Skater in the Broken Places

If you’d have told me something was broken in there, I’d have EATEN. MY. HAT.

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Sure, there’d been a little fussing here and there about a foot bothering her after the church roller-skating party. I mean, that’s to be expected after my girl Lucy skated for hours all crazy bowlegged, like she was skating on the inside of her ankles.

We learned way too late that she’d never even tied her laces, like AT ALL. I guess I stupidly thought I was past the point of having to tell a 10-year-old to tie her shoes. (Note to self: I’m not.)

But once she’d done the grueling work of snapping those top straps, she set her course for adventure…her mind nowhere near a hand-me-down set of crutches.

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She may not exactly have been Peggy Fleming out there, but she didn’t fall one time. Not once. Even so, stuff was breaking inside.

We know that because a few days later, after some rigorous skipping and Frisbee tossing, she couldn’t drag herself up the stairs without dramatic sobs.

It sort of became our Tonya Harding moment, featuring a wailing girl pointing at where her god-forsaken skate used to be and a stony-faced Nancy Kerrigan-esque mother. (Who’s with me, moms? Don’t pretend like you haven’t been there. Let ye who is without the sin of ignoring a crazy injury and calling it a “flesh wound” throw the first stone.)

“Okay then, if you can’t POSSIBLY go to school,” I proclaimed the next morning, “then I’M TAKING YOU TO THE DOCTOR!”

This was purely a motherly game-of-chicken tactic. I totally expected her to fold.

She said, “Okay.”

Let me just say that it’s serendipitous for clumsy people to be friends with a podiatrist.

So when my foot doctor friend did X-rays (“just to rule out a fracture,” she said), I laughed in her face and waited to be completely red-faced that I’d wasted her time and gamma rays on this silly sideshow.

But X-rays (unlike the occasionally dramatic child) don’t lie. There it was…a little tear-off fracture, actually in two places. One on the tip of her ankle, another on the side of her foot somehow.

How did that happen? I mean, there were people falling in the most calamitous ways that night, staggering like the Walking Dead and taking out entire rows of hand-holding preschoolers. That’s the deal you make at roller rinks; round after round, you just try to stay out of the way of one careening face-plant after another.

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A rare moment of calm before the next dazzling display of splatting.

 

But there was Lucy, never once falling, never making a spectacular scene for the AFV blooper reel, smiling and laughing like normal. You’d never know things were cracking inside.

Something about that is wildly metaphorical to me.

Because isn’t the world full of people who are great at putting on the brave face, at smiling through the pain, at hiding what’s broken? So good that you’d never, ever know. Unless they let you in and showed you the pictures of what was really going on, we’d assume it was all clear sailing and jazz hands to the tune of YMCA.

My girl’s like that. Until the cracks burst and everything pours out in a deluge.

Maybe your kids are like that. Maybe the cranky guy at the DMV is like that, or the non-communicative bagger at Stop & Shop. Maybe you’re like that.

I’m going to go on the assumption that everyone’s kind of like that.

Everyone’s walking around with pain. Everyone is pushing stuff down. Everyone has broken places nobody sees. And while we may not be able to do much about that, everyone could stand to be treated a bit more gingerly in this life.

Around here, I’m gonna start with the little girl with the fractured foot.

Geez, I’m sorry, kid. Maybe I’ll get better at this by the time you leave the house.

Either way, let’s go ahead and put the podiatrist’s phone number on speed dial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Survived My Son’s First Sleepover

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When you’re a parent (or at least an UNFUN parent like me), sleepovers are THE WORST. I shudder at the very thought of them at your house, and I avoid them like the Zika virus in mine.

I have one insane friend (happily insane, not criminally) who casually hosts sleepovers with a guest list of 25+ girls. TWENTY. FIVE. Double digit children. All night long. In her home. And somehow everyone emerges the next morning alive. Just the thought of this kind of mania gives me vertigo.

