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.

What’s Under YOUR Couch Cushions?

I’ve just emerged from excavating my desk — a long-lost piece of furniture I’d like to start using again if I could somehow find it.

In my archaeological dig, I just unearthed this treasure.

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“Couch History:” A Dusty Time Capsule of What Lies Beneath by Lucy Filiatreault.

My daughter likes to “research” stuff. This usually involves Googling weird animals like Tasmanian Tigers (which I wasn’t aware was a real thing) and typing up “facts” about them.

Apparently she also turns her scientific eye now and again to the mysteries of home — such as what mysteries lurk under our sofa cushions. As shown above, she has lovingly curated this array of items and TAPED THEM TO A PIECE OF PAPER.

Isn’t that just GRAND?

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I’m just happy it’s something plastic and not something dead.

As Part II of her painstaking research, she also took time to document what littered the floor of our home. (At least by getting taped onto this piece of paper, that crap got picked up EVENTUALLY.)

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She appears to imply that said “piece of papper” had lain our carpet since 1964. I demand carbon dating.

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And a BandAid from 1941?? It might have been there since the Bush administration, but FDR? P-shaw.

What a keen scientific mind! And what a lovely tribute to her mother’s unswerving devotion to homemaking!

May she long cherish these findings (a wrapper from her beloved root beer barrels, the remains of a bandage from a boo-boo once blessed with a kiss, a piece of hay from the box of that infernal rabbit we bought her) as mementos of a home full of crap, yes, but also full of lovvvve.

Just as importantly, may her inquisitive mind never lead her to the seedy underbelly of our station wagon’s backseat.

That mouse family just wants to eat our leftover Goldfish crackers in peace.

(Help a mother out. Report back to me on what weird stuff you’ve found under your sofa cushions…or if you dare, what smells are emanating from your minivan? We’re all in this together.)

The End of the Summer Stare-Down

My dog stares at me. All the time.

Without a sound. Without playful pants-leg tugging. WITHOUT CEASING.

She just stares in dead silence — like one of those psychics who can bend spoons with her mind. She’s sweet and all, but I figure this animal’s either trying to mystically transport a leash into my hand or set me on fire. I can’t be sure.

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Can you see the pressure I’m under here?

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During this particular stare-down, I’m trying to eat breakfast. I can only assume she wants me to fling my bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats across the room in a fit of rage so she can lick up her share.

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Here I’m trying to kick back on the screened-in porch. Ah, but there will be no escape from THE STARE. She will not be denied.

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I can feel her eyes drilling into mine while I wash dishes: THERE ARE CHIPMUNKS. RELEASE MEEEEE. 

When she hasn’t retired to someone else’s bed, this dog is standing on all fours, waiting, wishing, staring. Boring holes into me with her burning expectation and palpable disappointment. It’s kind of her thing.

Oddly enough, it’s pretty much the same thing my kids do to me all summer long. They too have perfected the LONG PLEADING STARE.

“Can I play video games?” LONG PLEADING STARE. CHESHIRE CAT GRIN.

“Can I go on Video Star and make a music video about our staring dog?” LONG PLEADING STARE. BATTED EYELASHES.

“Can we go to ____ today (fill in the blank with some ungodly expensive water park/aquarium/someplace I would never want to go in a million years)?” LONG PLEADING STARE.

“Can we watch ‘Teen Titans Go’ all morning long til our retinas are burned to a crisp?” LONG PLEADING STARE. (It’s far too early in the a.m. for this conversation, but through slitty eyes, I assume my children look a lot like this):

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There’s been A LOT of staring this summer.

I get tired of being the bad guy so I’ve crumbled under the stare-downs more times than I care to admit. On perfectly lovely summer days, my children have watched too much of everything. (In fact, they’re doing that now so I can write about it.)

But sometimes on my stronger days, I return the stare-down with a good ol’ fashioned garbage can to lug out. Or a leash to walk that relentless dog. Or heaven forbid, a summer math packet. That’ll learn ’em.

Here’s the stare I get then.

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Summer is a blessing and a curse. There’s easy laziness one minute, dead-eyed boredom the next.

There’s happy-happy family time one minute, followed by “stop-touching-me-I-hate-you-I’m-telling-Mom-you-said-Shut-Up” the next.

And while we’ve taken a nice little sabbatical from schoolbooks, there are still plenty of dirty looks to go around. They’re just not coming from teacher. They’re coming from MOM.

I can stare too, you know.

I’m much sadder than usual to see summer end, to tell you the truth. Both kiddos are inexplicably bound for middle school, which traumatizes me.

