to anyone. And we rolled up all the carpeting and the padding and duct-taped it in rolls and deposited them on the side of our house and it looks so pretty.

You're welcome, neighbors.

And then we got a notification that the flooring was on backorder.

Backorder as in, oh, your floor will be in in two weeks instead of one, and then another week, and then we’re not really sure, and then the calls stopped coming. And then I called and they said they’d bring some of it by soon.

So now it’s December and we’re living on sub-floor which is not as cold as ceramic tile but pretty dusty even though it's been swept and vacuumed and even lightly sponge-mopped and we’re wearing shoes upstairs which previously was a big fat NO and it’s hilarious when the first article you put on in the morning or right out of the shower is shoes. It’s pretty inconvenient, but still hilarious.

I have informed my family very gravely that we will not be decorating for Christmas in the traditional sense so don’t mention it because the idea of not being able to spend quality time in front of the Christmas tree this year is wearing hard on me already and I don’t need any extra grief. We’re talking quality time, people. Like hours and hours reading and remembering past Christmases and having Bing Crosby and Vince Guaraldi lull me into a stupor while I stare at the twinkle lights Quality.

So we’re waiting. And it’s hard. And I’m not sure when it will be completely finished, and my mind immediately goes to crazy stories about people who live in houses that are only half done because their contractor ran off to Vegas to gamble all their remodeling money away. But I try not to think that way. After all, waiting around is what we DO. You know, because we’re slow and all.

But still.

Shoes right out of the shower, you guys.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ha Ha Very Funny

The biggest joke in the universe is that moms don’t get days off.

Taking care of others is the sort of gig that allows no time off, not even when you’re far away and there’s zero possibility of finding that one pair of leggings or the extra container of hair goo that has mysteriously disappeared.

You always care, are often contacted, and are expected to take care of business even when you’re not there by setting things in motion, guiding through the process, and cleaning up afterwards. There’s no end in sight, even though the people around you are capable of doing the job that you do – for them, usually – themselves.

I’m tired.

It’s well-established in my family that I don’t really enjoy taking care of everyone’s junk. As much as I lament the aging of my children and their looming departure, I am quite enjoying the fact that they can feed and wash themselves, get their work done on their own, and even help me with some of life’s heavy stuff.

Literally. Having teenagers – particularly a teenage boy with brand-new muscles that he is anxious to use – is the best thing ever when I need to move something big.

I’ve been doing this job long enough now that nobody in my family even tries anymore to pretend that an off day for me is really an off day. Even my husband, who understands my need to cocoon once in a while, will stand in front of me and, after listening to me insist that I want nothing else but to relax, will say with no mockery, sarcasm, or irony whatsoever, “So, can you help me with…?”

There are no breaks.

Which makes me think – what would a day off actually look like?

A day off isn’t really a day off unless the next day can start anew with its own responsibilities and none of the day off’s responsibilities waiting in the wings, all piled up. The point of a day off is to relax and reorient ourselves to why we are here in the first place, to appreciate and have a renewed vigor for our tasks at hand when we return to them. 

A day off is really just a break for a little while, a brief period during which responsibilities and family members wait (sometimes not so) patiently until they can launch themselves at you so you can find the leggings and the hair goo and extra printer paper and Q-tips I JUST BOUGHT A MEGA BOX OF Q-TIPS AND THEY ARE UNDER YOUR BATHROOM SINK.

Sigh. A day off.

That’s hilarious.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #1: You have a day off, what do you do with your free time?

Thursday, November 3, 2016


There is banging above my head where electricians are working.

It's not the good kind of banging.

It's the nerve-jangling kind, the sound of metal against metal.

The kind that makes you blink.

They warned us it would be jarring.

The cat is hiding.

Cats are scaredy-ca... oh well, you know.

It's all worth it, though.

Soon we will have electrical outlets in the floor.

Then I will plug in my computer without needing an extension cord.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #6: Write a post in just 10 lines.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Abbrevs 4 U + Me

One of the most annoying things about the internet is the use of acronyms and abbreviations in comments, texts, and general interaction.

It’s only annoying to me because I don’t know what they all mean. Because I am not thirteen and my friends and I don’t speak in acronyms, omg.

I mean, what are we, medical experts? Military administrators? As a species we summarily agreed to use the typed word as the sole way we communicate which knocked speech out of the race altogether, quickly found out that nobody knows how to spell, and now we only want to communicate using TLAs and assume that everyone knows what we’re talking about.


