Taxi Driver

Late last night I received word that my son would not have his usual ride to school this morning.  I quickly figured out that I’d need to take him to school a little earlier than strictly necessary so I could get home and pick up another son to get him to work on time.

That plan would have been perfect except that someone (not me!) was running late and gummed up the works.  This made the second son three minutes late.

Then I worked for several hours longer than I intended.  I promised my daughter we’d go to lunch and by the time we got out of the house we had less than an hour to eat.  That would not have been a problem except that when we came back to the car after eating, I saw that the passenger side rear tire of my car was flat.

Not flat-flat, but saggy-flat.  Flat enough that I knew I should not drive around with that flattish tire.

In our family, my husband handles the car-related stuff.  Not that he knows anything about cars, but he takes the cars to people who do and that’s his gender-assigned role.  I’ve never once even been into a tire store that I recall.  I got married so I would not have to go into tire stores or talk to life insurance sales men or kill spiders.  (Plus one or two other reasons.)

My husband, though, is in Texas.  He happened to call just after I discovered the tire.  I explained what was happening and asked him where he usually takes our cars to get the tires fixed.  (Discount Tires, as it turns out.)

In the meantime, however, I drove slowly across the parking lot to the Sears in the mall.  I parked by the open garage and asked the nearest uniformed guy if he’d put some air in the tire.  He did–and he pointed out the nail snugly embedded in my tire.

Then I hurried to pick up my son from school.

I dropped off son and daughter at home so I could go to Discount Tires.  Once there, I waited for almost an hour for my tire to be repaired–at no charge, it should be noted.  The store was so clean and tidy and the employees were awesome.  Weirdly, this was the second time this particular tire has needed a repair.

When I got back into the car, I saw that the indicator light–the one that had been glowing ever since my husband left, the one that told me a tire was not fully inflated, the one that I ignored because I am that kind of person, the kind of person who ignores warning lights–that light was no longer on.

So I filled up my gas tank with more gasoline ($3.67 a gallon which almost seems like a bargain considering recent prices) and now I’m ready to resume shuttling kids around.  (Daughter to class, son to class, son to work, son home from school, daughter to soccer.)

Too bad I don’t charge my passengers by the mile.

Empty nest sneak peek

I just finished working and almost shut down the computer.  Then I remembered my commitment to blog here.  So, here goes.

By the way, I meant to mention that last month marked the tenth birthday of my blog.  I never could have imagined blogging for ten straight years, but lo and behold, somehow I did.  My blogging patterns have changed over the years as my kids have grown older and my daily life has shifted from non-stop childcare to a full-time job (in addition to everything else).  Some days now there is nothing to say and sometimes I have something to say but I’m afraid to say it.

When I started blogging, I had about ten readers.  Not even my husband knew about my blog at first.  Now, I’ve met people who have said to me upon shaking my hand for the first time, “Oh, I’ve read your blog.”  So I most definitely think before I click the “Publish” button.

Anyway, happy birthday to my blog!  Ten years old!  You’re almost a ‘tween!

I continued my time-consuming hobby of being the family chauffeur today, starting with a delivery to the soccer field at 8:30 AM.  I left my daughter at the field and returned home to pick up my son who had to work at 9:30 AM.  I dropped him off and returned to the soccer field where I watched our team decimate the other team.  (Final score:  10-0.)

When we got home, I took my first nap of the day.

Then it was time to drive my second son to work.

My daughter decided she’d have more fun at her friend’s house, so she arranged a pick-up for herself and left.

I returned home for my second nap of the day.  When I woke up, I thought it was time to take my third son to the movie theater.  However, I apparently cannot tell time and was ready an hour early, so I went to the grocery store so I could get a twenty dollar bill to hand over to my son for the movies.  Also, I got lettuce and other stuff.

Then I picked up my son, picked up his friend and took them to the movie theater.

I returned home to an empty house.




I’m still a decade away from an empty nest . . . and I’ve had kids in my house for twenty years, so this was a remarkable and longed for moment.  I hardly knew what to do with myself, so I decided today was the day I’d begin watching The Walking Dead on Netflix.  (I am super behind the times, I know.)