But I still have man’s best friend to keep our little tradition of doleful disappointed staring alive until next summer.

A comforting thought indeed.

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Hap-hap-happy back-to-school everyone!

Get Me into that Stinkin’ Fresh Air

Don’t be confused.

The minute I get one of those Patagonia catalogs with somebody striking a yoga pose atop Machu Picchu, I don’t think twice. I don’t flip through the pages longingly. I don’t even hesitate.

I toss it straight in the trash without a backwards glance at their wide array of sports bras.

My soul does not yearn for adventure. Or exertion. Or tick-borne illnesses. Or going more than 24 hours without God’s gift of showering.

But I just spent the weekend in a tent with my family.

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And you know what? I just might do it again.

Oddly enough, all that fresh air and togetherness (I can’t believe I’m saying this) was GOOD FOR US.

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Unless these berries we found and consumed were poisonous.

The only screen was the fire, which everyone stared at like it was Facebook.

The only chores were the half-assed kind of dishwashing that happens with cold water and our new laissez-faire camping attitude.

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Doing “laundry.”

The only to-do items involved very little adult participation, such as capturing every imaginable species of moth that gravitated toward our lantern and/or the bathroom stalls or creating a mud puddle island retreat for a new lizard friend.

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That thing was about as big as her head.

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Here’s the island getaway we’re all dreaming of.

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And the red lizard that’s in PTSD counseling after our visit.

It wasn’t Norman Rockwell idyllic. Nothing ever is, really. There was a lot of swearing and snapping as my husband and I fumbled to recall how the heck to pitch this god-forsaken tent. IN THE DARK.

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This is the take-down. A much more well-lit and cordial affair.

There was feverish swatting at whatever Deep Woods Off wouldn’t ward off.

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There was zero sleep when our nightmare-plagued girl shoehorned her way onto our narrow, sinking air mattress. (We do NOT sleep on the ground, people. What are we, savages??)

There was a huge bug bite on my husband’s arm that got all swollen and angry, much like the spider with bloody fangs that caused it while attempting to kill us in our sleep.

Then there was the time I grabbed at a teetering lantern and burned my fingertips to a bacony crisp. (This was essentially my first act of camping — eradicating my fingerprints.)

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Not to mention the near-death experience of trying to inflate these stupid rafts.

But I am choosing to look at it this way: Just as the nacho chip is the ho-hum vehicle for enjoying the awesomeness of queso, the tent shall be our cheap vehicle for finding awesomeness together.

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This weekend, that tent was our cleanliness-challenged jumping off point for seeing the Berkshires (where I’d never been), taking in a whole bunch of Van Goghs at a fancy-pants art museum (in a greasy ponytail not quite in keeping with the Lilly Pulitzer vibe), and then consuming a platter full of random meaty deliciousness at our very first Colombian restaurant.

Not half bad for life from a tent.

I have to say, we just do better out there.

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In our house, the husband and I are on task. We have things to do. We get distracted and crabby and want to be left alone to our projects or our solitude or our 374th viewing of A Few Good Men on TBS. We growl and shoo the kids off to a screen of their own.

But out there, even if we’re in a tent, we’re together on purpose. We have plans. We are lighter in our spirit. We may be cheap (hence the tent), but we’re up for stuff.

And I cannot stress to you what a miracle this is…

Out there, from that tent, our children played together:

a) OUTSIDE, and

b) WITHOUT ARGUING.

These baby vampires — who shriek at the very suggestion that THEY SHOULD GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY — spent hours collecting a plastic container full of weird swamp monster newts then throwing a “party” for them in a shady spot by the lake.

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This was just the beginning. That little container soon was teeming with what I lovingly referred to as “the screaming eels.”

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But awwwwwww.

Anybody want second helpings of that? Yes, please.

If it takes a tent for us all to get outside of this house and outside of ourselves, consider me draped in nylon and bug spray and halfway out the door.

Together — our fists full of tent stakes, our hair slick with sheen, our hearts swelling with adventure — we will go out and see the world.

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Mosquitos and Lyme Disease and body odor be damned.

Dear Elementary School: A Break-Up Letter

Dear Elementary School,

I wish I knew how to quit you.

My baby girl’s last day to walk your dear sweet rainbow-colored halls is today.

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I am not handling it well.

In fact, I couldn’t face seeing you today. I’m a puffy-eyed blubbering mess, sort of reminiscent of Tammy Faye Bakker at a full boil…just without the mascara. I didn’t even bother with makeup today. I knew it wouldn’t last.

