Category Archives: Humor

Kids and Forgetfulness: When Will They Stop Losing Stuff?

If you have children, do they lose things as much as mine do? Seriously, my elderly mother shouldn’t be as worried about her forgetfulness as her grandchildren should be about theirs. Sure, Mom will sometimes tell us things more than once, forgetting that she’s already told us.  But that’s really no big deal compared to the frequency and price tag of my kids’ forgetfulness (both the actual value of items lost as well as the time lost searching for the items!!!).  I read in the newspaper today that in a recent analysis of the Houston Public Library’s delinquency records, The Houston Chronicle found that 119,558 patrons have failed to return 325,000 items since 1999.  The article’s author gives you the impression that those patrons don’t return items because they want to keep them, but I had to smile and wonder if he’d never had kids before.  I’ll bet a bunch of those losses were related to kids’ irresponsibility and forgetfulness.   Been there, done that.

I decided to do a little “analysis” of our own kids’ losses (at least the major ones I can remember), both library and non-library-related, over the past 16½  years that Andy and I have been parents:

Item Lost                                                                                      Value

One pair of eyeglasses                                                                $80

Left on the school playground by Emmie within two weeks of her excitedly getting them.  They were dark brown with aqua accents, from the “oh-so-cool” High School Musical line of specs at JC Penney Optical.  She took them off to do an upside-down stunt and gave them to a friend to hold. The friend put them in the seat of a swing, and Emmie forgot about them until she got home an hour later.  The only consolation for her was that when she checked the Lost and Found drawer in the school office to see if anyone had turned them in, she found her first pair of eyeglasses, lost several months before…

A custom-molded, upper and lower retainer
(for teeth)                                                                    $600 ($300 each)

Lost by Allison within two months of getting her braces off.  She took them out and put them inside her paper lunch sack while she ate lunch in the high school cafeteria. She asked a friend to remind her not to throw the bag away. The friend forgot, and so did Allison.

Two library items                                                 $34 (about $17 each)

One a children’s book, the other a Jeff Dunham DVD. The book was discovered under Emmie’s bed, tucked under an old scrapbook, several years after losing it, while emptying her room when we moved out of our first house; the DVD was discovered under the living room sofa about a year after losing it. Not sure who kicked it under there but I doubt it was an adult.  We had long ago paid the “replacement fee” for both items so we now own them. (And we still haven’t watched the DVD!)

One American Girl “Bitty Baby” doll

Emmie left “Paulina” under the covers in a hotel room in Cameron, MO one summer while on our way to Iowa. Luckily it happened on the outbound part of the road trip, and luckily someone saved it, so we were able to drive there and retrieve the doll on the way home, even though we would have preferred driving back a different way.

One cranberry red Snuggie                                                            ????

A favorite of Allison’s which she left among the covers at a hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana (and which I mistook to be part of the hotel bed linens).   Again, it was while on a road trip, so we made a special stop to get it while on the way back.

One wallet                                      $40 (amount of cash that was inside)

Set down by Allison “just for a minute” while taking photographs at Mt. Rushmore while she was on a church mission trip in South Dakota. When she remembered to retrieve it, it was gone.

One freshman-year high school yearbook                                      $60

On the day the yearbooks were issued, Allison left it on a bench behind her in the locker room as she changed clothes later in the day, after drill team practice. When she turned to get it, it was gone (and had no identification inside or out, so it would have been an easy sell for the thief, no doubt, or could have easily been passed off as their own…)

This list could also include numerous sunglasses and makeup compacts; shoes, clothes and socks left at friends’ houses, and lost earrings, charms and necklaces never to be seen again—not to mention many more overdue library books that were found in the nick of time.  But I’ll end the list here so I don’t get too depressed. 

Do Andy and I always pay to replace lost items? No.  Emmie now wears those “original” glasses even though they may not be as stylish as the newer ones she lost; Allison didn’t get a replacement yearbook, and had to almost empty a savings account she’s had going since she was little in order to pay for the new retainers.  We think it will make them take better care of their stuff if they’re financially responsible for it. But will it really? 

