Flunking summer.

What are your kids doing right now, on this beautiful August morning with the sun high, the sky blue, the day ripe with possibility?  What are your kids doing with this golden orb of time—summer time—that spills like sunshine through a window only three months each year, calling on their free spirits to come…run…play with me?  What are you kids doing right now, with the air light and the breeze low and their young life’s potential stretched out before them, poised for the greatness your summertime mothering will bring?

Yeah, mine are watching tv too.

In fairness, after I punched out that last paragraph, I closed my laptop and asked (forced) my ten-year old son to take the dog for a walk with me.  He didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to.  The dog didn’t want to.  But I had finally written something pathetic enough to make myself feel guilty enough to lift tush from chair, and the three of us opened the front door and stepped into the sunlit world of a child’s summer morning with all of the hazy magic it brings.

The magic lasted about nine minutes.  Then I got tired and asked (forced) boy and dog to turn around and go back home.

Now before you rush to judgment, be aware that

  1. It was getting really hot out (77 degrees, thank you), and
  2. We were approaching a big, scary hill.  (Scary because it was so big.  I’ll save my calf muscles for our daily hot dog runs to Costco, thank you.)

Boy and dog walked/trotted home much happier than they left it, thanks to the sweet promise of Fresca/water upon return.  (Have your kids discovered Fresca yet?  Ethan thinks he’s drinking a martini every time he has one, so sultry and cool.  I dread the day he discovers it’s sugar free.)  We slogged back through the front door and I flopped on the couch, parched and sweating, thankful that I’d provided enough summer fun for one whole day.  With everything we’d packed in—the sun, the dog, the front door—it was surely almost bedtime.  I glanced at my watch.  It was 8:44.


The truth is:  I’ve had it.  I can’t do summertime anymore, I just can’t.  And lest you think I’m a lousy mother, let me tell you, my frustration is not about the kids—except for when it’s all about the kids.  Which it always is, all of the time.  All of the summer ding-dong-day long.


They’re driving me crazy.  And not in a sweet funny way, like, “Look, little Teddy ate a crayon again, isn’t that crazy?!”  Young mothers, enjoy that plush craziness while it lasts, because little Teddy is still cute and can barely speak, two virtues of childhood that that fade too fast and too permanently.  When Teddy turns ten, he’ll drive you crazy by begging to play Minecraft for the twelfth hour in a row (you’ll let him) and demanding a cold Fresca for the twelfth day in a row (you’ll give it to him.)  Why?  Because he’s driving you crazy.

And don’t get me started on my teenage girls.  Friends often tell me how “nice” my teenage girls seem, but that’s just because they’re smart and can put on a good front.  You know what they’re doing behind that sunlit door of summertime?  Their nails.  And their hair.  And their makeup.  What they’re NOT doing are the dishes or the laundry.  Those are my jobs, see?  I mean, what if the dish soap botched up their mani; what if the fabric softener spilled on their pedi?  What mother wants that thrown on her Pile ‘o Guilt?

Another thing they’re not doing is earning money to pay for the things they are doing while they’re not doing their chores.  It’s a vicious cycle, but one that I can’t seem to end.  I keep giving them more money to buy more nail polish to give them something to do while they’re not doing dishes or laundry.  Why?  Because they’re driving me crazy.  (Just look at the photo—do you see what summer is doing to my wattle?)

And, as if the summertime gods weren’t laughing hard enough, guess what else they threw on the Pile?  The fact that we just moved.  To a new house, a new town, a whole new side of the state.  So imagine your summer-at-home-with-the-kids (wretched as it is—I know, sister, I know) and subtract any and all friends from the equation—yours and theirs. Imagine the dog days of summer flopping out, one after another, with no play dates, no phone calls, no school chums hopping in and out of the house to occupy (i.e., babysit) your restless young charges.  Imagine no fellow moms with whom to re-gift your kids; You, Yourself, and You are your children’s only companion, entertainer, and BFF  (but not in a good way.) (Is there a good way?)  Add to that infinite trips to IKEA—Satan’s bachelor pad, I’m telling you—to get “just one more thing” for your daughter’s new bedroom (you’ll buy it; she’s driving you crazy), and you’ve now imagined my summer.  Go on, enjoy a slice of my homegrown hell.

I’ll admit it:  when we first moved here, knew no one, and had no commitments on the calendar, I rejoiced in our family’s newfound simplicity.  At last, I thought, it’s just us and the kids, five peas in a pod, a little glimpse of eternal bliss.  Our busy busy family was finally getting time to breathe and bond.  Relationships would be renewed, love would be lasting. It would be a rare and magical summer.  Oh yes it would.

The magic lasted about nine minutes.

And now?  I’m looking constantly at my calendar (three more weeks??), frantically out my window (is anybody out there?) and trying, unsuccessfully, to slip quietly out the back door (“Mom!  Where are you going?”  Shoot. “I’ll be right back, kids…I have to, um…shave my legs…”  “Outside?”)  Yes.  Outside.