My youngest child is being shoved from your cozy, construction paper-lined nest and forced to fly to MIDDLE SCHOOL next year…in FIFTH GRADE…at the ripe old age of NINE.

Don’t get me started, Elementary School. I know you agree it’s too soon, but it’s out of our hands here. Sure, we’d give anything to linger at least one more year in your loving arms, but we must soldier on — and away from you. Which kind of blows.

But before we go, I had to tell you how I feel.

I will miss you dearly, Elementary School.

I will miss your Technicolor playgrounds with all those sparkly sneakers stretching from your swing sets into the sky. As far as I can tell, the big kids have fields and basketball courts and a lot of loitering.

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I will miss the little kids walking your halls single-file. There may be imps who dawdle and goof and do the occasional cartwheel, but there are no marauding bands of tweens here. I like that.

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I will miss your bulletin boards with the bubble letters, the teachers’ smiley stickers on homework papers, your miles and miles of lamination.

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I will miss your miniature desks and your miniature chairs and your miniature water fountains that will one day seem like a scene out of Munchkin Land to my grown-up kids.

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I will miss your teachers. They have helped me raise my children so thoughtfully, so skillfully, so generously; I truly consider them friends now. (I mean, I barely know my middle schooler’s teachers’ names. It’s just different now.)

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I will also miss how your teachers read stories out loud to our kids. One of my favorite things…

I will miss your never-ending cavalcade of plays, concerts, and assemblies. I won’t lie to you; they were long. Half the time, we couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. And those screechy renditions of Greensleeves on the recorder might have caused permanent hearing loss. But those were big days for our kids, and they gave us parents a chance to take pictures of our kids in ridiculous costumes and sniffle our way through the school song. We’ll miss that stuff. (Some of it.)

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This is apparently a monster with many eyes or heads or something. Lucy is the monster in the rear, waving. (That is the most showmanship she has exhibited in her entire elementary school career, by the way.)

I will miss your bins of busted-up crayons and crusty glue sticks. You always had tools at the ready when inspiration struck and stick figures had to be drawn.

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I will miss your little kid artwork all over the walls. (I’m a real sucker for those hand-prints.) Middle school art gets a little moody, crying-clownish. I like your happy handprints.

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I know, I know. I’m getting a little sappy and morose. I get like that at the big moments — and this one feels huge to me.

My head tells me it’s time to move on, and I know eventually I will.

It won’t take long (less than three months, in fact) before you’ll start seeing other people (lots of them).

And in time, I’ll start to forget you, what you were like, the moments we shared together.

But Elementary School, I’ll never forget we had something really special for a while.

I know this much is true…I could never love another school the way I loved you.

Forever yours,

DeeDee

P.S. Okay, parents. What did I miss? What will you miss? And Godspeed to all of you in the parenting trenches this summer. It begins…

68 Days of Summer…and ONE in Every Crowd

Stretching before us are 68 days of summer vacation. SIXTY EIGHT. That is many many days, my friends. And let me warn you right now: there will be ONE. In every family, on every road trip, on every outing of perfectly planned frivolity:

There will be one who sulks.

There will be one who never stops talking.

There will be one who wants to do EVERYTHING.

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There will be one who wants to do NOTHING.

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I’m not naming any names…

There will be one who won’t quit begging for snacks.

There will be one who asks a zillion questions about what we’re doing next…what we’re gonna do there…when exactly we’re going hoooome.

There will be one who doesn’t like hot dogs.

There will be one who doesn’t want his face getting wet.

There will be one who straggles behind.

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There will be one who is bored.

There will be one whose bladder is always bursting.

There will be one who hates this movie that everyone else loves.

There will be one who gets carsick.

There will be one who needlessly pokes at his siblings in the backseat.

There will be one who spills her Slurpee into the seat cushions.

There will be one who refuses to sleep in a tent, use a porta-potty, wear the swimmies…you fill in the blank.

There will be one who wants to stay in the pool when everyone else wants to go to the ocean.

There will be one who wants to go to the ocean when everyone else wants to stay in the pool.

There will be one is eternally hangry.

There will be one who forgets the single most importantest thing ever back home (be they flip flops, sand digger, or the can’t-live-without techno-gadet of the moment.)

There will be one who is cold.

There will be one who is hot.

There will always be ONE in every crowd.

As we throw ourselves headlong into summer, I would be wise to remember this simple truth. There will always be ONE.

It’s as inevitable as the summer buzz of mosquitos. Yes, mosquitos are annoying as fire, but when they come, somehow we are not shocked and undone by this news. We mildly swat at them. We light citronella candles that don’t work. We stock up on Deet and Skin-So-Soft and try to ward them off as best we can.