I finished up my day by picking up my first son from work.  My third son was driven home by his friend’s mom.  Then I drove to pick up my daughter and my second son.  We got home at 9:30 PM.

I worked a few hour and now I’m excited to sleep an extra hour.  This is my favorite weekend of the year, the Sunday I go to church a little less tired than usual.

And now you know how I spent my Saturday (contributing to global warming by driving my non-hybrid Toyota Corolla back and forth and back and forth and back again).

The end.


Sometimes, I look at the painted flowers on my daughter’s bedroom wall and feel the world ending.

One day, those flowers will be a memory and the very thought of the end of all this makes me want to stomp my feet and cry.  I don’t want things to change!  I don’t want her to grow up and go to college and meet a boy and get married and move to another state.  Or house.

Sometimes, I look at my 12-year old son’s soft cheeks and his freckled nose and his green eyes and want the whole world to stop. I want to hold his face and touch each freckle but if I did he’d roll his eyes, jerk from my hands and think I’d gone crazy.

Can’t we just take a time out?  Can we pause on twelve for a few more years?  I don’t want him to grow whiskers and fall in love with girls and choose a career path and stop laughing at things that aren’t funny unless you’re twelve.

I spy the distant Mt. Rainier in its white-covered glory and I feel frantic.  We haven’t sojourned to the mountain in two years.  What if that time was the last time we’d stomp its snowy sides?  What if we don’t venture back up the mountain?  Will the kids even remember the delicate alpine flowers and the pure thin air?

Just moments ago, my teenagers were little kids, wandering the back yard waving sticks and throwing balls over the roof of the house to the front yard.  They refused to eat vegetables and only drank apple juice.  Those mundane days already glow in the fading hazy light of memory.  The past seems sweet compared to the reality of uneven facial hair and loud music and their uniform of black t-shirts and baggy jeans.

I hate my kitchen counters.  They’re old, pale yellow formica.  I don’t have enough cupboard space.  The sink is a ghastly gold.  And yet, sometimes I’m already nostalgic for it.  When I’m an old woman and I think about raising kids, this is the kitchen that I will remember.  This homely, inadequate kitchen is like a friend I miss already, even while we’re still holding hands.

Sometimes, I just want to press the pause button.  I want to appreciate this moment, to breathe it in, to gather it all in my arms and sit and rock, rock, rock in a peaceful rhythm before it all scatters, never to be assembled again in quite the same way.

But there is no pause button.  The children won’t stop growing.  I keep getting older and grayer.

The whole thing, when I consider it, makes my heart hurt.

Nothing stays the same and there’s a peculiar pain in noticing the fleeting days for what they are–a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.

Dramatic happenings

My phone rang at 9:00 a.m. this morning and I answered in a semi-conscious haze. My friend, Linda, said, “Oh, were you sleeping?” At least I think that’s what she said. It’s always embarrassing to answer that question because sleeping past 6:00 a.m. is a sign of a deficient personality or a character flaw. However, I am excused because my daughter was up half the night throwing up. Nevermind the fact that I loathe mornings and never willingly wake up before 9:00 a.m. (though I do unwillingly wake up by 8:00 a.m. every morning).

My daughter complained last night that her forehead and stomach hurt. I love how specific she is–she never says, “My head hurts,” but only, “My forehead hurts.” She threw up in the sink last night before bed and I optimistically hoped the worst was over. It was not.

However, a stomach virus in a five year old is so much easier than a stomach virus in a baby or toddler. Throughout the early dawn hours, she’d call out, “Mom, I threw up in the bowl!” and I’d shout back, “Good job, honey!” and go back to sleep. Am I a terrible parent? An inhuman monster? Perhaps. I did get up with her throughout the night. The worst happened while I was away though, last night at 10:20 p.m. when she woke up and threw up on her pillow and bed. My husband had to deal with chocolate pudding vomit in her hair–he left the bed mess for me to handle after I rushed home.

I wish I could relay to you some of the drama occurring in my life, but I cannot. Suffice it to say that there have been a lot of tears (not mine) and shaking of heads. I can tell you that Saturday morning I had to be at a Science Fair at 8:00 a.m. with my son, that my husband resigned from his job (he starts another on July 1), that two of my kids have vomited, and that another boy appeared at my doorstep (bringing up the neighbor total number of boys to 14).

