Showing posts from 2013

Actually, no offense

Oh, to be a kid. The carefree lifestyle of decorated cereal boxes that don’t flash the word FIBER across the front to lure in adults and other boring people.  The wonderment of the latest toy craze.  The magic of simplicity, like swinging on a swing and not feeling like you’re going to toss the cookies you had at lunch.  There are rewards of ice cream and early bedtime.  There are naps.   Oh, the naps. But there’s also the fact that kids can presumably act like a grown up and be fairly cute about it.  Kind of like those old painting where animals are playing poker or shooting pool.  Totally unrealistic and yet so comical because they are trying so hard to be like us, but they are so very far away. That’s what my daughter has become.  Not a bulldog shooting the eight ball in the corner pocket.  She’s become a wanna-be adult. Two very important phrases come to mind when I think of her five-year old brain and what it must be going through.  The first phrase is: actually. As i

You snooze, you lose

I’m a snooze-aholic.  I’m the person who purposely sets her alarm clock nine or eighteen minutes before I really need to get up so that I can have the pleasure of smacking that button on the top of my clock with the force of a freight train coming down a mountain before rolling back over and snuggling into the warm blankets. Somehow, in my weary mind, I feel that I am tricking my body into thinking that I’m doing something really nice for it.  It’s the equivalent of knowing that you’re going to eat an entire pie, but you just serve yourself one sliver at a time, purposely allowing yourself the treat and the lack of self-restraint. Because when it comes to pie and sleep, I have little self-restraint. Which is why I’m so deeply in love with my snooze button. And which is also why, I know now, that I stumble around for the first fifteen minutes of my day, walking in circles and doing things I have no recollection of because my body does not like the snooze button as much as my

Five napkins

In perfect world, I would listen to the quiet sounds of jazz music while I prepared a nutritious evening meal.  My children, numbering three, would each take a specific task to help organize our dining experience: one would get the plates, one would arrange the silverware, and the third would place perfectly folded napkins next to each setting.  My husband would put down the newspaper and join us at the table for a healthy dose of food, laughter, and family time. But in reality, we spend 50% of our time eating from a paper bag before or after a sports or music practice, 30% of the time grabbing some sort of leftovers and shoving them in our face as fast as possible, 20% eating so late we are exhausted and staying awake is the main objective, and 10% of the time actually attempting the family dinner meal. Of that measly 10%, 90% of the time someone forgets the napkins. I usually get blamed, as mothers often do, and so I leave my warm food to gather them from the cupboard.  And ev

You’re lookin’ at country

Not everyone likes country music, and I can appreciate that.  I know that plenty of people out there actually will go as far as to say they despise it, that they would rather listen to a crying baby run its fingernails down a chalkboard and operate a leaf blower at the same time, probably the way I personally feel about certain types of music.   But for me, I love country music.  I always have, thanks to my dad and his collection of Willie, Merle, and Johnny, and I always will. If you’re one of those people who don’t prefer country, I thought I’d clear up a few facts about it: All country music involves a dying dog.  FALSE.  However, there are a few songs that do mention the passing of a worthy hound, some that will even remind you of Old Yeller and choke you up a bit. All country music must include something about “mama.”  FALSE.  Although there are plenty of songs that mention somebody’s mama, I can assure you that in country music, being a mama is something to be proud of

Uncomfortable fun

When’s the last time you stepped into something fairly uncomfortable?  And no, I’m not talking about skinny jeans or platform heels.  That’s just ridiciulous.  I’m talking about stepping out of your comfort zone and spicing things up a little, maybe taking a break from the chicken noodle soup of life and straight into a hot tamale.   For me, we’ll say it was late July. For those who know me now, you might be surprised to find out that I was indeed a very shy child.  I hated doing anything in front of anyone, blushed at the drop of a hat, and was perfectly fine staying at home instead of out socializing because I was afraid no one would like me or I’d do something stupid or generally embarrass myself more than I did usually, which was fairly frequent.  Ask my parents.  They’ll shake their heads and tell you it’s true. I dabbled in theater in high school but was always content to work backstage or hide behind my instrument in the accompanying pit band.  I had one role onstage, but