Emmie took her lunch to school today in a brown paper sack because, while she had a pretty good “first day of Junior High” yesterday, she left her brand new lunch tote on the floor next to her locker after school, the same paisley lunch tote for which I’d helped her find a cute ID tag to tie on, and I’d written her name and address on it as well.  When I picked her up from school, she ran back inside the building after I asked her “Where’s your lunch bag?”, and it wasn’t there.  Let’s hope she can remember to stop by the school office today to see if some nice person found it and turned it in.  But I’m not holding my breath. 

Uncool and Biblical

On our recent family trip to Iowa we took a tour of an Amish community– rode in a van with a tour guide through rolling farmland and saw homestead after homestead of Old Order Amish families, working in gardens, driving wagons down the highway, running through the fields barefoot… there are 2,000 Amish living near Kalona, Iowa (almost 200,000 in the U.S.) and according to our guide, the community is growing, thanks to their large average family size.   It was fascinating, like something straight out of the movie, Witness, but Emmie thought it was just plain stupid that anyone would want to live like that.  No electricity (the Amish stores we visited used only skylights for lighting), no in-home phones, schooling only through the 8th grade, long pants and dresses all the time, even in the hot summertime… They subscribe to this type of lifestyle due in part to a Bible verse that advises “do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) and similar verses in other chapters that refer to not being “of the world”.

While most of us gawking tourists probably thought we had nothing in common with the hat-clad people outside our van windows, it struck me later that all uncool moms and any parent who’s ever tried to pull their kids back from the “everybody’s doing it so why can’t I” attitude has a bit of the Amish, and scripture, in their actions (and if you’re really uncool like me and have your kids do their own laundry and other chores, you share even more in common!).  Who knew that “Just because your friends jump off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to do the same!” was inspired over 2,000 years ago?! (Well, God is a parent, after all…)

So, in addition to the postcards and apple butter I brought home, I’ve also got a few new items to add to my arsenal of parenting lines. Now when one of my kids defiantly asks, “Why can’t I?” I might choose to answer, “Because God says so!” or “Because the Bible says so!” or, “BECA– USE I’M GOING AMISH ON YOUR ASS, THAT”S WHY!!!”  (Oops, sorry, I wouldn’t really say that…I’m still a little sleep deprived from that long drive back from Iowa…)

Double Feature Creature Show

My family may live in a suburban neighborhood, with brick houses that look eerily alike, a superhighway nearby and a Starbucks at every major intersection, but it’s often more like Wild Kingdom around here, especially at night.  Medium-sized turtles and small frogs sitting motionless on the sidewalk, probably pondering how to find their way back to the nearby creek…possums ambling across the alley, trying to get out of the glare of headlights…coyotes preying on neighborhood cats and howling right outside my home office window (can you say, Makes the Hair Stand Up On the Back Of Your Neck Like Nothing Ever Did Before?)  Sometimes we even get thrills and chills during the day, like the time a gorgeous red-winged hawk walked around my neighbor’s front yard for 20 minutes, or the time Luke cornered a black garden snake in the living room (don’t I get some kind of Mom crown for taking care of that?). I’m glad my husband was home for our latest creature encounter.  Make that two, less than 6 hours apart. 