I have put away the mayonnaise jar four times today, even though I personally don’t eat mayonnaise.


I committed the unpardonable sin tonight.

I did the laundry.

This morning, one of my teenagers informed me that he had no pants to wear. I told him where I keep a secret stash of pants (the storage room) and, thus, he didn’t not have to attend church half-clad. (I kid. The storage room is a mutated closet where I hang their dressy clothes, like the black corduroy pants I bought each of the boys to wear for our Christmas photograph.)

This evening, I scooped up the discarded black corduroy pants off the laundry room floor and pushed them into the washing machine with other dirty duds. The laundry is a little backed up because over the weekend, that happens. I venture out of the house and in my absence the laundry copulates and gives birth to more dirty laundry.

About twenty minutes later, would-be-half-clad boy comes out (wearing pajama pants) and says, “Mom, did you wash my pants?” and I say, “I think they’re in the washer. Why?” and he informs me that his wallet was in the pocket.

“Bummer,” I said with characteristic care. “What was in it?” I’ve washed it a half dozen times before.

“Money!” he said

“Money can be washed. Anything else?”

“My YMCA card and two cards from Game Crazy.”

“Everything will be fine.”

And he exits.

Moments later, “MOM! MY iPOD IS IN MY POCKET!”

Me: “!!!!!”

Him: “MOM!”

I slide my feet back into my slippers, scurry to the laundry room and see that the machine has twenty-five minutes remaining in its cycle. It is a front-loading machine. I cannot open it mid-cycle or the water will rush out like a waterfall. So, I say, “Well, too bad. Maybe it’s not in there.” He is widely famous of his absentmindedness and often misplaces things. For all I know, the iPod is upstairs on the bathroom counter or in the living room under a couch. Why panic until the cycle ends?

Then the world collapses from the massive outrage of one 14-year old boy.

He simply could not believe that I had the nerve–THE NERVE!–to wash his iPod. I said, “Shane, I do not check pockets. All I did was my job. I do laundry.”

He said, ‘WELL! THANKS A LOT, MOM! THANKS A LOT!” He said some other things he doesn’t have the sense to regret.

Of course, I advised him that the responsibility for pocket-emptying is his. He raged on and on and I let him, only pointing my bony finger in his face to inform him that if he didn’t like the way I did laundry, he could do his own laundry. In fact, I may have said, “FINE! THEN FROM THIS SECOND ON, YOU WILL DO YOUR OWN LAUNDRY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?!” He disappeared into his room, only to reappear a bit later.

He expressed incredulity that I never said I was sorry and I said, “SORRY!?! FOR DOING THE LAUNDRY? FOR WASHING DIRTY CLOTHES LEFT ON THE LAUNDRY ROOM FLOOR?”

I did finally interrupt his dramatic presentation of adolescent angst to let him in on the fact that I purchased replacement insurance for his iPod for such an occasion as this.

And I did a Google search with these terms: “washing machine iPod help.” There is some anecdotal evidence that an iPod may survive a ride through the washing machine.

However, I am fairly certain I will not survive the life cycle of the common household teenager.

On living with teenagers

Taking care of babies is so much easier than taking care of teenagers. As a new parent, I had so much angst, so much fretfulness, so much worry . . . and really, I should have saved all that emotion for now when I am living with twin 14-year olds. Babies are a breeze. Teenagers, not so much.
Would anyone ever become a parent if they had to start with a greasy-haired kid who finds it outrageous that his parent might criticize his work-ethic?

I’m just saying.

The other thing about teenagers is that they are beginning the process of separating and stretching out to become an individuals. And inevitably, as they grow, they move away–imperceptibly at first and then in giant leaps and bounds until you gaze across an impassable gulf at this child who used to snuggled into your elbow while you read a story to him.

Parenthood is about breaking apart my heart and rearranging it again in a new, surprising way. That, and about cleaning up messes you never knew another human being could make without a trace of guilt. (And then, they act surprised when I demand that they STOP PEEING ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR!)

The Mouse Mystery: A Pointless Argument

I just had the most ridiculous argument with my 14-year old son. I had just put my daughter to bed and came downstairs to sign onto my computer. I use a laptop, but it sits on my black, faux-marbletop desk in the family room (adjacent to the kitchen). Not long ago, we got a third computer which sits on a small desk to my right. The box-part of the computer (yes, that’s the technical term), sits on the floor between our desks.