Because here’s where my mind goes when I think “sleepover:”

Feral children running amok, screeching at dog whistle octaves, making crank calls, trying to make each other pee involuntarily, freezing one another’s underwear, conducting séances, watching sketchy YouTube videos, concocting “inventive” new ways to avoid sleeping one single solitary wink, and the next day returning to Mom and Dad’s loving arms a limp, surly, useless excuse for a human being.

That pretty much describes my sleepover experiences, circa 1980-87. Except instead of YouTube, we watched horror movies. And the involuntary peeing happened at the end of Carrie when that blood-soaked hand comes shooting up out of the grave, and I nearly stroked out in Mandi Sigmon’s basement.

Basically, nothing good happens after midnight. That’s a truth I’ll set my watch by.

But there comes a point in every tween’s life when the sleepover is THE THING. It represents all this child’s finest hopes and dreams for his birthday. It is the essence of birthday joy. Without it…loneliness, despair, dashed dreams, weepy puppy dog eyes.

And there comes a point when we stupid parents make promises we never intend to keep just to shut the kids up…which is all well and good until we get shamed into finally making good on them.

So yeah, I faintly recall telling Will he could have a sleepover when we moved into a bigger house. SOMEDAY. Years from now. In a galaxy far far away.

And oddly enough, we did move into a slightly bigger domicile. All the while, he has held onto that promise like the promise of salvation itself.

So I did it. I said we’d have a sleepover, and we finally did. Somehow I survived it. My husband survived it. All children involved (only FOUR) survived it.

But here’s the key, and you’ll want to write this down.

UTTER AND COMPLETE EXHAUSTION.

If you want to avoid banshee-like behavior into the wee hours, you must wear these monkeys OUT. I mean, into the ground.

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We went with the indoor ropes course idea–a plus for being both physically intense and crazy over-stimulating. They were all in sleeping bags at 11:00, shushing each other because they were so done.

Trapping them into the backyard trampoline for hours or setting them loose on some intense backyard Nerf wars would also work…maybe even manual labor like dragging logs across the back forty, even though you might catch it from a few softie helicopter parents.

Here’s another thought I’ll share, even though I don’t normally have any credible advice ever. TAKE AWAY THE ELECTRONICS AT BEDTIME.

At one sleepover, Will was kept up all night long by a smart-alack kid with a fart-noise app. So I say, just gather up all the devices before bed (I used the guise that I was “charging them”), and voila. Temptation gone. Unsavory YouTube videos eliminated. Fart noises silenced. Zzzzzzzz. You’re welcome.

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THIS. 

I have to say, this sleepover wasn’t the worst. It actually gave my motherly heart pitter-pats of joy to see my kid flying down a zip line through a dazzling spray of water backlit with lasers like a rock star.

It felt good to give him that memory-making experience with his buddies. It felt good to step out of my comfort zone and live a little. And it felt good when everybody actually went to sleep.

Like, monumentally good.

Like, silently doing-the-Running-Man-in-my-living-room good.

Let’s face it, the SLEEP part is my very favorite (albeit elusive) part of the sleepover…maybe even my favorite part of parenting itself. Because it feels like VICTORY.

When the day is done, when we can check it off, when we can say we somehow prevailed all the way to the end, that feels like cause for celebration to me…and an excuse for some really bad dancing.

Like I needed one.

 

 

 

 

Me and Taylor are going back to December

I wish we could get double portions of December and just skip January altogether.

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After the jovial over-indulgence of December (“Eat! Who ever heard of a skinny Santa??”), here comes that blasted harpy January–with all its cranky resolutions and its Weight Watchers commercials and its relentless reminders of reality.

Every year, January just comes at us like an icy blast of water to the face, and quite frankly, I don’t care for it.

January is a drill sergeant flipping on the lights in the middle of a perfect dream about going sleigh riding through Devonshire with Colin Firth and screaming, “Drop and give me twenty!” (which I haven’t done since last January.)