I got used to u and 2 and 4 and even n to stand in as actual words in text messages, but soon omg and lol slid into our lexicon, as well as fun alternatives like oml, omw and omf, and lolz, lolol, and even lolololololol. Soon came smh and smdh and lmao, lmbo and rotfl, rotflmao, and rotflmfao to either disapprove of or appreciate the humor in various situations, the quizzical wtf and ikr, the sweet ily, and life-affirming yark (which bothers me for obvious reasons).  And don’t forget the super-popular af – middle schoolers haven’t, they all use it to emphasize nearly everything.

Okay, so I only see some of these on my kids’ Snapchats and in their text messages, so these might not be universal, but they probably are and I like knowing what’s up. Nothing is more embarrassing than having to Google language that kids are using.

Like “tl;dr” and “imho” – for the longest time I read those as they are written, like the names of real people. “Tilder, the situation is dire” and “Imho, frying sausage smells like a pig farm.” Tilder and Imho always seem to be present when people wish to speak about important or personal topics.

Then I realized that tl;dr and imho don’t add valuable information and now I disregard those acronyms categorically, like the real Tilder and Imho, who are probably a couple of loser party-poopers.

I thought it would be helpful to come up with some new abbreviations and acronyms to use in digital communications. Feel free to adopt as many as you want; I don't see this unfortunate trend going anywhere for a while, and the more they are used, the more we all know what we are all talking about. In addition, by adopting my short list here, you will love that you are on the cusp of the hottest smartphone slang, and your friends might start to tolerate your habits.

Acronym / Abbreviation


Use / Situation


Something stinks

appropriate anytime, effective as a strong hint


Something really stinks, probably something died

to be used in concerning situations


Did you fart

intimate use only


I just farted

for public or emergency use


Get out while you still can

general warning


I’m going to vomit

general warning


Someone needs deodorant



Someone needs a mint



There’s food in your teeth

good citizen opportunity


Thanks for nothing

teachable moment


Your zipper is down

good citizen


Leave me alone jerk

getting to know you


Love your face forever/Hate your face forever



I don’t like you

term of endearment or use in flirting


It’s because you stink



I’m calling the cops



Get off my lawn

for use by people over 50


Are you a robot

getting to know you


I think you’re a robot

intimate use only


Your secret’s out

good citizen


You’re so annoying



I love me



Better off on my own



At least I don’t stink



Seriously you need deodorant or mints


Okay, maybe my acronyms are for more specific life situations. Still useful.


1Research has indicated that this is a common acronym (urbandictionary.com, 2016). Naturally.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Please Turn It Off

My minivan hugged the familiar curves of the narrow back road. It was dark now, a good hour or so since the sun had officially set, but not yet too late for kids’ activities. I was going to pick up my daughter from school. The night was an early one; I might be home before nine.

Deer that dart from the woods on either side of the road were my main concern. I have been hit by too many deer to let my guard down while driving at night. Wrecking into a deer is dangerous and annoying; they cause wildly expensive damage to a moving vehicle, weighing only slightly less than a moving vehicle.

That’s why I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was singing along to on the radio.

The worst song.

Turn on your Heartlight

Heartlight, the 1982 Neil Diamond classic, inspired by the smash movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from that same year, one of my favorite movies of all time and one of the few that I saw more than once in the theater despite only being nine years old. I saw it four times, and remember it being out in the theaters for so long that I wondered if it would eventually become permanent.

Let it shine wherever you go

Lord, why is this song still being played on the radio? Did they run out of Whitney Houston hits? What barrel bottom was scraped to unearth this swill? My ears might be bleeding.

Let it make a happy glow

I knew all the words. And I sang them. I sang them just like Neil Diamond did, that gravelly-voiced king of schmaltz. I really put my heart(light) into it.

For all the world to see.

And why not? I had the 45 as a kid, the record played until its likely and untimely demise at the hands of one of my brothers or maybe one of my parents due to its near-constant and ear-splitting playtime on my stereo, which held court as the centerpiece of my bedroom, two huge speakers flanking the sides, wreaking havoc on the decent musical tastes of everybody in our house on the regular.

Turn on your Heartlight

I couldn’t blame them. My family knew what was good, and this wasn’t it.

In the middle of a young boy’s dream

It was one of those things that kids buy for themselves that parents regret allowing. The record probably cost a cool $1.65 in 1982, a dollar and some change scrabbled together from who knows where, probably from Grandma and the couch cushions or dad’s coin jar.