What I’m not trying to slip through is that phony front door, smug with it’s promise of the sunlit world of summer.  I know what’s on the other side, you big fraud:  more Kirkland hot dogs and more trips to IKEA.  Let me know when Fall, and the first day of school, comes a knockin’.  Then maybe I’ll lift tush from chair to answer.  Until then, you’ll find me at the food court.  Turns out, our new Costco serves gelato.  Take that, summertime.  And you thought you’d won.

Five ways to leave town with a touch of Class.

It’s no secret that at our house, we struggle with Life.  Adulthood often confuses us, and things that go smoothly for other first-world families are constantly beating us into a messy—and generally expensive—pulp.

I sometimes imagine how dignified our life in a tribal village would be, wherein the Smith Family would no longer be hassled by such trivialities as losing our eight-man camping tent (how do you lose a whole tent?) or locking ourselves out of the house.  (Housewife Coming Home From Morning Run + Garage Door Pin Pad Still Broken After Five Years = Only Grownup Since 1974 to Lock Herself Out of Her Own House.)

Fumbling with such minutiae would be beneath us in our tribal village, where we’d be expected only to kill tigers and sew coats of the skins for our daughters’ dowries.  We’d surely pass as Respectable with only killing and sewing to focus on each day.  (Wait–did I say sewing? Looks like I’d flunk Tribal Village Life too.)

And so it is that our attempt to pack up said Life and haul it across the state has caught a few, um, snags.  Silly us, we thought boxing up the house would be the hard part.  Turns out, that kind of hassle’s for amateurs.  We like to think bigger.  So with five calender days left before the Big Move, we thought of five ways to add a touch of class to our departure.  Class (capital C) is important to us, and I’m guessing it’s important to you too—I mean, you do read this blog, and that makes a statement.  So here’s a few suggestions on how to skip town in style:

1.  Wreck the car.


This was just a little fender-bender in the mall parking lot that could have happened to anyone, but obviously had to happen to us.  (To our sixteen-year old daughter, actually, but who’s pointing fingers?)  The car is still driveable, which is a curse in disguise because none of the auto shops could get us in before we moved so we must now drive this badboy to Camas in search of some merciful schmuck to repair it.  The real treat is that the side window won’t roll up, so the local mechanic who did the estimate suggested that until repairs could be made, we do what any classy couple would do:  cover it with cardboard and duct tape. Which means that tomorrow we will be hauling down the Gorge at eighty miles an hour with an enormous gray-and-brown band-aid flapping in the breeze.  After his damning advice, the mechanic laughed—laughed—and said, “Look out Camas, here comes the white trash from the Tri-Cities!” I nodded mutely.  My darkest fears had been given voice.

2.  Bust the AC unit when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Saturday night found me, as any legit Saturday night finds me, lying in bed with Cheez-its and Feedly. Flipping through blogs and minding my own biz, I suddenly saw a large drop of liquid slide off of my nose and onto my screen.  I of course bent over to sniff it and determined that it was, in fact, my perspiration.  Touching the back of my neck and the front of my head I, realized I was pouring. How could this happen to a woman with Class?  The answer came when I checked the thermostat and saw that it was ninety-one degrees in our house.   Ninety-One.  That’s the year I graduated high school, not the temperature we’ve sold our first child to maintain around here.  I immediately asked (screamed at) the Hub to Make Everything Better.  White Knight that he is, went out in the scorching night air to tamper and tinker with some box-unit-thingy that held our life’s happiness within.  After much tampering and tinkering he returned with the diagnosis:

It Was Broken.


He Couldn’t Fix It.

At least not until Monday when the parts store opened up.  I thanked him for trying and then lovingly asked him how the crap that was gonna help me tonight?  He then lovingly responded by telling me I could—well, nevermind.  Let’s just say the evening didn’t go down well.

Nor did the next day, when we hit triple digits again.  Do you know how fun it is to get your ten-year old in a dress shirt and tie for church when it’s ninety-one degrees in your house?  I’ll tell you right now:  it’s not fun at all.  After another steamy (not in a good way) night, I woke the next morning resolved to ditch that hellhole.  And I figured the Classiest thing I could do was:

3.  Spend the day at the laundromat.


Like any woman of the world, I was instensely excited about a day at the Laundromat.  Watching hours of Golden Girls reruns while pretending to work?  I haven’t had it that good since I used to babysit my sister’s kids.  If it took a hundred-degree house to buy me this luxury, I wasn’t complaining.

But my euphoria waned a bit when I saw that it cost five dollars to wash one load.  Five dollars—just to wash!  I’d always assumed laundromats were the domain of young couples and apartment dwellers, not Wall Street tycoons.  Calculating the projected net cost of my finished loads, two panicked thoughts entered my mind:

  1. The two rolls of quarters I’d brought (twenty bucks, people!) would not be enough, and
  2. My dented van out front was suddenly very embarrassing.  Had I known I’d be spending the day with such high rollers, I’d have taken the bus.