January is a sneering busybody slapping my hand with the snickerdoodle in it.

January is a big fat boring killjoy taskmaster who’s weirdly obsessed with everybody’s weight. And on top of all those endearing qualities, January is cold. (Usually.)

I am not a fan.

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Here’s our dead wreath. Also not a fan. (January is the Wreath Reaper.)

Sure, December struggles with being a bit too frenetic and trying a little too hard, but somehow we can let that stuff go because December’s just so darn charming.

I mean, think of all those twinkly lights and the crackling fires and the cheerful songs. Oh yeah, and the copious amounts of cookies.

IMG_4099IMG_4004IMG_4105It’s like one minute we’re basking in all the treasures under the tree, watching Danny Kaye tap dance across our TV, and trying to remember what it felt like to be hungry.

The next minute, a cold shriveled finger is wagging in our faces, browbeating us on how we’re gonna right this ship and get our crap together and eat a salad already?

I know I should have made some New Year’s Resolutions, but I just wasn’t in the mood for January’s theatrics this year.

(Oh, here’s a resolution. I really should get my watch battery changed so I can stop wearing my daughter’s Minnie Mouse watch. Or not. I honestly don’t care.)

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But that’s it.

January, you are not the boss of me. I’m ready to skip right on to February. There may be only 28 days, but at least they’re crammed with hearts and flowers and rows and rows of candy I can buy for myself.

I’m so ready to run headlong into the loving arms–and candy aisles–of February. Because February loves me.

Its conversation hearts told me so.

Actually they said “TXT ME” and “U Go Girl.” But you get the idea. There’s definitely something there.

And seriously, I’ll take “#LOVE” any day over another Jenny Craig commercial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holla, y’all. I hit “send.”

There has been some serious radio silence from my corner of the world lately.

I’m probably the only one who noticed or cared, but I haven’t posted anything since November. And that was a re-run.

Sorry, but I’ve been in Book Mode (which doesn’t sound nearly as fierce and athletic as Beast Mode, but it’s the best I’ve got.)

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Most of you know I’ve been working on a book (it’ll be a selection of my columns and blog posts, due out Fall 2016 from Skyhorse Publishing) since what seems The Beginning of Time. My manuscript deadline was yesterday, which means I’ve spent the last month or so chained to the desk (where unfortunately there has also been easy access to online shopping).

But after relentless editing and rearranging and hand-wringing (and more editing) for what seems like half my life, I finally, with great trepidation and jubilation, hit “send.”

Did you feel the Earth move yesterday morning? Because I DID.

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Lucy made me tea and typed me a message on my last late-night before “send.” Awww. She doesn’t even know what truths about her are yet to be revealed… 

I don’t have a clue what to expect from the editing/shameless self-promotion process yet to come; my gut feeling is I’m going to much prefer the writing-anoymously-in-my-pajama-pants part of the process.

But this hurdle crossed just felt like something big I should tell you — especially since you’re the ones who’ve been kind enough to read my drivel all these years. I appreciate it more than you know.

So now I’m taking the day off. I may just watch Sense and Sensibility and eat bon bons and wallow around in these pajama pants before the big-girl pants have to go on. This day feels like a long time coming.

Holla. And hallelujah.

 

Cracking the Teacher Conference Code

I wrote this handy guide about parent-teacher conferences last fall, trying to translate nicety-nice teacher-speak into the STRAIGHT DOPE for parents. So if it’s your turn at the conference table, good luck, my friend, godspeed, and…I hate to break it to ya, but here’s what those nice teachers are REALLY trying to tell you. (Someone needed to say it, so I guess it’ll have to be me…).

Tales from the Crib

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It’s parent-teacher conference season — that hap-hap-happy time when we get slapped in the face with all our finest parental failings.

I’m a big fan of all my kids’ teachers. They seem to be smart, lovely people who aren’t paid enough for their troubles.

