Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Mom looks back at a family vacation at the beach

One version of this story appeared in the newspaper. The REAL story will appear in the fall issue of Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. Stay tuned for details, and until then...

Mom’s Un-Official Back-to-School Supply List

It’s mid-August and for the past few months I’ve been carrying around in a secret and secure place in my wallet, a tiny piece of paper labeled “First Grade Supply List.” I was instructed back in May when this paper arrived in my home, to keep it in a safe place and reminded very often throughout the summer to double-check its whereabouts.
I can’t imagine what would happen if I actually misplaced the thing. I’d have a frantic seven-year old running around and crying and screaming “how am I going to know how many number 2 pencils to bring to school!”
Chances are this would be followed by fits of convulsion over types of folders and what brand of scissors she needed to bring.
My daughter, now entering first grade, is a list-maker and a list-checker-offer. She is very concerned that everything that should be done gets done and it needs to be on time and perfect. (Consider this statement just a public warning to any of her future teachers.) She is, unfortunately, just like her mother. So when she recently asked for her supply list, I quickly pulled it from my wallet, where it had been safely stashed over the summer. We then went to the store and purchased everything on the list, all in her favorite colors and in duplicate.
“Just in case” she said.
“Naturally good to be prepared,” I answered.
But while unloading the full cart of pencil sharpeners and hi-liters into my car, I started to think about my own back to school list. They make the actual school supplies easy for the kids—a couple of pencils and folders. But what about the moms?
While driving home I created my very own back to school supply list which readers are more than welcome to clip and save…
__Lunch supplies. Moms, have you purchased an in-style lunch container for your child? Pink camo was soooo last year. And are you well-stocked with juice boxes, fruit snacks, pudding cups and salami? Have you purchased your back-up emergency jar of peanut butter? Get on it! And do not, under any circumstances, forget the special “first day of school note.” It is crucial.
__School supplies for your child. Sure, your home is brimming with giant boxes of tissues and bottles of glue, but do not forget the things the school forgot to put on the list. Have you sufficiently stocked your child’s bookbag with a little bottle of hand sanitizer to remove any perfunctory cooties? Do you have extra folders waiting in the wing just in case Sally Jo has the, heaven forbid, exact same one? Think back-up here, people!
__First day outfits. (This may or may not only apply to the mothers of girls.) Has your child chosen her outfit for the first day of school? Are you prepared? Have you washed and pressed it? Did you lay it out? Don’t forget underwear. I forgot underwear when I was in the first grade because I was so excited. It haunts me to this day.
__Your vehicle. Back-to-school means back-to-the-grindstone. Back to running your kids from school to piano to sports to dance to the library and doing homework and eating mostly en route. Make sure you have sufficiently stocked your vehicle with the necessary pencils and markers, as well as granola bars, peanut-butter crackers and other such non-perishable “health food.”
__Your first day plans. Although the build-up to the first day of school may totally wear you out and exhaust you to the point of well, exhaustion, be prepared for the first day “now whats?” that occur after your kids are safely at school and you sit alone in your quiet house and wonder what in the world you are supposed to do now. Be prepared for this feeling of blankness! Find that book that you’ve been meaning to read for the past three months and set it out by the chair you haven’t sat in for three months. Or get yourself a nice cheese plate and invite the neighbor over.
Me? I’ve got a coffee date already made, which I’ll go to just as soon as I clean the unnecessary lists out of my wallet.

Good Lord, is it back???

It is currently 10:35PM, and outside my bedroom window, somewhere in the woods, is the creature.

I'm not sure what it is, but it makes a horrible sound late at night when these kinds of sounds wake you up from a dead sleep and make you grab the flashlight and shake your husband. It's a screaming/barking/yelping/crying sort of cry that makes your heart beat in your throat just thiking about it.

A few weeks ago, on a night with perfect sleeping weather, everyone on the street heard it. At 3:00AM. And my neighbor, whose nerdiness is only matched by mine, also took the time to look it up online. We concluded that it must be a fox, although the jury is still out.

