Friday, June 29, 2012

Waterboarding and iPads

Like parents everywhere I worry my kids get too much screentime.
That expression is a perfect replication!
The big exception to that concern is when we go on roadtrips.

My childhood roadtrips were spent staring listlessly out the backseat window, reading books and, when all else failed, sleeping in an attempt to make time move more quickly. In short, I dreaded roadtrips.

My kids have an entirely different attitude. What's to dread when roadtrips are a chance to gorge on the newest video games and catch up on movies? The portability of electronic devices has turned roadtrips into a no-holds barred screentime least that's the way it plays out in my car.

Child #2 loves video games the way Paris Hilton loves photographers. Before our recent roadtrip to Yosemite he assured us he was more than capable of overseeing the charging necessary to make sure his gaming devices were shipshape and car ready.

My husband and I made the rookie mistake of taking him at his word.

A hundred miles into our trip a panicked wail rose up from the backseat. "My DS is on RED."

This information was followed by broken hearted sobbing, the kind of tears you might envision someone crying if their childhood pet had died. But no, the only thing in danger of dying was a small red handheld gaming device.
These aren't my kids but you get the idea!

"Let's play car games or sing," I suggested. The wailing from the backseat increased several decibels.

"I guess you've learned your lesson," my husband said in the direction of the backseat. Then he asked me more quietly, "How long do you think he can cry?"

I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Looks like we're going to find out."

It turns out Child #2 had a lot of tears to cry over his DS deprivation. He cried, off and on, for the next hundred miles. By the time we crossed over the mountains and reached the first outpost of civilization in southern Oregon my husband was done.

"Where are we going?" I asked as we veered off a freeway exit at high speed.

"I can't take another hundred miles of that," he said. "I think it's time to buy an iPad."

Even though we don't like to think of ourselves as the kind of parents who reward lack of foresight and a tantrum with a fancy new toy, it's funny how desperation can eat away at your resolve and make you rationalize all kinds of things.

In the unlikely event any CIA operatives follow this blog, I think I've hit on a humane, but equally effective, alternative to waterboarding.

Torture by the tears of a seven year old boy in a speeding vehicle. I'm certain it would be sufficient to bring even the most hardened terrorists to their knees.

In the end it turned out our unanticipated purchase of an iPad had an interesting side benefit. Namely, a large amount of videos taken that discuss Yosemite National Park without any footage of the actual park. I would post some of them...but I think maybe it's best to leave torture to the experts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The End of Innocence

Maybe it was because I woke up yesterday morning and it was a rainy day. Maybe I thought about it because I'm talking about beginnings and endings this month or maybe it's just something that always lurks at the back of my mind and pops up when I'm least expecting it.

We all have those moments. The ones where we stop feeling immortal and start feeling human; frail and subject to the whims of fate, disease and accident.

Mine happened when I was twenty-two or vingt-deux ans (as I think of it) because I was living in Paris at the time.

Paris felt like a playground to me. A giant glittering campus full of art, food and exotica. I took risks and made ill-advised choices because I was vingt-deux ans and basically immortal. Then one morning, during a transatlantic telephone call with a friend, I found out another friend was gone.

Not dead, not killed by drunk drivers or premature disease. Just gone. Disappeared. The police were looking for her. There was a statewide search in progress but she'd been gone for three weeks.


Her car was found. The keys to it were in her purse which was still in her car. The only thing of value that was missing was my friend Katie.

She'd been missing for three weeks and then four and then five. I cried about it. We all did. She was our funny, bright shining light of a sorority sister. She was tough. The kind of girl who was going to take the world by storm.

Except she didn't. Instead, the world took her. And for me that was the end.

It was the end of the innocence that had allowed me to skip home by myself through Parisian streets at 4:00 in the morning. I stopped believing I was immune and immortal because if the world could be so capricious as to take my friend Katie then there was nothing to stop it from taking me too. It was a simple matter of self-preservation and grief.

Now that I have children of my own I often think about their innocence. It's a delicate line I walk. Part of me wants to preserve them just the way they are, carefree and insouciant, and part of me wants to wake them up. I have the urge to frighten them into wariness and streetsmarts by oversharing gory details of what takes place in this world of ours.

This isn't one of those posts where I have an answer or am searching for solutions. It's just a recitation of facts. At one time we're all innocent. If we're lucky we get to live long enough to lose that innocence. We don't always think of this as a gift but it is. It's the gift of experience and life.