But I will say this about teachers. Whether they’re trying to spare our feelings or avoid coming off like a total jerk: they talk in code.

So I’m going to be your sassy, straight-talking friend here (picture Jackée) and translate “nice teacher” into “plain English” for you. Here’s my go-to glossary of Teacher Conference Code Words and exactly what I think they mean.

Teacher Code Word #1: “Energetic” – Will’s homeroom teacher laid this one on me last week, stammering, “Ohhhh, Will’s my ENERGETIC little one in the mornings!” Come on, people. I am not deceived. We all know this is doublespeak for “spastic,” “bouncing off the walls,” or maybe even, “Please, I beg of you, ask your doctor…

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Stop the iWorld…I Want to Get Off

I am so sick of little kids staring into their little hand-held screens, I could punch Steve Jobs in the face.

Okay, I know he’s dead. And he wears glasses. Both of which are no-no’s for punching. Also, I have never punched anything or anyone in my life.

But I’m telling you right now, I am growing seriously WEARY of the iWorld — and my kids don’t even officially live there yet.

Everyone my kids know — literally all 9-12 year olds in their circle of life — have phones or iTouches or Kindle Fires or tablets or all of the above. And every day I get an earful about it.

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This is my crap phone. It’s like something out of a time capsule.

Mostly I hear about how my kids feel left out — because all anyone does anymore on the bus (instead of chit-chatting or mooning passers-by) is play video games or text friends other than the one they’re sitting beside. I hear about how much they need these gadgets to fit in, to do anything imaginable that’s cool, to basically breathe 21st century oxygen in and out.

I’ve been strong, I’ve stuck to my guns, but I am starting to feel cornered, like there’s no way out but through a maze of apps and porn and duck-face selfies. And I don’t like that feeling. It makes me scared and mad and want to fling myself off the grid.

Which I won’t do. I couldn’t make it a day. But still, sometimes I feel like I’m straddling the split-rail fence of time.

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And I’m getting splinters.

Last weekend we went with friends to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, one of those Colonial re-enactment places where you walk the dusty village streets and watch an old guy in a funny hat make his own nails and some ladies in dingy full-length dresses and black orthopedic sneakers make candles out of lard. It was a salve to my tech-weary spirit.

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Greetings from the future, little sheep.

It’s true that I have zero interest in butter-churning. (I happen to love butter that comes in wrapped sticks, four to a box.) I wouldn’t be overly jazzed about living in a house just one degree warmer than a New England winter. And I am not a fan of straw beds teeming with lice.

But something in me craves what that place in time represents — simplicity, innocence, diligent work for daily bread, family, faith. No entitlement. No screens. No Kardashians.

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I have no idea what this is, but it’s surely something smart and crafty and super-useful. There’s not an app for that.

Something in me hungers to GO BACK. To make it all stop spinning so fast. To live a life that feels simpler and safer (despite big bummers like cholera and scarlet fever). To raise children in a world that doesn’t show them everything too soon and make them grow up before they’re ready.

A world where little girls wore bonnets.

Would you just look at this picture?

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My friend bought BONNETS for her daughter and mine in the general store. And without the first thought of Instagram or a trace of self-consciousness, those 5th-grade girls ran through the village in them. They scooted down hiking trails in them. They were Half-Pint and Mary incarnate.

For one day, those girls took a break from growing up. It was so precious I could have cried.

As much as I long to linger in this land of bonnets and butter-churning, I know that going back isn’t an option.

But I have to believe that how we move forward is.

How many steps forward we allow as parents, how many doors we crack open and when, where we let it lead our kids and how quickly…we still have a say.

When and if I choose to let the horse out of the techno-barn, I can’t let that animal run wild for the hills. I have to be smart about it and watch where it goes and give it reasonable limits — without throwing up my hands or covering my eyes with my calico apron.