My husband isn't due home until midnight, so I'm hoping that the creature is quiet until then. I need someone to wake up if I hear it screaming.

Good Lord, is it back???

It is currently 10:35PM, and outside my bedroom window, somewhere in the woods, is the creature.

I'm not sure what it is, but it makes a horrible sound late at night when these kinds of sounds wake you up from a dead sleep and make you grab the flashlight and shake your husband. It's a screaming/barking/yelping/crying sort of cry that makes your heart beat in your throat just thiking about it.

A few weeks ago, on a night with perfect sleeping weather, everyone on the street heard it. At 3:00AM. And my neighbor, whose nerdiness is only matched by mine, also took the time to look it up online. We concluded that it must be a fox, although the jury is still out.

My husband isn't due home until midnight, so I'm hoping that the creature is quiet until then. I need someone to wake up if I hear it screaming.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Life's a beach


We recently went on vacation. A traditional family vacation, which is something out of the ordinary for us.
We went to the beach. Not just any beach, a big, crowded beach. There were as many people as there were sand grains and I admit at first I was devastated.
"I can't believe we spent all this money to be with so many people." Obviously I'm not a big-city girl...
I said to Ryan during one of our walks between blankets and umbrellas, "it's strange how the ocean and the beach is such a part of nature, how it's a natural wonder, and yet people don't really consider it like that. It's not like going to a forest or a national park, but it's still the same thing-- people really loving to be out in nature."
And even though I was sun weary and sand worn, I think I made a lot of sense with that one. Sure, the thousands of beach-goers weren't thinking they were at one with nature...but they were. Each and every one-- watching the pattern of the waves, sculpting sand castles, feeling the warmth of the sun and the stick of the sea salt -- including us.

Life's a beach


We recently went on vacation. A traditional family vacation, which is something out of the ordinary for us.
We went to the beach. Not just any beach, a big, crowded beach. There were as many people as there were sand grains and I admit at first I was devastated.
"I can't believe we spent all this money to be with so many people." Obviously I'm not a big-city girl...
I said to Ryan during one of our walks between blankets and umbrellas, "it's strange how the ocean and the beach is such a part of nature, how it's a natural wonder, and yet people don't really consider it like that. It's not like going to a forest or a national park, but it's still the same thing-- people really loving to be out in nature."
And even though I was sun weary and sand worn, I think I made a lot of sense with that one. Sure, the thousands of beach-goers weren't thinking they were at one with nature...but they were. Each and every one-- watching the pattern of the waves, sculpting sand castles, feeling the warmth of the sun and the stick of the sea salt -- including us.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Perfect Party Disclaimer

When the guests had left and the few remaining pieces of cake put away, I sat down and convinced myself I had thrown my daughter the perfect seventh birthday party, which is really saying something when your evening consisted of 16 kids and a bucket of water balloons…and you live to tell the tale.
Wanting to savor the last breath of childhood before I go from being “fun-mom” to “dork-mom” I decided to go hog wild with an old-fashioned birthday party. We had face painting and beading and lemonade and individual bags of popcorn. We had party games that involved the aforementioned water balloons, not to mention buckets of water, a full-on obstacle course and personalized medals when the games ended. We ate hotdogs and chocolate birthday cake that I made completely from scratch served with ice cream that I had pre-scooped into little muffin cups.
Looking back, it was so perfect it almost makes me sick.
The honest truth is that I don’t like perfect people. I don’t like the mom whose clothes are never wrinkled and stained like mine, and whose kids never leave the house without bed-head, also like mine. I don’t like the dad who never sweats when he’s mowing the lawn and who always has the video camera poised and ready while I fumble with my cell phone in an attempt to capture the Kodak moment in low resolution. I don’t like the parents who tell you, most likely in excess, that their perfect children are intelligent, beautiful, love to eat leafy green vegetables, can write in three languages at age four, never whine, and organize their own sock drawers.
I also don’t like the mom who throws a flawless birthday party, which has the possibility of making me sound like a hypocrite. But I can assure even the greatest of skeptics that when it comes to birthday parties, I am not a hypocrite. No way, no how.
And so it is with great pleasure that I provide for any of those skeptics, my very own Perfect Party Disclaimer:
I hereby declare that while my daughter’s birthday party may have appeared to go off without a hitch, I honestly spent the previous 36 hours in a total mad frenzy of yelling and frosting, all while running around in a haze of my own body odor.
The night before I laid awake in bed making numerous to-do lists, all of which I forgot by morning because I was so tired from laying awake making lists all night long. My tiredness was also compounded by my lack of time management skills, which were also interrupted for a while because my daughter sprayed air freshener in her eye while she no doubt tried to make our home smell nice for her friends.
The baking of the infamous from-scratch cake required not one, but two additional emergency trips to the grocery store for forgotten ingredients. And while filling water balloons, I broke more than I filled and gave my laundry room walls a full and accidental washing.
During the day I kind of forgot to feed my family breakfast until 10:30 and then realized at 4:00 that I never fed them lunch. And I also was known to scream things such as, “I’ve never seen such lazy children!” and “am I going to have to cancel this party?” and “that’s it, no one is ever having another birthday party ever ever again or you will do it all yourself!”
All in all, there wasn’t much of anything that was flawless except maybe the look on my daughter’s face when the party ended.
“Did you like your party?” I asked.
“I didn’t like it. I looovvved it!” she replied.
Score one for the fun-mom.



