You’re either Tom Sawyer or you’re not

I checked Goodwill regularly and for months, have scrolled through listings on a Facebook garage sale group, hoping to find a white IKEA desk because I am an optimist at the weirdest, most irrational times.  Finally, though, I gave up and drove 45 minutes to IKEA on Monday morning, followed the dotted line through the store until I found the boxes of furniture, purchased a white desk and manhandled it into my Toyota Corolla and drove home.

This particular desk required twenty-seven steps to assemble it and I am bragging when I tell you that I completed those twenty-seven steps in less than one hour.

I said to my daughter who was lounging on her IKEA bed (that I actually did purchase from the Facebook garage sale group a year or so ago), “Who is going to put together your IKEA furniture when I’m not around?”  She had demonstrated absolutely zero interest in helping or even glancing at the directions or touching a screwdriver.

She said, “My boyfriend.”  Gloria Steinem would be disappointed but what can you do?  Some people prefer to let other people assemble their IKEA furniture.  (My daughter imagines a future world in which she has a boyfriend who can assemble IKEA furniture, so, huh.  Time will tell, I guess.)

I told her that her dad would have just asked a friend to “help him” and then he would have taken that friend out to lunch as a gesture of thanks.

But I am handy.  I can follow directions, even when they are unaccompanied by any words.  I am methodical and this time, I did not even lose my mind and mutter any Christian curse words.  I am loathe to ask for help (especially when I have to pay!) and always ask myself those fateful words, “How hard can it be?”  (Answer:  Sometimes, very.  Occasionally, impossibly hard.)  This time, though, it was straightforward.

When my husband came in to admire my handiwork, he said, “Oh, I would have just had a friend help,” and I laughed because after all these years, I know him so well.  He is Tom Sawyer, persuading his friends to whitewash the fence.  He excels at this.

And I excel at assembling IKEA desks in twenty-seven easy steps.

We all have our talents.




You’re either Tom Sawyer or you’re not

Fool me nonce*

I don’t like April Fool’s Day.  I hate to be tricked.  I despise pranks.  I’m just that kind of girl.  I like to think I have a hearty sense of humor but play a joke on me and my sense of humor freezes into a hard little block of Not Amused.

Maybe this is a result of having a dad who liked to tease.  Maybe I was just born this way.  I can’t tell you for sure, but I am the opposite of a good sport.  So don’t short-sheet my bed or Saran-wrap my toilet or tell me that Trader Joe’s is closing.  (It’s not.)

I spent the last day of March with my 13-year old daughter.  We had brunch at a cute place called, “The Cottage” in La Jolla, then did a little shopping.  We drove farther south and visited the Hotel Del Coronado, then drove around the Harbor to Point Loma.  I know–from experience–that the days of having a kid go with me anywhere are limited, so that makes days like today noteworthy.  (Those kids in this photo aren’t mine.  They leaped into the frame which made me laugh when I looked at it after the fact.)


A while ago, I realized that in two generations, no one will really remember me. My kids will know only a version of me, the mom-version. My grandkids (should there ever be grandkids) will know only the old, gray, grandma-version of me. And then, it’s likely that I’ll be gone and the next generation will know of me only if they are curious enough to ask and smart enough to find this blog. (Ha.)  They’ll know only the mythical-version of me, the foggy, faded, two-dimensional version.

The thought of being unremembered sobers and depresses me, almost as much as the idea of a world without Trader Joe’s. This is no April Fool’s joke. I’m serious as a heart attack (as one of my now-dead college professors used to say; he was the most adorable man).  (And he’s dead.  I only knew him as an old professor.  See?)

I’m honestly sad about the idea that the curtain will fall and my story will end and everyone will go home and carry on with their lives as if I never existed at all. My words will live on (somewhere, somehow, maybe just in the vast ocean of the Internet) and maybe some of my photos will remain for awhile at least, but there will be no more eyewitnesses a couple of generations from now.  I will have vanished without a trace.

The Bible has a poetic way of saying this.  Your life is “nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.”  (James 4:14, MSG).  We are but a vapor.

Sometimes the fog is beautiful and mysterious and it catches the light of the sun in the most brilliant way.  I hope to be that kind of a vapor and not the murky kind that cuts down visibility and causes 17-car pile-ups on the freeway.