But we know: the mosquitos will always be among us. We don’t get all huffy about it, but we try to endure them and make the best of our shared airspace anyways.

Our kids are not mosquitos. They are dear sweet precious gifts from heaven above, but they do have their moments. (Some more than others.)

And at any given moment, there always seems to be someone buzzing with unhappiness when everyone else is just peachy.

I say: Whatevs.

Press on.

Throw that kid a granola bar and your best fake smile and crank up the radio.

We are together.

We are making some happy freaking memories.

We will enjoy the view anyway…dive in the water anyway…hike to the top anyway…check out that cute shop anyway. Because everybody else wants to and we are PRESSING THE HECK ON.

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(I am preaching to myself more than I’m preaching to you, because I know myself and my sky-high expectations. I am never quite prepared for THE ONE who is intent on ruining the picture-perfect slide show in my head by being hungry, cranky, loud, whiney, injured, bored, whatever.)

But it’s just not possible for everyone to be PSYCHED all the time, to like all the same things, to love everything I suggest. This summer, I will resolve not to take it personally, to not to get all naggy and ranty and pouty when THE ONE shows up.

We will press on, knowing that eventually THE ONE will get with the program. Get a protein fix. Catch up. Get caught smiling. Make fun memories in spite of himself. It’ll be worth it.

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And at summer’s end, after we have soldiered our way through all 68 days of family fun, I will be rewarded with a camera full of sunny memories — and yes, a hard-earned backpack full of school supplies.

So let’s go out and make some memories — even if THE ONE shows up.

Even if it kills us.

Birds, Bees and (for lack of a better word)…Coconuts

My little boy is getting the sex talk at school today.

Somebody get over here and HOLD ME.

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He is today embarking on the fifth grade science unit about “human growth and development.” That means that today the light will dawn on all those weird words I was never enlightened enough to teach him. (I’m sorry, but most of those words are gross…except for Vas Deferens, which sounds kind of fancy. I much prefer the vagaries of “down there.”)

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See what I mean??? Ugh.

Today he will watch that video (if he ever gets out from under his desk) with drawings of girls and boys “blossoming,” which boils down to getting hairy and growing “coconuts.” (That’s Will’s word. I swear I didn’t teach him that one.)

Today the shales will fall off his eyes and he will become acquainted with “sanitary napkins.”

Today my child will learn where babies come from, without any mention of storks or cabbage patches or God’s eternal mystery.

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Today is the end of the innocence.

I knowwww, I’m painfully repressed. I own that. But let me play for you the full-length, unedited director’s cut of my mother telling me about the birds and the bees.

Mom: “There are Kotex under the sink when you need them.”

Me: “Um, okay.”

GOOD TALK.

This is the same woman who left a box of KY Jelly wrapped in a paper towel on my nightstand on my wedding day. True story.

So yeah, I come by it honest.

But because so painfully little was said at my house, I know that it’s needed. And I do want things to be different with my own kids, so mom and dad are a safe place they can go with all their fears and questions and gross words (even though, let’s face it, my male child will likely never speak of these things again.)

I get it. I really do.

I’m just not quite ready for all that to be said TODAY.

I can’t remotely get a handle on how we got here this quick. I wish with all that is in me that I had ONE MORE YEAR. Just one.

I mean, he’s just a sweet little teeny-tiny eleven-year-old. See?

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Clearly too young for this stuff.

I honestly think that by 6th grade, I’d admit, “Okay. It’s time.” And I’d be ready for a professional to handle this job for me, giving me time to prep for the questions he would never, ever ask me.

But that’s not what’s happening. We are here. Kicking and screaming or not, we’re here.

So today it’s time for game face. And for bear hugs for the traumatized kid about to walk through my door. For all the elevating words I can muster about “God’s design.” For a healthy dose of silliness and conspiratorial laughter, because seriously y’all, it is funny.

It’s time to face the music and be the mom I want to be — not some distant non-communicative shadow out of a John Hughes movie, but one who’s there, who gets it, who knows all the words and isn’t afraid to use them (if there is absolutely no other choice).

It’s time to show my kid a mom who loves him desperately — even with all his weird hairiness to come.

“You Out of Boxes Yet?” and Other Touchy Subjects

Please forgive the dust bunnies in my hair. I’ve just clawed my way out from underneath a towering mound of boxes.

Boxtower

We are currently using these boxes as BLINDS.

The boxes here are heavy and plentiful and they’ve had me surrounded for weeks.

