Short Stuff

Jan 31 2011

I had a revelation several years ago while looking at vacation photos.

I don’t have to wear shorts again.  Ever.  In my whole life.

I’m short.  I’m not skinny.  I look terrible in shorts.

They creep up my legs all by themselves and become something of a social hazard.  I mean, shorts don’t have a whole lot of room to creep places, you know?

I did myself and the entire world a favor when I realized that light weight pants and capris and skirts were the wave of my future.

You’re very, very welcome.

I had the same kind of revelation about folding laundry.  It was the same in the sense that I realized I don’t have to do it, and you can’t make me.

It tells you something about my personality that I’m grinning from ear to ear after typing “I don’t have to do it, and you can’t make me.”   Hehehe.

Now, to be clear, I don’t mind doing laundry, as in washing and drying clothes.  I’ve just never been successful at folding laundry or putting it away.  Kind of like I wasn’t ever successful at looking good in shorts.  (Geez, that was a good analogy… it just keeps on giving.)

We used to use the Clean Pile/Dirty Pile system.  In case it’s not already super, duper, extra obvious, that’s the system where you dump all your clean clothes into a pile and then, when they get dirty, you put them into a separate, dirty pile.  When the dirty pile is bigger than the clean pile, it’s time to do a load or five of wash.

I may have used “system” a little loosely.

Now we use a much more advanced system.  I call it the Great Wall of Laundry.

Here’s our laundry room now:

That’s a grid of laundry baskets with our clean clothes dumped in ’em.  Yep, dumped.

Each person gets a “bottoms” basket and a “tops” basket.  We also have baskets for dance clothes, grown-out-of-’em clothes, white socks, colored socks, and kitchen stuff.

Fine.  I admit it.  It’s a glorified Clean Pile.  But glorified is good, right??

Laundry comes out of the dryer and goes straight into the baskets.  Bypass folding.  Bypass dressers.  Bypass aggravation.

Amazing things happen when you just admit stuff.

Admission: I’m never going to look good in shorts.  Conclusion: Never wear them again.

Admission: I’m never going to fold or put away laundry.  Conclusion: Never do it again.

Granted, the new system isn’t without its flaws.  Namely, we didn’t make a large enough grid.  We thought we could still be responsible to fold towels and sheets and put them away in the linen closet.

Yep.  That’s a bona fide Clean Pile right there.

Or, as I like to call it, a Teach Kids How to Fold Stuff and Put It Away Pile.

Do what I say, kids, not what I do.

Isn’t it the dream of every parent that our children will grow up to be better than we are?

Listen closely, Kids.  If you’re very lucky and you obey your Mommy and you eat all your vegetables, someday you can grow up to fold laundry AND wear shorts.

Here’s to dreaming!



Jan 30 2011

Aden is sick.

She has a fever and is achy and her eyes hurt.

I’m sad for her.  I mean it.  I really am.  She’s pitiful, and she keeps saying “thank you, Mom” every time I bring her something.  How sweet is that?

I suspect that the appropriate parental response is to be only sad.

I’m not appropriate.  It’s a sickness, I tell you.

In addition to my sympathy, I’m delighted that all my plans for the day are shot.

I can’t leave my house, and I have the perfect excuse to cancel everything.

So far today, I’ve

  • medicated, fed and watered my sick kid, wrapped her in a blanket and given her unlimited TV access
  • swept and mopped my floor
  • cleaned the clutter and filth off my kitchen table and counter tops
  • questioned whether “filth” is too strong a word and decided it’s sadly accurate
  • done two loads of dishes
  • sanitized the kitchen sink (what with the filth and all)
  • made myself a ham, manchego and spinach crepe for brunch… crepe… brunch… I’m such a happy woman right now
  • washed off our kitchen chairs and table legs, and saw why I should do this way, way more regularly
  • SAT DOWN for two cups of coffee at my immaculate table
  • cleaned our grill
  • reorganized an entire shelf of our pantry (yeah, the whole pantry would be more impressive, but that’s more than a day-long project)
  • took out two garbage-can loads of trash
  • read two chapters of a novel of questionable reputation
  • and wrote a blog post while it was still daylight

It’s 2:15 in the afternoon.  I’m so excited to see what I can do next!