Late last Saturday afternoon, we were all sitting/standing around the living room, talking about our day—I’d just brought Allison home from drill team practice, Andy had just turned on the TV to get an update on the Masters golf tourney and Emmie had just returned from a volleyball game. (Cleo was at a friend’s house.) Luke and Ben had just bounded into the living room, tails wagging, and were getting their bellies scratched by whoever cared to indulge them. I noticed a brownish blob, a small  “dark something” about 5-6 inches long on the rug between the love seat and the kitchen, but there are lots of small “mysterious somethings” on our rugs/floors/carpet at any given time—socks, leaves, dog toys, underwear—so I didn’t pay it much attention.  But then the blob began to move, and I am not kidding you, it reminded me of something out of the movie “Alien”.   It looked like a large slug and was writhing. On my 100% wool Pottery Barn rug.  From where I was sitting, I was the only one who could see it and my reaction went something like this: (Pointing) “OH. MY. GOSH. There is some kind of creature on the carpet and it’s moving!!!” (My kids also tell me I said “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? but I can’t remember for sure. I was too creeped out.)   Two very tiny arms and legs suddenly appeared and reached up to claw at the air, then two more stuck out toward the bottom and started moving like crazy as well. The whole thing looked very “embryonic”.  Now everyone was looking and joining the conversation.  “EEW!” “Is that a mouse baby?” (Among all our wild animal friends, we have a resident garage mouse—fun, fun.) “It looks like a fetus!” “What’s a fetus?” “How did it get there?”  “That’s too big to be a mouse.” “Maybe it’s a rat!” “What if it’s a bat?” “EEEEEEW!” “Could Luke have brought something in from outside?” Andy informed us that yes, the dogs had just been outside.  I decided that Luke must have carried the newborn something in his mouth and deposited it proudly on the rug, and now we all realized, based on the rabbit population in our backyard, that it was probably a newborn baby rabbit. And from the looks of it, freshly newborn. Luke must have disturbed the mother mid-birth.  (Great…probably the wife of the FREAKING EASTER BUNNY!!!!!) So now the whole situation was heartbreaking… the choruses went up again, only differently.  “It’s going to die!” “Andy, do something!”  “Daddy, do something!”   “We’ll just have to raise it and bottle feed it!” proclaimed Allison.  In the end, Andy put it in a box and emptied the box under a backyard bush.  Allison confirmed via Google images that it was indeed a newborn rabbit, and we all hoped that somehow its startled mother would come back to find it.   (And that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t seek revenge…)

Fast forward to 10:30 p.m. Andy, Emmie and I are in the car, driving back home from a friend’s house, where we ate leftovers from the Parents’ Prom and the adults reminisced on all the fun we had (yes, very good times were had by all at the prom!!).  I felt something on my leg just below the edge of my capris and thought it was the handle of my purse, then realized it was a lizard (or gecko, or anole—you pick it).  In the dark, I didn’t know how big it was, I just shrieked, grabbed and flung.  We pulled into the drive a few seconds later and when the light came on as the doors opened, I looked to see if I could find who had hitched a ride on my leg. To my horror and disgust, there on the floorboard was a lizard tail—and it was moving, flopping and writhing around even more than the living room bunny blob earlier in the day. (CUE MUSIC: Theme song from “Psycho”.) “AAAH! IT’S ALIVE!!!” I screamed. “Look at it! It’s not stopping! It’s like it has a mind of its own!!”

Emmie came around to my side of the car and calmly peered in.  “Mom it’s supposed to do that…you know, like you used to say, ‘like a chicken with its head cut off.’” At that moment, I wished I’d never used that phrase to describe children’s behavior when they’re running wild.  And I hoped very much that the rest of the lizard wasn’t hiding in my purse, which had been sitting wide open in the car.

Some Brief Thoughts About Charlie Sheen

In the midst of all the Charlie Sheen craziness—doesn’t your heart go out to his family? How painful it must be to see your son, father, brother say such embarrassing things in such a public way.  Every time he opens his mouth, it just keeps getting worse.  John Stamos summed it up nicely the other day after it was rumored that he was replacing Sheen on Two and a Half Men: “I am not replacing Charlie Sheen on Two And A Half Men.  However, Martin Sheen has asked me to be his son…”

I know, I know—Charlie’s an adult and it’s not anyone’s fault but his own, but I’m sure his family is still wondering where they went wrong…and they’ve probably been wondering for a long time, long before his cars were driven off cliffs and long before he called his boss a “worm”.  Does anyone remember that he co-founded a high-end children’s clothing line in 2005? No, not with one of his wives.  He collaborated with another guy who was a “childhood friend and experienced fashion executive”.   I remember first learning about it when watching an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show .  There he was, talking about “children’s couture” and trotting out precocious kids to model his line of “sturdy yet stylish” fashions.  Huh? Called “Sheen Kidz”, the clothes “demonstrated beautiful hand-designed embroidery, shirring and pleating, and unique graphic design”.  (This from a guy who prides himself on being a macho party animal?) The company’s website is still up, but the clothes haven’t been made for about three years.  All I could find in a quick online search was a Girls Size 5 Tank Top on ebay with a starting bid of $3.99 (and zero bidders).  Eeew—I don’t care how fine the fabric—would you really want your child wearing something that probably helped pay off Charlie Sheen’s  gambling debts or prostitute tabs? 