Don’t wake me up too soon

Oh, how times have changed. Yesterday my 15-year-old asked me to withdraw $50 from his bank account, probably for extra lunch money. He made it from selling some of his unwanted stuff on eBay. If I saw the same movie at the theater more than once it would have to be one darn good movie, a heck of a lot better than that Magic Mike crap.

Gonna take a ride across the moon

The song abruptly cut out and the phone rang in the car. Saved by Bluetooth. I hit the handsfree button. It was my daughter.

You and me

“Mom, you didn’t leave yet, did you? I’m getting a ride. I’ll be home soon.”

I couldn’t believe it. Subjected to Heartlight for nothing. I turned the car around and headed back home, singing away.

Turn on your Heartlight now
Turn on your Heartlight
(whispers) nowwww

Sway with me


Monday, October 17, 2016

Going Without

When I was in graduate school I unwittingly rented an apartment that lacked a dishwasher and microwave. I say unwittingly because I was without wits or general sense even in my mid-twenties.

Washing dishes by hand was a little annoying but doable since I lived alone and had very few dishes to wash anyway.

It’s like a dream to me now, this lifetime ago. These were the blissful days of only looking after myself. I can’t really imagine what it’s like anymore, worrying only about my own needs. Later I will ask my husband to describe his current life.

But not having a microwave – now THAT was a brain teaser.

How to heat up a piece of chicken that I brought home from my dinner out with friends the night before? What about this little bit of macaroni and cheese that I didn’t finish? Spaghetti is good cold, but I am not an animal. What if I want to warm up a piece of bacon sometime?

I had to call my mom for directions. See also: no wits or sense

“Stick it in the oven or heat it up on the stove!” my mother yelled exasperatedly through the phone. Her atomic matter is comprised of nothing but common sense. Using the range to heat up previously cooked food was something that I had never thought about doing, a completely novel idea. A couple of reheated meals later (that dirtied more dishes than they were worth), and I learned to enjoy the taste of cold food.

I may not be an animal, but I also realize that the value of time sometimes trumps the value of eating hot food.

As the family house manager, I’m always in the midst of shuffling things around in our house; things pile up and are removed to make room for new stuff, for different phases and uses, or simply to free up space. I frequently make hard choices about what I can live without.

I say “I” because like the Little Red Hen, nobody bothers to help me make decisions or assist with these projects, so they learn to live with my choices forever. And quietly.

Over the years we have learned that people can live without1:

Art and family pictures displayed on the walls. Any walls. Because sometimes you just want to live with bare walls for a while. Nobody cares.

Bedroom television. (On the day I finished painting our bedroom) My husband: “Maybe we don’t need a TV in he-” Me: ::unplugs TV, heaves it out into the hall, just like on everyone's favorite family feel-good movie 1982's Poltergeist::

Cable or subscription TV. We went without cable to save money when I first quit my job. The kids watched Sesame Street and I watched prime time with commercials. We missed nothing.

Clothes that spend more time in drawers and on hangers than on the body. You don’t need that gross, pit-stained t-shirt you’ve had since the mid-90s. YOU DON’T. IT IS ACTUALLY GARBAGE.

Curtains. We have pretty nice wood trim around our windows. Why cover it up? Not having curtains sort of squashes all the nude prancing that people do in general, but depending on who your neighbors are, that might be a good thing.

Decorative bedding. We went without pillow shams and a fancy cover on our bed for years. Still alive.

Desk drawers. It’s amazing how much junk gets thrown in there. All I need are a bazillion pencils to keep my kids happy. Seriously with the pencils. My kids eat pencils. Send pencils.

Flat sheets. I like a flat sheet, but our son informed me that he doesn’t, and I think he’s onto something.

Front-door wreaths. We got a new front door years ago and I quit hanging stuff there so it wouldn’t get scratched up. Like the windows, it doesn’t need any help looking good.

Juicer. Just a fancy word for “blender”.

Large storage units. Like everyone else in America, we had an enormous wall unit to store all of our television-watching electronics and accessories. A medium-sized wolf pack could have lived in there and no one would know. I know this because we hardly ever opened it up.

Living room seating. The floor is clean(ish). Sit on it.

Meat. I’m no vegetarian, but I don’t mind playing one once in a while.

New school clothes. Our kids wear summer clothes until well into October, so it’s rare for them unless they’ve grown out of everything to get a whole new wardrobe at the beginning of the school year. Usually they’ll get new shoes because like pencils, they eat shoes.