With every fiber of my old-fashioned being, I wish we didn’t have to worry about all this cyber-crap. But it’s not going away. Hopefully, neither am I.

So this slow-poke family is gonna take on the future in our own sweet time…in our own painstaking way…and hopefully for a little while longer at least…

IN A BONNET.

School Picture Day & The Battle of the Backgrounds

Cowlicks, beware. It’s School Picture Day time.

Picture Day is that one day of the year when moms far and wide muster up the will to give a crap about what their kids are wearing to school.

One day a year we will squirt an entire bottle of “product” on last night’s bedhead. (It will fail). One day a year we will banish the Minecraft shirt and require plaid. One day a year we will attempt to put a high shine on this sad-sack bunch for the good of posterity.

In preparation, I always pore over the order form with the kids, analyzing all the weird choices available. And my children (without fail) will ask in great hopefulness: “Can I be in front of this beach this year?”

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The beach. It’s where all the cool kids are.  (These photos are courtesy of Grynn and Barrett Photography. Is that the best name ever??)

Requests have also come in for the laser light show, the purple bubbles…you get the drift.

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I am so amazing that the sky bursts forth with fireworks at my very presence! 

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I also love the cool mountain stream look. Makes me want to pop open a cold one.

But every year my poor deprived children get the same answer with a great big laugh: “Oh no no, you’re confused, dear ones. We are straight-up GREY BACKGROUND people.”

Grey. Every single lifeless washed-out year. Forget your childlike desire to frolic in a rainbow. We remain forever grey.

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Don’t even think about it, Frodo Baggins. Grey you are. Grey you ever shall be.

I guess it’s my desire to be “tasteful,” to present to the world (or at least the grandparents…who else really sees these things?) a unified blemish-free front, to not sink to such levels of tackiness as to let my children choose their own starry sky to stand in.

But it’s just dawned on me that I could be depriving us of one of life’s great belly laughs: the awkward family photo posed in front of something utterly ridiculous.

I have MANY. Most of them seem to take place in wooded areas.

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I just happened upon this split-log fence in my Polly Flinders dress. How serendipitous.

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The wooded scene trend continues into the teen years. I’m not sure why my mother is not pictured, except that maybe she had the good sense to avoid being photographed with a wagon wheel.

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This is my niece, who as late as the early ’90s also found herself in the woods, perched on this strange carpeted boulder.

These pictures are soooo stupid. But they make me laugh soooo hard. I mean, those “woods” aren’t fooling anybody. We are at Olan Mills. And we aren’t happy about it. But it was totally worth it.

If only I’d let Lucy wear her kitty sweater on “the beach,” what comedy gold we would have had in the family archives for years to come. In the name of tastefulness and decorum, I fear I have made all the wrong life choices.

Worse yet, by banishing my babes to a life of grey backgrounds, could it be that I am squelching my children’s inner light, their glittering personalities that want to shine, their inner astronaut who wants to float in a Lands’ End polo through the swirling Milky Way?

All I know is this girl is slumping in front of a bland taupe background in a bland taupe Forenza sweater, and she just doesn’t look happy.

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It could have something to do with those bangs. And not having a date to prom.

But perhaps this girl’s heart yearns for the freedom and self-expression (and the hearty laugh 30 years from now) that only a backdrop of fake meadows and a big dumb wagon wheel can bring.

Next year, bring on The Beach. The Greys just might be ready to shake things up.

The Only Thing to Fear…Well, Actually There Are Lots of Things

Y’all won’t even believe this.

I’ve started “running.”

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It’s dangerous to run in clown shoes, yet I press on.

I use air quotes because it’s not so much “running” as it is pained shuffling for maybe half a song length, followed by dramatic staggering, side clutching, panting, walking, gathering my wind, and then striking up the shuffle again.