My friend Katie was never found. She's gone and what's left behind are the hearts that ache in her absence. She lost more than her innocence. She lost everything. This is the kind of knowledge that, all these years later, still haunts me on rainy summer mornings.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Junk Food Freedom

It's almost independence day. Yes, the fireworks and hot dogs kind is approaching too but I'm talking about the beginning of another kind of independence.

For years I've been in, what my close friends refer to as, the trenches of motherhood. The trenches are the years when you learn the lyrics to EVERY High School Musical song by heart, have extended discussions about the nuances of your children's behavior patterns, capacity for academic learning and their social skills.

It goes almost without saying that in the trenches you are sleep-deprived and often make meals out of things like grilled cheese sandwich crusts.

What doesn't go without saying and bears repeating is the process of getting out of the trenches isn't a long slow climb. For me, it comes like bursts of sun through the clouds. The grey skies split apart and suddenly there it is...completely within my grasp. INDEPENDENCE

My most recent sunburst came last week. The kids and I were headed to the grocery store. I had a lot of shopping to do and was dreading the inevitable demands for junk food, silly behavior and whining that have made up a part of every grocery store trip with kids for the last decade.

Then I had a sun breaking through the clouds moment. Why make the kids shop with me when they are old enough to shop on their own. I grabbed a mini cart and said, "Guess what!?! You guys get to be in charge of your own snacks this summer." They both looked at me like I was speaking Mandarin but after a moment my words sunk in and off they went, big sister, little brother, in search of the holy trinity of junk food (sugar, salt and soda).

I took my mama sized cart and filled it up with the healthy stuff. Every so often I'd turn down an aisle and see them weighing the merits of Pirate's Booty or Hostess Donettes. I found everything I needed in record time, collected my children and headed to the check out.

As I loaded groceries into the car I had another sunburst, lightbulb realization; if the price of grocery store independence is a package of Hostess mini chocolate doughnuts and a couple of bottles of Vitamin Water then sign me up. Now that I've had a taste of zipping, unencumbered through the grocery store, I don't want to go back.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Best Kind of Beginning

Good morning Blogosphere! I’m back and I missed you.

Now where were we?

Oh, that’s right. It’s still June. Beginnings and Endings, month of transitions. We had the good fortune to kick off our summer with one of my most favoritest kind of beginnings.

 A Wedding!!

There was a time in my life when every other weekend was filled with weddings. The dress, the gift, the toasts and dancing began to feel like a festive routine. 
Fast forward ten years and suddenly a wedding is no longer part of our routine. In fact, it had been almost four years since my family attended a wedding.

And, as if the prospect of a family wedding wasn’t enough, this wedding had the added bonus of being a destination wedding. If you haven’t already guessed, I adore a destination wedding!

In this case the destination was Yosemite and the wedding was held at the historic Wawona Lodge.
At some point during our pre-wedding hikes around Yosemite I realized this was the first wedding Child #1 could comprehend in terms of the couple’s long term commitment.

“But mom,” she asked me repeatedly. “What happens if the bride and groom say ‘I don’t’. What will everyone do?”
I promised her this wouldn’t happen but the worry lingered.

After the ceremony, at the reception, she took a break from dancing and drinking sparkling apple cider to pull me aside and whisper gleefully, “They did it!”

Yes, they did it! There was no hesitation, no doubts and none of the post-wedding wrestling matches that occurred at my wedding, unless you count the one that broke out among a group of three year olds during the reception.
It was a perfect, beautiful beginning.

And, as is always the case with this kind of beginning, I wish them a wonderful life together.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Because come on, who doesn't love beginnings? They're wonderful.

The first kiss, the first bite of chocolate cake, the first time your kid takes a step or swims underwater and the first flush of love. They're all magical. Is it so surprising then, that beginning a new book is anything less than bliss?

I recently read a blog post about how much emphasis writers put on the beginning of their story.

There's a valid and practical reason for this. People who agent, publish and read books, judge a book by those first pages. Writers know this and we pour our heart and soul into those first pages. We want to get it just right for you.

But in my case the love and care thrown into those first pages isn't all for the reader. There's a little bit of selfishness mixed in.

For me, starting a new book with a fresh idea is like falling in love.