Old books, magazines, and reference materials.  I used to keep CPR certification materials on hand in case I ever had to perform CPR and needed to quick brush up on my skills. And then I realized that a situation requiring CPR would never allow time to peruse and refresh procedures, so I chucked it all. Much luck to anyone needing this type of lifesaving skill when I’m around.

Rugs. Beach towels work great.

Snow pants. Even if you live where it’s cold. Me? Snow Pants-Free in Pennsylvania since 1991.

Standing mixer. We used to have one, and then one of the beaters broke. In a rage I threw the whole thing away. I was remorseful for a second, and then discovered that a little hand mixer does a great job, as well as – wait for it – a spoon.

Stockpiles of canned or frozen food. I mean, you can only eat so much at a time. There’s a grocery store down the road in every direction; I don’t need one at my house, too.

Toaster oven. Once our toaster oven caught on fire. NOTHING WAS COOKING IN IT. Toaster ovens are not to be trusted.

1Heavy sigh disclaimer: We don’t really *go without*. There are millions of people who lack basic human needs every single day to the detriment of their health and lives. I am not ignoring the plight of these people. Nor am I glossing over some very real circumstances. I am a middle-class American mother blathering about so-called necessities that I have found my family can live without, okay? Settle down.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halloween: This Or That?

Halloween is almost here, kids! Do you know what you're going as?

Since my kids are older I have left the OMG it's three weeks until Halloween and I haven't started putting costumes together I'm running out of tiiiiime years behind. 

Seriously, it's been one year. As of this year I have left those years behind. It's pretty awesome. There has been little talk of Halloween costumes yet, and it's too late to start now. Our son has all but grown out of trick-or-treating, and in the past two years he threw on some rando outfit last-minute and went around with friends to bag some sugar.

I forget what my daughter dressed as last year; I'm sure I helped her with a costume but for the life of me can't remember it. This year she wants to go as something really complicated and I'm sure she and her friends will have a great time putting that mess together.

I love Halloween, but I am really enjoying not being on a costume deadline. The bonus is that all this free time has freed me up to buy all the candy I will enjoy eating handing out on Halloween night.

And write blog posts about the tough choices we make every year at this time.

1. Chocolate or fruity candy? Silly. Chocolate makes the world go ‘round. So does fruit, I guess, but in a more boring and tiresome and “Gee, I wish this was chocolate” sort of way.

2. Witches or Vampires? I fully relate to the witch character in every way, especially the cackling and the hag hair, and if my old lady relatives are any indication of my future skin quality, also the hairy moles and/or facial warts.

3. Trick or Treat? Treats. Chocolate treats. If you trick me I will end you. Or cry, and then soothe myself with chocolate.

4. Halloween Party or Scary Movie? Party time, every time. Scary movies just aren’t my thing. Once I went to see a scary movie on a date and almost peed in my pants in Chili’s afterwards because the movie scared me so much I was afraid to go to the bathroom by myself.

5. Skeletons or Zombies? Well, since zombies are rotting corpses usually covered in brains, blood, and gore, I will say skeletons. A skeleton can look classy in a top hat and cane; a zombie will always be a mess no matter what he wears.

6. Trick-or-Treat or Hand Out Candy? Hand out candy. Eat the candy while you’re handing it out. Hide the Butterfingers for later.

7. Hay Ride or Corn Maze? Both are outside in the fall when it’s cold. Both usually happen at night when it’s even colder. I don’t understand the purpose of being outside at night when it’s cold, so I’m going to say neither. I don’t like the not summer months.

8. Scary Costume or Not? The world is scary enough, folks. And most people don't need to be scarier than they already are. Oops, did I say that out loud?

9. Pumpkin Seeds or Pumpkin Pie?  BWAHAAAAAAA you said seeds. What am I, a bird? Pie, people. PIE.

10. Bottle Feed A Baby Zombie or Walk Alone Through A Dark Forest? Again with the tough choices. Walking in a cold forest at night is a hard no, but a zombie baby? Why are we feeding this thing?

11. Bats or Black Cats? Bats are hilarious in the way that they are flying mice with fangs and wings that get caught in your hair and give you rabies, but cats win that one every single time.

12. Pumpkin Spice or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate. Pumpkin Spice is for candles and pie AND NOTHING ELSE DO YOU HEAR ME OREOS

13. Celebrate Halloween in your neighborhood or at the mall? Our local mall is largely empty these days which makes it one of those creepy abandoned places that are cool to walk around in, but Halloween at home is where it’s at, especially since I know all the good places to stash Butterfingers.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #6: Write a blog post answering This Or That? Halloween questions.