I mean, poor Aden.

Say what?

Jan 30 2011

Abby’s 12.

This is how I can tell:

Abby:  Can Joanna spend the night?

Me:  No.

Abby:  So was that a yes?

Immovable Object

Jan 29 2011

Aden’s one of my quirky kids.

I mean, she’s kick-in-the-pants funny, but it has been a total challenge getting her to listen and obey.

And, by total challenge, I mean that I’m the irresistible force and she’s the immovable object.

I also beat my head against a rock every now and then, which feels equally productive.

Aden’s 9 and just got braces put on her teeth.  (Yeah, I thought 9 was too young, too.  Shows what I know.)

I received a call from Aden’s school the other day.

My heart sank when the call came.  My heart always sinks when those calls come.  I have my reasons.

Me:  “Hello?”

Heather:  “Hi, Beth.  This is Heather calling from Aden’s school.”

Insert sinking heart.

Me:  “Hi, Heather.”

Heather:  “Aden’s fine.  Everything’s fine.”

Heather’s a smart lady.  She’s perfected her Talk to Parents Who Are Freakers technique.  I’m at the top of the Parent Freakers list, so I would know.

Heather:  “I’m just calling to let you know that Aden lost her toothbrush out of her pocket.”

Me:  “Ummmm.   Okaaaaaay…”

I had no idea what was going on.  Heather could tell.

Heather:  “Aden said her orthodontist wants her to brush her teeth after every meal.  She’s very distraught that her toothbrush is missing.”

Oh, yeah.  That’s right.

I’m an involved, aware parent.  I knew that.

(I didn’t know that.)

Me, bewildered: “She’s taking her toothbrush to school?”

I tend to give myself away with questions like that.  Whoops.

Heather: “Yes.  And now it’s lost, and she’s sad.  I promised her I’d let you know so you can get her another one tonight.”

Me: “Thanks, Heather.  Is there anything else?  Liiiiike… anything Aden did?  Or said?  Or a person she slugged?  Or a reason for me to talk to the principal?”

Heather:  “Nope.  That’s it.”

Me:  “Oh, thank God!”

Heather and I laughed.  We hung up.

I sat in stunned silence because that was incredible information with thunderous implications.

My kid was listening and obeying.  Dare I say, my immovable object just budged?

I wasn’t prompting her.

Heck, I wasn’t even acknowledging her efforts.

Nevertheless, she was diligently following her orthodontist’s instructions.  All by herself.

That breeze you just felt was my giant rush of relief.

Oh, good news of great joy!

I picked that phone RIGHT BACK UP to report the news to my husband.

His response was immediate.

My husband: “That’s amazing!”

Greg again:  “That’s incredible!”

Aaaand again:  “Do you know what this means?!”

I think I do.  I think I really do.

If this kid can learn to listen and follow instructions and be self-directed, the possibilities are endless!

Someday, our baby girl is going to be a productive member of society.

Someday, she might have social skills!

Someday, she’s going to hold down a job and be kind to her friends and live at peace and in harmony with the world.

I could tell Greg and I were on the same page.  We have that kind of marriage.  Our minds are melded into one cohesive unit.

Greg chimed into my thoughts:  “The orthodontist could tell Aden to wash her hands after every time she goes potty!”


Greg again:  “Or maybe the orthodontist could tell her to empty the dishwasher without complaining!”

Um, not exactly where I was headed.

Aaaaand one more time:  “Or he could even tell her to play the Wii without hitting her brother!”

Alrighty.  Maybe I was overthinking the implications a bit.

Maybe I should set my sights back down just a touch.

Maybe I should…

Ha!  Just kidding.

You know me better than that.

There will be no sight-lowering.

I am a mommy.  I am an irresistible force.  And I will keep telling myself this until I believe it.

I may not have Orthodontist Level motivational speaking skills, but I will do what I can, when I can, in every way I can.

Someday my child will hold down a job and be a kind friend and have social skills.  And if that starts with toothbrushing and hand washing and dishwasher emptying, so be it.

I will not tire, and I will not falter.  Well, I will not falter, anyway.  Very often.

Now off I go to bed, for I am a mommy.  I am an irresistable force, and I am exhausted.