My desk chair, a hideous garage-sale find with royal blue upholstery and wheels (one which falls off at the most timid touch), had been wheeled to the other side of the kids’ desk. The wheel had fallen off.

I replaced the wheel and shoved the chair back to my desk.

Then I noticed that the computer on the floor had been pulled out from its resting spot. I said, “Hey, why is this computer sticking out?” The boys all claimed ignorance. I shoved it back, scraping my fingertips in the process.

I sat on my blue chair, pushed the button on my laptop and . . . . “HEY! WHERE IS MY MOUSE?!” I have a wireless mouse, which until this very night has never tiptoed off my desk, never wandered into the kitchen, never swan-dived onto the floor. One son said, “How would we know? We didn’t do it!”

Then my other 14-year old came in, knelt on the floor, laid on his stomach and reached far under my desk to retrieve the mouse. He claimed to have no idea how it might have migrated to the floor, under my desk.

I am relentless, a Pit Bull who just cannot unlock its jaws. I had to know what happened to my mouse. How did it fall down and under my desk? I called all three boys to me and demanded to know.

My son took this as a great insult. He informed me that I needed to learn to look around, to figure out problems on my own. “Do you think perhaps you could solve your own problems?” he said to me in that exact sarcastic tone I use with him. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to slap him, so I stood to my full height (which is an inch or two shorter than his full height) and said, “I HAVE BEEN SOLVING MY OWN PROBLEMS FOR FORTY-TWO YEARS!” and he said, “Why do you always blame us?” and I said, “I am not blaming you. I am ASKING QUESTIONS because ASKING QUESTIONS IS A GOOD WAY TO FIND INFORMATION!” (I learned that from Sesame Street, I kid you not.)

He accused me of yelling and I said, “I AM NOT YELLING!” and we went in circles, dosey-doeing our way until I was positively dizzy. I never, ever did find out how my faithful mouse of several years found itself stranded under the darkness of my desk. At last, I waved my bony finger at my son and said, “This conversation is over. We will no longer discuss it. I mean it. Go. Go now.” He left, but I could tell that he wanted to give me some more helpful tips to improve my parenting skills.

What he should do is write a parenting book now while he still knows everything.

Nature versus nurture

Over the past week, I’ve seen these twins separated at birth on several talk shows. (They co-wrote a book about their experience called Identical Strangers.) Despite being raised apart, they share much in common from mannerisms to their educational choices. (And almost everything in between.) I find their story relevant to me because I am raising adopted twins, albeit fraternal twins.

Fourteen years ago, we waited with great anxiety for the birth-mother to choose us. I believed wholeheartedly that Nurture would triumph over Nature in an arm-wrestling contest. Motherhood would be all about providing an appropriate, loving environment. I would mold my children into my image and they would become straight-A students with an affinity for the piano and a love of literature. They would be polite and gentle and funny. My only worry was that they might be ugly.

I discounted the idea that nature and their genetics would dictate the course of their lives.

I was so wrong.

My biological son is 9 years old. He shares not only physical traits with his father, but also personality traits. He is the sort of child who sets his own alarm, gets up early to do his homework, then takes a shower (without being asked) and plays with gusto until it’s time to go to school. At school, he listens, follows directions and excels in every subject. (I like to think he got that from me.) He has an optimism and a persistence that will serve him well. And he’s hilarious.

If he’d been my only child, I would have dislocated my elbow patting myself on the back. I would have been an insufferable, smug parent, one who believed that my careful choice of educational toys resulted in my boy’s brilliance. I would have thought that his success was due to my excellent mothering skills. I would have peered down my nose at other mothers with their difficult children and reluctant students. I would have blamed them for their children’s behavior and destiny.

On the other hand, if I didn’t have my 9-year old, I would consider myself an utter failure as a parent. Over these past fourteen years, I have repeated myself like an insistent parrot. I have hovered over my boys, insisting that they do all the math problems. I have pointed out that laundry goes into the laundry room. I have lectured and pointed my finger and on occasion, stomped my feet in frustration. My boys shrug off my parenting like a coat that does not fit. They refuse to bend to my will, to fit into the mold I expected.