Sheen Kidz might just go down in history as the most unlikely celebrity product endorsement ever, even weirder than Jimmy Johnson hawking Extendz on late-night TV.  Um, maybe celebrities would be smart to just steer clear of all products with a “z” at the end of the name!

Bieber Fever Has Hit My House– Should We Be Quarantined?

Not too long ago, as some of you will recall, I wrote about the phenomenon of teen idols, and how my older daughter, like me, snubbed teen idols in the preteen and junior high years.  I wrote that if she was truly like me, she was due to fall for one “at any minute”, since I had my first teen idol crush in high school.  But I really wasn’t taking my prediction too seriously.  If I were a betting mom, I would have bet that Allison would never crush on any of the faces gracing the current or future covers of “Bop” magazine.  I would have bet that this strong-willed child would want to be different, and purposely hold her ground so as not be a rabid fan of anyone that she’s told by the media that she needs to like.  And I would have already lost that bet.  Because, thanks to her and her friends going to see the movie, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”, she is now a HUGE Justin Bieber fan.

It’s funny—whenever we used to be driving somewhere and a Bieber song would come on the radio, she would promptly turn it to something else.  Now, she’s constantly scanning through several channels to find him. She scrounged up $10 in loose change in her bedroom the other day in order to buy one of his “old” CDs at Target (“Mom, pleeese give me $10 so I don’t have to dump all those quarters on the checkstand!”), and now she’s saving to buy a $10 special edition magazine full of posters and facts about the swishy-haired Canadian.  She says her dream job is to be one of his backup singers. Huh? Did that movie have subliminal messages hidden among the special effects saying stuff like YOU WILL BECOME A HUGE FAN, YOU WILL GO CRAZY OVER THIS BOY…? Did they put something in the popcorn salt? I mean, I guess I should be glad it’s not some misogynist rapper or foul-mouthed headbanger, but, really, for my teen to go from zero to full throttle overnight had me mystified.

I decided to check it out for myself, and took Allison to see the movie again (along with Emmie).  I love a good “behind the scenes” documentary and had heard the adult critics liked this, so I was ready to be impressed.  But, even with 3D glasses on, I thought it was hard to be “wowed”.  Yes, there is some compelling stuff– early home video footage of Justin, interviews with Scooter Braun, the man who discovered him on YouTube and became his manager, and comments from Justin’s mom about “getting the phone call” from Scooter and moving Justin to Atlanta to cut an album—but it lacks something that, in my opinion, is a HUGE omission—interviews with Justin himself.  Seriously, it seems like the viewer hears from everyone in his life, from one of his elementary school teachers to his grandparents to singing star Usher to even his former next door neighbor, but we rarely, if ever, hear from Justin, unless it’s singing. I would have loved to hear what he felt about living away from home for the first time, what it felt like to see the cover of his first CD, or where he was when he first heard himself on the radio.  Was it a “That Thing You Do” moment? What about his first television appearance? Or the first time he was recognized on the street, or mobbed by fans? The moviemakers do give us an appreciation for his musical talent—this kid has sung and played drums, guitar, and piano quite well from an early age—but they really leave the discerning viewer wanting more.

Maybe that’s why they’ve just announced there’s a “limited engagement”, “new extended version” coming out, with “40 Minutes of Unseen Footage!!!” Maybe that’s when he’ll get to tell his story, instead of all the adults who surround him telling it for him.  If so, I guess that’s genious marketing.  But sadly, I doubt that is what’s included.  It will probably be more concert footage, more arms magically reaching out to touch the audience, more minutes of hair being flipped.  I do know that I’m not going to pay $11.75 to find out, and neither is Emmie.  But Allison is willing to wash windows, cars, even dogs, to earn enough to go again.