Be The Encouraging Stranger, Part Duex

Jan 27 2011

On Sunday, I told you about a stranger who encouraged me.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for opportunities to encourage others.  It’s made for a fun week!

My favorite moment (so far) came from writing a thank you note to our milkman.

Rick’s been our milkman for over 6 years now.  When I think about all we ordered when our twins transitioned from the mommy cow (that’s me!) to the cow cow, I think… that’s a lot of milk!

Through all that time, Rick has been extremely consistent and reliable.  So much so that I never, ever think about the fact that milk is magically waiting on my front porch every Friday morning.

My kids compete to see who notices the milk’s appearance first.  (The dog usually wins.  Poor kids.)  They carry it inside for us and yell, “the milk is here!”  I’m pretty sure they think Rick is the Milk Fairy and socializes with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny when he’s not performing milk magic.

Anyway, I wrote it all down for Rick, thanking him for being a regular part of our lives, for making things easier on us, and for saving me from all those impulse purchases at the grocery store when I go there for “just milk.”  (My recent trip to the store for mozzarella cost me $33, so you can see where I’d be thrilled with milk delivery.)

Rick called me later in the day.  He told me about how his heart sinks when he sees a note.  As a small business owner with a wife and two kids, Rick knows a note can be a “thanks but we’re canceling” letter.  He told me what a simple thank you means and how glad he was for the acknowledgment of a job well done.

I loved chatting with Rick.  It made me feel good.  Like I’d done something worthwhile.

Isn’t that the way it usually works?  We do something we think will be nice for others and then the Nice turns around and smacks us in the heart.


As I contemplated encouragement this week, I recalled another moment I simply must share.

Once upon a time, I was an overwhelmed mom of three kids.

We had recently added two toddlers to our house by way of adoption.

I was in a bad place.

I was tired and beaten down.  I was sad and lonely.  I was depressed and had tunnel vision and wondered if I would be that miserable forever.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about my recent family additions, and I hated myself for not instantly and overwhelmingly adoring my new kids.

It was snowing.  It never snows where I live.  We’re not good at snow.

I was terrified I’d be trapped in the house with three kids during a blizzard.  Have I mentioned I may not have been completely rational?

I found myself compelled to go to the store.  We bundled up and left the house.

We shopped.  I bought a cart full of food.

I was in the parking lot loading the kids into the car when my eldest two (ages 4 and 5 at the time) decided to fight over who was getting in the minivan first.  Because our minivan is awesome.

I don’t know if I was apathetic or slow, but I didn’t stop the fight in time.  My 4-year-old, Ian, was pushed into the edge of the sliding door.  I’ll spare you the gore, but fresh blood is very, very bright and shiny on newly fallen snow.

It was immediately clear that the eyebrow cut would require stitches.

I clutched Ian to my chest and used boob-pressure to try to slow the bleeding.  I’m pretty sure they teach that in medical schools.

I picked up my not-yet-walking 1-year-old in my other arm.

I made my 5-year-old grab my pants so I wouldn’t lose her in the parking lot, and we abandoned the van, the groceries and my purse to head back into the store for help.  I didn’t even shut the van door.  I couldn’t.  Me and what arm?

It’s a long story from there, but here’s what stands out in my mind now that I’ve had seven years to reflect on it.

  1. I called a friend.  I said, “You have to come get my girls at the store right now.  I have to take Ian to the hospital.”  I didn’t ask what she was doing, and she didn’t ask questions.  She came.  Every mom needs girlfriends who will just come.  I have several girlfriends like that, and not enough blog space to say all the ways they’ve been my sanity.  For this story, I’ll say… thanks, Leslie, for being that friend.
  2. A woman I don’t know saw the whole thing.  She stopped in the snow and loaded all my groceries neatly into the van.  She picked up my purse, found my keys, locked my car and returned the cart.  She tracked me down in the store — and found me and my blood-sodden shirt and my crying kids while I hung onto the phone telling my friend I needed help.  She gave me my purse, squeezed my shoulder and left.  I didn’t know yet what she’d done.  I don’t think I managed to think, much less say out loud, any kind of a thank you.  So I’ll say it now.  To the stranger who embodied kindness and compassion to me when I desperately needed help, thank you.  There’s a special blessing in Heaven for people like you.  I just know it.