Living with them is a lot like living with strangers. They do not act, think or behave like anyone I know. When I make jokes, they look at me in confusion. (The other day, one of them demanded, “WHY CAN’T BRANDON SPEND THE NIGHT?” They wanted a sleepover on a Saturday night, which is against family rules because sleepovers on Saturdays make Sundays too hard. After offering a bunch of reasons only to be met with arguments, I said, “It’s against my religion,” and the son in question said, “That’s not in the Bible!” I laughed at his indignance. “It’s a joke!” I said. These boys do not “get” sarcasm, which is my primary love-language.)

So, stories like the twins separated at birth give me hope. I can stop fretting and loosen my grip just a little. I cannot control these kids. They are who they are. I’m merely along for the ride, hoping that they’ll believe me when I tell them we should turn left at the corner. If they don’t, we might get lost for a while, but I’m sure (relatively sure) that we’ll all end up at our destination sooner or later.

I’m just the mother, not the Grand Ruler of the Universe. I need to remember that. I must not take their rejection of my mothering skills personally.

Call me Mr. Spock

Unsympathetic. That’s me. When one of my kids chooses a stupid action which results in an injury, after checking for blood and consciousness, I tend to roll my eyes and say, “Well, you should be more careful.” I rarely swoop in with a flurry of hugs and concern. In the old days when I blamed myself for being imperfect and measured myself against Ma Ingalls of “Little House on the Prairie,” I would have considered this proof of my failure as a mother.

Now, I just view this as a personal quirk, an endearing quality, one of those weird things about me that make me myself and which also makes me rational during emergencies. I regret that I’m not all sweetness and light, in the same way I regret that my right pinkie toe insists on rolling to the right, but what can you do, really? I’m pragmatic. (Once, I observed out loud to a friend of mine, “You’re so pragmatic!” and I think she felt insulted, but I meant that as a sort of compliment. Isn’t it better to be realistic than bubbling over with pointless emotion?)

This afternoon, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed. Here in the Pacific Northwest our rain is usually delivered without drama. We just tolerate day after day of drizzle and gloom, no fuss, just muss. No light shows, no audio.

The kids (only three here at the moment, age 9, 9 and 5) were dazzled, and one of them (a visitor), said, “I’m shaking. I’m terrified of thunder. Once, when I was four, I was getting into my pajamas and the thunder hit and I fell over.” And I, Miss Sympathetic, said, “Oh, well, you’re fine. Go play. It’s just a storm.”

And a little later, I followed that comment with, “Hey, look! Stop speaking your phobias aloud because she is borrowing that from you!” I finally told my daughter that storms don’t kill anyone. (At least not here in the Northwest, at least not often, at least not in the house, not while I am in charge, so there.)

My tolerance for fear is low. Either something terrible will happen or it won’t. No need to freak out. Save that emotion for something that matters like wondering whether your children will ever really grow up and and leave the house. Also, will someone please tell me why everyone who lives in this house except for the teenagers is capable of putting their dirty laundry in the laundry receptacle I put in the bathroom? They must be blind; how else to explain the dirty clothes discarded next to the basket?

And in conclusion, I’d like to mention that my family room ceiling still has a hole in it because the leaky shower drain has yet to be fixed. (I think our friend, Mr. Fix-It, has forgotten us.)

A day in the life

I work now from 9 p.m. until midnight, so by the time I get to sleep, it’s close to 12:30 a.m. (What job? you say. I’m employed by a website as a community manager: think of me as a security guard in pajamas. For almost a month now, I’ve been working four nights a week.)

This may explain my fatigue-induced delirium. When the alarm shrilled this morning, I snapped it off, stood up, circled my room in confusion and went back to bed. For two minutes. Because everyone knows those two extra minutes of sleep mean all the difference between perkiness and sluggishness. Also, those two extra minutes give me enough time to lie to myself, to make fake promises about napping later, about going straight back to bed the second I return home from my walk.

Like talking with a mental patient, I nod and purport to believe myself and so, I pull on my exercise clothes, fish around for a pair of socks that won’t slip down my heel while I walk and sneak quietly out of the house so no one wakes before I go.