At Least I Buy Fresh Fruit…

I’ve never thought of myself as a domestic diva, but I think I’m at least a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, between “Barely Knows How To Boil Water” and “While Homemade Bread is Baking In Perfectly Cleaned Oven, She Hand-Paints Her Own Gift Wrap And Coordinating Tags On A Table She’s Refinished All By Herself.”  I mean I did major in journalism and Home Economics.  I was in 4-H for six years as a teenager, sewing and cooking up blue ribbons at the Des Moines County Fair (seriously—stop laughing!!). Once, about a dozen years ago when hosting an Easter dinner for 10, I put 10 fuzzy, jelly bean-sized fake yellow chicks in the doorway of 10 miniature birdhouses and carefully placed a tiny strip of paper into each beak, bearing each guest’s name, as a place marker.  I know how to channel my inner Martha Stewart or Julia Child.  And yet, with a French exchange student living in our house, I’m starting to notice things that would make Julia turn over in her grave.


It started when another French AFS student came over after school one day for a visit with Cleo, our French student.  Cleo was fixing a snack and showing her friend what we call our “spray-on butter”.  “Look, they have butter spray!” Cleo remarked in her broken English, holding up the yellow plastic bottle.  The other girl marveled, but I couldn’t tell if it was in disgust or admiration.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! is neither butter nor anything else that comes from a cow, for fear they’d be disgusted for sure.  I mean, isn’t the word “gourmet” a French word? Didn’t the French invent the art of fine dining? (And isn’t real butter, lots of it, a mainstay of that dining?)


Since then, I’ve noticed other ways our domestic style might be seen as “less than fine”.  I use a wet Swiffer to mop the tile floors and disposable dust rags for the furniture.  Thanks to evening meetings for Andy and/or me, we pick up Subway’s $2.49 Sub of the Day for everyone at least one night each week, and take-out fried chicken with macaroni and cheese if there’s a second busy night.  “Your dinner’s in the fridge, just grab it whenever you’re hungry!” I tell the kids.  We each have our own “special” drinking glass that we rinse and re-use to avoid filling up the dishwasher every day with a zillion different glasses (Andy’s has a holographic image of Van Halen on it; Emmie’s is a giant lime green plastic ice cream cone…).  We scramble our eggs in the microwave.  Bake muffins from a boxed mix and scones from a refrigerated tube.  Use canned, diced tomatoes in many recipes instead of fresh.  Buy lots of quick-fix frozen foods, like Lean Pockets, vegetables, dinner rolls, pizza…

Are we just a bunch of crass Americans? No, just busy Americans. 
But at least we sit down together for a meal several nights each week, even if we don’t get started until 8 p.m. And if that means cutting corners in order to make it happen, well then bring on the instant mashed potatoes. I’d much rather be that kind of a family than the one described to me by a long-time acquaintance a couple months ago—she told me she can’t even remember what year her family was all together for a meal other than on holidays.  And I think I understood Cleo’s words enough to learn that her family members are often on their own when it comes to meals as well.  So, even though my family and I are not “gourmands”, hopefully she enjoys the camaraderie of our family dinners.


Which reminds me—I have silver napkin holders in which you can insert a photo, or name card. I need to personalize one for Cleo. And since the first day of autumn was yesterday, maybe I’ll make a table centerpiece of tiny pumpkins and dried gourds while I’m at it…with a nutmeg-scented candle…and maybe a few acorns…

Form Fatigue

Are other parents with school-aged kids feeling the crush of back-to-school paperwork this year, or is it just me? That was the question on my mind last Thursday afternoon when I got an email asking me to fill out what seemed like the 50th  (or was it the 60th) “form” I’ve had to fill out since the start of school.  I put the question to Barb, a mother of two, ages 10 and 13, who was at the elementary school that day doing some volunteer work, like me.  She said she was about to tear out her hair as well, and reminded me that even when we fill out all the forms we’re supposed to, on time, we often get repeats of those same forms sent home with our kids or included in a mass email, which play mind games with us and make us wonder if we ever did what we were supposed to do in the first place!