The sound of clocks makes for clean closets

Every year when my children go back to school, I spend a good solid day frolicking through my house enjoying the peace and accomplishing tasks.  I turn on either the television to a show that is not animated or music of my own liking, or sometimes I just turn everything off and scare myself silly at the silence because it’s not something I have heard in many months. This year, I did just that.  I turned off all noises and sipped tea in the kitchen while sorting though a pile of mail that had been accumulating since May and I heard the strangest sound: the clock that hangs on the wall. My grandmother bought me the simple clock when we moved into our house over eight years ago, but I swear I never knew it actually made noise.  I thought it was some new-fangled fancy clock that had moving parts but didn’t tick-tock like clocks normally do, but I was completely wrong.  The clock makes noise.  I was floored.  I nearly spit tea out on the overdue bills. It was this quiet, creepy rh

Sunglasses error is perfectly normal

I tell this story not because you, the reader, really cares about my son’s eyewear, but rather because it’s a glimpse into the reality that is, well, life.  And try as we may, life is everywhere and no matter who you are, you’re aren’t alone. Also, it’s a shout out to TV sitcoms, may they rest in peace. The word “sitcom” is really just a shortcut to two long words: situation comedy.  It basically means that we could flip on the television in the evening and put our feet up and watch some other family do stupid stuff.  And we’d sit back and laugh and get popcorn during commercial breaks and think say things like, “geez, they are something else!” or more likely, “see, dear?  Our life is normal!” But TV sitcoms are few and far between these days, with the birth of reality television, which, c’mon, isn’t all that real after all.  Somehow, producers think we would rather stare at people eating jungle plants or going crazy living in a house of strangers than laugh at our own plain, bo

Dear big, giant retailers...

Dear big, giant retailers, I am writing today not really to complain, but more to express some deep concern for your lack of spontaneity and those who enjoy it. You see, I myself am a last-minute shopper.  I don’t internally have the capability to plan far in advance, nor do I have the desire.  I’m a self-proclaimed shopping-hater because I don’t care for crowds of people, standing in line, spending money, or carts that have completely wonky wheels so that walking in a straight line is impossible.  But still, as a consumer, I have needs.  And because my children continue to grow, they have multiple needs in multiple sizes.  And because the seasons continue to change, my whole life has ever-changing needs, which brings me to the main point of this eloquently worded letter containing a plethora of large vocabulary. At the time of this writing, it is late summer and as a family we are squeezing the last bits out of our sunblock and bug spray and attempting to avoid the inevitable

Cardboard dreams

In recent days, my household life has been dominated by laundry, mostly in the form of a dryer that had finally dried up.  After nearly 14 years and three houses, it was beyond repair and I couldn’t fathom stringing our socks across the back porch another day.  Finally we broke down and had to buy another one, which came delivered to my door and my children stood staring at the truck until one of them broke the silence. I thought they would say something about the size of the truck or the amount of appliances it held.  Instead, it went something like, “does it come with a cardboard box?” The kindly deliverymen overheard and after telling us that it did not come with a box, they quickly redeemed themselves.  “Why, did you want one?  We’ve got some here.  How many do you want?” “Three,” I answered. And I haven’t seen my children since. The magic of the giant cardboard box is nothing new.  I’m pretty sure I spent at least four years of my childhood hanging out in one, either dr

Summer’s sweeter when you’re the skeeter beater

Seasonally speaking, summer is one of my top favorite times of the year.  When the sun first starts shining and the woods and world turn green again, I am at my happiest.  And then comes the second half of summer when I start itching. When you hang out in the out-of-doors as much as I do, there’s a good chance you also have a stock pile of anti-itch creams, gels, and sprays forever within reach.  If it isn’t poison ivy or some other unidentified plant rash, it’s the ever hated and cursed mosquito, which lately seems has taken over as Ohio’s state bird. These little irritating things kind of need us to survive.  Male mosquitos pose no threat to us.  The female mosquito needs blood to lay eggs and reproduce, so it’s only the girls that drive us nuts.  She has to sniff around to find the tastiest of bloods to consume, which is why we so diligently attempt to make ourselves super stinky and unappealing to these blood sucking critters.  There are as many recipes for bug repellant as

