Here comes the sun.

I’ve felt a little scruffy this brand new year.  The snow and ice sit-in was fun at first, but by Monday night I was ready to put the kids in a sled and push it—gently, mind you—down the nearest hillside just to get five minutes (or five hours) alone in the house.

See, much as I love(ish) winter break, I do not think it was intended to last as long as the Flood.  I’ve gained a whole new respect for Noah’s wife, trapped in that stuffy boat with crabby kids and cluttered quarters, because after two and half weeks of in-home partying (read:  house trashing), we ended the Big Laze with cancelled church, cancelled school, delayed school, delayed school, and delayed school again.  It was a dream for the kids.  FOR THE KIDS.

And speaking of the kids, and the house, and the kids-in-the-house-for-three-weeks-straight:  the Christmas Bomb seems to keep exploding in said house, on a twelve- to twenty-four hour rotation, even though the Big Day was over two weeks ago.  I’ve done nothing but bend over and pick things up since Thanksgiving, but the gifts just keep on giving.  Like a pebble tossed in a lake, each new gadget creates its own ripple effect of chaos, culminating in a three-foot radius of Crap circling every side.  The tree may be down, but the piles still stand high.

Come on, mom.  You know about The Piles.

I’m wading daily through piles of clothes–new ones with tags stuffed beneath old ones needing washed (really kids, why separate them?), piles of baked goods (stale and grody, but we’re not picky), and piles and piles of papers–important gift receipts, important gift cards, important thank-you card lists because I swear I’m gonna write thank-you cards this year, all buried beneath crumpled grocery lists and scribbled-on post-it notes:  return gifts!  use gift cards!  write thank you cards!

And then there’s The Wrap:  gift wrap, bubble wrap, cellophane wrap, plastic wrap–they’ve all nested, mated, and are breeding with vigor in my home.  Just yesterday I bent over (again) to retrieve what appeared to be a cross breed of gift/plastic wrap:  it was red-colored Saran, brought in special for the holidays. Ethan had wound yards of the stuff around a sock snowman he’d made for his sister, apparently hopeful that, though the red is transparent, the sheer volume applied would mask the poor creature’s identity til the moment of unveiling.  (It didn’t work, but sister played along valiantly.)

But oppressive as they may be, The Piles and The Wrap are nothing compared to The Blankets.  Tell me, oh sisters-in-post-holiday-suffering:  what’s with the blankets?  They. are. everywhere.  Slung over the back of the couch, hanging off the side of the chairs, dripping down the seats of my car, wadded in the corners of the family room, spread over the entire living room floor, flat and wrinkled and on purpose, as though we are an Afghan family preparing for Ramadan instead of an American family cleaning up after Christmas.

Wait.  Did I use the word family next to cleaning?  Oh, that’s richer than the stale apple pie coagulating in my kitchen.

What I meant to say is that I am a mother cleaning up after her family’s Christmas.  They’re still having fun, and I’m still bending over.  (And I’ll bet you three lamb kabobs that Afghan mothers are doing the same two weeks after Ramadan.  And if the cross of motherhood is no respecter of nations, you can bet they’re not happy about it either.)

So last night, despite my anticipation (dread) of another late morning, I set my alarm for six a.m., determined to get my own self, at least, back on some kind of sleeping/waking/eating cycle that doesn’t mimic that of a frat boy.  And when the alarm chimed this morning, I’m proud to say that I got out of bed a mere forty-minutes later.

I stumbled downstairs and crawled on the stairmaster, ready(ish) to take on the new year.  My feet plodded slowly (who made these pedals so heavy?) as I surveyed the nine blankets rumpled across the floor, looking as groggy and grumpy as I felt.  I knew that restoring my pre-holiday habits would eventually feel good, but right then it just felt bad.  And hard.  And kinda depressing—probably because it felt so bad and hard.

Fifteen minutes in, I almost quit.  Because, I thought (while hyperventilating), would one more day of frat boy life really doom me in the end?  I was just about to hit the cancel button when I looked up out the window and happened upon this:


 (photo courtesy of Derrick P. Smith, aka the Hub)

A sunrise.  And with it, just moments after this picture was taken, the sun.

The sun.  And everything that hot, melty, pink-orange-red perfect sun implied:  that something good was about to happen.  That things were going to change.  That the dark, the cold, the chaos, The Piles, the stifling hibernation of winter–none of it was permanent; it was not our new reality.  The sun told me that one day—not too far off—the snow and the mess and the sugar-crabbed, housebound kids would be a memory and we’d be looking forward to the light, fresh-air, happy days of spring.

I finished my workout and, before any of my lazy kids got up to start another lazy day, took a lazy moment myself to sit on the (blanketed) floor, look out the window, and stare at the sun.

We’re gonna get through this winter, moms, I know we are.  Know how I know?  Because today, the sun said so.

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.