And finally, I promised to post your encouraging stories.

So far, I’ve got one and it’s about beer.  Thank goodness, because I’m a little teary after that last story and I HATE crying more than I hate almost anything else.  Stupid crying.  Don’t like shopping, hate crying — I make a terrible girl.

On to the encouraging beer story.  Tally Ho!

My fabulous brother, Jeff, writes:

I, too, can testify to the power of encouraging stranger(s)!

Years ago, I was on the shore of my parents’ lake house enjoying 2 of my favorite things — reading and beer.

I had my favorite book and some Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, and I didn’t plan to move for the entire afternoon.

Later (much later) a slow boat came by full of people sight-seeing around the lake.  When they saw me, the driver idled back and called, “Hey!  Those empties all yours?”

I looked down, and quickly (or maybe not SO quickly, considering) saw that there were 8 empty bottles.  I looked up, shrugged my shoulders, and responded, “Yep! Guess so!”

Everyone on board stood up and started clapping and cheering for me.

Felt good.

Thanks, Jeffy!  Awesome story.


Wishing you all many encouraging moments,wherever they may find you…


Oh, Fish Butts

Jan 26 2011

Do fish have butts?

Cai wanted to know.  Cai’s 4.  Four-year-olds care about stuff like that.

I said no.  Fish don’t have butts.  They have tails.

Cai asked where fish pee and poop from.

I said they have butts.

Cai said he thought I said fish don’t have butts.

I said I changed my mind.  I said that’s a woman’s prerogative.

Cai asked what a waterfish is.

Then I asked Cai what a waterfish is.  It took me a while to figure out he was pronouncing “prerogative.”

Prerogative.  Waterfish.  Same same.

We practiced pronouncing prerogative.



Next Cai asked me to check his leather.

Or he wanted to shuck what’s wetter.

Actually, he wanted me to check the weather.

Cai made me practice pronoucing weather.




I’m getting pretty good at it.

Cai didn’t want to know any more after that.

I can’t blame him.  That was exhausting.

I kind of feel like I should go back and correct the fish butt thing, but I think I lost my teachable moment back there somewhere.

This is parenting. Not sense-making.

Jan 24 2011

Abby (12) got in trouble recently.  That’s fairly unusual for her.  She typically leaves that to the other, younger children at our house.  Then, when they’re distracting me with their blatant misbehavior, she does whatever she wants.  I’m terrified the other kids will catch on to her tricks and move their own nefarious deeds under the radar.  I’ve never been very good at detecting Subtle.

On this particular day, the gods of justice realized that I’m not getting enough pre-adolescent angst from Abby to make up for the way I treated my parents when I was 12 and 13.  They decided that enough was enough and spelled Abby with a good, solid case of the ‘Tude.  Some people call it Attitude, but I think ‘Tude has much more of a ring to it, don’t you?

Dude, you’ve totally got some ‘Tude.


Anyway, the ‘Tude was making itself at home in my little abode, and I found it irritating, inappropriate and disrespectful.  My goal:  to rid my house of the ‘Tude as fast as humanly possible.

Since I’m not Subtle, I confronted the ‘Tude head on.

“Abby,” I said. “You attitude is unacceptable.”

“Whatever,” Abby said.



Oh, no she didn’t.

We’re a very strict family.  Extremely strict.  Sometimes strict.  Every once in a while, occasionally strict.

Because consistency is very important in raising children.  Critical, really.

There are words that are simply not allowed at my house.

Well, butt is allowed.  (Sorry, Mom.  I know you taught me better.)  And crap is allowed, but only after 5th grade.

Judy’s my mother-in-law.  Like my mom, Judy had better rules for raising her sons.  No words that could be stand-ins for real swear words were allowed.  As far as I can tell, my husband and his brother were allowed to say, Oh, no!

Judy, don’t read this part:

Shoot and dang it are allowed at our house.

What the heck is allowed. Usually it’s pronounced Wutdahek by Cai (4) and usually after I tell him I love him.  “I love you, Cai,” I say.  “Wutdahek,” he says and does a silly dance worthy of Mad TV.  It’s fabulous.

OK, Judy, it’s safe now.

There are words that are simply not allowed at my house.  I think I said that a few paragraphs ago.  But this time I mean it.