Attack of the angry appliances

My appliances are trying to get me.  I think they’re angry because all summer long, when we’re all home all day every day, we use them a lot.   Also because I spend so much time cursing my dishwasher and my entire laundry room in general. As a mom and CHO (chief household officer,) I spend a decent portion of my day playing a never-ending and not-so-fun game of catch up.  As soon as I finish the laundry, it’s piled up again.  Finish the dishes?  The sink is full.  Go grocery shopping?  The troops are hungry.  I often feel like a hamster on a torturous wheel where my children sit outside the plastic cage and laugh and giggle and change their clothes and ask for snacks because they absolutely delight in watching their mom go bonkers. But now it seems that the house is trying to get me back for all the grumbling I do as I go about my day. (The following stories are all 100% true.  I truly wish I could be making them up.) The first bit of bad luck happened after an apparent allerg

Stop and sniff the mushrooms

Yesterday I took a hike with my children.  We were in search of some of the lesser-known waterfalls that grace our nearest national park, more specifically a certain set of falls that I remember from my teenage years when our idea of a good night out was coming home covered in mud, creek water, and mosquito bites.  (I wasn’t quite your average teen.) The problem was that we had to venture past the sign that said “end of trail,” which now, as a parent, takes on a different meaning then when you’re a wild kid.  “End of trail” as a child fills you with rambunctious spirit.  “End of trail” as a mother fills you with worry and fear that danger and certain death loom just past the sign.  But there are things you learn when you’re on the trail, deep in the sweet old woods of northeastern Ohio.  Life lessons that can’t be found just anywhere.   There is also a totally awesome waterfall, as memory served. And so we pressed on. There are two ways to proceed on a trail when you ha

Three little birds at the store

Normally I like to feed my family healthy, fresh food.  In the summer when local produce is bountiful and beautiful, there is nothing better that the smell of a red, ripe tomato so fresh off the vine and into the store and then onto our plates.  And with the unstructured schedule of summer break, there is actual time in the day to prepare gorgeous salads that require tedious chopping and an abundance of ingredients. I love all of that.  The food, the time, the preparation, and most of all, I love the eating. In my dreamland, it would happen every single day.  We would saunter up to the market and handpick the greenest of beans and the reddest of watermelons.  Each child would have a nutritious recipe to prepare and a smile on his or her face as they watched their food take shape from the beginning to the very end, where they would all devour their creations. But that’s dreamland, in the reality that is having my three lovely children home with me every day during the summer, it

You make your own bed…maybe

I had a friend in high school that swore that you never needed to wash two things: bath towels and bed sheets.  His logic was decent.  “Think about it.  You take a shower, you’re clean.  And you dry yourself off with just water, and water isn’t dirty so you never need to wash your towels.  And then if you shower just before you go to bed, you always go to bed clean so your sheets never get dirty either.” (He’s still not married, that I know of.) I always appreciated his logic but knew there was no merit to it.  But it didn’t stop there.  “You never really have to make your bed.  Just pile up the blankets at the bottom so it looks neat enough, and just recover yourself at night.”   This was logic I could appreciate.  I hate making the bed.  It is the most worthless chore I have ever encountered, and I have encountered quite a few.   I know it doesn’t take long, and my husband assures me he appreciates getting into a neatly made bed at night.  I can’t see the value in it, but t

Bring on the bathroom horns

I have kids.  I work with kids.  And keeping those factors in mind, there is a very good chance that at any given moment, some sort of dried up food or bodily fluid is going to present on their hands.  These mystery substances are the little beauties that carry germs that make us sick and when you run as fast as I do, we just don’t have time for that sort of stuff. It then follows that we are ardent hand washers.  Like, big time. Come home from somewhere?  Wash your hands.  Eating?  Wash your hands.  Bathroom?  In a public place?  Wash your hands and don’t touch the doorknob on the way out.   Call me a germaphobe, but some things are just good, solid personal hygiene.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.   One recent morning I was listening to the morning news and they announced a study done by Michigan State that reported that 95% of people don’t correctly wash their hands.  95%.  That’s a lot of dried up yuck on doorknobs. “That’s ludicrous,” I said outloud, as I lathe

Watery mustard, exploding hotdogs, and brain freezes

Summer catastrophes are something special.  I think we all tend to be a bit more adventurous during the warmer months and I personally have a constant supply of bandages with me at all times.   Because when the fun gets a little too far out of hand, I want to be ready.  Or, if at all possible, if I know what the dangers are, I like to stop them before they even happen. Take, for example, three of the biggest summer catastrophes.  They are, in no particular order: runny mustard, exploding hotdogs, and the all-painful and excruciating brain freeze.  From soggy buns to wanting to smash your head against the wall, these misfortunes have happened to the best of us.  But that’s where the little bit of extra knowledge comes in.  We just need to be prepared. Runny mustard.  We’ve all been there, with a freshly grilled burger in our hand when we flip the mustard over and squeeze out…a river of unwanted water.  Groans can be heard from backyards across the state, but it need not be that