My personal best so far was running the entire length of Carrie Underwood’s Undo It. Hey, it’s no 14-minute Freebird, but it got me almost half way round the track. I just might make myself a car sticker that says “2.57.” (YEAH, baby, that’s MINUTES. Take that, 26.2ers!)

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This iPod of yore is so old and crusty that the screen looks like a dying star.

I have been staunchly exercise-free for most of my adult life. I have worn my sedentary state as a nerd badge of honor, creating this weird logic in my head that it was both vain and a bore to have a gym membership. Puh-LEASE. Treadmills are for hanging clothes on, people.

I have better things to do, right? I’m a WRITER (imagine me saying that with a deep baritone and great dramatic flourish). My ART demands long hours of dedicated screen staring, followed by occasional bursts of manic creativity, interspersed with long and frequent Facebook breaks.

I cannot be bothered with such self-absorbed silliness as “working out.” (Oh yeah, and exercise hurts.)

Then my father-in-law went and got himself one of those fancy triple bypass surgeries a few weeks ago. I heard my husband explaining to the kids how it happened, how among other things, “Pappy never exercised a day in his life” and then BOOM — this fun, near-death experience happened.

I started thinking about that statement — but almost like he’d been talking about me. I pictured Bill explaining to our children why their mother had to be airlifted from Lady Liberty after trying to climb all 20 flights of stairs with them to the top. “Well, your mother never exercised a day in her life, God bless her soul…”

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And she ate lot of garbage. Although not typically all together in one bowl (as seen at the Big E Fair).

I decided right then to do something…something unfun for the good of the team. I decided to try running. Fear did this to me.

Fear can be an excellent motivator…like when that huge spider is INSIDE YOUR CAR and you become newly “motivated” to drive 90 miles an hour across four lanes of traffic to extract yourself from the vehicle before you die or it touches you, whichever comes first.

Sometimes fear moves us like nothing else can.

But sometimes fear paralyzes.

Whenever I do these walk-jog amalgams at our town track, I pass by a women’s prison. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. It’s just there.

But today (to the beat of the Black Eyed Peas) I found myself peering through the chain link and wondering what life is like there — how those women got there, how it must feel to be locked up without the choices I have, what they would think of a whiner like me who has every blessing but still complains every chance she gets.

I’ve had a huge opportunity nosedive out of the sky into my lap — the chance to have a book published (my manuscript is due by year’s end). And I’m treating a dream-come-true like a hot potato. I’m scared to death of it. Sitting down with my manuscript feels like wrestling mano a mano with Fear Itself.

Fear tells me lots of things: 1) that this book will suck; 2) that no one will buy it; and 3) even if some random stranger does buy it, they’ll think it sucks too.

Fear has me by the unmentionables, big time.

But today, as I staggered by the prison, the weirdest thing happened. I started to cry a little (and not just because running is the worst).

When I thought of how those women in there would give their eye teeth for the chance to live out their dreams and do exactly what they wanted with their lives, it occurred to me:

What a stupid waste of energy it’s been to spend all my time twisting a blessing into a curse. Fear did this to me

Sometimes fear is a good thing. (I will never, ever in a million years do meth, because I am scared. Have you seen what happens to those people’s teeth? And have you seen Breaking Bad? Fear can be good.)

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Chemistry teachers also scare me.

But for the other kind of fear — the kind that chokes and entangles and trips us whenever we try to run — that kind of fear is a jerk and a liar and needs to get kicked right in the face.

Granted, I can’t kick that high. But I can definitely aim lower and make it count.

You see, I’ve been “working out.” Or something like it.

Evicting the 13-Year-Old Inside (and Other Life Goals)

A coworker grabbed me walking into work the other day, all aflutter, and announced,  “Hey! There’s a picture in the paper today of a woman who looks JUST LIKE YOU!”

In a flash, he was gone to retrieve it, leaving me to wonder…what great beauty could this be?? Julia Roberts perhaps? Jennifer Lawrence? That county clerk in Kentucky?