September mornings would win a beauty contest if such a contest were held for months. The air is clear, chilly but not cold, while the opaque sky waits for the morning sun to paint it blue. The waters of the Puget Sound look like glossy marble, barely mottled with movement. After I open the door and gulp in the morning air, I congratulate myself for my wise decision. I meet my walking partner at the door of her house and off we go.

Walk and chat, walk and yawn, walk and say good morning to those we pass along the streets. We walk for an hour, finishing our route by striding up a few hills, breathing heavily, feeling our forty-two year old muscles contract with the effort. By the last straightaway, my hair forms a frizzy halo around my naked face which I can only hope distracts from my puffy eyes. My friend always looks glowing with her straightened hair flowing around her shoulders like a runway model. At least I can out-walk her up the hills, small consolation though it may be.

By the time I pull into my own driveway, I remember that I promised to watch the neighbor boy each morning for two weeks. There will be no napping, now or later. At 12:35 p.m., I’ll have to take him to kindergarten. I remember my afternoon obligation to babysit the one-year old baby for two more weeks. I remember that I need to wash my 9-year old’s football pants before football practice. But first, I need to make him lunch and sign his planner. (Question: Do I tell his teacher that I kept him home from school yesterday to take him and his sister to the fair? Answer: Yes. May as well.)

The kindergartener arrives. I wake up my teenage twins and demonstrate the technique for trimming the fence full of ivy. (They have the rest of the week to work on this big yard project.) I decide to vacuum and one thing leads to another and by the time the boys have come inside to make lunch (and complain, “there’s nothing for lunch!”), I have fallen into the abyss that is their room and I am possessed by the devil of annoyance and I can’t stop myself from launching one sarcastic remark after the next: “Thanks, boys, I really appreciate your leaving your dirty socks everywhere,” and “Oh, this is great! I always wanted to sweep up a ton of disgusting old popcorn off the floor!” and then my fake sweet tone shifts and I shriek, “SHANE! COME HERE!”

He wanders into the room holding a pan of noodles. I point to a coat hanger that’s been bent into a circle. I say, “DID YOU DO THAT?!” and he says, “Yeah.” Last night, he was sitting on the couch in his room, holding a coat hanger and I said in a clear and direct voice, “Do not destroy that coat hanger.” I know my son. He cannot resist the easy allure of destroying something that is destructible.

Yet, here was the evidence, a destroyed white coat hanger on the floor. First of all, hello, disobedience of my direct command . . . and second, why do my boys think that the floor is their personal trash can? I order him to pick it up and take it to the outside trash and he leaves the room with his pan of noodles . . . and does not return until I yell again.

By the time I vacuum in their room, the boys are hostile and defensive because I’m so frustrated and annoyed with their lack of hygiene and tidiness. Their attitudes need a major adjustment and I suppose mine does, too, but I am justified and they are not. They will not see this for another fifteen years, I approximate. All they see is their mother freaking out because they left an empty juice box under their desk and broken pencils (who is breaking the pencils around here?) scattered among the dirty socks on the floor. This bewilders them. Adam puffed up his shoulders and says, “Mom, you have gone too far now!” and I can’t help myself. I laugh at his anger because he looks exactly the same as he did when he was four years old. He is now 5’10” tall, though, and finds my laughter deeply offensive.

I feed the little kids lunch and take the kindergartener to school. I start to read the newspaper, but the baby arrives before I get through much of it. (I squandered my time between kids checking email.) I settle into the recliner to feed the baby his bottle and the phone rings, which sets off another phenomenon I don’t get. Why does the phone ring the second I’m indisposed? And why don’t the kids hear me shouting, “GET THE PHONE! GET THE PHONE!”? At any other time, they race me for it.

The day slips away and yet I have no idea how to transform the pound of ground turkey in the fridge into some kind of delicious dinner. I’d settle for an edible dinner, truth by told, but alas, no ideas. (Well, maybe . . . soft tacos? Which the kids will sneer at . . . or turkey burgers . . . but I have no buns . . . meatloaf? Takes too long to bake.) My 9-year old goes to football practice with his dad at 5:30 p.m., so dinner must be cooked and served before he leaves.

At least I washed and dried his football pants.