You CAN write a column with a kid on your back

As a kid, I spent a lot of time driving to and from a family cottage sitting between my parents in the front seat of our wood-sided station wagon. The trip was two hours each way, which made for countless games of I Spy and the ABC game, as well as more than my fair share of country music.
Roger Miller must have been one of our favorites, because even now I can flip on a song I haven’t heard in over 20 years and still know every word. We must have worn that cassette tape out completely over the years, and if it still exists and runs, it would be a miracle.
One of Roger Miller’s most famous songs was a goofy little song that told about things that you couldn’t do, such as roller-skate in a buffalo herd, drive around with a tiger in your car, go fishing in a watermelon patch. Stuff like that that makes the average seven year old crack up and lose some orange punch out the nose.
There is one verse, however, that has become part of my parenting motto. “You can’t change film with a kid on your back.” Back when I was a kid, I never thought that one was very funny, like it was a joke I just didn’t get. I specifically remember telling my mom in a squeaky voice through buck teeth that that one just didn’t make any sense because surely she could change film while giving me a piggy back ride.
Her answer was simply the chorus of the song. “All you gotta do, is put your mind to it. Knuckle down, buckle down, do it do it do it.”
And that right there is the second part of my parenting motto.
With three kids, I always have at least one of them on my back. Sometimes it’s my oldest daughter asking me to color or play dolls with her (or earn her some Webkinz cash), sometimes it’s my son asking me to go out back into the woods and dig out a stump with him (he recently got a new shovel and an affinity for digging out stumps), but mostly it’s my baby girl just wanting her mommy’s undivided attention and to be held, tying up both of my arms so that ol’ Roger would be right, and I could never change film.
So in order to appease my baby, I totally ignore Roger and actually put my kid ON MY BACK. These fancy backpack contraptions nowadays have been a blessing for me, so much that I don’t know what I would do without it. With baby right in close to me, she’s completely happy and quiet and able to pull my hair whenever she pleases, which must be often because I think I’m starting to go bald in the back of my head. Not to mention that my back and arm muscles are starting to pop out in places where I forgot they ever existed.
But it’s all worth it for a contented baby and two free arms. There is not much I can’t do with my baby on board. I vacuum, cook, do laundry, shop, do yardwork, etc. I have even dubbed myself the modern day Sacajawea, who as we all know helped lead Lewis and Clark on their expedition with her baby strapped to her back.
Sometimes when I meet people who recognize me from this column the first thing they ask me is how I have time to sit and write with three kids. The truthful answer is that I don’t. But what I can do is put the baby in the backpack, park the laptop on the kitchen counter, and bounce around and type between coloring and stump-work and everything else.
Basically, Roger, I put the kid on my back and knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it. Just like you taught me so many years ago.
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