First, there are the official back-to-school forms that must be filled out for each child, every year: The Emergency Contact Form (Please fill out parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, other emergency contacts, birthdates– yes, even the parents’ birthdate, in case you write any hot checks– child’s name, grade… Have they ever attended school in this district before? If so, tell us which school, and never mind that you’ve had kids at this school for at least ten years…Are you divorced? If so, attach a copy of the divorce decree.  Is your dirty rotten ex allowed to pick up your child from school?); The Technology Agreements (Do you give your child permission to use the Internet on school computers?  If yes, does your child solemnly swear not to watch Fred videos on YouTube repeatedly or play Farmville?); the Release of Information Form (Do you give your permission to have your child’s image used in school district publications, even if they’re sticking out their tongue? Do you want your phone number and email listed in the school directory?  Can we give your child’s contact info to colleges and universities? How about the military? Yes, we know your child may only be in kindergarten—but you still have to take the time to read the entire form and check the proper boxes…); the Health Form (Has your child ever suffered from the following 100 conditions? Will you please go get your insurance card out of your wallet and write down a bunch of information from it on this form?)  and the Proof of Residency (please attach a copy of your latest utility bill showing your name and address, to prove that you are not trying to get your child into this school without currently living where everyone knows the Texas pledge of allegiance, votes Republican and thinks carrot cake is good…)

It wouldn’t be so bad if the form filling-out ended with these forms (although the health form alone took me almost 30 minutes per child!).  But it doesn’t end there.  A few days later, you receive the “I have received the district student/parent handbook” form for each child, and in the upper grades, the “I have read and understand the drug and alcohol policy” form. Sometimes each teacher has their own class conduct/expectations form, in addition, that needs to be read and signed by both parent and student. And, unless your child is in ZERO extracurricular activities, there are even more forms near the start of school for sports, band, choir, drill team, church youth, Scouts, etc. (and God help you if they’re involved in more than one).  More emergency contact forms, health forms, field trip permission forms, conduct agreements, and will-you-be-a-parent-volunteer forms (I think they might get more volunteers if we didn’t have to fill out so many forms all at once… ). And get this—not only do a cascade of forms have to be filled out, they have to be filled out fast! In some classes, if you don’t, it affects a child’s grades– the child will get a zero for a homework assignment if the parent doesn’t fill it out by the deadline!  

Excuse me?! I finished school 26 years ago.  I have work piled on my desk, work that I get PAID to do, and three people in my house are under the weather from really bad colds, including myself, and my vegetarian teenager is angry because there’s nothing in the house at present for her to eat and I really do need to get to the grocery store and the dog needs walking and my foreign exchange student needs me to mail a package to her sister in time for her birthday…and a teacher is telling me I’d better fill out forms RIGHT NOW?? I’m sorry, but I can’t even find the forms, and even if I did, I think I’ve got writer’s cramp.

Communication Breakdown? Start Writing…

I’ve been thinking that the joke about “people texting each other inside the same house” might not be such a bad idea. Or carrying around a white board. Or sticking notes in lunch bags.  According to a study released last week from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 1 in 5 teens now has at least a slight hearing loss, due possibly to iPod volume.  The study, conducted with almost 5,000 kids, showed slight hearing loss increasing in the past 15 years, with the number classified as “mild or worse” increasing by 70 percent (1 in 20).  (Oh, so when my kids say “Mom, you never reminded me” when I’ve told them something important and then they forget—it might not be a lame excuse?) 


Hearing loss or not, written words might just be a great “extra” way to communicate with kids. It would definitely help younger children build their writing and reading skills. And it might be a way for parents to say a lot to teens who think everything over two words is a “lecture”.  (I once read about a mom who wrote letters to her teen daughter and stuck them under her bedroom door once in awhile.  It was a way for her to give advice to a girl who “didn’t want to hear it.”  The mom figured the daughter probably just threw them away, but years later, the daughter showed her she’d opened and read them all and had saved them all, they had meant so much to her!)  I also remember, from my years working at a community college and giving “learning styles tests “, that people understand things best in different ways—there are those who learn best through hearing, those who need to get “hands on” to understand a concept, and those who need visual elements for something to sink into their brain, like pictures, or words.