For a while, I wasn’t sure I’d ever dig my way out. But I’m starting to see glimmers of light peeking through the piles. I finally unearthed my jewelry box and my mouse pad.

Friends, there is hope.

In case you haven’t heard (I’ve been off the grid a while), we just moved from one house to another a whopping five minutes away. I swear, it might as well have been the moon.

Rearview

The act of miraculously containing every single, solitary, dad-blasted thing in one’s possession (from mango chutney to pet rabbit) then lugging every last scrap of it bodily somewhere else then cleaning up the slovenly dust bowl left behind is soul-crushingly, ridiculously hard. I mean, it just is. (Props to you military families. Seriously.)

I’ve heard moving is like childbirth.

That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. I mean, the new house doesn’t scream at all hours like my newborn did, and in the aftermath, I don’t have to do ungodly things with a squirt bottle. But I can definitely see the parallel.

Moving is painful and messy and exhausting and all your embarrassing bits are revealed (like when you move that armoire you haven’t touched in 14 years and find a shag carpet of lint underneath.) There’s all the back-breaking build-up, that huge push to the finish line, followed by a mind-numbing wave of the “What now’s?”

Fort

Here’s the room where random boxes go to die. It is now a fort. Making chicken salad out of…well…you know.

But now that we’re here and settling in and finding room for a metric ton of stuffed animals, it’s totally worth it.

We love it here. We love the way the sun lights up the dining nook. We love all the neighborhood girls who come over and spill bubbles on our porch floor and ride plasma cars down our hill. We love the sense of new life beginning. It’s palpable…like that new baby smell.

Maybe years from now, I’ll forget how painful it was to get here and I’ll be ready to do it all over again.

NOT BLOODY LIKELY.

Let’s just put it in the books right now; somebody’s gonna need to bury me in the backyard. I’m here now, and I’m not leaving.

I’ve thrown away my KitchenAid box to prove it.

Powertool

Don’t mess. This girl has a power tool – and she knows how to use it. Sort of.

So let’s go ahead and make a pact. Until at least 2019, don’t even bother to ask, “Are you out of boxes yet?”  The answer will be NO.

The boxes are here to stay. And so am I.

The Serenity Prayer: Not-So-Extreme Makeover-Home Edition

It’s official. We’re homeowners! Congratulations?

Twelve

We signed all six inches worth of legal documentation yesterday, which means we are ALL IN.

After fourteen years of responsibility-free renting, our family unit is all excited…and all freaked out by mile-long to-do lists and sky-high price tags. We also share a collective splitting headache and a growing obsession with where to get good boxes.

I have warned my husband to be on guard. My female nesting instinct has been suppressed all these long years, I’ve watched decades worth of HGTV, and now it’s ON. “The Precious” is in my hot little hands at last. Smeagol and Gollum have been unleashed in my head, and they are going at it.

I like the Smeagol side, which is contentedly twitterpated over a new family home to dress up and make our own and turn into a loving space for family and friends. I don’t see that side nearly as often as I’d like.

The Gollum-ish side is my default mode, all twitchy and nervous and covetous over everything I see on Joss & Main. It’s the side that will not sleep until Precious perfection is mine.

Gollum skulks around with all this seething insecurity, convinced that our new house (as cute as it is already) will end up looking less like a magazine and more like a circular for Bob’s Furniture Warehouse (scratch and dent section).

Clearly, I need an intervention. I’m fretting entirely too much over rugs.

So here’s a prayer I wrote…or actually, revised…for lunatic new homebuyers out there like me who need balance restored to the Force. Who need to be happy with what they have and all the wonderful opportunities that await in their new home. Who need to take a very large Chill Pill.

It will be okay. It will be pretty. And in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t even matter.

Jesus had a rock for a pillow. Ease up.

Downstairs

So this prayer is for me. And for you, if any of this crazy sounds familiar.

The Serenity Prayer: Not-So-Extreme Makeover (Home Edition)

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change (like this problematic lack of closet space and that ’80s-era skylight);

The courage to change the things I can (like the shower stall that looks like it could teleport through time);

And wisdom to know the difference. (The handicapped ramp definitely goes.)

Living one newly packed box at a time;

Enjoying one freshly painted wall at a time;

Accepting hardships like a kitchen reno as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful bathroom

As it is, not as I would have it (with handmade ceramic tiles and a clawfoot tub);

Trusting that He will make all oaken toilet seats right

If I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this house

And supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next. (I hear there are mansions…)

Amen.

toilet

(I don’t have to await God’s voice to know this toilet seat has to go, right?)