Even I have standards.

Other than an incident when Abby was small and thought that Clifford the Big Red Dog was pronounced “bulls#$t” (not kidding – long story), we don’t allow the Big Swear Words around here.

Also, poopy-head is not allowed.  That there’s name calling, and I won’t have any of that.

Stupid is not allowed.

Shut up is not allowed.

And topping the list of disallowed words are whatever and fine.

I guess that means there are five not-allowed words at my house.

Poopy-head.  Stupid.  Shut up. Whatever.  Fine.

Like I said, extremely strict.

“Whatever,” Abby said.  In front of her friends.

Well, darn it.  I had to do something about the ‘Tude.

Abby has always responded best to quiet reprimands, whispers in the ear, and gentle explanations accompanied by reasons for the required behavior change.  Public correction has never worked for her — she’s very sensitive to perceived embarrassment, something that’s been a learning curve for me, her outspoken mother.

I took Abby into the hall and quietly talked to her about her ‘Tude.  I asked her to usher the ‘Tude out of the house and lock the door.

All was quiet on the western front.

Until the ‘Tude broke down the door.  That sucker was pretty determined.

The next confrontation, again in front of the friends, resulted in a

“Fine.  Sor-REE,” from Abby.  Fine laced with contempt and dripping with sarcasm.  Sorry that means anything but.

“I see,” I said in front of the friends.

So be it, child.  You done did this to yerself.

“Your ‘Tude needs to change, Miss.”

Miss and Mister are my serious parenting words.  Scary, right?  I should star in a show about extreme parenting.

“If your ‘Tude can’t change due to your friends being here, then I will have to take them home.  They haven’t done anything to deserve that, but if you can’t be respectful of me while they’re here, then that’s that.  Now, I’ll be very clear.  I expect an apology and a change in the way you’re talking.  I expect you to apologize respectfully and sincerely.”

Emphasis on sincerely.

(FYI – this is a classic parenting blunder.  You can’t make a kid to be sincere about an apology that you force her to make.  Just like no one forcing an apology out of me can make me feel actually, truly sorry.  But that’s hardly the point.  This is parenting.  Not sense-making.)

Here’s what’s not fair about parenting:

  1. First, no one issues you a parenting instruction manual.  There are warning labels on McDonald’s coffee, but I get nothing about my kids?  That’s not right.  That’s just not right.
  2. Second, each kid is different and requires his or her own unique style of parenting.  Can’t they just all get together and agree on what parenting techniques work for ALL of them?  Granted, that would be less interesting.  Less interesting, but easier.
  3. Third, after 12 years, I think know a little about who this kid is and how she ticks.  Then my kid goes and changes the rules on me.  It’s just like when she was little and I finally had that nap schedule working and she’d go and drop a nap and I had to work out a whole new plan.  It’s like my kids think I’m flexible and adaptable.  I begin to suspect this is a trend that will continue for the entire time my children live with me.  Probably longer than that, but I’m not prepared to deal with that yet.  Sheesh.

So there I was, thinking it was a huge mistake to reprimand Abby in front of her friends.  Thinking “oh, what have I done?” by making public comments that will surely embarrass my child.

Abby looked a little stunned.

And then she gave me a sweet, genuine, contrite, appropriately-toned apology.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” she said.

There was a long pause while I stared at her.  I think I was trying to recover from Attitude Change Whiplash.

And then, into the pause, she verbally signed her apology, “Sincerely, Abby.”

It was Subtle (but I got it!).  It was sarcastic.  It was a teeny tiny bit of under-the-radar disrespect.

It was also funny.  As heck.

I laughed.

Dang it!

There went my authority as a parent.  I flushed it straight down the laughing toilet.  I do that frequently.

Abby laughed.  The friends laughed.

And you know what?  That ‘Tude evaporated right into thin air.

I’m not sure exactly where I went right and where I went wrong in that scenario.  Pretty sure there were even doses of both.  I find that the real-life parenting situations are much more complex than you read in those parenting books.

I know my consistency is, well, less than consistent.  I also know we laugh a lot at my house.   It’s probably not an either/or proposition, consistency vs. laughter.  But I can’t sincerely say I’m sorry that the laughter bubbles over.

Nope.  I’m not sorry at all.