Now, seriously, do not switch my salt with sugar.



*Yeah, I made up that word:  “Nonce.”  It’s a helpful combo of “once” and “none.”  Consider it trademarked.


Fool me nonce*

No one called me Mommy today

High surf advisory. #Carlsbad

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Today, no one insisted that I sit and watch cartoons.  No one wanted me to read just one more story.  No one sat on my lap or wiggled their fingers under the closed bathroom door or begged to go with me to the grocery store.

No one woke me up too early.  No one ate food from my plate.  No one asked me to play with them.

Really, at first it was a relief.  How can I forget those exhausting days of carrying around babies and negotiating with preschoolers and enduring the bedtime routine?  I lived my own Groundhog Day that began before each dawn with a crying baby or a small person standing bedside repeating “MOM MOM MOM” until I’d wake.

My kids were never good at sleeping in.

But today I did not wipe anyone’s nose.  I did not supervise tooth-brushing or hand-washing.  I didn’t wake anyone up, pick out anyone’s clothes, tie anyone’s shoes or put anyone to bed.  I didn’t kiss any “owies” or affix any Band-aids.

Back then, I spent my days parceling out Goldfish crackers and signing homework folders and begging kids to close the door to the back yard.  Kids left trails of muddy footprints and piles of Pokemon cards while Nickelodeon television provided the soundtrack to our lives.

I said things like, “STOP WRESTLING!” and “Please turn that down!” and “Where are your shoes?”  I was exasperated, on edge, overwhelmed with noise and touch and questions.  There was never enough and always too much.  I just wanted to get away and when I was away, I felt incredible guilt that I wasn’t right back in the midst of it all.  Even when my husband said, “Fine, go,” I felt like it was a gigantic imposition, an unreasonable request to escape the clutter and bickering and noise.

Why couldn’t I just embrace the bedlam of living with babies and toddlers and preschoolers and kids?  I spent far too much time plotting my escape, counting down until bedtime, dreaming of the time I could shrug them off and sit alone and read a novel in peace.  For an introvert, motherhood feels like a raucous party where everyone screams with laughter, throws food and the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. I just wanted a moment.

Well, that moment has come.

I’m no longer the main character in their story.  I’m not their hero.  The pure devotion of early childhood has been replaced by know-it-all judgment of kids who can’t remember the fun things we did specifically for them in forgotten years.  No one gazes at me in adoration except my dog.

I’ve been writing about time and its slippery shape-shifting nature for so many years and yet, while I was watching, it slipped away from me, some sort of sleight of hand that occurred despite my scrutiny.  I was watching the whole time!  I never took my eyes off it and abracadabra, it disappeared anyway!

I have some of the space and quiet that I longed for in those busy years.

I’m not going to say it’s overrated.  Sleeping without a kid hogging your pillow or waking you up is awesome.  Leaving the kids home while running to the store is excellent.  I don’t miss car seats or sippy cups or diapers.  There are a lot of upsides to having half-grown kids who only need you for the twenty-bucks you occasionally hand out.

But if I could go back and hold a child on my lap and read a picture book–slowly, without skipping pages–I would.  I would watch cartoons and take a slow walk around the block and bask in being the most important person in their world. I’d make snakes out of Play-Doh and build super-high towers out of blocks and play Chutes & Ladders, even though that game never seems to end.

Hug your babies, mamas, for the day will come when they talk to their friends more than they talk to you and they will criticize your ideas and think you are ridiculous and roll their eyes at your silly rules.  They will slip out of your grasp and run out of your sight and not answer their phones.  They will scare you when you hand them the keys and you are a passenger instead of the driver.  (They will get so mad when you scream when they change lanes during a turn in the middle of an intersection.)

This, too, shall pass.

Take notes, take photos and take heart for this, too, shall pass.




No one called me Mommy today

Nine times two


My son turned 18 a few days ago.  Nine years ago, I wrote about his birth here.

I’m trying to come to grips with the idea that he’s almost completely grown up.  My darling little blond boy, my sidekick for those short preschool years, is eager to get his driver’s license and speed off into the sunset.  Graduation will be here posthaste.

Why didn’t anyone warn me?