Ah, but THIS is the picture he plunks down before me.

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

THIS IS A MAN, y’all.

This is what I’m trying to explain to him — in a distressed voice much too loud for an office setting. This is Eddie Redmayne. A MALE ACTOR. Playing a TRANSGENDER. You’re saying I look like a MAN.

He didn’t believe me ’til he read the caption, so I honestly don’t think he was trying to kill my soul.

But still. If you’re going to make a big hairy deal about how I look just like someone, could you at least cheer me up and make it a FEMALE?

The next day I had a mammogram, which is THE WORST. While I waited in the office, I looked at this.

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Sitting in a flimsy robe, waiting to get naked in front of strangers, I’ma tell ya: this did nothing for my self-esteem.

Sofia Vergara must have to block out HOURS for her mammogram, there’s so much ground to cover. I’m pretty sure that cute little technician took one look at me sans gown and thought, “WOW, this’ll be a quickie…nothing here to scan.”

Body image is a bitch. And as much as I’ve grown up and into myself in some lovely healthy ways, those old insecurities of the stoop-shouldered 13-year-old inside never really die.

I mean, I’m not consumed with Seventeen magazine like I once was, analyzing Jennifer Connelly from the top of her scrunchie to the soles of her high-top Reeboks. By the ripe old age of 44, I’ve accumulated too many other things to worry about, which is just as it should be.

But the 13-year-old inside still wants to stuff this bra with tube socks.

The 13-year-old inside still sucks in her gut all day — or hides her muffin top under billowing folds of fabric like Stevie Nicks.

The 13-year-old inside still conceals her unpedicured toes (and their neighbors, the calloused heels) in a stinky pair of fake Toms.

Like everybody else, I’m bothered more than I should be about what people think of me and my veins and my unruly hair with the greys sticking out and my frumpy wardrobe and my pores and my paunch. (I don’t care enough to actually do sit-ups…let’s not get carried away…but still I fret.)

Still that 13-year-old is there.

She especially likes to pop out whenever my little girl takes my picture. (Lucy’s low to the ground so she never fails to get me at the worst possible angles.)

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I am ITCHING to delete this picture. I look like I just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. But I am trying really hard to be transparent here…like my skin tone in this picture.

“Oh, delete that! I look a fright!” I always bellow, which is exactly what you should never say to a child following her mother’s lead on the path to a healthy self-esteem.

Of course, she always says something sweet back like, “Why do you always say that?? You’re beautiful!”

It’s true.

Not beauty perhaps as the world sees beauty, not like a starlet cinching her boobs together, getting ready for her close-up.

But to my daughter, I’m beautiful. And I feel exactly the same way about her.

When I look at my baby girl, I am overcome. She’s perfect to me. I could eat every bit of her up.

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And my Maker feels the same way about me — yet in infinitely deeper and wider and more unfathomable ways. My physical imperfections are meaningless to Him, except those lines and scars that made me who I am. Those he loves. (He showed off His own hard-earned scars as beauty marks, so I know.)

I’m invaluable and beautiful and precious in His sight. He says so.

Even when the robe is off and my every flaw is exposed, I must cling to that. It’s really all that matters.

And even when the other 5th graders at the party are taking selfies of their “six-packs,” (yeah, that happened), I pray that Lucy will cling to what’s true. That she’ll tell me about it later while grabbing her belly and exclaiming, “I love my chub!” (That happened, too.) That she will see beauty as something more, something deeper, something the mean girls can’t dig their claws into, something eternal.

I want richer, sweeter, wiser, cooler, lovelier things for the both of us.

Because let’s face it. I may never be fully rid of you, but I’m kind of over you, 13-year-old self.

You’re so 1984.

Put Another Reading Log on the Fire

I love to read. But I’ll just come right out with it.

I LOATHE reading logs.

“Reading logs” are these handy little learning tools designed to “motivate” my 5th and 6th graders to read each day and help them “process” what they’ve read.