Lately I have noticed a few other positives with the written word as a way to communicate.  My teen is usually a lot more polite in phone texts—I see the words “thanks” a whole lot more than I hear it.  And when she’s not polite, it’s not quite as annoying in print as it is in person.  I mean, reading “WHERE R U?!! U WERE SUPPOSED TO PICK ME UP!!!!” is so much better than having it yelled in my ear.


Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, writing things down is often necessary for us to communicate with our French foreign exchange student.  But sometimes it can be a case of the blind leading the blind, if we don’t spell things right.  (“CYOTE” read one scrap of paper I found, as Andy tried to let her know about the wild animal that has been stalking our neighborhood…I don’t think she found that one in her English-French dictionary! ) It got really confusing when Allison tried to help her understand a science assignment.  Go figure– Cleo’s first week in AP Environmental Science, and the teacher has them read Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” as a parallel to the study of sustainable development and deforestation.  Can you imagine her confusion with the English word combinations, and the “unique” words that Theodor Geisel is famous for creating? Allison tried her best to explain “Grickle-grass”.  And a “Once-ler”, who lives in a “Lerkim”, in clothes made out of “miff-muffered moof”. (Gee, even my MS Word spell check is going crazy…)  It’s hard enough explaining everyday stuff like “homecoming mum” and “armadillo” to her, let alone a Snuvv (that lives in a gruvvulous glove…)


“I don’t understand the questions,” Cleo said later, as she tried to fill out a worksheet about the book.

“It’s okay,” I told her.  “Just write your teacher a note.”



Odd Mom Out: When Your Kids Don’t Resemble You…At All

I carried them for nine months and nursed them for at least as long; went through morning sickness, nausea, a C-section, VBAC, migraine headaches, and major sleep loss for them; got carpal tunnel syndrome and had to completely change my wardrobe —you’d think my kids could at least look like me in some way.  Some daily, visual nod to the fact that I AM THEIR MOTHER.  But in my case and that of many other moms, “it just ain’t so”.  I mean, there are adoptive moms I know who resemble their children more than I resemble mine.  Neither one of my kids looks anything like me– not that I would want them to completely, but it would be great if at least one of them had eyes like mine, or maybe the shape of their face…instead, I have to be satisfied with sharing “sort of similar hair color” and “crowded mouth” with Emmie, and “hair thickness” and “excellent teeth enamel quality” with Allison.  Nothing else, at least that I can see.  Allison’s eyes are like Andy’s father’s, her ginger hair color is Andy’s mom’s, ditto for her myriad of freckles, and her face shape is all-Andy.  Emmie’s eyes, nose and face shape are all-Andy, and she has freckles, too. 


I just think there’s something nice about family members looking alike, especially when there’s more than one child in a family, with some children favoring the mom, some resembling the dad.  It’s like a “balanced tribe”.  My brother and I look like my mom; my sister looks like my dad.  Andy looks like his mom; his sister looks like his dad. 

As we age and change, sometimes it takes old photos to see the resemblance.  I have a friend who once posted a couple of her and her husband’s elementary school photos on their fridge, next to their two sons’ school photos taken in the same grade.  I’d never thought they looked so much like their kids, but the resemblance was uncanny—hers was almost identical to her oldest son’s photo; her husband’s was identical to the youngest son’s.  Last Sunday, I had the chance to do something similar for a mother-daughter tea hosted by Allison’s drill team.  For a party decoration, they requested that every mom submit childhood photos of themselves and their daughters taken at the same ages.  I found a school photo of me in 4th grade, and paired it with Allison’s 4th grade school photo.  There they were, side by side at the tea, magneted to a giant metal wall.  Nope, not a shred of similarity between the two photos (other than the fact that 70’s fashion was in vogue when both pictures were taken– Allison’s crocheted poncho looks almost as groovy as my plaid vest!! ).  Many other pairs on that wall looked like twins.


Yep, I think it’s an exclusive club, we non-look-alike moms. Sometimes it’s especially hard being in it, like for women who have gone through rough divorces—with their kids looking very much like their exes, I’m sure that sometimes it’s a painful reminder.  Or women who are the mothers of all boys who resemble only their father. Talk about feeling like an outsider!