No one adequately prepared me for this stage of motherhood.  His whole childhood has been a too-quick ski-lift up a mountain and the time has come to disembark and there’s really no other choice, but I still don’t want to leap.  I don’t want to come to the top of the mountain at all.  I don’t want to ski down.  I don’t want him to ski away.  Mostly, though, I just want to keep riding together, shoulder to shoulder, forever.

Or maybe we’re in a plane, one of those small planes that tend to crash so easily, the kind that climbs into the sky like a Ferris wheel except you go higher and higher, impossibly high, no longer tethered to the earth at all.  And it’s time to jump out, to free-fall until the parachute opens and I’ve decided that it would be better if we just forgot about this whole thing.  Let’s just land and go home and I’ll put on Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and we’ll eat “fishy crackers” and take a nap with his favorite blanket, the one decorated with Peter Rabbit.  We can paint with Prang watercolors and roll Play-doh snakes and play Yoshi video-games.

College, shmollege.  Who needs it?  Stop growing up.  Stop.

But I remember being 18.  I remember the eagerness to go, the terror mixed with longing, the determination to find my life, somewhere out there, away from my lavender bedroom and my suburb and my family.  I was resolute and only got teary when I looked through the Greyhound bus window and saw my reserved father blinking back shocking tears.  He was crying?  What in the world?

I rode that bus for three days and nights to get to college and it never occurred to me to call my dad and let him know I was all right.  I didn’t even call him after I arrived at my dorm.  He had to track me down.  What was I thinking?

I had left my childhood behind and with it, my dad.  I had absolutely not a single regret.  I did not look back.  Not once.

That fall, I began to understand how much he missed me after I received the only letter he ever wrote me.

Now, thirty-three years later, I get it.  Finally, I understand with my heart.

My dad wrote that he cried a “river of tears” that night after the bus drove away.

Love mixes with pride and wonder and reluctance and regret, but no matter what, you have to just let go.  You have to let your child climb into a possibly unseaworthy vessel and sail away on your ocean of tears and hope that the current will bring him back one day.

And it’s best if you keep your schmaltz to yourself and try to stop shouting out, “No please don’t go — we’ll eat you up — we love you so!” and then start sniffling because why, oh why didn’t you read more picture books to your baby boy when you had the chance?






Nine times two

Breathe, just breathe

#Carlsbad was dreamy tonight.

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Summer has arrived but it’s only February, so that’s a problem.  Actually, it’s supposed to cool down back into the 70s and even 60s, so what am I complaining about?

Time is doing that thing where every time I surface I realize a week has passed and that summer really will be here in a second and then it will be Christmas and oh, did I mention that my son is turning eighteen in nine days and then then he’s going to graduate in June and leave for college?

In the meantime, my daughter is ill with some kind of headache and stomachache thing and yet I still have to drive carpool tomorrow (early release!) and I have a stack of paperwork to remind me of phone calls I must make.  Let’s not even talk about the emails I need to return.

I am stressed out.

Last week my husband was out of town and I had such unrealistic expectations for all the things I’d do while he was gone, including, but not limited to: 1) cleaning out the garage 2) filing taxes and 3) clean out my closet.

Ha ha.  When he’s gone, I have even more to do.  Let’s just say my garage, closet and taxes remain undone.

Well, that’s all for now.  I keep yawning so big that my eyes water.


Breathe, just breathe

Artichoke dip and the missing pants

I completely forgot to blog last night.

I dropped my husband off at the airport yesterday morning.  He’ll be out of town for a week.  That means that I begin a series of complicate drop-offs and pick-ups.  Four kids who have two jobs and three schools and various activities but no driver’s licenses require this of me.

After returning home from the airport, I began Superbowl preparations.  We had three different dips (is there any better excuse to make artichoke dip than a Superbowl game?) and donuts and chili.  The funny thing is that no one watched a second of the game other than my daughter and me.  I slept through the second quarter and she abandoned me before halftime.

None of the boys care about football at all.

Truthfully, I don’t care much, either.  (Shhh.)

But can we just talk about Lady Gaga?  Wow!  That was some amazing rendition of the National Anthem.

And can we talk about Beyonce’?  Why doesn’t she have any pants?  Maybe we can start a GoFund me account so she can buy some pants!  (Were they all stolen?)

I have to go.

See you later, alligator.

Artichoke dip and the missing pants