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Here’s my fifth-grader’s.  SO. MANY. BLANKETY. BLANKS. 

But really, it’s little more than a tracking device to see which little delinquents are actually reading and which ones are doing something more fun.

As I see it, the Reading Log is that jerk at the party who marches into a room of happy people swinging from chandeliers and proclaims, “Wellll, technically that’s illegal…”

Everyone was having a perfectly lovely time ’til that guy showed up. And my children were quite contented little readers ’til the Reading Log showed up, all bossy and ranty and sapping the fun out of the whole thing.

Here’s just a snippet of the conversation my kids are having with the Reading Log EVERY DAY:

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“Welll, I think that’s just super that you’re zipping through Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People for the 39th time!

But wake up, kid! (I see you nodding off as you read in bed…)

It’s time to look alive and kindly document how long you’ve been reading. (What do you mean you didn’t look at the clock when you started?)

I’ll then need you to calculate how many pages that is (YES, do the math, lazy bones).

Next you’ll need to culminate your thoughts on the main character’s narrative journey these last two chapters.

(I’m assuming his journey involved toxic farts. Don’t write that down. Go for something more existential.)

If you could then rate what you think about this hilarious little romp on a scale of 1 to 10, that’d be fantastic.

Oh yeah, you’ll be graded on this.

So hurry up! It’s already way past your bedtime! Get HOT!”

The resounding reply of my children every single night:

“ZZZZZZZZ.”

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Lord, your mercies — and the blank spaces on our reading logs — are new every morning.

I know. Filling out this form isn’t that hard. But it’s just ONE MORE TEDIOUS TASK to add to all the other myriad tedious tasks involved in modern-day learning.

And hey, it seems like a can’t-miss idea to me. Wanna instill a lifelong love of reading in our children?

LET’S MAKE READING A BIG FAT PAIN IN THE ARSE.

Good plan.

I get it. Not everybody is bookish. Lots of kids (and some days it’s my kids) need cattle-prodding to read three words in a row. So I’m all for carrots and contests and silly plastic prizes for reading books like the town library does.

But ACKKKKK (I’m channeling my inner Cathy – remember her, fellow cartoon readers of the ’80s??), the reading log has become this irksome black cloud, stalking my children with worrisome busy work and turning something that should be pleasant into something so not.

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Even Lucy’s fish, Kramer, likes to keep tabs on Charlie Brown’s progress with that football. Just don’t make him document every swinging detail about it. He has no hands, for starters.

I’m just relieved I don’t have to write down everything I’m reading for The Man.

If I did, I’d have to report on my five-minute scan of Elle at the hairdresser’s. I learned that “furry shoes” are trending this fall. (I blame Chewbacca, who appears to be having a moment.)

I’ve intermittently read Entertainment Weekly on bathroom breaks, where I learned that Lady Gaga is even weirder than first believed. (This is not news.)

I would note my perusal of various mommy blogs, where I learned “how to not raise mean girls” and “how to streamline my back-to-school process.” (We’ll see how this pans out.)

I even read THE NEW YORK TIMES this week. Okay, it was one article, online, about the “fashion” of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Meaty stuff. But I learned about the design process behind Amy Poehler’s painful plaid romper. Ten minutes well spent.

I’ve also been reading my book club read (Queen of the Tearling) through slitty eyes, but don’t quiz me on what happened last. I’m sure I was half-dead when I read it and will have to re-read the entire last chapter.

Let’s just say, I’m reading a lot. Not all of it is Tolstoy (okay, NONE of it), but I read. And I do so happily. Without drudgery. Without mandatory required paperwork.

So the moral of my long story is this:

Reading is fun. And if we want kids to love reading too, reading should STAY FUN.

As for me and my house, I wish we could just set the reading log on fire, curl up with a good book, and bask in its nice warm glow.

In my world, that’d be one heck of a happy ending.