First, there's the idea that wiggles its way up out of, I don't know, my subconscious, the environment, something I saw or read or did or ate. In case the foregoing sentence didn't make it clear, I have trouble pinpointing the source of my ideas.

Then, there are the days or weeks that it's just a hot steamy love affair between me and my idea. Often I guard it closely. It's not something I want to talk about at this point because it's still growing and fleshing out, becoming less of an amorphous fantasy and turning into something real.

After that comes the Shout-It-From-The-Rooftops phase of the romance.

That's the time when friends will start receiving pitches in their inbox which showcase "the most perfect idea ever"!!!! I will gush about the idea, the characters, their motivations, their sadness and joys. I get a little myopic, as all people who are newly in love do.

By the time I've started writing I'm head over heels in love. As my kids would say, I want to marry that idea!

Those first fifty pages are a love letter of sorts. They have to be perfect, eloquent and worthy of the thing that has me unable to think clearly and has taken up (what seems to be) permanent residence in my brain.

So you see. For me it's all about beginnings. They're my selfish, symbiotic pleasure.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Embarrassment of Love

It's beginning! And I don't like it one bit!!

The other day on the way to school my daughter asked if I would be one of the drivers for her field trip.

"Please mom," she said with her sweet, sweet smile. "We need a car that can take five kids and that's what you have."

I agreed and, instead of walking with Child #2 to his first grade classroom I detoured across the playground to check in with Child #1's teacher about field trip driving.

"Wait a minute," said my daughter when she noticed I was still behind her. "Where are you going?"

"To tell you teacher I'll drive. Remember? That thing you asked me to do five minutes ago?"

"Oh," she said with a grimace. "Maybe you should just email her or something."

Because it was morning and I'm never at my best in the morning I still didn't understand what was happening. "No, that's okay," I told her. "I'm here and I'll just check in right now."

"Okay, but mom," she hissed, looking at me like I was the bearer of contagious disease, "let's say good bye out here and PLEASE don't walk in with me."

That's when it clicked. "Are you embarrassed of me?" I asked.

Could be a good look for me!
Now I wish I could say I'm the kind of mom who respects her children's boundaries and doesn't delight in making them squirm a little, but that would be lying and I strive for honesty on this blog.

"How could you be embarrassed of your cute little mother?" I asked while hugging her, kissing her and generally ignoring the fact that she was elbowing me in the stomach in an attempt to get away.

In the end I capitulated and let her run to her classroom ahead of me. My good bye was restrained to a brief wave (ignored and unreturned). I went back to Child #1's classroom and he let me give him a big hug and kiss which was some consolation.

But it left me wondering two things. First, how many more years I'll have with him before kisses get me elbowed in the stomach? And, second whether I could pull off a bathrobe, slipper, hair in curlers morning drop-off look. I mean, if nothing else, shared embarrassment is good material for sibling bonding. See what a good mom I am! Always putting my kids first.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Beginnings and Endings

May was my joy month, and just blogging about all the joyfullness in my life brought me joy. In case you're wondering, no that wasn't an experiment to see how many times I could use the word joy in once sentence.

In any event, today is June which means I'm done with joy (blogwise) and moving on to fresh pastures.

I love the idea of choosing a monthly theme and sticking to it. Some days it's a stretch to find a post that works and some days life or inspiration cooperates and the posts write themselves with barely any help from my fingers. But choosing a theme for the month of June proved tricky.

I have some great ideas for July and August that, somewhat predictably, revolve around summer. But June in Oregon isn't really put-on-your-bikini-and-eat-popsicles summer weather. In fact, its usually I'm-so-tired-of-wearing-jeans-and-sweatshirts-let's-go-hang-out-in-a-coffee-shop weather. Which is a really long way of saying summer themes didn't feel appropriate yet.

So I thought about what June means to me. It's a month of transition. June weddings, kids getting out of school, packing for camp, summer solstice and end of the third quarter for transactional lawyers. Everything's in flux. Even the weather.

And there you have it. Beginnings and Endings. All the things that are wrapping up in nice neat end-of-year bows or being left in piles to mildew until fall.

We're moving into a new sphere where the days are longer, bedtimes are flexible and ice cream becomes a food group. I know I have a lot of beginnings and endings to talk about. Some are bittersweet, some are pure joyfullness (oops, there's that word again).

Here's hoping each of you will find something relatable in my months of beginnings and endings. And if you tell me about it, maybe, just maybe, I'll figure out what June means to you.