The unfolding of an RV trip

Apparently we took an RV trip when I was a young child, but my only recollection is running out of gas on the highway somewhere in Tennessee and standing on the side of the road, completely afraid for my life. My next memory of a camper is the one parked in the driveway of my childhood friend, Liz’s, house.  I don’t even think it was theirs, but it was there and we would go in and play house and her mom served us roast beef deli meat sandwiches with A1 sauce on them, something I had never had before.  This luxurious adventure had definitely turned around my opinion of the house on wheels, not to mention opened up a whole new flavor profile for lunchmeat. As an adult I admit the fascination has always continued, and so when my family decided on a summer vacation this year, we wanted to fulfill our dream of RVing out west.  The thought of only having to unpack suitcases once as we traveled between parks and cooking family favorite meals on a tiny stove next to a tiny refrigerator a

Our great National Parks

I really thought I was doing a part of my civil duty—showing our children a few of the great national parks that speckle our country.  They are jewels of amazement that are, if you think about things in the scope of the world, right in our backyard.  And so we flew out west, rented an RV, and headed out to see the sights. And what sights they were.   My husband and I have never been to the Grand Canyon before, and we wanted to make sure we gave our kids the experience while they were the right age: old enough to remember and young enough not to think we were totally dorky parents.  I think for their sake, we hit it just right.  But for my sake, it was incredible.   They say the Grand Canyon is a fantastic hole in the ground, but I will tell you that upon walking up to it for the very first time, I got a little choked up.  I don’t know that I have ever seen such amazing beauty, so vast and powerful.  Even as a writer, I was without words when someone asked me about my first view

Give five minutes to the goose

According to some silly books that I’ve read, the Canada Goose excretes nearly two pounds of feces every day.  A fairly reliable source states that it poops every 12 minutes.  This may all sound very mathematical, because I know you are sitting there calculating how many times per day and how much per release, but really, that’s not what my story is all about. The street where I live is an add combination of wild and suburbia.  We’ve had our fair share of misplaced critters, and though they seem to be diminishing with development, geese have started setting up camp and becoming our official neighbors. The Canada Goose as it is called, is a rather pesky bird.  It is interesting to research that after the Civil War, the honking bird was all but gone from the state of Ohio and in 1956, a mere 10 nesting pairs were introduced by the Division of Wildlife.  In just a few decades, they multiplied and multiplied and realized that golf courses and subdivisions were the ultimate slap in

Dishing up a life sandwich

When I tell people that I write a column in the newspaper, they always ask me the same question.  “What do you write about?” I suppose they are looking for an answer like fitness.  Or cooking.  Or politics.  But I always disappoint them and say, “well, I just write about stuff,” and they stare blankly back at me, as if I stopped mid-sentence. “You know,” I say, in poor attempt to elaborate, “I write about stuff that happens to me or my kids or the silly stuff my husband does, or how the dog puked all night.  Stuff like that.  So basically, life.” And it’s true.  I write about life. Usually my words appear somewhere in the newspaper near where you find other standard life items.  There may be club news and stories that tug your heartstrings.  But there are also other sections that make my job in this paper a little sweeter.   The whole circle of life appears right there, in one short little condensed place on a piece of paper so thin that if left to the elements would disapp

Benefits of Barefoot, a Shoe-free Summer

It happens about this time every year, when the wisdom of my grandfather and my mother tells me that Mother’s Day has passed and it’s finally safe to plant a garden and embrace life in the flower beds.  The leaves have nearly fully sprouted and the grass goes from its spikey dormant self to a lush carpet that needs to be mowed every other day or else small children and dogs will be lost by walking out the back door. It’s the magic of spring, which is truly a gateway to the vigor of summer, which for me means that for the next few months, my short fingernails are allowed to be dirty and shoes are only required where that little sign hangs on the door, refusing service.  Because as soon as it’s close to possible, we don’t wear shoes.  I won’t say that that is my favorite thing about summer living in Ohio, but it ranks right up there.  Sure, it’s no pie and ice cream, but here are some convincing arguments for ditching your shoes and wiggling your toes in the summer sun. Cut the clu