4.  Spend the hottest week of the year staring at your empty swimming pool.

Though it’s been warm enough to have the pool open for a month, we decided to put in a new liner before we sold the house, thus deeming the pool unusable til the job was done.  Having ordered the service weeks ago, however, we figured the pool would be ready in plenty of time to throw ourselves the Self-Aggrandizing Going Away Party we’d (obviously) been planning.  But we soon learned that pool boys—and I mean no offense to any pool boys in my readership—are not the most reliable citizens of the subcontracting world.  They’re cool, sure, with their myriad tattoos and long ponytails and—what are those big gross lobe things called?—oh yes, gauges.  They are very cool with their gauges—even pool boys have their strengths.  But apparently repairing pools isn’t one of them.

So we’ve spent our last week at home boiling in our home while looking longingly out the back window at this:


No worries, though.  The PBs said they could have the pool full and sparkling by Friday, just as we pull out of town.  I hope the new homeowners enjoy it.  Which brings me to the last way you can leave town with a touch of Class:

5.  Leave your home unsold.

Just leave it sitting there with the store bought For Sale sign out front.  This will impress your neighbors because they’ll know you are a discerning seller, that you’re not just giving this heap away to anybody.  The longer the sign sits and the longer the grass grows, the Classier you’ll look.  Trust us.  We know Class.



My small life

I turned seven the week after my family moved from Caldwell, Idaho to Kennewick, Washington.  Mom, steering a Buick loaded with toys, clothes and kids, followed Dad as he drove the U-haul across three hundred desert miles that seemed a thousand exotic ones to my dreamy-eyed self.  Our destination met, I remember sitting in a new living room–cozy and bright with it’s gold brocade couch and wall-to-wall carpeting–and peeling confetti-colored wrapping paper off a large square gift that revealed itself to be, indeed, the record player of my dreams.  Candy apple red with a pinstriped case, the magnificent piece of equipment was shiny, brand new, and all mine–three things that didn’t come easily to young members of my large and happy family.

Splendid as the record player was, my parents managed to top it by next presenting me an LP called Grover Sings the Blues.  My sisters and I spent the rest of that summer singing along with our furry friend (Grover-On-Demand, anytime we wanted!) until the afternoon a teenaged neighbor brought over her shiny 45 bearing the title track for Endless Love.  I knew it was a glamorous movie my parents had banned, but more than that I did not know–which is why its lead song became the most achingly romantic strain to ever grace my tender ears.  We knew each verse by heart, whispering them alongside Diana Ross’s vibrato to keep from breaking the spell she cast across our linoleumed kitchen floor.  Exploring dance routines of various methods, we settled on ballet as the form that captured Endless Love best.  We twirled, we swayed, we plie-ed, we fell in love–if not with an actual boy, with the heavenly promise of meeting one someday.  Of course, what I really fell in love with that summer was growing up.  Growing up, and growing up in Kennewick.

I would live out my childhood in this friendly little town–the next twelve years–before spending the twelve years after that spreading (what I imagined were) my wild wings across the wild west.  I would live in Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Arizona, unsure of where I would eventually stay, only to return to my roots when the mother ship called me home.  And as if living to the tick of some regulated cosmic clock, I would spend the twelve years after that raising my children in the place that raised me.

Then and now, my time in Kennewick has been good, and happy.  But in a few weeks it will be over.  Adulthood requires me to move again, and I’ll begin another love affair with another phase of life.  I predict that it, too, will be good and happy.  But it won’t be the same.


This last week, as I packed up old scrapbooks and pulled framed pictures off dusty walls, a quote from an old movie threaded my thoughts:  I lead a small life.  Valuable, but small.

The entirety of My Great Life Adventure can be condensed in an underwhelming chronicle of new babies in old apartments, new houses in an old town.  When I flip through the volume from start to finish, there is little to dazzle or impress.  I cannot claim to have lived large, but I have tried to live largely: change and growth appear in that account, learning and aging, judgment and forgiveness.  Anger and gratitude, hope and regret, elation and frustration–all of these Big Emotions make an appearance in the little span of my life.  And their ferocity makes me wonder:  does it really matter where, on the map, we experience them?

I don’t think it does.  If it did, meaning would be reserved for the lucky few who land in the right spot.  I think the point is to land in a spot and make it right, allowing that tide of human emotion to wash over us with all the good and bad that it brings.

And so I close this life’s chapter soaking wet, drenched in the joys and the pains that have engulfed me in these valuable years of my small, small life.  I have wrapped them and packed them and labeled them (fragile:  handle with care) and now stack them in boxes under the stairs.  I push them deep against the low wall, take one last look at the neat rows, and close the door behind me, surprised that they fit into such a small space.  To me, it’s been huge.