Guess I should count my blessings that right now I don’t look like my kids.  At a time in their lives when Mom is uncool and they’re trying to carve out their own identities, maybe looking like me would only make things worse.  And maybe it’s especially good for those days when they misbehave in public, when I hope, hope, hope no one thinks I’m their mother.  I’m certain I’d be pretty believable if I shrugged my shoulders and said, to sympathetic onlookers, “I’m just the chauffeur!”

My Car is the Betty White of Minivans

Recently my husband and I had a conversation about buying a new car for me. I didn’t get my hopes up, rightfully so, because it didn’t take long for him to say, “You know, for about $300, I think I can keep your car running another year and then we can get a new one.”  Umm, that’s what he said last year. And I’m pretty sure the year before that as well…  For someone who’s not “into” cars, Andy is a self-taught, amazingly crack mechanic in his spare time who has definitely saved us thousands of dollars and kept my car going year after year (after year). Not only does he like saving money, he gets a lot of satisfaction out of researching and solving problems, and I think he also likes “telling the guys”, like some guys brag about the big fish they caught, or the amazing golf putt they sank.


Yes, I do drive a 1997 Dodge Grand aravan with 184,208 miles on it. (That’s right—aravan.  It was once a Caravan, but one day last year when I didn’t pull in far enough in the garage, the automatic garage door scraped off the “C” as it was closing.) And yes, it still runs, but, when you enter your Golden Years, you should have some class, for goodness sakes! I mean, my car, like Betty White, is getting downright embarrassing in its old age. (Did she really have to cuss so much on SNL two weeks ago?   I think I’m scarred for life…). And calling my car embarrassing is a big statement from someone who was once proud to drive it as a badge of uncoolness. But it’s now gotten beyond uncool.  For starters, it’s dented on almost every panel from one thing or another (runaway shopping carts, angry kids, hail, carport posts that used to “get in the way” when I was backing out…).  And the inside? Fuh-getta-bout-it. The back seat rattles like a pair of loose false teeth.  Recently, when the ceiling fabric came unglued in one small area and started to gap, the kids thought it would be fun to pull it some more—so now it hangs down so much, it looks like a Bedouin tent inside my car, and the “tent” literally billows when I put the windows down to let in fresh spring air.  I’ve been seriously thinking of playing the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire on the car stereo and burning some incense to go with it. Maybe I’ll pick up Allison and her friends at high school one day and just say “Om” when they open the doors. Maybe I could even hand them all finger cymbals…


And if I choose not to put down my windows, and turn on the air conditioner instead, the car screeches intermittently.  Inside and out.  And I mean, it’s like the loudest nails-on-a blackboard sound you could ever imagine.  It’s like what a pterodactyl must have sounded like as it swooped in.  It’s like the music from “Psycho” on acid… 

A guy almost fell off his bike as I screeched past him yesterday.  The sound stopped another guy, previously hell-bent on running into CVS to buy cigarettes, in his tracks.


Okay, I’m sure part of that $300 to fix up the car will include the air conditioner.  But what will break down next?  I’m not sure I wanna know.  At this point, it’s always something.  And Mechanic Dad has to squeeze car repair into our usually busy weekends, so things naturally take awhile to get done. 


I’m thinking about not driving the aravan anymore and walking/biking everywhere or taking the bus in protest.  But my husband really wouldn’t be affected by that, since he works many miles away, and I do so much driving during the afternoon, chauffering kids.  He’d probably say “Great!  Put the kids on bikes, too!”  As Dallas’ weather keeps getting more and more uncomfortable and my teen’s allergies get worse and worse, I don’t think getting back to nature is the answer….


The kids laugh when I joke with them that someday, I’m going to pull up to their school and my car is just going to fall apart, cartoon style, all at once, with nothing left but me in the driver’s seat and the steering wheel in my hands.  Maybe then I could get a new car…


Nah! Because a dismantled car would give Andy an even better fish tale: “ I rebuilt our minivan– from scratch!!!!  J